Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Oct. 15 2014 10:20 AM

 Another Dallas Hospital Worker Has Ebola

A second employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, a woman who helped treat the late Thomas Eric Duncan, has been diagnosed with Ebola. From the Washington Post:

“The health-care worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated at the hospital,” a statement from the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a news conference that the female worker was isolated within 90 minutes of taking an elevated temperature reading. He also warned that additional cases could be on the horizon.

(Jenkins is the chief executive of Dallas County.)

It isn't known how, specifically, the new patient (or nurse Nina Pham, who was hospitalized this weekend and is in good condition) was infected. The new patient's apartment is being decontaminated and officials are in the process of determining whether she had contact with anyone outside the hospital while symptomatic.

The second case coincides with increasing criticism of Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas for its reaction to Duncan's infection. A nurses' union gave a statement to reporters last night that it said came from employees at the hospital:

The statement alleged that guidelines for handling the Ebola patient were constantly changing, and that for two days after Duncan was admitted to isolation the nurses were given personal protective equipment that left their necks exposed. The organization did not name the nurses or say how many contributed to the statement.

The union also "accused the hospital of sending contaminated lab specimens from Duncan through the same hospital tube system used for all patients, rather than specially sealing or hand delivering them."

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Oct. 14 2014 9:19 PM

Supreme Court Intervenes, Texas Abortion Clinics to Stay Open as Legal Battle Continues

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stepped in and paused the shuttering of abortion clinics in Texas that were closing down due to a stringent new state law restricting the facilities where the procedure could be performed. The court issued an order that will allow the eight remaining clinics in the state to remain open while the 2013 law goes through the appeals process. The intervention by the Supreme Court comes after earlier this month the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals removed a district court judge's stay on the Texas law, allowing the law to go into effect and forcing the closure of all but eight clinics in the state.

The new law requires abortion clinics to meet a set of hospital-like standards. “State officials said the law’s requirements were needed to protect women’s health,” according to the New York Times. “Abortion providers said the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and a ruse meant to put many of them out of business.”

“The 5th Circuit is still considering the overall constitutionality of the sweeping measure overwhelmingly passed by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry last year,” the Associated Press reports. “But even as it weighs the merits of the law, the appeals court [had] said that it can be enforced in the meantime — opening the door for the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Here’s more from the AP:

The 5th Circuit decision had blocked an August ruling by Austin-based U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who had found that requiring hospital-style upgrades was less about safety than making access to abortion difficult. Yeakel's ruling temporarily suspended the upgrade rules before they could go into effect Sept. 1 — and the order from the Supreme Court means they are on hold again. Allowing the rules on hospital-level upgrades to be enforced — including mandatory operating rooms and air filtration systems — shuttered more than a dozen clinics across Texas… Some other clinics, meanwhile, had closed even earlier amid enforcement of the rule on admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. That portion has already been upheld twice by the appeals court.

“Tomorrow, 13 clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Times.

Oct. 14 2014 8:12 PM

Accused Benghazi Ringleader Indicted on New Charges, Could Face Death Penalty

A federal grand jury indicted Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala on 17 new charges relating to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday. Abu Khattala was captured earlier this year in Libya by American forces and is the first to face prosecution for the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Abu Khattala, who is currently in prison in the U.S., was indicted previously on a single count, which the Associated Press reports, U.S. officials used as “a placeholder to allow for him to be brought into court and for a grand jury to hear more evidence.” The new superseding indictment elaborates on the government's accusations and means Abu Khattala could face the death penalty for his crimes. Here’s more on what Abu Khattala stands accused of from the AP:

Federal prosecutors have long accused Abu Khattala of being a ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks… The superseding indictment alleges that Abu Khattala was involved in two different attacks, hours apart, on the diplomatic compound… In the first burst of violence on the night of Sept. 11, prosecutors allege, Abu Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons. That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.
Prosecutors say Khattala supervised the plunder of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a second building known as the annex. The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty, authorities say.

