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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Photo by Rebecca Emery/Getty Images

    Photo by Rebecca Emery/Getty Images

    With federal legislation continuing to prove elusive, California in September joined a growing number of states and cities that require employers to provide paid sick time off for their workers.

    The California law, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, requires large and small employers to provide at least three days paid sick leave annually to employees who work 30 or more days a year. The leave would be available if they or a family member becomes ill. When it takes effect in July, it’s expected to affect 6.5 million workers.

    Other locations that require paid sick leave include Connecticut as well as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York City, Portland, Ore., and Newark, N.J., according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

    In addition, voters in Massachusetts, Montclair and Trenton, N.J., and Oakland, Calif., will consider ballot measures this fall requiring paid sick leave, says Vicki Shabo, a vice president at the National Partnership.

    “We’re the only economically developed country in the world that doesn’t have paid sick days,” she says.

    Nearly 4 in 10 private sector workers lack paid sick leave, and low-wage workers make up a disproportionate share.Nearly 4 in 10 private sector workers lack paid sick leave, and low-wage workers make up a disproportionate share. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 National Compensation Survey, only 30 percent of the workers whose earnings are in the bottom quarter nationally had access to paid sick time compared with 84 percent of workers in the highest quartile.

    The problem hits women especially hard. Women make up two-thirds of low-wage workers and are more likely to be the family caregivers, says Liz Watson, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center and director of its Workplace Justice for Women.

    “Their ability to take paid sick leave or paid medical leave is crucial to being able to hold onto their jobs,” Watson says.

    Federal legislation that would require paid sick leave has been introduced several times but never passed. The Healthy Families Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa Delauro, D-Conn., in 2013, would allow workers at companies with at least 15 employees to accrue up to seven days paid sick leave annually.

    Noting that it took many attempts to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their own or a family member’s medical needs, Watson says, “I think we will see this legislation pass, it’s just a matter of time.”


    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    The post California passes law to require paid sick leave as legislation lingers in DC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Roughly 800 Catalan mayors joined the president of the northeastern region of Spain Saturday in support of a vote for independence from the Spanish government set for Nov. 9. But the vote has so far been blocked by the Spanish Constitutional Court, Reuters reported.

    Catalonia’s President, Artur Mas, has garnered the support of 920 of the region’s 947 municipalities.

    On Sept. 29, the Spanish Constitutional Court issued an injunction preventing the Catalan government to go ahead with the vote, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    Leaders in Catalonia, a region which has its own language and culture, have been spurred to fight harder for an independence vote after Scotland held its own referendum on independence.

    “It’s false that the right to vote can be assigned unilaterally to one region about a matter that affects all Spaniards,” said Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy in a statement to reporters on Sept. 29. “It’s profoundly anti-democratic.”

    In October 2012, U.K.’s Prime Minister, David Cameron signed the Edinburgh agreement with Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, granting Scotland the legal power to hold a referendum, according to The U.K. Guardian.

    Frustrated by the Spanish government’s response to the call for the referendum, activists from a campaign called Muts i a la Gabia (Silenced and Caged) have been placing ballot boxes in cages in public spaces in cities throughout Catalonia.

    “I like to think of it as a peaceful way of showing what our feelings are,” Liz Castro of the pro-independence group La Fàbrica told Reuters.

    “You light candles, you sing along with songs, you hold hands across 400 kilometers from one end of your country to the other, you make huge ‘Vs’ in the streets and you make poetic demonstrations with caged ballot boxes,” she said.

    Seven and a half million people live in Catalonia, with 5.5 million concentrated in the capital city of Barcelona. It is the wealthiest, and most indebted region in Spain, according to the BBC.

    Groups opposed to the independence vote are staging their own events and will hold a demonstration on Oct. 12, coinciding with Spain’s National Holiday.

    The post Catalans want independence vote from Spain, but will it happen? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — For months, Islamic State militants rampaged across Syria and Iraq, seizing cities, taking hostages and terrorizing all who dared to confront them.

    The tide began to turn in mid-August, when U.S. airstrikes pushed them from key Iraqi battlegrounds. Then, on Aug. 19, the group released a video that showed the beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley.

    The pattern continued.

    Within days of a military defeat, the group would release images of more beheadings – at least nine over six weeks – of Western journalists, aid workers and Muslim soldiers.

    The tactic signals that even as the Islamic State group suffers battlefield losses, it is holding on to its edge in the propaganda war. U.S. officials say that’s the only way the militants can continue to maintain support and attract new recruits.

    On Friday, the Islamic State group released a new video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning after nearly two straight weeks of daily airstrikes against their fighters.

    “Certainly since the bombing campaign, the reverses, they’re no longer boasting of taking places – because they’re not taking places. They’re losing places,” Alberto Fernandez, who heads the State Department’s office for counterterrorism propaganda, said in a recent interview. “So what do they do? They boast about cutting people’s heads off. They’re trying to substitute that for military victory.”

    That may be some propaganda by the U.S itself. But the trend still is frightening, considering the Islamic State group is holding what U.S. intelligence officials believe are as many as 20 hostages, including at least two Americans.

    This past week, the militants suffered a series of setbacks, with U.S. and allied airstrikes Friday hitting Syrian oil refineries and a training camp. Earlier strikes pushed militants back from some of their positions in Iraq.

    But the Islamic State group this past week also besieged the Iraqi town of Hit and ambushed an Iraqi army unit north of Ramadi, kept its tight grip on Fallujah, and closed in on the Syrian town of Kobani.

    In the video of Henning’s beheading, a masked militant warns the U.S. that the gruesome attacks on individuals will continue as long as the airstrikes do. He also threatened that an American hostage, identified as Peter Kassig, would be next. “It is only right that we continue to strike the neck of your people,” masked militant said.

    Violence has been a focal point of Islamic State group propaganda, to show the militants’ might and recruit the thousands of foreign fighters who have rushed to join them. When they captured Mosul, Iraq, in June, they beheaded security forces, raped women and terrorized residents into following an extreme form of Islamic law known as Sharia.

    But the group had held Western hostages for months and, in some cases, even years. Not until the airstrikes began, weakening the group’s momentum, did the extremists start beheading the white Westerners.

    In the Foley video, an unidentified fighter warned that American journalist Steven Sotloff would be next if the U.S. campaign did not stop. The airstrikes continued, and Sotloff was beheaded in a video released Sept. 2, two days after the U.S. helped force the Islamic State group from Amirli, Iraq.

    From Sept. 7-9, U.S. airstrikes pounded militant positions around Haditha, Iraq. On Sept. 11, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his government was considering using air power against the Islamic State group in Syria.

    On Sept. 13, the Islamic State group released a video of the beheading of British humanitarian aid worker David Haines. The unidentified killer said Haines was paying the price for Britain’s decision to supply weapons to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and he mentioned the Haditha strikes.

    The group has released videos or pictures of beheadings of Kurdish fighters, including several recently captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border. All the images came out after the Islamic State group was attacked or suffered setbacks in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq and Syria.

    The group “wants to create the impression of victory and demoralize its Kurdish enemies,” the Clarion Project, a Washington-based organization that tries to counter Islamic extremism, said in an Aug. 28 alert about the beheading of a Kurdish soldier.

    The militants also claim to have beheaded two Lebanese soldiers kidnapped during a raid of the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August. One of victim was a Sunni Muslim; that’s important because it belies Islamic State propaganda that it is creating a religious empire, or caliphate, for faithful Sunnis.

    The group is trying to turn some of its tactical defeats into strategic victories.

    By highlighting the airstrikes’ reported civilian casualties, the militants are trying to rally Syrian Sunnis who have suffered during the civil war. Much of the Islamic State propaganda notes that the United States and the West have not helped Sunnis in Syria or in Iraq, where they were sidelined from power and in some cases targeted by the Shiite government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    In a Sept. 22 statement, the day after the first U.S. airstrikes on Syria, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission called on the Islamic State group to release Henning but also urged Muslim leaders “not to forget the many innocents who continue to be slaughtered on a daily basis.”

    Juan Zarate, a deputy national security adviser on counterterrorism to President George W. Bush, said it was “a very difficult balance” for the U.S. and its allies as they weigh the safety of their kidnapped citizens against continued attacks on the militants.

    “What you try to do is find ways to accelerate potential releases, or acquisition of where (the hostages) are, and have that as part of your battle plan considerations,” Zarate said. “But once you’ve made the decision to engage the enemy, and they have your citizens, you’re taking a risk. And lives are going to be lost.”

    Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP

    The post US: Militants use beheadings to make up for losses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This post was originally published October 3, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.

    UPDATE: Health officials have “ruled out” Ebola as a possible diagnosis for the patient being treated at Howard University, according to a statement issued on Saturday.

    “Ebola has very clear symptoms that inevitably worsen over time, inclusive of fever, bleeding from the eyes and a growing rash that consumes over 75 percent of the human body,” director of the D.C. Department of Health Dr. Joxel Garcia said in the statement.

    “Based on the clinical presentation of the patient, the medical team was able to rule out Ebola, the patient will be treated for other illnesses.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Howard University hospital confirmed on Friday that they are treating a patient presenting with symptoms similar to Ebola. Ebola has not been confirmed in this case. Photo by NCinDC/Flickr

    Howard University hospital confirmed on Friday that they are treating a patient presenting with symptoms similar to Ebola. On Saturday, the hospital said in a statement it was able to rule out Ebola as a possible diagnosis for the patient in question. Photo by NCinDC/Flickr

    A patient with Ebola-like symptoms has been admitted to Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., a hospital spokesperson has confirmed to the PBS NewsHour. So far the hospital has only reported the patient’s symptoms, and has not reported any test results, so this is not yet a confirmed case of the virus.

