Republican aide says Donald Trump ‘didn’t care or particularly know about healthcare’


Claim comes after President admits ‘we learned a lot about loyalty’ in wake of repeal bill defeat

President Donald Trump “didn’t care or particularly know about health care” despite trying to push a major reform bill through Congress, a senior Republican aide has reportedly claimed.

Mr Trump and top House Republican Paul Ryan tasted defeat on Friday when they were forced to pull the bill, designed to replace Barack Obama’s flagship Affordable Care Act, because they could not get enough votes within their own party to pass it.

The President blamed Democrats for failing to support the plan, but the self-professed dealmaker also said: “We learned a lot about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process.” He insisted “Obamacare will explode” eventually and that opposition politicians would see the light and work with him on a new plan.

Vice President Mike Pence and budget director Mick Mulvaney joined Mr Trump in aggressive lobbying for votes with members of the dissenting Republican Freedom Caucus faction, and the President had also tried to court moderates.

However, a Republican congressional aide told CNN: “He didn’t care or particularly know about health care. If you are going to be a great negotiator, you have to know about the subject matter.”

CNN also reported that during a meeting with moderate Republicans, when Pennsylvania congressman Charlie Dent said he did not support the repeal-and-replace bill, Mr Trump said: “Why am I even talking to you?”

In his meeting with the Freedom Caucus the President reportedly urged sceptical legislators to ignore the “little s***” of the policy detail and give him the support he needed.

Among the group’s objections was the “essential health benefits” clause of the bill.

It said that requiring insurance companies to cover a list of items—including, but not limited to, access to mental health services, substance abuse counselling, physical therapy, maternal care and paediatric care like vaccinations—would raise premiums.

The American Health Care Act, Mr Trump and Mr Ryan’s proposed plan, would have left 24 million people uninsured by 2026 according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO also said that while it would have saved the government money, people’s insurance premiums would have risen by between 15 and 20 per cent above the expected increase under Obamacare.

If a nuclear bomb is dropped on your city, here’s where you should run and hide.


nuclear weapon bomb city war holocaust illustration shutterstock_512126842
  • People who survive a nuclear blast may be exposed to radioactive ash and dust called fallout.
  • Finding a good shelter as soon as possible and going inside is critical to surviving fallout.
  • A scientist has come up with a strategy for when and whether to move to a better fallout shelter.

President Trump has egged on a new arms race . Russia violatedweapons treaties to upgrade its nuclear arsenal . North Korea is developing long-range missiles and practicing for nuclear war – and the US military is considering preemptive attacks on the isolated nation’s military facilities.

Meanwhile, nuclear terrorism and dirty bombs remain a sobering threat.

Though these events are unlikely to trigger the last-ditch option of nuclear war, let alone a blast in your neighborhood, they are very concerning.

So you might be wondering, “If I survive a nuclear-bomb attack, what should I do?”

Michael Dillon, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher, crunched the numbers and helped figure out just that in a 2014 studypublished in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Likewise, government agencies and other organizations have also explored the harrowing question and came up with detailed recommendations and response plans.

The scenario

New York

You are in a large city that has just been subjected to a single, low-yield nuclear detonation , between 0.1 and 10 kilotons.This is much less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – about 15 kilotons. However, it’s not unlikely when looking at weapons like the new B61-12 gravity bomb , which is built by the US, maxes out at 50 kilotons, and can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons . (Russia and Pakistan are working on similar so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons.)

Studies have shown that you and up to 100,000 of your fellow citizens can be saved – that is, if you keep your wits about and radiation exposure low enough.

One of your biggest and most immediate goals is to avoid nuclear fallout.

How to avoid fallout radiation

Fallout is a mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporized, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds. (In New York City, for example, a fallout zone would spread eastward.)

radioactive fallout zones

The best thing to do is to find a good place to hide – the more dense material between you and the outside world, the better – then wait until the rescuers can make their way to help you.

The US government recommends hiding in a nearby building , but not all of them provide much shelter from nuclear fallout.

Poor shelters, which include about 20% of houses, are constructed of lightweight materials and lack basements. The best shelters are thick brick or concrete and lack windows. Like a bomb shelter.

This infographic from a government guide to the aftermath of nuclear attacks gives a rough idea on what makes a building a good or bad place to hide from fallout:

nuclear fallout shelter protection

Hiding in the sub-basement of a brick five-story apartment building, for example, should expose you to just 1/200 of the amount of fallout radiation outside.

