Friday, October 31, 2014

UN report says over 15,000 foreign radical Islamic fighters in Syria and Iraq. Yahoo/AP

ISIS fighters enter Mosul. Yahoo/AP.

The UN says in a new report that as many as 15,000 foreign fighters are working for terror groups in Iraq and Syria. Yahoo/AP. The numbers of fighters between 2010 and 2014 are now greater then the total number of foreign fighters between 1990 and 2010. The fighters come from 80 different countries including France, Russia, and Great Britain. This diversity is an asset for the terror groups since the fighters bring skills and talents the terror groups would not have access to otherwise. In particular it gives credence to ISIS claim that it is a cosmopolitan destination for all Suni Muslims. The UN calls on its member nations to do more to bar the travel of these foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria. 

My Comment:
It is important to note that not all of these fighters are joining ISIS. Other terror groups, like the Al-Qaeda allied Al-Nursra front, are also getting support. Still, the majority of these fighters are going to ISIS. Still, there are some things the article didn't mention. These fighters still have to assimilate into ISIS and will have difficulties with culture and language. There is also the problem that the residents in Iraq and Syria often resent these foreign fighters. Their actions alone would be difficult for the civilians to like but add in the language and cultural differences and there is a very good chance for resentment. 

These fighters do have a major impact on the battlefield. Many of them have combat experience and even those that have no real skills can either be trained or used as suicide bombers/fighters. They also have the advantage of being ideologically pure. These people have given up everything, their families, their possessions, even their country. They have already given up more then most people have, so they are devoted to the cause. That makes for a fearsome enemy.  

What are voters concerned about in the mid term elections? Yahoo/AP

Obama's not up for re-election but he is still part of the equation. Yahoo/AP

What are voters concerned about for this years mid term elections?  -Yahoo/AP. For the most part it isn't social issues. A new AP poll found that Economy was by far the most important consideration with 91% of likely voters finding it important. 74% rated the government response to Ebola as important while terrorism and the handling of the terror group ISIS came in at 77% and 73% respectively. Traditional wedge issues, that often favor democrats were not nearly as important. Only 32% of likely voters thought gay marriage was important while a slightly larger number, 43% said abortion was important. Immigration was ranked slightly more important 57% ranking it important and 61% saying illegal immigration was a serious or very serious problem. Health care was the big social issue with 78% of people ranking it important. Obamacare is still deeply unpopular with 58% of voters saying it should be repealed.

My Comment:
The link to the poll itself is here. 

Kind of an odd article by the Associated Press. The data was interesting but they spent most of the time talking about domestic issues... that nobody seems to care about. I know in my life when people are talking it is not about gay marriage or abortion. It is about ISIS and Ebola and how the government can't seem to do anything right. The news cycle right now is just insane and it's hard to focus on anything else then foreign policy. At least that's my take on it. I think that is an advantage for Republicans and I predict that they will probably take the senate. I'm not sure about the various governors races, but I'm expecting a major shift at the federal level. That tends to happen in mid term elections anyways but I'm guessing that this is going to be a big one.

As for me personally, I plan on voting. We don't have any senators up for re-election but we have a very close election between Scott Walker and Mary Burke. I'm voting for Walker just out of spite. I'm still mad about the recall election he had awhile back. Plus, being a huge supporter of gun rights, it would be almost unthinkable for me to vote for someone with a (D) in front of their name. Still, I'm no fan of Walker, I just don't see any other choice. If he is in the primary race for president he won't be my first choice.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Britain almost shoots down a Latvian cargo plane. -BBC

RAF Typhoon. BBC/Getty/AFP

A Latvian cargo plane was almost shot down in England today after it lost communications with ground control. -BBC. Two RAF Typhoons intercepted the plane. The Typhoons were authorized to travel faster then the speed of sound and created a sonic boom that caused some disturbances on the ground. When the Typhoons contacted the cargo plane they informed it that they would shoot it down if it did not respond. The plane replied and the fighters escorted the Russian made Antonov An-26 to a nearby airport. An investigation found that the plane had lost communication as they changed jurisdictions, but no cause for the error was found. No charges were filed and no further investigation will be conducted. 

My Comment:
Britain is on edge right now and for good reason. This incident is relatively minor but it goes to show how jumpy everyone in Europe is. Why? There are two reason. The first is that people are worried about a 9/11 style attack, and a plane falling off the communication grid is a good sign of one coming. I don't know how likely that is, but it is a possibility and with the massive amount of terror alerts, ascendant terrorist groups and lone wolf attacks, it is on everyone's mind. 

The second reason is how hard Putin is pushing his military to provoke the west. He has been testing both NATO and the United States. He has been sending his bombers everywhere and has even had some extremely large fighter formations as well. I would have posted about them but the fact of the matter is that it isn't news anymore. We are back to the bad old days of the cold war with our defenses being constantly tested. 

Still, it is good that this was just a false alarm. Seems to be a lot of those these days. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The only post you need to read about #Gamergate

This is the only post you ever need to read about #Gamergate.

My Comment:
Again, not much of a summary but that's because I want you to read the whole thing. I was going to write something up about gamergate again, but Clark from popehat did it so much better then I could. It really parallels my thinking. The whole situation isn't about game journalism or feminism it's just the age old fight between left and right. And since the left is winning the culture war and is intent on burning the right to the ground and is offering no quarter people should seriously think about opposing them just on principle.

FSA and Iraqi Kurds send reinforcement for Kobani. BBC

FSA fighters on their way to Kobani cheered on by Kurds. BBC/AFP

200 Free Syrian Army and 150 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters arrived in the area of Kobani to reinforce and rearm the besieged town. -BBC. The new troops will help bring the fight to ISIS who have been in a brutal fight with Syrian Kurds in the town, despite U.S. airstrikes. Initially Turkey would not allow any fighters to cross the border into Syria. Their relationship with the Syrian Kurds is very poor to say the least. The Turks, facing pressure from NATO allowed FSA troops and the Iraqi Kurds, who the Turks have a much better relationship with, into the battle. It is unknown how effective the reinforcements will be but the heavy weapons they brought with them should have a major impact. The fact that the FSA and the Kurds will be working together is a new development as well. In the past neither group worked with each other since the Kurds left the forces of the Syrian military alone. ISIS still controls at least 40% of Kobani. 

My Comment:
Will these reinforcements be enough to turn the tide in Kobani? I'm not sure. I do know that it will make the battle more bloody for ISIS. It's still very possible that ISIS will take the city. They are bound and determined to because at this point the political and propaganda importance of the city vastly outweighs any actual strategic value. Still, both sides are losing hundreds of fighters. Whoever prevails in Kobani may have a Pyhrric victory on their hands. 

