- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First case of Ebola diagnosed in US confirmed by government; patient arrived from Liberia

DALLAS (AP) - The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. was confirmed Tuesday in a patient who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas - a sign of the far-reaching impact of the out-of-control epidemic in West Africa.

The unidentified patient was critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday, federal health officials said.

They have begun tracking down family and friends who may have had close contact with the patient and could be at risk for becoming ill. But officials said there are no other suspected cases in Texas.

Health authorities would not reveal the patient’s nationality or age. And even though they repeatedly referred to the patient as “he,” they would not confirm the person’s gender.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director Tom Frieden said the patient left Liberia on Sept. 19, arrived the next day to visit relatives and started feeling ill four or five days later. He said it was not clear how the person became infected.


The US Ebola case: 5 things to know

Health officials on Tuesday announced the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States - a man isolated in intensive care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Five things to know about the case:


Health officials say they don’t know how the man was infected but he flew from the West African country of Liberia, where the outbreak is ongoing, on Sept. 19 and arrived to visit relatives in the U.S. a day later. His symptoms started around Sept. 24, he sought medical care on the 26th but was not admitted to the hospital until Sept. 28.



Secret Service chief admits failures in White House breach, gets whiplashing at Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) - Under withering criticism from Congress, the director of the Secret Service on Tuesday admitted failures in her agency’s critical mission of protecting the president but repeatedly sidestepped key questions about how a knife-carrying intruder penetrated ring after ring of security before finally being tackled deep inside the White House.

Despite the extraordinary lapses in the Sept. 19 incident, Julia Pierson asserted: “The president is safe today.”

Hours later, reports emerged of yet another failure in Secret Service protocol, this time in President Barack Obama’s presence.

On Sept. 16, an armed federal contractor rode on an elevator with Obama and his security detail while the president was visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the Washington Examiner reported. The Washington Post reported similar details and added that the man had three convictions for assault and battery. The office of Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who has helped lead Congress’ investigation, said a whistleblower had provided him the same details.

The gun was discovered only because the contractor was questioned after he persisted in taking video of Obama on the elevator, the reports said. The contractor was immediately fired by his employers.


Gov’t data on industry’s ties to doctors, top hospitals shows $3.5B in payments and benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) - From research grants to travel junkets, drug and medical device companies paid doctors and leading hospitals billions of dollars last year, the government disclosed Tuesday in a new effort to spotlight potential ethical conflicts in medicine.

The value of industry payments and other financial benefits totaled nearly $3.5 billion in the five-month period from August through December 2013, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which released the data.

The massive trove of information named companies and many of the recipients. Also listed were types of payments, with details down to travel destinations. Some 546,000 clinicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals received benefits.

It’s part of a new initiative called Open Payments, required by President Barack Obama’s health care law. It was intended to allow patients to easily look up their own doctors online, but that functionality isn’t fully developed. In future years, the information will cover a full 12 months and will be easier to search, officials said.

Consumer groups said it’s a step toward much-needed transparency. They see a built-in conflict of interest that can influence prescribing decisions, the use of high-tech tests and even types of surgeries performed.


Protests get nonstop coverage in Hong Kong, but not a single image in China’s state media

BEIJING (AP) - China’s government has cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events.

By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony.

The contrast highlights the differences in the “one country, two systems” arrangement that China’s Communist Party agreed to when it negotiated the 1997 return of Hong Kong. It also reflects Beijing’s extreme sensitivity about any possible sparks of pro-democracy protest spreading to the mainland.

“The authorities see this as a matter of life and death,” said Shanghai-based columnist and independent analyst Zhao Chu. “They don’t see it as a local affair but a fuse that can take down their world.”

In Hong Kong, broadcasters NOW and Cable TV have carried wall-to-wall coverage of the unfolding events, including student leaders storming government headquarters Friday and the running clashes with police over the weekend. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper, the popular Apple Daily, has run its own live Internet feed that features aerial images of the crowds captured by a drone.


US signs pact for troops to stay in Afghanistan while questions linger about Iraq withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP) - After lengthy delays, U.S. and Afghan officials signed a security pact Tuesday to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond year’s end, aiming to prevent the country from descending into the kind of chaos that has plagued Iraq following the Pentagon’s withdrawal.

While President Barack Obama has touted the Afghan accord as crucial to protecting progress in the fight against al-Qaida, he’s also insisted that had he reached a similar pact with Iraq, it would have done little to stop the rise of the Islamic State militants now wreaking havoc there and in neighboring Syria.

“The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable,” Obama said in August, shortly after authorizing airstrikes in Iraq. “And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job.”

