SHHhhhh…. US-led air strike in Syria kills 52 civilians

May 5, 2015 by  
Filed under World

US-led air strike in Syria kills 52 civilians, including seven children; death toll continues to rise | 02 May 2015 | The death toll from an air strike by US-led forces on the northern Syrian province of Aleppo has risen to 52 including seven children, a group monitoring the conflict said on Saturday. Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based Observatory for Human Rights, said the death toll from Friday’s strike was the highest civilian loss in a single attack by US and Arab forces since they started air raids against hardline Islamist militant groups in Syria such as Islamic State [I-CIA-SIS]. US-led forces are also targeting the group in Iraq.

 

UN Accuses Saudi Arabia of Killing Yemeni Civilians

April 9, 2015 by  
Filed under World

A user's photo.

“Whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene.”

– US Navy Geostrategist Rear Admiral Alfred Thayus Mahan (1840-1914)

The US backed and its puppet Saudi+GCC led aggression on Yemen is among Washington’s strategic objectives in the militarization of major sea ways. The strategic Yemeni island Socotra is at the crossroads of the strategic naval waterways of Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. A military base in Socotra could be used to oversee the movement of vessels including warships in and out of the Gulf of Aden. Not to forget the US has its largest military setup in Diego Garcia about 3000 kilometres from this Yemeni island.

Indeed this attack on Yemen has nothing to do with religion or sects, it’s totally political and hegemonic.

‪#‎Yemen‬ ‪#‎US‬ ‪#‎NWO‬

‪#‎staz

by Stephen Lendman

Make no mistake. Yemen is Obama’s war. He’s using Saudi-led terror-bombing to serve US interests – to regain control of its former client state.

It’s high time this naked aggression was universally condemned. Noncombatant men, women and children are being willfully murdered in cold blood.

After two weeks of terror-bombing, the UN finally noticed. Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani accused Saudi Arabia of deliberately killing Yemeni civilians.

Saudi-led warplanes bombed civilian neighborhoods, the Mazraq refugee camp, hospitals, schools and “other civilian buildings,” said Beyani.

Power and water facilities were struck. So were Yemen’s largest food storage and dairy buildings.

Beyani called terror-bombing attacks “a grave violation against some of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable civilians.”

Scores of children were killed. Hundreds of Yemeni civilians were murdered or maimed for life.

Estimates of civilian deaths and injuries are conservative. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 643 deaths, including 74 children – another 2,226 injured.

The true toll may be double these figures. As fighting continues, expect them to be many multiples higher ahead.

Tens of thousands may die before conflict ends. Expect countless thousands more to be gravely injured.

Lives, welfare and futures are being irreparably destroyed – victims of US imperial arrogance, the same ugly business occurring everywhere America shows up.

Beyani warned the international community “to prepare for massive displacement and humanitarian crisis as conflict torn Yemen further descends into chaos and civilians flee the fighting.”

“The international community must prepare for a worst case scenario,” he said.

“While efforts to reach a diplomatic solution are essential, the picture on the ground is extremely bleak and humanitarian responses must be stepped up as a matter of urgency.”

“Unless rapidly resolved, the crisis could lead to mass displacement in the wake of heavy and ongoing fighting and airstrikes.”

“Those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, must be held accountable.”

Conflict affects 14 of Yemen’s 22 governorates. Perhaps the entire country will be devastated before it ends.

Over 100,000 are internally or externally displaced so far – in just two weeks of conflict.

If continued for months or years like in other US regional wars, the lives and welfare of millions of Yemenis are at risk.

Obama bears full responsibility for slow-motion genocide in multiple conflict theaters. Endless US direct and proxy wars continue.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani accused Saudi Arabia of committing crimes against humanity in Yemen by bombing civilian areas.

Iran’s Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani warned Saudi officials to stop terror-bombing Yemen or face consequences for its actions.

“Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen is a very regrettable event in the Muslim world which should end as soon as possible through talks and negotiations,” he said.

“Otherwise, this blatant aggression of a government which claims (to be leading) Islam, against the Muslim people of another country who want to decide their fate will not remain unanswered.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad  Zarif and Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian urged an immediate halt to fighting on all sides.

