Trump to cut millions from UN agency for Palestinian refugees – officials

No sense, no morals, no ethics – not a surprise!


US officials say only $60m of $125m for UN Relief and Works Agency likely as compromise between Mattis and Tillerson and hardline UN ambassador Haley

The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, US officials said.

Donald Trump has not made a final decision but appears more likely to send only $60m of a planned $125m first installment to the UN Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

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84 Israeli violations against media freedoms in Palestine in December 2017

MADA/ Ramallah/

The last month of 2017 witnessed a sharp rise in attacks against media freedoms in Palestine as a result of a wave of Israeli attacks that accompanied the unrest in the Palestinian territories in protest against the US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The total number of violations monitored by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) in December 2017 amounted to a total of 89 violations committed by the Israeli occupation, 84 of them, noting that the Palestinian official authorities did not commit any violations during this month. 5 of the incidents consisted of the injuries of five journalists from stones thrown by demonstrators during clashes with the Israeli occupation army.

The attacks included 9 women journalists who were subjected to serious attacks just as similar as there male’s journalists colleagues.

In addition, most if not all journalists who participated in covering these incidents on the ground suffocated from the gas bombs or they were at risk of obstructing their work or indirectly preventing them from carrying out their work and covering these protests.

It was noted during this month that the Israeli army used a new method to block the picture and prevent journalist to cover the image of what is happening on the ground, through mass detention of journalists (the detention ends when the event ends), and also using mass expulsion to prevent journalists from the opportunity to transfer the reality of what is happening on the ground.

This procedure was repeated at least twice, the first was in Hebron on 20-12-2017 and the second was implemented in Jerusalem on 29-12-2017.

On 20-12-2017, the Israeli occupation forces prevented all journalists from covering demonstrations in three locations in the city of Hebron (Bab al-Zawiya, Hawawra, and the police bridge area south of Halhul). They were expelled from the three sites and threatened with arrest if they did not comply.

In the city of Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation forces, forced dozens of journalists who were present on 29-29-2017 at Bab al-Amoud to cover the events of the fourth Friday of the Palestinian protests, to be located only behind metal barriers set by the police, and prevented them from moving freely to cover the protest that attracted the attention of dozens of foreign and Palestinian media on that day.

Furthermore, Israeli social networking pages were flooded this month with incitement to violence against journalists and the media, which led to direct calls for the killing of journalists and the removal of the media from the sites of events to prevent the transmission of what is happening on the ground from Israeli attacks. It is interesting to note that some Israeli journalists took part in this wave of incitement, as well as the silence of the Israeli authorities, who have been arresting and persecuting any Palestinian who may write or publish a statement interpreted by the Israeli authorities as inciting against the occupation or the Israelis.

Nazia Erum’s ‘Mothering a Muslim’ Asks Questions that Send the Mind Reeling

By Taruni Kumar

Photo courtesy the opoponax via Flickr by CC 2.0

On a trip to Aligarh with her parents, five-year-old Azania realised that their car was surrounded by a crowd of people returning from the noon prayer congregation at the local masjid. The road was full of worshippers in white kurta-pyjamas and skullcaps.

“The Muslims are coming… They will kill us!” Azania cried as her parents Arshia Shah and Harris Alvi looked at her with both surprise and amusement. Azania had somehow learnt that “the Muslims” were dangerous and would hurt her, a thought that her parents believe she may have picked up at her playgroup or nursery school.

“The little girl had internalised that Muslims were violent. How do you tell a five-year-old that she is what she fears?”

Mothering a Muslim book jacket

Nazia Erum’s new book Mothering a Muslim raises many questions like these that send the mind reeling. The name of the book sounds like a standard parenting title albeit from a religious point of view. But this is no instruction manual. The book explores the thoughts and dilemmas of a community that finds itself embattled in India’s current political climate. It raises questions about the difficult environment in which even relatively affluent Muslim children are growing up and goes on to analyse a crisis of faith of sorts that many middle-class Muslims are dealing with.