As for Turkey, none of this would have been necessary if they had just let Syrian and Turkish Kurds over the border. I know that Turkey hates the Kurds more then they hate ISIS, but that is the wrong way to look at things. Even if you take a completely cynical view, it would make sense for Turkey to let their two enemies fight. More sense then letting your two semi-allies, the Peshmerga and the FSA, to fight. It's not like either side has a huge army to spare either, they are both being pressed hard by ISIS and their various other enemies. The whole situation is a mess...  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Libya is falling apart. Full scale civil war likely. Reuters

Libyan fighters firing mortars. Reuters. 

Libya is falling further and further into factional fighting and is close to a full scale civil war. Reuters. Efforts to bring a cease fire have failed completely. The government has been unstable and was forced to flee when rebel groups took the capital of Tripoli. The government is too weak to control the various militias that who helped overthrow Qaddafi. In Benghazi the situation is even more complex with pro-government militias fighting Islamist rebels. 

My Comment:
Once again, Libya is going to hell in a hand-basket. The U.S. led intervention to remove Qaddafi succeeded but as always nobody had a plan to win the peace. I'm not saying we should have kept Qaddafi, but we should have thought of a way to bring these militias under the control of the government. At this point it is probably too late, there are far too many competing factions in Libya right now for them to all work together. 

Of course the fact that some of these factions are radical Islamist in nature is extremely worrying. I have heard that some of these groups have sworn fealty to ISIS. If that is true then we could see a 2nd Syria/Iraq situation in North Africa as well. That is a horrible possibility and every day it seems more and more likely. The thing is that there are so many factions working against each other in Libya that it seems likely that any one group could gain supremacy. Still, anytime that Islamic extremists gain power it is bad news. 

Australia bans visas from Ebola stricken countries. Yahoo/Reuters.

Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbot has banned visas from Ebola stricken countries. 

Australia has issued a ban on issuing visas to people from Sierra Leone, Guiana and Liberia, the three worst effected countries in the Ebola outbreak. -Yahoo/Reuters.  The move bans any new applications or immigration from the three countries. All non-permanent visas are being canceled and anyone with a permanent one will be subject to a 21 day quarantine. Healthcare workers returning have been asked to self quarantine as well, with stronger action being a possibility. Critics blasted the move saying that it would do nothing and that Australia has not done enough to fight the outbreak in Africa. 

My Comment:
Smart move by Australia. When other countries are without leaders Tony Abbot and the Australian government has acted. This is, of course, the correct move. It is extremely unlikely that Australia will get a case of Ebola now, unless they have a health care worker come back from treating patients, and even then they are taking steps to protect their citizens. How this isn't standard procedure in every country is beyond me. I'll never understand the people that think borders must be open at all times no matter the circumstances. 

Australia isn't the first country to protect their borders. Many African and Central American countries have as well. North Korea banned everyone, even tourists. Even some American state governors have acted. But far too many countries are allowing casual travel from the hot zone and as long as that is the case then everyone is at risk, even the people with closed borders. The outbreak is totally out of control and it is time that the world takes the threat seriously. 

Feds are closing in on second intelligence leaker. Yahoo News.

Glenn Greenwald tells Edward Snowden about the 2nd leaker. Yahoo/AP

The FBI is claiming to have identified the person who was responsible for recent leaks regarding the governments terrorism watchlist. -Yahoo News. A criminal investigation has been opened an the suspects home has been searched. Some insiders think that nothing will come from the investigation due to wariness on the part of the Justice Department, who has faced scathing criticism in their overzealous prosecution of government leakers. The story, which appeared in The Intercept, was based on documents dated after Edward Snowden had already been revealed. For his part Snowden praised the leaker calling him or her "incredibly brave". The report itself details the federal TIDE program that decides who gets put on terrorist watchlists. 

My Comment:
The Intercept article can be found here.

As for the Yahoo report, I think the claim that they won't prosecute is extremely dubious. If there is one thing the Obama administration hates more then anything else it is leakers. They were rightly criticized for their heavy handed tactics in handling all the recent leaks and have given no indication that they are going to change that. If anything this leaker is in serious danger and should consider fleeing the country. The best case scenario for him or her is spending a very long time in a jail cell. 

As for the impact of the story it's a great example of someone being inspired by someone else's bravery. Edward Snowden gave up his entire life to expose the abuses by the NSA, which was a major act of courage. Whoever this second leaker is, he or she saw more abuses and decided that they too would act instead of sitting by and letting it happen. We need more people like this and they should be protected from government persecution. Intelligence gathering has for too long been a grey area in America. It needs to be brought into the light so the American people can decide if it is justified or not. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

No quarter in fight against ISIS in Iraq. Terrorists executed after being captured. Yahoo/Reuters.

Shite militias fight ISIS. Yahoo/Reuters

Shite militias are giving no quarter to ISIS fighters in the battle for Iraq. Yahoo/Reuters. The militias took back the Iraqi city of Jurf Al-Sakhar from ISIS and immediately took revenge on the fighters unlucky enough to be captured. Reuters reporters witnessed three "Chechens" being executed after they confessed to being members of ISIS. 15 more militants were found dead with their hands tied behind their backs. The bodies had not been buried because the Iraqi forces said the militants deserved to be left out for the dogs. The civilians of the city had fled and the town was mostly abandoned. The Shite militias retreated after coming under mortar fire. 

My Comment:
I'm not going to shed any tears for these executed ISIS fighters but at the same time I have to admit that this is clearly a war crime. I am not at all surprised that ISIS fighters would be executed though. After all the atrocities they have committed in the past year it would be more surprising if they were not executed. Being absolutely brutal in warfare has consequences and these ISIS fighters found out what those consequences are. If you offer no quarter, even for civilians, then you can't expect it in return. Still it is important to note that even the "good guys" in this war are not all that good. Instead of a black and white conflict it is black vs a very dark shade of grey. 

As for the larger strategic impact of the recent battles near Baghdad it is slightly encouraging that the Iraqis have had some limited success there. For awhile it looked like Baghdad could actually fall. I guess that is still a very real possibility but at least the Iraqi security forces and Shite militias are having some success. If they aren't reversing the tide at least they are buying time for the Iraqi government to get it together. Perhaps they will be able to stem the tide. 

Human Rights Watch details Boko Haram's treatment of children. Child soldiers, rape and forced marriage. Yahoo/CSM

A new report details Boko Haram's brutal treatment of children. Yahoo/CSM. Human Rights Watch details the atrocities the Nigerian based terror group have committed, including rape, forced marriage, the use of child soldiers and slave labor. The report comes after even more children have been abducted by the terror group. There had been hope that some of these children would be released after a cease fire deal but the negotiations fell apart when Boko Haram kidnapped even more women and girls. Boko Haram is also slaughtering civilians, with 7,000 killed, 4,000 of which were killed this year. Human Rights Watch also criticized Nigeria's response to Boko Haram saying that the government should be doing more to help the victims.