Crisis conditions must be settled diplomatically, they said.

Meanwhile, Saudi-led terror-bombing continues – with full US support and encouragement.

A devastating humanitarian crisis worsens daily. Yemen’s soul is up for grabs. So are the lives of its 25 million people.

 

 

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Main suspect confesses in Russian politician Nemtsov’s murder case — investigator

April 1, 2015 by  
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MOSCOW, April 1. /TASS/. Zaur Dadayev has confessed in the murder case of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov and is cooperating with the investigators, a representative of Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Wednesday.

“The complicity of [another suspect in the case Khamzat] Bakhayev is confirmed by confessionary evidence of Dadayev who is cooperating with the investigation,” the investigator said.

Investigators continue searching for those who ordered Nemtsov’s murder and other accomplices in the crime, he said.

The court held a session on Wednesday to consider the arrest of Khamzat Bakhayev, one of five suspects in the case.

“Bakhayev can contact those who ordered the murder in case he is left free. Investigators continue to search for those who ordered the murder of Boris Nemtsov and other accomplices in the crime,” the IC representative said.

The Moscow City Court ruled that the arrest of Bakhayev and another defendant Shadid Gubashev was illegal and sent a motion from investigators concerning the custody term for them for revision to the Basmanny Court of Moscow.

The defence lawyer of another suspect Tamerlan Eskerkhanov asked the court to release him from custody citing his health problems. “Eskerkhanov cannot remain in custody as he has only one kidney left and he needs a surgery,” lawyer Roza Magomedova said.

The investigator asked the court to acknowledge that the arrest of Eskerkhanov is legal.

On March 8, Moscow’s Basmanny court authorized the arrest of five people: Zaur Dadayev, Anzor and Shadid Gubashev, Khamzat Bakhayev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov.

The criminal proceedings have been initiated on charges of murder committed by a group of persons on previous concert for self-interested aims or on contract; as well as illegal acquisition and storage of weapons. If convicted, the suspects may face up to 20 years in jail or even life sentence.

Nemtsov, co-chair of RPR-Parnas and deputy of the Yaroslavl regional duma, was killed in downtown Moscow late on February 27. Investigators believe that Zaur Dadayev was the killer of the politician, while the Gubashev brothers, Bakhayev and Eskerkhanov were the accomplices.

Purported “Anonymous Hackers” Threaten Israel With ‘Electronic Holocaust’ Week (Before Holocaust Remembrance Day)

March 31, 2015 by  
Filed under World

 

Problem Reaction Solution! Israel threatening itself? Cyber Pearl Harbor (I – Patriot Act) coming…..

 

Individuals purporting to belong to the hacking group Anonymous have released a video threatening Israel with an “electronic holocaust” for the country’s alleged “crimes in the Palestinian territories.”

“We’ll erase you from cyberspace as we have every year, 7 April 2015, will be an electronic holocaust,” the group said in a video posted online and delivered by a masked individual.

The specific date chosen is just one week before Yom HaShoa, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Our message to the foolish Benjamin Netanyahu, and all leaders in the Zionist entities. As promised in previous attacks, we will continue to electronically attack until the people of Palestine are free,” the hackers warned. “As shown in previous attacks, we will continue to invade and attack your devices, websites and personal data.”

“To the government of Israel, you have not stopped your endless human right violations,” the hacker group continued. “You have not stopped illegal settlements. You killed thousand people as in the last war against Gaza in 2014 . You have shown that you do not respect international law. This is why that on April 7 2015, elite cyber-squadrons, from around the world, will decide to unite in solidarity, with the Palestinian people, against Israel, as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace.”

Israeli media outlet Ynetnews reported that hackers did target Israel last year on April 7, but only succeeded at bringing down a few sites temporarily.

In 2013, Israeli supporters appeared to strike back at Anonymous-affiliated hackers by taking down one of their websites.

US-Saudi Blitz in Yemen: Naked Aggression, Absolute Desperation

March 27, 2015 by  
Filed under World

Egypt said set to join Saudis in Yemen ground offensive

3-5 Egyptian troop carriers stationed off Yemen’s coasts; Cairo says naval and air forces already participating in coalition campaign

 

Saudi Attack on Yemen – The New Normal?

