How I Broke Up With Plastic

This story is part of a series on ocean plastics.

Clacking away at my laptop on a rainy morning last month, while working on a story about how plastic trash is choking our oceans, I became suddenly aware of the object that I had been chewing on mindlessly: a plastic straw punched through the plastic lid of a plastic cup holding my daily iced coffee.

Through my reporting, I had learned some staggering facts about single-use plastic packaging, things made to be used once and thrown away. Experts say these items are the leading source of trash found in or near bodies of water worldwide. Plastic drinking straws and cups ? like the ones I get at the coffee shop before work ? rank among the top 10 most common types of beach and marine litter.

Versatile, inexpensive and used to make everything from electronics to medical equipment to airplane components, plastics are an essential part of modern life. And for most of us, it?s not feasible to give them up entirely, said environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck, whose research last year concluded that our oceans are being inundated with 19 billion pounds of plastic garbage annually. This barrage is mostly due to inadequate or mismanaged waste disposal systems and littering.

Plastics don?t biodegrade and could exist in the environment for centuries or more. While the industries that make plastic products should work toward mitigating this crisis, people should take action too. Cutting back on the use of single-use plastic products is the number one step individuals can take, several experts told me.

As I chewed on my plastic straw, my conscience nagging at me, I made a decision. Inspired by the fast-food documentary ?Super Size Me,? in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate only McDonald?s food for 30 days, I decided to embark on a similar personal experiment ? only, instead of embracing consumption, I?d be shunning it.

For a month, I vowed to refuse any and all single-use plastic products offered to me at shops. I couldn?t purchase these items either. 

To my surprise, the challenge wasn?t insurmountable. Sure, I struggled at times; but overall, I found it doable and liberating. I also saved some money and might?ve even inspired some friends in the process. 

Here are the guidelines I set for myself:

  1. Carry a reusable coffee tumbler for that daily cup of java. (Bonus: The insulated container keeps coffee icy for hours!)

  2. Bring a reusable water bottle to the gym.

  3. Stuff reusable tote bags into purses, briefcases, desk drawers and the car, so there?ll always be one handy for shopping.

  4. Carry snacks and other food in reusable steel containers. Bye-bye, plastic zipper bags!

  5. Keep a set of metal cutlery ? fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks ? at work. 

  6. Reuse plastic takeout containers at eateries. Since I eat lunch virtually every day at the same salad shop across the street, I?ve begun reusing the plastic bowl they give customers. I wash the bowl every day after eating, and return with it to the salad bar the next day.

  7. At restaurants, tell your waiter to please hold the drinking straw.

  8. Bring your own garment bag and hanger to the dry cleaner.

  9. Hold back on online shopping. E-commerce packaging is a major ? and growing ? source of waste. A single tube of lipstick or a single battery often arrives in an absurdly large box stuffed with an unnecessary amount plastic, paper and foam peanuts. 

After a month, I was both aghast and encouraged by the amount of personal waste I?d reduced, either from bringing my own containers and bags with me, or reusing items: 

  • 34 plastic cups
  • 38 plastic straws
  • 24 plastic bags*
  • 19 plastic to-go containers
  • 30 plastic bottles

*I?ve also saved about 14 paper bags over the same period. It turns out that choosing paper or even biodegradable plastic over regular plastic isn?t necessarily better. The best practice is to reduce the usage of all single-use items, no matter what they?re made of.

My breakup with throwaway plastics didn?t always go smoothly. I failed to fulfill the basic criteria of the experiment on at least three occasions.

Once, I accidentally (I swear!) opened and started drinking a bottle of mineral water offered to me at a concert. It reminded me of how mindlessly and instinctively I use plastic products. The second time was when I went to an Indian restaurant to order takeaway for lunch and forgot to bring my own container ? and that sambar rice was too enticing to pass up. (Full disclosure: I have no regrets. it was delicious). The third instance occurred when I went to the supermarket without my own bag (d?oh!) and, faced with way too much to carry, I accepted the smallest possible plastic sack and refused the double-bagging.

There have also been days when I?ve been annoyed at the (admittedly minuscule) additional weight that my tumbler, water bottle, reusable tupperware or bag has added to my daily baggage. I?ve also lost count of the many times I?ve accidentally thrown away my plastic salad bowl, before sheepishly fishing it out of the trash, and the many occasions I?ve mechanically accepted a plastic bag from a store before hastily returning it to the shopkeep.

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But though this challenge has required a bit more thought on my part, on the whole I?ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy the transition has been and how readily the people around me have accepted and, in some cases, even emulated my new plastics practice.

The first time I returned to the salad place with my washed plastic bowl, I remember feeling nervous about what the staff would think of me: Would they scoff? Would they refuse to reuse the container? But my anxiety was unfounded. They accepted the bowl without question or comment, and nowadays before I can even proffer the bowl, they ask if I?ve brought it.

At my usual coffee stop, I felt similarly timid that first day as I offered up my coffee tumbler. But the baristas didn?t bat an eyelid. In fact, they gave me 20 cents back for bringing my own cup. Double win!

