Friday, October 31, 2014

Protests Push Burkina Faso President From Power

Burkina Faso's new interim leader Gen. Honore Nabere Traore, third from left in front, speaks during a press conference held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014


OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (AP) — The president of Burkina Faso stepped down Friday after protesters stormed parliament and set the building ablaze, ending the 27-year reign of one of Africa's longest-serving rulers who had survived previous attempts to topple him.
An army general quickly stepped into the vacuum left by departing President Blaise Compaore. Gen. Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, told a packed room of reporters that he would assume the presidency until elections were called.
It was not clear if the military was unified behind Traore or if he had the support of the opposition. Army spokesman Col. Yacouba Zida said the constitution had been suspended and a transitional government formed to organize elections. He made no mention of Traore.
When he resigned, Compaore had said a vote would be held in 90 days, but Zida said the "length and makeup of the transitional body will be decided later." Over the course of several dramatic hours, Compaore went from looking likely to jam through parliament a bill that would let him seek a fifth term to agreeing to step down next year to abandoning office immediately.
The quick succession of events took many by surprise, since Compaore had long out-maneuvered his adversaries and has in recent years become an important regional mediator. Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa.
But French President Francois Hollande was quick to "salute" his decision to resign. While he was respected on the international stage, critics noted that, under Compaore's semi-authoritarian rule, the country of 18 million people remained mired in poverty. The landlocked country's fortunes rise and fall with gold and cotton prices — and adequate rain in a region plagued by drought.
Compaore's exit will have significance throughout the region, where many leaders have pushed through constitutional changes to prolong their rule and others are attempting to, said Africa expert Philippe Hugon.
"It's obvious that what happened will have an echo in other countries," said Hugon of the Institute for Strategic and International Relations. In the end, Compaore was pushed from power by violent protests and an emboldened opposition that would accept nothing short of his resignation.
Opposition protesters gathered in a square in the capital on Friday and burst into cheers when they heard the announcement of his resignation on hand-held radios. "I declare that I'm leaving power," Compaore said in a statement. "For my part, I think I have fulfilled my duty."
Compaore, 63, was headed south to the city of Po, near the border with Ghana, a French diplomatic official said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation. The outgoing president was still in Burkina Faso on Friday afternoon, and it was not clear if he was trying to cross the border, the official said. He had not asked the French, who were once the country's colonial rulers, for any help.
For months, an opposition coalition had been urging Compaore not to seek re-election. But Compaore and his ruling party appeared ready on Thursday to push through a bill that would have allowed him to run again.
Determined to block the vote, protesters stormed the building, setting part of it on fire. At least three people were killed in the protests, according to Amnesty International, and dozens of demonstrators were shot.
Images of flames enveloping the legislature, cars burning in the streets and protesters massing in the capital raised the specter of a long standoff. But events moved swiftly, with the government suspending the vote and the military announcing that the legislature had been dissolved and an interim government would be formed.
After that, Compaore said he would lead until the new elections. Protesters rejected that plan and gathered again Friday, demanding that Compaore step down immediately. It was a sharp about-face for a ruler who had survived other attempts to overthrow his regime.
Compaore first came to power following the October 1987 coup against then-President Thomas Sankara, Compaore's longtime friend and political ally who was killed in the power grab. For many, his legacy begins and ends with the death of Sankara, a well-regarded statesman whose death was widely viewed as a setback for the entire continent.
Compaore has reinvented himself many times over the years. As a young man, he was in the military. He became justice minister when troops marched on Ouagadougou, the capital, in 1983 and installed Sankara as president. After he took power in his own coup, he developed a reputation as a meddler and a supporter of regional conflicts.
He openly supported Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord turned president, though he denied active involvement in the Liberian conflict. Compaore also was accused of supporting rebel groups in Ivory Coast and Angola.
More recently, he has refashioned himself as an elder statesman who brokered electoral disputes and hostage releases throughout West Africa. Domestically, he kept a tight leash on any opposition, never groomed a viable political heir and fought off threats to his power. In 2011, waves of protests washed over Burkina Faso, challenging Compaore's rule, and mutinous soldiers occupied the palace at one point, forcing the president to flee.
But what would have spelled the end for many presidents was a temporary problem for Compaore. He maneuvered to stay in power by removing his security chiefs and appointing himself defense minister before returning to Ouagadougou.
Associated Press writers Sylvie Corbet and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

Africans Worst Responders In Ebola Crisis

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, speaks at United Nations headquarters in New York