My Comment:
Boko Haram has been largely overshadowed by other recent events but they still exist and are still evil. The fact that they are doing such evil things to children should cause more outrage, but other then the twitter slacktavist hashtag campaign #bringbackourgirls, nothing has really been done. If nothing else it shows that radical Islam isn't just a problem in the Middle East. It's a huge problem in Africa as well. 

As for what should be done about them, that's really up to Nigeria. There is no appetite for anyone in the West to take on Boko Haram and that isn't going to change anytime soon unless they do something incredibly stupid. They would really have to start attacking western targets abroad or at home to get on the radar of the United States and Europe, at least from the standpoint of the public. Nigeria might not be up to the task though. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Al-Qaeda affiliates threaten to execute Lebanese soldiers in retaliation for military action in Lebanon. Yahoo/AFP

A Lebanese soldier mounted on an APC during a fight against militants. Yahoo/AFP.

Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra front is threatening to execute captured Lebanese soldiers in response to a raid against militants. Yahoo/AFP. The military operation killed one militant in the city of Tripoli (not to be confused with the capital of Libya). Most of the militants were able to flee the Lebanese offensive. Al-Nusra is threatening to execute soldiers if the siege is not lifted. Al-Nusra, and rival Jihadi group ISIS, have managed to capture 30 Lebanese soldiers in border skirmishes and kidnappings. Al-Nusra demands an end to the offensive and in addition, they want militants released and for Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria. 

 My Comment;
My weakness in geography is showing, I had no idea that there was a Tripoli in Lebanon. Other then that, this is just another example of the Syrian civil war spilling over to other countries. Lebanon had a border skirmish a few months ago where they had to fight with unknown (at the time) militants. I thought it was ISIS at the time but it seems now that it was Al-Nusra. I don't hold out much hope for these hostages being released. If they are lucky they won't be executed, but I just don't see Lebanon caving to their demands. As for Lebanon's offensive, I expect it to continue. 

U.S. Marines and U.K. troops close down last bases in Afghanistan. -Reuters

A Marine packs up and heads home. -Reuters. 

The last U.S. Marines and the last U.K. troops have officially ended their operations in Afghanistan.   -Reuters. The Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack were lowered for the last time as Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion transferred their command to the Afghan security forces. At one point 40,000 international troops were posted at Leatherneck and Bastion, but now it is almost completely empty. Helmand province was the site of several intense battles including one earlier this year. Some are concerned that the Afghan 215th corps will be able to hold the area. Afghan forces will have to stand on their own since by the begging of the new year only 12,500 foreign troops, mostly advisers.

My Comment:
We have been at war in Afghanistan for so long I can barely remember life before it. 13 years is a long time, and it is hard to believe that we have been fighting for that long. This isn't the end of the war in Afghanistan. As the article says their will still be troops there in an advisory role. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are still around and will be emboldened by the withdrawal. Afghanistan has known war for generations now and it has shown no sign of stopping anytime soon. My biggest concern is that something like the Iraq situation could develop. In that case we withdrew completely and ISIS came and now we are right back where we started with U.S. troops on the ground. I have very little confidence in the Afghan government and their military, even if we still have advisers and trainers. 

So did we win in Afghanistan? Well we went in their to dismantle Al-Qaeda and kill Osama Bin-Laden. Al-Qaeda still exists but it is a shadow of its former self. Bin-Laden is dead as well. In that way we have had a partial victory. But mission creep made our war in Afghanistan a defeat. We were not able to destroy the Taliban. We didn't stop the drug trade. And predictably we were unable to establish a successful corruption free government. Afghanistan was not a victory. It wasn't a total defeat either. But perhaps after 13 years it can be over. 

Was it worth it? Destroying radical Islam where ever it may be is a just cause and in the global war on Islamic Jihad we must fight where ever it rears its ugly head. I think it was justified. It was just the execution that was a problem. We might have never been able to accomplish all of our goals in Afghanistan, but it's clear to me that there were some very big mistakes made in the past decade. Bush should have finished the job in Afghanistan before going into Iraq. Obama should have fought the war like he cared about it. And the American people should have paid more attention to the conflict. As always hindsight is 20/20. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Three states are quarantining travelers coming from Ebola stricken countries. -Reuters.

A temperature check for a traveler who had been to an Ebola stricken country. -Reuters

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Illinois have all imposed mandatory 21 day quarantines for all travelers who have been to the Ebola stricken countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guiana who may have come in contact with Ebola patients. -Reuters. The new quarantines come after another aid worker, Dr. Craig Spencer, came down with Ebola after spending several days out in the public. The three airports effected will be JFK in New York, Newark Liberty in New Jersey, and O'Hare in Illinois. Critics say that the quarantines are unnecessary and may deter volunteers from fighting Ebola in Africa. Doctors without borders criticized the policy and criticized the treatment of the first person detained under the new policy, a U.S. nurse named Kaci Hickox. Hickox tested negative for Ebola but did have a fever. 

My Comment:
This action is long overdue. It was clear that the CDC and the federal government wasn't going to do much if anything to stop people from coming here with the disease so these governors had to act. I commend governors Quinn, Christie and Cuomo for there actions, which is something I will rarely do on this blog since I am not a fan of any of them. I know the CDC just released regulations that state that anyone that comes from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guiana will be "monitored" but that isn't enough when we just had a case where a guy who was being monitored, Dr. Spencer, didn't report in right away the second he felt ill. Still, I would feel better if the governors of Virginia and Georgia, the two other states where people can come from Ebola stricken countries, would adopt these quarantines. 

As for the Doctors Without Borders complaints, I'm not convinced. If you really want to help people with Ebola then I'm all for it. But of all people the doctors and nurses that have treated patients with Ebola should understand how dangerous the disease is and should do everything in their power to keep anyone else from being infected. If I was a returning volunteer I would quarantine myself for 21 days no matter what. I wouldn't leave the house. I couldn't live with myself if I exposed anyone else to the disease. 

Also, it isn't directly related to this article but I thought I should mention that the WHO is saying that there are more then 10,000 people infected with the disease. As always, remember that Ebola is being vastly under-reported due to both the isolation of some of the countries and the fact that so many people in charge of processing and collecting these numbers are sick or dead. The real number is probably between double and 2.5 times more then the reported numbers. So that means that anywhere between 20,000 and 25,000 people are sick and 10,000 to 15,000 have died. As we chase a couple of cases in the United States it is important to note that Ebola is killing West Africa as sure as any war would. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

New York hatchet attack called an act of terrorism. Yahoo/AP

Suspect Zale Thompson right before he attacked a group of NYC cops. 