Oct. 14 2014 7:12 PM

Drone Flying Political Banner on Field Starts Player Brawl, Fan Riot at Euro Soccer Match

A brawl broke out during a European soccer game between Serbia and Albania on Tuesday—and it started with a drone. Just before halftime of the match with the score tied at zero, things began to unravel on the pitch. A flare stopped play briefly, before a drone flew over the pitch flying a banner with an Albanian flag and nationalist symbols. “Dangling from the drone was the Albanian national flag, adorned with a map of Kosovo and the word “autochthonous” (“indigenous”),” the Washington Post reports. “The autonomous region, which the Serbian government refuses to recognize as independent, is home to many Albanian players.”

Serbia's Stefan Mitrović grabbed the banner and chaos ensued. Albanian players immediately intervened shoving Mitrović, trying to take the banner. The stadium in Belgrade did not have any visiting Albanian fans because the nation’s supporters were essentially banned from attending the away match between the Balkan rivals for fear of violence. It was the first game Albania had played in Serbia since 1967.

Both teams ultimately fled to their locker rooms as fans threw objects and ran onto the field, causing the match to be abandoned. “Serbia and Albania have a history of turbulent relations, predominantly in relation to the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008,” the BBC reports. “It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia refuses to do, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.”

A Serbian fan appears to hit Albania's Bekim Balaj with a stool.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Players brawl in Serbia during the match.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Albania's Burim Kukeli (C) and a teammate (hidden) clash with a fan.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Albania's players retreat into the tunnel.

Marko Djurica

The drone was the tipping point of what was already an unruly affair. From the Post: “Even before the drone incident, the atmosphere was heated. Fans of Serbia burned NATO flags. Riot police were already clashing with fans. Nationalistic chants rumbled in the stadium. It was a mess, made worse by the drone.”

Oct. 14 2014 6:15 PM

Justice Department Official Investigating Ferguson Police Is the Daughter of a Police Officer

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly—one of the reporters who, in August, was arrested for more or less no good reason in a Ferguson McDonald's—has a profile today of Christy E. Lopez, the Justice Department official heading the civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. Lopez's job is a tricky one: If she determines that the department systematically violates citizens' rights, she's also in charge of putting together a plan to solve the problem. She's defending the public, but also needs to maintain a working relationship with the police. Fortunately, it seems that her background is ideal for that kind of balance:

Part of her success, say those who have worked with her, is her understanding of police practices as well as the sacrifices made by members of law enforcement. Lopez’s father, who did not speak any English until he began attending school, worked his way up to become a homicide detective in Southern California. Her father’s job, as well as her mother’s work as an X-ray technician, offered their family a pathway to a middle-class existence. Lopez would become the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree and would eventually graduate from Yale Law School.

As the passage suggests, this isn't the first case of its kind that Lopez has been involved with; she's worked for the Department of Justice on similar investigations, as a federal court monitor overseeing police reforms, and as an independently contracted investigator of a controversial shooting in Illinois. And while she's working for an administration that's been tough on police departments, Reilly's sources—even a union leader who disagreed with her conclusions in the Illinois case—praise her receptiveness to the concerns of local authorities. What remains to be seen, of course, is whether anyone, no matter how qualified, can create a plan of action that's acceptable to both officers and residents in Ferguson, where demonstrators are still getting arrested in front of the police department going on two months since Michael Brown's death.

Oct. 14 2014 2:48 PM

Kesha Sues Super-Producer Dr. Luke for Sexual Assault, Abuse

Singer Kesha alleges in a lawsuit that pop producer Dr. Luke—who's co-written hits for her, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry, among many others—emotionally abused her for years, once threatened her physically, and on one occasion raped her. He's filed a countersuit accusing her of extortion. From TMZ:

Kesha was sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused for 10 years by her producer, Dr. Luke, to the point where she nearly died.

