Friday, September 20, 2013

Elite Army Units to Stop Taking Anti-Malarial Drug -

Elite Army Units to Stop Taking Anti-Malarial Drug |

WASHINGTON - The top doctor for Green Berets and other elite Army commandos has told troops to immediately stop taking mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug found to cause permanent brain damage in rare cases.

The ban among special operations forces is the latest development in a long-running controversy over mefloquine. The drug was developed by the Army in the 1970s and has been taken by millions of travelers and people in the military over the years. As alternatives were developed, it fell out of favor as the front-line defense against malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that international health officials say kills roughly 600,000 people a year.

The new prohibition among special operations forces follows a July 29 safety announcement by the Food and Drug Administration that it had strengthened warnings about neurologic side effects associated with the drug. The FDA added a boxed warning to the drug label, the most serious kind of warning, saying neurologic side effects like dizziness, loss of balance and ringing in the ears may become permanent.

The drug's other side effects include anxiety, depression and hallucinations - conditions that some military families over the years believe prompted psychotic behavior in their loved ones, including killings and suicides.

Quoting the FDA's July safety warning, the Surgeon General's Office of the Army Special Operations Command sent a message to commanders and medical personnel last Friday ordering a halt in prescribing mefloquine for malaria prevention for the approximately 25,000 Green Berets, Rangers, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations soldiers, command spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Connolly said.

The message also told commanders and medical workers to assess the possibility that some of their troops have been sickened by the drug but may mistakenly have been thought to be malingering or to have post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems. That's because symptoms of toxic levels of mefloquine in the brain may mimic or be mistaken for other disorders. The message said questions about suspected cases of mefloquine toxicity should be submitted though the War Related Illness and Injury Center of the Veterans Affairs Department, which has been studying the issue...

=bth: i think this might explain the high levels of PTSD even in troops that did not experience much direct combat.  One needs to factor in the cocktail of drugs we given these soldiers.

U.S.-backed Syrian rebels being shoved aside by radical Islamists - McClatchy

U.S.-backed Syrian rebels being shoved aside by radical Islamists | McClatchy

... Fierce fighting also was reported in Deir el Zour, close to the Iraqi border, where extremists reportedly captured a number of Free Syrian Army fighters.

The confrontation had been growing all summer between the Islamists, who took control of large parts of eastern Syria early this year, and the Free Syrian Army, which has been begging the U.S. for arms so it can seize territory from the Assad regime and displace the radicals.

The three Islamist groups that run Raqqa – Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, which is also known as the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham – claim that the Free Syrian Army leadership here received funds from France to fight the militants. Free Syrian Army supporters say that what really happened is that Abu Tayf and his colleagues persuaded the “prince” in charge of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, which has many foreign volunteers, to join the Nusra Front, a group that Syrians claim, despite its al Qaida loyalties, has less foreign influence. That angered Islamic State leaders, who then kidnapped Abu Tayf, they theorize.

The distrust runs both ways. Two Free Syrian Army commanders insisted to McClatchy that the Islamists aren’t fighting the Syrian regime but working with it, a charge that sounds somewhat implausible but for which they offer circumstantial evidence. Why else, they say, would Raqqa, which once had a population of 220,000, have fallen to jihadists without much of a fight? And why haven’t the jihadis attacked a Syrian army base that’s just outside the city?

One of the commanders, who asked to be identified only as Abu Sayaf, said he’d served in Assad’s security services for 10 years in northeast Syria’s Hasaka province and had watched closely as the regime trained Kurdish rebels to mount operations against Turkey in support of a separatist Kurdish state. He has a sour personal relationship with the Islamists, who he said twice had threatened to kill him.

Abu Sayaf claims that the Syrian intelligence service had recruited most of the leaders of the Islamist groups to fight U.S. forces in Iraq. When they returned to Syria after the U.S. withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011 – by then, the Syrian conflict had been raging for nine months – the government imprisoned them, fearing they were sympathetic to the anti-Assad uprising. “The government turned them in prison. They started to work for the regime” again, he insisted. He now claims that all but a few are working with the regime. “They get their orders and the timing of their operations from Damascus,” he said.

He also claims that recent fighting between the Kurdish Democratic Union and the Islamists was a sham by two government-allied organizations to keep the Free Syrian Army “from gaining ground.”

