- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The feds vs. the states: US laws limit Obama’s ability to dictate Ebola isolation policies

WASHINGTON (AP) - For Americans wondering why President Barack Obama hasn’t forced all states to follow a single, national rule for isolating potential Ebola patients, the White House has a quick retort: Talk to the Founding Fathers.

A hodgepodge of state policies, some of which directly contradict Obama’s recommendations, has sowed confusion about what’s really needed to stop Ebola from spreading in the United States. While public health advocates denounce state quarantines as draconian and scientifically baseless, anxious citizens in non-quarantine states are asking whether they’re at greater risk because their governors and the president have adopted a lesser level of caution.

If public health departments across the country aren’t singing the same tune, that may be by design.

Although the Constitution empowers the federal government to isolate sick people entering the U.S. or traveling between states, it’s the states themselves that have the bulk of the authority to regulate public health in America - including the decision to enforce quarantines within their borders.

“I guess you can take that up with James Madison,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, referring to the fourth president and key drafter of the Constitution, when asked why there was no binding federal policy. That’s ironic, perhaps, coming from an administration Republicans are constantly accusing of exceeding its legal authority on everything from immigration and health care to foreign policy.


Grief in Marysville: A community remembers a school shooter along with his victims

MARYSVILLE, Wash. (AP) - Among the balloons and flowers tied to the chain-link fence outside Marysville-Pilchuck High School are these: a white wrestling shoe; a youth football team photo, with one player encased in a red-marker heart; and a candle covered with a plastic cup bearing the name “Jaylen.”

They’re all tributes to Jaylen Fryberg, the popular 15-year-old freshman who texted five friends to invite them to lunch Friday, and then gunned them down at a table in the school’s cafeteria.

Two girls died in the attack, and three other students - including two of Fryberg’s cousins - were gravely wounded.

While families or friends of shooting victims sometimes express sympathy or forgiveness for the perpetrators, the notion of a mass shooter being memorialized alongside his victims is unusual, experts say. It speaks to the unique grief this community is feeling, even in a nation where such horrors are becoming ever more common.

“Usually there’s so much anger and frustration and bewilderment in the aftermath, and generally the shooter is not someone who was this loved over time,” said Carolyn Reinach Wolf, a mental health attorney who studies mass shootings. “This is a very different response. Some of that is a credit to the community: People are able to get past the grief of the victims and see that the shooter’s family is grieving and horrified just as much.”


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Quarantines are determined state by state in the U.S., and federal health officials are only empowered to issue guidelines.


The state’s Ebola protocols mean Kaci Hickox will have to stay in her house for 21 days after her last possible exposure to the disease.


Both Obama, Brown underwater in New Hampshire, but Shaheen could sink

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - If there’s one person in New Hampshire less popular than President Barack Obama, it’s Republican Scott Brown. But that might not matter as the former Massachusetts senator tries to unseat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in his new home state.

Brown, who moved to New Hampshire late last year, hopes to sink Shaheen by linking her to Obama, whose favorability and job approval remain at all-time lows. And while Brown’s favorability numbers are just as dismal - one poll shows voters liking him less the more they get to know him - he’s running neck-and-neck with the considerably more popular Shaheen.

“It’s really not a matter of either candidate’s popularity. It’s a matter of President Obama’s popularity,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. People don’t pay much attention to the particulars of midterm election politics, he added.

“Their sense of politics is what’s going on with the president,” he said. “They like what the president’s doing or they don’t like what the president’s doing.”

This is Brown’s third U.S. Senate campaign in five years. His 2010 win to replace the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts vaulted Brown to the top of the GOP’s list of rising stars, but he was soundly defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012. Last year, he moved to New Hampshire, where he had a vacation home and had lived as a toddler. Now he’s seeking to become only the third U.S. senator to serve multiple states.


Maine’s state protocols call for home quarantine for nurse who worked with Ebola patients

FORT KENT, Maine (AP) - A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa agreed to be quarantined at home in Maine upon her return from a weekend of confinement in New Jersey, but her lawyer disagrees with officials over how long she’ll have to stay in seclusion.

Nurse Kaci Hickox left a New Jersey hospital on Monday and headed toward home in northern Maine, where her partner is a nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Maine health officials announced that she’d be quarantined at home for 21 days after the last possible exposure to the disease under the state’s health protocols.

But one of Hickox’s lawyers, Steve Hyman, said he expected her to remain in seclusion for the “next day or so” while he works with Maine health officials. He said he believes the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that require only monitoring, not quarantine, for health care workers who show no symptoms after treating Ebola patients.