    “We can confirm that a patient has been admitted to Howard University Hospital in stable condition, following travel to Nigeria and presenting with symptoms that could be associated with Ebola,” Hospital spokesperson Kerry-Ann Hamilton wrote in a statement to the PBS NewsHour. “In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient. Our medical team continues to evaluate and monitor progress in close collaboration with the CDC and the Department of Health.”

    The hospital, which is less than two miles from the center of the capital, did not share additional details about the case.

    Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Senior Administration Officials are expected to hold a briefing on the U.S. Government response to the Ebola pandemic at 4:30 p.m. EDT. The PBS NewsHour will livestream the briefing in the player above.

    In a teleconference from Dallas earlier today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that 50 people who may have come in contact with the Ebola patient in Dallas are currently being monitored for the disease. That number is a 50-person decrease from yesterday’s update.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that 50 people who may have come in contact with the Ebola patient in Dallas are currently being monitored for the disease. That number is a 50-person decrease from yesterday’s update.

    Of those 50 individuals, 10 are considered higher-risk. The CDC said no individuals have shown any symptoms of Ebola.

    Temperatures are being checked twice a day for those monitored, and the 10 higher-risk individuals are currently on paid furlough.

    Four people related to the patient are currently in quarantine at a Dallas apartment. Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins said in the teleconference that he’d like to see them moved to a new location with a washer and dryer

    During a teleconference earlier today, Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins said he wanted to see the individuals moved to a new location with a washer and dryer.

    “Even as we speak now, we don’t have the permits in place to dispose of the soiled items,” said Jenkins.

    Ebola symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue early on. As the symptoms worsen, patients suffer from bloody diarrhea, severe sore throat, jaundice, vomiting or loss of appetite.

    The post UPDATE: Howard University Hospital has ‘ruled out’ Ebola for D.C. patient appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    everydayafrica2

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    SASKIA DE MELKER: A woman hanging laundry in Uganda. Young men at a barbershop in Ghana. Cheerleaders at a Zimbabwe soccer match. These are the images that photographer Nana Kofi Acquah says journalists rarely document during their assignments across Africa.

    NOA KOFI ACQUAH: Traditionally, if you send a journalist, photojournalist, writer, you gave them an assignment: Go and photograph famine in Sudan. So when they arrive in Sudan, their camera bag is packed until they see the first malnourished child, that’s when they see their story. Everything else doesn’t matter.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: But Acquah is one of a core group of about twenty photojournalists from across the continent who share candid images of the mundane and the normal. These images are part of an Instagram-based project started by two photojournalists in 2012 called ‘Everyday Africa.’

    It’s now funded by organizations including the Pulitzer Center and Open Society Foundation and it has attracted over 100,000 followers.

    NANA KOFI ACQUAH: Everyday Africa is a realistic portrayal of Africa. People see a photo of my kids playing with an iPad and they’re like ‘kids in africa have iPads?’ and that is the discourse we need to have.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The project isn’t necessarily about taking attention away from Africa’s hardships, says Acquah, but rather painting a more complete picture of the African experience.

    NANA KOFI ACQUAH: I’m not an advocate for pushing only positive images because that becomes propaganda. That is not what we need, but in the bigger scale of things, the positives, the laughter, the warmness, the humanity, the joy, the experiences far outweigh the negatives.

    The post Photographers use Instagram to paint more complete picture of life in Africa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 21:  Former leader of Haiti Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier waves from a balcony following a press conference at his house in Petionville January 21, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Duvalier returned from exile earlier this week and was questioned by authorities before being released. His critics accuse him of stealing from the treasury during his rule and for crimes against humanity.  (Photo by Lee Celano/Getty Images)

    Former leader of Haiti Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier waves from a balcony following a 2010 press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Duvalier died of a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 63. Credit: Lee Celano/Getty Images

    Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier died of a heart attack on Saturday, his lawyer said. He was 63. 

    Reynold George said the self-proclaimed “president for life” died at his home, the Associated Press reported.

    Duvalier assumed power in 1971 after the death of his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. In 1986, the Duvaliers fled Haiti amid accusations of torturing and killing thousands of political opponents during a dictatorship marked by fear and repression.

    In 2011, after 25 years spent in self-imposed exile in France, a frail-looking Duvalier made a surprise return to the country, where Haitian police promptly arrested him. He later pled not guilty to charges of corruption and human rights abuse.

    Duvalier spent his later years near the Hatian capital of Port-au-Prince. He is survived by his wife, Veronique Roy, and two children.

    The post Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier dies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    sugarydrinks

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    JADE MAR: I don’t like Gatorade — its 2 dollars.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s Wednesday afternoon — school’s out — and 13 year-old Jade Mar is doing what thousands of kids in San Francisco do after school: debating what drink to get at the corner store.

    JADE MAR: Chocolate milk? Or Sprite… Coke.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The attempt to try and steer the choices of what kids like Jade drink — really what all Americans drink — has become a big political fight in San Francisco in recent months. That fight broke out in large part because of Jade’s own father — San Francisco supervisor Eric Mar.

    ERIC MAR: If you just think about this, my daughter’s generation — 1/3rd of them will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One third?

    ERIC MAR: And if you’re black or Latino, it’s one half.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Despite its reputation as a mecca for healthy food and healthier living, San Francisco still suffers from high rates of obesity and diabetes. Nearly half of San Franciscans are overweight or obese. Officials say not only is this bad for those individuals, but they say those ailments costs taxpayers as well — at least an estimated 750 million dollars a year in San Francisco alone.

    Supervisor Mar argues that sugary drinks are one of the prime culprits in this health crisis, and so earlier this year, he introduced an initiative that, if passed by voters in November, would raise taxes on sugary drinks across the city.

    Here’s how it would work: the city would impose a two cents per ounce tax on any beverages that contain added sugar or non-diet sweeteners. So any soda, tea, energy drink — whatever has added sugar in it — gets the tax. The tax is imposed on the distributors, who would then pass it onto the retailers. Proponents hope the store owners would then raise the price of those sugary drinks in their stores.

    For example, a can of soda that now sells for, say, $.99 would now cost about $1.24 . A two liter soda — currently at about $3.99 — would be more than $5.00. The whole idea behind the tax is when those sugary drinks are pricier than their counterparts, consumers will choose something else — something healthier — something that isn’t hit with the tax.

    ERIC MAR: I think when a consumer sees that a product will cost a little bit more, they will either reduce their consumption of that harmful product, but also they might choose a healthier option — non-fat milk drinks, even water as the healthiest and most readily available and accessible drink as well.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The city estimates this tax could both reduce consumption of sugary drinks by up to 31%, and could generate upwards of $50 million — money the city plans to steer into programs to cut hunger, increase access to healthier foods, and pay for more p.e. teachers in schools.

    It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of attempt. Even though Mexico implemented a soda tax earlier this year (and saw consumption go down) numerous other communities in the U.S. have tried similar proposals, and most failed to become law.

    The best known example was New York city, where former mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban soda servings bigger than 16 ounces — an idea that made the rounds on late night TV.

    STEPHEN COLBERT: The Colbert Report: No more giant sodas? Come on! This is America — the land of plenty! We haven’t even achieved Type 3 diabetes yet. We’re so close!

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bloomberg’s initiative — along with many others — was defeated. But that didn’t deter officials in San Francisco, where city supervisors debated the proposal.

    MALIA COHEN: Bullets are not the only things that are killing African American males, we also have sugary beverages that are also killing people.

    KATY TAN: What is gonna stop someone from going across the way to Daly City, to Costco, stocking up on sugary beverages in another area not in San Francisco.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The initiative passed and was placed on the November ballot under the name “Proposition E” — but then the beverage industry — much like it did in New York and many other communities — launched a big campaign to defeat the proposal.

    ADVERTISEMENT: “Two cents per ounce can really add up fast!”

    KAREN HANRETTY: The beverage industry I think has tried to do a lot over the years — it’s never going to be enough for some people.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Karen Hanretty is helping lead the industry’s campaign. She’s the policy director for “Californians for Food and Beverage Choice,” an offshoot of the American Beverage Association. Their effort — with posters and billboards and TV ads in three languages — all argue that the proposed tax will hurt businesses and hurt consumers.

    Hanretty argues that the soft-drinks industry has already done a lot for public health: introducing a variety of healthier drinks, putting calorie labels on the fronts of bottles and cans, and last week’s big industry-wide pledge to reduce the calories in their drinks by 20 percent over the next decade.

    KAREN HANRETTY: We think that consumers should be able to make the choice for themselves without taxes or regulation trying to influence their behavior, or trying to penalize their behavior.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Why a tax? Why not just educate people, show them what a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle looks like? Isn’t that a better approach than taxing a particular product?

    LAURA SCHMIDT: We’ve been doing that for a long time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Laura Schmidt, from U.C. San Francisco, has been researching public health policy for over twenty years. Though she was consulted by the supervisors who drafted the beverage tax, she says she’s not taking a position for or against.

    LAURA SCHMIDT: A lot of obesity prevention for many years has been trying to educate kids about healthy diet and nutrition.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that does not work?

    LAURA SCHMIDT: And the evidence shows that over time, you can kinda change kids’ attitudes. You can increase their knowledge. But what you don’t get are lasting changes in behavior.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Schmidt says, one of the best ways to change behavior is education, but education combined with raising the prices of unhealthy products.

