Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Oct. 23 2014 4:15 PM

Billionaire Paul Allen Will Donate $100 Million to Ebola Battle

Paul Allen—the Microsoft co-founder who's worth about $17 billion, owns the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, and has a yacht so large it carries two helicopters and a submarine—will give $100 million to organizations battling the Ebola outbreak, he says. Among the intended uses of the money, per the New York Times:

  • A University of Massachusetts Medical School program providing "training, medical workers and lab equipment" to Liberia.
  • The development, in partnership with the State Department, of evacuation and containment units.
  • Funding the World Health Organization's coordination of medical personnel deployment.
  • Funding the evacuation of infected medical personnel.

Allen has made previous donations to public health causes, including an attemt to develop an Ebola vaccine at Kansas State University. He's also created a website called TackleEbola that directs small donations to current projects in need of funding.

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Oct. 23 2014 3:05 PM

Mexican Mayor and Wife Suspected in Disappearance of 43 Students

Mexico's attorney general says the mayor of the town of Iguala and his wife are suspected of involvement in the disappearance of 43 student protesters in the area last month. From NPR:

On Wednesday, Mexico's attorney general said an arrest warrant has been issued for Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda.
Jesus Murillo Karam, the country's top prosecutor, also named the mayor's wife as the "principal operator" of the trafficking group known as the Guerreros Unidos, and that she together with her husband ran the group's illegal activities right out of Iguala's City Hall.

The students were apparently headed toward Iguala when they were intercepted and attacked by police acting on the instructions of the mayor; six students were killed outright, and 43 are still missing. It's still unclear exactly why the traffickers felt these students—who were protesting education reforms and trying to raise money—were a threat, although Mexican student movements' traditionally leftist, democratic politics certainly don't align with the kind of quasi-military narco-oligarchy that the cartels prefer.

The mayor and his wife have not been located and are considered fugitives.

Oct. 23 2014 1:02 PM

Pittsburgh NHL Fans Honor Canada by Singing “O Canada” National Anthem

NHL fans in Pittsburgh paid tribute to Canada on Wednesday night by singing the Canadian national anthem before facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadian flag was projected on the ice during the playing of “O Canada” to honor the U.S.’s northern neighbor grappling with Wednesday’s deadly attack on the parliament building in Ottawa.

“The NHL postponed the scheduled game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators following the attack,” the Associated Press reports. “The Penguins and Flyers feature rosters filled with Canadian players, including reigning league MVP Sidney Crosby.”

Oct. 23 2014 12:06 PM

Swiss Company Makes Hitler Creamer Packets; Apologizes for Not Noticing It Was a Bad Idea

“You cannot put Pol Pot or a terrorist on a milk creamer.” That truism comes courtesy of a spokesman for the Swiss retail giant Migros, via the New York Times. That seems like a pretty easy rule to live by—unless you're Migros, apparently. The company apologized this week for shocking Swiss coffee drinkers by distributing coffee creamer containers with pictures of Hitler on them. Oh, and there was also one dedicated to Italian fascist Benito Mussolini.

“In coffee-loving Switzerland, labels from the mini-cream containers are cult collectibles, and producers often seek new and inventive ways to enhance their appeal,” the Times reports. The dictatorial tributes were part of a series of containers based on vintage cigar labels. Migros said one of its subsidiaries was responsible for supplying the cream, and the series was developed by a firm that—somehow—specializes in cream container design. In the understatement of the year, a company spokesman told the Times: “Whoever made this mistake was not thinking properly, as these aren’t images accompanying a book about World War II, but rather something meant to be enjoyed with coffee and a chocolate cake.”

Oct. 23 2014 9:47 AM

North Korea Quarantines Itself to Join Global Community on Ebola Panic, Bans All Tourists

North Korea isn’t exactly Italy when it comes to its tourism industry, but apparently that doesn’t mean it’s not concerned about Ebola arriving on its shores. And since the country is no stranger to going way over the top on just about anything, North Korea announced it is banning all foreign tourists from entering the country starting Friday, Reuters reports. While there is no official tally of how many travelers this will affect, my unofficial count of disappointed tourists is 12.

“We have just received official news from our partners in [North Korea] that, as of tomorrow, tourists from any country, regardless of where they have recently visited, will not be permitted to enter,” a travel company operator that runs tours in the country told Reuters.

“North Korean state media on Thursday said it was stepping up quarantine efforts to detect foreigners and tourists who might be carrying the virus, but did not confirm the tourist ban,” according to Reuters. This is not the first time North Korea has closed its already pretty airtight borders. In 2003, the country quarantined itself over fears of the spread of SARS. North Korean state media said there have been no reported cases of Ebola in the country, according to the Associated Press. While transparency and public awareness have never really been North Korea’s thing, the country is making an effort to heighten awareness of Ebola and its symptoms. “Television news on Wednesday evening showed a video of Ebola patients and explained the dangers of the disease,” according to the AP.

Oct. 22 2014 8:20 PM

Man Jumps White House Fence, Is Attacked By Secret Service Dogs and Arrested

The White House was put on lockdown Wednesday evening after a man jumped the White House fence. The Secret Service apprehended the man, who was first attacked by Secret Service dogs. "Dogs got him," a Secret Service spokesman told Reuters. Video showed the man kicking the oncoming dogs before being surrounded by Secret Service agents on the north lawn of the White House.  

Here’s more on the video from The Hill:

Video of the incident shows a man wearing a dark shirt and white gym shorts on the lawn outside the White House being yelled at by Secret Service officers. He briefly lifted his shirt to show his chest before a pair of Secret Service dogs rushed to the man and pounced. The fence jumper struggled with the animals, landing repeated punches and kicks. Eventually, a Secret Service officer grabbed the man to lead him away. Officers cleared the North Lawn of journalists and began conducting a search of the premises. 