Meanwhile, hanging out in the living room of your one-story, wood-frame house will only cut down the radiation by half, which – if you are next to a nuclear explosion – will not do much to help you.

So, what do you do if there isn’t a good shelter right near you? Should you stay in a “poor” shelter, or risk exposure to find a better one? And how long should you wait?

Should you stay or should you go?

nuclear fallout escape dillon prsa

In his 2014 study, Dillon developed models to determine your best options. While the answer depends on how far away you are from the blast, since that will determine when the fallout arrives, there are some general rules to follow.If you are immediately next to or in a solid shelter when the bomb goes off, stay there until the rescuers come to evacuate you to less radioactive vistas.

If you aren’t already in a bomb shelter, but know a good shelter is about five minutes away – maybe a large apartment building with a basement that you can see a few blocks away – his calculations suggest hoofing it over there quickly and staying in place.

But if the nice, thick-walled building would take about 15 minutes travel time, it’s better to hole up in the flimsy shelter for awhile – but you should probably leave for a better shelter after roughly an hour (and maybe pick up some beers and sodas on the way: A study in the ’50s found they taste fine after a blast ).

This is because some of the most intense fallout radiation has subsided by then, though you still want to reduce your exposure.

Other fallout advice

Below are some other guidelines that Dillon compiled from other studies and are based on how decent your first and second shelters are:

ideal shelter nuclear fallout moving times dillon prsa

One of the big advantages of the approach that this paper uses is that, to decide on a strategy, evacuation officials need to consider only the radiation levels near shelters and along evacuation routes – the overall pattern of the radioactive death-cloud does not factor into the models. This means decisions can be made quickly and without much communication or central organization (which may be spare in the minutes and hours after a blast).

Other researchers have analyzed other similar scenarios in papers, whose findings are summarized in the chart below:

nuclear fallout guidelines dillon prsa

Source:http://www.businessinsider.in

They Can See a ‘Stick of Butter from Space’ — The Billion Dollar Spy Agency You’ve Never Heard Of


While most Americans would consider the CIA, and perhaps the NSA, household names, one U.S. spy agency — whose headquarters surpasses the U.S. Capitol in size — has managed to keep to the shadows while possessing cutting edge tools of the surveillance trade.

Called the  National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), even former President Barack Obama didn’t know of its existence when he first took officedespite that the agency employs some 15,400 people.

“So, what do you [do]?” Obama asked a customer at a Washington, D.C., Five Guys hamburgers in May 2009.

“I work at NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” he answered.

 “Outstanding,” then-president Obama asserted. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Six years.”

“So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial …” Obama asked, unable to recall the agency’s full name.

Timidly, the man replied, “Uh, we work with, uh, satellite imagery.”

“Obama appeared dumbfounded,” Foreign Policy’s James Bamford reports. “Eight years after that videotape aired, the NGA remains by far the most shadowy member of the Big Five spy agencies, which include the CIA and the National Security Agency.”

The NGA’s secretive identity belies the agency’s massive physical size and the scope of its surveillance activities, as Bamford continues,

“Completed in 2011 at a cost of $1.4 billion, the main building measures four football fields long and covers as much ground as two aircraft carriers. In 2016, the agency purchased 99 acres in St. Louis to construct additional buildings at a cost of $1.75 billion to accommodate the growing workforce, with 3,000 employees already in the city.

“The NGA is to pictures what the NSA is to voices. Its principal function is to analyze the billions of images and miles of video captured by drones in the Middle East and spy satellites circling the globe. But because it has largely kept its ultra-high-resolution cameras pointed away from the United States, according to a variety of studies, the agency has never been involved in domestic spy scandals like its two far more famous siblings, the CIA and the NSA. However, there’s reason to believe that this will change under President Donald Trump.”

Originally tasked primarily with cartography — before a mammoth expansion, the spy arm had been called the National Imagery and Mapping Agency — until a name and mission switch in 2003 gave the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency its name, with the hyphen allowing a three-letter acronym so enamored by the government.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose fondness for imagery intelligence became known when he served as a general during World War II, created the National Photographic Interpretation Center shortly before leaving office — an agency also later absorbed by the NGA.

Now, the NGA works in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force to analyze the staggering amount of data collected through aerial surveillance abroad — mostly by unmanned aerial systems, such as drones with high-powered cameras.