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The head of Africa's continental body did not get to an Ebola-hit country until last week — months after alarm bells first rang and nearly 5,000 deaths later.
Pledges to deploy 2,000 African health workers have remained largely that — promises. No African countries are on the United Nations list of contributors to fight the epidemic. The E-word did not even figure on the agenda of a session on peace and security at the Pan-African Parliament in South Africa last week — more than a month after the U.N. Security Council declared the Ebola outbreak a "threat to international peace and security."
Angry legislators from Sierra Leone and Liberia got up to protest. "They said as far as they are concerned, nobody wants to talk about Ebola," said Jeggan Grey-Johnson, a governance expert who watched the session.
"They said countries like Liberia feel totally abandoned by the rest of Africa and shut off from the rest of the continent," he told The Associated Press. With few exceptions, African governments and institutions are offering only marginal support as the continent faces its most deadly threat in years, once again depending on the international community to save them.
Ebola "caught us by surprise," the chairwoman of the 53-nation African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said this week at a meeting with the U.N. secretary-general and the World Bank president in Ethiopia.
"With the wisdom of hindsight, our responses at all levels - continental, global and national - were slow, and often knee-jerk reactions that did not always help," she said. She is a medical doctor from South Africa, where mining magnate Patrice Motsepe Tuesday announced he has donated $1 million to the fight against Ebola in Guinea, where the outbreak started.
Motsepe's gift, the largest donation by far from any African individual, came after the World Food Program lashed out at China's billionaires, saying their contributions lagged behind their companies' huge economic interests in the mineral-rich region. Motsepe's office said his company has no interests in any of the countries where Ebola is raging out of control — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. China's government has sent many health workers and given more than $8 million with a promise of $6 million more to the U.N. Ebola fund.
"Ebola is first and foremost our problem," the president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, told a business forum in Brussels this month. "Before relying on international aid, we must first encourage Africans to take action."
The African Development Bank is the second largest institutional contributor to the U.N. fund to fight Ebola, second only to the World Bank, having given $45.4 million and promised another $17.4 million. In addition it has given loans and grants individually to the most affected countries.
By contrast, the African Union has made an "uncommitted pledge" of just $700,000. Africa's equivalent of the Organization of America States, it is the body many believe should have taken the lead from the start.
No finger has been pointed at the Africans, even as rich countries have blamed each other for delays in responding to the crisis and the lack of financing. WHO chief Margaret Chan has said that governments have the first responsibility for taking care of their citizens, including in West Africa.
The WHO identified the first Ebola case in Guinea on March 21; on March 30 the virus crossed the border into Liberia; Sierra Leone reported its first two cases on May 30. On June 20, with some 330 recorded deaths, Doctors Without Borders warned that the outbreak was "totally out of control."
Yet it was only on Sept. 20 that the first team of 30 military and civilian volunteers were deployed by a newly designated African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Most costs for that mission are being paid by the U.S. and other governments.
Jacob Enoh Eben, spokesman for the AU chairwoman, said more than 2,000 volunteers have been pledged to date: 1,000 from Congo, 600 from the East African Community, 500 from Ethiopia and 506 from Nigeria.
But he said they still need to know "when the first of these pledges will materialize." Those promised volunteers are only a tiny fraction of the number needed to stem the outbreak. The European Union said this week it is looking to put 40,000 local and European workers into place in the affected countries.
Uganda and Congo, which both have experienced Ebola outbreaks in the past, already have medical teams deployed in Liberia, under contract to WHO and not funded by their governments. It is difficult to say how many Africans are deployed on the front lines of the Ebola battle.
In Uganda, Dr. Anthony Mbonye, the commissioner for community health services at Uganda's Health Ministry, said he believes up to 40 Ugandan health workers are on the ground but that most traveled privately. He said the Ministry of Health had officially approved the deployment of about 10 doctors to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
South Africa has been the most responsive African country and has budgeted $3.2 million, according to the Department of Health. That includes funding for a mobile testing lab operating in Sierra Leone since August.
The continental body's lack of a robust response "showed the fragility of our African Union, so heavily dependent on the international community to rescue us from catastrophe," said Isata Kabia, a Sierra Leonean legislator at the Pan-African Parliament.
"We cannot blame the WHO for their lack of knowledge; we can't blame the EU for lack of interest," she told The Associated. "But I think the AU should not only have led the response but also the requests to the international community."
Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza contributed to this report from Kampala, Uganda, and AP medical writer Maria Cheng contributed from London.

Liberia Opens 1 Of Largest Ebola Treatment Centers

Hearth workers spray disinfectant around a man suspected of dying from the Ebola virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014



