Top News Stories for Today – December 8, 2016
Southern Africa’s dire food situation grows worse
Southern Africa’s lengthy drought has gotten worse, aid officials say, and 13.8 million people are now staring down hunger as the lean season starts in the region. These months before the next harvest are critical, says humanitarian coordinator Timo Pakkala. Food supplies are critically low because of poor harvests caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which has wrought havoc in the region since 2015.
And a drought doesn’t only hit bellies – the UN notes that in Malawi, some 137,000 children have been forced out of school, many daunted by the prospect of a hungry, thirsty trek to school – only to be followed by a hungry, thirsty day in the classroom.
The UN says they are facing a funding gap of about $550 million dollars. That money, they say, is the difference between giving millions of people full rations and allowing hundreds of thousands of children to wither from malnutrition. Poor nutrition leads to stunting and delays in brain development, which are irreversible. VOA
Liberals worry over Trump’s EPA pick
President-elect Donald Trump filled four top White House positions on Wednesday, provoking particular outcry on the left over his appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. “The EPA is gonna be run by the man who maybe hates the EPA the most in America,” The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II wrote. The Sierra Club said putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA was like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also criticized Trump’s Cabinet: “We can go through the list of people he’s already chosen and it’s, quite frankly, scary,” Reid told David Axelrod on The Axe Files podcast. On Wednesday, Trump also picked co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to be the US. ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to be secretary of homeland security. The New York Times, CNN, The Week
Boris Johnson’s comment on Saudi not UK’s view
UK’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson made coments on Saudi Arabia last week in Rome. He said “There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives. That’s one of the biggest political problems in the whole region. And the tragedy for me – and that’s why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area – is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves.”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said Boris Johnson’s comments on Saudi Arabia do not represent “the government’s position”. BBC
Lebanon to abolish marriage rape law
Lebanese lawmakers on Wednesday took the first step to overturn a law that allows rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their victims. The move came a day after protesters wearing fake-blood-stained wedding gowns confronted lawmakers just steps away from Parliament in the capital Beirut.
After a scheduled review of Article 522 of the penal code, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted that a parliamentary committee had agreed to push forward with a plan that would abolish the law. Article 522 states that if a man rapes an unmarried woman he can avoid prosecution for the crime if he marries the victim. Hariri praised the committee’s decision. “We await the completion of this civilized step in the nearest legislative session,” he told state-run news agency NNA. CNN
Surgeon General’s e-cigarette warning
The nation’s top doctor is sounding the alarm on e-cigarettes, especially when used by teens and young adults. “These products are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States, surpassing conventional tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and hookahs,” wrote Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the US Surgeon General, in a new report released Thursday. In fact, use of e-cigarettes among high school students increased by 900% from 2011 to 2015, according to the report.
Specifically, among middle and high school students, use of e-cigarettes has more than tripled since 2011, the report indicates. Meanwhile, after a period of relative stability from 2011 to 2013, vaping among young adults between 18 and 24 years old more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. Yet nicotine can damage the developing teen brain while leading to addiction. “Compared with older adults, the brain of youth and young adults is more vulnerable to the negative consequences of nicotine exposure,” noted Murthy. CNN
US life expectancy declines for first time in 20 years
Life expectancy in the United States has declined for the first time in more than two decades. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics showed a drop for men from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 in 2015, and from 81.3 to 81.2 for women. The report is based mainly on 2015 death certificates.
The preliminary figures show rises in several causes of death, especially heart disease, dementia and accidental infant deaths. It has improved slightly but steadily in most of the years since World War Two, rising from a little more than 68 years in 1950. It also fell in 1980, after a severe outbreak of flu. Life expectancy last fell during the peak of the HIV/Aids crisis in 1993. BBC
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