According to at least one source, as of 2013, the NGA was integral in the analysis of surveillance data pertaining to Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Revelations on the depth and breadth of the Central Intelligence Agency’s domestic capabilities, long believed out of its territory, was exposed by Wikileaks Vault 7 recently to be on par with National Security Agency programs — so much so, analysts say it constitutes a duplicate Big Brother.

Data provided to the NGA by military officials has assisted in various U.S. operations in the Middle East by tracking vehicles believed responsible for planting improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and for monitoring hot spots for insurgent breakouts.

But the NGA hardly only keeps to support operations, as David Brown — author of the book, “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry” — explained,

“Before the trigger was pulled on NEPTUNE’S SPEAR, the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, SEAL Team Six had access to a perfect replica of the Abbottabad compound where the terrorist mastermind was hiding. The details for the replica were gathered by the NGA, which used laser radar and imagery to construct a 3D rendering of the compound. How precise were its measurements and analysis? The NGA figured out how many people lived at the compound, their gender, and even their heights. But the NGA didn’t stop there: Its calculations also helped the pilots of the stealth Black Hawks know precisely where to land.”

With a combined budget request for 2017 of $70.3 billion, the National and Military Intelligence Programs — NGA falls under the latter — have seen a quickening of support from the authoritarian-leaning, pro-military Trump administration. This and additional factors — such as the astonishingly sophisticated equipment at the agency’s disposal — have ignited fears the NGA could be granted authority to bring its expert microscope into focus against the American people.

“While most of the technological capacities are classified, an anonymous NGA analyst told media the agency can determine the structure of buildings and objects from a distance, has some of the most sophisticated facial recognition software on the planet and uses sensors on satellites and drones that can see through thick clouds for ‘all-weather’ imagery analysis,” reports news.com.au.

Efforts to bolster NGA’s innovate staff pool ratcheted up on Thursday, as Business Wire reported,

“From navigating a U.S. aircraft to making national policy decisions, to responding to natural disasters: today’s U.S. armed forces rely on Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) to meet mission requirements. As the nation’s primary source of GEOINT for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Intelligence Community, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) depends on the National Geospatial-Intelligence College (NGC) to produce top-tier talent to deliver intelligence with a decisive advantage. Today, Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) announced that it has been awarded a five-year, $86 million contract by NGA-NGC to lead the Learning Management and Advancement Program (LMAP) that will provide high-quality learning solutions to equip a diverse workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet current and future GEOINT mission requirements.”

Bamford points out for Foreign Policy the Trump administration intimated a significant expansion of spying on mosques and Islamic centers, while others admonish said surveillance could put Black Lives Matter and other protest groups in the NGA’s silent crosshairs.

Of distinct concern for privacy advocates are drones with uncanny zooming capabilities — features used against U.S. citizens before. Bamford continues,

“In 2016, unbeknownst to many city officials, police in Baltimore began conducting persistent aerial surveillance using a system developed for military use in Iraq. Few civilians have any idea how advanced these military eye-in-the-sky drones have become. Among them is ARGUS-IS, the world’s highest-resolution camera with 1.8 billion pixels. Invisible from the ground at nearly four miles in the air, it uses a technology known as ‘persistent stare’ — the equivalent of 100 Predator drones peering down at a medium-size city at once — to track everything that moves.

“With the capability to watch an area of 10 or even 15 square miles at a time, it would take just two drones hovering over Manhattan to continuously observe and follow all outdoor human activity, night and day. It can zoom in on an object as small as a stick of butter on a plate and store up to 1 million terabytes of data a day. That capacity would allow analysts to look back in time over days, weeks, or months. Technology is in the works to enable drones to remain aloft for years at a time.”

With cutting edge technology, a rapid enlargement underway, and billions in budgetary funds at the ready, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is the cloaked, mute sibling of the nefarious Intelligence Community — but it’s time to pull the protective shell off this potential ticking time bomb before reining it in becomes an impossibility.

Source:http://thefreethoughtproject.com

 

More than 200 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean


More than 200 migrants are feared dead after five bodies were discovered off the Libyan coast, a Spanish aid organisation says.

Proactiva said the bodies were found floating near two capsized boats which could each hold more than 100 people.

The group’s Laura Lanuza said the five they pulled from the Mediterranean were young men who appeared to have drowned.

A body is lifted on to Proactiva Open Arm's ship Golfo Azzurro on 23 March 2017

A spokesman for Italy’s coast guard, which co-ordinates rescues, confirmed the five deaths.

The spokesman told the BBC that the coast guard could not confirm whether any boats had sunk, and said no distress calls had been received.