MONROVIA, LIBERIA (AP) — Remembering those who have died in the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak, Liberia's president opened one of the country's largest Ebola treatment centers in Monrovia on Friday amid hopes that the disease is finally on the decline in this West African country.
American and U.N. officials as well as Cuban doctors were in the crowd as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf opened the treatment center, which is set up to hold 200 patients and can eventually treat as many as 300. With the opening of the center, an Ebola treatment unit at JFK Medical Center has been closed. Many people with other diseases had been nervous about going to the nation's largest referral hospital, and officials hope they will now come back.
The opening of the center, built out of white plastic sheeting with USAID written across it, comes as fewer people are showing up for treatment at various centers. Officials are not sure how to interpret that. Some believe it's a sign that the Ebola outbreak is finally on the wane in Liberia.
"It is heartening to see that we are finally perhaps catching up with that boulder if not in front of it. It was rolling down the hill at a speed that we were never going to catch, we thought, two months ago, but we're starting to make progress," said U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac.
Others believe Sirleaf's order that the bodies of Ebola victims in the capital be cremated has led to people with symptoms hiding at home, because cremation violates traditions. Doctors Without Borders, known as MSF, said that as of Tuesday there were around 80 patients in its 250-bed facility.
"MSF teams are looking into the reasons for this; a widespread aversion to the government's mandatory cremation policy, poor ambulance and referral systems, changes in behavior, and other factors may play a role," the aid group said.
Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads the government's Ebola response, told The Associated Press the JFK Ebola medical team and a team of Cuban doctors will be in charge of the new center, located in Congo Town in eastern Monrovia.
The World Health Organization said this week that the rate of infection in Liberia appears to be falling but warned that the response effort must be kept up or the trend could be reversed. The international community's response was late and figures were mostly wrong, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He said he is concerned about the "huge discrepancy" between announcements and the situation on the ground in the Ebola-affected countries.
More than 13,500 people have been sickened by the disease, and nearly 5,000 have died, the World Health Organization said Friday. That toll has about 130 fewer cases than the one released by WHO two days ago, mostly because a number of suspected cases in Guinea were determined to not be Ebola, the agency said.
The outbreak has hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea hardest and all three countries have resorted to extraordinary measures to combat it. Sierra Leone has had a state of emergency in place for three months that bans public gatherings and, at one point, the entire country was locked down for three days to seek out hidden cases. There have been rumors that the emergency measures would be lifted, but Attorney General and Justice Minister Franklyn Bai Kargbo told AP on Friday that they are still in force. By law, they can last for 12 months and parliament put no time limit on them, he said.
While the disease is beginning to let up in some of Sierra Leone's eastern districts, infections are continuing in the capital and surrounding areas. Despite some signs of hope in Liberia, many officials warn that the fight cannot be let up. Sirleaf said the memory of sick and dying people with no place to go is still too fresh.
"We can all imagine those early days when journalists .. went into the streets and into the communities and took those pictures that were put on all the television screens all over the world of the dying, the sick, the dead who could not be picked up on time," she said.
Despite those dark days, Liberia health workers fought on, she said. "To our health workers," she said, "we owe you a lot for the courage you continue to bring forth."
Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Questions, Answers About California's Ebola Policy

 (AP) — The California Department of Public Health has issued a 21-day quarantine order for people traveling from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients, but the restrictions will be determined by county health officers depending on the individual's level of risk exposure.
California health officials are trying to strike a balance between public safety and individual rights after New York, New Jersey and Maine received heavy criticism for imposing blanket quarantines, including a nurse who has shown no symptoms of Ebola. There are currently no reported or confirmed cases of Ebola in California.
Here's an explanation of what California's policy means for health workers traveling from affected parts of West Africa and how it compares to other states:
WHAT IS CALIFORNIA DOING TO STOP THE POTENTIAL SPREAD OF EBOLA?
Anyone who travels to California from an Ebola-affected area and had contact with a confirmed patient shall be quarantined for 21 days under an order issued Wednesday by Dr. Ron Chapman, the state's health officer. Failure to comply may result in civil detention and a misdemeanor punishment.
However, the state has defined quarantine loosely to include "observation and monitoring of the Ebola contact and/or limitations on his or her freedom of movement." Local county health officers will decide the specific requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Kristi L. Koenig, director of the Center for Disaster Medical Sciences at University of California at Irvine, said the state's broad definition of quarantine could be interpreted differently from county to county, meaning someone who arrives in San Francisco may be treated differently than a person with the same criteria who arrives in Los Angeles
"I have a concern about that because I think it will be confusing to the public and there could be unintended consequences," Koenig said. "This is a public health emergency of international concern. So we should have international standards."
IS ANYONE IN CALIFORNIA QUARANTINED?
Yes, sort of. San Mateo County health officials said Wednesday that Dr. Colin Bucks, a Stanford School of Medicine professor who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Liberia, has been directed to stay away from work and away from close contact with others for 21 days. He is allowed limited activities outside his home, such as jogging alone.
Bucks, who has no symptoms, is taking his temperature twice a day and communicating with health officials. He is considered to have "some risk."
IS ANYONE ELSE BEING MONITORED IN CALIFORNIA?
Yes. State public health officials have been notified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 19 people who recently traveled to an Ebola-affected country. The state plans to update the number every Friday.
Riverside County's health department announced Tuesday that two people who recently returned from West Africa but said they did not have contact with Ebola patients were being monitored for 21 days by having them take their temperatures twice a day. They are considered low risk.
Orange County health officials are monitoring two recent travelers as well.
HOW DOES CALIFORNIA'S POLICY DIFFER FROM NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY AND MAINE?
California's quarantine order is more nuanced and flexible than the blanket quarantines in New Jersey, New York and Maine. The amount of restriction will be determined by county health officials on a case-by-case basis, based on the risk of exposure. That means some people could be isolated at home, while others deemed lower risk are free to move about while being monitored.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced mandatory 21-day quarantines last week for travelers who have come in close contact with Ebola patients. They issued the mandates after Dr. Craig Spencer, a Harlem resident, tested positive after returning home from treating Ebola patients in Guinea.
Those quarantines have been criticized by health experts and scientists who say health care decisions should be based on established science. They fear that the move will discourage other health care professionals from volunteering in West Africa.
WHO WON'T BE QUARANTINED IN CALIFORNIA?
A person who traveled to an Ebola-affected area as identified by the CDC but did not come into contact with a person with Ebola will not be quarantined.
---------Judy Lin

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/10/30/3779286/questions-answers-about-californias.html#storylink=cpy

Syrian Official Slams Turkey Aggression,

Bouthaina Shaaban, Syrian President Bashar Assad's political adviser, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.


