Italian doctor laments Libya's 'concentration camps' for migrants

4/08/2018

Chemical Attacks in Syria 2018

Burning Eyes, Foaming Mouths: Years of Suspected Chemical Attacks in Syria

THE NEW YORK TIMES
By YONETTE JOSEPH and CHRISTINA CARON
April 8, 2018

Chemical Attacks Syria 2018

Nearly five years after the government of President Bashar al-Assad agreed to purge Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, the chemical warfare shows no sign of ending as Syria’s bloody civil war stretches into its seventh year.
Thsuspected chemical attack on a Syrian rebel stronghold near Damascus on Saturday was the latest in a string of similar deadly assaults, including one in 2013 that killed more than 1,400 and shocked the world’s conscience.
John Kerry, then secretary of state, called it a “moral obscenity.”
Analysts have said that the use of poison gas, a war crime under international law, is integral to Mr. Assad’s scorched-earth drive to regain control of the rebel-held areas near Damascus.
Here is a look at some of the major episodes of suspected chemical attacks.
August 2013: Sarin
The attacks in Syria began with blasts in the night. Some residents who heard the explosions and lived to tell about them described the sound like “a water tank bursting.”
“Then came the smell, which burned eyes and throats, like onions or chlorine,” The New York Times wrote at the time.
Opposition groups said rockets carrying chemical weapons hit the towns of Ain Tarma, Zamalka, Jobar and Muadamiya. Videos and photos posted online showed hundreds of bodies without visible wounds. Many victims exhibited symptoms like vomiting, intense salivating, suffocation and tremors. The chemicals were believed to be a “cocktail” of the toxic nerve agent sarin and other components.
Opposition activists also posted photos of rockets they said were used in the attack. The deadliest toll fell on the heart of Eastern Ghouta.
When the enormity of the attacks became clearer to the administration of President Barack Obama, Mr. Kerry accused the Syrian government of the “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians” and of cynical efforts to cover up its responsibility for a “cowardly crime.”
The attack spurred Mr. Obama to ask Congress for permission to launch a military counterattack. It also emerged as a test of Mr. Obama’s willingness to hold to his stance that a chemical attack would cross a “red line.”
In 2012, he stated at an impromptu news conference at the White House:
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
But in 2013, as he drew criticism for not taking more decisive action on Syria after the suspected chemical attacks, Mr. Obama said while on a trip to Stockholm: “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.”
In September, the United States and Russia reached an agreement that called for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014.
April 2014: Poison Gas
An attack in the village of Kfar Zeita sent streams of choking patients to hospital, and Syrian state television and antigovernment activists said that poison gas had been used in the rebel-held village in the central province of Hama.
According to opposition activists, government helicopters dropped improvised bombs on the village, covering it with a thick smoke that smelled of chlorine. Syrian state television blamed the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, for the attack.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a statement in September 2014 that it had collected evidence that chlorine had been used as a weapon, “systematically and repeatedly,” in three villages in northern Syria in April. A United Nations report also said chlorine attacks had taken place in April and May.
May 2015: Chlorine
In spring of 2015, two years after Mr. Assad agreed to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, the smell of bleach hit the Syrian town of Sarmeen, making it difficult for residents to breathe.
That May, rescue workers began raising the alarm: There was growing evidence that the government was flouting international law to drop jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas.
The chemical is typically dropped in barrel bombs that explode on impact, distributing clouds of gas. The gas injures the respiratory tract, and, in some cases, can cause victims to choke to death as the lungs fill with fluid.
Hatem Abu Marwan, then 29, a rescue worker with the White Helmets civil defense organization, told The Times in 2015: “We know the sound of a helicopter that goes to a low height and drops a barrel. Nobody has aircraft except the regime.”
The United Nations Security Councildiscussed a draft resolution that would create a panel, reporting to the secretary general, to determine which of the warring parties was responsible for using chlorine as a weapon. But Syrian state media dismissed it all as propaganda.
August 2015: Mustard Gas
Later that year, in August, the Syrian American Medical Society, a humanitarian group, said it had received more than 50 patients, 23 of whom showed symptoms of chemical exposure.
Some had blisters associated with mustard gas after an attack in the city of Marea. A United Nations report blamed the Islamic State.
September 2016: Chlorine
Another attack in 2016 killed at least two people when barrels containing chlorine gas were dropped over a rebel-held section of Aleppo.
Using chlorine as a weapon is forbidden, but it was not included in the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons because it also has many civilian uses.
April 2017: Sarin
Almost exactly one year ago, dozens of people, including children, died on April 4, 2017, in Khan Sheikhoun, in northern Syria, and hundreds more were injured in what was described as the worst chemical attack in years.
This time, the doctors and rescue workers suspected something beyond chlorine gas. Soon after, the Turkish health minister confirmed a preliminary report that the nerve agent sarin had been found in the blood and urine of victims who were evacuated to Turkey.
In response, President Trump ordered a military strike that fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield, where the chemical weapons attack had originated.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia expressed doubt that the attack had happened and said it wasn’t the Syrian government that possessed the chemical weapons — it was the insurgents fighting Mr. Assad’s forces. The White House accused Russia of engaging in a cover-up.
April 2018: ‘Chemical Agent’
In the latest episode of violence, dozens of Syrians were killed in a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held suburb of Douma, aid groups said on Sunday.
The Syrian Civil Defense and the Syrian American Medical Society said in a joint report that more than 500 people had gone to medical centers after the assault “with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.” Symptoms included including trouble breathing, foaming at the mouth, burning eyes and the “emission of a chlorine-like odor.”
The attack could not be independently verified, but rescue workers reported that at least 49 people had died. Video footage circulated by anti-government activists showed the bodies of men, women and children sprawled on floors.