March 27, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO)

yemen-houti-shia-rebelsThe “proxy war” model the US has been employing throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and even in parts of Asia appears to have failed yet again, this time in the Persian Gulf state of Yemen.

Overcoming the US-Saudi backed regime in Yemen, and a coalition of sectarian extremists including Al Qaeda and its rebrand, the “Islamic State,” pro-Iranian Yemeni Houthi militias have turned the tide against American “soft power” and has necessitated a more direct military intervention. While US military forces themselves are not involved allegedly, Saudi warplanes and a possible ground force are.

Though Saudi Arabia claims “10 countries” have joined its coalition to intervene in Yemen, like the US invasion and occupation of Iraq hid behind a “coalition,” it is overwhelmingly a Saudi operation with “coalition partners” added in a vain attempt to generate diplomatic legitimacy.

The New York Times, even in the title of its report, “Saudi Arabia Begins Air Assault in Yemen,” seems not to notice these “10” other countries. It reports:

Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday night that it had launched a military campaign in Yemen, the beginning of what a Saudi official said was an offensive to restore a Yemeni government that had collapsed after rebel forces took control of large swaths of the country. 

The air campaign began as the internal conflict in Yemen showed signs of degenerating into a proxy war between regional powers. The Saudi announcement came during a rare news conference in Washington by Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States.

Proxy War Against Iran 

Indeed, the conflict in Yemen is a proxy war. Not between Iran and Saudi Arabia per say, but between Iran and the United States, with the United States electing Saudi Arabia as its unfortunate stand-in.

Iran’s interest in Yemen serves as a direct result of the US-engineered “Arab Spring” and attempts to overturn the political order of North Africa and the Middle East to create a unified sectarian front against Iran for the purpose of a direct conflict with Tehran. The war raging in Syria is one part of this greater geopolitical conspiracy, aimed at overturning one of Iran’s most important regional allies, cutting the bridge between it and another important ally, Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And while Iran’s interest in Yemen is currently portrayed as yet another example of Iranian aggression, indicative of its inability to live in peace with its neighbors, US policymakers themselves have long ago already noted that Iran’s influence throughout the region, including backing armed groups, serves a solely defensive purpose, acknowledging the West and its regional allies’ attempts to encircle, subvert, and overturn Iran’s current political order.

The US-based RAND Corporation, which describes itself as “a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis,” produced a report in 2009 for the US Air Force titled, “Dangerous But Not Omnipotent : Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East,” examining the structure and posture of Iran’s military, including its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and weapons both present, and possible future, it seeks to secure its borders and interests with against external aggression.

The report admits that:

Iran’s strategy is largely defensive, but with some offensive elements. Iran’s strategy of protecting the regime against internal threats, deterring aggression, safeguarding the homeland if aggression occurs, and extending influence is in large part a defensive one that also serves some aggressive tendencies when coupled with expressions of Iranian regional aspirations. It is in part a response to U.S. policy pronouncements and posture in the region, especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Iranian leadership takes very seriously the threat of invasion given the open discussion in the United States of regime change, speeches defining Iran as part of the “axis of evil,” and efforts by U.S. forces to secure base access in states surrounding Iran.

Whatever imperative Saudi Arabia is attempting to cite in justifying its military aggression against Yemen, and whatever support the US is trying to give the Saudi regime rhetorically, diplomatically, or militarily, the legitimacy of this military operation crumbles before the words of the West’s own policymakers who admit Iran and its allies are simply reacting to a concerted campaign of encirclement, economic sanctions, covert military aggression, political subversion, and even terrorism aimed at establishing Western hegemony across the region at the expense of Iranian sovereignty.

Saudi Arabia’s Imperative Lacks Legitimacy 

26Yemen-articleLargeThe unelected hereditary regime ruling over Saudi Arabia, a nation notorious for egregious human rights abuses, and a land utterly devoid of even a semblance of what is referred to as “human rights,” is now posing as arbiter of which government in neighboring Yemen is “legitimate” and which is not, to the extent of which it is prepared to use military force to restore the former over the latter.