DAMASCUS, SYRIA (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad's political adviser accused Turkey on Thursday of committing "aggression" against the country by allowing rebels to cross into the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani to battle the Islamic State group.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Bouthaina Shaaban said the move was intended for Turkey to expand its influence in Syria by sending in anti-Assad fighters. "I see that Turkey is continuing in its role of aggression against Syria and its very dangerous role in the region," Shaaban said.
The remarks came a day after Turkey allowed 50 armed Free Syrian Army members to cross into embattled Kobani in a push to help Kurdish fighters turn the tide against militants of the Islamic State group besieging the town.
The FSA is a very loose coalition of rebels groups fighting to topple Assad. The group's political leadership is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting. There are various factions within the group whose ideologies are constantly shifting, but generally range from mainstream moderates to deeply conservative Muslims.
Turkey is also allowing some 150 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters into Kobani, where they are expected by the end of the day. A first group of ten fighters entered the town Thursday. Shaaban suggested Turkey was trying to revive the influence it once enjoyed as the dominant power of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire that collapsed early last century.
"It's very dangerous role in the region is motivated by their Ottoman ambition. (It) does not really target saving the Kurds," she said. Shaaban's comments suggested the deep bitterness between the once-friendly neighbors that they could not even see eye-to-eye on a policy for fighting militants of the Islamic State group, which both Syria and Turkey see as a problem.
Syria's government for years had characterized the rebellion against Assad as a problem of fighting terrorism, a point they made repeatedly in Geneva where two international conferences were held this year to try and resolve the crisis.
"It was the Syrian government, who in January and February 2014 called on the international (community) to fight terror inside and outside Syria, so that we reach stability and security," Shaaban said.
Critics say the issue of terrorism only emerged years after the crisis began, and that the Syrian government has refused to make any serious political reforms that might have addressed the people's demands.
The uprising began in March 2011 as largely peaceful demonstrations against Assad's rule, but plunged into armed rebellion after the government violently cracked down on protests. Since then, regional governments and the West have helped arm and train rebels. Iran and Russia have chiefly helped Assad's government.
Hard-line Islamic militants, including from al-Qaida and the extremist Islamic State group have also entered the messy, layered conflict with regional and international undertones. Shaaban described the Kurds as fighting terrorism, saying the Islamic State was "part of the terrorism that we warned against for years now."
The adviser said the Syrian government still welcomed a negotiated solution to the conflict, but said so far, there were no political initiatives being discussed.
The remarks came a day after Turkey allowed 50 armed Free Syrian Army members to cross into embattled Kobani in a push to help Kurdish fighters turn the tide against militants of the Islamic State group besieging the town.
The FSA is a very loose coalition of rebels groups fighting to topple Assad. The group's political leadership is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting. There are various factions within the group whose ideologies are constantly shifting, but generally range from mainstream moderates to deeply conservative Muslims.
Turkey is also allowing some 150 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters into Kobani, where they are expected by the end of the day. A first group of ten fighters entered the town Thursday. Shaaban suggested Turkey was trying to revive the influence it once enjoyed as the dominant power of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire that collapsed early last century.
"It's very dangerous role in the region is motivated by their Ottoman ambition. (It) does not really target saving the Kurds," she said. Shaaban's comments suggested the deep bitterness between the once-friendly neighbors that they could not even see eye-to-eye on a policy for fighting militants of the Islamic State group, which both Syria and Turkey see as a problem.
Syria's government for years had characterized the rebellion against Assad as a problem of fighting terrorism, a point they made repeatedly in Geneva where two international conferences were held this year to try and resolve the crisis.
"It was the Syrian government, who in January and February 2014 called on the international (community) to fight terror inside and outside Syria, so that we reach stability and security," Shaaban said.
Critics say the issue of terrorism only emerged years after the crisis began, and that the Syrian government has refused to make any serious political reforms that might have addressed the people's demands.
The uprising began in March 2011 as largely peaceful demonstrations against Assad's rule, but plunged into armed rebellion after the government violently cracked down on protests. Since then, regional governments and the West have helped arm and train rebels. Iran and Russia have chiefly helped Assad's government.
Hard-line Islamic militants, including from al-Qaida and the extremist Islamic State group have also entered the messy, layered conflict with regional and international undertones. Shaaban described the Kurds as fighting terrorism, saying the Islamic State was "part of the terrorism that we warned against for years now."
The adviser said the Syrian government still welcomed a negotiated solution to the conflict, but said so far, there were no political initiatives being discussed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Funding To Tame An Ebola Outbreak Has Fallen Short

Workers from BioRecoveryCorp carry equipment from the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in New York. Even small clusters of Ebola cases could overwhelm parts of US medical care system, according to an Associated Press review of readiness at hospitals and other components of the emergency medical network.