    LAURA SCHMIDT: There’s very strong evidence that taxation is one of the most effective public health interventions for reducing the consumption of harmful products.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You raise the price of a product, people use less of that product.

    LAURA SCHMIDT: Yes. Anything you can do to make that price a little higher is gonna discourage the consumer from consuming it in large amounts.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Officials in San Francisco argue that your industry’s products are part of the reason why we have an obesity and diabetes problem in this country, and they argue that taxing those particular products is a way of steering people away from those products and maybe helping the health of everyone. Isn’t that the role that government should be playing?

    KAREN HANRETTY: Well, it’s a dicey road to go down. Because we definitely have an obesity problem. We have a weight problem in America. There’s no denying that. But you can’t single out I think any one food or beverage and say, ‘Ah-ha, that is the culprit.’ Because, again, we have seen a significant decline in consumption of soda, for instance, and while those numbers were declining, obesity rates were going up. And diabetes, type II diabetes, was also going up.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s true that soda consumption has declined somewhat in recent years, but some of our most popular drinks these days deliver the entire recommended daily amount of sugar in a single container. Some have far more sugar in them. In fact, sweetened drinks are still the largest single source of sugar in our diets today. But the debate in San Francisco has gone beyond public health.

    Critics of the so-called “soda tax” have raised several other concerns: one being that this tax could be what’s called a “regressive” tax — one that hurts poorer people more because they tend to buy more sugary drinks. Supporters counter that those communities also disproportionately suffer from chronic health conditions that they say this tax would help address.

    ERIC MAR: I look at it this way — I think diabetes and obesity are regressive. They impact most heavily the lowest income and especially communities of color. That is incredible regressive. Soda tax will help to address that problem of obesity and diabetes in low-income communities.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The other concern raised by critics is that the tax will hurt small businesses. The beverage industry’s ad campaign features owners of small mom and pop businesses all complaining that the tax will hurt their bottom line. Mosa Sadoon — who owns a small grocery store with his brother in San Francisco — says raising the cost of sugary drinks is going to drive customers away.

    MOSA SADOON: The amount of tax? I mean, $0.02 per ounce is absurd. So I’m gonna be, what, selling a two-liter Coke for $4.99?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s steep.

    MOSA SADOON: That’s steep. You come from New York, you’re gonna think I’m ripping you off or I’m crazy, you know, either one of ‘em.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Of course, it’s unknown if the tax is even going to pass in the first place. Despite the failure of similar efforts in many other communities, supporters here argue that of all places, Northern California might be the spot where they finally find success at the ballot box.

    The post Sugar showdown: Vote on San Francisco soda tax draws near appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Deaths caused by heroin overdoses more than doubled between 2010 to 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

    In a report released Friday, a study conducted in 28 states across the U.S. showed heroin overdoses increasing from 1,779 in 2010 to 3,635 in 2012 per 100,000 people. The report also shows a decrease in overdose deaths linked to opiate painkillers, which have dropped from 10, 427 in 2010 to 9,869 in 2012.

    The numbers confirm a nationwide surge in heroin use, which has crossed gender, race and economic class barriers, the CDC said.

    One explanation for the trend is that heroin has become a cheaper alternative for users already addicted to opiate painkillers.

    NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown spoke with Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones about this issue in February.

    Quinones said:

    Oxycodone is very, very similar — almost identical to heroin. The problem is that there is a black market in these pills now, because they have been so widely prescribed. There was a revolution in medicine in the United States back in the ’80s and ’90s that said these pills are nonaddictive ones prescribed to pain patients, chronic pain patients.

    So we had this kind of rising sea level of pills all across the country. A very deep black market developed in which these pills now cost a dollar a milligram. Most of these pills come in 30, 40, 80 milligram doses. That means you are having to pay 30, 40, 80 bucks a pill, and a lot of people getting addicted. Their tolerance rises.

    They cannot — they end up using three, four, five of these pills. I have met people who had $300-, $400-a-day addictions. Heroin comes in and it is a fifth to a 10th cheaper than that. And if you are already, a lot of these folks, getting addicted to the pills, have already begun injecting.

    And when they start injecting, it’s kind of like you crossed the Rubicon in a sense. And so injecting heroin isn’t much different from injecting these pills. It just happens to be far cheaper.

    Opiate pain killers, such as OxyContin, can range between $65 to $80 a pill when sold illegally, according to Connecticut Clearinghouse.

    The street price in Chicago for a bag of heroin is $10, compared to 10 years ago when a less pure version of the drug ran anywhere from $50 to $150 per bag, TIME reports

    Also impeding public health efforts to curb heroin use are the addictive properties of the drug.

    “People have to relapse six to eight, nine, 10 times before they’re actually able to kick the heroin habit,” Quinones told NewsHour.

    “Once you start down that slope, it is very difficult. It also has this horribly mangling effect on the families surrounding the people who use it.”

    The post US heroin overdose deaths more than double in two years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen shot 2014-10-04 at 5.29.31 PM

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    TRACY WHOLF: These days, you don’t have to be a parent to be familiar with popular teen book titles like “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight.”

    These titles have sold millions of copies of books and spawned merchandise empires, been adapted into blockbuster films, and have permeated our pop-culture lives.

    Young adult literature is a booming business and has been one of the fastest growing book categories for publishers in recent years with more than 715 million books sold in 2013.

    STEPHEN COLBERT: Because as far as I can tell, a young adult novel is a regular novel that people actually read.

    TRACY WHOLF: Even though the category is aimed at audiences ages 12 to 18, more non-teenagers are picking up these titles. In fact, a 2014 report showed that 77 percent of young adult literature buyers were actually adults, with the largest segment of buyers — 43 percent, ages 18 to 29.

    And given the difficult economic climate the publishing industry has faced over the last few years, more YA or young adult buyers have been a blessing.

    Where does YA fit into this? Have they been influential in helping bolster the publishing industry as they’ve tried to weather these rough waters?

    JIM MILLIOT: Young adult’s been really crucial, in that it’s really provided some of the biggest blockbuster series and titles over the last five or ten years,

    TRACY WHOLF: Jim Milliot is the editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, a trade magazine that tracks publishing trends and business.

    How did YA change the tide for the publishing industry?

    JIM MILLIOT: Well, it provided a steady stream of revenue for the children’s market. “Hunger Games,” for instance, a couple years ago there were over 65 million copies in print.

    TRACY WHOLF: Aimee Friedman is an executive editor (and author) at Scholastic Publishing, the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world. The company also happens to publish the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” series.

    Why do you think YA is so popular with adults?

    AIMEE FRIEDMAN: You know, YA touches upon really timeless, universal issues that– that teens go through. First love, first crush, heartache, family issues, challenging authority. And adults remember that. And also, the stories tend to be incredibly gripping and compelling. They sorta grab you from the start. And adults love that, too. Who doesn’t love that?

    TRACY WHOLF: Author Lois Lowry knows a few things about writing for young adults, having penned 45 books for young audiences since 1977 and winning numerous awards for her work.

    LOIS LOWRY: So a lot of very fine writers are entering that field. In the old days, they might’ve looked down their nose and felt that only adult work mattered. But that’s no longer true.

    TRACY WHOLF: Titles such as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” were derivative of Lowry’s 1994 Newbery award-winning novel “The Giver,” which was released as a $25-million hollywood adaptation this past summer.

    But like many book-to-film adaptations, what you see on screen isn’t exactly what Lowry penned 20 years ago. To broaden the film’s appeal, producers added more action, conflict and romance.

    LOIS LOWRY: Today’s literature for young people is much more edgy. There’s a lot of sexual explicitness now. But also — and this troubles me a bit — there’s a lot of violence.

    TRACY WHOLF: In fact, books like “The Hunger Games” and “The Giver” are both examples of a popular young adult genre called dystopian literature, fictional stories set in dark, futuristic societies where the protagonist is at odds with the world around him or her.

    LOIS LOWRY: But they do say that “The Giver” was the first for what they call young adults. And now of course every other book is dystopian literature.I think publishers are gettin’ a little tired of it. They’re lookin’ for the next trend.

    TRACY WHOLF: And it appears that trend is already apparent on the shelves of bookstores across the country. 

    AIMEE FRIEDMAN: Nowadays, if I really had to guess or pinpoint something, I would say the pendulum is swinging toward sorta John Green lit as people call it. Contemporary realistic stories about teens facing everyday things in their lives.

    TRACY WHOLF: Young adult author John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars,” a teenage tear-jerker about young lovers battling cancer, has been a juggernaut for the industry, selling more than 10 million copies and grossing more than $300 million worldwide when it was released as a film this past summer, a trend that might please Lowry.

    LOIS LOWRY: You have to tell a good story. And you have to create characters that a young-adult audience will care about and will follow along, turning pages, turning pages.

    The post Why adults are buzzing about YA literature appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-WAFRICA-HEALTH-EBOLA

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. U.S. health officials said today they have fielded inquiries about 100 suspected cases of Ebola since the first case in the United States was confirmed in Dallas, but that no new infections have been identified.

    This afternoon, officials from the Centers for Disease Control raced to Newark Airport to meet a plane that had landed from Brussels. Two passengers believed to be from Liberia became ill during the flight. Later health officials said that the two apparently do not have Ebola.

    Another similar scare was reported in West Florida today, and those two suspected cases in the Washington, D.C.-area turned out not to be Ebola either.

    But, Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who on Thursday became the first person in the U.S. with Ebola today was downgraded from serious to critical condition.

