Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Iceland's Bardarbunga is About to Explode

19 hours ago

When  Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul erupted in 2010, it caused travel chaos, grounding flights due to a plume of ash it sent flying thousands of kilometres away causing havoc in Europe. Flights were cancelled as far away as Newfoundland.
Another mammoth Icelandic volcano, Bardarbunga, is ready to erupt. This one could dwarf the Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano. That's the word that's streaming out of the northern island nation as geophysicists around the globe hold their breaths to see what will happen next.
The Eyjafjallajokull eruption galvanized Europe and stunned the world with its unrelenting ferocity. It caused billions of dollars in loss, paralyzed European air travel and caused food and other commodities to spike upwards. Worried experts warn that this eruption could be much, much worse.

University of Iceland geophysicists have warned of a significant rise in seismic activity in the area of Vatnaj√∂kull, the largest of Iceland's glaciers. A swarm of earthquakes has erupted signaling the likely eruption of Bardarbunga, Iceland's second biggest volcano and one that sits directly above a major lava conduit. Bardarbunga, a stratovolcano towering 6,600 feet, is part of the island nation's largest volcanic system. The huge volcano's crater covers 43 square miles and is completely encased under glacial ice.                   
Bardarbunga's last major eruption was horrendous. It changed the weather pattern in northern Europe and darkened the skies for months during 1477. That gigantic eruption generated the largest lava flow in 10,000 years and significantly expanded Iceland's land mass.

Grim experts concede that if the volcano's current activity culminates in an eruption equal to that of 1477, all of Scandinavia and much of northern Russia and Europe will be left reeling. The UK will be slammed by choking volcanic dust, grit and poisonous superheated gases. Commerce will grind to a halt, the skies will blacken for weeks, perhaps months, and agriculture would be severely affected.

Amnesty International Deploys to Ferguson....A First in America

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri August 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

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"Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching," said Amnesty International's executive director.
Amnesty International sent a team of human rights observers to Ferguson, Missouri last week, the first time ever the organization has taken such an action within the United States. The human rights organization made the unprecendented decision on Aug. 14 after expressing concern over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the way the police were handling protests.
"Law enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities. The United States cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most," said Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins.
After the Aug 9 shooting of 18-year-old Brown by a white police officer, the St. Louis suburb has been embroiled by an ongoing standoff between local residents protesting in the streets and police. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Saturday and ordered a 5-hour curfew between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Amnesty's Hawkins criticized the move, suggesting that if similar actions were taken in other countries that it would prompt strong rebukes from Washington.​
“We criticize dictators for quelling dissent and silencing protestors with tactics like curfews, we’ll certainly speak out when it’s happening in our own backyard,” said Hawkins. “The people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting.”
The 12-person human rights delegation is monitoring and documenting events in Ferguson and recording testimonies from local activists, residents and officials.
Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty and member of the delegation said on Sunday that police were obstructing the team's ability to monitor the situation on Saturday night. 
Amnesty International USA in a statement released on Sunday called for: a thorough investigation into the shooting and prosecution if warranted; investigations into policing of protests and accountability for any illegal activity; and a review of use of force policies. 

James Foley's Parents Speak Out

BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State's beheading of a U.S. journalist and its threat to "destroy the American cross" suggests it has gained enough confidence seizing large areas of Iraq and Syria to take aim at American targets despite the risks.
On Tuesday night, Islamic State released a video of its fighters beheading James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago. The black-clad executioner, who spoke English with a British accent, also produced another American journalist and said his fate depends on President  Obama's next move.
Islamic State had previously seemed focused on proclaiming a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, marching on Baghdad and redrawing the map of the Middle East. But in several telephone conversations with a Reuters reporter over the past few months, Islamic State fighters had indicated that their leader, Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had several surprises in store for the West. They hinted that attacks on American interests or even U.S. soil were possible through sleeper cells in Europe and the United States.“The West are idiots and fools. They think we are waiting for them to give us visas to go and attack them or that we will attack with our beards or even Islamic outfits," said one.
"They think they can distinguish us these days – they are fools, and, more than that, they don’t know we can play their game in intelligence. They infiltrated us with those who pretend to be Muslims and we have also penetrated them with those who look like them."
Another Islamic State militant said the group had practical reasons for taking on the United States.
“The stronger the war against the States gets, the better this will help hesitant brothers to join us.
America will send its rockets, and we will send our bombs. Our land will not be attacked while their land is safe.”
Unlike al Qaeda, Islamic State did not at first seem bent on spectacular attacks on the West: it used fear to tighten its grip on the towns it seized in northern Iraq after facing little resistance from the U.S.-trained Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga fighters who held parts of the area.
But a series of videos it released recently, culminating with the one that showed Foley's death, resembled footage that al-Qaeda produced while killing U.S. soldiers, beheading Americans and slaughtering Shi'ites during the U.S. occupation.

