DC Museum Focused on Journalism Shutting Its Doors

One of Washington’s most unique museums – called The Newseum – closes its doors on New Year’s Eve. For 12 years, the museum has served as an interactive environment dedicated to journalism and promotion of free speech. Mariia Prus has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Біля берегів Камеруну викрали частину екіпажу судна, у складі якої українець

Біля берегів африканського Камеруну викрали частину членів екіпажу судна під грецьким прапором, серед того громадянина України, повідомило Міністерство торговельного флоту і острівної політики Греції.

За повідомленням, на судно Happy Lady, що стояло на якорі за два кілометри від берега, було скоєно збройний напад, унаслідок якого викрадені 8 із 28 членів екіпажу. Крім українця, серед викрадених – п’ятеро греків і двоє філіппінців. Іще один грек поранений.

Про інцидент поінформували Міністерство закордонних справ Греції, мовиться в повідомленні.

Міністр торговельного флоту і острівної політики Янніс Плакіотакіс написав у фейсбуці, що влада Греції «робить усе необхідне» для звільнення захоплених моряків.

Гвінейська затока, на березі якої розташований, зокрема, Камерун, останнім часом стала новим центром морського піратства. Але, зазначають оглядачі, напади стаються переважно у відкритому морі, а не так близько від берега.

New US Ambassador to Russia Discusses State of Relations With Counterpart

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has met with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Antonov, in Washington.

FILE – Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the U.S. gestures while speaking during a round-table discussion on the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in Moscow, July 20, 2018.

“The sides exchanged views on the current status and prospective development of Russian-U.S. relations,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement following the December 30 meeting.

Sullivan, who has served in two previous administrations and is a close ally of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was confirmed by the Senate on December 12. He was sworn in on December 23.

Sullivan, as deputy secretary of state in the administration of President Donald Trump, has been involved in developing U.S. policy on Russia, led counterterrorism talks with Moscow in July, and has been involved in restarting negotiations on a broad range of security issues.

He also briefly served as acting secretary of state following the resignation of Rex Tillerson in the spring of 2018. As ambassador, Sullivan succeeds Jon Huntsman Jr., who resigned in August.

During his confirmation hearing in December, Sullivan said that “our relationship with Russia has reached a post-Cold War ebb,” and listed a number of examples of “Russia’s malign actions” that have strained relations.

Among them he named “attempting to interfere in our and our allies’ elections, violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia, employing a weapon of mass destruction in an attempt to assassinate its citizens abroad, violating the INF Treaty, and infringing on the basic human rights of its people.”

However, he added, “the need for principled engagement with Russia is as important to our national interest as ever.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described Sullivan as “a highly professional and experienced diplomat.”


Measles Outbreaks Make 2019 a Record-Setting Year

The year 2019 saw a totally preventable disease claim the lives of more than 140,000 people, mostly children and babies. It happened as unvaccinated children created a pathway for measles outbreaks globally. Some of the outbreaks are still continuing.

Samoan Emite Talaalevea lost her daughter. She says she never expected to see such grief.

“I was shocked, it was very hard to me to accept what happened,” she said.

Measles claimed the lives of some 81 people on the island, mostly children and infants. Robert Linkins, an expert on measles in the Global Immunization Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the deaths were completely preventable.

“Two shots of a vaccine could have saved those children’s lives.”

The vaccination rate in Samoa dropped to about 30% after two children died from a measles vaccine that was mistakenly mixed with a muscle relaxant. People wrongly attributed the deaths to the vaccine, stopped vaccinating their children, then measles exploded on the island.

Samoa has a population of 200,000. Some 5,600 people caught the virus. Linkins said because measles is so highly infectious, the disease spread rapidly.

“The hospitals and health clinics were overrun with very sick children, and there weren’t enough health care workers and hospital beds to adequately deliver the services that they needed,” Linkins said.

Medical teams went door-to-door with the vaccine. The goal was to get 95% of the population vaccinated. The Samoan government, Linkins said, turned to the CDC for help in stemming the epidemic.

“[The] CDC also was asked to do training of health care workers to ensure safe vaccine delivery, as well as to monitor the quality of the immunization campaign that took place,” Linkins said.

FILE – Children, their faces covered with masks, wait to get vaccinated against measles at a health clinic in Apia, Samoa, Nov. 18, 2019.

In 2019, more 400,000 cases of measles were reported globally, with an additional 250,000 cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.

In the first three months of 2019, the number of measles cases tripled over the same period of 2018. Dr. Kate O’Brien, an immunization expert with the World Health Organization, cites many reasons children are not getting vaccinated.

“The main reason for failure to vaccinate against measles is families, communities are not having access to the vaccine,” O’Brien said.

Conflict and poor health systems in low income countries prevent families from vaccinating their children. But in rich countries, some parents are opting out of immunizations. The United States tops the list with 2.5 million children missing their first dose of the measles vaccine. Two doses are essential for immunization.

The CDC reported more than 1,200 cases of measles in 31 U.S. states by late December, the highest number in 25 years. Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist at Baylor College of Medicine, says the numbers are alarming.