New York's police commissioner says that yesterdays hatchet attack on a group of cops was an act of terrorism. Yahoo/AP. The suspect, Zale Thompson, had terrorist websites and news about beheading and the recent terror attack in Canada. Thompson attacked four cops wounding one severely and slightly injuring another before being shot dead. Thompson does not seem to have any links to any terror groups and was most likely self radicalized. Thompson was a navy veteran and had legal problems relating to domestic violence. A bystander was wounded in the attack by a police bullet. 

My Comment:
Yet another radical Islamic inspired attack. These kind of attacks are very hard to defend against because all it takes is a lone wolf to read the right website or follow the wrong person on twitter and they could be inspired to copy these attacks. At this point all they would have to do is watch the news. And if all they need is a knife, hatchet or primitive rifle then there is little that can be done other then having armed people around. The only good news I have seen for this trend is that the Jihadi's are attacking soldiers and police who are likely to be armed, or at the very least, will have combat training. If they wise up and start attacking civilians, like the failed plot in Australia, then we might have a serious problem. Of course a person tried that in Oklahoma and was shot by a civilian. He still managed to kill someone so even armed civilians isn't a complete defense. 

As much as censorship disgusts me perhaps it is time for Twitter and other social media to crack down on ISIS and other extremist groups. It's clear to me that these lone wolf attacks are being inspired by radical websites and twitter accounts. Shutting them down won't solve the problem completely, but it would make a difference. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2nd imported case of Ebola in US. New York City doctor comes down with the disease. CNN

Dr. Craig Spencer in Guinea before contracting the virus. -CNN

Dr. Craig Spencer, who had traveled to Guinea to treat people with Ebola with Doctors Without Borders, has contracted the disease in New York. -CNN. Dr. Spencer fell ill on Wednesday night suffering from an 103 degree fever. Spencer is now in isolation in Bellevue hospital. The CDC are moving teams to New York to help treat Spencer and work on isolating his contacts. The doctor had not been placed in isolation before coming down with symptoms and had been out in public several times since returning from Africa. Although he became very ill on Wednesday night, he reported feeling sluggish as early as Monday. Bellevue hospital is one of eight that have been designated as Ebola treatment centers in New York

My Comment:
More bad news. It's disturbing to me that this man was allowed to be out in public. As a doctor treating Ebola patients, there is NO ONE at greater risk from contracting the disease. He should have been in isolation for the entire 21 day incubation period for Ebola. The fact that he wasn't makes the CDC's job harder. There are now many more people that they have to contact trace and it might be too much to handle. If he had been kept at home it would just have been his girlfriend and anyone that visited at home. He probably wasn't infectious until this week and not dangerously so until yesterday but had there been any isolation protocols in use at all the risk of a greater outbreak would have been minimized. 

And this is where Ebola gets disturbing. I am confident that the CDC will be able to minimize the risks here. And they have learned lessons from the outbreak in Dallas. But what happens when another person comes from Africa with Ebola. What if five do? Ten? What happens if someone doesn't go to a hospital? I know that there are new travel restrictions in place but with the disease out of control in West Africa and two more exported cases, one here and one in Mali, isn't it time to stop non-essential travel to and from West Africa? This isn't just a criticism of the United States, because the whole world should be trying to stop this outbreak.  

Here is hoping that Spencer recovers and there aren't any secondary infections. And that Bellevue hospital is better prepared to deal with this disease then the one in Dallas was. 

Ebola has spread to Mali. Yahoo/AFP

A health care worker treating Ebola victims. Yahoo/AFP.

The West African country of Mali has announced that they have their first confirmed case of Ebola. Yahoo/AFP. The victim is a 2 year old girl who had recently been to Guiana, where the virus is out of control. The girl and everyone who had contact with her have been put into isolation. Mali borders the country of Guiana and has had several Ebola scares before. Mali is urging calm and claims that everything that can be done to prevent the spread of the virus will be done. It also urged people to stop unnecessary travel and to observe hygiene.

My Comment:
This is obviously bad news but time will tell if this will come under control. The fact that there is only one victim and the fact that it sounds like they got her into isolation right away means that Mali has a good chance at controlling this outbreak, much like Senegal did. Unfortunately, the extremely young age of the victim doesn't bode well for the victims survival but at the very least this outbreak should be easier to contain then the ones in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guiana. That being said, with the way things are in those countries it would not be surprising if there is a huge spike in exported cases. People will start to flee those countries and some of them will be carrying the virus. It is very possible, and indeed likely that one or more of these people will end up in Mali. 

I'm also concerned about the fact that Mali is less stable then any of the other countries effected by Ebola, except maybe Nigeria. They have a very large Islamic insurgency that continues to rage. French forces are there fighting the insurgents. The good news is that this case is almost certainly in the south of the country while the insurgency is in the north. Still, you have to wonder how effective a government will be at fighting Ebola when they also have to fight insurgents. Nigeria was able to do it after their small outbreak and is now Ebola free, so there is hope at least. 

Al-Qaeda declares war on China. The Diplomat.

In their new English language magazine, Resurgence, Al-Qaeda seems to be calling for war against China. The Diplomat. Al-Qaeda argues that the Muslim area of Xinjaing has been brutally suppressed by Beijing and the Han Chinese majority. In one article, "10 facts about East Turkistan", Al-Qaeda's name for Xinjaing, they list their grievances and accuse Beijing of various crimes including murdering Muslims and banning the teaching of the Koran. Elsewhere in the magazine Al-Qaeda claims that China will be dealt a deathblow along with America, Iran, and Russia. The threats come after ISIS made similar complaints and threats against China recently, and Al-Qaeda's deceleration is widely seen as a competitive response to ISIS. Although there has been a large spike of domestic terrorism from China's Uyghur Muslims, the declaration is largely seen as a desperate attempt for Al-Qaeda to stay relevant.

My Comment:
The article is right. Al-Qaeda is desperate. ISIS has completely overshadowed them and their funding and recruits are drying up. The Uyghur Muslims are not the answer for Al-Qaeda since none of them speak English and they are so far under China's boot that they can't mount anything but token resistance. They have and will continue to be a problem for China but there is no way that the will be able to pull off a 9/11 style attack on China. 

As for China, expect them to be even more brutal to the Uyghur Muslims then they are already. The Uyghur's are already second class citizens but if they were to pull off a major terror attack or start an insurgency they would be utterly destroyed by China's massive and experienced internal security forces. Terrorism generally requires a free society, access to arms, and are greatly hampered by extreme governments like China. China is also a homogeneous society where any foreign fighters would stick out like a sore thumb. In short, China is a very difficult place to pull off a terror attack more sophisticated then a bunch of people grabbing knifes and rocks.    