The United States providing support for the Saudi regime is designed to lend legitimacy to what would otherwise be a difficult narrative to sell. However, the United States itself has suffered from an increasing deficit in its own legitimacy and moral authority.

Most ironic of all, US and Saudi-backed sectarian extremists, including Al Qaeda in Yemen, had served as proxy forces meant to keep Houthi militias in check by proxy so the need for a direct military intervention such as the one now unfolding would not be necessary. This means that Saudi Arabia and the US are intervening in Yemen only after the terrorists they were supporting were overwhelmed and the regime they were propping up collapsed.

In reality, Saudi Arabia’s and the United States’ rhetoric aside, a brutal regional regime meddled in Yemen and lost, and now the aspiring global hemegon sponsoring it from abroad has ordered it to intervene directly and clean up its mess.

Saudi Arabia’s Dangerous Gamble 

The aerial assault on Yemen is meant to impress upon onlookers Saudi military might. A ground contingent might also attempt to quickly sweep in and panic Houthi fighters into folding. Barring a quick victory built on psychologically overwhelming Houthi fighters, Saudi Arabia risks enveloping itself in a conflict that could easily escape out from under the military machine the US has built for it.

It is too early to tell how the military operation will play out and how far the Saudis and their US sponsors will go to reassert themselves over Yemen. However, that the Houthis have outmatched combined US-Saudi proxy forces right on Riyadh’s doorstep indicates an operational capacity that may not only survive the current Saudi assault, but be strengthened by it.

Reports that Houthi fighters have employed captured Yemeni warplanes further bolsters this notion – revealing tactical, operational, and strategic sophistication that may well know how to weather whatever the Saudis have to throw at it, and come back stronger.

What may result is a conflict that spills over Yemen’s borders and into Saudi Arabia proper. Whatever dark secrets the Western media’s decades of self-censorship regarding the true sociopolitical nature of Saudi Arabia will become apparent when the people of the Arabian peninsula must choose to risk their lives fighting for a Western client regime, or take a piece of the peninsula for themselves.

Additionally, a transfer of resources and fighters arrayed under the flag of the so-called “Islamic State” and Al Qaeda from Syria to the Arabian Peninsula will further indicate that the US and its regional allies have been behind the chaos and atrocities carried out in the Levant for the past 4 years. Such revelations will only further undermine the moral imperative of the West and its regional allies, which in turn will further sabotage their efforts to rally support for an increasingly desperate battle they themselves conspired to start.

America’s Shrinking Legitimacy 

It was just earlier this month when the United States reminded the world of Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea. Despite having destabilized Ukraine with a violent, armed insurrection in Kiev, for the purpose of expanding NATO deeper into Eastern Europe and further encircling Russia, the West insisted that Russia had and  still has no mandate to intervene in any way in neighboring Ukraine. Ukraine’s affairs, the United States insists, are the Ukrainians’ to determine. Clearly, the US meant this only in as far as Ukrainians determined things in ways that suited US interests.

This is ever more evident now in Yemen, where the Yemeni people are not being allowed to determine their own affairs. Everything up to and including military invasion has been reserved specifically to ensure that the people of Yemen do not determine things for themselves, clearly, because it does not suit US interests.

Such naked hypocrisy will be duly noted by the global public and across diplomatic circles. The West’s inability to maintain a cohesive narrative is a growing sign of weakness. Shareholders in the global enterprise the West is engaged in may see such weakness as a cause to divest – or at the very least – a cause to diversify toward other enterprises. Such enterprises may include Russia and China’s mulipolar world. The vanishing of Western global hegemony will be done in destructive conflict waged in desperation and spite.

Today, that desperation and spite befalls Yemen.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

 

Pre-election and exit polls were “wrong” – Netanyahu Easily Wins Israeli election

March 18, 2015 by  
Filed under World

 

BIBI WINS BIG…

WHITE HOUSE IGNORES…

‘SWEEPING VICTORY’…

WAS NOT EVEN CLOSE…

HEADS TO WESTERN WALL; PLACES NOTE…

 

Netanyahu  Wins

 

by Stephen Lendman

Pre-election and exit polls were wrong. Netanyahu emerged a much stronger winner than predicted.