    Joining us now from Washington is one of the nation’s top health experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He’s the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    The government has been saying that they are prepared, that they’ve been sending out information for weeks. Is there in that information a checklist for hospitals to go through on what to do if someone walks into their emergency room and has these symptoms, with this travel history?

    ANTHONY FAUCI: Indeed there is. There is a certain thing called the HAN – H-A-N – a Health Alert Network, the CDC has been sending out several of these over the last weeks to months to underscore several things.

    And the one that’s most relevant to what we’re talking about today is the specific alert that if someone comes into an emergency room, or a clinic with symptoms that are suggestive of Ebola, it’s important that you take a travel history.

    And if a person tells you that they’ve recently traveled to West Africa, and have come back, that you then treat them in a way that keeps them to be observed before you rule out the possibility that they have Ebola. That has been given in instructions and alerts now for a considerable period of time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it just a matter that some of these hospitals did not pay attention to it? Because why did the case in Dallas turn out the way that it did if the hospitals had this information at the ready?

    ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, they certainly had the information and we just have to recognize it for what it is, and what it was. It was a misstep.

    It should not have happened, there’s no excuse, but hopefully rather than having any blame game, we would look forward and make this a lessons learned – that we really have to pay attention to the CDC alerts.

    I think part of the positive spin-off of all the publicity that the Dallas case is getting is the fact that emergency room and clinic physicians throughout the country are now acutely aware of this misstep.

    And I can guarantee you if someone comes into a clinic now with symptoms compatible with Ebola and gets asked by a physician, ‘are you from West Africa,’ that every physician is going to ask that question.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the government’s role in helping those just beyond the hospital.

    Say, for example the first responders, if someone is in an ambulance, they are responding to a call with someone who might have flu-like symptoms, or otherwise?

    ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, again, there’s infection control and protective mechanisms for a lot of different diseases, not only Ebola, but when there is a suspicion of Ebola, one should go into what we call the CDC protocols about protection of the health care worker.

    Now, one of the important things that we need to emphasize is that when someone is identified as either with Ebola symptoms particularly, let’s take the case in Dallas, once you establish a case of Ebola the important public health measure to prevent an outbreak is the contact tracing that is currently going on in Dallas.

    Because, historically for the 38 years now that we have experience with dealing with Ebola essentially in central and southern Africa, is that when you get the contacts under observation and observe them for the period of time, which is 21 days, so that you could rule out whether or not they do or do not have Ebola, that’s the way you prevent an outbreak and that’s the reason why, despite the initial misstep, we feel that we have the health care infrastructure to be able to implement that and prevent an outbreak here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what’s the federal government’s role in trying to coordinate those other resources beyond the hospitals in terms of the local authorities?

    There seems to be a gap there in time between when this person was diagnosed with Ebola and when say a Hazmat crew got to their house, or had to quarantine the family members.

    ANTHONY FAUCI: There is a historic, very strong relationship between our Centers for Disease Control and prevention, our CDC, and the state and local health authorities.

    They take the signals from the CDC, the CDC sets down the guidelines, and for example as soon as the case was identified in Dallas, the CDC sent at least 10 health professionals there and likely more to come to be able to help in the implementation of those protocols – particularly the contact tracing protocols.

    There really is very good interaction between the national level CDC and the local and state health authorities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We had Dr. Frieden on the NewsHour just a couple nights ago, where he was saying really the best way to get this is to get it at the source, in Africa, and obviously a lot of people are concerned about the travel and the free-flow of people and goods back and forth, so is there anything we can do to improve the level of kind of quarantine in West Africa before people get onto the planes and go wherever they’re going to go in the world?

    ANTHONY FAUCI: There is a process going on that very few people appreciate. If you or I were let’s say in Monrovia, Liberia, right now at the airport and we had a fever, which is checked for everyone that is trying to get onto a plane, we would not be able to get on a plane to leave Liberia to come to the United States, or any place else.

    So, it’s the exit screening from the country, which really proves to be quite effective. Obviously if someone doesn’t have symptoms and doesn’t have a fever and is in that phase of incubation where they are infected and they really don’t know that they’re infected, there’s always the possibility that that would slip through, as did Mr. Thomas Duncan.

    The problem is, he was also asked to question at the exit part as to whether he had contact with a person with Ebola and either he didn’t realize that he did, or I don’t know what the answer to that is, but that snuck through – that will happen.

    But on the other end, when a person does get here, once they’re identified we do have the protocols to do the kind of identification, isolation, protection of health care workers and contact tracing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any practical way to keep entire populations of West Africa in quarantine for 21 days before they board a plane?

    ANTHONY FAUCI: The answer to that is no. I know it’s an obvious question that people ask. I get asked that all the time, and Tom Frieden from the CDC gets asked that all the time.

    If you look historically at trying to essentially quarantine a country, the negative effects of that really outweigh any positive benefit. In fact, health authorities are in agreement that you can almost certainly have a negative effect, because you prevent the free-flow of things that they need to contain the epidemic.

    It would make it much worse for them. And as we’ve said, the best way to protect the United States of America is to completely shut down the epidemic in West Africa, not necessarily to quarantine anybody in West Africa but to put into place the infection control methods that would allow us to be able to suppress that.

    That’s the best way to protect the United States. Stop it in West Africa.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much for your time.

    ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.

    The post How can the spread of Ebola be stopped in the US? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday, Oct. 6. Among the cases justices will hear are one on redistricting in Alabama. Credit: Getty Images.

    The Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday, Oct. 6. Among the cases justices will hear is one on redistricting in Alabama. Credit: Getty Images.

    A look at some of the noteworthy cases the Supreme Court will hear this term, which begins Monday:

    Mistaken traffic stop: A broken brake light led a North Carolina police officer to pull over a car in which cocaine was later found. Turns out, the state requires only one functioning brake light. The court is weighing a case about whether a defendant’s constitutional protection against unreasonable searches was violated because of the officer’s mistaken understanding of the law.

    Prison beards: An Arkansas inmate is challenging a prison policy that prevents him from growing a short beard in accordance with his Muslim religious beliefs. Prison officials say the policy prevents inmates from concealing contraband or quickly changing their appearance in an escape.

    Teeth whitening: The North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners is challenging a Federal Trade Commission order that said the dentist-filled board is trying to kill off competition from day spas and tanning booths that offer teeth-whitening.

    Dishonest juror: Claims that a juror’s comments during trial deliberations over a South Dakota traffic accident raise questions about her impartiality and possibly could result in a new trial.

    Born in Jerusalem: The case of an American born in Jerusalem who wants his passport to list his birthplace as Israel underlies a major dispute between Congress and the president, with Middle Eastern politics as the backdrop. The United States has never recognized any nation’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, believing the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. The administration says a 2002 law passed by Congress allowing Israel to be listed as the birthplace of Jerusalem-born Americans would in essence be seen as a U.S. endorsement of Israeli control of the city.

    Alabama redistricting: Democrats and black lawmakers contend that Republican leaders in Alabama drew a new legislative map that illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts to limit minority political power. Republicans say they complied with the law by keeping the same number of districts in which black voters could elect candidates of their choice.

    Facebook threats: A Pennsylvania man challenges his conviction for making threats on Facebook. He says his online rants about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school and slitting an FBI agent’s throat were simply rap lyrics, and that he didn’t mean to threaten anyone.

    Pregnancy discrimination: A United Parcel Service employee says the company failed to accommodate her pregnancy when it refused to give her light-duty work. But UPS contends its policies are “pregnancy-neutral,” allowing light-duty assignments only in cases where employees are injured on the job or have certain medical conditions.

    Housing discrimination: For the third time, the court has agreed to hear a challenge from Texas to an important tool the government is increasingly using to fight discrimination in housing. Two earlier cases settled before the justices could weigh in on the legality of determining discrimination from the results of a policy that disproportionately affects minorities, rather than by showing any intent to discriminate.

    Religious discrimination: Retailer Abercrombie and Fitch is defending its denial of a job to a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf by arguing that she did not say during her interview that she wears the hijab for religious reasons.

    Cases the justices could decide to hear before the term ends in late June:

    Gay marriage: Both sides want the justices to settle the question of whether same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexuals under the Constitution. A court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would grant marriage rights to same-sex couples in all 50 states, up from 19 states and the District of Columbia. A decision in favor of state marriage bans would allow states to continue setting the rules on whether to allow same-sex couples to wed.

    Abortion: Several states have passed laws in recent years aimed at limiting abortion by imposing hospital admitting privilege requirements on doctors who perform abortions, forcing abortion clinic facilities to meet tougher standards and preventing doctors from prescribing pills for medical abortions later in a pregnancy and at a lower dose. The court could take one or more cases that are winding through the courts.

    Voting disputes: Identification requirements and limits on early voting are among state voting laws that could make their way to the Supreme Court this term. The court already has jumped preliminarily into a case over early voting in Ohio and seems likely to want a full-blown review. But a decision on hearing that case could come late enough in the term to push back the argument and decision to the following term that begins a year from now.

    Contraception: The next fight over the new health care law’s requirement that contraception be offered to women among a range of preventive services at no extra cost concerns the responsibilities of religious not-for-profit universities, hospitals and other institutions. The Obama administration already allows those organizations to shift responsibility for coverage to their insurers, but the groups say that so-called accommodation still is a burden on their religious consciences. In June, the justices said family-owned corporations with religious objections do not have to pay for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans.

    Health care subsidies: Legal challenges to the health care law continue in several states that would drastically reduce the number of Americans eligible for subsidies to make health insurance affordable. One appeal of a court ruling denying a challenge to the subsidies already is pending at the Supreme Court, although the pace of the other cases suggests the justices are more likely to wait, if they even are willing to undertake another high-stakes fight over the health care law.