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Update on the shooting in Ottawa. CNN

Police enter the Canadian Parliament. CNN.

More information is coming out about the shooting at Ottawa's Parliament. CNN. The shooting started with the killing of an honor guard soldier, CPL Nathan Cirillo, at the Canadian War Memorial. The shooter then ran into Parliament, wounding three others before being gunned down by Canada's Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers. The suspect was killed at the scene. He has been identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a convert to Islam who had tried to go to the Middle East to fight. The shooter was extremely close to Prime Minster Stephan Harper before he was shot. Canadian authorities are still looking for other suspects It has not been confirmed if the were more then one shooter. 

My Comment:
Just an update for the shooting in Ottawa today. It is clear that this is a terror attack. It's very much not clear about the details though. Was this guy a random lone nut or was this a larger conspiracy? Was he the only shooter? Was there a specific target? Does this have anything to do with ISIS or another foreign terror organization? Was this related to the vehicular murder committed by another Muslim in Canada this week? 

It's going to take some time to get more details about what happened. Still, this is part of a larger trend of radical Jihadists attacking people in Western countries. That is not a trend that needs to continue. 

BREAKING NEWS! Shooting at Canadian Parliament! CBC News

First responders at the scene in Ottawa. CBC

At least one person has been shot and at least 20 shots have been fired in the vicinity of Canadian Parliament. CBC News. The injured person, a soldier on guard duty at the Canadian War Memorial, was put into an ambulance. Reports are coming in of shots being fired at the front doors of Parliament and unconfirmed reports of a person being injured by the Library of Parliament are coming in as well. Prime Minster Stephan Harper is safe while MP's have been put into lockdown. 

My Comment:
This is a breaking news story and it is unclear if they have anyone in custody yet. I do know that Canada was on high alert for a Jihadist attack but at this point who knows what the motivation is. I'll update this story  as info becomes available.

UPDATE #1: CBC has a live blog up here. I'm hearing rumors that there might be multiple shooters.

UPDATE #2: I just heard on CNN and saw on CBC that there might be at least one shooter on the roof of a building near the site of the shooting.

UPDATE #3: CBC has confirmed at least one shooter dead. CNN just said that there are 2 or 3 gunmen. Not sure if that includes the dead one.

UPDATE #4: Footage from the scene. Intense gunfire.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UN says ISIS attacks against the Yazidi "might" be genocide. -Reuters.

Kobani, another city under siege by ISIS. Reuters.

UN human rights official Ivan Simonovic says the ISIS campaign against the Yazidi minority in Iraq may be genocide. -Reuters. ISIS is currently advancing on the Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar Mountain and has killed thousands. In addition to the killing Yazidi have been enslaved, raped and in some cases buried alive. ISIS is also forcing Yazidi to convert to Islam. Genocide is defined by the UN as any attempt to destroy or eliminate a national, religious or ethnic group.  

My Comment:
In other obvious news ISIS may actually be evil. I can't believe the UN. It's been clear since August that the ISIS campaign against the Yazidi, and various other groups such as Christians, Kurds, Turks and Shia Muslims, has been genocidal. The fact that the UN is saying that it "may" be a genocide is, frankly, insulting. Of course it is a genocide! 

As far as the Yazidi, it is very concerning to me that ISIS is moving on Mt. Sinjar. The siege at Kobani in Syria and the major victories in Al-Anbar province in Iraq have completely overshadowed the plight of the Yazidis. Still, their situation is very perilous and it is very possible that they could be wiped out. At this point it seems that the Yazidi may not survive as an unique culture. 

America is losing the war on drugs in Afghanistan. -CNN

America is completely losing the war on drugs in Afghanistan. -CNN. Afghan farmers are growing record crops of opium despite the $7.6 billion spent by the U.S. government to fight production. Afghanistan produces between 75 to 80% of the worlds opium and is making $3 billion a year on it. Some of that money, of course, goes to fund the Taliban insurgency and terrorism. Provinces that were once opium free, such as Nangahar, have had booming poppy production. U.S. officials blamed Afghanistan's government for not doing enough to combat opium production.

My Comment:
What a waste of money. Imagine what they could have done with that $7.6 billion that could have actually helped people. I'm no fan of opium, or any drugs for that matter, but the market is too profitable to eradicate. Afghanistan is an extremely poor and backward country and as long as opium is a cash crop people will grow it. Nothing short of napalming the fields and killing all the farmers will prevent that, as long as it is profitable. 

So what would work to counter the drug industry in Afghanistan? Not much. Like I said it is such a huge part of their economy that they can't just get rid of it. I posted awhile ago about how Afghanistan has $1 trillion dollars of rare earth minerals, and tons more of more conventional mineral resources. Spending $7.6 billion on developing the infrastructure and investment needed to extract these minerals would be a better investment then wasting money on a futile war on drugs. Still, even if Afghanistan could get mines up and running, opium is too valuable to give up on. People will always want to get high and as long as that is true people will grow opium.    

Canadian Soldier killed after being hit by car driven by radical Islamist . Reuters.

Officers investigate the suspects crashed car. Reuters

A Canadian soldier was killed yesterday in Quebec after being hit by a car driven by a radical Islamist. Reuters. The victim was one of two soldiers who was hit by the man. The driver was then involved in a police chase and was shot and killed. The suspect, identified by Canadian media as Martin Couture-Rouleau, was known to Canadian authorities  and had been identified as a radical. It is unclear if the suspect targeted the victims because they were soldiers or if the attack was random. Canadian officials have been on high alert for "home grown" terror attacks since joining the war against ISIS in Iraq. 

My Comment:
Yet another home grown terror attack. Like the murder of Lee Rigby in England and the attack on food processing plant in Oklahoma, this is another example of Islamic extremism having a hold in western countries. To be fair though the evidence that this crime was inspired by radical Islam seems to be lacking, at least at this point in the investigation. It is possible that there were some other motivations for this attack. Still, once you are labeled a radical, it's hard not to frame any crime you commit in a non-ideological fashion. So even if it was just a guy snapping or killing for no real reason, it will still be blamed on radical Islam. 

Also, this is an extremely strange way to kill someone. I know people occasionally kill other people with cars on purpose but it can't be that common can it? You would think that a radical attack would have gone for a higher impact, in terms of terror, method of killing. On the other hand it is very easy to kill someone with a car and it takes very little effort to obtain one assuming you know how to drive. Very strange case all around. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turks allowing Kurdish reinforcement in Kobani? Yahoo/Reuters

Civilians and journalists watch the battle in Kobani from Turkey. Yahoo/Getty.

