Trump Scraps New Sanctions Against Russia, Overruling Advisers – The New York Times

“Trump seems to think that if he accepts what his advisers recommend on even days of the month and rejects their recommendations on odd days, the result will be a strategy,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and Columbia University who served as ambassador to former Soviet states in the 1990s.

“By and large, other governments don’t know whether to laugh or cry at all this,” Mr. Sestanovich said. “But in Russia, laughter is getting the upper hand.”

Mr. Trump was annoyed with Ms. Haley for getting out in front of the policy, the administration official said, and the president’s decision to reject sanctions left her hanging in public with her credibility on the line.

Trump businesses making millions from political and taxpayer spending – report


Report finds Trump’s businesses have raked in $15.1m from political groups and federal agencies in ‘pattern of personal self-enrichment’

Donald Trump’s US businesses have raked in $15.1m in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since he began his run for the presidency, according to a report released on Monday.

For the report, titled The Art of the (Self) Deal: Political and Taxpayer Spending at Trump’s Properties, Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit, analyzed all the available records of political and federal taxpayer spending at Trump businesses.

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Settlers storm archaeological site in Sebastia, northern West Bank

PNN/ Nablus/

A group of Israeli settlers on Monday stormed a historic archaeological site in the town of Sebastia near Nablus, northern West Bank, under heavy protection by the Israeli army.

The mayor of Sebastia Mohammed Azem, told WAFA agency that a number of settlers, broke into the site amid the protection by the army, who closed the area for any other visitors.

He added that clashes broke out in the area following the visit, while Israeli soldiers fired teargas towards the protesters.

Azem pointed out that the town is constantly attacked by the occupation and settlers, especially with the approach of a national festival in the town that will be organized by the municipality next Friday, and  will be held in the archaeological area.

Guest Voz: The illusion of inclusion by Texas State Board of Education Republicans

By Marisa B. Perez-Diaz


(Editor’s Note: The following is a statement released by Texas State Board Education member Marisa B. Perez-Diaz after the Texas State Board of Education voted to approve ethnic studies course for Mexican Americans)

Friday, April 13, 2018 was not a victory, but a slap in the face. While I appreciate the steps that the Board of Education has taken to approve ethnic-specific courses of study, it did not come without its insults.

Author & Texas State Board of Education member

Friday, 9 of my 14 colleagues told me how they believe I should identify: “American of Mexican Descent.” What does that mean? How do any of them expect this title to resonate with any of our scholars who identify as Mexican American? More importantly, who do any of them think they are to tell me how I should identify?

Over the last 4 ½ years, we have heard from communities who are directly impacted by Mexican American Studies courses; we have listened to scholar after scholar, expert after expert present on the positive impact Mexican American Studies courses have on ALL scholars.

The time has finally come to call this what it is…DISCRIMINATION!

The time for cloaking bigotry and/or fear of diversity under the guise of “patriotism” and “Americanism” is over. I am wholly American, as I am wholly Mexican, as I am wholly a wife, mother, daughter, sister. My experience is as American as apple pie, because guess what, my ancestors were on this land well before it was conquered and named America.

Today, I am disappointed.

Here are a few points, for those reading this that I want to make VERY clear:

My colleague from Beaumont would have you believe that “hyphenated Americanism” is divisive…BULL! Again, what does that even mean?

I PROUDLY identify as Mexican American and take exception to the idea that I am a hyphenated American and that my identity is divisive. That goes against everything I stand for. I serve as a State Board of Education member of color, specifically to ensure that there is inclusivity in our curriculum, our textbooks and our discussions; something that has not historically taken place; something that I alongside, Ruben Cortez, Erika Beltran and Lawrence Allen have long fought for.

Pretty words are empty when not backed by actions. Our board Chair read, out loud, a thoughtful message following the discussion on ethnic studies courses. While the verbal sentiment was nice, it doesn’t mean anything when minutes before, the majority of the Board took a vote against naming the course Mexican American Studies.

We HAVE to be honest with ourselves and not pat ourselves on the back when we are STILL not listening to the communities who have been pleading for support from policy leaders for 4 ½ years.

My colleague from Amarillo, Texas commented that it did not matter to him what the course was called, only that he was pleased that the board had moved in this direction. Based on that logic, I suggested naming the course Mexican American Studies, moving into our June meeting, and was struck down. Where is the sincerity in the effort, then?!

Every other ethnic course’s naming convention was accepted and left untouched: African American Studies, Native American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Asian Pacific Islander American Studies. Why was Mexican American Studies singled out?

Because this is systemic oppression, institutionalized racism and an inherent fear of THIS empowered community.

At the end of the day, I, working alongside a handful of my colleagues, passionate college/K12 educators, community members, families and scholars, over the last 4 ½ years, have been advocating for the approval of a standards-based Mexican American Studies (MAS) course, not because we want an exclusive pathway for a single population of scholars, but because there is beauty in diversifying curriculum when and where it does not currently exist, with the intention of inclusivity of all scholars.

Why is this not understood? Is it, but there exists a fear of “the other?” If the latter is the case, why is this population’s history “the other?” Why is MY history “the other?”

Can we engage in honest dialogue about the underlying factors, set deep in the shameful history of our state, in order to move past this history and move forward together, to teach beauty in diversity, mutuality and respect for all?

Today, we could have ended this argument and done right by our Texas scholars. Today, we could’ve been logical, rational, and equitable in our decision making, but instead, the Republicans of this body of policy makers, presented as politicians.

Today we could have advanced Texas history; American history, but the Board decided that a clean, clear move in this direction wasn’t their route.

There is no reason why we must begin 5 paces behind the starting line, just to prove we are equal and that our history- which is just as American as any other history — counts.