    Affirmative action: The court could get another crack at the University of Texas admissions policy that takes race into account among many factors in filling some seats in entering freshmen classes. Lower courts upheld the Texas policy following a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that ordered a new review. The case currently is being appealed to the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

    The post Alabama redistricting, Facebook threats on Supreme Court docket appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Ebola has arrived in the United States and people are scared.

    The nation’s top infectious diseases expert said it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about a disease that kills so fast and is ravaging parts of West Africa.

    “It’s the unknown. It’s the cataclysmic nature of it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, that “almost intuitively makes people frightened.”

    Still, he said it’s “extraordinarily unlikely” that the United States will have an outbreak. Scientists know how to stop the virus from spreading, Fauci said Friday.


    PBS NewsHour Weekend spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Saturday.

    That’s not to say the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States – a traveler from Liberia who began feeling the effects after arriving in Dallas – will be the only one.

    The government took measures this past week to ensure hospitals are ready.

    Despite some initial missteps in Dallas, tried-and-true methods are underway: tracking everyone who came into contact with the infected man and isolating anyone who shows symptoms.

    What to know about Ebola in America:

    THERE’S GOING TO BE A LOT OF TALK

    Expect to hear news reports in the coming days about people who are being cared for as potential Ebola cases. That doesn’t mean they have the disease.

    Doctors and hospitals are isolating individuals they believe could be at risk. That’s based on a combination of their symptoms and recent travel from a country where Ebola is present.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consulted with hospitals about 100 or so potentially suspicious cases in recent months. More than a dozen were worrisome enough to merit Ebola blood tests. Only the Dallas patient had Ebola.

    HOW IT SPREADS

    Ebola doesn’t spread easily like the flu, a cold or measles.

    The virus isn’t airborne. Instead, it’s in a sick person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, urine, semen or saliva. Another person can catch the disease by getting those germs into his own body, perhaps by wiping his eyes or through a cut in the skin.

    Bodily fluids aren’t contagious until the infected person begins to feel sick. The initial symptoms are easily confused with other illnesses, however: fever, headaches, flu-like body aches and abdominal pain. Vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes bleeding follow as the disease progresses, increasing the risk to others.

    In West Africa, the disease has spread quickly to family members who tended the sick or handled their bodies after death, and infected doctors and nurses working under punishing conditions, without proper equipment. Bed sheets or clothing contaminated by bodily fluids also spread the disease.

    CAN YOU CATCH IT ON A BUS OR PLANE?

    It’s very unlikely.

    To be on the safe side, the CDC defines “contact” with the disease as spending a prolonged period of time within 3 feet of someone ill with Ebola, a distance designed to protect health workers from projectile vomiting.

    But health officials haven’t seen real world cases of the virus spread by casual contact in public, such as sitting next to someone on a bus, said Tom Frieden, the CDC director.

    “All of our experience with Ebola in Africa the last four decades indicates direct contact is how it spreads,” he said, “and only direct contact with someone who is ill with Ebola.”

    Passengers who flew on the same plane as the Dallas patient, five days before he developed symptoms, are not considered at risk by the CDC. Nor are the schoolmates of children who came in contact with the infected Dallas man, but showed no symptoms of illness while in class.

    As a precaution in case they become sick and therefore contagious, the children who were in contact with the infected man were pulled from school and are being monitored for symptoms.

    Initially, about 100 people were assessed for potential exposure. Health officials said Friday that 50 were still being monitored, with 10 considered at the most risk during the disease’s 21-day incubation period. Four family members who shared their apartment with the patient are under quarantine.

    Outside those circles, the odds of getting infected within the U.S. remain minuscule, health authorities say.

    WHAT HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE DOING

    The CDC is overseeing multiple layers of response:

    -The Ebola-hit African nations are checking people at airports for fever, and asking them about any contact with an infected person, before allowing them to board planes out of the country.

    -Airlines are required by law to watch for sick travelers and alert authorities before landing.

    -The CDC is warning doctors and hospitals to remember the possibility of Ebola and rapidly isolate and test sick patients with a risk of exposure to the virus, primarily those who have traveled recently from the hot spots.

    “The only way to get to zero risk is to stop the outbreak in West Africa,” Frieden said.

    The U.S. and other countries have stepped up aid to West African nations struggling with the disease. But the outbreak is out of control.

    CAN LOCAL HOSPITALS HANDLE THIS?

    Before the Dallas case, four Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Africa returned to the U.S. enclosed in portable biohazard units, attended by health care workers protected by what looked like puffy space suits. They were treated in special isolation units; three recovered and one remains hospitalized.

    The U.S. has only four of those isolation units; when people feel sick, they go to their nearest health care.

    The CDC says any American hospital should be able to care for an Ebola patient.

    Emergency room staff, potentially the first line, are used to safeguarding themselves from germs. They routinely treat patients with HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases.

    The CDC says it’s fine to put a suspected Ebola case into a regular private room with its own bathroom, and doctors and nurses need only wear certain gowns, masks and eye protection to be safe, not the elaborate biohazard suits.

    Yet the system isn’t perfect, as the Dallas case shows.

    When the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, first arrived at a Dallas hospital, he told a nurse that he had recently traveled from West Africa, yet the possibility of Ebola was overlooked and he was discharged into the community. He returned in worse shape, by ambulance, two days later and was diagnosed with the virus. He is in critical condition.



    THIS EBOLA OUTBREAK IS DIFFERENT, ISN’T IT?

    Yes. It’s the worse Ebola outbreak in history, and still out of control in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

    Previous outbreaks in other parts of Africa have been halted more quickly.

    Lack of experience with the disease in West Africa contributed to its spread this time. Other factors: a shortage of medical personnel and supplies, widespread poverty, and political instability in affected countries.

    Also, the disease is crossing national borders and spreading in urban areas. Past outbreaks tended to be in relatively isolated spots.

    It’s hard for Americans to grasp how much more easily diseases can spread in some of the poorest places on earth versus in the U.S., said Ebola expert Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

    In countries where inadequate health systems have been overwhelmed by the virus, people are dying in their homes, outside clinics that are too overfilled to take them, and sometimes in the streets. Health workers have been attacked by panicked residents.

    Yet the measures that have stopped past outbreaks still work, with sufficient knowledge and resources.

    Senegal appears to have stopped the disease at one case this year. Nigeria had eight deaths but brought its outbreak under control by tracking 894 people who had been in contact with a man who brought the virus from Liberia, and visiting 18,500 more people to check for symptoms, the CDC said.

    U.S. officials are confident they can stay on top of any more cases that arrive.

    This is the first case of Ebola recorded in the United States. But some of its relatives have been here – a case of Marburg virus, considered just as deadly, and four cases of Lassa fever in the past decade.

    “There is some history of people coming back with these exotic, highly lethal diseases where it’s been relatively well controlled,” Geisbert said. “Hopefully that continues.”

    AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

    Follow Connie Cass on Twitter.

    The post Anxiety rising in US, but expert says Ebola outbreak ‘extraordinarily unlikely’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    viewerslikeyou

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You, your feedback about some of our recent work.

    Many of you commented on Facebook about our piece examining Florida’s new law requiring low-performing elementary schools to provide an extra hour of reading every day.

    A common reaction: Parents need to do more to help kids read.

    Patricia Marshall wrote:
    “I encourage people to read, read, read to their kids. Once a child learns to like reading, it becomes a lifelong companion. This should be the responsibility of parents and other relatives, including siblings.”

    Sandra Miller added this: “Practice, practice, practice and it begins by reading to infants daily.”

    Ed Weigandt was much more blunt about it: “How about parents actually do some parenting and stop using the television, Xbox or other electronic gadgets as a babysitter? Failure of our kids to learn on a global level should never be deemed the fault of the education system alone.”

    As for the program itself…

    Sonji Webb wrote: “Personally, Ithink kids have too much homework. I think their school days are too long as well. They need more kid and family time.”

    A thought echoed by Awana Reese. “How about more recess? Kids need time to think, to play and to read.”

    Helen Marie Brady Marshall said it made sense: “Only if the children are encouraged to read books on a subject that interests them.”

    And Roberto Martinez added this: “Teachers need to engage in creating the desire to read, not giving extra reading assignments. Great storytelling always leaves listeners craving more.”

    Finally, this from Ellen Lesse Gershenbaum: “As an inner city teacher, the answer is not extra reading time. 24 hours a day wouldn’t make a difference! The answer lies in the education of parents so they know how to raise their kids! They are five years behind when they enter kindergarten, and that can never be made up.”

    As always, you can let us know what you think of our stories, on Twitter, Facebook or at newshour.pbs.org.

    The post Viewers respond to report on mandated extra reading time at Florida grade schools appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    isis

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    IVETTE FELICIANO: In rapid succession, ISIS’ recent beheadings of American journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines shocked and outraged the public, and prompted an American military response.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: And now another British aid worker, Alan Henning, has suffered the same fate ….. a story that prompted another round of intense coverage.

    RASHID KHALIDI: I think that, you know, what bleeds, leads. And if it’s dramatic and if it’s violent it’ll be shown again and again.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Modern Arab studies at Columbia University, believes the media’s focus on the brutality of the recent beheadings is exactly what ISIS was hoping for.

    RASHID KHALIDI: Showing the picture again and again creates panic. They want intervention. They want boots on the ground. They want the United States to be directly involved in fighting them.