During the first weekend, two encouraging moments: My boyfriend stopped himself from buying bottled water of his own volition. ?Plastic,? he said solemnly, looking at me with a knowing glance. A day before that, a friend had witnessed me refusing a plastic straw, a move that prompted a conversation about ocean pollution and her vowing to reduce her own plastic consumption.

Ultimately, ?no silver bullet solution? exists to the massive plastic waste problem we?re facing globally, but Nick Mallos of Ocean Conservancy said individuals should not underestimate the impact their personal choices can have.

People ?need to be making those better decisions on a personal basis: skipping the plastic straw, not using plastic bags, making better choices when it comes to food packaging,? he said. ?We?re not going to become a completely reusable society overnight, but if each individual reduces their personal footprint, the returns of these choices will absolutely pay off.?

I challenge you to try quitting single-use plastics for a month (or even a week if that seems too long). It may not always be possible and may take some getting used to, but you?ll probably be amazed at how much personal waste you?ll cut down and how quickly you?ll adapt to this new way of doing things. 

Personally, it?s hard to imagine going back to my old consumption habits. 

I don?t think I?ll ever look at a plastic bottle in the same way again.

For more tips and tricks on how you can reduce your plastic footprint, explore the slideshow below: 

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Progressive Favorite Larry Krasner Wins Democratic Nomination For Philadelphia DA

Progressive candidate Larry Krasner clinched the Democratic nomination in the primary race for district attorney in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, continuing a growing trend of reform-minded candidates overtaking tough-on-crime prosecutors in what had historically been safe seats. 

Krasner was declared the winner in a seven-candidate primary, earning about 38 percent of the vote with 89 percent of the precincts counted. Krasner is heavily favored in the November general election, when he faces Republican Beth Grossman.

In February, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced he would not seek a third term. Williams, who came into office with a message of reform, has been seen as a disappointment by progressive voters with his heavy use of asset forfeiture and his decision to sue Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for declaring a moratorium on the death penalty. 

Williams has been indicted on 29 federal fraud charges involving campaign funds and other financial disclosures. 

Progressive advocates and reformers from across the country, including the Democratic Socialists of America, veterans of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement, flocked to Krasner?s campaign and viewed it as an opportunity to notch a symbolically important win against the hard-line criminal justice agenda of President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions subscribes to a lock-?em-up approach to crime that was in vogue in the high-crime 1980s and 1990s but has since fallen out of favor with conservative and liberal experts alike. He has already instructed federal prosecutors to pursue maximum penalties for drug-related offenses, effectively undoing reforms initiated by the Barack Obama administration.

But the feds? approach to crime stands in sharp contrast with how an overwhelming number of Americans are voting, said John Pfaff, a criminal law professor at Fordham University School of Law. 

?Prosecutors respond to the electorate that chose them: Philadelphians made it clear that they wanted a reformer, so Krasner will respond to that far more than whatever overheated rhetoric is coming out of D.C.,? Pfaff said by email Tuesday.

Pfaff noted the local desire for reform is strong throughout the country ? even in some areas that voted for Trump. He cited Oklahoma as a prime example, where 65 percent of residents voted for Trump, one of the largest margins in the country. At the same time, 55 percent of them voted in favor of two referendums that decriminalized drug offenses and shifted resources into treatment.

The desire to strike a blow for criminal justice reform is especially strong in Philadelphia, which had the fourth-highest per capita jail population as of 2008, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative.

Philadelphia?s use of cash bail, which has been criticized for being effectively a poor tax that traps low-level offenders, increased from 2003 to 2009, and with cash bail amounts jumping 39 percent over the same period, according to Pew.

Krasner opposes practices like cash bail, as well as financial asset forfeiture, the death penalty and mass incarceration ? all reliably progressive stances. Yet instead of setting him apart as an outlier, Krasner?s leanings effectively pulled the other candidates toward more progressive stances as well, Philly Mag noted. 

?I think we will see state and local governments take consistently more reformist approaches than the feds in the years ahead, but that?s not too surprising; that was the pattern under Obama as well,? professor Pfaff said. 

Around the country, in counties that encompass cities including Chicago, Cleveland and Miami, a combination of declining overall crime rates and grassroots activism have pushed the trend of prosecutorial reform. 

The Pennsylvania branch of the Working Families Party, a labor union-backed progressive faction, was among those groups to endorse Krasner early. The WFP estimates that as of Tuesday it will have knocked on over 70,000 doors in its efforts to elect Krasner.

Working Families Party national communications director Joe Dinkin predicted that a win for Krasner would reverberate well beyond Philadelphia.

?He?ll set the pace across America for a criminal justice reformer, because he knows that justice is what makes communities safe, not super-harsh sentencing,? Dinkin told HuffPost early Tuesday. 

?This is a tide-turning election,? Rashad Robinson, a spokesman for the criminal justice reform PAC, Color of Change, which supported Krasner, said after his win Tuesday. 

?At a time when Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to reignite the discriminatory and failed drug war, Philadelphia can be a beacon to the nation of what real criminal justice reform looks like.?