In a major reversal Turkey will allow reinforcement and re-supply for Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobani. Yahoo/Reuters. Turkey will allow Iraqi Kurds to travel to the besieged town as Americans dropped supplies to the trapped fighters. Turkey has been extremely reluctant to allow any help to the Syrian Kurds due to their affiliation with Turkey's old enemy the Kurdish PKK, who have fought a decades long insurgency against them. Originally the Turks refused to help Kobani unless the United States agreed to strike Bashar Al-Assad's forces in addition to ISIS targets. It is unknown why the Turks changed their mind. Turkish Prime Minster Erdogan considers both the PKK and the Syrian Kurds PYD groups to be terrorist organizations and questions how America can help them. 

My Comment:
The key to this story is that Turkey is only allowing Iraqi Kurds to fight in Kobani. They have a much better relationship with Turkey then the Syrian Kurds. That isn't saying much mind you, but they probably think they can control them better then the Syrian Kurds. Plus they have to be happy that two of their enemies, the Kurds and ISIS are fighting to the death in Kobani. They have domestic concerns as well since protests against their inaction have killed many people. 

Still this is a major change in Turkish policy. As late as yesterday everyone believed that the Turks would never allow the Kurds to cross the border to fight ISIS unless Obama struck Bashar Al-Assad's forces. I can't imagine that Obama would agree to that, America doesn't want a war with ISIS. And the Democratic Party doesn't want a new war right before mid-term elections. There must have been some kind of diplomatic breakthrough to allow this to happen. Either that or the reports are wrong. Because there seems to be no chance of U.S. strikes on Assad. 

Some good news in the fight against Ebola. Nigeria officially Ebola free. Yahoo/AP

Airport arrivals having their temperature checked in Nigeria. Yahoo/AP

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria to be over. Yahoo/AP. The country had a small outbreak after Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer spread the disease via air travel after leaving Liberia. The outbreak hit 20 people, 8 of which, including the index case died. 42 days have passed since the last new case, double that of the known maximum incubation time for the disease. Widespread contact tracing and isolation were enough to contain the outbreak. The rare good news in the outbreak follows a similar declaration in Senegal where the country was able to stop the outbreak at one case. Both countries are keeping vigilant just in case another carrier arrives to start the outbreak all over again. The disease is still out of control in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guiana. 

My Comment:
It feels good to write some rare good news about this outbreak. With the news that both Nigeria and Senegal were able to beat their Ebola outbreaks and the fact that no cases have popped up yet in Spain after the successful treatment of their patient gives a little bit of hope to the whole situation. Perhaps the United States can learn something from these countries that will be useful in containing the outbreak here. Contact tracing and isolation can stop the outbreak in its tracks if it is done soon enough.

Of course this was a minor skirmish in a much wider war. As long as the disease is winning in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guiana, there is a very good chance of the disease spreading to other countries. Nigeria and Senegal may be Ebola free today but what happens when people start fleeing the affected West African countries? It was a monumental task to trace and isolate everyone who was exposed when just one person came to Nigeria and Senegal. What happens when there are dozens? We can only hope that the outbreak stops before then.  

I haven't heard much news from the other West African countries and what little I have heard has all been negative. The couple of cases in America has dominated the news coverage. I do know that Liberia has been hit so hard with the disease that the various agencies in charge of tracking it no longer know how many people are infected or dead. Largely because the people that were in charge of collecting that information are dead, infected or have quit. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sub hunt in Sweden? Yahoo/Reuters

Swedish Corvette HMS Visby searching for submarines. Yahoo/Reuters.

Swedish military forces are on high alert after reports of underwater activity from an unknown foreign power. Yahoo/Reuters. The Swedes are unsure if the reports are of submarines or of frogmen using underwater vehicles. The incursions have been reported in "sensitive" areas. At least one sighting of a man in black wading in the waters have people speculating that the incursions may be from Russian special forces. The only indication of who may be responsible have been from intercepted radio transmissions from Russia indicating someone in distress. Russia, of course, denies these reports. 

An amateur photo of the reported vessel. Yahoo/Reuters

My Comment:
Very interesting. It sounds like Russia is doing some high level surveillance of the area. It is possible that all this activity is related to some kind of underwater disaster that hasn't been revealed yet. Russia has a history of losing submarines and not being honest about it. Still, that seems a bit unlikely. It is much more likely that this is just Russia flexing it's muscles again. If it is true that Russian frogmen are running around in Sweden that is a major violation of Sweden's territorial boundaries. Russia has been testing all of its borders lately and has a reputation of flying near or in other countries territories. Most, if not all, of those incursions have been in the air though.  

Still, it is possible that it isn't the Russians at all. America has a presence in the area as well, though they have no real reason to spy on Sweden. And it is possible that none of the reports are genuine. Civilians can't be ruled out either. It's not illegal or uncommon to have civilians swimming around. Either way though, if the truth ever does come out it will be interesting. 

Are U.S. airstrikes working in Syria? The battle for Kobani continues... LA Times.

An airstrike in Kobani. LA Times/European Pressphoto Agency. 

U.S. lead airstrikes in Kobani have helped in the battle for Kobani but heavy fighting still rages. LA Times. Just a couple of weeks ago Kobani looked totally doomed but airstrikes have stopped the ISIS offensive and brought the battle to a bloody stalemate. At least 130 airstrikes have devastated ISIS's armor, artillery and command and control capabilities, but the airstrikes have not defeated ISIS. Despite the damage, ISIS is still fighting hard and is using different tactics to fight the Syrian Kurds. Mortar strikes and suicide car bombings are just two of the new tactics ISIS is employing. They are also avoiding using their heavy weapons and are using motorcycles for resupply and are other low profile tactics to avoid airstrikes. The battle has now devolved into brutal street to street fights. The Kurds think that they can win, but their supplies are currently being held up in Turkey. The Kurds are criticizing the Turks and claim that they want the city to fall.

My Comment:
Someone is on the ground here directing these airstrikes. The Kurds have no experience in close air support and do not have the expertise necessary to call in airstrikes with this precision. Someone is on the ground here and my bet would be on U.S. special forces. That being said it seems to have had a major impact on the battle. A few weeks ago it looked like Kobani was sure to fall but now, at the very least, it will be a bloodletting for ISIS. Airstrikes have gotten rid of ISIS's major advantage in tanks, artillery and technicals (trucks with machine guns mounted on them), so now this is a fight on relatively equal ground. 

At least it would be if it wasn't for the Turks. They absolutely want Kobani to fall and for the Kurds to be wiped out. They don't want these fighters to survive and then come to Turkey and fight them. Of course if Kobani falls it's only a matter of time before ISIS goes into Turkey, but they don't care about the long term picture. 