“What is a good age to tell a child that she belongs to a particular religion? When does a child begin to associate the sound of a name with a particular religion? These were not questions Arshia and Harris had asked of themselves.”

Erum, the founder of The Luxury Label, a workwear brand for women, writes that the focus of the book came from her own hunt for answers when her daughter was born. She discovered that very little had been written about the Muslim motherhood experience from an urban middle-class perspective. This led to her consciously looking for urban, educated Muslim women in an attempt to document their experiences and stories.

The focus on the experience of motherhood allows the book to explore the fears of Muslim women specifically. Erum documented the experience of what she calls the “authentic Muslim woman”, who she defines as just about any woman who practices Islam and identifies as Muslim regardless of stereotypical markers that are assumed to represent a Muslim woman such as the burkha or niqab.

“There was a feisty hijabi principal; a burkha-clad single mother of two who was an ex-Facebook and ex-Google employee; an Urdu- and paan-loving ‘patriarch’; a bob-haired child psychologist; a gynaecologist in a niqab; a district-level swimmer; a state-level basketball player; a dentist; an advocate; an IT professional; and a shayara.

My ‘authentic Muslim woman’ drives in her veil, she puts a bindi on her face. She is your neighbour, your child’s schoolteacher. She is everywhere if you care to look.”

This focus on women and their stories allows the book to take a distinctly feminist outlook on religion and identity. At one point, Erum comments on what is expected from Muslim women in terms of how they dress, look and behave. She talks about how if a Muslim woman wears the hijab or not is often used to judge her morality and ‘Muslimness’.

Photo courtesy Izzah Zainab via Flickr by CC 2.0

Meher Jalil, one of the women Erum spoke to, says, “Patriarchy is a devil in itself but when patriarchy gets mixed with religion, it is a very potent mixture.”

These Muslim women, along with their own stories of identity, speak of how they struggle with their children’s sense of identity. The stories Erum records speak of discrimination and stereotyping at the school level. The children of those interviewed have faced name-calling, Islamophobic jokes and nationalistic rhetoric that isolates Muslims in an us-versus-them way. One of the stories talks of a child being called a “paki” by a classmate. Another about an incident when a 17-year-old boy was casually called a “terrorist” during a fight. When his mother took this up with the mother of the name-caller, she was told that her son also called the other child names, specifically, “fat”.

What is more striking is that all these stories come from a demographic that is often called privileged, are in fact privileged, and assumed to be sheltered from discrimination. But Mothering a Muslim makes it more than evident that privilege is relative and in this case, being a member of a minority religion in India frequently trumps class privilege.

However, the most striking part of Erum’s book is when she goes beyond the trials of raising a child whose identity is Muslim. She brings up a key dilemma of being Muslim that seems to plague the community causing an internal crisis of identity. How to follow one’s religion while facing criticism for being either ‘too Muslim’ from the outside world or for ‘not being Muslim enough’ by their own peers. She mentions what she refers to as the ‘Haraam Police’: the people in a Muslim person’s life who take it upon themselves to police the actions of others and declare them not Islamic enough. She writes, “Today just as we must wear our nationalism on our sleeve for the world outside, similarly, we have to wear Islam on our sleeve inside the community. There is no tolerance on either side.”

But while on the one hand, the ‘Haraam Police’ dictates who is a good Muslim, on the other, overt displays of Islam trigger the fear of radicalisation. Erum brings this up in her book and speaks to mothers who talk about the fear that grips them when their children play violent video games or even if they show a touch too much religiosity. One story revolves around a colleague of Dr Waris, a woman Erum interviewed. Her colleague’s thirteen-year-old son started going to the mosque every day for the early morning Fajr prayers. While his mother was happy at how her son had embraced religion, when it was pointed out to her that there was a possibility he was being influenced by the wrong sort of ideas, his mother immediately restricted his mosque visits to Fridayprayers only. Parents’ fear of radicalisation among the younger generation is a real one. And this point comes out strongly in the personal stories told by the women Erum speaks with.