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Tuesday’s Morning Email: Breaking Down Trump’s Reported Classified Disclosure To The Russians


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TRUMP REPORTEDLY REVEALED HIGHLY CLASSIFIED INFORMATION DURING MEETING WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS President Donald Trump allegedly discussed information that ?jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,? according to The Washington Post during a meeting last week with Russian officials. The newspaper withheld the specific details discussed in order not to further jeopardize the intelligence. And here?s everything you need to know about declassification. [HuffPost]

CRITICS PILED ON ACROSS THE AISLE GOP Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said the White House needed to reverse its ?downward spiral.? House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a statement asking for a full explanation from the administration. Democrats fumed, with Sen. Mark Warner calling this a ?slap in the face to the intel community.? The former U.S. ambassador to RussiaDan Rather and Twitter also weighed in. [HuffPost]

NORTH KOREA SUSPECTED IN GLOBAL RANSOMWARE ATTACK Although the investigation is far from over. [Reuters]

U.S. ACCUSES ASSAD REGIME OF BUILDING CREMATORIUM In the Sednaya prison to cover up mass murders. [HuffPost]

WHY POSSIBLE 2020 CANDIDATES ARE SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY ON ONLINE ADS ?The opportunity is there to get out of the traditional fundraising rat race and to make a direct appeal to donors on a widely distributed small-dollar basis.? [HuffPost]

EXPERTS PUSH TO END LEAD POISONING BY 2021 After all, nearly 3,000 areas in the U.S. have higher lead poisoning rates than Flint. [HuffPost]

EVEN ANN COULTER CAME FOR TRUMP ?Everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque,? she told The Daily Caller in an interview Sunday. ?I?m not very happy with what has happened so far,? Coulter added. ?I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But … if he doesn?t keep his promises I?m out.? [HuffPost]


CALLING ALL AVID MORNING EMAIL READERS! We?re giving away an Amazon Echo to three lucky winners who correctly answer the question below. To enter for a chance to win, please send your answer to Winners will be chosen at random. Check out the official rules and legal stuff here.

North Korea?s latest missile launch landed 60 miles south of what region of Russia?

LOVE (ON REALITY TV) IS DEAD Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell from season 20 of ?The Bachelor? have called it quits. [HuffPost]

THIS OFFICER OVERDOSED ON FENTANYL Just by brushing it off of his shirt. [HuffPost]

HACKERS STOLE THE LATEST ?PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN? And are demanding a massive ransom from Disney. [Deadline]

GENERAL MILLS IS GIVING AWAY 10,000 BOXES OF ONLY MARSHMALLOW LUCKY CHARMS And they?re going full-scale Willy Wonka to do it. [HuffPost]

WINTER ISN?T COMING FAST ENOUGH So now we get a fifth ?Game of Thrones? spinoff. [HuffPost]


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Turning Point Approaching In War Against The Islamic State

The war against the Islamic State, currently being waged (to varying degrees) by the United States, Iraq, Iraqi Kurds, Iran, Syria, Syrian Kurds, Syrian Rebels, Turkey, and Russia is approaching a big turning point. The Islamic State has been steadily losing territory for over a year now, and they?re on the brink of losing control over the two most important cities in their self-proclaimed caliphate: Mosul and Raqqa. This could be a death blow to the Islamic State?s territorial claims, although the group itself will probably survive as a stateless international terrorist organization (much like Al Qaeda).

This war is both complicated and slow, which are two reasons why Americans haven?t been paying much attention to it lately. Military alliances shift as you cross the Syrian/Iraqi border, and Syria is engaged in its own multiyear civil war, of which the fight against the Islamic State is but one part. Complexities abound, which isn?t really that surprising for a conflict in the Middle East.

Putting most of those complexities aside, though, when you focus solely on the Islamic State, it?s pretty obvious that they?re losing, and losing badly. By the end of the year (at the latest), the Islamic State could lose control of all the territory in Iraq they once held. The situation in Syria is much harder to predict, but even there the Islamic State?s footprint is definitely shrinking.

While breaking down the progress made so far, it is helpful to refer to three maps. The first map was published in the Washington Post at the real turning point of the struggle to stop the Islamic State?s advance and turn it into a retreat. This was published in February of 2015, when Kurdish fighters took control of a section of major roadway in northern Iraq, which heads from Mosul into the Islamic State?s Syrian territory. Together with the successful defense of Kobani, a town on the border between Syria and Turkey, this halted the advancing Islamic State blitzkrieg and began the offensive to retake all the territory they had grabbed. The map is useful now to show the maximum extent of the Islamic State?s control. In Syria, they controlled a large stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border, allowing a pipeline for foreign fighters to join their cause. They were threatening Aleppo, Hama, and Homs in the western part of Syria as well. In Iraq, they were closing in on Baghdad itself, only miles away from the city limits in multiple directions.

The second map to look at is the Wikipedia tracking map which shows the current state of the war. In Syria, the government forces (Assad?s troops) are marked in red, Turkish forces in green, Kurds in yellow, and rebel forces in light green. Islamic State territory is marked in black. In Iraq, Kurds are still marked in yellow and the Islamic State is still black, but the red dots are the Iraqi government forces and the Iranian militias. The third map is an inset of the second, which shows the current state of the battle for Mosul. As you can see, the noose is tightening on the remaining Islamic State fighters there.


