- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

US judge strikes down NC gay marriage ban; first same-sex weddings expected to quickly follow

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A federal judge in North Carolina has struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state to begin immediately.

U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., in Asheville issued a ruling Friday shortly after 5 p.m. declaring the ban approved by state voters in 2012 unconstitutional.

Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger kept his Asheville office open late to begin issuing marriage licenses to waiting couples.

Cogburn’s ruling follows Monday’s announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court that it would not hear any appeal of a July ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond striking down Virginia’s ban. That court has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

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Liberia’s leader loses bid for more power to fight Ebola, including confiscating property

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - Liberian lawmakers on Friday rejected a proposal to grant President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the power to further restrict movement and public gatherings and to confiscate property in the fight against Ebola. One legislator said such a law would have turned Liberia into a police state.

The proposal’s defeat came as the World Health Organization once again raised the death toll attributed to the Ebola outbreak. The Geneva-based U.N. agency said that 4,033 confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola deaths have now been recorded.

All but nine of them were in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Eight of the rest were in Nigeria, with one patient dying in the United States.

On Friday, David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy for Ebola, said the number of Ebola cases is probably doubling every three-to-four weeks and the response needs to be 20 times greater than it was at the beginning of October.

He warned the U.N. General Assembly that without the mass mobilization of the world to support the affected countries in West Africa, “it will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control, and the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever.”

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AP Exclusive: Ebola patient’s temperature spiked to 103 degrees during first ER visit

DALLAS (AP) - Thomas Eric Duncan’s temperature spiked to 103 degrees during the hours of his initial visit to an emergency room - a fever that was flagged with an exclamation point in the hospital’s record-keeping system, his medical records show.

Despite telling a nurse that he had recently been in Africa and displaying other symptoms that could indicate Ebola, the Liberian man who would become the only person to die from the disease in the U.S. underwent a battery of tests and was eventually sent home.

Duncan’s family provided his medical records to The Associated Press - more than 1,400 pages in all. They chronicle his time in the ER, his urgent return to the hospital two days later and his steep decline as his organs began to fail.

In a statement issued Friday, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said it had made procedural changes and continues to “review and evaluate” the decisions surrounding Duncan’s care.

Duncan carried the deadly virus with him from his home in Liberia, though he showed no symptoms when he left for the United States. He arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill several days later.

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Nobel Peace Prize goes to Indian man and Pakistani girl, highlighting rift between nations

NEW DELHI (AP) - One is Muslim, the other Hindu. One a Pakistani, the other Indian. One a school girl just starting out in life, the other a man with decades of experience.

Despite their many differences, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai and 60-year-old Kailash Satyarthi will be forever linked - co-winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, honored for risking their lives for the rights of children to education and to lives free of abuse. Their selection was widely acclaimed, their heroism undeniable.

But something more was at work here: In awarding the prize Friday, the Nobel Committee also sent a blunt message to the rival nations of India and Pakistan that if two of their citizens can work for a common goal, their governments too could do better in finding common ground.

The two nations have almost defined themselves by their staunch opposition to one another. They became enemies almost instantly upon gaining independence in 1947 from imperial Britain, and have since fought three full-scale wars over various issues, including competing claims to the Himalayan region of Kashmir that sits between them. Just this week, their troops have hurled mortar shells and firing guns at one another across the Kashmir border, with civilian casualties in double digits.

The Nobel Committee’s chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, acknowledged his panel gave the prize to Yousafzai and Satyarthi partly to nudge the two countries together, though he cautioned that the impact of the award should not be overestimated.

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AP PHOTOS: Malala’s legacy in Pakistan is the struggle for girls to be educated

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Malala Yousafzai’s struggle for girls to be educated in deeply conservative parts of Pakistan led to her being shot and nearly killed by the Taliban two years ago, while her relentless campaign for women’s rights was rewarded Friday when she was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala, who moved to Britain for treatment and later settled there, tirelessly continued her campaign for a woman’s right to an education in Pakistan and won international recognition for her struggle.

In Pakistan her campaign lives on, as young girls and women struggle to get an education.

Here are a series of images by Muhammed Muheisen and the late Anja Niedringhaus focusing on the education of young girls in Malala’s hometown of Mingora, in the Swat Valley, and in the outskirts of the capital Islamabad.

Taken in makeshift schools set up in slums and mosques, many show adult volunteers teaching children with the limited resources they have.

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UN envoy to Syria warns of massacre in Syria town if it falls to Islamic State militants

MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AP) - In a dramatic appeal, a U.N. official warned that hundreds of civilians who remain trapped in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani near the border with Turkey were likely to be “massacred” by advancing extremists and called on Ankara to help prevent a catastrophe.

Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. Syria envoy, raised the specter of some of the worst genocides of the 20th century during a news conference in Geneva to underscore concerns as the Islamic State group pushed into Kobani from the south and east.

“You remember Srebrenica? We do. We never forgot. And probably we never forgave ourselves for that,” he said, referring to the 1995 slaughter of thousands of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces.