“Everyone has multiple identities. For me, the least important identity is that I am an Allahabadi as I have lived at various places. Being a mother is an important identity. Being a woman and a Muslim are also very important. Being an Indian is the most important identity. But all these identities are seldom spelt out in life. And yet, the one identity that every child does grow up hearing repeatedly is that of being a Muslim – both from the world outside and from within the community.”

The honesty that comes through in the stories of these Muslim mothers of Muslim children plays out alongside Erum’s own experiences – that of a Muslim mother struggling with the same questions.

“When I became a mother myself I immediately felt the weight of the task ahead. The year was 2014. And our country stood divided along religious fault lines. Within the minority Muslim population, a fear was palpable. As I held my little daughter, Myra, for the first time, the fear found a place in me too. I was worried about even giving her a Muslim-sounding name. But as an educated, working metropolitan woman, I wanted to reject this unnamed fear. I wanted to work towards a bright, positive future for my daughter. I wondered if that was possible.”

The post Nazia Erum’s ‘Mothering a Muslim’ Asks Questions that Send the Mind Reeling appeared first on The Ladies Finger.

Influenza virus transmission: with or without symptoms, you’re dropping Flu virus

Given that we keep on shedding virus for days after we’re infected, it’s no surprise that office-workers who take just 1 or 2 days off may feel well enough to once again face the workload, but they are probably infecting their co-workers and helping to keep the Flu season alive.

Influenza viruses infect our cells, but cell entry alone does not result in influenza (the disease).

What happens after our cells get infected can depend on quite a few things. These include…

  1. our innate immune response. It recognises various generalized parts of the virus without having to have a specific memory of the viral strain from previous infection. It can then respond with a range of antiviral measures
  2. whether we have a pre-existing immune memory of the virus. These antibodies and cells can awake to fend off a foothold situation
  3. our age. Children have had fewer infections than adults so children succumb more often/easily
  4. the strain of Flu virus and whether it is more able to dodge, or even over-stimulate, our immune response; where in our body it prefers to replicate; how good it is at replicating
  5. which past Flu epidemics and pandemics we may have survived (related to No. 2, 3 and 4) because this affects how susceptible we are to the latest subtypes or strains
  6. how much virus lands on how many cells (includes how many exposures to the virus and how long each exposure is)
  7. how the virus arrives; via direct contact, droplet or aerosol (also called airborne or droplet nucleus transmission), self inoculation or a mix
  8. where the virus is introduced. Virus may enter via the cell eyes, throat, nose, lungs etc.

Quick facts about Flu virus incubation 

We incubate Flu virus for about 2 days after infection.

Virus usually reaches peak levels within 3 days after infection, reaching slightly higher levels in children than adults, and stopping after about a week.[1]

Shedding of Flu virus can last as long as 3 weeks, but more commonly stops within a week after signs and symptoms start.[1,23] Shedding can last longer in very sick infants.[1]

The next person we infect in the transmission chain can begin to show symptoms at around 2 to 4 days. For the SARS coronavirus, this range was 8 to 10 days.[1]

So we quickly reach peak virus levels and become infectious. These numbers all come as part of a range – higher or lower, longer or shorter all being possible. In those with mild or no symptoms, peak Flu virus levels are generally lower than in those who have clear signs and symptoms.[1]

Flu: from me to you

Flu viruses transmit via propelled droplets (≥5μm), aerosols [7] or after contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces and objects onto which virus-laden droplets have settled.[1]

It may amaze some to learn that 1 of every 3 adults have been observed to nose-pick or eye-rub each hour.[21] AN not just once per hour. Another study found that people touched surfaces and their mouth/nose 3 to 4 times per hour![24] That’s how those surfaces come into play; our fingertips become contaminated and then we inoculate ourselves with Flu virus.

Hand washing is really important but that’s a lot of touches. Holding off on touching our faces until after we can wash our hands is a good habit to develop.

As well as the virus itself, environmental conditions impact on how long Flu virus can remain infectious on surfaces and in these droplets and droplet nuclei.[12,13] Flu viruses can also remain infectious on nonporous surfaces for some time in general. We come into contact with these kinds of materials many times each day.[2,3] Unless we live on an island near a Jedi temple.