The liberation of Mosul has been a hard slog, but the end is now in sight. Estimating progress is tough in this urban fight, but it now seems that within the next few weeks (by the end of June, at the latest), Islamic State fighters will be completely evicted from the city, captured, or killed.

Mosul was always the crown jewel for the Islamic State ? the biggest city they had ever seized. Initially, the Iraqi army fled the Islamic State fighters, and beat a humiliating and disorganized retreat. This was part of the initial Islamic State tsunami which almost led to fighting within Baghdad. But since the tide began to turn, the Iraqi army forces have had an unbroken string of successes at liberating cities and towns the Islamic State once controlled.

On the large-scale Wikipedia map, you can clearly see the progress that has so far been made. From Baghdad heading west, the following have been retaken: Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and Ramadi, as well as all the territory extending to the town of Haditha. The Islamic State still controls the border town of Qaim, and a stretch of the Baghdad highway.

From Baghdad heading north, the government forces have retaken Tikrit and the Baiji oil fields, and then they continued north along the highway to Mosul. The Islamic State still controls an ?island? of territory around Hawija, and they still control a section south of Sinjar, against the Syrian border. On the outskirts of Mosul, the town of Tal Afar is still in Islamic State hands as well.

The fight to retake Mosul started last October (you can see on the inset map?s history list how this fight has progressed). It?s been a long, hard slog and it?s not over yet, but the end is finally in sight.

Mosul was always partially surrounded by Kurdish-held territory, as the Kurds prevented the Islamic State from advancing all the way to Irbil. Mosul was bordered to the east, north, and northwest by Kurdish territory. Kurds also began to retake territory before the fight for Mosul was launched, by retaking Sinjar and the major road from Mosul into Syria (including retaking the border crossing itself). But the Kurds halted this advance and never pushed very far south of the road or retook the town of Tal Afar from the Islamic State.

This set the stage for the battle for Mosul. Government and militia forces pushed up from the south, retaking town after town on the main Mosul-Baghdad route. They took the key Qayyarah airfield that allowed for air support during the urban fighting ahead. Then they began the push for Mosul itself, from the east and south.

It took months, but eventually this succeeded in taking all the land on the east bank of the Tigris River. The advance then pushed north of the city and retook all territory on that side of the river all the way up to the Kurdish lines.

While this was going on, the Iranian militias (for the most part) threw a cordon around the city?s outlying towns to the south and west. They made it all the way to the road to Sinjar, and by doing so totally cut off the Islamic State forces within Mosul itself. The noose had been drawn, and it now would tighten. The militia forces still haven?t advanced to Tal Afar, and are instead appear to be waiting for the final fall of Mosul.

The west bank of the Tigris contained the old city, with narrow streets that armored vehicles cannot navigate. This will likely be where the Islamic State forces make their final stand (marked on the inset map as the Prophet Zarzis district of the city). The Iraqi forces pushed up from the south and then worked their way around the outskirts in a clockwise fashion, also leaving the old city for the final fight.

They have almost completed this work. Eventually they?ll retake everything but the city center, all the way to the banks of the Tigris. The final siege of the old city may take longer than expected, as the Iraqi forces are trying to avoid as many civilian casualties as they can (after an airstrike that killed many civilians was condemned in the worldwide media). The street-by-street urban warfare will be most intense at the end, in the narrow alleys of the city center.

But although it?s been excruciatingly slow, the Iraqi forces have so far won ground consistently, without a major setback. The Islamic State has been on a losing streak in Iraq for over a year. This will be celebrated when Mosul finally is completely liberated, no doubt.


Syria is much more complicated, obviously, since there are so many warring factions it is hard to keep them all straight. This makes it hard to see which Islamic State areas are likely to be retaken by which armies, among other things.

In Syria, the Islamic State has also been losing ground in a major way since their high-water mark. In the north of Syria, the Kurds have been the most successful at resisting and turning back the Islamic State tide. Kurdish fighters have successfully retaken an impressive stretch of the Turkish border, and were only halted in their westward march when Turkey sent troops to deny them any further territory (Turkey considers all the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists, one of the major complications for the United States). The Kurds retook all the borderlands up to Manbij and are now pushing southward towards Raqqa.

Assad?s forces have been having more mixed success at retaking Islamic State ground. The government forces have had to retake Palmyra twice now, after they lost control when the Islamic State counterattacked. But, to date, this has been the only victory the Islamic State has managed since the tide turned on them over a year ago. And even this wasn?t ultimately successful, when Assad?s troops retook the city a second time.

The battle for Raqqa is imminent, however, and it will be the biggest psychological defeat for the Islamic State yet. The city was proclaimed the capital of the new caliphate, so losing it is going to be a propaganda blow against the Islamic State?s claims to glory. Coming almost simultaneously with the defeat in Mosul, losing Raqqa will be a one-two punch that (hopefully) the Islamic State will never recover from.