He spoke to reporters at a press conference in Geneva where he held up a map of Kobani and said a U.N. analysis shows only a small corridor remains open for people to enter or flee the town.

His warning came as the Islamic State group seized the so-called “Kurdish security quarter” - an area where Kurdish militiamen who are struggling to defend the town maintain security buildings and where the police station, the municipality and other local government offices are located.

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The story of 2 schoolgirls: Islamic extremists build networks to lure young women to jihad

LEZIGNAN-CORBIERES, France (AP) - On the day she left for Syria, Sahra strode along the train platform with two bulky schoolbags slung over her shoulder. In a grainy image caught on security camera, the French teen tucks her hair into a headscarf.

Just two months earlier and a two-hour drive away, Nora, also a teen girl, had embarked on a similar journey in similar clothes. Her brother later learned she’d been leaving the house every day in jeans and a pullover, then changing into a full-body veil.

Neither had ever set foot on an airplane. Yet both journeys were planned with the precision of a seasoned traveler and expert in deception, from Sahra’s ticket for the March 11 Marseille-Istanbul flight to Nora’s secret Facebook account and overnight crash pad in Paris.

Sahra Ali Mehenni and Nora El-Bahty are among some 100 girls and young women from France who have left to join jihad in Syria, up from just a handful 18 months ago, when the trip was not even on Europe’s security radar, officials say. They come from all walks of life - first- and second-generation immigrants from Muslim countries, white French backgrounds, even a Jewish girl, according to a security official who spoke anonymously because rules forbid him to discuss open investigations.

These departures are less the whims of adolescents and more the highly organized conclusions of months of legwork by networks that specifically target young people in search of an identity, according to families, lawyers and security officials. These mostly online networks recruit girls to serve as wives, babysitters and housekeepers for jihadis, with the aim of planting multi-generational roots for an Islamic caliphate.

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AP NewsBreak: Youth and adult membership in Girl Scouts drops sharply; more volunteers needed

NEW YORK (AP) - For the second straight year, youth and adult membership in the Girl Scouts has dropped sharply, intensifying pressure on the 102-year-old youth organization to find ways of reversing the trend.

According to figures provided to The Associated Press, the total of youth members and adult volunteers dropped by 6 percent over the past year - from 2,994,844 to 2,813,997. Over two years, total membership is down 11.6 percent, and it has fallen 27 percent from a peak of more than 3.8 million in 2003.

While the Girl Scouts of the USA have had an array of recent internal difficulties - including rifts over programming and serious fiscal problems - CEO Anna Maria Chavez attributed the membership drop primarily to broader societal factors that have affected many youth-serving organizations.

“Parents and families are less financially stable, frequently working two jobs or more, leaving little time to volunteer or take their children to extracurricular activities,” she said.

In hopes of stemming the decline, the Girl Scouts are revamping their online platforms with new toolkits. One is aimed at streamlining the process of joining the Girl Scouts; another seeks to help volunteer troop leaders plan an entire year of meetings and activities with a single online visit.

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News Guide: Ebola toll mounts; world musters drugs, airport screenings, money and aid

American Marines scrambled to add Ebola treatment beds in Liberia on Friday, while the U.S. and Britain readied new disease screenings for passengers arriving at their airports from West Africa. Doctors tried out experimental drugs in a global battle against the deadly sickness.

The U.N. said nations must all work together - and fast - or “the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever.”

The death toll in West Africa passed 4,000 for the first time in the World Health Organization’s count of confirmed and suspected Ebola cases.

As worry ricocheted around the globe, medical records obtained by The Associated Press underscored questions about the United States’ front-line defenses. The Dallas hospital that initially missed the nation’s first Ebola diagnosis put a Liberian man through a battery of tests and CT scans for appendicitis, stroke and other serious ailments before sending him home, the records show.

Before he was released, Thomas Eric Duncan’s fever spiked to 103 degrees, he reported severe pain and told a nurse that he’d recently come from Africa. But doctors didn’t think of Ebola until he returned to the hospital two days later by ambulance. On Thursday, Duncan became the first person to die of Ebola in the United States.

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Seemingly contradictory, Supreme Court voting-law orders appear aimed at minimizing poll chaos

WASHINGTON (AP) - In seemingly contradictory voting-rights actions just a month before November’s elections, the Supreme Court has allowed new Republican-inspired restrictions to remain in force in North Carolina and Ohio while blocking Wisconsin’s voter identification law.

But there’s a thread of consistency: In each case, the court appears to be seeking a short-term outcome that is the least disruptive for the voting process.

Another test of the court’s outlook on voter ID laws could come from Texas, where the state is promising to appeal a ruling that struck down its strict law as unconstitutional racial discrimination.

None of the orders issued by the high court in recent days is a final ruling on the constitutionality of the laws. The orders are all about timing - whether the laws can be used in this year’s elections - while the justices defer consideration of their validity.

In some ways, these disputes over the mechanics of voting are like others that crop up frequently just before elections as part of last-minute struggles by partisans to influence who can vote.

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