Israel banned call to prayer in Ibrahimi Mosque hundreds of times in 2017

racism runs deep

PNN/ Hebron/
The Israeli occupation authorities banned the Muslim call to prayer in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron hundreds of times last year, the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowments revealed on Monday. At least 645 occasions were documented when the call was banned, with 53 occasions in December alone.

“This is a violation of Muslims’ freedom to practice their faith,” the ministry pointed out, “as well as a violation of an Islamic holy site.”

Religious Endowment Minister Yousef Idrees warned of the dangers of the increasing Israeli violations against the religious and heritage sites in the Palestinian city of Hebron. “Such measures,” he added, “are intended to take control of Palestinian and Islamic property and pave the way for illegal Israeli settlers to carry out their aggression against the city and its inhabitants.” Israel claims that the call to prayer “annoys” the Jewish settlers.

Muslims have to go through an exhaustive search and series of military checkpoints in order to enter Al-Ibrahimi Mosque for prayers. Commentators point out that this is ironic, given that it was a Jewish settler who entered the mosque in February 1994 and shot 29 Palestinian Muslims while they were at prayer.

“He used his Israeli army-issue rifle to carry out these murders,” explained MEMO’s Ibrahim Hewitt. “After this, the Israelis divided the mosque between Muslims and Jews. Settlers have access to the whole building during Jewish holidays.” The world is silent about such injustice, he added.

Source: Quds Press International News Agency

Translated by: Middle East Monitor

In collaboration with the Palestinian Media Forum

Matter: In the Bones of a Buried Child, Signs of a Massive Human Migration to the Americas

The desire to confirm long held beliefs of one route migration to Americas leads to delusion that two bodies confirms theory. Never mind histories tha tell of many routes and earlier migration than some scientists want to believe or investigate. Genetic analysis of an 11,500-year-old skeleton discovered in Alaska suggests that North America was settled by a previously unknown people who originated in Siberia.

Jeremy Hunt defends decision to postpone non-urgent NHS surgery

Fool on the hill


Health secretary apologises to people whose operations have been cancelled but says approach is planned and methodical

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has defended plans to postpone non-urgent surgery until the end of the month, amid growing criticism of the government’s response to the NHS winter crisis.

Hunt said the decision was made to allow “a planned, methodical, thoughtful” approach. He also apologised to patients who had faced upheaval, saying: “It’s absolutely not what I want.”

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Category 4 “Economic Hurricane” Hits Puerto Rico

Economic racism against Puerto Rica again!

It’s been over 100 days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and now in the midst of disaster relief efforts, the island is confronted by the impact of the new tax bill passed by the GOP last month. Congressmember Nydia Velazquez calls it an “economic hurricane” because it screws over a slowly recovering Puerto Rico. 

The bill taxes 12.5% on any income created by patents and licenses from foreign companies outside of the United States. Even though Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and its residents are U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico is often treated as a foreign territory when it is convenient for the U.S. – and the tax bill is no exception.

Now companies in Puerto Rico are confronted with a decision to begin paying this tax or move their business elsewhere. Given multinational corporations’ general aversion to paying taxes, and the fact that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was decimated in the hurricane, it’s likely that the island will lose thousands of jobs, throwing the population into even deeper poverty. Without medical supply manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, two of the largest employers on the island,  over 200,000 Puerto Ricans will become unemployed, increasing the 10.6% unemployment rate, which already is more than double the U.S. average.

Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was grappling with a $70 billion debt, and Puerto Ricans were leaving the island to seek employment and shelter elsewhere. Gretchen Velez, who was a college student and had never left Puerto Rico prior to the hurricane, is now one of 22 new workers at Dakota Provisions and earns $10 an hour deboning turkey in frigid South Dakota. Many low-wage factories in the U.S. are recruiting on the island, covering the cost of flights until workers can pay them back from their low-salary jobs. U.S.- based companies are capitalizing on the urgency of unemployment while Puerto Rican lives are in the hands of the U.S. government.

As feminists and activists, we know that increased unemployment and poverty exacerbated by climate disasters disproportionately impacts women. Before Hurricane Maria, 43.5% of Puerto Ricans were living in poverty. In Puerto Rico, as in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, low-income women are often employed in low-wage caregiving positions through the informal economy, without benefits or workers’ protections. Now dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane and the impending impact of the tax bill, migration to the island is likely to become increasingly feminized as women make up an even larger proportion of migrants seeking jobs on the mainland.