Infection without illness

Occasionally influenza infects without us showing any signs or feeling any symptoms of having become a virus taxi.

Among these outcomes – called subclinical or asymptomatic – if we looked hard enough we might  sometimes find a small temperature rise, or a bit of a sniffle or tickly throat that we shuck off as nothing. But we seldom think about that. We can also get mild common cold-like illness from a Flu virus infection. We certainly wouldn’t go to a Doctor for these but we would go to school, work, parties and shopping.

Mild or asymptomatic outcomes from Flu infection can occur in as many as 50-77% of infected people.[1,22]

Studies using ferrets – a small animal model that can be infected using human Flu viruses and show relevant illness – identified that the amount of virus in the nose correlated with transmission of Flu virus from infected to uninfected ferrets.[20] Obvious signs of ferret sickness were not necessary. Droplets from symptomatic ferrets late in the disease course did not result in infection of sentinel uninfected ferrets but direct contact usually did (as it did in the early stages too).

Flu viruses may also transmit during the “presymptomatic” period. This is the time between when we’ve been infected and virus is replicating in our airways but the we’re not yet showing signs of the illness to come. Presymptomatic ferrets could produce infectious droplets (and aerosols?).[20] And direct contact (which is pretty direct among ferrets) was a transmission risk before and during symptoms. Another reminder to wash those hands (or paws, if you’re a ferret)!

One study found that neither contact tracing nor isolation of infected people would likely prevent an epidemic. Asymptomatic/presymptomatic spread of infection is a good reason for this.[4]

But hang on a tick. How can Flu virus be transmitted from a person or an animal if they are infected but not coughing or sneezing out droplets and aerosols and contaminating surfaces?

No coughing or sneezing but we all do some breathing

Good question. One way might be through breathing and talking – yes, it might be that easy.[5,6,8,9]

Studies have used different methods to collect breath from virus-infected humans and found virus genetic material. Commonly this is RNA from viruses that have RNA genomes like Flu viruses, respiratory syncytial viruses, rhinoviruses, coronaviruses and parainfluenzaviruses.[7,8,18]

Viruses were not able to be grown in culture, or culture was not used in these studies and this is a limitation because we can’t say with certainty that viruses were breathed out during such studies could infect a susceptible person; we don’t know if the positive results mean  infectious virus was present.

ASIDE: PCR methods are used to detect viral RNA. These may be too sensitive to define the period during which a person is infectious, as was found in a study that used ferrets.[10]

Flu virus RNA, parainfluenza virus-3 RNA or rhinovirus RNA has been detected from infected ill subjects breathing only through their noses or their mouths, and/or while talking or coughing.[8,9]  Rhinovirus RNA was also collected from the breath of 3 talking or just breathing infected but asymptomatic subjects.[9]

In a study of 2 ill subjects, infectious rhinovirus was produced as shown by virus replicating in laboratory cell cultures from samples of exhaled nasal breath and coughing breath.[8] Flu isn’t the only respiratory virus that may spread via hot air.

So how big is the risk of transmitting virus by breathing?

Despite Flu RNA being detected in 81% of infected people with coughs in a different study, infectious Flu virus was only identified from 2 of 21 people’s cough aerosols.[11] Another study found RNA in a lot, but recovered infectious Flu virus from only 2 naturally infected volunteers; those with the highest levels of Flu virus RNA in their breath.[5] Intriguingly, the authors also reported more Flu virus RNA in the smaller droplet nuclei than in larger droplets.[5,13]

These findings confirm that infectious virus can be produced from breathing alone, but that only a fraction of those infected seem to do this.

But let’s not sideline this route too much. The most infectious 20% of children and adults in one study, were responsible for 80% of infectiousness (infectious = amount of Flu virus RNA being shed).[23] Even when only a few infected asymptomatic people shed infectious Flu virus, each of those few may infect several or more others.