He’ll likely be able to form a hard-right coalition and become Israel’s first ever four-term prime minister.

Headlines explained:

New York Times: “Netanyahu Soundly Defeats Chief Rival in Israeli Elections”

London Guardian: “Netanyahu claims ‘great victory’ after last minute surge in support”

Haaretz: “Netanyahu’s Likud scores decisive victory in Israeli election”

Times of Israel: “Netanyahu scores crushing victory in Israeli elections”

Jerusalem Post: “Israeli elections take dramatic turn as official tally gives Likud sweeping victory”

Pre-election polls had Isaac Herzog/Tzipi Livni’s Zionist Union winning 24 of 120 Knesset seats to Likud’s 20.

Exit polls showed a dead heat. Final results surprised with Likud winning 30 seats to Zionist Union’s 24.

The Joint (Arab) List party finished third with 14 seats. Yesh Atid got 11, Kulanu 10, Bayit Yehudi 8, Shas 7, United Torah Judaism 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, and Meretz 4.

Early Wednesday morning, Herzog conceded. He congratulated Netanyahu on winning. He told reporters:

“I wished him luck, but let it be clear, the problems are the same problems. Nothing has changed.”

Zionist Union will continue serving as “an alternative in every area.”

Final results will be announced Thursday morning. They’ll include a record number of female MKs – 28 won seats, one more than the previous Knesset.

Turnout exceeded 70% of Israel’s 5.9 million eligible voters. Israelis vote for parties, not individual candidates.

Knesset seats are allocated according to the voting percentage participating parties win.

Netanyahu has up to six weeks to form new coalition governance.

Likud said he hopes it will include Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Aryeh Deri’s Shas, and Yaakov Litzman’s United Torah Judaism.

Combined would be a 67-seat Knesset majority –  six more than needed.

Reports indicated heavy Arab turnout hoping to oust Netanyahu. Joint (Arab) List party head Ayman Odeh called Tuesday “a historic day for the Arabs.”

“Today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us,” he said.

He ruled out participating in coalition governance. At the same time, he indicated keeping his cards close to his chest, saying:

“After the elections, we will listen to what Herzog has to say and then we will decide.”

“The right wing has taken over, so I’m hoping the Arabs can be part of a bloc formed against Netanyahu.”

Despite emerging as third largest Knesset party, Joint List has no say whatever under either a Netanyahu or Herzog-led coalition.

Believing otherwise is foolhardy. Israel’s 20% Arab population is powerless, persecuted, and denied rights afforded solely to Jews. Election results changed nothing.

Israel is like America. Democracy is pure fantasy. Not a dime’s worth of difference separates major parties on issues mattering most.

Voter choices are largely bad or worse. For Israeli Arab citizens and most Jews, Netanyahu or Herzog makes no difference.

Election results changed nothing. Government headed by either leader assures ugly business as usual.

Both and likely coalition partners support:

  • apartheid worse than South Africa’s;
  • militarized occupation harshness;
  • settlement construction on stolen Palestinian land;
  • war, not peace;
  • Arabs denied virtually all rights afforded Jews; and
  • continuation of decades if institutionalized racism.

Bottom line: Whenever things change in Israel they stay the same. It’s been this way since 1948 – especially under nearly half a century of militarized occupation.

Netanyahu openly campaigned against Palestinian self-determination.

Doing so and election day Facebook fear-mongering about “Arabs heading to the polls in masses” got him last minute support enough for decisive victory.

Fascists rule Israel. Left of center governance is too inconsequential to matter.

Israelis are as mindless as Americans. They have themselves to blame.

Reelecting Netanyahu assures hardening extremist governance – ideologically over-the-top and then some.

Belligerence, state-sponsored terrorism, militarized occupation, racist persecution, settlement expansions, and neoliberal harshness reflect official policy.

Netanyahu is a world-class thug – a ruthless demagogue. He spurns rule of law principles. He abhors democratic values.

He prioritizes stealing all valued Palestinian land. He deplores peace. He calls pursuing it a waste of time.