Ms Lanuza said at least 240 migrants may have died as the boats were often overloaded by smugglers.

“We brought on board five corpses recovered from the sea, but no lives,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“It is a harsh reality check of the suffering here that is invisible in Europe.”

Numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya via Italy have risen dramatically this year since the route between Turkey and Greece was effectively shut down.

The Italian coast guard said they had co-ordinated more than 40 rescue operations in the last few days.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 20,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year – and some 559 people are estimated to have died or gone missing en route.

This compares with fewer than 19,000 arrivals in Italy and about 350 deaths in the first three months of 2016.

“We have yet to complete March, and we are already racing at a pace of arrivals that has exceeded anything we’ve seen before in the Mediterranean,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman said earlier this week.

“This is typical of spring, getting very busy, but it’s not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it.”

source: BBC

Why Young Women All Over the World Are Still Dying in Childbirth


Why Young Women All Over the World Are Still Dying in Childbirth

Almost 800 women die every day while giving birth, and the curse of maternal mortality stretches from Sierra Leone to Myanmar.

By the time the pregnant 17 year old arrives at a hospital in Sierra Leone, it is already too late. Her baby has died—maybe the day before, maybe even longer. She has been left in labor for far too long—approximately 36 hours—waiting for a caesarean section that has been delayed due to an electricity cut. When power resumes, there is no doctor to help her. Now the race is on to save this teenage mother from death as well. Her womb is infected; the tissue falling apart. The doctors try their best to repair it, but her severe infection worsens overnight. The next morning is her last.

“Too much, too late,” writes a Médecins Sans Frontières obstetrics/gynecology registrar, Benjamin Black, on his MSF blog. This girl’s tragedy is shared by thousands more. In 2013, an estimated 289,000 women died during pregnancy or while giving birth. That’s almost 800 women every day. 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world.

Nearly all of these deaths and serious injuries are preventable and needless. Very few of them would happen in the west. Reading the statistics, we don’t need the World Health Organization (WHO) to tell us that maternal mortality is “unacceptably high” and that these deaths are a tragedy. The numbers speak for themselves: 800 maternal deaths every day are 800 too many. And yet, despite a 45 percent drop in maternal mortality since 1990, family planning organization Marie Stopes International still reports that the lifetime risk of dying from such complications is one in 22 in sub-Saharan Africa. In some African countries, the rate is as high as one in eight.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose work involves improving reproductive health, states on its website that the world has made “significant strides, but not enough.” While some developing countries have seen maternal deaths fall significantly in recent years, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia are still struggling.

A doctor with a baby Maasai patient in Kenya.

In Europe and North America, it is too easy to assume that death during childbirth is a thing of the past. A sensational plot development on an Edwardian costume drama—Downton Abbey, perhaps—or a Victorian tragedy in a Charles Dickens novel. You may be surprised to find that the five main causes of maternal death are, according to Marie Stopes: Hemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, eclampsia (a condition where convulsions occur in a pregnant woman with high blood pressure) and obstructed labor. Surprised—and horrified. Preventable, treatable, and avoidable; yet happening here and now in 2015.

 It’s worth underlining that there has been a significant and steady drop in numbers over the last 25 years. In addition, during the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit at the UN, secretary-general Ban Ki-moon unveiled a ‘global strategy for women’s and children’s health’ that aimed to save 16 million women and children over a four-year period. I asked Luc de Bernis, the UNFPA’s senior maternal health advisor in Geneva, if we are doing enough.

“Certainly not, but this is encouraging,” he said. “The challenge now is to maintain this gain in lives saved, and to accelerate the progress towards the goal and targets for 2030. Women’s health, maternal and adolescent health are not receiving enough attention, even if it has been demonstrated that the major part of the maternal and newborn mortality is preventable, even in poor settings.”

A woman had turned up to a hospital clearly needing a caesarean section. But there was no people to work the generator, no electricity, and no light.

“Unfortunately the answer isn’t simple and it’s not a purely medical answer,” said Black, the oby-gyn whose work with Médecins Sans Frontières has taken him to the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone. When it comes to maternal health, there is no “silver bullet,” as he puts it, to remedy this complex issue. “You’ve got to look at the social, political, economic dimensions to the problem,” he explained.

Benjamin talked about “the three delays”: A trio of barriers that too often prevent women from receiving the timely and effective medical attention they need. Delay one: The delay in recognising that something isn’t right. “If you’re a woman in sub-Saharan Africa who is in labor in your local village with your local birth attendant, they may not realize at first signs that there’s a problem. It may take more than a day,” he explained.