The Kurds have pushed into the outskirts of Raqqa from the north and from the northwest. In preparation for this fight, they have retaken the road heading east from Raqqa, on the north bank of the Euphrates River. They?ve pushed down the routes from the north, and are now reportedly only a few miles from the city limits. With American help, Kurdish fighters were airlifted in to the area around Tabqa (and the dam nearby), and have now cut off a supply line to Raqqa?s west.

This hasn?t completely circled Raqqa, but a Mosul-style complete siege probably won?t be necessary (Raqqa is smaller than Mosul, for one). Especially considering that last week the U.S. announced it would be sending heavy arms to the Kurdish forces for the fight for Raqqa (Turkey?s not happy about this, but it was always pretty obvious geographically that the Kurds would be the only logical force to take Raqqa).

It?s anyone?s guess how soon the battle for the city actually begins in earnest. The Kurds may wait and continue retaking surrounding towns and territory, or they may elect to just push on into Raqqa within the next few weeks. It also remains to be seen how long it?ll take to defeat the Islamic State fighters and retake the whole city.

But at this point it?s a pretty safe bet that the Islamic State will indeed be defeated and their hold on Raqqa will end. They?ll likely fight hard to keep it because of the symbolism of losing their self-proclaimed capital, but they?ve been on such a long losing streak that it doesn?t seem possible they?re going to be successful in defending Raqqa.


If the Islamic State loses both Mosul and Raqqa within a fairly short period of time, it could be the end of their dreams of controlling a territory they call a ?caliphate.? It probably won?t be the end of the Islamic State group, but it will be at least the beginning of the end of their reign of terror over major portions of Iraq and Syria.

This is not to say there won?t be further battles to win to completely wrest control of territory currently under Islamic State control. In both Iraq and Syria, there will still be pockets to be cleaned up. This will probably be accomplished in Iraq first.

There will still be four remaining areas of Iraq that will need reconquering, even after Mosul falls. Tal Afar will likely be the first of these to be retaken, as part of the mopping-up of the Mosul operation. There are indications that the militias will also clean out the area south of Sinjar as part of this mopping-up as well. If true, this will leave only two chunks of territory left to reclaim: the area surrounding Hawija, and the border area around Qaim. These will require major offensives, but nothing like the scale of the battle for Mosul. Which is why it is now conceivable that all of these objectives could be completed by the end of this year, denying the Islamic State any remaining foothold within Iraq.

In Syria, the biggest problem is going to be how far the Kurds are willing to push south. Kurds are more interested in fighting for their historic lands, and the remnants of the Islamic State are going to flee far beyond these areas. So at some point the Kurdish fighters may voluntarily decide they?ve gone far enough, and hunker down to defend the territory they?ve taken.

This will most likely leave it up to the Syrian government forces to finish the job, and Assad?s troops are in the midst of fighting other forces than just the Islamic State. So it remains to be seen whether the government forces have the resources (or the will) to completely finish off the last pockets of the Islamic State. Even if they did sweep all towns held by the Islamic State clean, it?s doubtful these areas wouldn?t be vulnerable to be retaken when Assad is busy with other battles. So while it looks like the future of the Islamic State in Iraq is about to be ended, they may be able to tenaciously cling to the lands around the town of Deir Ez-Zor and the border towns across from Qaim in Iraq, as well as some other isolated pockets of territory in western Syria.

So it is too soon to say the complete defeat and eradication of the Islamic State is close to being at hand. This won?t lessen their upcoming defeats in Mosul and Raqqa, though. The Islamic State was built on the concept of blitzkrieg warfare ? advance so swiftly that your opponent flees in complete disorganization. But this plan only works as long as your forces are advancing. Propaganda victories draw in thousands of foreign fighters only when it looks like you?ve got a real chance of winning. When it is obvious to the world you are constantly losing ground, nobody?s going to want to commit to your cause. This is why the defeat of the Islamic State in both Mosul and Raqqa are so important. Psychologically, it should break the back of the Islamic State?s grandiose claims.

Of course, even should the Islamic State be completely eradicated from both Iraq and Syria, that doesn?t mean everything will be rosy in either country. To achieve this victory, the Iraqi government allowed Iranian militias to fight the Islamic State, and they?ve been guilty of so many atrocities in the towns they?ve taken control of that Iraq could move straight from the war with the Islamic State to a period of civil war. The possibility definitely exists. As for Syria, even if the Islamic State were completely removed from the board, there will still be a multi-army civil war raging, which doesn?t seem to have any end in sight.

While all of that is important and concerning, the main objective of the United States military in the region has been defeating and destroying the Islamic State. This has been an overwhelming success, although it has been moving at too slow a pace for most Americans to pay attention. Under both Presidents Obama and Trump, the war plan has not appreciably been different. It has allowed not only for successes against the Islamic State but has also mostly avoided any American troop casualties, since it has relied on airstrikes and advising existing fighters on the ground rather than sending in American frontline ground troops.

