Mali’s ethnic tensions erupt as troops hunt down suspected Islamists

Simmering ethnic tensions boiled over in Mali on Tuesday as the army hunted down suspected Islamist fighters and residents took revenge on shops belonging to the Tuareg and Arab minorities.

Reports from the Saharan city of Timbuktu said dozens of residents had attacked property owned by Tuareg and Arab traders whom they suspected of collaborating with the rebels. The al-Qaida-allied fighters evacuated the town last week as French and Malian forces closed in.

There were fears that the Tuareg civilians could now be caught up in a bloody backlash, both from angry neighbours and from the army.

Malian soldiers were deployed in Timbuktu on Tuesday but made little effort to stop widespread ethnic-based looting.

Tuareg rebels have waged an on-off secessionist war for decades against the Mali government in Bamako. The secular Tuareg nationalist MNLA militia has been fighting for an independent republic, but has recently said it supports France’s military intervention.

Another Islamist group, however, Ansar Dine, includes many Tuareg fighters, and spearheaded last year’s audacious drive by the rebels to capture Mali’s north. It is closely allied with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Its leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, is Tuareg.

Consequently, many Malians now blame the Tuareg for the Islamist capture last year of the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.

“They are traitors,” Amadu Traore, an English teacher from the town of Youwarou, near Timbuktu, said on Tuesday, when asked what he thought of the Tuareg. He added: “They are also racists. They have lighter skins than us. They look down on us black Africans.”

Traore claimed that the nomadic Tuareg – who make up 11% of the population in the north – were perennially dissatisfied and would never accept the authority of the Mali state. “They have been fighting for independence since colonial times,” he said.

He added: “When the MNLA was on its own it wasn’t powerful. Then it joined with al-Qaida. It become more powerful.”

Tuareg civilian leaders have long complained of discrimination, too few jobs for Tuareg youth and a woeful lack of development in the north. They have also vociferously dissociated themselves from AQIM.

The government has failed to implement a 2006 peace accord, they add, which was supposed to improve their opportunities.

Some Malians have sympathy with the Tuareg, who are dispersed across Saharan Africa, and whose culture and itinerant lifestyle are disappearing. “It isn’t all Tuareg who have been involved in trouble. Some Tuareg are clean and have had nothing to do with the rebellion,” Mahamud Handuli, a trader in the Niger river town of Mopti, said.

The Tuareg are likely to play a key role in any lasting solution in northern Mali – or lack of one. On Tuesday, the MNLA leadership said it had taken control of Kidal, the third northern town previously under Islamist rebel control. The Islamists had left, it said.

The MNLA said it was ready to join the French-led campaign against “terrorist organisations” but would not allow the Mali army to march on Kidal. It also asked for direct negotiations with the Malian government about its autonomy demands.

The French military – which took Timbuktu over the weekend and Gao late last week – has indicated it is unlikely to push up to Kidal, a remote desert area hundreds of miles from its current position.

Instead the job will probably be left to troops from Chad, part of a poorly equipped African force supporting the Mali army. It remains to be seen what welcome they will get. France has signalled it wants to hand longer-term security operations to African soldiers, now the major phase of its operation is over.

Mali troops carried out house-to-house searches in both Gao and Timbuktu on Tuesday, uncovering arms and explosives abandoned by retreating Islamists. In Gao, soldiers arrested at least five suspected rebels and sympathisers, turned in by locals, and uncovered weapons and counterfeit cash.

There was confirmation that around 2,000 ancient manuscripts had been burned in the Timbuktu’s Ahmad Babu Institute, torched by retreating al-Qaida fighters. Some reports suggested, however, that a large number of manuscripts had survived, with staff spiriting them away to Bamako before AQIM swept into town last March.

Since France’s president, François Hollande, dispatched 3,700 troops to Mali on 11 January, there has been little fighting. The rebels appear to be hiding in the deserts and savannah around Gao and Timbuktu, with others heading to Kidal and the border with Algeria.