Puerto Ricans deserve more than what the U.S. government and corporate America is providing them. This economic impasse means that Puerto Ricans will likely continue relocating as climate refugees to the U.S. mainland, accepting low-wage jobs and poor living conditions and leaving the Puerto Rican economy to fall to pieces. Congress claims there will be a comprehensive relief package introduced in 2018, but given how slow recovery efforts have been, I am doubtful that full recovery will happen soon.

Header image credit: Ricardo Arduengo/ AFP / Getty Images

Why Puerto Rico’s death toll from Hurricane Maria is so much higher than officials thought

By Alexis R. Santos-Lozada
The Conversation

“If you don’t get away from those areas, you are going to die.” That phrase concluded Puerto Rico Secretary of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera’s press conference before Hurricane Maria.

Three months after the storm, he is one of the fiercest protectors of the official death count. As of Dec. 29, the Department of Public Safety had certified 64 deaths due to Hurricane Maria.

However, estimates reported by CNN, The New York Times and others tell a very different story.

I was part of the team of demographers that developed the first independent estimates of excess deaths, with the objective of informing the public. Like the estimates published by those media outlets, our numbers contrasted significantly with the official figure. The most shocking results from our study suggest that deaths in September and October were 25 percent above the historical patterns – with about 1,085 added deaths following the hurricane.

Determining the number of excess deaths after a natural disaster is not only a mathematical exercise. Undercounting deaths reduces the attention to the crisis Puerto Ricans live day by day. It can also delay international recovery efforts and the approval of policies to help those who need it the most.

Causes of death

Our study compared preliminary data from the Department of Public Safety with historical patterns for the same months in the past decade. In other words, we compared the number of deaths in September and October last year with data from the same period of time in 2010 to 2016. This is how we concluded that there were 1,085 extra deaths, in excess of historical ranges.

So why are more than 1,000 deaths missing from the official count? My colleagues and I suspect it may come down to how deaths are recorded by government officials.

In Puerto Rico, deaths are recorded using international classifications. This system doesn’t capture all of the circumstances surrounding a death that happens following a natural disaster. The death may have been accelerated by some conditions – like difficulty communicating during the emergency.

Deaths associated with a particular natural disaster can be classified as direct or indirect deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, direct deaths are those “directly attributable to the forces of the disaster or by the direct consequences of these forces, such as structural collapse, flying debris or radiation exposure.”

Destroyed communication satellite in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Dan Vineberg, CC BY

“Indirect deaths” may be associated with any unsafe or unhealthy conditions before, during and after the natural disaster.

For example, Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid. So, someone whose life depended on a dialysis machine would no longer be able to use one. In official certificates, their death would be classified as kidney-related and not attributed to the hurricane – even though the death was accelerated by lack of resources required by the patient to stay alive.

The same would happen to someone whose life depended on respiratory aid. Their death would be classified as pulmonary-related.

Or, say a person feels chest pain and suspects a heart attack. Their immediate reaction might be to call 911. A working communications structure may be able to get help in time and save a life. But in the days following Hurricane Maria, only 25 percent of the cellphone towers were working. Communication was virtually impossible.

Under the international system, a death resulting from these circumstances would be classified as a result of a cardiovascular conditions, and would not be attributed to the hurricane either.

Revising the death count

In light of the mounting evidence, Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló has ordered a review of the causes of death for those who died after Hurricane Maria.

The review is a step in the right direction. But will the official count change? Probably not. As of today, the government is requiring families to visit the Department of Public Safety and to report if a death was related to Hurricane Maria. But merely revising the causes of death is not enough to determine whether that death was indirectly related to Hurricane Maria. Those in charge of the death count review will need to interview families and ask them about the conditions surrounding the tragedy.

Following the impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the CDC published guidelines that state and territorial governments should follow to determine if a death is related or not to a specific event. Following these guidelines could provide the government of Puerto Rico with a more realistic death count. It remains to be seen if the new count will follow this protocol.

A broken power grid in Humacao, Puerto Rico.Dan Vineberg, CC BY

An accurate death count could be used to inform policies, supplement requests for aid in the national and international context and inform local governments as they prepare for future natural disasters that may impact Puerto Rico, particularly extreme weather events now that climate change is expected to worsen. Hurricane Maria was the first storm to destroy the power grid in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is six months away from the next hurricane season and experts predict it will be an active one.

Finally, minimized figures could weaken efforts to provide relief to communities affected by the hurricane at the local and international level. Given that Puerto Rico does not hold political power in Congress, and that the only representative does not vote, it’s crucial to convey the reality to all elected officials, so that their votes align with the necessities of those who are still in Puerto Rico.

Alexis R. Santos-Lozada is assistant teaching professor in Sociology and Director of Applied Demography at Pennsylvania State University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.