All of this is about to be highlighted, in the next few weeks. The media loves big war stories rather than ongoing strategic analyses, and they?re about to have two big war victories to focus on. Retaking both Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State is going to be a heavy one-two punch that may serve as the biggest psychological defeat they?ve ever suffered ? one that largely ends the draw for foreign fighters to join them altogether. That would represent a major turning point in the battle against the Islamic State ? both for the military fight and for the ?hearts and minds? effort as well.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

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WHO Confirms Second Ebola Case In Congo

The World Health Organization on Sunday confirmed a second case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following a recent outbreak of over a dozen other suspected cases this week.

There are 19 suspected and confirmed cases in the outbreak so far, including three people who have died, WHO?s Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters

WHO declared the outbreak on Friday, when the organization confirmed a first case of the disease in Congo?s Bas-Uele province, a remote area in the country?s north bordering the Central African Republic.

The first case was a 45-year-old man who died on April 22 on his way to the hospital, the organization explained on Saturday. A person who took care of the man, as well as the driver who transported him to the hospital, both subsequently became ill and passed away. It is unclear whether the driver or the care giver was the case confirmed on Sunday. 

Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people or with contaminated surfaces and materials. Officials and health workers are currently trying to locate 125 people who may be at risk of infection. 

According to the WHO, news about the Congo outbreak was slow to emerge because of the limited transport and communication networks in the region. It takes about three days to reach the area from the capital Kinshasa. 

Karambi told HuffPost on Friday that the remoteness of the location poses logistical challenges, it also may help contain the disease. ?On the one hand, it?s lucky because the illness probably can?t spread on a wide scale. But on the other hand, it?s far from medical access,? Karambi told HuffPost on Friday. 

The first Ebola outbreaks took place in 1976, when two simultaneous outbreaks were discovered in isolated areas of Congo and South Sudan. Since then, Congo has seen seven other outbreaks. The most recent one started on Aug. 24, 2014 in Equateur province. By the end of the outbreak in November that year, dozens of people had died. 

At the time, a different and far more complex outbreak was raging in West Africa. More than 11,000 people died of Ebola between 2013 and 2016, most of them in Guinea, Sierra Leona and Liberia. The West Africa outbreak was the deadliest outbreak of Ebola since its discovery. 


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Rumours are always annoying and devastating. When a rumour monger is confronted, he/she try to be defensive which is counterproductiveIf you find signs of lice problem it is best to take care of it in the early stage before it becomes a hectic problem, so Fort Collins has many head lice removal companies who offer solutions to put an end to your lice problem.. In a calm way and having an open mind, you should express your displeasure to the person who started the gossip.

Trump Boasted About Helping 1 American Return From Egypt. He’s Ignoring The Rest.

WASHINGTON ? Four weeks after loudly celebrating its own role in bringing home an imprisoned American aid worker from Egypt, the Trump White House has taken no steps to engage the families of three other detained Americans.

Seventeen-year-old Ahmed Hassan of Pomona, New Jersey, has been held in overcrowded Egyptian facilities with adults since December. Ahmed Etwiy, 26, and Mustafa Kassem, 52, both from New York, have each been detained for nearly four years without receiving prison sentences.

In early April, President Donald Trump personally spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi about the case of imprisoned American aid worker Aya Hijazi, 30, who had been jailed for almost three years. An Egyptian court acquitted her weeks later, closing a case widely seen as an unsubstantiated witch hunt devised to boost Sissi?s image as a tough ruler independent of Washington.

A U.S. military plane flew Hijazi home, and the Trump administration soon released photos of her in the Oval Office with the president and White House aides Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Later that day, Trump boasted about the accomplishment via Twitter, in the form of a bizarre, self-congratulatory video set to the song ?Proud To Be An American.?

The three other detainees and their families grew hopeful, Hassan?s pro bono lawyer and relatives of Etwiy and Kassem told HuffPost this week. But they have since been disappointed. There?s no sign that the Trump administration is treating the remaining cases as priorities, they said. And a previously unreported May 2 State Department letter to Congress about Hassan?s case avoided answering the question of whether Trump mentioned him or the other detainees when he met with Sissi.

?My expectations changed greatly,? Dr. Nagwa El Kordy, Etwiy?s mother, told HuffPost in an email. ?Seeing Aya released after all this time gave me hope that the same can happen for my son. So far nobody from the Trump administration has contacted me. And the [American] embassy in Cairo hasn?t visited him for almost 3 months.?

Praveen Madhiraju, an attorney for Hassan and the executive director of the nonprofit Pretrial Rights International, said the White House has not responded to multiple entreaties from Hassan?s family and lawyers ? including a letter the American teenager personally addressed to Trump.

And Mustafa Hussain Ahmed, Kassem?s brother-in-law, said he had no idea how to even contact Trump?s team. He asked if HuffPost could connect him.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department?s consular affairs bureau, said he could not comment on the three Americans? cases because of ?privacy considerations.?

?We?re aware of media reports of U.S. citizens detained in Egypt,? Cocks wrote in a Friday email. ?One of the most important tasks of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens who are detained abroad.?

