An illness suffered by soldiers who took part in the 1991 Gulf War was not caused by inhaling depleted uranium, according to a scientific study. Instead, researchers believe Gulf War syndrome may be due to soldiers being exposed to the nerve agent Sarin. The Royal British Legion said a lack of understanding of the condition has had a ‘serious impact’ on veterans. Around 250,000 Gulf War veterans could be living with the syndrome, which can cause symptoms such as insomnia and memory problems. Former soldier Kerry Fuller was a fit 26- year-old who loved outdoor activities before the war. He suffered a stroke at 40 and now says he is so ill, it is hard just to get out of bed. ‘My whole world and way of being changed just like that’, he said, ‘and there's no going back. The damage is done and my ailments are only getting worse. I think myself and the thousands of other veterans would just like an acknowledgment, and being able to access the correct treatment.’

The Czech government re-declared a state of emergency to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in defiance of the lower house of Parliament, which refused the minority government’s request to extend the powerful tool. The state of emergency gives extra powers to impose nationwide restrictions and limit people’s travel and rights. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the republic’s rate of 915 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the previous two weeks is the second worst per capita in the EU after Portugal. Despite the dire situation, some lawyers and politicians, including the Senate speaker, say the government’s move violates the country’s constitution. The government denies that, saying its legal advisers support such a solution. Meanwhile Germany has implemented tight border controls on its frontiers with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol province to stem the spread of variants.

Many are now saying the vaccination rollout has been plagued by bureaucracy, poorly-negotiated contracts, penny-pinching, blame-shifting, and secrecy. The result is a shortage of vaccines, and an immunisation crisis On 17 February Brussels announced it is now set to almost triple its orders of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine as part of an EU push to respond to the emergence of new variants and the possible need for booster shots. Deliveries under the new deal are unlikely to ease the current short-term vaccine supply squeeze but it would be delivered between April and June.

By 18 February millions were still without electricity after a week of snowstorms, with more snow expected to sweep across the South and East in the coming days. An electricity supply crisis is forcing millions to endure days without power and heat. Ambulances in San Antonio were unable to meet the surging demand, and Galveston county called for refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies they expect to find in freezing, powerless houses. 31 bodies have been found so far. Texas has problems getting natural gas and renewable energy generators back online. It is not known when the power will be fully restored. Every source of power has been compromised. Several state agencies are uniting to meet the demands of nursing homes, hospitals and dialysis centers, which have reported a variety of problems including water main breaks and oxygen shortages. Over 300 warming centres provide blankets, cots and water to vulnerable citizens.

The ministry of health declared an Ebola epidemic in the N’Zerekore region of Guinea on 14 February, following seven confirmed cases and three deaths. US government agencies are closely monitoring the epidemic, and coordinating with the Guinea government, the World Health Organisation, and other partners to provide rapid, localised outbreak control. This outbreak follows a declaration of an outbreak on 7 February by the DRC’s minister of health. The previous West African outbreak in 2014-16 killed over 11,300. The source of infection is under investigation. It is important to monitor one’s health for 21 days after travelling to an area experiencing an Ebola outbreak.

February is Black History Month in the USA. Many Black Americans have mixed emotions during this month. Some feel happiness for the great successes Black Americans have made over the years. The other emotion is sadness, because of the movies and documentaries that reveal the horrors of American slavery, discrimination, and their unfair and unjust treatment for 400 years. Pray for this month to begin a powerful season for healing. (Ecclesiastes 3:3b). Pray for the damaged communities to begin to forgive each other and allow God to heal the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds. Pray for deliverance from all the pain that they and their ancestors have suffered over the years. In the UK, 14 February was Racial Justice Sunday, and the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a prayer referring to ‘the sin of racism’ and how Jesus ‘broke down the walls that divide’. We can pray for all nations to be freed from prejudice, and the violence of racist words and actions.

The current president's strategy for handling the former president's impeachment trial has been to keep the whole ordeal at arm's length. The Biden administration's long-term political fortunes rest on success in dealing with the pandemic, the economy and the American public's other concerns. In the end, the trial lasted only three days. The chamber can’t take up Biden's Covid relief bill until the House passes the version that they have spent the week working on. Pray that the much-needed relief is released swiftly. With the trial concluded, the Senate can now resume confirming Biden's administration appointments, after it returns from a week recess. Pray for wisdom to flow through all appointments yet to be made, and that the price of a speedy trial without witnesses will not mean a political price being paid later.

When a pastor shared the gospel with a Nepali family, they eagerly placed their faith in Christ and began attending church regularly, walking eight miles each way to attend. But when the owner of the land they leased learned of their newfound faith in Christ, he kicked them off the land. As an extremely poor family struggling to survive, they had leased the land both to live on and to farm, giving half their crops to their landlord in payment. In addition to being evicted from the land, they were denied access to the village water tap. Our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nepal face great pressure from their communities to reject Christ or suffer the consequences of continuing harassment and beatings from nationalists who envisage Nepal becoming a ‘pure’ Hindu nation. Also the government has criminalised conversion to Christianity and declared that ‘those who change their religion should be expelled from Nepal.’

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