The AQIM leader, Mokhtar BelMokhtar – who carried out the murderous attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria – is believed to have been holed up at one point in the Adrar Tirharhar mountains, halfway between the towns of Kidal and Tessalit, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

Speaking in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday, France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius said French forces would remain in Mali “as long as necessary”.

At the same time Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, announced his government would aim to organise “credible” elections for 31 July, a demand made by major western backers of the anti-rebel operation. The military toppled the previous president in a coup in March.

Porky & Buddy Pet Health – How Safe Are Chicken Jerky Treats?

Dear Porky Buddy,
My dog, Bruce, just loves chicken jerky treats.  I mean he really really loves them passionately.  He will do ANYTHING to get one.

But I just found out that they may not be safe for him.  In fact, according to the FDA, just a few days ago Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch, Milo’s Kitchen and Cadet brand chicken jerky treats have been recalled because they contain residues of an antibiotic not approved for use in the U.S.

Bruce loves all of them although he has not had those brands just recently. But what about other brands? What should I do?  Where can I get more information?
Jon

Dear Jon,
Carrot sticks.  They are nice and crunchy. You can make sure they are safe by peeling them. And they never have additives of weird stuff from China.

OK, OK, let’s suppose Bruce would run away in disgust if you offered him carrot sticks.

How can you be sure that commercial treats for dogs are safe? We asked our friends at the American Veterinary Medical Association what they knew about the problem with chicken jerky treats and what they would recommend.

Here’s the story.

In 2007, the AVMA issued an alert that it had been receiving reports of illness in dogs that seemed to be associated with these treats. Sporadic reports continued to come in after that but  in spite of intensive testing and investigation, no one could figure out why the dogs were getting sick or whether it was definitely related to the treats. Then in 2011, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association notified the AVMA that they have received reports similar to the cases first reported in the U.S. in 2007.

The FDA is aware of the situation and is also investigating.

It appears that the products affected were made in China and/or contain Chinese-origin products. They may be sold as tenders, strips or treats.  Based on preliminary information, this problem is more likely to occur in small-breed dogs that are fed these treats regularly and/or in amounts exceeding the label-recommended frequency or amount.

However, dogs of all sizes and various breeds have been affected, and in some dogs illness was reportedly associated with consumption of just one treat. Affected dogs usually have a recent history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia within hours to days following consumption of jerky treats.

The complaints have included liver, gastrointestinal and/or kidney disease. In 2007, most of the dogs affected recovered with proper treatment.

Although chicken jerky treat consumption was a common thread in all these reports, a definitive cause-and-effect link has not been established. (Melamine, the contaminant that led to the wide-scale pet food recalls of 2007, is not the cause of the current situation.)

In short, not much is known at all at this time.

Here is what the AVMA is recommending to pet owners about the use of these treats and we are quoting it exactly:

It is up to you to decide whether or not you will feed your dog chicken jerky treats. If you choose to do so, we recommend that you feed them in small quantities and only on occasion. This is especially important for small-breed dogs.

If your pet is vomiting, lethargic, or does not want to eat, consult your veterinarian, especially if there is a history of chicken jerky treat consumption. If your pet is showing these signs, it does not necessarily mean that your pet has been made ill by chicken jerky treats – your veterinarian will likely need to perform tests to determine the cause of the problem.

If your pet becomes ill and you and/or your veterinarian suspect(s) the illness may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats, discontinue feeding the treats and save the treats and packaging (storing them out of your pet’s reach and in a place where a family member will not mistakenly feed them to your pet) in case they are needed for testing. Report the illness to the FDA.

Sort of makes those carrots sound like a pretty good idea after all doesn’t it?

Talk to your vet.  Ask her what she thinks.  Investigate other treats or snacks with different ingredients that Bruce might turn out to like just as much.

Bake him some dog cookies. Turn him into a food snob.

Speaking of food snobs, you can meet all of our cats for adoption at the Warm Up Oswego Adoption Day on February 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oswego YMCA/Armory, 265 W. Second St., Oswego.

To celebrate the New Year, adoption fees for cats over six months are only $20.13 through February 2.

That’s right – while supplies last you can have your very own long-lasting personal warming device for only $20.13.