“In the United States now, measles epidemics are becoming the new normal in this country, after we eliminated measles in 2000,” Hotez said.
In 2019, four European countries — Britain, Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece — lost their measles eradication status, meaning measles is now considered endemic in these countries.

“In other words, we’re backsliding,” said Kate O’Brien with the WHO.

Samoa ended its state of emergency over its measles outbreak just days before 2019 ended. But the resurgence of measles is still a global health problem. Some parents are complacent about the vaccine. Others have come to fear it more than the deadly virus itself. Unless this changes, experts say, there will be more deaths, and more outbreaks in 2020.


India to Restore Text Messaging Services in Kashmir

Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir will restore text messaging services in the disputed region on Wednesday, almost five months after India’s government downgraded its semi-autonomy and imposed a strict security and communications lockdown, an official said Tuesday.

Local government spokesman Rohit Kansal said the decision was made after a review of the situation.

He said broadband internet services in government-run hospitals will also be restored. The curbs on broadband internet and mobile internet services for other users will remain.

Authorities fear that insurgents and separatists demanding independence from Indian rule will use the internet to provoke protests in the region that could morph into large-scale street demonstrations.

Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety, have escalated since New Delhi’s surprise decision in early August to downgrade the region’s semi-autonomy.

India followed the move by sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, detaining thousands of people and blocking cellphone and internet services.

The government had earlier said the restrictions on communication services were “in the interest of maintenance of public order.”

Some communications services, like post-paid and landline phones, were restored in October in a phased manner.

Kashmir’s troubles began in 1947, with the first days of Indian and Pakistani independence, as the two countries both claimed the region in its entirety. They have since fought two of three wars over their rival claims, with each administering a part of the territory, which is divided by a heavily militarized line of control.

On the Indian side, most public protests were peaceful until 1989, when armed rebels rose up demanding the region’s independence or merger with Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in that uprising and the ensuing military crackdown.

World Welcomes 2020

People across the world are gathering for traditional celebrations to welcome the year 2020.

Revelers in New Zealand and other Pacific islands were among the first to celebrate the new year with fireworks displays.

Events elsewhere in the world are being overshadowed by other concerns, including in Australia where the fireworks show in Sydney is going forward as other communities in the country cancel theirs due to fears of making a wildfire crisis worse.

In Hong Kong, the usual fireworks show was canceled due to what officials said were security concerns in the city that has seen months of pro-democracy protests.

Planet Fitness, in partnership with Time Square Alliance, tested the “air worthiness” of the confetti prior to Times Square’s New Year’s Eve 2020 celebration in New York City, Dec. 29, 2019 in New York.

Events are scheduled to take place as the new year rolls around in major cities from Berlin to Dubai and London to New York.

China Investigates Respiratory Illness Outbreak Sickening 27

Chinese experts are investigating an outbreak of respiratory illness in the central city of Wuhan that some have likened to the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

The city’s health commission said in a statement Tuesday that 27 people had fallen ill with a strain of viral pneumonia, seven of whom were in serious condition.

It said most had visited a seafood market in the sprawling city, apparently pointing to a common origin of the outbreak.

Unverified information online said the illnesses were caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged from southern China and killed more than 700 people in several countries and regions. SARS was brought under control through quarantines and other extreme measures, but not before causing a virtual shutdown to travel in China and the region and taking a severe toll on the economy.

However, the health commission said the cause of the outbreak was still unclear and called on citizens not to panic.

Raging Wildfires Trap 4,000 at Australian Town’s Waterfront

Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused at least two fatalities.

In the southeastern town of Mallacoota, around 4,000 residents fled toward the waterside as winds pushed an emergency-level wildfire towards their homes. The town was shrouded in darkness from the smoke before turning an unnerving shade of bright red.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said there were plans to evacuate the trapped people by sea. There were grave fears remain for four people missing. “We can’t confirm their whereabouts,” Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

He has requested assistance from 70 firefighters from the United States and Canada.

Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed “significant” property losses across the region.

Fire conditions worsened in Victoria and New South Wales states after oppressive heat Monday mixed with strong winds and lightning strikes.

New South Wales Police confirmed Tuesday that two men, believed to be father and son, died in a house in the wildfire-ravaged southeast town of Cobargo, while there are fears for another man missing.

“They were obviously trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning,” New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said. “The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning.’’

The two confirmed deaths raise the toll to at least 12 in Australia’s wildfires, which also have razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months.

A firefighter died Monday when extreme winds flipped his truck. Samuel McPaul, 28, was the third volunteer firefighter in New South Wales to have died in the past two weeks. He was an expectant father.

The state’s Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said a “significant” number of properties had been destroyed.

Some communities have canceled New Year’s fireworks celebrations, but Sydney’s popular display over its iconic harbor front will go ahead. The city was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban that is in place there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.

Hot temperatures were expected, as was the thick smoke that has shrouded views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House in recent weeks.

The popular celebrations are expected to attract around a million spectators and generate 130 million Australian dollars ($91 million) for the state’s economy.