The second delay lies in actually getting to a place where you can even receive care. Benjamin recalled working in Sierra Leone, where it can take patients more than a day to reach a hospital because of poor roads, or because patients have no access to transport nor the money to pay for a taxi. Then there’s the third delay: The delay in receiving care once you’re there. Benjamin recalls the time “a woman had turned up to a hospital clearly needing a caesarean section. But there was no people to work the generator, no electricity, and no light.”

I was ‘a child giving birth to a child’ because I was only 14.

There’s another twist in this narrative: Teenagers are most at risk. Marie Stopes International, which provides sexual and reproductive healthcare to women around the world, reported on the case of 16-year-old Mi Aye, who lives in Myanmar. Married at 13 and pregnant at 14, Mi Aye told the organization: “Nobody told me about how you have children or how I could avoid getting pregnant, so of course, I got pregnant. I was ‘a child giving birth to a child’ because I was only 14. And afterwards I was really frightened about getting pregnant again but I didn’t know what to do to stop it.”

 Women aged between 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women over 20; girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to perish. Bethan Cobley, senior manager of policy and partnerships at Marie Stopes International explained why teens are most at risk. “Sometimes their bodies are not mature enough for pregnancy and childbirth, but more often it’s because young people are less likely to have access to quality health services, particularly in the developing world.”

Benjamin Black referred to this as an issue of ‘vulnerability.’ “Your vulnerability increases according to the wider socio-economic situation that you’re in,” he said. “For example, if you’re a 15-year-old girl from a poor [and] rural family, your vulnerability to each of those delays is much higher than, for example, a professional woman who’s working in a capital city, even in the same country.”

According to the UNFPA, access to trained midwives could help avert two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths. According to de Bernis, “midwives can implement more than 85 percent of the recommended essential evidence-based RMNH (Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health) interventions”—yet there is so much more than mere medical intervention to tackling these horrifying mortality numbers.

Dr Azhar Abid Raza, a health and immunization specialist with UNICEF in New York, agreed that a holistic approach is “essential” and “is working.” Antenatal care and maternal vaccinations have improved. UNICEF also has programmes targeting child marriage. “In addition, UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA are collaborating to improve the nutritional status of mothers, and in promoting the concept of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding,” he said.

Access to family planning is equally vital—as is ensuring abortions are a safe option for all women. As it stands, there are 222 million women in the world who would like to use contraception but aren’t able to access it. “An estimated 22 million unsafe abortions are performed each year, resulting in 47,000 deaths and leaving 8 million women with medical complications,” Bethan Cobley of Marie Stopes International told me. “It may sound obvious, but when women have access to contraception, the number of unplanned pregnancies falls dramatically.”

 It’s about the choices girls should be able to make—freely and safely—about their own bodies, without feeling stigmatized or judged.

Family planning and termination of pregnancy is still taboo in many developing countries. As a result, abortion becomes a secret and often deadly operation that can involve ingesting poisonous herbs or using sharp instruments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these methods often lead to medical complications, infertility, and in the worst cases, death.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s about the choices girls should be able to make—freely and safely—about their own bodies, without feeling stigmatized or judged. When the political will, support and funding is there, women’s lives are saved.

“Where governments have made the decision to fund family planning services and remove policy restrictions, we have seen maternal mortality dramatically fall in a relatively short period of time,” Cobley said. “For example, the Ethiopian government has invested in family planning and as a result maternal mortality in the country has more than halved, falling from 990 deaths in 100,000 live births in 2000 to 440 in 2013.”

Pregnancy shouldn’t be an imposed death sentence for any woman, wherever she lives or whatever her financial circumstance. In 2015, it doesn’t have to be.

Reuse, Reduce, Reproductive Rights: How Abortion Can Help Save the Planet


Reuse, Reduce, Reproductive Rights: How Abortion Can Help Save the Planet

On Friday, the UN released its list of sustainability goals for the next 15 years, and achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls was number five on the list. According to experts like Allison Doody, an international advocacy associate, there’s no way we can do that without access to safe abortions.