(ASSOCIATED PRESS) -- The nation's preparedness effort to fight outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases has been under-funded and lacking in political will and commitment.
"We don't really have a pharmaceutical response for Ebola," said retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction. "But could you imagine if there were 20,000 sick people in 10 cities and we did not have a pharmaceutical response? We would be completely overwhelmed."
Emergency preparedness programs ramped up significantly in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax scare, said Dr. Gerald Parker, a former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Health and Human Services preparedness office. Those efforts included research and development of vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
"It was recognized that there would be a dual benefit from research on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to counter bioterror threats and emerging infectious diseases," said Parker, now a vice president at Texas A&M Health Science Center.
But a combination of budgetary constraints and politics has delayed many of those plans. Larsen said the setbacks are partly the result of an inefficient, fragmented federal system, which leaves no single agency in charge.
Both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations had a senior position in the White House to lead response efforts to biological attacks and natural pandemics. The Obama administration eliminated the position.
President Barack Obama appointed Democratic operative Ron Klain as Ebola response coordinator on Oct. 17. But there are currently about two dozen presidentially appointed officials who have some emergency response responsibility for infectious disease outbreaks, Larsen said.
Budget cuts also have slowed progress at the local level. Since 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given states and territories more than $10 billion to help public health care systems ramp up when faced with a major disease outbreak. The CDC program has been cut more than 30 percent since reaching $897 million in fiscal year 2007, which led to thousands of layoffs by state and local health departments, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
All 50 states and several major cities receive additional annual money through HHS's Hospital Preparedness Program, which helps private hospitals develop plans to better handle surging emergency room volume. The program has handed out a total of $5 billion since 2002, but annual funding has fallen by about 50 percent since it peaked in 2003 at $515 million as Congress lost enthusiasm for funding biodefense.
Over that same period, state-level budget cuts and the congressional sequester have forced many states to eliminate emergency preparedness positions. "I do believe we are lot more prepared than we were a decade ago, but we still have work to do," Parker said.
In an interview Wednesday with the Associated Press, Dr. Nicole Lurie, the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, acknowledged that funding limitations had contributed to some of the delay in vaccine development.
In the meantime, a flurry of Ebola-related work is further straining resources, even when such efforts turn out to be false alarms — or worse, based on rumor. Members of West Virginia's Kanawha-Charleston Health Department were recently called to Yeager Airport to investigate four passengers on a plane from Atlanta — three who started their journey in Dallas, one who started out in Houston. "Someone on the plane overheard a conversation that a passenger or passengers were coming from a Dallas hospital. No one in the meeting had any idea if these people were ill," according to a summary report.
The four passengers were isolated, interviewed and subjected to a complete screening evaluation by staff equipped with gloves, respirator and protective gowns. Other staffers collected contact information from all other passengers.
It was determined that none of the four from Texas met any CDC Ebola travel criteria, and were not symptomatic. All passengers and crew were cleared to depart the airport. The incident cost taxpayers more than $2,350 in staff time — 60 man-hours, according to records.
"That's a real drain on the system every time these things happen," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the health department's executive director. "If you have to spend that kind of money three or four times a week, it builds up."
AP national investigative reporters Garance Burke, Jeff Donn and David B. Caruso also contributed to this story.
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate@ap.org

Hancock Shares Life Lessons In New Memoir

"Possibilites," a memoir of Herbie Hancock. In the book, written with Lisa Dickey, he describes his constantly evolving career: as a child prodigy playing classical musical, a sideman in Davis' legendary mid-1960s quintet, and as a bandleader who went from far-out jazz-fusion with his Mwandishi band, to funk with the Headhunters, to hip-hop on the album “Future Shock” and beyond.


NEW YORK (AP) — Herbie Hancock doesn't begin or end his newly published memoir "Possibilities" by recalling any of the many highlights in his 50-plus-year career such as receiving the 2008 Album of the Year Grammy Award for "River: The Joni Letters."
Instead, the 74-year-old pianist bookends his life story by recalling a concert with Miles Davis' quintet nearly 50 years ago in Stockholm, Sweden, when he played what he thought was a wrong chord. The trumpeter quickly played some notes that made the chord sound right and unleashed a solo that took the song in a new direction.
That night the young pianist learned an important lesson. "We all have a natural human tendency to take the safe route — to do the thing we know will work — rather than taking a chance," Hancock wrote. "But that's the antithesis of jazz, which is all about being in the present ... It's about trusting yourself to respond on the fly. If you can allow yourself to do that, you never stop exploring, you never stop learning, in music or life."
In "Possibilities," written with Lisa Dickey, Hancock describes his constantly evolving career: as a child prodigy playing classical musical, a sideman in Davis' legendary mid-1960s quintet, and as a bandleader who went from far-out jazz-fusion with his Mwandishi band, to funk with the Headhunters, to hip-hop on the album "Future Shock" and beyond.
Hancock reveals for the first time in the book his crack cocaine addiction in the late '90s. He credits his family and his Buddhist faith with helping him overcome "the biggest obstacle I ever faced."
Hancock spoke recently to The Associated Press by telephone from his Los Angeles home. Associated Press: What message are you trying to convey in "Possibilities"? Hancock: The outlook toward having a life that's open to possibilities has worked for me even during my darkest hours. The reason that I write about my drug addiction is because I realized that I could possibly turn those dark days into something positive for others — to show that if I was able to overcome that, you can do it too. ... You have the power to create a life that is constantly moving forward and develop the courage to fight the daily battles against the negative part of yourself.
AP: In the book you describe Miles Davis as your "musical mentor." How did he inspire you? Hancock: What I loved was that Miles told us that he paid us to work on things — not to just perfect something in our hotel room and play that just to get applause from the audience. He wanted us to constantly work on new things. He stimulated creativity. He could sense when we had gotten to some point where we had to break the rules in order to go outside the box.
AP: Another major influence cited in the book is Buddhism, which you began practicing in 1972. How has Buddhism influenced your approach to music and life? Hancock: One of the most important realizations I had through practicing Buddhism is that the core of my life is not being a musician, it's being a human being. Being a musician is one of the aspects of my life. I'm also a father, husband and a citizen. ... Coming from the perspective of me being a human being first is what opened up for me an exciting perspective of using music to show the great value of the diversity of cultures that exist in the world and how to incorporate different styles of music, combining forces to create something none of us could create alone.
AP: When you formed the Headhunters band in 1973, jazz purists accused you of selling out. What motivated you to create Headhunters? Hancock: When Sly Stone did "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" that became one of my favorites. Even though I had this avant-garde band, Mwandishi, I was listening to James Brown and Sly Stone. I was brought up on the South Side of Chicago, which is a blues town. I heard Muddy Waters when I was a kid. For me to do a record like "Headhunters" is going back to my roots. I was tired of doing music that was untethered. I had this inner need at that point to do something that was earthier. I was taking a risk because I might not get a new audience and might alienate the one I already had, but I knew I had to be true to myself.
Online:
www.herbiehancock.com

