COULD USE SOME END-OF-THE-MONTH DONATIONS! THANKS!
Posted on: Feb 04, 2023
"Alone among all of Earth's life forms, humans alone perceive the absolute inevitability of their own mortality. For thousands of years, con artists have exploited that fear of the inevitable end of life, offering for sale various magical escapes from the grave, and all the acolytes have to do is surrender their money, their obedience, and their sanity." -- Michael Rivero
The British Ministry of Defense has admitted that hundreds of UK Army tanks and armored vehicles could contain asbestos, a potentially hazardous material banned in the UK. Some of those tanks have likely been sent to Ukraine.
Over 2,000 pieces of equipment, including Challenger 2 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and Bulldog personnel carriers, belonging to the British Armed Forces may have asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), according to the nation's Defense Ministry.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that are resistant to fire and corrosion. It is also an excellent thermal and electrical insulator. However, when asbestos materials become damaged, tiny fibers could get stuck in the lungs, leading to asbestosis – a scarring of the lung tissue – and mesothelioma, a type of cancer.
As much as 25 percent of pharmacy chain Rite Aid's retail footprint could disappear in the coming days as one of the top 10 largest pharmacies in the United States negotiates with creditors over a chapter 11 bankruptcy plan that The Wall Street Journal says "would substantially shrink [Rite Aid's] operational footprint."
If all goes as requested by the company, Rite Aid will shutter between 400 and 500 of its U.S. locations. The company will also either sell or let creditors take over its remaining operations, though no final decision has yet been made.
The Philadelphia-based pharmacy chain currently faces more than $3.3 billion in debt and more than 1,000 federal lawsuits claiming it oversupplied the country with deadly opioid pharmaceuticals.
Rite Aid currently operates more than 2,330 stores in 17 states, which though it may sound like a lot, is substantially less than the footprints of rivals CVS Health and Walgreens.
Several Bay Area health agencies in California announced last week that mandatory masking would return to hospitals and health care settings for the fall and winter months.
Contra Costa, Sonoma, Alameda, and San Mateo counties issued mask orders for health care staff in hospitals and other care facilities. The orders start on Nov. 1 and last until April 30, 2024, officials said, citing recent increases in COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory viruses that are typically commonplace during the colder months.
“Each year we see that higher rates of influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses that can cause severe respiratory infections occur annually between late fall and spring,” Dr. Karen Smith, the Sonoma County interim health officer, said in a statement last week.
Contra Costa Health Services CEO Anna Roth told the county's board of supervisors last week that the mandate will be enacted, according to local media reports.
The Biden administration on Monday announced a $2 billion loan for Poland that will go toward modernizing Warsaw’s military.
“Today, the United States is proud to announce the signing of a milestone $2 billion Foreign Military Financing (FMF) direct loan agreement to support Poland’s defense modernization,” the State Department said in a press release.
The State Department said the US would also provide $60 million in FMF funds to cover the cost of the loan. The press release described Warsaw as a “stalwart US ally” as Poland has become a major hub for arms shipments to Ukraine and spends more on its military than most European NATO members.
“In addition to its central support role in facilitating international assistance to neighboring Ukraine, Poland has demonstrated its ironclad commitment to strengthening regional security through its robust investments in defense spending,” the State Department said.
In defiance of international norms and rules, U.S. officials are laying claim to the large oceanic area in the central Pacific Ocean that is home to the compact states.
Now that they are renewing the economic provisions of the compacts of free association with Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, U.S. officials are insisting that the compacts provide the United States with exclusive control over an area of the central Pacific Ocean that is comparable in size to the United States.
“We control essentially the northern half of the Pacific between Hawaii and Philippines,” U.S. special envoy Joseph Yun told Congress in July.
For decades, the United States has overseen compacts of free association with Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Under the compacts, the United States provides the three countries with economic assistance while it maintains powerful military controls over the islands and their waters.
A senior US official told The Washington Post that the Biden administration is not pressuring Ukraine to hold elections, while some Western officials do want to see a wartime vote.
“We’re not pushing them to have an election,” the unnamed official said. The Post report said that the Biden administration was “sympathetic” to the logistical obstacles to holding a vote, which includes the fact that millions of Ukrainian refugees are in Europe.
Zelensky made the comments last month after receiving a visit from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). According to the Post, the senators pressed Zelensky on holding elections, an idea initially floated by Tiny Kox, a Dutch politician serving as the head of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
A report from 60 Minutes that aired Sunday detailed how US taxpayer dollars are not only funding weapons in Ukraine but are also subsidizing small businesses and paying first responders salaries, among other things.
While the bulk of US support for Ukraine has gone toward military aid, the US has also provided tens of billions of dollars in a form of assistance known as direct budgetary aid.