VICE is supporting the launch of the Global Goals for sustainable development. In the next fifteen years, these initiatives want to achieve three massive tasks: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

On Friday, the UN released its list of sustainability goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years, and achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls was number five on the list. Of the 16 other interrelated goals, issues around climate change featured prominently. As the regional director of Planned Parenthood, Carmen Barroso, urged in her New York Times op-ed, one way to combat gender inequality along with promoting environmental sustainability is to support women’s right to abortion and contraception. This year, a report by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health concluded that improving access to family planning services is the most cost-effective way to address population growth, food insecurity, and climate change. The report estimated that a $9.4 billion annual investment in reproductive health would prevent 52 million unintended pregnancies every year and provide 16 to 29 percent of the needed emissions reductions to slow global climate change. And while the ancillary environmental effects are great, we can’t forget that there are 225 million women in the world who want to use contraception but don’t have access.

To find out more about how access to contraception and safe abortions could save the planet, Broadly spoke to Allison Doody, an International Advocacy Associate at PAI, an organization that aims to put women in charge of their sexual health. PAI is currently working to end US policies—like the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment, which prevents the foreign aid from supporting abortion as a method of family planning—that block both American women and women overseas from exercising their reproductive rights. They also work with local advocates in India, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Pakistan to protect these human rights.

BROADLY: Is reproductive health an important aspect of environmental sustainability?
Allison Doody: Reproductive health and rights are an important aspect of environmental sustainability. Today, progress on sustainable development is increasingly being threatened by destructive extraction of natural resources, weak health systems, and the inability of women to make their own choices about their fertility. The resulting high rates of disease, maternal and child death, and destruction of natural environments undermine efforts to create healthy and thriving communities. The urgency and the interconnected nature of these challenges require integrated solutions that improve access to sexual and reproductive health services in hard-to-reach and underserved areas, while empowering communities with the knowledge and tools needed to manage their natural resources in ways that conserve critical ecosystems, contribute to better health outcomes, and expand livelihoods—all key components of the SDGs.

Access to safe abortion is a right, a moral imperative, and a matter of public health.

In your opinion, are the UN goals emphasizing the importance of family planning enough?
While there is always room for improvement, the newly adopted Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are a step in the right direction. They go beyond what was included in the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) by including targets on achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, including family planning. Reproductive health was specifically called out as one of the MDGs that is most off-track and in need of increased attention. There is an entire goal devoted to achieving gender equality, and a recognition that achieving gender equality is needed to meet all the goals and targets.

Still, we need to make sure that the SDGs—particularly those that directly address sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, and family planning—are prioritized. We must ensure that indicators are in place to measure progress on policies that respect and protect the reproductive rights of all people. Governments need to meet the goals and targets to which they have agreed. They also need to work in partnership with civil society, especially women and girls, to develop policies that fulfill human and sexual and reproductive rights.

 It’s clear that reproductive health is not necessarily a priority in our own government. We almost defunded Planned Parenthood last week, and we still have laws like the Helms Amendment in place. How can we make sure that the UN’s sustainability goals prioritize all forms of reproductive control, including abortion?
As advocates, our task is clear. To ensure the SDGs prioritize all forms of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, we must do as the preamble of the Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development says. We must “pledge that no one will be left behind.”

Not only must we make sure that every intervention is of high quality, including sexual and reproductive health education, information, and services, but we must also support women when they demand their right to access safe abortion. We cannot reach Target 3.1, which calls on us to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” by 2030, without talking about access to safe abortion. Access to safe abortion is a right, a moral imperative, and a matter of public health. While we have nearly halved maternal mortality over the past two and a half decades, nearly 290,000 women worldwide still die each year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth—13 percent of which result from unsafe abortion. It’s clear that unsafe abortion is a factor in increased maternal mortality. How can we not talk about access to safe abortion?

If women have access to quality family planning and reproductive health, that will have positive impacts in all aspects of their lives.

NATO Develops Telemedicine System.


NATO’s multinational telemedicine system will enable remote medical specialists to provide advice to on-site medical personal at emergency scenes.

NATO - EHN
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), with support from the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, has developed a multinational telemedicine system that will enable remote medical specialists to provide advice to on-site medical personal at emergency scenes or in combat zones.

NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance whose essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its 28 member countries through political and military means.

NATO takes an active role in a broad range of global crisis-management operations and missions, including civil emergency operations. Approximately 18,000 military personnel are engaged in NATO missions around the world, including helping in the response to the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and supporting the African Union (AU) in its peacekeeping missions on the African continent.

NATO also carries out disaster relief operations and missions to protect populations against natural, technological or humanitarian disasters. As such they developed a telemedicine system that could be used both the military and civilian paramedics in areas where urgent medical attention is required.