Viral Video Documents New York Street Harassment

The pervasiveness of street harassment, Roberts had dozens of catcalls launched at her by men she passed on the street during the course of a single day in New York City. Their verbal attacks were clandestinely recorded by the project’s editor as he walked in front of her.


NEW YORK (AP) — A video recording the comments a woman hears as she walks around the nation's biggest city is a testament to the pervasiveness of street harassment women face, its creators said Wednesday.
The comments come continuously as the woman walks through the streets of Manhattan — "What's up, Beautiful?" and "Smile!" — and there's even a stretch when a man just silently walks right next to her for several minutes.
The video, shot over 10 hours one day in neighborhoods all over the borough and edited down to a 2-minute final product, has set off a storm of outrage on its way to more than 10 million views since it was released online Tuesday.
"This is having a very serious impact on the way we live our lives," said Emily May, executive director of Hollaback!, the anti-street harassment organization that put out the video. The footage, which was shot and edited by Rob Bliss, was captured by a camera Bliss had in his backpack as he walked several feet of front of actress Shoshana Roberts, who was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and walked silently along.
At no point did Roberts make eye contact with any of the men she passed or talk to any of them. That didn't stop the comments from coming. When she didn't respond, one man told her, "Somebody's acknowledging you for being beautiful. You should say thank you more!"
Roberts said the number of comments the day the video was shot was nothing out of the ordinary for her. "The frequency is something alarming," she said. Martha Sauder, walking on a Manhattan street on Wednesday, agreed that street harassment is a problem and said it happens to her frequently.
"It's inappropriate. It's like an invasion of your space," she said. "I'd like it to stop." But the video also has faced some online criticisms, among them that the men shown all seem to be minorities. Bliss and Roberts emphasized that the comments came from all racial groups, and Bliss said some interactions that were filmed couldn't be used for reasons like the audio was disrupted by passing sirens.
"My experience, what we documented, it was from everybody," Roberts said. Another criticism was that some men's comments seemed innocuous: "Good morning," ''Have a nice day." Some men could have been "genuinely being nice," said Gerard Burke, a Brooklyn resident who readily acknowledged street harassment exists and has seen it happen to women in his family. He said he thought the video shed light on a bigger problem, "but some people just genuinely want to say hello."
That's the problem with street harassment, May said, because when there's a fear that a simple good morning could escalate into sexual comments or actions, there's a reluctance to engage at all.
Follow Deepti Hajela at http://www.twitter.com/dhajela

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Calif AG: 18.5 Million Residents' Info Exposed

California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention in Los Angeles. The number of Californians whose personal data was hacked last year jumped sixfold to 18.5 million accounts and as many as one-third of those people will become victims of fraud, Harris says in a new report released Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, on data breaches in the nation's biggest state.


LAGUNA BEACH, CALIF. (AP) — Personal information about more than 18.5 million Californians was hacked, stolen or otherwise exposed last year and as many as one-third of those people will become victims of fraud, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Tuesday in a new report on data breaches in the nation's biggest state.

Retailers, banks, health care providers and other organizations reported 167 different breaches in the state during 2013. That's six times more than the 2.5 million accounts hacked in 131 breaches in 2012, and represents nearly half of the state's 38 million residents. The alarming increase in malicious hacking and accidental leaks due to poor information security was mainly due to breaches at Target stores and Living Social, an online marketplace. Even without those two incidents, the number of customer accounts exposed by hacking, lost and stolen hard drives and accidental data leaks, jumped 35 percent last year.

As many as one third of people whose information is exposed in a data breach will subsequently suffer some kind of fraud, Harris adds in the report, citing estimates by Javelin Strategy and Research, a California firm that tracks financial industry trends.

More than half of the breaches reported in California involved malicious attempts by hackers or cyber-criminals who were determined to steal customer data, according to the report, which said "trans-national criminal organizations" appear to be responsible in many cases.

"Increasingly, highly sophisticated criminal organizations and state-sponsored entities — located as far away as Russia, China and Eastern Europe — are responsible for breaches," Harris said. The report cites one federal prosecution of an overseas hacker group. It doesn't provide any new details on a multi-state investigation, announced earlier this year, in which officials from California and elsewhere said they were looking into Target Corp.'s response to its breach.