The president and his advisers have repeatedly said they were left with no choice but to withdraw from Iraq. Under an agreement signed by former President George W. Bush, U.S. troops had to leave by the end of 2011 unless an extension was signed.

Negotiations over the terms of a new deal collapsed when it became clear that Iraq’s parliament would not give American forces immunity from prosecution, as is typical of such agreements. Obama administration officials also rejected former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offer to sign an executive order granting Americans immunity.


As affluent parents accelerate spending on kids’ education, wealth gap could widen further

WASHINGTON (AP) - Education is supposed to help bridge the gap between the wealthiest people and everyone else. Ask the experts, and they’ll count the ways:

Preschool can lift children from poverty. Top high schools prepare students for college. A college degree boosts pay over a lifetime. And the U.S. economy would grow faster if more people stayed in school longer.

Plenty of data back them up. But the data also show something else:

Wealthier parents have been stepping up education spending so aggressively that they’re widening the nation’s wealth gap. When the Great Recession struck in late 2007 and squeezed most family budgets, the top 10 percent of earners - with incomes averaging $253,146 - went in a different direction: They doubled down on their kids’ futures.

Their average education spending per child jumped 35 percent to $5,210 a year during the recession compared with the two preceding years - and they sustained that faster pace through the recovery. For the remaining 90 percent of households, such spending averaged around a flat $1,000, according to research by Emory University sociologist Sabino Kornrich.


Pomp and pageantry as Obama meets with Modi, but few signs of progress on US-India ties

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama showered praise on India’s new prime minister in an Oval Office meeting Tuesday that sought to infuse new energy into the two countries’ sluggish relationship. Yet for all the pomp and pageantry, there were few signs that Obama and Narendra Modi had resolved vexing issues that have often kept the two democracies at arm’s length.

Following their first formal meeting, Obama hailed Modi for his energetic approach to addressing India’s challenges since taking office. The president singled out the prime minister’s focus on addressing “the needs of the poorest of the poor,” as well as making India a source of peace and stability in the region.

“We have so much in common, it is critical for us to deepen and broaden the existing framework and partnership that already exists,” Obama said.

Modi, speaking through a translator, said he expected the economic partnership between the U.S. and India to “grow rapidly in the coming years.” He offered optimism that the two governments could work through trade disputes and obstacles to nuclear energy cooperation with American companies.

The visit “has reinforced my conviction that India and the United States are natural global partners, based on our shared values, interests and strengths in the digital age,” said Modi, who was elected with broad support in May pledging to help reform India’s economy.


Expert: Police had ample opportunities to obtain DNA that linked Virginia crimes against women

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Virginia police aren’t saying much at all about their evidence against a suspect in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student, but they seem to be working systematically to link his DNA to an expanding circle of attacks on women, a criminal defense expert suggested Tuesday.

Between searches of Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr.’s car and apartment and his arrest on a charge of abducting Hannah Graham last week, police had ample opportunity to obtain genetic evidence connecting him to multiple attacks, said Steve Benjamin, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The Virginia State Police announced Monday that Matthew’s arrest had provided a “forensic link” to the unsolved 2009 slaying of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old whose remains were found in a hayfield three months after she disappeared from a Metallica concert on the Charlottesville campus.

The FBI said in 2012 that DNA evidence showed that Harrington’s killer also was responsible for a 2005 rape in northern Virginia, so Matthew could be linked to that assault as well, although City of Fairfax police declined to comment, citing their ongoing investigation.

Benjamin said Sept. 19 searches of Matthew’s car and home would have been opportunities to obtain DNA evidence - perhaps from saliva on a toothbrush or dirty cup - as a preliminary step that could establish probable cause to obtain a search warrant for a more definitive cheek swab.


2016 preview: Georgia GOP, Dems, scramble for black, other minority votes key to Senate race

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - Behind a nondescript storefront just outside Atlanta, Delores Washington makes telephone call after call in this Democratic stronghold using a list of potential voters handed to her by a young party staffer.

The retired high school principal doesn’t ask questions about the massive data collection behind the list compiled by expensive political consultants to predict and influence behavior at the polls.

But she knows what to do. “My job is to expand and get out that base,” Washington said. “That’s how we win.”

Washington is at the heart of a fierce partisan battle to shape Georgia’s November midterm electorate, as Democrats try to recruit more minority voters to the polls in this increasingly diverse state. Republicans, meanwhile, are seeking just enough “persuadable” voters to maintain the GOP’s electoral advantage amid Georgia’s tense, shifting political landscape.

The outcome will help determine control of the U.S. Senate, as Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue tussle for an open seat, with Libertarian Amanda Swafford also on the ballot. Separately, GOP Gov. Nathan Deal looks to withstand a challenge from state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

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