The other Free Syrian Army leader, Abu Hadi, 40, the deputy commander of the unit in Deir el Zour, offers similar allegations. The main evidence he cited for the Islamists working with the regime was that Nusra and other Islamic extremists refuse to fight with the Free Syrian Army to capture the city of Deir el Zour, which, along with the airport and a military base, remains under government control. Rebels control the area east of the Euphrates River, including key oil and natural gas fields.

“At first, they fought with us, but not anymore. Now they just go to where there are (mineral) resources,” Abu Hadi said.

Abu Hadi admitted that he was one of many in the area attracted to the Islamists because of their call for the introduction of Islamic law. He said he still favored a far bigger role for religion in a post-Assad Syria. But he became disenchanted when he saw the way the Islamists treated the residents of some of the areas they controlled.

“At first, people were attracted to them. But they were using religion as a cover. Now people realize they are using religion as a means of terror,” he said....

-bth: an article worth reading in full with regard to the issues withing the syrian resistance movements.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Japan PM Abe at Fukushima nuclear plant in PR push

Japan PM Abe at Fukushima nuclear plant in PR push - The Times of India

TOKYO: Japan's prime minister was due on Thursday to tour the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant less than two weeks after he assured the world it was "under control" - despite huge problems at the site.

The pledge by Shinzo Abe was seen as key to Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

His visit comes as it emerged that just months after the March 2011 disaster, authorities allowed operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to shelve plans to deal with groundwater over fears it would push the massive utility into bankruptcy.

Hundreds of tonnes of groundwater are becoming contaminated daily as it mixes with highly polluted water used to cool the broken reactors. The water then flows out to sea....
=bth: if I read this right, Tapco knew about the ground water contamination issue from the beginning but decided not to deal with it for financial reasons.

Nigerian army says it killed 150 insurgents, loses 16 troops

Nigerian army says it killed 150 insurgents, loses 16 troops - The Times of India

ABUJA: Nigeria's military said on Wednesday it had killed 150 insurgents, including a commander named Abba Goroma, in an operation against Islamist group Boko Haram in which 16 of its own forces were also killed.

Violence in northeast Nigeria has intensified over the past two months, as the Islamists fight back against a military operation that president Goodluck Jonathan ordered in May to try to crush their four-year rebellion.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru said a series of raids carried out on Islamist camps in northeastern Borno state had pushed Boko Haram into hiding in a forest.

He said they had received intelligence reports on September 12 that they were planning to launch an attack from there, adding that they were "well fortified with anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns mounted on vehicles".

"Based on this report, our own troops launched a deliberate attack. Over 150 insurgents were killed and the formation lost an officer and 15 soldiers," he said.

Attahiru was quoted in local newspapers on Wednesday as denying a story on Nigeria's Premium Times website that Boko Haram had killed 40 soldiers in an ambush in the same area....

Monday, September 16, 2013

Syria: nearly half rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists, says IHS Jane's report - Telegraph UK

Syria: nearly half rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists, says IHS Jane's report - Telegraph

... Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands.

The new study by IHS Jane's, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..

Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.

The stark assessment, to be published later this week, accords with the view of Western diplomats estimate that less than one third of the opposition forces are "palatable" to Britain, while American envoys put the figure even lower....

Sunday, September 15, 2013

BATTLE READY: Chemical war experts head for Cyprus over gas fears - Express UK

BATTLE READY: Chemical war experts head for Cyprus over gas fears | World | News | Daily Express

... Foreign Secretary William Hague called it a “significant step forward” and will meet Mr Kerry and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Paris tomorrow to discuss action at the UN Security Council.

British special forces were in Lebanon last night helping Mossad find 50 chemical stashes allegedly sent by President Assad to the Shi’a Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

With British and EU citizens there at risk, Major General Ed Davis, head of the Royal Marines, visited HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean to oversee preparations for evacuation as rehearsals were carried out in Albania by Marines from 42 Commando.

-bth: so these last two paragraphs were buried at the end of the article.  Kind of significant one might think.  Too bad there is no sourcing to the statement that 50 chemical stashes were sent to Hezbollah.  Quite an assertion to just leave hanging in the article.