According to a new lawsuit—obtained by TMZ—Kesha claims Dr. Luke was abusive towards her almost from the get-go—when she signed on with him at 18—and made repeated sexual advances toward her. She claims he would force her to use drugs and alcohol to remove her defenses.

The suit says that the producer raped Kesha after giving her the drug GHB, the New York Daily News reports:

Kesha, whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert, claims she woke up naked in Dr. Luke's bed the following afternoon feeling sore, sick and unable to remember how she got there.
“Ms. Sebert immediately called her mother and made a ‘fresh complaint,’ telling her that she was naked in Dr. Luke’s hotel room, she did not know where her clothes were, that Dr. Luke had raped her, and that she needed to go to the emergency room,” the blockbuster lawsuit claims.
“Ms. Sebert later learned that the ‘sober pills’ Dr. Luke had given her were actually a form of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), more commonly known as the date rape drug, allowing him to bring Ms. Sebert back to his hotel room alone and rape her while she was unconscious,” the lawsuit states.

Dr. Luke's countersuit alleges that Kesha is fabricating allegations against him because she wants to terminate their contract, and that she has previously attempted to extort him by threatening to leak rumors about him to a blogger.

A New Yorker profile of Dr. Luke from last year alludes to tension between the two:

He signed Kesha (whose full name is Kesha Rose Sebert) as both a writer and an artist in 2005, when she was eighteen, and helped establish her with the hits “Right Round” and “Tik Tok.” But now that her pop-star dreams had come true she was proving hard to control. Relations reportedly became strained last year during the making of her sophomore album, “Warrior,” which Kesha wanted to use to establish her rock bona fides; others involved in the making of the record felt that she should continue in the party-girl dance-pop vein of her début, “Cannibal.” She recorded “Die Young,” produced by Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and Benny Blanco, and released it as the first single, in the fall of 2012. The song topped some charts, but immediately after the December 14th Newtown massacre it all but disappeared from the radio, and the Kesha haters went into a frenzy on Twitter. While Kesha had previously claimed to have written the lyrics by herself, on December 18th she tweeted back, “I Understand. I did NOT want to sing those lyrics and I was FORCED to.” When I asked Gottwald what was up with Kesha (he is also an executive producer of her MTV reality show, “My Crazy Beautiful Life”), he shrugged and said, “I haven’t heard from her in a while.”

Kesha and Dr. Luke were themselves the subject of a 2011 lawsuit filed by her former managers; that suit was settled.

Oct. 14 2014 1:25 PM

Koch Brothers Super PAC Donors Revealed, Are a Lot Like the Koch Brothers

Conservative billionaires David Koch and Charles "Chazzdawg"* Koch run a variety of political activism funds that don't have to disclose the names of their donors because they don't explicitly advocate for the election of specific candidates. But they've now launched a super PAC called the Freedom Partners Action Fund that does back individual candidates, and as such the identities of the group's donors are public. Politico takes the opportunity to examine the kinds of donors motivated to join the Kochs' money network, which is expected to spend more during this election cycle than either party's national committee spent in 2010. The answer seems to be, generally, "heartland industrialists"—no surprise given the Kochs' backgrounds as Kansas oil and engineering tycoons:

The group received $1 million apiece from Arkansas poultry producer Ronnie Cameron, Wisconsin roofing billionaire Diane Hendricks and Nebraska trucking magnate Clarence Werner...
“I just felt like it’s time to stand up and put my money where my mouth is,” said Cameron, who made his donation in two equal checks through Mountaire Corp., the Arkansas-based poultry company he owns...
“I just kind of decided that it was more important to support it than it was to maintain my privacy,” Cameron said. “I’m 69 years old. I’m much more concerned that my grandkids could be living under communism, or something like it, with the type of leadership that we have right now.”