His likely coalition partners are militantly hardline, racist, anti-democratic, and offensive to all values progressives and civil libertarians hold dear.

On Tuesday, ugly business as usual triumphed. Right-wing extremist rule continues. Neoliberal harshness remains official policy.

Long denied justice for Palestinians hasn’t changed. Israel’s political system remains a blight on humanity.

It’s just a matter of time before more naked aggression erupts. Maybe war on Iran before Netanyahu’s tenure ends.

 

 

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs

Police watchdog to investigate claims Metropolitan Police Service (London) covered up child sex abuse (involving MPs)

March 16, 2015 by  
Filed under World

| 16 March 2015 | The Independent Police Complaints Commission has launched an investigation into allegations of police corruption in London relating to child sex offences dating back to the 1970s, including that officers colluded in the coverup of a high-level paedophile ring. The allegations, referred by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), include suppressing evidence, hindering or halting investigations and covering up offences because of the involvement of MPs and police officers. “These allegations are of historic, high-level corruption of the most serious nature,” said Sarah Green, the IPCC deputy chair.

IPCC launches inquiry into ‘high-level corruption of the most serious nature’ including suppression of evidence and halting of investigations involving MPs

Read more HERE

Ex-Mossad chief Dagan: I would have resigned if Netanyahu ordered Iran strike

March 16, 2015 by  
Filed under World

Ex-Mossad chief Dagan: I would have resigned if Netanyahu ordered Iran strike | 15 March 2015 | Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said Saturday night that he would have resigned if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. In his interview with Channel 10, Dagan said, “it was his fully within his authority to make such a decision, but I decided that I would resign at that moment.” In the interview, Dagan also showed the letter in which he requested to leave his post – responding to claims made by Netanyahu’s associates that his criticism of the premier was due to personal reasons, after Netanyahu decided not to renew his tenure.

 

 

Government Purposely Infecting People With “Ebola” to Get Money, Say Liberians

March 16, 2015 by  
Filed under World

Government Purposely Infecting People With Ebola to Get Money, Say Liberians –Reporter asked whether signing Ebola vaccine consent form was tantamount to a ‘death warrant’ for volunteers. [It is.] | 16 Mar 2015 |

 

Tribal chiefs and community leaders in Marampa, Sierra Leone, learned about an Ebola vaccine study at a meeting last month. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

MONROVIA, Liberia — West Africa’s Ebola epidemic may be waning, but another outbreak in the future is a near certainty, health officials say.

Now, the United States is helping to lead a large study of two vaccines against Ebola. But as researchers try to compress a clinical process that can take a decade into a fraction of the time, they are confronting the same volatile mix of skepticism, fear, false rumor and understandable mistrust that helped spread Ebola in the first place.

“When we look at Ebola, it came from America,” said Sylvester George, a pastor’s assistant, expressing doubts about the clinical trials at an information session. “It’s a man-made virus. So why didn’t they do this trial in America, but they decide to come to Liberia?”

Trials of Ebola drugs and vaccines are underway or planned in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three countries most affected by an epidemic that has claimed about 10,000 lives. But the study in Liberia of the two vaccines is the most ambitious, with American researchers from the National Institutes of Health and their Liberian counterparts hoping to enlist more than 27,000 participants under an agreement between their governments.

The trial’s scale alone has posed tough ethical and practical questions. American and Liberian officials have debated how to attract so many volunteers, how much to pay them and how to mobilize the public to extinguish crippling rumors before they take root, like the one asserting that Ebola vaccines were being slipped into children’s immunizations.

And there is an added layer of mistrust directed at one of the most important partners in the trial: the Liberian government.

After a government minister called on Liberians to “step up” and volunteer to test a new Ebola vaccine, angry callers on talk radio asked why no high-ranking government official had gotten a shot in the arm.

A local radio reporter asked whether signing a consent form was tantamount to a “death warrant” for volunteers. A daily newspaper said simply, “Liberians are not animals.” Scientists have been left scrambling to win over the trust of the Liberian people on the ground.

“This concept of social mobilization, I had not heard that term before,” said Dr. Clifford Lane, who is leading the trial for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the American government research agency. “But I came to realize it is one of the most critical things for success in this country.”