    Because that makes them out to be the leading group in the Islamic world that’s resisting– western imperialism as they see it. So we’re at– the reaction that they’re getting on Washington is precisely in my view what they want.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Despite the widespread coverage of the four recent ISIS beheadings, Dr. Dawn Perlmutter, an author and scholar who for years has studied ritualistic crimes and religious terrorism, says video-taped beheadings are nothing new, and that these recent events are actually just the tip of the iceberg.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: She told us just yesterday it would be safe to say there have been at least 2 dozen beheadings around the world since the start of September …. Among them, four people killed by Mexican drug cartels; 4 by an extremist group in the Sinai Peninsula and another person beheaded by Boko Haram militants who posted their own video just this past Friday. Few, if any, of those incidents even made the news in this country.

    DAWN PERLMUTTER: There’s hundreds of them. Hundreds of videos of– easily accessible online for anyone to view. I get alerts on at least four or five beheadings a day– in– in different parts of the world.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: She says the beheadings that have occurred after ISIS fighters overran villages in northern and western Iraq and in Syria, have taken violence to a level that even Al-Qaeda has chosen to distance itself from.

    DAWN PERLMUTTER: The one consistency in all of the formal beheadings of– of the different Al-Qaeda-linked groups has been that they have never– formally beheaded a woman. What differs with ISIS is that they are beheading women and children and sticking their heads on pikes.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Why is the way you choose to kill someone, especially publicly, so important? Why beheadings of all the ways?

    DAWN PERLMUTTER: Beheading is the ultimate sign that you’re in power. It is so– I think just organic—primally of– offensive and frightening that it’s effective.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Perlmutter believes advances in cellphone technology have led to what she calls a “beheading epidemic” over the last 10 years. Hundreds of videos have been uploaded to the web by groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and those drug cartels in Mexico.

    DAWN PERLMUTTER: ISIS has– taken that technology further because now, we have Twitter. We have Instagram. It’s sort of this unbelievable new phenomenon of primal warfare combined with modern technology.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In fact beheadings in the form of punishment for crimes goes back centuries. It was common in the Greek and Roman empires. Henry the VIII had both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard beheaded, and the French guillotine remained France’s standard method of judicial execution until 1981. Even today, beheading as a form of punishment is still allowed in several countries including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran. Yet Saudi Arabia is the only country that actually continues to behead offenders. There were reportedly 80 public executions there last year – most of them beheadings.

    ADAM COOGLE: As far as countries like, you know, western countries, including the United States, who have expressed their horror over the executions by the Islamic State Group in Iraq and Syria, we haven’t seen the same horror over just regular beheadings that take place in Saudi Arabia, several a month on average.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Adam Coogle is the Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Jordan We spoke to him via skype a few days ago.

    ADAM COOGLE: When you talk to Saudi officials about this they will usually tell you that their use of public beheadings is rooted in Islamic law and Islamic tradition.

    ADAM COOGLE: If Saudi Arabia were to try to reform their practices on capital punishment they would face a considerable resistance and they would be accused by the core constituency of you know basically going back on their Islamic roots.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Some analysts say Muslim extremist groups like ISIS choose the act of beheading because they’re also aligning themselves with what they think is an authentic Islam, pointing to Qu’ranic passages they believe condone the act.

    DAWN PERLMUTTER: That’s why they have to always have this reading of offenses, identifying– having the person– confess, having the person– in front of them, kneeling. It is an execution ritual.

    RASHID KHALIDI: Therefore when you meet the unbelievers…presumably in a battle…smite at their necks.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Yet Islamic scholars, like Professor Khalidi, dispute that the Qu’ran offers any justification for beheading. He cites the lines coming immediately after one of the two used to justify beheadings.

    RASHID KHALIDI: At length when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly. Therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom…

    I’ve just read Sura 47 verse 4. If you cut off their heads you’re not going to bind them, and you’re not binding them to cut off their heads you’re binding them to either be generous to them, release them, or hold them for ransom.

    So there is nothing about cutting off their heads in this passage. The people who are doing this act claiming this as justification for this practice. It is not. And it just shows that they know nothing about Islam and they don’t know how to read this properly.

    The post Before ISIS: A history of beheadings to terrify, punish appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Obama Speaks At Disabled Veterans Memorial Dedication

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during a dedication ceremony for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., on October 5, 2014. Photo Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar/ Sipa USA

    In Washington on Sunday, amid the myriad of monuments immortalizing the country’s past near the U.S. Capitol, President Barack Obama paid tribute to the nation’s wounded servicemen and servicewomen at the unveiling of a memorial of a different kind. 

    Sixteen years in the making, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial (AVDLM) is not only a tribute to fallen soldiers and wounded warriors, but also to their loved ones and caregivers.

    “With this memorial we commemorate, for the first time, the two battles our disabled veterans have fought, the battle over there and the battle here at home,” Obama said.

    Two firms, including the History Associates of Rockville, M.D., researched and collected stories of disabled veterans, like that of triple amputee Vietnam War veteran and AVDLM Secretary Dennis Joyner and his wife and caregiver, Donna, to tell the tale of the physical and psychological struggles of the wounded warriors on the glass.

    “This memorial tells us what we must do,” said Obama, “when our wounded veterans set out on that long road of recovery, we need to move heaven and earth to make sure they get every single benefit, every single bit of care that they have earned; they deserve.”

    In 2012, there were 21.2 million military veterans living in the U.S., according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate. The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial foundation estimates that there are four million disabled veterans today.

    The project was organized by two former Veteran Affairs Secretaries and a philanthropist, who raised more than $80 million to complete the monument. 

    “This memorial is a challenge to all of us, a reminder of the obligations this country is under,” Obama said. “If we are truly to honor these veterans we must heed the voices that speak to us here. Let’s never rush into war, because it is America’s sons and daughters who bear the scars of war for the rest of their lives.”

    The memorial will open to the public on Monday, Oct. 6.

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    thewaronisis

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now the second installment of the Weekend NewsHour’s series — The War on ISIS: Extended conversations with leading experts to try to make sense of what’s occurring on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq.

    Tonight, we are joined from Washington by Douglas Ollivant. He served as a director with the National Security Council under Presidents Bush and Obama. Prior to that, he was a military planner in Iraq and a counter-insurgency advisor in Afghanistan. He’s now a partner with Mantid International.

    So, first let’s talk Turkey, because of its location and its membership in NATO. It looks like a crucial partner in this war on ISIS. This week, the Turkish parliament said that they will authorize the use of force in Iraq and Syria. Will they send in ground troops? And if so, is that the key to defeating ISIS?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: I doubt they are going to send ground troops, and I doubt that’s the key to fighting ISIS. Now they may well fight them on their own borders, but quite frankly what the coalition would really like from the Turks is more action in shutting their borders. Turkey has been a conduit for most of the foreign fighters coming in to fight with the Islamic State, and it would really be helpful were they to shut that border down very effectively.

    There’s also been talk that much of the money flow that is coming is coming through Turkey. So more help shutting down these black markets for antiquities, oil, etc, are things that’ll probably be asked for the Turks shortly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So if they don’t send ground troops, who does?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: I think in Iraq, we’re still looking at the Iraqis, both the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police and the Kurdish peshmerga forces. Those remain the bulk of the forces we are gonna expect to do the heavy lifting.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So then let’s talk about Kobani, the town is near the Turkish-Syrian border, the fights have been continuing there for some time now. Why is this battle significant?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, Kobani is an important town on the border. Were it to fall, you would have one, the Kurds pushed out of this area and yet another salient, to use a military term, of non-ISIL control would be taken, but it then gives the Islamic State yet another important crossing with Turkey that it would control.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So is the air campaign there from America and its allies — is that working?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, it’s certainly helping. The actual tactical situation there remains very unclear, and getting accurate reporting from that area, despite us having correspondents just over the border, is still very murky. But we do think the air power is having some effect and yet the Islamic State is still pushing very heavily towards this town.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Another area of focus this week is Anbar Province, just west of Baghdad. ISIS continued to make gains there this week. ISIS fighters captured the towns of Hit and Kabaisa. Reports there say these gains are jeopardizing an important military base in the area and control of a nearby dam. Tell us a little bit more.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: These towns are important, and Islamic State does seem to be making some effective moves in Anbar. In short, we’re seeing the battlefield kind of influx, Islamic State is being pushed back in some areas. We did see some minor victories on the part of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Kurds this week, and yet in Anbar, as you point out, they seem to be making gains.

    So I think we have yet to see full campaign going — we’re just seeing minor fluctuations in the front lines, so to speak, throughout Iraq.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How significant is the control of the base and the dam?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:The control of any base is significant. Anytime you lose a large piece of infrastructure, that’s very, very hard to get back. And frankly, that’s when we see things like the Islamic State getting large quantities of trucks, large quantity of other military equipment, missiles. So we definitely do not want the Islamic State to take over the space.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what’s significance of the dam they are nearing control of?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:You can use a dam positively, you can get the power that’s coming from it, you can divert the water you want it, or conceivably, you can use it as a weapon of mass destruction.

    Were they to be able to destroy this dam, they can flood the towns that are below it, causing immense damage to human life and of course totally destroy the water and irrigation system that this area relies on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are they close to getting control?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:I don’t think they’re close. They’re certainly threatening it, but I think most of us believe that remains fairly certainly under Iraqi control.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, We’ve also heard reports in past few days about the Ambush and killing of Iraqi government troops just north of the capital city. Is there any real threat that ISIS could take the capital?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:No, there’s no real threat to Baghdad. The number of troops that is in Baghdad is very impressive. And were the Islamic State to get close, the citizens of Baghdad themselves, I think, would rally against the Islamic State. This is not like the north, where there were Sunni co-religionists, at least some of whom gave aid and assistance to the Islamic State.