The NATO telemedicine project was initially launched in 2013 and was led by scientists and experts from NATO Allies Romania and the US and partner countries Finland, Moldova and Ukraine.

Allies and partners provided advanced equipment, such as kits for connectivity and solar panels, as well as training for experts. NATO’s Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) provided expertise on communications technologies.

Through the telemedicine system remote medical specialists can assess patients, diagnose them and provide real-time recommendations. Portable medical kits allow first responders at the scene to connect to the system, receiving expert advice from medical specialists.

“In the event of a disaster, telemedicine helps eliminate distance barriers and improves access to medical services that would often not be available on the ground, even in remote areas,” said NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Sorin Ducaru.

The system has the potential to save countless lives in disasters by ensuring the right aid and care is provided to those who need it urgently.

Source:http://ehealthnews.co.za

Syria: Health in Conflict


The Lancet and the American University of Beirut have together established the concept for a Commission on Syria: Health in Conflict. The aim of the Commission will be to describe, analyse and interrogate the calamity before us through the lens of health and wellbeing. With this Commission, we aim to examine five priority areas: health of people inside Syria; health of refugees and host communities; health systems, which includes the pillars of health professionals, delivery, infrastructure, and transition to rebuilding; challenges of the international response to the crisis particularly health-related international law violations and humanitarian aid design and delivery; and policy options and next steps, including those that can strengthen the role of global health in conflict and health more broadly. The Commission will develop concrete recommendations to address the unmet current and future health needs.

Source: Lancet

Syria ‘the most dangerous place on earth for healthcare providers.


Researchers in Lancet study say the ‘weaponisation’ of healthcare in Syria, involving killing of hundreds of medical workers, is unprecedented

 A view of Sahra hospital after a barrel bomb strike by Syrian regime forces over Sahur neighbourhood of Aleppo on 1 October 2016.
A view of Sahra hospital after a barrel bomb strike by Syrian regime forces over Sahur neighbourhood of Aleppo on 1 October 2016.

The “weaponisation” of healthcare in Syria, involving the targeted destruction of medical facilities and the killing of hundreds of healthcare workers, is unprecedented and has profound and dangerous implications for medical neutrality in conflict zones, according to an authoritative study.

“Syria has become the most dangerous place on earth for healthcare providers,” say the researchers involved. Their study of the attacks on healthcare in Syria since 2011, published by the Lancet medical journal, reveals that the death toll among medical workers is at least 814. Some of those health workers were tortured and executed.

There were nearly 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in 2016 alone, say the researchers in their first report for the Lancet Commission on Syria, led by the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut.

The authors define what they call the weaponisation of healthcare in Syria as a situation “in which healthcare facilities are attacked, workers are targeted, medical neutrality is obliterated and international humanitarian laws are violated to restrict or prevent access to care as a weapon of war”.

They criticise UN agencies and the international community for failing to hold the aggressors, who are breaking international conventions, to account.

“The application of this strategy in the Syria conflict, largely by pro-government forces and allies, with limited consequences for perpetrators has profound implications for health protection,” they write.

Doctors and other medical staff are having to practise “siege medicine”, improvising to help trauma victims, women in labour or patients suffering from infectious diseases with severe shortages of supplies.

Operations are carried out using the light from mobile phones while health workers have devised ways to make some of the essentials, such as saline, since intravenous fluids are routinely removed from aid convoys allowed in to blockaded cities.

“There is now an underground factory in eastern Ghouta near Damascus producing normal saline,” the authors write. “Denied blood bags for the collection and storage of blood, urine bags with anticoagulants added are used.”

Some medical facilities have been repeatedly bombed in an apparent attempt to close them down. Kafr Zita cave hospital in Hama has been bombed 33 times since 2014, including six times so far in 2017. M10, an underground hospital in eastern Aleppo, was attacked 19 times in three years and completely destroyed in October 2016.

“Over time, targeting has become more frequent, more obvious, and more geographically widespread. To the best of our knowledge, this level of targeting health facilities has not occurred in any previous war, and the data we were able to collect overwhelmingly show intent to target, which falls under the definition of a war crime,” says Dr Samer Jabbour, co-chair of the commission and associate professor of public health practice at the university’s faculty of health sciences.

In 2009, there were 29,927 doctors in Syria. Between 2011 and 2015, an estimated 15,000 doctors left the country. The effect on civilians is profound, says the paper.

“Based on data from 2,100 key informant interviews in 698 subdistricts in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas, only 42% of the population live in areas that are likely to have sufficient health workers, whereas 31% live in areas where health workers are insufficient and 27% live in areas where health workers are completely absent.”