Marisa B. Perez-Diaz (D), the District 3 Texas State Board of Education member, was elected in November 2012 and took office on Jan. 1, 2013. She was the youngest Latina, nationally, to have ever been elected to serve on a State Board of Education. She holds a degree in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Migrants add to Australia’s wealth, government report finds


Migration program will add up to 1% to annual average GDP growth because it limits the economic impact of the ageing population

Skilled migrants are adding to Australia’s wealth and are not living on welfare or robbing local workers of jobs, a new report has found.

Quashing concerns about the need to cut immigration, the joint research by Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs shows it is in fact benefiting the country’s coffers.

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Japan’s Shinzo Abe tipped to resign in June as cronyism scandals take toll

No place to run or hide anymore


Prime minister’s popularity is at an all-time low and risks damaging his party’s standing in coming elections

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is likely to resign in June after two cronyism scandals sent his approval ratings to an all-time low and risk damaging his party’s fortunes in elections next year, according to one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders.

Junichiro Koizumi, a flamboyant reformer who was prime minister from 2001-06, told a weekly magazine published on Monday that Abe has found himself in a “dangerous” situation over the scandals, adding: “Won’t he resign around the time the current parliamentary session ends [on 20 June]?”

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A warning to the corrupt: if you kill a journalist, another will take their place | Laurent Richard


Why kill a journalist if others are waiting to carry on their work? Those who tried to halt Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work in Malta will soon know they failed

You killed the messenger. But you won’t kill the message.

Over the past six months 45 journalists from 15 different countries have been working in secret to complete and publish investigations by the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed on 16 October 2017.

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MJA & EID Journal On The Rise Of Buruli Ulcer In Australia

Skin Ulceration – Credit CDC


There is a popular Internet meme which says everything in Australia wants to kill you . . . which isn’t precisely true.  Some things there only want to maim you.  

Or so it seems. 

While there are plenty of indigenous threats, in recent years a little understood skin infection – primarily reported in tropical Africa, Asia, and South America – has been increasingly reported in (often) temperate regions of Australia.  

It is called Buruli ulcer (aka Mycobacterium ulcerans disease), and while the pathogen is known – it is caused by a bacteria from the same family as Tuberculosis and Leprosy – how it is transmitted remains a mystery.

The World Health Organization fact sheet on this disease has just been updated:

Buruli ulcer

(Mycobacterium ulcerans infection)

Fact sheet
Updated April 2018

Key facts

  • Buruli ulcer is a chronic debilitating disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans.
  • It often affects the skin and sometimes bone, and can lead to permanent disfigurement and long-term disability.
  • At least 33 countries with tropical, subtropical and temperate climates have reported Buruli ulcer in Africa, South America and Western Pacific regions. In Australia, an increasing number of cases have been reported since 2013.
  • Partial data from 13 countries for 2017 shows 2206 cases compared to 1920 in 2016; Australia and Nigeria reporting most cases.
  • Most patients in Africa are children aged under 15 years and most patients in Australia are adults.
  • The mode of transmission is not known and there is no prevention for the disease.

        (Continue. . . .)

Another mystery surrounding this infection is that cases are becoming more severe.  This from the January 2018 EID Journal.

Increased Severity and Spread of Mycobacterium ulcerans, Southeastern Australia

Alex Y.C. Taiemail.gif , Eugene Athan, N. Deborah Friedman, Andrew Hughes, Aaron Walton, and Daniel P. O’Brien

Author affiliations: Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia


Reported cases of Mycobacterium ulcerans disease (Buruli ulcer) have been increasing in southeastern Australia and spreading into new geographic areas. We analyzed 426 cases of M. ulcerans disease during January 1998–May 2017 in the established disease-endemic region of the Bellarine Peninsula and the emerging endemic region of the Mornington Peninsula. A total of 20.4% of cases patients had severe disease.

Over time, there has been an increase in the number of cases managed per year and the proportion associated with severe disease. Risk factors associated with severe disease included age, time period (range of years of diagnosis), and location of lesions over a joint. We highlight the changing epidemiology and pathogenicity of M. ulcerans disease in Australia.

Further research, including genomic studies of emergent strains with increased pathogenicity, is urgently needed to improve the understanding of this disease to facilitate implementation of effective public health measures to halt its spread.

Yesterday The Medical Journal of Australia published two articles – a case report and an editorial – on Mycobacterium ulcerans  infection, which you’ll find links to below:

A severe case of Mycobacterium ulcerans (Buruli ulcer) osteomyelitis requiring a below-knee amputation

Michael J Loftus, Nicola Kettleton-Butler, Denton Wade, R Michael Whitby and Paul DR Johnson

Med J Aust 2018; 208 (7): 290-291. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01158
Published online: 16 April 2018

Tackling the worsening epidemic of Buruli ulcer in Australia in an information void: time for an urgent scientific response

Daniel P O’Brien, Eugene Athan, Kim Blasdell and Paul De Barro

Med J Aust 2018; 208 (7): 287-289. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00879
Published online: 16 April 2018

While M. ulcerans is found in the environment (soil and water), it has also been detected (by PRC) in mosquitoes and other biting insects, and is known to affect small mammals (particularly possums), making for a number of plausible routes of transmission.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, you may recall that armadillos have been linked to the spread of Leprosy in North America (see Video: Florida DOH On The Link Between Armadillos & Leprosy).

While the number of  Australian cases remains small, and the infection can usually be treated with antibiotics (albeit with sometimes serious side effects),  the outcomes are not always positive.

This is also a reminder that vast oceans and long distances are no longer barriers to the spread of infectious diseases, and once exotic pathogens have a way of making inroads into new regions.