So will the Kurds hold out? Despite the optimism in this report I still say they lose eventually. Airstrikes alone aren't enough, and without ammunition and other supplies, I can't see them winning. Their sacrifice isn't totally in vain though. They are killing a large number of ISIS fighters and destroying tons of their equipment. At some point the cost in taking Kobani will outweigh whatever gains ISIS could get there. We might be past that point already. 

North and South Korea exchange gunfire yet again. Yahoo/AP

South Korean troops patrol near the DMZ. Yahoo/AP

For the second time in 10 days North and South Korea have exchanged fire. Yahoo/AP. A patrol of 10 North Korean soldiers approached the border when the South Koreans broadcast warnings. When those warnings went unheeded, both sides opened fire. The shootout lasted 10 minutes but nobody got hit. The shootout comes on the heels of another incident on October 10th where North Koreans fired at the south when activists sent anti-regime leaflets via balloon to the north. Both incidents, along with a naval incident on the 7th, comes after a major diplomatic breakthrough where major figures in the North Korean regime met with South Korean officials. 

My Comment:
North Korea is the master of mixed messages. On the one hand they have all these low intensity but potentially deadly border incidents. They aren't really that serious but they do serve as a reminder that the North and South are technically still at war. On the other hand they just had a major diplomatic push for cooperation with the South. It doesn't make any sense to me to negotiate when your forces are still skirmishing with the South, but North Korea hardly strikes me as a rational state. They have their own way of thinking and it is very hard for me to understand it. 

As for the chances of a wider war breaking out, I give it almost no chance. North Korea knows it's military is completely outgunned by the South Koreans alone, not to mention the forces the United States can bring to bare. The North could inflict some heavy damage, especially to Seoul, but they would lose and lose hard in any war. These skirmishes are just that and I don't think you can draw any conclusions that point to full scale war. The North just wants leverage and these skirmishes give them a tiny bit. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Editor's note.

I'm on a well deserved vacation this weekend so blogging will be light. I might have something up by Sunday but no promises! Heading to Madison today for a wedding! Should be fun.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My take on the United States response to Ebola.

The Ebola Virus. Wikipedia/CDC

As hard as it is to believe Ebola is currently on the loose in the United States. One man from Liberia was able to spread it despite all the things working against the disease To put things in perspective, Senegal was able to stop the disease dead in its tracks after one person crossed their borders. Senegal is a third world West African country with a primitive health care system and a much smaller budget spent on their citizens health. As of this writing, the United States response has been less effective at responding to Ebola then Senegal has. 

Why is that? Well there are a ton of reasons and I am going to go through a lot of them. Mind you, there are a lot of them and I am sure I will miss some. An "in the wild" Ebola outbreak was extremely unlikely had we taken even the most basic of precautions. But we did not and now Ebola is here. I know that hindsight is 20/20 and that I'm no medical expert but most of this stuff is obvious. The fact that it was obvious to me and not to the government scares me more then the disease itself.

1. There should have been a more robust response to the disease in Africa as soon as the outbreak started. By the time U.S. troops and doctors were there it was too late to do much. It remains to be seen if American troops and aid will do much if anything with their current deployment, but if they had been there when the outbreak had started they might have made a difference. I understand that there was no political will for a deployment of troops or supplies but even a small CDC team could have helped with isolation and contact tracing. It may not have stopped the outbreak but it would have slowed it down and perhaps it could have snuffed the whole thing out before it destroyed West Africa.

2. Once it was clear that the outbreak was out of control casual travel should have been banned from the effected countries. I would have done this immediately, but it was abundantly clear that Ebola could be spread by air travel, and that screening procedures could miss infected people, when Patrick Sawyer, an American citizen, infected the Nigerian city of Lagos. Even with hard proof that Ebola could spread via airplane casual travel was not banned. Even after a case happened in America, casual travel was not banned. It is just insane to me that to this day anyone in Liberia can get onto a plane, with or without the disease and only has underpaid and under-trained screeners to prevent them from entering the country. This should have happened months ago and as of this writing it still hasn't happened. One of the reasons Senegal has no new cases is that they closed their border to the point they had vigilantes patrolling it. We didn't have to go that far but we could have done something. Stopping people that have no critical business here from entering the country would have stopped the outbreak before it began. Not preventing it risks making the outbreak even worse then it is already. There are no excuses anymore. 

3. The government should have been honest about what they knew and what they don't know. specifically they should never have downplayed the chances of the disease coming here. I know that the government was reading the same models that I was and I wrote back on 9/5/14 that Ebola had a 20% chance of spreading to the U.S. that month. By the 30th of that month it was here. The government must have known about this study but the President himself said it wouldn't happen. 

They also claim that the disease can only be spread by contact with infected bodily fluid. I wrote months ago that there were studies that seemed to show that under perfect conditions the disease could spread through the air. (I linked to the studies in the second paragraph if you want to read them yourself). The disease isn't technically airborne, and it doesn't spread the way that the flu does but under perfect conditions it can spread through the air. Unless there have been new studies specifically debunking the linked studies then they can't rightly say that the disease spreads only through contact with bodily fluid. How important the distinction is unknown, but if even one case could be prevented by nurses wearing respirators then it would be worth it. 

4. Thomas Eric Duncan should have never been treated in Dallas. We have four hospitals in the United States capable of treating patients in isolation. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas was NOT one of them. I'll get into their mistakes later, but they never should have been the ones treating Duncan in the first place. I can think of no reason whatsoever for Duncan to have been treated in Dallas when there were hospitals equipped to take him and had already successfully treated Ebola patients.    

5. Duncan's family should not have been left in their apartment for as long as they were. There were still potentially infected materials there and they stayed in a potentially contaminated area for far too long. Time will tell if this was an innocent mistake or a deadly one but it should not have happened no matter what. 

6. Once the decision was made to treat the virus in Dallas the CDC should have stepped in to monitor the treatment much more closely then they did. A nurses union, who contacted nurses involved in Duncan's treatment, detailed how colossally unprepared the hospital was. They accuse the hospital of conducting zero training, having little safety equipment and leaving medical waste piled to the ceiling. I understand that the CDC was there and was involved but they should have realized what was going on and put a stop to it.

7. Once it was clear that the hospital was incapable of treating Duncan, the doctors, nurses and other people that had contact with him should have been isolated. There is no reason whatsoever that Amber Vinson should have been allowed to fly. She never should have been allowed to leave Dallas under any circumstances, let alone allowed to fly with a low grade fever. It was foolish of her to travel but inconceivable to me that she was allowed to travel. If we are lucky then none of the people on either of the plane with her will get infected. But we will still have to monitor them and if even one of them gets infected the whole process of contact tracing will have to begin again. There are 76 people from the hospital that are being "monitored". All of them should be in quarantine. 