Last August, even as Monrovia was rapidly becoming the center of the outbreak, many Liberians denied Ebola’s existence. Distrustful of a government widely perceived as corrupt, they believed that the authorities were exaggerating the gravity of the disease to get money from international donors. This made it harder to convince people to take lifesaving precautions like isolating sick relatives.

The distrust only deepened after the government deployed troops to enforce a blanket quarantine on a neighborhood in the capital, Monrovia, leading to deadly riots over a tactic that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf later called a mistake.

But as deaths spread throughout the capital, volunteer groups emerged, led by community leaders who educated fellow residents about Ebola and imposed measures on their own to curtail its spread. Their efforts contributed to the sudden drop in Ebola cases in mid-October, weeks before the enormous increase in international assistance expanded treatment options.

Photo

Workers struggled to position a freezer designed to store an Ebola vaccine at a warehouse in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

“There were some false starts, but we built on the lessons from the false starts,” Dr. Stephen Kennedy, the lead Liberian investigator in the vaccine trial, said of last year’s efforts to combat the epidemic. “The lesson was that using formal and informal community structures had an impact on the epidemic in Liberia. So for this trial, we are building on that.”

To try to allay suspicions, Dr. Kennedy and another Liberian doctor invited the local news media to watch them get vaccinated. But the event did not appear to change the opinion of many Liberians, who continued to assert that their government was infecting citizens with Ebola to squeeze money out of donors.

The vaccine trials began taking shape after the Liberian government, at the height of the epidemic last year, asked the United States to conduct clinical research in Liberia on potential vaccines and drugs. Two vaccines, one manufactured by Merck and another by GlaxoSmithKline, were chosen after initial studies showed they were generally safe and produced an immune response against Ebola in human volunteers in the United States and other countries.

The West African trials are the first time vaccines are being tested in the context of an outbreak, though the waning caseload may make it more difficult to answer the ultimate question — whether they really protect people from contracting Ebola.

In the Liberian trial, expected to last about a year, participants will be given one of the two vaccines, or a placebo, at 10 locations in and around Monrovia.

On Tuesday, researchers finished vaccinating an initial batch of 600 volunteers at Redemption Hospital, which was used as an Ebola holding center a few months ago. Officials said they had made sure that participants fully understood the consent forms — a critical issue in places with high illiteracy and low education levels, as in Liberia. Explanations of risks and potentially unfamiliar concepts, like placebos and randomized trials, are given in Liberian English, or, if need be, in one of the 16 local languages.

For 10 visits over the course of almost a year, the first 600 participants will each be handed $300: $40 on the first visit, less on subsequent visits, and $150 at the end. The money is supposed to compensate participants for transportation costs and lost wages.

“The ethics of it is compensation for inconvenience,” said Dr. Lane, the lead American researcher. “You don’t pay people to be part of medical research.”

Photo

A nurse administered an injection of an Ebola vaccine last month as part of a study at Redemption Hospital, formerly an Ebola holding center, in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Some of the American researchers have argued that the $300 compensation — the equivalent of $30 for each visit to the hospital — is too high, especially in a city where many people earn less than $5 a day. One Liberian newspaper announced the first hospital visit’s compensation in huge print on its front page: “US$40.”

But Dr. Kennedy, the lead Liberian researcher, argued that compensation must be calculated by looking at the cost of living and the multiple jobs many Liberians hold to make ends meet.

“Businesses abuse labor because people don’t have a choice,” he said.

“They wanted to show by example to the population that they were willing to step forward and take the vaccine,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general at the World Health Organization who also volunteered for the study.

Vaccine experts have made presentations to Parliament and at gatherings of local chiefs. The phrase “Ebola prevention vaccine” is used rather than “Ebola vaccine,” to help avoid the impression that the vaccine might cause Ebola. And the study’s original acronym, Sleves, was discarded over concerns that it might remind residents of an ominous chapter in the country’s history: the civil war, when long or short “sleeves” often referred to hacking off a victim’s hands or arms.