State law requires businesses to notify consumers when their data is exposed in a breach affecting more than 500 accounts. They also must file a report with Harris's office. While there is no similar requirement at the federal level, the figures from California may provide insight into broader trends nationwide.

Retailers were the largest category of businesses that were hacked, followed by financial institutions and then health care providers. Health care organizations were more likely to report the loss or theft of laptop computers or other electronic storage devices containing patient files. What was taken? Social security numbers were exposed in nearly half of the breaches; 38 percent of breaches involved account information for credit or debit cards.

Criminals can use both to commit financial fraud: The average amount of fraud linked to a stolen social security number is $2,330 and the average for a credit card is $1,251, according to estimates that the attorney general attributes to Javelin.

A new state law that goes into effect next year will require companies to offer at least one year of free theft-prevention assistance, such as credit monitoring, to consumers affected by data breaches. While many companies already do this, the report says tha

Harris is recommending additional changes, including legislation that sets stricter notification requirements and provides financial aid to help small businesses adopt data safeguards. She also urges companies to use stronger encryption and other protective methods, although she noted that a recent legislative effort to require encryption was unsuccessful.

Harris also is urging companies to notify consumers about data breaches more promptly and to make their notices easier to understand, with less legal jargon. She notes that the purpose of such notices "is undercut if the recipients cannot understand them."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brazil Votes For Next Leader After Bitter Campaign

Aecio Neves, presidential candidate of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and his wife Leticia Weber, are surrounded by supporters and journalists as they leave a polling station after voting in the presidential runoff election, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Brazilian voters decide Sunday who will next lead the world's fifth-largest country, the left-leaning incumbent Dilma Rousseff or center-right rival Neves.


RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (AP) — President Dilma Rousseff is counting on Brazilians' gratefulness for a decade of progress to overcome concerns about a sluggish economy as the leftist leader seeks re-election on Sunday after a bitter, unpredictable campaign.

Rousseff held a slight lead in one major poll over her center-right opponent, Aecio Neves, but the two were deadlocked in another. The choice between Rousseff and Neves has split Brazilians into two camps — those who think only the president will continue to protect the poor and advance social inclusion versus those who are certain that only the contender's market-friendly economic policies can see Brazil return to solid growth.

The Workers' Party's 12 years in power have seen a profound transformation in Brazil, as it expanded social welfare programs to help lift millions of people from poverty and into the middle class. But four straight years of weak economic growth under Rousseff, with an economy that's now in a technical recession, has some worried those gains are under threat.

"Brazilians want it all. They are worried about the economy being sluggish and stagnant but they want to preserve social gains that have been made," said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. "The question is which candidate is best equipped to deliver both of those."

Rousseff and Neves have fought bitterly to convince voters that they can deliver on both growth and social advances. This year's campaign is widely considered the most acrimonious since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, a battle between the only two parties to have held the presidency since 1995.

Neves has hammered at Rousseff over a widening kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras, with an informant telling investigators that the Workers' Party directly benefited from the scheme. Rousseff has rejected those allegations and told Brazilians that a vote for Neves would be support for returning Brazil to times of intense economic turbulence, hyperinflation and high unemployment, which the nation encountered when the Social Democrats last held power.

"We've worked so hard to better the lives of the people, and we won't let anything in this world, not even in this crisis nor all the pessimism, take away what they've conquered," Rousseff said before voting in southern Brazil.

After he voted in his hometown in Minas Gerais state, Neves exuded confidence and said he's ready to lead all Brazilians, rich or poor. "I'm in a much better position than her," he said of his opponent. "We'll show that we'll maintain the social programs, that we'll make good on all our promises. If I win the election, my first big mission will be to unify the country."

In Rio de Janeiro, 43-year-old lifeguard Marcelo Barbosa dos Santos voted in the Botafogo neighborhood and said he's been a Rousseff backer from the beginning. "Many things changed for the better during Dilma's administration," he said. "The poor have seen our lives improved and we want that to continue."

But Paula Canongia, a 34-year-old hotel owner, said she voted for Neves because of "the current state of our country." "He's not an ideal candidate, far from it ... but we desperately need change and hopefully he can provide that," she said.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. local (6 a.m. EDT; 10 a.m. GMT). Voting stations in far western Brazil close at 8 p.m. local time (6 p.m. EDT; 10 p.m. GMT), and with the nation's all-electronic voting system, a final result was expected within a few hours.

Officials from Brazil's top electoral court said voting went smoothly through late afternoon. However, there was a shooting at a polling location in the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte, when a man was shot and killed inside a school where ballots were cast. Police said it appeared to be gang-related.