?When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the Department works to provide all appropriate consular assistance… [which] may include attempting to ensure that the detained/arrested U.S. citizens receive a fair and speedy trial with the benefit of legal counsel; visiting detained/arrested U.S. nationals in prison to ensure that they are receiving humane treatment, including medical treatment if needed; facilitating communications with their families or others as they wish; and assisting with the transfer of funds from family and friends in the United States to pay for attorneys? fees, food, and medicine while incarcerated,? Cocks went on.

Representatives for the three jailed Americans say they are dealing with the challenges Cocks describes with only minimal U.S. government support.

Hassan?s last appeals hearing, an opportunity for him to gain an early reprieve on his one-year sentence for challenging police officers who wanted to arrest his uncle, was meant to be on April 19. But authorities pushed it to July because, they claimed, not enough police officers were available to escort the 17-year-old to the courthouse.

Etwiy and Kassem have been charged but not sentenced. Both have been in prison for nearly four years since being swept up in mass arrests during 2013 political protests. Etwiy has experienced depression and severe food poisoning, according to his mother; Kassem has had to wait up to two weeks for deliveries of the blood sugar control drug, NovoLog, that he uses to manage his diabetes, according to Ahmed, his brother-in law. Ahmed said the American consular visits were ?useless? because officials told Kassem they could not be helpful beyond ensuring he does not die.

The U.S. has maintained a close relationship with Egypt despite growing human rights concerns. At least 30,000 people have been arrested since the military took control in a Sissi-directed 2013 coup. Mass trials, beatings and solitary confinement have become common, and hundreds of prisoners remain behind bars long beyond legal limits on pre-trial detention. Human rights advocates say Egypt is experiencing the worst government repression in its contemporary history. Cairo claims the actions are necessary to combat terror, while outside analysts say Egypt is actually allowing the militant group known as the Islamic State to thrive.

Estimates vary on how many Americans have been affected by the surge in state-sponsored violence. NPR reported a figure of 20 in April, but the Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan, himself a former prisoner, told HuffPost this week that he thinks the number is now nine. The State Department refused to provide details. Egypt?s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

It?s unclear what Trump and his team are willing to do for these Americans. Soltan believes Egypt?s regime is more likely to respond to requests from Trump because of the personal praise he has showered on Sissi, one of the many authoritarian leaders Trump frequently mentions as favorite peers. The two presidents may see each other later this month when Trump meets with a group of Muslim leaders from around the world in Saudi Arabia.

But the White House?s approach thus far does not suggest such personal requests are forthcoming. Hassan?s congressional representatives, Sens. Cory Booker (D) and Bob Menendez (D) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) of New Jersey, sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a letter on April 25 inquiring about whether Trump or Tillerson had raised the young American?s case during meetings with Sissi earlier that month.

On May 2, State Department official Joseph McManus responded to LoBiondo in a message the congressman?s office shared with those of the two senators. (No similar response was sent to Booker; Menendez?s office did not respond to a request for comment. Madhiraju, Hassan?s lawyer, said he was not aware of the contents of the message.)

?We have been closely monitoring Ahmed?s case, including ensuring fair trial guarantees are respected,? McManus wrote in his letter to LoBiondo.

McManus acknowledged that Egyptian authorities had delayed Hassan?s appeals hearing. ?We have contacted Egyptian authorities to request an earlier hearing,? he wrote. He also said consular officials had visited the young American twice and requested a third visit. Hassan had not been moved to a juvenile facility because his family wanted him to stay at the police station where he was originally detained, McManus said.

?We are in frequent contact with Ahmed?s family here and in Egypt,? he wrote. ?During the consular visits mentioned above, Ahmed has not made any allegations of mistreatment during his incarceration… The family has told us they have regular access to him and that he has been treated fairly well. Ahmed?s father recently expressed concern to a consular officer about crowded and uncomfortable conditions at the police station, but told the officer he would confirm with Ahmed before for assistance to have him moved. If Ahmed requests a move during his next consular visit or through his father, we will contact the appropriate Egyptian authorities to facilitate that request.?

The letter did not respond to the third question in the lawmakers? original letter to Tillerson: ?Did you or President Trump raise Ahmed?s case and those of other American citizens when President Sissi visited Washington in early April??

Despite Trump?s talk of always putting America and Americans first, advocates believe more high-profile attention is necessary to really prompt a U.S. government push.

?It?s important to note how crucial public opinion is in creating pressure on the administration to act more intentionally on behalf of these citizens,? Soltan and his sister, the lawyer Hanaa Soltan, wrote to HuffPost. ?Mohamed?s and Aya?s case both garnered quite a bit of attention before the administrations were moved to act on them as they did.? (The Obama administration lobbied for Mohamed Soltan?s release in 2015.)

?Every case is a combination of factors, of sustained public and private engagement with the Egyptians at multiple levels from multiple actors. The strategy also depends upon what stage the case has reached in Egypt,? said Wade McMullen, an attorney for Hijazi, the freed aid worker, at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights nonprofit. ?President Trump and his administration deserve credit for personally engaging on Aya and [her husband] Mohamed?s case with President Sisi and other Egyptian officials. But a lot of people deserve credit for Aya?s and Mohamed?s freedom.?