According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), budgetary aid “keeps basic government services like hospitals, schools, and utilities running, and it sustains support for emergency responders and firefighters.” According to the 60 Minutes report, the US aid pays for the salaries of all 57,000 of Ukraine’s first responders.
Webmaster addition: Meanwhile, here in the US, small business bankruptcies are going through the roof!
Four American advanced fighter jets arrived in Romania and will begin conducting patrols over the Black Sea region, according to NATO. The deployment comes as Washington wages a proxy war against Moscow in Ukraine that has stretched into the Black Sea.
Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White announced the arrival of F-16s on Friday. “I welcome the United States’ deployment of additional F-16 fighter jets to NATO’s air policing mission in Romania,” he said. “This sends a clear message that we will protect every ally. As Russia continues its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, we have seen a number of strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure very close to NATO territory. We remain vigilant and in close contact with Allies in the region.”
Last week, Romania extended a no-fly zone along its eastern border. Bucharest said the restriction extends to 20-30 kilometers inside Romanian territory. As the fighting in Ukraine has expanded into the country’s west, debris from battles has landed in Romanian territory.
Senator Robert Menendez denied the allegations levied against him by the Department of Justice. Last week, a grand jury indicted the powerful Senator on bribery charges. Investigators found hundreds of thousands of dollars said to be payments to access the Senator’s influence.
Menendez, along with his wife, are accused of taking bribes to benefit three local businessmen and the Egyptian government. The indictment explains that the Senator used his position as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure Cairo received billions in military aid from Washington and approvals to purchase weapons from American arms makers.
Through Will Hana, Menendez is alleged to have passed a sensitive list of names to the Egyptian government. Additionally, he is charged with attempting to rig the justice system to benefit Juan Uribe and Fred Daibis.
On Monday, Menendez denied the allegations. “The allegations leveled against me are just that, allegations,” the Senator said. On Friday, he stepped down as head of the Foreign Relations Committee but refused to resign from Congress. “I recognize that this will be the biggest fight yet.” Menendez continued, “Not only will I be exonerated, I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
The United States government has failed to compensate the Iraqi victims of torture at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said in a new report on Monday.
HRW said in its report that it reached out to the US Department of Defence in June, requesting information regarding compensation for torture survivors in Iraq. It received no response.
The George W Bush administration told US Congress that any Iraqis who suffered "grievous and brutal abuse cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces" would be eligible for compensation. However, that recompense never materalised, according to Monday's report.
"Twenty years on, Iraqis who were tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for filing a claim or receiving any kind of redress or recognition from the US government," Sarah Yager, HRW's Washington director, said in a statement.
A powerful blast rocked the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region Monday evening as ethnic Armenians streamed out of the breakaway territory after the Azerbaijani military reclaimed full control of it in a lighting offensive last week.
The explosion at fuel storage facility near the regional capital of Stepanakert wounded more than 200 people, Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan said on X, formerly known as Twitter. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, which happened as residents were lining up to get fuel for their cars in order to leave the region.
The majority of the victims were in “severe or extremely severe” condition, Stepanyan said, adding that the victims would need to be airlifted out of the region for medical treatment to save their lives. It was not immediately clear if there were any deaths.
Israeli settlers are trying to intimidate international diplomats away from visiting Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank's 'Area C', a source in an international NGO working in the occupied West Bank, who asked not to be named, told The New Arab on Monday, 25 September.
The remarks came after a group of Israeli settlers attacked a European diplomatic delegation visiting a Bedouin community east of Ramallah last Thursday.
The delegation was visiting the Wadi Al-Siq Palestinian Bedouin community south of the town of Taybeh, east of Ramallah, overlooking the Jordan Valley in 'Area C', which is under direct Israeli military control.
The visit was organised by the West Bank Protection Consortium, a group of international NGOs assisting Palestinian communities in 'Area C'. Israeli settlers belonging to the far-right Israeli youth organisation Im Tirtzu' stormed the Bedouin village and interrupted the briefing offered to the diplomats.
Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip are increasingly worried about the loss of calm in their region amid ongoing "violent" tensions along the eastern fence with Israel.
Speaking to The New Arab, residents remarked how they still haven't overcome the trauma caused by Israel's wars on the territory, while others argued that they were "ready for any new military escalation" despite the cost.
Over the past two weeks, the eastern borders between Gaza and Israel have witnessed increasingly violent tensions as hundreds of Palestinian demonstrat every day against the Israeli soldiers stationed there, who often respond to the protests with live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas. In response, young Palestinians often toss incendiary devices at Israeli soldiers and try to cut the military fence along the borders.