Intended to enroll 6,000 to 8,000 volunteers, Sierra Leone’s study will focus on health professionals, disease surveillance officers, ambulance teams and other front-line staff members at risk of contracting Ebola. It will not include placebos and is awaiting final approval from the country’s pharmacy board.

Abbas Koroma, an environmental health officer in Sierra Leone, said that some controversy over the vaccines was to be expected in a democracy, but that the trial would be historic.

“I will tell my grandchildren we pioneered this,” he said.

For Liberia’s trials, Joseph Boye Cooper, a Liberian working for the effort, has gone out to neighborhoods, answering questions, allaying fears and recruiting volunteers. Mr. Cooper, who was a leader in a large volunteer Ebola watchdog group last year, uses the word “study” instead of “trial,” which he said invariably caused listeners to ask defensively, “Why do you want to try this vaccine on me?”

Before visiting neighborhoods, Mr. Cooper is careful to park the team’s sport utility vehicle several blocks away and take a motorcycle taxi to his destination. Arriving in a big car would merely fuel popular suspicions about government waste and corruption, he said.

“They’ll say I’m eating Ebola money and I must share some with them,” he said.

After one meeting inside a church, about half of the 24 listeners gave Mr. Cooper their names and cellphone numbers. The next morning, at 7 a.m., Mr. Cooper stood along a main road, waiting for the volunteers. With nobody after 20 minutes, he took out his cellphone.

“You just getting up, oh?” he said to one person, adding, with feeling: “I know. So how long will it take for you to get ready?” Eventually, about a dozen showed up, including people from the day before.

 

Samuel Weah, who had been convinced after listening to Mr. Cooper, said he had unsuccessfully tried to get family and friends to join him.

“They said they want more Ebola patients because government is using them to make money,” he said. “The more dead and infections, the more money.”

“But,” he added, “some said I should go and take the lead first. They said if nothing happens to me, they might come next.”

NATO seeks regime change in Russia – says envoy

March 10, 2015 by  
Filed under World

RT

The latest statements by the deputy head of NATO testify to the fact that the leaders of the bloc want to intervene in Russia’s internal politics, and are “dreaming of Russian Maidan.” This is the view of Russia’s permanent envoy to NATO.

The speech in Riga demonstrates the concern about Russia’s democracy and internal policy. At last, now we know that NATO has a dream, and this dream is a Maidan in Russia,” Aleksandr Grushko said in comment that was tweeted through the Russian representation office in the alliance.

Grushko referred to the words of NATO’s deputy secretary general, Alexander Vershbow, who had told a conference in the Latvian capital Riga that President Vladimir Putin’s “aim seems to be to turn Ukraine into a failed state and to suppress and discredit alternative voices in Russia, so as to prevent a Russian ‘Maidan.'” Both officials used the Ukrainian word ‘Maidan’ to describe a string of protest actions that eventually turned into mass unrest and the ousting of the legally elected president and parliament.

By demonizing Russia, NATO creates a virtual reality, disconnecting itself from real threats to security,” the Russian envoy said.

Grushko added that NATO itself has used “hybrid warfare” against foreign states and now the alliance is attempting to accuse Russia of starting such a war in Ukraine.

NATO has a long history of hybrid operations. Any country or organization can take a lesson from it. We have earlier seen these signs of military intimidation, hidden involvement, weapons supplies,economic blackmail, diplomatic duplicity, mass media manipulations and open disinformation,” the Russian envoy stated.

The statement made in Riga is yet another set of arguments seeking only to justify NATO’s confrontational attitude to Russia,” he said.

It is not likely that NATO has the right to consider itself the sole source of truth. The alliance has repeatedly discredited itself by spreading false information both about its own behavior and about the actions of others,” Grushko said in conclusion. “Not many will follow NATO’s advice to return to the times of the Cold War,” he forecasted.

In October last year, Grushko urged Western nations to acknowledge their policy faults and improve relations with Russia.

We and our Western partners, first of all Europe, must recognize that their policies of the past few years are only deepening the dividing lines between Russia and Europe, and this is extremely dangerous,” the Russian diplomat said. “The West must eventually acknowledge the fact that the mechanical implementation of its recent policies is leading itself into a dead end.”

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