    As they push into Baghdad with their predominantly Shia population, they would encounter a very, very hostile environment, and would probably be thrown out fairly quickly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are ISIS members, or ISIS troops, be able to go freely between Syria and Iraq at this point to get themselves reinforcements and move troops and supplies?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:I don’t think they are moving as freely as they were before we started air strikes, and that’s the bulk of what we want the air strikes to do on the Syrian side. We are dropping bombs, we are destroying targets, but it’s less about destroying things on the Syrian side of the border than making them unable to act freely to be able to reinforce in the manner you’ve been talking about to just push resupplies, be it material or troops or what have, across the border.

    So the bottom line is I think they’re still coming, you can’t close that border, but they can’t no longer come and convoy of 50 SUVs flying the black flag. That’s not happening anymore.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any evidence that any of this pressure is applied to their financial infrastructure — how they are actually funding these moves into Iraq?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:It doesn’t appear that we’ve yet found a way to effectively choke this off. Part of the problem is their funding sources are so dispersed. They do get external funds, which we continue work to cut off. But for the most part, they are self-funded. They effectively taxed the villages, the businesses that they have taken over.

    We’ve had a lot, as I discussed earlier, there are black market oil sales; they’ve taken a large, almost industrial, antiquities market. They’re looting the antiquity size on an industrial scale and moving those onto the black market as well. So cutting off their funding will be hard because it’s so dispersed and so disparate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Douglas Ollivant joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Thanks Hari.

    The post The War on ISIS: Where in the Middle East is the Islamic State making gains? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis (L) greets French cardinal Roger Etchegaray at the end of the mass at St Peter's basilica on October 5, 2014 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

    Pope Francis greets French cardinal Roger Etchegaray on Sunday following a mass at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Credit: Gabriel Bouys/ AFP/Getty Images

    Pope Francis on Sunday called for a more humble approach on the Catholic Church’s handling of matters such as divorce, pre-marital sex and contraception, the Associated Press reported.

    The pope spoke to about 200 cardinals and bishops at a Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, as a two-week meeting gets underway of the Catholic Church’s world leaders to discuss the Church’s stance on issues affecting the Catholic community.

    “Synod gatherings are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent,” Francis said during the mass. “Rather, it’s an opportunity to “work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.”

    During the two-week meeting — the first in nearly 30 years — Pope Francis will ask other prelates to work together creatively in order to understand the realities of Catholics’ lives, the Guardian reported.

    Feedback from a survey Francis had his bishops give last year confirmed the gap between pastors and parishioners on sexual matters, according to the AP.

    “Pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others,” Pope Francis said without elaboration, the AP reported.

    Pope Francis’ views on the Catholic Church were the subject of this PBS NewsHour interview: 

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    Protestors urge a raise in the minimum wage outside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center April 29 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some of America’s biggest and most expensive cities are acting on their own to increase the minimum wage. For some insight yesterday I spoke to Matt Flegenheimer, a reporter with the New York Times.

    New York did something recently, so did L.A., what did they do?

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: So, in New York at least on Tuesday, Mayor DeBlasio signed an executive order essentially expanding a law that was passed in 2012 – over the objections of Mayor Bloomberg – which stipulated that on city subsidized projects, workers were entitled to a what’s called a ‘living wage’.

    At this point it would be $13.13 as the minimum. Sort of a wide expansion compared to what we saw a couple of years ago.

    Any tenants or subtenants on projects that receive city subsidies now are entitled to that wage, it is about 18,000 workers by the administration’s estimate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK and this is if it goes through and makes it through city council, right?

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: No, this is an executive order, which is sort of a sticking point. Some of the council members have kind of chafed at being bypassed in this case. They probably would have supported it. It has been a very sort of compliant council here in New York. But the mayor did this on his own.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles trying a little something different.

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: A little bit different. So, there are a couple of things going on there. The sort of broader minimum wage package he is pushing for I believe $13.25 and then for hotel workers – in a lot of cases – they have gone for sort of an expansive move through the council as well, which has been faced with some opposition obviously from some of the business groups who have said that this could cost jobs in the long run potentially if workers don’t want to, rather, if employers don’t want to pay these wages to workers, they’ll take their jobs elsewhere, so there’s been a bit of a debate there over that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, most people people don’t recognize that Los Angeles has a huge manufacturing – food processing, fashion and apparel – industry there. This particular minimum wage increase, if it went through, that would affect a half a million people.

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: Absolutely, and there is also the factor of L.A. being I believe the biggest sort of income disparity among the large cities in America. I think 28 percent below the poverty line. So that’s a factor as well in terms of potentially costing jobs, even if they are higher paying jobs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what about those businesses? Are they planning to push back? Or, are they planning to move to other towns because that is usually one of the economic resistance to increased minimum wage is that they’ll say that this will stifle job creation.

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: That’s sort of the Doomsday prediction from groups over there. The L.A. Chamber of Commerce has said there is this fear, particularly in L.A., where you have a lot of surrounding cities that you can essentially move across the street and charge a different wage than you might have had to if you were staying in Los Angeles.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And there are other cities around the country, Seattle got a lot of press for pushing it up to $15. But, that’s also a city that is not nearly as impoverished as Los Angeles, the income disparity is not as, I think the aviation is kind of the central hub there and they might actually make more than 15 bucks to start with, right?

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: Yeah, that’s seen as one of the leading cities on this one, but then again is under a different set of circumstances there as far as the income situation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How does this play out when you look at the overall map? Are these cities and what they are doing, is that having a ripple effect in other townships just to try to stay competitive, or perhaps take advantages if these things are uncompetitive for businesses?

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: It’s hard to say, it seems sort of early in this kind of city level movement. I spoke with the Labor Secretary, Tom Perez earlier in the week and he said essentially on the federal level you’ve seen such little movement on this – President Obama obviously came out in favor of a $10.10 minimum wage – but there hasn’t been any momentum on that in Congress. That it really has to happen at a more local level.

    And you see New York as sort of the last iteration of that–L.A., Seattle, Chicago, being others. But even in New York City, the minimum wage is set at the state level, so that is sort of a looming fight as well between city government here and state lawmakers in Albany.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Matt Flegenheimer with the New York Times, thanks so much.

    MATT FLEGENHEIMER: Thank you.

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    13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain  Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

    13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

    Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen visiting the U.S., died this morning. He was the first and so far only patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. It’s important not to trivialize his death, but it’s also important to put it in perspective. In Africa, the virus has claimed the lives of at least 6,871 people and sickened more than 8,100 others, according to the World Health Organization.

    But that one case has captured the news, inspiring headlines like “The ISIS of Biological Agents” and “U.S. has left itself open to Ebola outbreak.”

    Meanwhile, in our country, the enterovirus has infected at least 628 people since August, most of them small children.

    “When people are anxious about a threat like Ebola, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they look at numbers, facts and probabilities,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar.”

    As anxiety about Ebola mounts, we asked the experts which U.S. diseases we should be worried about, or at least more worried about than Ebola. Here are six, in no particular order.

    ENTEROVIRUS D-68

    Last month a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey went to sleep and never woke up. This week, the CDC confirmed that the boy was infected with the airborne enterovirus 68, or EV-D68. That same week a 10-year-old girl who also tested positive for the virus died 24 hours after being admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island.

    Enterovirus 68 fits into a class of viruses that includes hand-foot-and-mouth disease and polio. Every year, 10 to 15 million people pick up an enterovirus, Schuchat said, but enterovirus 68 is an entirely new outbreak.

    While enterovirus 68 was first discovered in 1962, this is its first outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson is director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The first cases of enterovirus 68 — children with asthma-like symptoms — were admitted to her hospital early August. By month’s end, the hospital was admitting to 30 to 35 cases a day.

    Just as doctors are learning how to diagnose the virus, it is evolving. In Colorado, 10 patients developed polio-like symptoms, with limb paralysis and difficulty breathing. Four of those patients tested positive for enterovirus 68. Similar cases have been reported across the country, from Boston to San Diego. It’s still unclear whether limb paralysis is linked to enterovirus 68, but researchers are studying the possibility of a connection.

    “It spreads just like the common cold, but we don’t know how many will get a cold and how many will need hospitalization and how many will end up with polio-like illness,” Jackson said. “In terms of what’s at our feet right now, EV-D68 has become the most important virus.”

    How to protect yourself: Wash hands often with soap and water for more than 20 seconds before touching eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with something that’s not your hands. Disinfect surfaces, like toys and doorknobs. Stay home if you’re sick.

    MEASLES

    This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

    This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

    Measles, a virus that causes an infection of the respiratory system, was nearly eradicated in the United States after a vaccine became widespread in the early 1960s. In the years since, the virus became so rare here that its symptoms — irritability, high fever and a rash — were mostly forgotten, as was the rate of infection. Before routine vaccinations, each case of measles created 17 new secondary cases, the New York Times recently reported.

    But in 2008, due to a combination of international travel and unvaccinated populations — most from parents opting out of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine for their children — the virus resurfaced in the U.S.

    Babies of unvaccinated mothers are at the greatest risk. They are too young for the vaccine and lack immunity from their mothers. So far in 2014, there have been more than 600 measles cases, nearly all of them children.

    “That’s astounding for 2014 to think that there are that many cases for a disease that should have gone away in the U.S.,” Jackson said.

    Measles is rarely fatal — one person in every 1,000 cases dies from it — but it requires a great deal of hospital resources to treat. Many children with the measles will need oxygen or ventilators, and are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and other bacterial infections. Measles can also cause deafness and permanent brain damage.