Palestinian protests on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, which have been ongoing since early this month, continued to escalate on 24 September as Tel Aviv maintains its closure of a number of crucial border crossings.
Six Palestinians protesting on the border were injured by Israeli gunfire and dozens suffocated as a result of tear gas on 24 September.
The continued demonstrations on the border come as the Beit Hanoun border crossing has been shut for 11 days, preventing around 20,000 Palestinians from leaving Gaza for work in the occupied territories.
Israel shut the crossing on 15 September, coinciding with the start of the Jewish New Year. That day, the Karam Abu Salem crossing, considered a lifeline for Palestinians, was also shut.
The Maldives have restored diplomatic relations with Iran, which the Indian Ocean islands broke off seven years ago in support of Saudi Arabia, the Iranian foreign ministry said Saturday.
The move, which came in a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, followed a Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March.
Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies following the deal announced in March. Earlier this month, the countries reopened their respective embassies and sent ambassadors, cementing their ties going forward.
More than a million American military veterans are food insecure, according to a new study. And of those, several hundred thousand veterans are not enrolled or signing up for available food assistance from the federal government.
That’s according to a report from the Rand Corporation, released Thursday. The report, “Food Insecurity Among Veterans: Examining the Discrepancy Between Veteran Food Insecurity and Use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” looked at the gap between the overall number of veterans experiencing food insecurity or hunger and the smaller amount that take advantage of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Although 7.5& of all veterans — approximately 1.4 million people — experience food insecurity, only 4.9% are enrolled in or part of a household signed up for SNAP.
Compared to non-veterans, that is a much higher rate. Although food insecurity is higher among non-veterans (10.4%), 8.6% of people experiencing that report living in a household signed up for SNAP benefits.
“Low enrollment by food-insecure veterans could be the result of not meeting nutrition assistance eligibility requirements, perceived lack of eligibility, social stigma associated with SNAP participation, or negative messaging around nutrition assistance,” the report said.
Libya’s chief prosecutor said Monday he ordered the detention of eight current and former officials pending his investigation into the collapse of two dams earlier this month, a disaster that sent a wall of water several meters high through the center of a coastal city and left thousands of people dead.
The two dams outside the city of Derna broke up on Sep. 11 after they were overwhelmed by Storm Daniel, which caused heavy rain across eastern Libya. The failure of the structures inundated as much as a quarter of the city, officials have said, destroying entire neighborhoods and sweeping people out to sea.
Government officials and aid agencies have given estimated death tolls ranging from more than 4,000 to over 11,000. The bodies of many of the people killed still are under rubble or in the Mediterranean, according to search teams.
Outbreaks of dengue fever and acute watery diarrhoea have "killed hundreds" in war-torn Sudan, medics reported on Monday, warning of "catastrophic spreads" that could overwhelm the country's decimated health system.
In a statement, the Sudanese doctors' union warned that the health situation in the southeastern state of Gedaref, on the border with Ethiopia, "is deteriorating at a horrific rate", with thousands infected with dengue fever.
Although Gedaref has been spared the direct effects of the brutal war between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), it has nonetheless been impacted by mass displacement and other humanitarian crises.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the cartels have cut off electrical power in some towns, and forbidden government workers from coming in to the largely rural area to fix power lines.
He said the cartels were fighting for control of the drug smuggling routes that lead into southern Mexico from Central America. But the area around the town of Frontera Comalapa is also a valuable route for smuggling immigrants, thousands of who have clambered aboard trains to reach the U.S. border.
The Sinaloa cartel is fighting the Jalisco New Generation cartel for control of the area, located in a rural, mountainous area north of the border city of Tapachula.
Adam Schiff is unapologetically touting his commitment to earmarks for local causes — like homelessness and drug treatment programs — as he seeks the Senate seat long held by Dianne Feinstein. The 12-term House Democrat and darling of the anti-Trump left is even calling out his closest rival in the race, Rep. Katie Porter, for her opposition to pork-barrel spending.
But Schiff has offered an incomplete and potentially misleading account of his record on earmarks. A close examination of that record reveals that he secured generous earmarks for corporate beneficiaries early in his career, including at times for recipients who were also major donors to his political campaigns.
Earmarks have emerged as an unlikely source of intense debate in one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate primaries. Schiff’s sales pitch — that earmarks are essential to making Washington work for California — hearkens back to his early days in the House, before both parties raced to crack down on the practice. Porter said she views the spending items as a symbol of broken Washington and doesn’t file requests for them.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev has announced the country’s government has approved the planned purchase of Stryker combat vehicles from the United States for about $1.37 billion. The move suggests Sofia’s declared plan to negotiate a lower price tag could be considered successful.