2/16/2018

Abolish Sexual Slavery

Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery in North Carolina

Abolish Sexual Slavery

Sixty-some degrees and overcast on a typical morning–I was taking no notice of the traffic lines as I sped through the empty half of the Walmart parking lot trying to beat the lunch crowd to my favorite spot. Suddenly, I noticed a teenage girl stumbling out of a parked car.
She stood out, with disheveled hair, legs as thin as my wrists covered by thin black leggings, an oversized baggy sweatshirt, no shoes, no purse, no wallet, no depth behind her eyes. I stared as she passed in front of my car before climbing in the passenger seat of another vehicle and riding off.
My female instincts kicked in, and I knew in my gut that she wasn’t just another homeless girl living out of her car. I slowly drove past the car that she had gotten out of and noticed a man in the reclined driver’s seat. The thoughts running rampant in my head were so unnerving and nauseating that I actually had to pull my car across two spaces, roll the window down, and put my head between my legs.
She was a modern day slave.
When I snapped out of my episode I realized that the car had gone one way, the girl another, and both left me thinking: How is this happening in my own backyard? And even worse: How have I been so naive, so under- informed that I’m in this state of shock?

We need to peel back our sunglasses, rub our eyes, and look at the reality of this situation: Trafficking and exploitation are a very real disease that has infected the neighborhoods we call home. Don’t kid yourself. This isn’t just an overseas issue. It happens right here in North Carolina. Right here in Raleigh. It’s modern day slavery.

Words we should know:

Exploitation

When vulnerable people are taken advantage of; can be in the form of labor or sexual abuse; minors being used in labor or sexual acts are ALWAYS considered exploited because anyone under the age of 18 is considered vulnerable, as well as the mentally handicapped and anyone who is from a foreign country and can therefore not fully understand the native language or culture/laws.

An example of labor exploitation is hiring someone who doesn’t speak English to clean your house at a rate less than minimum wage. They don’t understand that it’s illegal and are thus at a disadvantage. Engaging in sexual acts with a minor or someone who is mentally handicapped is considered sexual exploitation because regardless of their consent, they’re vulnerable and therefore at a disadvantage.

Trafficking

When someone is exploited for the purpose of financial gain and/or by the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
Force involves physical restraint, beatings, rape, and confinement
Fraud includes false promises, posing as a false agency or employer, and lying about living or working conditions
Coercion involves threats or blackmail, confiscation of passport or other legal documents, and making a person afraid to contact authorities or family.

An example of trafficking would be when a young girl is being bounced between foster homes and a neighbor offers take her under his wing and give her a nice home in exchange for working for him. She is locked up, beaten, raped, and told that if she seeks help she will be shamed by society. In that scenario the victim has been trafficked by fraud, force, and coercion, respectively.

Modern Day Slavery

This is the exact same thing as trafficking except there is always financial gain involved. Imagine the same example as above, except the neighbor is making her have sex with strangers in exchange for money.

Now that we’ve covered the basics I can share some interesting statistics with you.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, it’s estimated that in 2006 there were 2.4 million people worldwide being trafficked in what was estimated to be a $32 billion a year industry. That same year, UNICEF estimated 2 million of those to be children. 
What does any of this have to do with you, a proud North Carolinian? In 2012 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported that there were 512 calls reporting possible human trafficking in North Carolina alone–46 of those from Raleigh, 7 from Cary, 14 from Durham, and 99 from Charlotte. All due to the network of highways, military bases, large agricultural and meat packing industries, growing immigrant population, and the fact that we’re a coastal state.

These high numbers put North Carolina in the top ten for human trafficking in the United States.

This is a top ten I don’t want to be a part of.

My point of even writing about this topic is to at the very least inform. I know “inform” can be a scary word because you feel like once you’re informed you’re required to take action, right? Wrong. Just being informed will make you want to take action. You don’t have to start waking up early on your Saturdays off to visit rehabilitation homes and help young girls get back on track. Although if you want to, check this out: http://www.transforminghopeministries.org/

And you don’t have to start seeking out females in an effort to find which may be exhibiting signs of being in a trafficking situation. Although here are some tips for spotting it: http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-the-signs

But what you ought to do is be informed and share your knowledge with others when the opportunity arises. Unfortunately, many victims don’t realize they’re victims and it may take a little (*dun dun dunnn*) information to help them realize that they are in fact being exploited by or trafficked by someone that they think cares about them.

It’s also an opportunity to lead by example. Showing your children, neighbors, co-workers, and/or strangers what it looks like to be in a healthy relationship–No need for ridiculous amounts of PDA, but speaking kindly of and being slightly affectionate towards your significant other can go a long ways in the eyes of the young and impressionable that are always watching.

These recent arrests made by the FBI have brought us to this undeniable realization that this is happening all over the world–and very close to home. All I ask is that as citizens of North Carolina, the United States, and essentially the world, we at least inform ourselves. I guess at this stage in the game we should all have something we bring to the metaphoric table of life–if you can’t think of any specific skill set or talent then at least allow it to be knowledge.

Dana

Dana is a passionate champion in the fight for awareness of human trafficking, with special focus to our own state of North Carolina, which holds the dubious position of ranking 10th in the nation for this scourge. All my articles.

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