ASIDE: All of this work is heavily impacted upon by biological variability. These results apply using these particular methods, those scientists, that subject group, their experimental conditions and those Flu virus strains. Interesting hybrid detection methods can help address the RNA vs. virus detection issue, improving the sensitivity of detecting infectious virus.[17] Such techniques can be useful to smooth out some of the differences between studies and to improve upon past studies that only detected RNA.[17]

The range of an aerosol

A final topic on Flu virus transmission; distance. Flu virus RNA has been detected in air collected 1.828m (6 feet) away from ill patients.[18] The authors proposed that there may have been enough infectious virus in that air to cause an infection.

Research from 2014 showed bacteria-laden cough aerosols could travel 4m (13 feet!) and retain bacterial infectivity.[19] Also, aerosols can hang around (literally) until they impact with something. I’d wager that viruses could manage a similar feat.

Air management including of humidity, filtration, flow rate and pressure differences are important protections against spread of infection within healthcare settings. Appropriate personal protective equipment is also important to reduce exhaled or expelled droplets and protect from those expelled by other infected people.[5] This is known.

Droplets and droplet nuclei add to what is clearly a complex Flu equation.

So What? Being infected but looking healthy is nothing to sneeze at

Aerosols play an important part in the transmission of Flu viruses. Virus can be recovered from asymptomatic folks and breathing and talking are the likely ways transmission occurs before anyone around us knows we are sick.

Given that we keep on shedding virus for days after we’re infected, it’s no surprise that office-workers who take just 1 or 2 days off may feel well enough to once again face the workload, but they are probably infecting their co-workers and helping to keep the Flu season alive.

Flu viruses and the Flu thank you for your tireless efforts.

They thank you less if you got a vaccine which may have reduced the likelihood that a virus gains a foothold in your system or if it does, perhaps reduced the amount of virus you shed, the length of time you shed it or how sick you get at all.


  1. Nonpharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza, International Measures
  2. Survival of Influenza Viruses on Environmental Surfaces
  3. Influenza Virus Contamination of Common Household Surfaces during the 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) Pandemic in Bangkok, Thailand: Implications for Contact Transmission
  4. Factors that make an infectious disease outbreak controllable
  5. Influenza Virus Aerosols in Human Exhaled Breath: Particle Size, Culturability, and Effect of Surgical Masks
  6. Influenza Virus in Human Exhaled Breath: An Observational Study
  7. Aerosol transmission of influenza A virus: a review of new studies
  8. A New Method for Sampling and Detection of Exhaled Respiratory Virus Aerosols
  9. Exhalation of respiratory viruses by breathing, coughing, and talking
  10. Correlation Between the Interval of Influenza Virus Infectivity and Results of Diagnostic Assays in a Ferret Model
  11. Measurements of Airborne Influenza Virus in Aerosol Particles from Human Coughs
  12. Influenza Virus Aerosols in the Air and Their Infectiousness
  13. Ebola virus may be spread by droplets, but not by an airborne route: what that means
  14. Comparison of the Levels of Infectious Virus in Respirable Aerosols Exhaled by Ferrets Infected with Influenza Viruses Exhibiting Diverse Transmissibility Phenotypes
  15. Influenza Virus Respiratory Infection and Transmission Following Ocular Inoculation in Ferrets
  16. Ocular Tropism of Influenza A Viruses: Identification of H7 Subtype-Specific Host Responses in Human Respiratory and Ocular Cells
  17. Enhanced detection of infectious airborne influenza virus
  18. Exposure to Influenza Virus Aerosols During Routine Patient Care
  19. Viability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cough aerosols generated by persons with cystic fibrosis
  20. Transmission of a 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Virus Occurs before Fever Is Detected, in the Ferret Model
  21. Transmission of rhinovirus colds by self-inoculation
  22. Comparative community burden and severity of seasonal and pandemic infl uenza: results of the Flu Watch cohort study
  23. Heterogeneity in Viral Shedding Among Individuals With Medically Attended Influenza A Virus Infection
  24. Facing Ubiquitous Viruses: When Hand Washing Is Not Enough