There will be refreshments and treats for kids and lots of other fun activities going on at the Armory and all over downtown Oswego for the Warm Up Oswego Festival.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St.

Phone (315) 207-1070.

Email: ochscontact@hotmail.com

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because people and pets are good for each other!

Experts warn not to rush signing gym contracts

TOLEDO — In the new year, gym memberships are a very popular item for people looking to change their life style.

But before you sign that contract, lawyers like Lee Pizzimenti, law professor at the University of Toledo School of Law urge you read the fine print, “is there a sign up charge? what sort of fees would you have to pay if you decided not to continue? how many of the things offered are part of the package will you have to pay extra for?” says Pizzimenti.

Not asking questions like this could result in paying hundreds of dollars stuck in a contract that could last for years.

Pizzimenti adds you need to get everything in writing. Never take verbal agreements and expect they will be delivered.

Police: Brazil nightclub fire kills at least 233

A fire broke out early Sunday morning at a night club in Santa Maria, in southern Brazil, killing revelers — many of them students. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

Updated at 1:23 a.m. ET: At least 233 people were killed after a band’s fireworks show sparked a rapidly moving fire in a packed nightclub in southern Brazil and fleeing patrons were unable to find their way out, local police said.

The bodies removed from the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria were taken to the Municipal Sports Center gymnasium for identification, police said.

Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who led rescue efforts at the scene for the military police, told Reuters that the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled. 

Police Maj. Cleberson Braida Bastianello told the Associated Press by telephone that the toll had risen to 233 with the death of a hospitalized victim.

Officials earlier counted 232 bodies that had been brought to the gymnasium in Santa Maria.

In addition to the number of deaths, more  than 100 people were injured, police said, and most remain hospitalized. Police officials had reported earlier in the day that 245 people were killed. The death toll could still rise, police said later, from the people who are injured.

Fire brigade colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo told O Globo newspaper that rescuers had difficulty entering the premises because of “a barrier of bodies” at  the entrance to the club.

Television footage monitored by Reuters overnight showed people crying outside the club as shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit. 

Agencia RBS via AP

People help a man injured in a nightclub fire in Santa Maria city, Brazil, on Sunday.

Rodrigo Moura, who the newspaper Diario de Santa Maria identified as a security guard at the club, said it was at its capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000 people and patrons were pushing and shoving to escape, the AP reported. Police estimated the crowd at some 900 revelers.

Fire officials said at least one exit was locked and that club bouncers, who at first thought those fleeing were trying to skip out on bar tabs, initially blocked patrons from leaving, Reuters reported.

The club’s management said in a statement it would help authorities with their investigation, Reuters reported.

One of the club’s owners has surrendered to police for questioning, GloboNews TV reported. 

“It was really fast. There was a lot of smoke, really dark smoke,” survivor Aline Santos Silva, 29, told Globonews TV. “We were only able to get out quickly because we were in a VIP area close to the door.” 

President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile and visited families of the victims at the Municipal Sports Center, where relatives were gathering to identify the bodies. She met with relatives of the injured at Hospital de Caridade de Santa Maria.

Rousseff declared a national three-day mourning period for victims of the fire. 

“Sad Sunday!” Tarso Genro, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul state where the club is located, tweeted. “We are taking all of the possible and appropriate actions,” the tweet read, according to a rough translation by NBC News. “I will be in Santa Maria later this morning.”

The precise cause of the fire was still under investigation, authorities said. But Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, told Reuters that the blaze started when someone with the band ignited what was described as a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling. The fire spread “in seconds,” Sousa said. 

The tragedy in Brazil recalled other nightclub disaster. A fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used on stage by the rock band Great White set ablaze foam used for soundproofing on the walls. A Buenos Aires nightclub blaze in 2004 killed nearly 200 people. 

Reuters noted that Brazil’s safety standards and emergency response capabilities are under particular scrutiny as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

The Brazilian state’s Health secretary, Ciro Simoni, told the news service that emergency medical supplies from all over the state were being sent to the scene. 