“She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it,” he said.


Toronto elects new moderate mayor, ending scandal-ridden Ford era

TORONTO (AP) - The Rob Ford era is over as Toronto elected a new mayor, someone who is unlikely to ever make headlines for illegal drug use and public drunkenness.

John Tory, a straight-laced, button-down moderate conservative, won Monday’s election with 40 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Doug Ford, brother of the outgoing mayor. Left-leaning Olivia Chow was third with nearly 23 percent, with 100 percent of polling stations reporting.

“Torontonians want to see an end to the division that has paralyzed city hall for the past four years, and to all that I say, ‘Toronto, I hear you. I hear you loud and clear,’” Tory told cheering supporters, vowing to restore Toronto’s reputation on the international stage.

Rob Ford’s four-year tenure as mayor of Canada’s largest city was marred by his drinking and crack cocaine use. He announced last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election as he battles a rare form of cancer. His brother, a city councilor, ran in his place.

“Hallelujah!” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said upon learning the election results while on a trade mission in China.


Mystery solved? South Korean spy agency says North Korean leader Kim had ankle surgery

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea’s spy agency says it has an explanation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s mysterious 6-week-long public absence.

An aide for a South Korean lawmaker says the National Intelligence Agency told legislators on Tuesday that a foreign doctor operated on Kim in September or October to remove a cyst from his right ankle.

The aide to opposition lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said the spy agency disclosed the information in a closed-door briefing.

Kim’s lengthy absence from public view triggered speculation about his health. He reappeared in state media earlier this month hobbling with a cane.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the spy agency obtained the information. It has a spotty track record of analyzing developments in opaque North Korea.


US-led bombing of Islamic State oil fields boosts Syria fuel prices, adds to economic woes

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - The middle-aged salesman sat glumly among an array of shorts, khaki leisure suits bedecked with gold belts and dresses with plunging necklines in the ancient Damascus bazaar - luxuries few can afford in today’s Syria.

He, like many traders, lost most of his customers when Syria’s uprising erupted in 2011 against the rule of President Bashar Assad, and his new clientele is far poorer: Syrians fleeing the fighting with barely any possessions.

Now, he fears there’s even worse to come, as the U.S.-led bombings of the Islamic State group target the country’s modest oil reserves under the militants’ control, sending oil and diesel prices soaring.

The effect is rippling through the economy, and traders fear they won’t be able to absorb the increased costs, pushing them out of business and unraveling yet another key sector of Syrian society, already badly frayed by conflict.

“We are hearing there’s unimaginable prices for the winter,” said the 50-year-old clothing vendor, who gave only his first name Amin, referring to the wholesalers he purchases from. “We have been through struggles before, but not like this.”


Hawaii officials to arrange for occupants to observe lava destroy home as ‘closure’

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii officials will make arrangements for those living in the path of a lava flow to watch the destruction of their homes.

That accommodation is being made to “provide for a means of closure,” Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said Monday. “You can only imagine the frustration as well as … despair they’re going through.”

Dozens of residents have been told they might have to evacuate as lava from Kilauea heads toward their homes.

The lava was about 100 yards from a home Monday morning, officials said.

After weeks of fitful advancement, the lava crossed Apaa Street on Sunday in Pahoa Village, considered a main town of the Big Island’s isolated and rural Puna district. It was getting dangerously close to Pahoa Village Road, which goes straight through downtown.


With cemeteries almost full, Mexico City pushes cremation, threatening Day of Dead traditions

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Edgardo Galvan watched as two gravediggers shoveled muddy soil from his father’s grave until they reached a set of bones mixed with wood chips, the remnants of the coffin he was buried in seven years earlier.

The gravediggers placed the bones in a black plastic bag and handed them to Galvan, who planned to cremate them and put the ashes in a small crypt the family bought in a church.

“I’ve had to go through two difficult moments, first burying him and now unburying him,” the 42-year-old carpenter said as he stood in the San Isidro cemetery in the Mexico City borough of Azcapotzalco.

Mexico’s capital is rapidly running out of gravesites and many residents of this growing metropolis of 9 million people have to exhume the remains of their loved ones once the burial rights expire to make room for new bodies. Officials say there is no public land available for new cemeteries.

The lack of cemetery space has prompted the city’s legislative assembly to propose a law that would reduce the time a body can remain in a grave and encourage people to cremate the bodies of their love ones, a move that critics say will threaten Mexico’s long and rich traditions surrounding burying and celebrating the dead.

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