In a Wednesday email, McMullen cited the Egyptian legal team, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and advocacy organizations and U.S. officials.

For now, the other Americans remain behind bars.

?Trump is spending his weekends golfing in Bedminster, N.J., while Ahmed will spend his 18th birthday in jail,? Madhiraju said, noting that Hassan?s birthday is on May 25 and that the president is legally required to make inquiries to any foreign government that unjustly detains an American.  

Hassan described the conditions in his March letter to Trump.

?I?ve been in jail in Egypt since December 1, 2016, and am laughed at and mistreated by the police here because I am American. Please help me,? he wrote. ?I am in a jail cell with more than 20 adults. It is scary to be here with these people and the police… I am proud to be an American. I beg you to defend my right to be free.?

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Man Stuffs Cash Into Shirt Of GOP Congressman Who Voted To Repeal Obamacare

Emotions were high at a town hall hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in North Dakota.

Police removed two men from the event in Mandan on Thursday afternoon after a question-and-answer session turned rowdy, according to multiple reports.

The ?Coffee with Cramer? meeting ended up focusing principally on health care reform, with Cramer?s vote in favor of legislation that repeals and replaces major parts of the Affordable Care Act a particular topic of contention.

Video going viral shows how one man approached Cramer to ask him a question, but was grabbed around the throat by another. Police escorted the throat-grabber away.

The first man then asked Cramer if the rich would benefit from a tax cut if health care is destroyed. After Cramer responded ?of course not,? the man shoved a wad of bills into the congressman?s shirt collar. He was also then ejected. 

Neither of the removed men were arrested, however.

Cramer, who in March came under fire for mocking the symbolic white pantsuits that Democratic women wore to President Donald Trump?s first address to Congress, later appeared to play down the incident. 

?I don?t have to agree with them, but I still have an obligation to listen to them,? he told local ABC affiliate WDAY-TV 6. ?I don?t blame people for their anger or anxiety. If they disagree with me or somebody else, I understand that.?

Cramer later released this statement via Twitter:

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News Roundup for April 3, 2017

This is news that moves.

1. Israel has a new defense missile called ?David’s Sling?. It used to be called ?Magic Wand? (for real) but they decided that was too Harry Potter and not enough old testament. More here.

2. Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian cargo vessel. Verdict is still out on whether or not this is a promo for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. More here.

3. Colombian flooding has claimed at least 254 lives since Saturday. There are many ways you can help, so get on it. More here.

4. Ecuador, one of few countries not swinging to the right, have re-elected their socialist leader. How long will it be until we fear Ecuador? More here.

5. Jared Kushner went to Iraq because of… nepotism. More here.

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The is the exposure of any activity that is deemed illegal or unfit to ethical standards within an organization that can either be private or public. Whistleblowers take a risk by exposing those activities. The people being exposed can go a long way to find out the person who exposed their unethical activity my wife wanted to to the bridal dash. That is why some level of protection is offered to whistle blowers to make sure they are not harmed in any way .

Teen With Down Syndrome Got Asked To Prom In The Sweetest Way

Sure, it?s a little cheesy but this just might be the most thoughtful prom proposal ever.

On Sunday, the Facebook page Love What Matters posted a heart-meltingly cute video of 18-year-old Shaedon Wedel asking his best friend?s little sister to the prom. 

Carlie Wittman, 15, has Down syndrome and her favorite chips are Doritos. Naturally, Shaedon tried to work some nacho cheese-inspired comedy into his prom invite.

?I decided on the Doritos theme because I have known her for seven years and there has not been a day that I have not seen her eat Doritos,? the high school senior told The Huffington Post. ?She absolutely loves them!?

Here?s the truly inspired shirt he made:

?I know I?m NACHO typical Dorito,? the shirt reads. ?But I?m going to be CHEESY and ask: WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME??

It?s fair to say Carlie was thrilled about the punny proposal. Just look at her reaction: 

The pair are scheduled to go to the senior prom on April 22. The sweet moment has garnered more than 108,000 ?likes? and 32,000 shares on Facebook ? and that number keeps climbing. 

?We taped it because she loves to be on the camera; we didn?t expect this to go so viral,? Shaedon said. ?It has been a very neat and exciting experience.?

Initially, Shaedon, Carlie, and Carlie?s brother Carson ? Shaedon?s best friend ? were going to go to prom as a group. But after Carson met his girlfriend during the school year, Shaedon moved forward with his plans to ask Carlie.

?She says she wants to be a princess like Cinderella and it would mean everything to make her feel that way,? he told HuffPost. ?The Whitmans are basically my second family and have been so kind and nurturing to me. My main goal is to make Carlie?s prom as special as possible.?

Nacho about you, but we?d say Shaedon is well on his way to doing just that.

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17 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Anyone Who Met Their Boo Online

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and that means the search for the perfect gift and card is on.

For those who found their significant other online, this list is for you. Whether you met on OK Cupid, Bumble, Tinder, Grindr or any number of other sites, something below is sure to strike your fancy.

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