So there you have it. The government screwed up and screwed up bad. If I was a more conspiratorial person I would say that they were letting the disease spread on purpose. But always remember Hanlon's Razor. Never attribute to malice what which is adequately explained by stupidity. And if the American Ebola crisis proves anything it is this. Our government is incredibly stupid...       

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2nd health care worker infected with Ebola in Texas. Yahoo News

A decontamination team entering the 2nd victims apartment. Yahoo News/Dallas PD

A second health care worker who treated Liberian Thomas Erik Duncan for Ebola has contracted the disease. Yahoo News. The female employee fell ill on Tuesday and was immediately isolated. The Ebola test came back positive this morning while results from the CDC test will be available soon. A Hazmat team was sent to her apartment to decontaminate it. The second diagnosis comes on the heels of the first transmission in the United States. Nina Pham, a 26 year old nurse, also caught the disease but officials are not sure how either patient were exposed. The CDC is monitoring 76 other health care workers at the hospital who also may have been exposed. A nursing union has raised allegations, supposedly from workers at the hospital, that the health care workers at the hospital did not have proper equipment and were confused by constantly changing protocol.    

My Comment:
More bad news out of Dallas, but nothing I didn't really expect. If the nurses union is correct in their allegations, then this is no surprise at all. If it is true that the doctors and nurses were treating Duncan with exposed skin then of course there was going to be more infections. From what I understand Ebola is supposed to be treated by workers wearing the full "space suit" that covers all skin and comes with a respirator. I've also heard that the doctors and nurses necks were exposed so they covered it with medical tape. I'm no medical expert but doesn't that sound like the perfect vector for Ebola? I mean when you pull tape off of bare skin doesn't that pull out hair and cause abrasions? Sounds like a great way to cause a break in the skin that Ebola needs to get in. 

I've heard a billion times since this outbreak that 1st world medical systems should be able to handle Ebola. I've said it myself more then a few times. But when hospitals are ignoring even the most basic safety concerns then I have to wonder how bad this is going to get. In addition to the problems with protective gear, the way they treated Duncan does not fill me with confidence. They let him go when he was ill, they didn't immediately isolate him and they let him sit in waiting room with other patients.

 I know Duncan is fairly hated right now for what he did and for exposing so many people, but I still feel for the guy. He may have thought that by coming here that America's first world health care would save him, but all he got was the run around. He's still a scoundrel but nobody deserves to die from Ebola and this hospital is as much to blame for every other infection as he is. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Protests continue in Hong Kong. Yahoo/AFP

A protester in Hong Kong. Yahoo/AFP

Protesters and riot police clashed again in the worst violence since pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong began two weeks ago. Yahoo/AFP. The clash began when riot police tried to remove barricades erected by the protesters. The police responded with fists, batons and pepper spray. 45 were arrested after the melee. Some reporters who were covering the event accused the Chinese police of roughing them up as well. Though there is little support for the cities chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, who has seen his approval rating drop tremendously, business owners and taxi drivers are getting sick of the protests as well. The protest movement, Occupy Central, is in response to government restrictions on who can and who can't run for office in Hong Kong. 

My Comment:
The events in Hong Kong have been overshadowed by other events but there is a serious chance at these protests turning into a slaughter. China has a poor record in handling protests. China has always been paranoid about an uprising from their lower class and they have been known to crack down on protest movements harshly. Everyone know about the Tiananman square protests and how that ended. I'm not saying that China will deploy troops and kill everyone like they did back then but it is a possibility. 

As for who I side with, I've never been a fan of any protest movement that disrupts the economy. Having said that their cause is just. Hong Kong deserves to be able to pick whoever they want as leaders. Will it happen? I hope so. China would be wise to back down here. If they do end up treating the protesters harshly or kill them it will be a huge story. They won't be able to censor things in Hong Kong like they would be in the rest of the country. There is too much of a western media presence for the story to be killed. 

WHO releases new projections and fatality rates for Ebola. Yahoo/AP

A grave digger in Liberia. If the WHO is right he will be very busy. Yahoo/AP

The World Health Organization, (WHO) is estimating that in as little as two months there could be 10,000 new Ebola cases a week. Yahoo/AP. Currently there has been around 1000 new cases a month, but that number is likely to explode if nothing is done. The WHO estimates that 70% of cases need to be isolated if there is to be any hope of combating the disease. They are especially concerned that the disease is out of control in the capital cities of Freetown, Conakry and Monrovia. The focus now is on setting up small clinics and delivering home treatment kits. The WHO also acknowledged that the fatality rate for this outbreak is a full 20% higher then they admitted to before. Before they claimed that only half of people that caught the disease but in reality 70% who catch the disease die. 

My Comment:
None of this is new news but it is alarming to hear the WHO admit it. It's been clear for a long time that Ebola's growth is exponential and that it is killing far more then the lower 50% estimate. Of course even if the number of new Ebola cases stayed steady and didn't increase it would still be a massive disaster that would eventually destroy West Africa. But if it does end up infecting 10,000 people a week, then the end will come much sooner. And a large majority of those people will die from the disease alone, not to mention the famine, civil disorder and general chaos that is sure to follow. Remember the combined population of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is only 20 million people. At 10,000 people a week it wouldn't take long before the question stops being how many people have died from Ebola (and the breakdown of society) and becomes how many people are left that haven't. I seriously doubt that the infection rate will cap at 10,000 cases a week. It will only go up.

The situation is apocalyptic in West Africa right now. There is no other way to say it. It doesn't even seem possible to stop this outbreak with conventional means. And if we don't stop it in West Africa we won't stop it everywhere else. If things keep going the way they are going the epidemic is going to spread out of control in other third world countries and cause untold chaos, even in first world ones. So we have to start asking ourselves some hard questions. At what point do we have to say to ourselves "do the lives of 20 million people in West Africa matter more then the rest of us?" If the answer to that question is no, then eventually we may have to pull back and quarantine the whole area. A total closing of the borders in those countries would be a death sentence for West Africa, true, but it might end up being necessary. Some would argue that we have no right to condemn 20 million people to death. My question is if the epidemic can't be contained and continues to grow at an exponential rate do we really have the right to not do so? 

I really, really hope it doesn't come to that. Containment might work. New drug treatments might work. The disease could mutate into a less dangerous form. People might wise up in West Africa. An effective vaccine might be found. But humanity, as a species, needs to start preparing as if none of those things will happen. If we don't it might just be the end of all of us, or, at the very least, the end of our civilization. We must fight Ebola with everything we have, but if it starts to look like Ebola has won in West Africa we must keep all options on the table. Even the unthinkable ones...