The report comes on the sixth anniversary of the conflict, which grew out of the 2011 Arab Spring protests. Two separate reports also reveal the extent of the atrocities committed in Syria. The UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria accused government forces and their allies of showing a “complete disregard for civilian life and international law” through continued use of cluster munitions, incendiary weapons and chlorine gas as weapons of war. Separately, a Physicians for Human Rights report accused the Syrian government of wilfully denying international shipments of food and medicine to millions of Syrians in besieged areas.

Targeting of healthcare workers started well before the current conflict, says the paper. The first documented execution of a doctor by pro-government forces was in March 2011. The following month, Syrian forces started arresting doctors, patients and paramedics in Douma and other areas of eastern Ghouta, where protests took place.

In July 2012, the Syrian government passed a law that in effect criminalised the provision of medical care to anyone injured by pro-government forces in protest marches against the government. It was “an effort to justify the arrests, detention, torture, and execution of health workers” and similar to one passed by Serbia in the 1998-99 war in Kosovo.

The targeting of healthcare workers continues, most often by government forces although abuses by opposition forces have also been reported, they say.

Jabbour said the attacks on health facilities and workers, violating international law, are designed to deprive the population of care as a means of control. “The international community has left these violations of international humanitarian and human rights law largely unanswered, despite their enormous consequences.

“There have been repudiated denunciations, but little action on bringing the perpetrators to justice. This inadequate response challenges the foundation of medical neutrality needed to sustain the operations of global health and protect health workers in situations of armed conflict.”

Disturbing New WikiLeaks Dump Shows Just How Vulnerable We Are to Hacking


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Okay, so maybe Big Brother is watching you.

It turns out that even apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Confide, and Telegram, which are all seen as strong for privacy and encryption, are vulnerable to hacking. In a disturbing new revelation, we are learning that hackers may have the capability of capturing audio and messaging date before the encryption takes place.

Can you hear me now? (Yes.)

WikiLeaks logo (Fair Use)

In what may become the largest release of top-secret CIA information, WikiLeaks just released 8,761 documents and files that detail the agency’s extensive hacking tools. This initial data dump, referred to as Year Zero, is the first installment in what is being nicknamed Vault 7. If WikiLeaks’ assertions are Vault 7 are correct, the release would be a greater amount of information than gleaned from Edward Snowden.

Credit: Getty Images

While the CIA has not confirmed Vault 7’s authenticity, it has not currently issued a denial of its veracity. We also do not know if the stockpile derived from a former CIA employee or contractor, it whether Vault 7 itself derives from hacking by a foreign government.

Vault 7 is showing us just how vulnerable we are to hacking.

The long-term ramification from this latest WikiLeaks revelation could be an erosion of faith that our popular tech tools are secure. Whether it be using an iPhone or watching a show on a smart tv, we may become more skeptical that our tools are not being used against us.

Credit: Getty Images

There has been a low-running tension between consumers, the government, and the tech industry. Each group has their own interests, and they are often at odds.

The general public has a desire not to be hacked, and the government has a desire for hackable tech. The tech industry has a desire to make money, which typically involves ensuring consumers that their products will not be hacked.

This initial release by WikiLeaks showcases the tremendous amount of resources that the CIA has put into ensuring that our popular devices, whether they be Android or Apple, have certain back-door vulnerabilities. While it is generally understood that the government works with major tech companies to notify the company when a vulnerability has been found, this data dump by WikiLeaks implies that the CIA is not only not telling companies about vulnerabilities, but has also been actively pursuing to find and purchase additional flaws.

“Governments should be safeguarding the digital privacy and security of their citizens, but these alleged actions by the CIA do just the opposite. Weaponising everyday products such as TVs and smartphones – and failing to disclose vulnerabilities to manufacturers – is dangerous and short-sighted.” -Craig Fagan, policy director for the World Wide Web Foundation (speaking to the BBC)

Credit: Getty Images

The problem, of course, is what happens when bad actors exploit vulnerability flaws? The initial release of Vault 7 (Year One) seems to represent a playbook of sorts. That playbook is now out of the proverbial locker room.

“Those vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and governments around the world. Patching security holes immediately, not stockpiling them, is the best way to make everyone’s digital life safer.”-Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, speaking to The New York Times

While companies like Apple are already asserted that they have patched the problems listed in WikiLeaks, it is our faith that our products are secure that may be more difficult to fix.

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