“When we make the first payments, the contract will go into force. From there, we are talking about deliveries starting in two years, and the contract being completed within three years,” Tagarev said during a Bulgarian military event on Sept. 22., as quoted in a ministry statement.
The Philippine coastguard has removed a “floating barrier” installed by China in a disputed area in the South China Sea, calling it a “decisive action” in “upholding international law”.
Authorities carried out “a special operation” that was “in compliance” with the instructions given by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Philippine coastguard spokesperson Jay Tarriela posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday evening.
At least a majority of African leaders are calling for complete overhaul of multinational financial system to enable them to pursue their development goals across Africa. Their scathing remarks on negative impacts inflicted by imperialism, neocolonialism and western hegemony struck a serious chord during their invaluable speeches delivered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But in critical assessment and careful analysis of developments for the past decades, Africa’s poor development could be attributed to several reasons which African leaders have realized but grossly failed to address in the continent. African leaders provided diverse perspectives on the state of politics, economic development and socio-cultural issues that are unique and thought provoking. Paradoxically, Africa has huge resources both natural and human, but the larger size of its population lives in abject poverty. As it is now, the African continent is wrapped with its own distinctive complexities and contradictions.
Conflicts, Democracy and Good Governance
The nature of politics in Africa includes monarchy, autocracy, military dictatorship and democracy. The intellectual and middle-class apathy to politics is also formed alongside down the years. Throughout its history, civil society has been mounting peaceful demonstrations to demand transparency and accountability primarily due to weak institutions and ineffective organs of the state especially the parliaments. Opposition groups are stifled putting democracy at risk across Africa.
A number of African leaders have different views about the fundamentals of democracy. Guinea’s military leader Mamady Doumbouya told the U.N. General Assembly that the Western model of democracy does not work for Africa, as evidenced by a recent wave of coups. Doumbouya took power by overthrowing Alpha Conde, Guinea’s then 84-year-old president who had changed the constitution to run for a third term, sparking widespread protests. Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Gabon are also run by military officers.
Geopolitics of the South Caucasus were already extremely complicated in the years before the political West staged yet another coup in the post-Soviet space and brought the infamous Sorosite Nikol Pashinyan to power.
What Western powers were hoping to achieve is to drag Russia into a new conflict, this time right on the border of the ever-volatile (albeit mostly peaceful in recent years) Northern Caucasus, a region that has the potential to unleash a geopolitical firestorm that could reach even Russia’s “soft underbelly” (regions northwest and north of Kazakhstan). And yet, for now, the only thing they’ve accomplished is the very possible opening of yet another geopolitical Pandora’s box that could deeply destabilize not only the Middle East and Caucasus, but also Central Asia.
His hopes of having Georgia change its stance are absolutely futile, as Tbilisi will not risk possible bad relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. And the reason is pure realpolitik, since Georgia’s relations with Russia are limited to tense neutrality at best, primarily due to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which it sees as its own breakaway provinces. This leaves only Baku and Ankara as two primary regional partners, both in geopolitical and economic terms, although economic ties with Russia are substantial and growing (but you’ll never hear Tbilisi brag about it, since it’s “bad for democracy”).
This is the shocking moment Sinaloa Cartel fighters received a hero's welcome after they freed residents from the control of the archrival Jalisco New Generation Cartel in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas - a group that extorted and killed locals. The bizarre footage shows men and women in the town of San Gregorio Chamic across from the Guatemala border applauding the notorious criminal organization as its henchmen paraded down a federal highway aboard 20 SUVs and pickup trucks Saturday. Residents could be seen standing on both sides of the two-lane road cheering on the heavily armored cartel fighters, including some who were wearing bulletproof vests that had 'MARINA' (marines) printed on the back.
Stung by court decisions limiting its ability to pressure and coerce social media companies to remove purported misinformation and facing an uncertain response at the Supreme Court, the Biden administration is finding workarounds.
The State Department and National Science Foundation together awarded more than a dozen grants for misinformation-related programs with start dates this month or next, totaling about $4.4 million.
Parallel to his agencies' efforts, the Biden reelection campaign is creating an army to identify and correct purported misinformation about the octogenarian president expected to come from rivals including Donald Trump that will almost certainly include his family overseas business dealings.
The New York City Department of Education has announced plans to incorporate generative artificial intelligence (AI) into classrooms, aiming to become a "global leader" in this field, according to the New York Post.
The decision comes after an initial ban on the use of ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. The ban was later reversed, and the school system has now partnered with Microsoft to create a custom AI-powered teaching assistant.
Zeeshan Anwar, the District's chief product officer, explained during a recent meeting with Microsoft that the initial ban was due to uncertainty about how teachers and students would react to the technology.