ISIL Beheads American Photojournalist

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reporter James Foley Beheaded on Video by Islamist Militants

James Foley in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: 2012

James Foley

The Islamic State militant group has released a video online purporting to show the beheading of US journalist James Foley, missing since 2012.
The militants said the killing was revenge for US air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Foley's mother Diane said on Facebook she was proud of her son: "He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people." The White House said if the video was genuine, the US would be "appalled".
Foley has reported extensively across the Middle East, working for America's Global Post and other media outlets including the French news agency AFP.

In the video titled A Message to America, a man who appears to be James Foley is dressed in orange kneeling in desert-like terrain beside an armed man dressed in black.The militant, who speaks with a British accent and identifies himself as an IS member, says the journalist's death is the direct result of US bombing of IS targets in Iraq.

In a statement, the Global Post asked for "prayers for Jim and his family", adding that it was waiting for the video to be verified. James Foley has been missing since he was seized in Syria in 2012

James Foley (left) film near the Libyan town of Sirte. Photo: 2011 
James Foley has worked for a number of media outlets, travelling across the Middle East

A ribbon is tied to a tree outside the home of James Foley in Rochester, New Hampshire. Photo: 19 August 2014 
A ribbon is tied to a tree outside James Foley's house in Rochester, New Hampshire

In a 2012 interview,  Foley described his motivation for covering conflicts.
"I'm drawn to the drama of the conflict and trying to expose untold stories," he said.
"There's extreme violence, but there's a will to find who these people really are... And I think that's what's really inspiring about it". Foley was also briefly detained in Libya in 2011.
US officials confirmed that they had seen the video and were trying to establish its authenticity.

President Obama had also been informed. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends."
The footage claimed to have been released by the IS also shows another prisoner identified by the militants as an American reporter.
Mrs Foley, in her Facebook post, urged the militants to free any other hostages.

"Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world," she wrote. The militant group has been accused of massacring hundreds of people in areas under their control in Iraq and also in eastern Syria.
The violence has displaced an estimated 1.2 million people in Iraq alone.
Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics.

How Americans View Ferguson

Published on Aug 19, 2014          
The Pew Research Center conducted a poll over the weekend to gauge how Americans now view what has happened in Ferguson.
The poll's results shows an America divided along racial and political lines over the complex issues at play in the shooting's aftermath. Produced by the BBC's David Botti

Monday, August 18, 2014

Maybe yes -Maybe no : 'Don't know' if Missouri teen shot with hands up

ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 18: Dr, Michael Baden points to an autopsy diagram showing where the gun shots hit Michael Brown as family attorney's Benjamin Crump (L) and Daryl Parks look on during a press conference at the Greater St. Marks Family Church on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 18: Dr, Michael Baden points to his head where one of the gun shots hit Michael Brown as family attorney's Benjamin Crump (L) and Daryl Parks look on during a press conference at the Greater St. Marks Family Church on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
 ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 18: The family attorney for Michael Brown, Benjamin Crump, raises his fingers to indicate that 6 gun shots were the minimum number of times the 18 year old teenager was hit during a press conference at the Greater St. Marks Family Church on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People donate money for the family of Michael Brown during a rally Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9 in the street. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 17: A man gets help after being overcome by tear gas that police launched at demonstrators protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 17, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Police shot smoke and tear gas into the crowd of several hundred as they advanced near the police command center which has been set up in a shopping mall parking lot. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. Despite the Brown family's continued call for peaceful demonstrations, violent protests have erupted nearly every night in Ferguson since his death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- A Missouri teenager fatally shot by police suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned to the shooter, but "we don't know," a pathologist hired by the teen's family said Monday.