    In rare cases, children with the measles go on to develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. SSPE is a rare neurological disease that develops years after a measles infection. It starts as sleeplessness and forgetfulness, but it devolves into hallucinations and seizures. Most SSPE patients die within one to three years of diagnosis.

    How to protect yourself: For best protection, the CDC recommends vaccinating your children twice: once when they are 12-15 months old, and again when they are 4-6 years old.

    WHOOPING COUGH

    This is the bacteria that causes pertussis, or whooping cough. The current vaccine for disease loses efficacy after 5 years. Missed booster shots means the disease is showing up more often in the U.S. Photo courtesy Sanofi Pasteur/Alain Grillet via Flickr

    This is the bacteria that causes pertussis, or whooping cough. The current vaccine for disease loses efficacy after 5 years. Missed booster shots means the disease is showing up more often in the U.S. Photo courtesy Sanofi Pasteur/Alain Grillet via Flickr

    Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have risen sharply since 2004. In 2012, 48,277 cases were reported in the U.S. That’s the largest number since 1955. Pertussis is caused by a bacteria, and starts with cold-like symptoms. The dry, hacking cough can last for up to 10 weeks. Some patients turn blue gasping for air.

    “In my 30 years of practice, hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t diagnosed a case [of pertussis],” Jackson said.

    Children between 7 and 10 years old are hardest hit, she said, and it’s especially dangerous for infants. But deaths in the U.S. from pertussis are rare. There were 20 deaths among the 48,277 cases in 2012, for example.

    “Deaths are low — 20 to 30 a year,” Jackson said. “Those are 20 to 30 deaths that we shouldn’t have.”

    There is a vaccine for pertussis, but it’s not as effective as it once was, Jackson said. In the 1950s, the U.S. relied on a whole-cell pertussis vaccine, one that used full strains of the bacteria. But the whole-cell vaccines had side effects, from swelling at the injection site to fever. In the 1990s, industrialized nations shifted to using an acellular vaccine containing only parts of the bacteria. But after five years, immunity from the acellular vaccine wanes. Then around 2004, the bacteria mutated, and cases took off in the U.S.

    NewsHour’s Betty Ann Bowser reported on the outbreaks in 2012:

    How to protect yourself: Regular booster shots help, Schuchat said, especially for pregnant women who want to protect their newborns. Mothers can pass immunity on to their babies, which helps them through their first months. In fact, a whooping cough booster shot in the third trimester protects 90 percent of babies in their first year of life, according to the CDC.

    DRUG-RESISTANT BACTERIA

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has spread beyond hospitals. The deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has spread beyond hospitals. The deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany

    More than 2 million people in the U.S. each year develop an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The CDC estimates at least 23,000 people die from those infections each year.

    With an overuse of antibiotics, several types of bacteria have become immune to the drugs that once eliminated them. Infections and diseases that were once cured by a single medication now require stronger antibiotics to treat. Doctors have seen rises in antibiotic resistant tuberculosis, staph infections, gonorrhea and pneumonia, to name a few. It means long, painful and expensive hospitalizations while doctors find a way to kill the superbugs. When second- and third-tier antibiotics can’t cure the infection, the last resort is removing infected tissue.

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is one of the most virulent. The CDC estimates that there are 80,000 MRSA cases every year, and 11,000 people die from the infection each year. MRSA can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and contact with infected materials, like surgical tools or breathing tubes. It’s a scourge in hospitals, and it is spreading beyond clinics.

    But there has been a decline in MRSA deaths. In 2011, there were 9,000 fewer MRSA deaths than in 2005, the CDC estimates, thanks to better hospital practices to prevent the spread of the bacteria. But two in every 100 people carry MRSA.

    How to protect yourself: Protect yourself with handwashing, proper sanitation and appropriate use of antibiotics, Schuchat said.

    RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS

    Chest x-ray of a 16-day old infant with a lung injury due to respiratory syncytial virus. Almost every child contracts the disease by age 2. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

    Chest x-ray of a 16-day old infant with a lung injury due to respiratory syncytial virus. Almost every child contracts the disease by age 2. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

    By age 2, almost every child in the U.S. has had respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, Jackson said. It’s a lung infection, causing babies to cough, wheeze and have a fever. RSV is transmitted like a common cold via droplets from sneezes and coughs. Like the flu, it appears every winter like clockwork, Jackson said.

    For most babies, RSV isn’t serious, but 125,000 babies every year are hospitalized for the virus. Premature babies or children with heart or respiratory problems can develop more severe symptoms and require ventilators or oxygen to breathe. Overall, the death rate from RSV is low considering how high the infection rate is — approximately 250 deaths a year, Jackson said.

    So why is RSV a big problem? Unlike influenza, there’s no vaccine or antiviral to treat it. The virus stays on surfaces for as long as eight hours, spreading quickly through daycares and households. For the elderly and older smokers, RSV can cause pneumonia, which can be deadly.

    “The vast majority of babies do fine, but it has a very high burden of disease,” Jackson said.

    How to protect yourself: Wash your hands frequently. Disinfect surfaces. High-risk children should not interact with people with cold-like symptoms.

    From the CDC: A drug called palivizumab (say “pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb”) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk. The drug can help prevent development of serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease and it cannot prevent infection with RSV.

    INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA

    In January 2013, New York City declared a public health emergency as influenza swept the state, with nearly 20,000 people infected.  Photo by Getty Images/Mario Tama

    In January 2013, New York City declared a public health emergency as influenza swept the state, with nearly 20,000 people infected. Photo by Getty Images/Mario Tama

    Influenza and pneumonia go hand-in-hand, and are more likely to kill you than any infectious disease. Flu ranks number seven on the CDC’s list of 10 top killers. More than 53,000 people died from influenza and pneumonia in 2010 according to the CDC — and that’s just in the United States.

    “The common cold is miserable, but this is beyond miserable. It’s a high fever, severe muscle aches…people remember the minute it hits them,” Jackson said. “It runs its course over seven days, and an antiviral can ratchet it down, but (the flu) is still a very severe illness with whole list of complications” — ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.

    And while the flu virus itself can be deadly, more lethal is the pneumonia that sometimes follows, she said. Most healthy people, about one-third of the population, carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia in their noses. But when an infection like the flu takes over the body, the bacteria migrates into the bloodstream and ends up in the lungs.

    Millions are hospitalized for the illness, Schuchat says, but babies, young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old gets the annual flu vaccine.

    “Last year, more than 100 kids died from flu in the U.S. And that’s something that we do have vaccines for,” Schuchat said. “It may seem familiar, but even healthy children get influenza and can die from it.”

    Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids like vomit, blood, saliva or urine to transfer from person to person. But influenza is easily airborne on droplets projected from coughs and sneezes that fly through schools, offices and households. The tragedy is that many of these influenza deaths could have been prevented with the annual flu vaccine, Jackson said.

    “We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” she said. “We have Americans afraid of ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

    How to protect yourself: The CDC recommends that caregivers and infants six months and older get a flu vaccine. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school.

    The post These six diseases should worry you more than Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, talks to a member of his defense team as he appears before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands, on Oct. 8. He is charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly instigating violence after Kenya's 2007 disputed presidential elections. Photo by Peter Dejong/AFP/Getty Images

    Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, talks to a member of his defense team as he appears before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands, on Oct. 8. He is charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly instigating violence after Kenya’s 2007 disputed presidential elections. Photo by Peter Dejong/AFP/Getty Images

    Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday in the long-running case alleging that he fomented violence following the country’s disputed 2007 elections.

    The prosecution on Wednesday accused the Kenyan government of withholding evidence and hindering the investigation, while the defense said the case should be tossed out. The judges now must decide whether to end the trial or give prosecutors more time to search for the missing evidence.

    In the 2007 presidential election, Mwai Kibaki of the Kikuyu ethnic group was declared the victor over opponent Raila Odinga, a Luo. Results from the controversial vote plunged the country into chaos as Luos attacked Kikuyus, which led to reprisal killings. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.

    Kenyatta is accused of funding a local militia to conduct the reprisal attacks, and the prosecution said they can prove it through witnesses and phone and tax records, but that the government won’t turn over the records. Kenyatta has denied all charges, saying they are politically motivated, and the government has said it wants to comply with the court but it doesn’t have the records.

    Michael Newton, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, said Wednesday’s courtroom developments are a microcosm of the broader difficulties in the case and in the ICC as a whole.

    “There’s a long history of allegations back and forth of witness tampering, and (it shows) the complexities of bringing this type of trial in a post-conflict setting,” he said.

    The case against Kenyatta and other Kenyan officials began in 2011. Charges of inciting violence also have been brought against Deputy President William Ruto, whose trial started in September 2013. Last year, the charges against former Cabinet Secretary Francis Kirimi Muthaura were dropped because several witnesses had died and others were too afraid to testify.

    At Wednesday’s status hearing, the court was trying to determine whether the Kenyan government is indeed “fully cooperating” as required under the governing treaty of the ICC, said Newton. “This is a litmus test for how the court relates in these complex conflict situations with domestic governments.”

    “The ICC is always going to be in a very difficult position,” of having to do its own investigations in sovereign states, said Newton. “The longer it waits from the end of a conflict, the more dependent it is on outside parties to collect evidence.”

    But to begin sooner, the court would have to get involved in the middle of an armed conflict, which it isn’t equipped to do, he said.

    The post Kenyan president’s case a ‘litmus test’ for International Criminal Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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