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pet health advice for 2013: top tips from your La Jolla veterinarian

Pet health advice

Take expert pet health advice to keep your furry friends thriving this year. Photo credit: Jupiter Images, Photos.com.

By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

The New Year is a great opportunity for individuals to set goals for health and prosperity; and this year, why not consider making a few resolutions to help keep your pets healthy as well? When it comes to pet health advice, most veterinarians will agree that preventative health care is the single greatest gift you can give your furry and feathered friends. With that in mind, here are some tips to help jumpstart a healthy New Year for your beloved pets.

Top preventative health tips for pets

  • Schedule a veterinary appointment: don’t wait for Fido to start exhibiting signs of disease or injury. Instead, make regular veterinary check-ups part of your routine – and stay ahead of the game with improved chances for early detection and prevention.
  • Say yes to vaccinations: talk to your vet about the vaccinations that are right for your pet, and stay current with the appropriate treatments.
  • Focus on nutrition and exercise: pet obesity is a grown trend throughout the U.S., and just as in humans it can lead to a number of serious health concerns including diabetes and arthritis. Prioritize active playtime with your pet, and take dogs for daily walks. In addition, make sure to discuss proper nutrition with your veterinarian in order to select the best possible food source for your pet.
  • Take a proactive role: whether the issue is getting your pet spayed or neutered or scheduling behavioral training sessions, it is important to take action early. Unless you are serious about breeding your pets, get them fixed – and invest in some basic behavioral training early on to ensure a better quality of life for both you and your pets.
  • Seek out safe pest and parasite prevention: ask your vet about the right flea and tick prevention methods for your pets to prevent inconvenience, discomfort and the threat of disease. Not all products are safe and effective, so do your homework before giving your pet topical or oral treatments. Also, schedule routine fecal examinations and dewormings to check for intestinal parasites, which can cause disease in both animals and humans.
  • Don’t forget dental care: don’t skimp on dental health care for your pet. Take your dog or cat in for professional cleanings, and make at-home tooth brushing a habit early on. Your veterinarian can give you suggestions to make this process easier and more effective.

Ultimately, preventative health care for pets is all about common sense, customized recommendations and a good relationship with your local veterinarian. If you have a new pet in the family this year, now’s the time to visit La Jolla Veterinary Hospital for a complete examination and personalized care. Visit us online to learn more and schedule an appointment today, at www.lajollavet.com.

Related posts:

  1. Cold laser therapy for dogs: new treatment provides non-invasive pain relief
  2. Eco friendly animal care: how environmentally friendly practices contribute to safer, healthier pets and communities.
  3. Veterinary dental care should rank among top priorities for caring pet owners
  4. Listeria outbreak prompts renewed interest in zoonotic disease and preventative safety measures
  5. Help control fleas year-round with preemptive action and medication alternatives

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Twitter suspends al-Shabaab account

Twitter has suspended an account used by Somalia‘s al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabaab after the insurgents used the site to post a hostage video and death threat.

The @HSMPress Twitter account was suspended two days after al-Shabaab used the platform to announce a death threat against Kenyan hostages unless Kenya’s government met its demands. Twitter’s terms of service say it does not allow specific threats of violence against others in its posts.

Terrorism analysts say analysts and governments can use tweets to gather intelligence, but the accounts can also be used by militants to spread propaganda or recruit fighters.

Al-Shabaab uses Twitter mainly to make claims of enemy kills and to spread its view of events in Somalia and east Africa. Terrorism analysts believe the account is run by someone who was educated in the west; al-Shabaab claims several dozen Americans and Britons among its ranks.

On 16 January, al-Shabaab posted a statement saying it planned to kill Denis Allex, a French hostage who was the subject of a botched rescue attempt by France’s military. Later al-Shabaab used Twitter to announce Allex’s death. French officials say they believe Allex died during the rescue attempt on 11-12 January.

“I’m in favour of allowing them to continue [using Twitter], but I don’t think it should be unfettered,” said JM Berger, a terrorism analyst who runs the website Intelwire.com. “They clearly crossed the line threatening to kill someone and that person ended up dead. It’s in Twitter’s interest not to allow that kind of thing.”

