Feds investigate White House “energy attacks”. FDA to ban menthol cigarettes. Israel: 45 crushed to death at religious festival. Kenya to close refugee camps, home to 400,000.
Feds investigate White House “energy attacks”
Last November, a National Security Council fell suddenly ill at the White House. Specifically, the event centered on the Ellipse, an oval-shaped garden on the south side of the White House. In 2019, another White House official experienced similar symptoms while walking her dog in an affluent DC suburb.
These attacks have been likened to the “Havana syndrome”, a spate of illnesses that befell US embassy staff in Cuba. American diplomats in China and Russia have suffered similar maladies. Until recently, the attacks were dismissed as a kind of mass hysteria. But a National Academy of Sciences study released in December shows that the sufferers have indeed suffered long-term brain effects. The study identifies some sort of directed energy pulse, perhaps a microwave weapon, as the most likely cause.
What are the symptoms?
The attacks are sudden, overpowering, and often have devastating long-term effects. In the moment of the attack, victims have described sudden ear popping, vertigo, pounding headaches, nausea, and sometime a “piercing directional noise”. The staffer walking her dog in 2019 experienced her attack shortly after walking by a van. A report from the time says, “Her dog started seizing up. Then she felt it too: a high-pitched ringing in her ears, an intense headache, and a tingling on the side of her face”.
Victims have also suffered long-term consequences, including memory loss and other cognitive impairments. One study found that victims’ brains had shrunk by 5% following the incidents.
FDA moves to ban menthols, other flavored cigarettes
The Food and Drug Administration has announced an outright ban on menthol cigarettes in the US. Menthols are the last flavored cigarette allowed in the US following a ban on other flavors in 2009. According to the agency, menthols contribute disproportionately to health issues among black people and other marginalized groups. They cite statistics saying that 85% of black smokers prefer menthols, compared with 30% of white smokers. In all, 18.6 million Americans smoke menthols.
The FDA asserts that the ban will “significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products”.
The NAACP welcomes the ban, claiming that menthols are marketed particular to black smokers. But some think the ban may potentially do more harm than good. Al Sharpton, for example, calls the ban discriminatory. Sharpton and others fear the ban may lead to a black market trade in menthols that could lead to more troubling confrontations between police and people of color. He cites the case of Eric Garner in 2014, killed by police in New York in 2014. Police were attempting to arrest Garner on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes and ended up choking him to death.
Israel: 45 crushed to death at religious festival
A bizarre and tragic incident took place last night at a religious festival in northern Israel. At the Lag BaOmer festival at Mount Meron, over 100,000 Orthodox Jewish men of all ages attended what was meant to be a night of bonfires and dancing. During the festivities, an as yet undetermined event occurred that cause several hundred of the men and boys to try to leave the arena in a hurry. It seems that some of them tripped on some crowded stairs as they attempted to make their way out, causing a domino effect. Police were also apparently partially blocking the exit they were attempting to use, compounding the tragedy. At least 45 people were crushed or suffocated, some of them children.
The causes and catalysts of the event remain unclear. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced an investigation into the tragedy.
Kenya to close two refugee camps, home to 400,000
Earlier this month, the Kenyan government delivered an ultimatum to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR). Kenya demanded that UNHCR come up with a plan to remove 433,765 refugees living in two camps in the country. Otherwise, the government threatened to close the camps immediately and march the refugees to the Somali border. The UNHCR responded by opening negotiations with Kenya to find a feasible roadmap to the closure of the camps, in exchange for more time.
Kenya now says it will close the two camps next year. The majority of those living in the Dabaab and Kakuma camps are Somali or Sudanese nationals, but residents hail from nearly a dozen African countries. Many of those living in the camps have been there for two decades or more, and some born in the camps have never known any other home.
A joint statement from the Kenyan government and UNHCR says they are looking for sustainable and humane options for the camps’ residents. Some will be eligible to stay in Kenya, but many will be asked to return to their home countries voluntarily or be relocated to third countries under various arrangements.Africa, FDA, Havana syndrome, international news, Israel, Kenya, menthol cigarettes, microwave weapon, national news, New Albany MS, Northeast Mississippi news, refugees, smoking, White House, world news