“The incident comes roughly a month after an intruder armed with a knife scaled the White House fence and made it inside the executive mansion, raising questions about security levels at the heavily guarded complex and spurring the resignation of then Secret Service Director Julia Pierson,” Reuters reports.

Oct. 22 2014 7:46 PM

Family of Dallas Nurse With Ebola Says She’s Now Virus-Free

One of the two Dallas nurses who contracted Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is now virus-free, her family said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “We are overjoyed to announce that, as of yesterday [Tuesday] evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body," the family said in the statement Wednesday, ABC News reports.

The news has yet to be confirmed by the CDC. The Dallas Morning News spoke to a spokesperson at Emory University Hospital, where Vinson has been receiving treatment since last week, who said she was “not aware of that at all.” Vinson is one of two nurses that were infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan at the Dallas hospital. The other nurse, Nina Pham, is currently being treated at NIH. Vinson created a scare by flying from Dallas to Cleveland and back shortly before she was diagnosed with the virus.

Oct. 22 2014 6:36 PM

Reaganomics Tax Experiment Still Going Poorly in Kansas

In 2012, Kansas passed large tax cuts championed by Republican governor Sam Brownback and Ronald Reagan-affiliated economist Arthur Laffer, who said the move would create tens of thousands of jobs and result in "enormous prosperity." But the state has subsequently added jobs at a slower rate than neighboring states (and the country as a whole) while coming up against significant revenue shortfalls. These shortages have been even more severe than the state projected, and the New York Times' Josh Barro writes today that new numbers indicate the problem is only going to get worse:

Revenue numbers for July through September, the first three months of fiscal year 2015, suggest Kansas’ revenue gap is permanent, not temporary. The state anticipated $578 million in personal income tax collections over the summer, but it took in just $524 million, a miss of more than 10 percent. That was nationally atypical; according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, 14 states have published projected and actual monthly personal income tax receipts through September, and the other 13 all came within 5 percent of expectations.

By the end of this fiscal year, Barro estimates, the state—which spends about $14 billion annually—could be as much as $500 million short of its income tax projections. The gap has become an issue in Brownback's gubernatorial campaign against Democrat Paul Davis, which is currently considered a toss-up by Real Clear Politics despite Kansans' typically conservative voting patterns.

Oct. 22 2014 6:10 PM

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

This post is being updated as new information becomes available.

Update, 6:10 p.m.: More information on the suspected shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was shot and killed during Wednesday’s attack, is emerging. “Two U.S. officials said that U.S. agencies have been advised that the shooter was a Canadian convert to Islam,” Reuters reports. “Federal [Canadian] sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities,” the Globe and Mail reports. “Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a ‘high-risk traveller’ by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized…”

Update, 5:45 p.m.: The CBC confirmed Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed during Wednesday’s attack while he was standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Here’s more on the developing story from the CBC:

Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot and fatally wounded a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby… Moments later, MPs and other witnesses reported 30 to 50 shots fired inside the main Parliament building.
It was confirmed later the gunman was shot dead inside the building, felled by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms and RCMP, according to MPs' accounts… Police sources have confirmed to CBC News the dead shooting suspect is Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982… Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the Hill at the time of the shooting, but was safely taken away.
Ottawa police say "there is no one in custody at this time…” Police would not say whether they still suspect another shooter is involved. Parliament Hill remains under lockdown late Wednesday afternoon.

Original Post: An armed man has been killed inside Canada's Parliament building after a Canadian soldier was shot at the country's nearby National War Memorial, the CBC reports. Another shooter is believed to be at large. Ottawa police say the soldier who was shot has died.

The National War Memorial is across the street from Canada's Parliament buildings:


Screenshot via Google Maps

A video taken by the Toronto Globe and Mail shows heavy gunfire inside Parliament:

Shots have also been reported at the Rideau Centre, a mall that is less than 1,000 feet from the War Memorial and Parliament Hill. (UPDATE: Police say there was no shooting at the Rideau Centre.)

Another soldier was kiled on Monday and one was injured in Montreal when a 25-year-old "known to federal authorities" for holding radical beliefs ran them over in a car. The suspect—Martin "Ahmad" Rouleau, who was subsequently killed by police after fleeing the scene—was a convert to Islam who reportedly had an "obsession with Islamist extremism."

The House of Commons was scheduled to debate gun law reforms this afternoon.

Correction, Oct. 22, 2014: This post reported prematurely that the Canadian soldier who was attacked had died. This assertion was based on a New York Times account that was subsequently changed.

Oct. 22 2014 4:54 PM

CDC Announces Monitoring of All Travelers to U.S. From Ebola-Stricken Countries

The CDC announced today that, beginning Monday, travelers to the United States from the three West African countries suffering Ebola outbreaks will be required to report in daily with state and local health officials monitoring them for potential symptoms of the disease. Passengers from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone will be required to provide contact information for themselves and at least one friend or relative to health officials upon arrival; according to the Huffington Post, CDC director Tom Frieden said those who do not check in will be tracked down with a “rapid planned follow-up.” From the New York Times:

State and local health departments will be required to have plans for finding and potentially detaining anyone who fails to check in.
Each visitor ... will be given a packet with a thermometer, instructions on its use, a card describing Ebola symptoms, and a card to be given to a doctor or nurse if the visitor develops symptoms and is ordered to go to an emergency room or other health care facility.

The regulation applies to all travelers, including U.S. citizens. The CDC had previously announced that travelers to the United States whose flights originate in any of the three stricken West African countries will only be allowed to fly into one of five international airports.