Other ID'd donors:

  • Stanley Hubbard, Minnesota media mogul
  • Jack Biltis, founder of Arizona founder of a human-resources company
  • John W. Childs, founder of Massachusetts private equity firm
  • Ned Diefenthal, Louisiana chemical and manufacturing CEO
  • George W. Gibbs, founder of a Florida shipbuilding company
  • Robert Rowling, Texas investor
  • Dian Graves Stai, founder of a Texas health care company
  • Bob Mercer, New York hedge funder

Echoing Cameron's remarks to Politico, Diane Hendricks has worried publicly that America could become "socialistic," while Ned Diefenthal has criticized "socialist" government regulations.

*Not his real nickname. His real nickname is "Chazz Fresh."

Oct. 14 2014 11:56 AM

Dallas Ebola Patient Given Blood Transfusion From Kent Brantly

Dallas Ebola patient Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted the virus from the late Thomas Eric Duncan, has received a plasma transfusion from disease survivor Kent Brantly. From the Guardian:

Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the nonprofit medical mission group Samaritan’s Purse, confirmed that the plasma donation came from Dr Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the US from Liberia to be treated for Ebola. Brantly received an experimental treatment and fought off the virus, and has donated blood for transfusions for three others, including Pham.
“He’s a doctor. That’s what he’s there to do. That’s his heart,” Blume said.
Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood for Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match.

The Guardian piece adds some detail about Pham's contact with Duncan, writing that she worked in his room "often, from the day he was placed in intensive care until the day before he died." That's a span of 10 days. Boer Deng wrote today in Slate about the preventive gear worn by Ebola workers and the removal process thereof.

Oct. 14 2014 10:19 AM

Turkey Bombs Anti-ISIS Kurds Inside Its Own Borders

Turkey is bombing rebellious Kurds inside its own borders in a conflict over the country's refusal to let Kurdish fighters travel to Syria to fight ISIS, reports say. From Reuters ("PKK" is the Kurdistan Workers' Party):

Hurriyet newspaper's website said Turkish warplanes had hit PKK targets in Turkey on Sunday, the first such strikes since a peace process began in Turkey two years ago. The strikes were also reported by media sympathetic to the PKK.

Turkey's conflict with its Kurdish population is long-running, and while the country has accepted refugees fleeing ISIS's attack on the city of Kobani—which is just over the border in Syria—it refuses to allow Kurdish fighters to cross the other way.

Turkey has held to the position that it will not join the coalition fighting ISIS unless the coalition also attacks the forces of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Oct. 13 2014 9:58 PM

North Korea's Kim Jong-un Reportedly Strolls Back Into Public View

Kim Jong-un casually strolled back onto the scene—with a slight limp—on Tuesday, according to North Korea’s state run media. Speculation swirled about Kim’s grasp on power and the leader’s health since he went off the grid last month following his last public appearance at a concert on Sept. 3.

“The 31-year-old leader was shown on the front cover of North Korea’s main newspaper laughing and walking with a cane while talking to officials,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “appearing to end speculation that he might have been sidelined or was suffering from a grave medical condition.”

Here’s more from the Journal on Kim’s nonchalant reemergence:

The [newspaper] report said Mr. Kim was giving “field guidance” at a new residential area for scientists. Such reports are a staple of North Korean state media and are designed to show the leader is signing off on major projects or giving final additional instructions. By showing Mr. Kim walking with a cane, the images appeared to confirm that the leader has had problems with his legs, as has been suspected by officials in Seoul. Media reports, citing unnamed intelligence officials, said Mr. Kim has had surgery for ankle problems. Other reports have suggested he has had gout… The report showing Mr. Kim’s reappearance was published on Tuesday but wasn’t dated, as is common with North Korean state media. As such, it couldn’t be confirmed exactly when Mr. Kim was shown but the images were the first of him in public since he appeared at a concert on Sept. 3.

"Looking over the exterior of the apartment houses and public buildings, decorated with diverse coloured tiles, (Mr Kim) expressed great satisfaction, saying they looked very beautiful," the North Korean news agency reported, according to the BBC. This is, presumably, Kim’s “great satisfaction” look.