Berger sent a public tweet to Twitter shortly after al-Shabaab posted its death threat against the Kenyans on Wednesday alerting Twitter to the terms of service violation. He said he suspected al-Shabaab was already back on Twitter, and he noted several accounts similar to the @HSMPress account.

Al-Shabaab joined Twitter in late 2011 after Kenyan forces moved into southern Somalia. Early tweets by al-Shabaab mocked a post by Kenya’s army spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir, that threatened to bomb concentrations of donkeys that might be moving weapons for the insurgents.

Several terrorism analysts, including Berger, have recently engaged another Twitter account – @abumamerican – in a running conversation.

The experts believe the account is run by Omar Hammami, an American from Alabama who joined al-Shabaab about six years ago. Hammami – whose nom de guerre is Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, or “the American” – has used Twitter and YouTube to publicise a falling-out with al-Shabaab.

Hammami announced through his Twitter account this month that al-Shabaab had threatened to kill him last Saturday if he did not turn himself in. He later said the death threat was revoked and that al-Shabaab was afraid of the media fallout of killing an American militant.

In an example of the surreal conversations Twitter allows experts to have with militants, a 22 January conversation with Hammami and several experts found Berger telling Hammami that American jihadis did not understand US politics. Hammami responded: “Pray tell.” Berger then said he wasn’t sure he should be giving Hammami advice. Hammami responded: “Hmm … ever consider switching sides? Ha!”

Berger acknowledged how strange the exchanges could be with a man who is on the US government’s most wanted list of terrorists.

“I work from home so I tell people I sit around in my pyjamas and talk to terrorists,” Berger said. “It’s a strange world we live in.”

Porky and Buddy Pet Health – Caring For Not-So-Tame Cats

Dear Porky Buddy,
A stray cat found his way to my barn in December.

He wouldn’t come near me or let me touch him, but  I started to feed him and leave him fresh water.

I had to trap him to get him to the vet to be checked out and vaccinated and neutered and he is still in the barn  (which has horses so it stays relatively warm).

I have house cats who are very friendly. This is my first experience with a not so tame cat.

Am I doing the right thing by letting him stay there. Should I trap him again and bring him in the house to try to tame him?

The vet says he is about a year old.
Linda

Dear Linda,
Yes, you are absolutely doing the right thing by providing him with a place to live and food and water and basic vet care and otherwise letting him be a “barn cat.”

And thank you for your kindness to this cat.

It is sad but true that cats who are not properly socialized to live with people at an early age can never be completely “tamed.”

By trying to force him into your house, you will probably just terrify him.

He will frantically try to escape and may harm himself or you in the process.

So leave him be. He will be fine.

He may well have been with people when he was much younger and you may find that, with lots of time, he will come to trust you and be more friendly, but in the meantime, he will be safe and your barn will be rodent free.

A win win.

And by the way, could you use another cat in your barn?

The Oswego County Humane Society sometimes rescues adult cats who are not tame enough to be adopted into a family as a house cat, but they still need a safe place to go.

We look for people who have barns who can take one or more of these cats.

We make sure they are spayed or neutered and provide vaccinations and basic veterinary care.

You provide food and water and shelter and keep an eye on them.

They provide rodent control and make your barn infinitely more interesting.

You need to have an enclosed spot in your barn where the new cat can stay for about two weeks so he or she will be more likely to accept this new abode.

If you are interested in giving a home to such a cat just call the office at 315-207-1070.

There is no cost to you.

Or maybe you really want a house cat?

You can meet our cats for adoption at the Warm Up Oswego Adoption Day on February 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oswego YMCA/Armory, 265 W. Second St., Oswego.

To celebrate the New Year, adoption fees for cats over six months are only $20.13 through February 2.

That’s right – while supplies last you can have your very own long-lasting personal warming device for only $20.13.

There will be refreshments and treats for kids and lots of other fun activities going on at the Armory and all over downtown Oswego  for the Warm Up Oswego Festival.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego.

Phone (315) 207-1070.

Email:ochscontact@hotmail.com

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because  people and pets are good for each other!