An independent autopsy determined that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the family's attorneys and hired pathologists. Brown was unarmed when he was shot by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, touching off a week of rancorous protests in the St. Louis suburb. Police have used riot gear and tear gas, and the governor called in the National Guard early Monday to help.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden during the private autopsy, said a bullet graze wound on Brown's right arm could have occurred in several ways. He said the teen may have had his back to the shooter, or he could have been facing the shooter with his hands above his head or in a defensive position.

"We don't know," Parcells said. "We still have to look at the other (elements) of this investigation before we start piecing things together."

Witnesses have said Brown had his hands raised above his head when he was repeatedly shot in a street in Ferguson, where the death has heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white police department.

Another protest quickly deteriorated Sunday night as marchers pushed toward one end of a street, and authorities - who said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails - pushed them back with tear gas.

The streets were empty before a state-imposed midnight curfew, but hours later, Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson. It was unclear when the troops may arrive.

"These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes," Nixon said in a statement.

A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown's death, but it's unclear how long it may take, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County's prosecuting attorney.

Family attorney Benjamin Crump said Brown's parents wanted the additional autopsy because they feared results of the county's examination could be biased. Crump declined to release copies of the report, and the county's autopsy report has not been released.

"They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child," he said during Monday's news conference with Parcells and Baden, who has testified in several high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

The second autopsy, Crump said, "verifies that the witness accounts were true: that he was shot multiple times."

Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered that fatal injury. The pathologists said Brown, who also was shot four times in the right arm, could have survived the other bullet wounds.

Baden also said there was no gun-power residue on Brown's body, indicating he was not shot at close range. However, Baden said he did not have access to Brown's clothing, and that it was possible the residue could be on the clothing.

Crump also noted that Brown had abrasions on his face from where he fell to the ground, but there was "otherwise no evidence of a struggle."

Associated Press writers Jim Salter in St. Louis and David A. Lieb in Jefferson City contributed to this report.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ebola Quarantine Center Looted

People pass by Ebola virus health warning signs, in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread thr...
Health workers move the body of a fellow health worker who was found dead in a seat, and who they believe passed away from the Ebola virus, at one of the lar...
Health workers move the body of a fellow health worker who was found dead in a seat, and who they believe passed away from the Ebola virus, at one of the largest hospitals in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. The Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people in West Africa could last another six months, the Doctors Without Borders charity group said Friday.

Liberian police depart after firing shots in the air while trying to protect an Ebola burial team in the West Point slum on August 16, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. A crowd of several hundred local residents, chanting, 'No Ebola in West Point,' drove away the burial team and their police escort. The mob then forced open an Ebola isolation ward and took the patients out, many saying that the Ebola epidemic is a hoax. The isolation center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID, was being used by the Liberian health ministry to temporarily isolate people suspected of carrying the virus. Some 10 patients had 'escaped' the building the night before, according to a nurse, as the center had no medicine to treat them. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries, with Liberia now having the most deaths.

An Ebola quarantine centre in Liberia has been looted by a gang, who reportedly took bloodstained sheets and mattresses, and  forced 17 patients to flee, drastically raising the chances of the virus spreading. The attack happened at a unit in the West Point area of Monrovia late on Saturday. Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack, told the AP news agency on Sunday that the gang were mostly young men armed with clubs.
Wesseh said she heard the attackers shouting anti-government slogans and insisting there was "no Ebola" in Liberia. "They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone," she said.

The head of Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams, said the unit had housed 29 patients who were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.

"Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night. Nine died four days ago and three others were taken by force by their relatives," he said. "They had all tested positive for Ebola."

The AP news agency quoted the assistant health minister, Tolbert Nyenswah, as saying residents of West Point were angry that patients had been brought from other parts of the capital to the centre.

The agency reported that bloodstained sheets and mattresses were taken. Ebola is transmitted by bodily fluids. Liberian police restored order to West Point, a slum area home to up to 100,000 poor Liberians, officials told AP.

The Ebola outbreak has already killed 1,145 people in five months in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Liberia has the worst toll, with 413 people dead.