Associated Press writers Jenny Barchfield in Rio de Janeiro and Adriana Gomez in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Troy Surrenders To Mormon Country Youths

Oh what a game
You like the Trojans?
Yes, I live down the street
Trojans got to win
Yes, they have regained the lead
Against the Mormon Country Youths
Touchdown with 17 seconds
On the clock;
Mormon Country Youths now leads 23-21
Against the Trojans
Call reversed
Trojans 21-Mormon Country Youths 17
10 seconds on the clock;
Touchdown
Mormon Country on fire
Jubilation all over
Another one bites the dust
A Troy fall

Tunisians Skeptical On Eve Of Historic Election

Tunisian soldiers celebrate at the end of a successful raid against gunmen in the Oued Ellil suburb of Tunis, Tunisia, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014


TUNIS, TUNISIA (AP) — In a raucous cafe in a Tunis slum, men talked in loud voices and paid little attention to the politicians debating on the television mounted on the wall. Qais Jebali swiftly made espressos behind the bar and explained why no one in the gritty neighborhood of Tadamon cared about the upcoming elections.
"We've had five governments since 2011 and nothing has changed on the ground," he said, arranging the cups of strong black coffee on a tray with a bowl of sugar. "The poor people don't trust the government because they are marginalized, harassed by police and don't have money to pay bribes."
Outside, members of the National Guard in bullet-proof vests and carrying assault rifles waved cars through a dilapidated traffic circle. Security was heightened because a standoff with suspected militants was taking place just a few kilometers away.
On Sunday, Tunisians will vote for their first five-year parliament since they overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, marking the end of the democratic transition that they alone among the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings have managed to achieve. Now, many Tunisians are expressing disillusionment over democracy.
They say it has not brought prosperity and seems largely to involve squabbling politicians and attacks by Islamic militants, raising fears that many may not turn out to vote in a country that has been described as the best chance for democracy in the Arab world.
"There is a depression after these three years of seeing rulers lying, not keeping their word, not doing or not even trying to do what they promised to do, and especially, in the midst of a dire economic situation," said Chawki Gaddes, a political analyst at Tunis University.
In 2011, the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party dominated elections and formed a coalition government with two secular parties. Over the next two years, the country was buffeted by punishing inflation, attacks by radical Islamists, assassinations and the daily spectacle of squabbling politicians in a country accustomed to a half century of one-party rule.
As the government and opposition deadlocked amid the rising political acrimony — and against the backdrop of a military coup against the Islamist government in nearby Egypt — the Islamist-led government stepped down at the end of 2013 in favor of new cabinet of technocrats.
Polling from the Pew Research center in Tunisia has seen support for democracy as the best form of government drop from 63 percent in 2012 to 48 percent, while the demand for a strong leader rose from 37 percent to 59 percent.
The disaffection is particularly strong among young people, the group that so spectacularly took to the streets to fight Ben Ali's riot police and force him out of power three years ago. In the neighborhoods like Tadamon, it's difficult to find any young people registered to vote. According to Mouheb Garoui of the election monitoring group I Watch, some 60 percent are undecided just days before the election.
"There were so many promises in 2011 and now the same promises are being made in 2014," he said. "There is discontent and apathy among youth." The Islamist-led government managed to lay down many of building blocks of a new political system and, together with the opposition, write a constitution described as one of the most progressive in the region. Yet the turmoil and deadlock kept away foreign aid, tourism and investment.
"The question of the economy was neglected in the three years of the revolution — it was years of political wrangling and political transition," Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, the interim prime minister that succeeded the Islamist government, told The Associated Press. He says his administration, which succeeded the Islamist government, has begun the necessary economic reforms to stabilize the country. Under his watch, foreign aid has flowed back to the country.
In the past year, security forces have also carried out a string of attacks to dismantle suspected militant cells, most recently on Friday when a counterterrorism operation in the suburbs resulted in the deaths of six alleged militants — five of them gun-toting women, according to police.
The party most hoping to capitalize on voters' disaffection is Nida Tunis (Tunisia's Call) run by charismatic — albeit 87-year-old — politician Beji Caid Essebsi, who is clearly trying to evoke the good old days of an educated, modern Tunisia without the dictatorship.
Formed after the revolution, the party brings together trade unionists, businessmen and more than a few politicians from Ben Ali's time that are united by little more than opposition to the Islamists. The main message of their campaign has been that their party represents progress in the face of what they call the reactionary policies of Ennahda.
"We needed a party to bring back the middle class that was pushed to the side by the aggression of the Islamists and their beliefs," said Mustapha Ben Ahmed, a member of the party's executive bureau. "This historical bloc can restore the prestige of the state."
The party is probably the only one that can compete with Ennahda's impressive organization around the country and is running equal in polls. Wwith the anti-Islamist vote divided among many parties all promising jobs and stability, Ennahda likely will have to be part of any future coalition — a possibility Ben Ahmed fervently condemned as an "unnatural alliance."
The leader of Ennahda, however, has said his party is ready to make a coalition with whomever else the voters choose, though Nida Tunis would not be his first choice. Rachid Ghannouchi told AP that the lesson he has learned from the party's first experience in power was the need for an even broader-based coalition to carry out the difficult reforms need to get the country on track.
"Before when we came to power we were just activists and not statesmen but today we have both activists and statesmen," he said. "We have gained experience and become more realistic with a better understanding of the problems of the people."
At a massive Ennahda rally in the heart of downtown on the iconic Bourguiba Avenue on the eve of the election, thousands cheered and waved flags, showing none of the flagging enthusiasm for politics found elsewhere.
For supporters of the party, any past missteps are made up for by the belief that the Islamists have their best interests at heart. "They were learning," said Kamal Ali as he drove his car through downtown. "Do children on the first day of school already know how to read and write?"
He gestured at the still damaged husk of the old ruling party headquarters nearby. "The others they knew how to do politics, but they also knew how to steal — morals is the most important thing."
Associated Press writers Bouazza ben Bouazza and Sam Kimball contributed to this report.