take on

Texas is using the Air Force to take on the mosquitoes that are surging after Harvey

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Texas has launched aerial attacks on mosquitoes swarming coastal regions of the state and threatening to spread disease and hinder disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes began spraying insecticides over three eastern Texas counties over the weekend and will expand to other areas over the next two weeks, officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said.

About 1.85 million acres have been treated as of Tuesday, according to the department.

Officials hope the spraying can avoid outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. Texas reported 441 human cases of West Nile virus and 21 deaths since the start of 2016, according to figures released on Tuesday. It reported 342 cases of Zika virus during the same period, including one likely spread by a mosquito bite this year.

Most mosquitoes that appear after floods are not the disease-carrying varieties but can hurt recovery operations by swarming residents and disaster workers during cleanup efforts, said DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen.

Harris County, the state’s most populous county and home to Houston, is expected to begin night-time spraying soon, said Dr. Mustapha Debboun, director of the Mosquito and Vector Control division of Harris County Public Health.

“Under the circumstances, when you have a hurricane of a magnitude like this, we would like them to spray the whole county … everyone was affected,” Debboun said.

Harris County identified areas with dense mosquito groupings and dispatched fogging trucks every night since Sept. 4. Typically, trucks are sent only to areas with disease-carrying mosquito populations, he said.

Aedes AegyptiAn Aedes Aegypti mosquito is seen in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center.Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga/

Harvey plowed into Houston last month, killing at least 70 people and causing about $180 billion in damages, largely through flooding. Trillions of gallons of water fell on the region and led to a surge in mosquitoes, prompting officials to seek U.S. Air Force help.

The C-130 cargo planes operating from an air force base in San Antonio joined two smaller aircraft that sprayed in south Texas last week. The big planes also were used to help control mosquitoes after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.

In Jefferson County on the eastern Texas coast, aerial spraying began Sunday and could end Tuesday, the county’s mosquito control division director told Reuters. Residents were alerted to the flights and beekeepers were asked to cover hives, he said.

State officials urged residents to dispose of standing water, use repellant and wear long-sleeved clothing outdoors.

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PROTESTERS, ON RIGHT AND LEFT, PREPARE TO TAKE ON TRUMP

 

US President Donald Trump will get a taste of Israel’s robust democracy next week, with activists preparing to demonstrate on Monday, during his visit.

At least two demonstrations will be taking place Monday. One, taking place in tandem in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is against Trump, and the other is calling on him to take action against Palestinian incitement.

 

The Almagor Terror Victims’ Organization plans to pitch a tent in Jerusalem’s Independence Park, across from the US Consulate. The tent will be adorned with materials from Palestinian Media Watch showing examples of how the Palestinian Authority incites to terrorism against Israelis on its official media, in its schools, and in the honors it bestows on terrorists, like naming streets and public squares after them.

The request to the police that would allow them to set up the tent was submitted by Hadas Mizrahi, whose husband Baruch Mizrahi, a police officer, was shot by Palestinians near Hebron on Passover eve 2014.

Almagor also sent a letter to Trump this week, signed by over 100 victims of terror and their relatives, which states that they are “concerned about [Trump’s] plans to facilitate direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority prior to any declaration by the latter to halt payments to murderous terrorists… In the past year alone, the PA has paid some $250 million to terrorists, which is nothing short of incitement that motivates Palestinian youth to murder Israelis.”

The organization expressed hope that Trump’s presidency “heralds an opportunity for change,” but said “this change… must also affect the Palestinians. Before there is any dialogue, the Palestinians must demonstrate good faith and show that they are truly willing to change their ways by stopping incitement and halting all payments to terrorists who murdered Israelis, only for being Jews.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought up the issue of the PA’s payments to terrorists often in recent months, and there are bills in the US and Israel to block or limit funding to the Palestinians as long as they continue the payments. Trump reportedly mentioned the issue to PA President Mahmoud Abbas when they met in the White House.

Meanwhile, in the same park, an anti-Trump rally is set to take place, with over 150 people signed up on Facebook. The idea was the brainchild of Jacob Fortinsky, who is in Jerusalem studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute on a gap year between high school in New York and college later this year.

Fortinsky had been politically active as a high school student, interning on Capitol Hill, and he felt “removed” watching Trump get elected while he was in Jerusalem.

“What’s going on is unprecedented,” he said Thursday. “I felt a moral imperative to act.”

Fortinsky set up a Facebook event, calling for an event “to show that there are people around the world, both Americans and natives in other countries, who oppose Trump on many of his stances, whether it’s his sinat chinam [baseless hatred] of others, his incompetence, his potential collusion with Russia, and a number of different things.”

“This protest is a manifestation of that opposition,” he explained.

Fortinsky contacted friends on other gap year programs and people he met who were involved in other, recent anti-Trump protests in Israel, who helped him get a police permit to hold the demonstration, and the numbers grew. Democrats Abroad became a sponsor of his event, as well as another one by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, which was planned in conjunction with the Israeli branch of the pro-Hillary Clinton group Pantsuit Nation, and has nearly 200 attendees registered on Facebook.

Jerusalem City Councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz) is expected to speak, as well as a Reform Rabbi, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kellman.

Fortinsky said: “Next year, I’m going to Harvard, and I have friends there organizing protests, but to me it seemed like an echo chamber, because three-quarters of the students there are liberal. It seems more poignant to do it here, because people seeing the protests are less naturally inclined to oppose trump. There’s potential for it to be more effective.”

In 2013, when then-US president Barack Obama visited Israel, Palestinians and Israelis organized protests against him. Palestinians protested that Obama did not go to former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s grave, while students from Ariel University protested that they were not allowed to attend Obama’s speech to Israeli students from every other university in the country.