Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Oct. 21 2014 9:53 PM

Ben Bradlee, Editor of the Washington Post During Watergate, Dies

Update, 9:53 p.m.: Journalists remember Bradlee.

Update, 9:30 p.m.: President Obama's statement on Bradlee's death.


Original Post: Longtime Washington Post editor, Benjamin Bradlee, who led the paper through its coverage of the Watergate scandal, died on Tuesday, the Post reports. Bradlee was 93 years old and died of natural causes.

Here’s more on Bradlee’s life and famed career from the Post:

From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily… The most compelling story of Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.
But Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them.
The Post’s circulation nearly doubled while Mr. Bradlee was in charge of the newsroom — first as managing editor and then as executive editor — as did the size of its newsroom staff. And he gave the paper ambition. Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others...
Modern American newspaper editors rarely achieve much fame, but Mr. Bradlee became a celebrity and loved the status. Jason Robards played him in the movie “All The President’s Men,” based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book about Watergate.
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Oct. 21 2014 7:56 PM

NBC Cameraman Declared Ebola-Free, Will Be Released From Hospital

The cameraman who contracted Ebola while working with NBC News in Liberia has been declared free of the virus, the Nebraska Medical Center said on Tuesday. Ashoka Mukpo has been receiving treatment at the center’s biocontainment unit since Oct. 6 after being transported out of Liberia. The 33-year-old will be allowed to leave the hospital on Wednesday, according to NBC News.

Here’s more on the good news from NBC News:

A blood test confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Mukpo, 33 — one of eight Americans to have been diagnosed with Ebola — no longer has the virus in his bloodstream, the hospital said. It said he's free to head home to Rhode Island. "Recovering from Ebola is a truly humbling feeling," the hospital quoted Mukpo as saying. "Too many are not as fortunate and lucky as I've been. I'm very happy to be alive."

The medical center also took to Twitter to celebrate the news.

"The first Ebola patient treated in Omaha, 52-year-old Dr. Rick Sacra, also contracted the virus in Liberia,” according to the Lincoln Star-Herald. “He was treated in the Nebraska Med Center’s biocontainment unit from Sept. 5 through Sept. 25.”

Oct. 21 2014 4:12 PM

Cowboys Waive Michael Sam

The Dallas Cowboys have waived Michael Sam, the team announced today. Sam spent seven weeks on the organization's practice squad. According to SB Nation's Blogging the Boys Cowboys site, the move was triggered by the team's glut of players at Sam's position (defensive line) and is not thought to have anything to do with publicity related to his sexual orientation.

Per the terms of the NFL's waiver rules, Sam can be claimed by any team in the next 24 hours; if multiple teams claim him, his rights will be assigned to the team with the worst current record.

Oct. 21 2014 3:52 PM

Washington 911 Went Down for Six Hours in April Because a Call Counter Maxed Out

This April, most 911 services went out in seven states for six hours; the entire state of Washington was affected by the near total blackout. And per a new Federal Communications Commission report, the root cause of the crisis—which is not believed to have led to any deaths—was very simple. From the Washington Post:

At the center of the disruption was a system maintained by a third-party contractor, a Colorado-based company called Intrado. Intrado owns and operates a routing service, taking in 911 calls and directing them to the most appropriate public safety answering point, or PSAP, in industry parlance. Ordinarily, Intrado's automated system assigns a unique identifying code to each incoming call before passing it on — a method of keeping track of phone calls as they move through the system.
But on April 9, the software responsible for assigning the codes maxed out at a pre-set limit; the counter literally stopped counting at 40 million calls. As a result, the routing system stopped accepting new calls, leading to a bottleneck and a series of cascading failures elsewhere in the 911 infrastructure.

The Post's account might be slightly off—based on the FCC report, it doesn't appear that the Intrado system assigned a code of the type that created the problem to every call, just certain kinds—but the gist remains: A computer database in Colorado hit a size limit, and 911 went out for millions of people across the country.

Oct. 21 2014 2:35 PM

NSA Is Letting Its Chief Technical Officer Work 20 Hours a Week for a Private Company

The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into a report by Reuters that the National Security Agency agreed to let its chief technical officer work 20 hours a week for a private company founded by the agency's former director. The officer, Patrick Dowd, was approved to work part time for a company founded by retired general and former agency chief Keith Alexander called IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. That approval is now under internal review—and being questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and Florida Rep. Alan Grayson. (It's not clear whether Dowd has begun working for IronNet yet.) From Reuters:

The Senate intelligence panel will not decide whether further action is necessary until after it has examined NSA's internal review, said the congressional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would "request an investigation" of Dowd's deal with Alexander's firm.

Reuters reports that the arrangement apparently does not break any laws, though it does seem to present some obvious conflict-of-interest problems, not the least of which is that there are only so many hours in a week, and it seems a little strange to have someone with a major role at a criticial national security agency (which is so critical that it's called the National Security Agency) spending 20 of them helping Home Depot protect its online customer accounts or what have you.

Oct. 21 2014 1:24 PM

After 13 Years of U.S. Occupation, Afghanistan Opium Production Is at an All-Time High

The United States has spent $7.6 billion on counternarcotics programs during its 13-year occupation of Afghanistan, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction announced today in a critical report that cites United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime statistics indicating Afghan opium poppy production reached its highest level ever in 2013. From the report:

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007. With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014.

To put those numbers in context, $7.6 billion over 13 years is about $585 million of counternarcotics spending annually on an area that is roughly as large and as populous as Texas (and has been occupied by as many as 100,000 U.S. troops). The United States federal government spends about $9 billion a year on domestic law enforcement activities related to drug control. Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of opium before the American occupation and remains so now.

The Washington Post profiled Afghanistan special inspector general John Sopko last year, writing that the energetic investigator "has turned a failed agency into the bane of the existence of American bureaucrats scrambling to bring the war to a dignified end."

Opium can be turned into heroin or morphine or simply bought and smoked on its own in the parking lot of a Phish concert. (It's addictive in any form.)

Oct. 21 2014 11:17 AM

The Pennsylvania Fugitive Sniper Is Still at Large After 39 Days

Some schools in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountain region have closed after reports that Eric Frein, who is suspected of murdering a state trooper and injuring another in a Sept. 12 sniper attack, has been seen in the area. From

Police reported Monday night that a law enforcement official spotted Frein, 31, near the Swiftwater Post Office, which is near Pocono Mountain East High School.
On Friday night, a woman walking near the school said she saw a man with a rifle matching Frein's description, and police believe she spotted the gunman.

The Pocono Mountain Area School District announced today that it would close because of the sightings, though it's not clear how long the closure will last. Per Reuters, the district serves 9,400 students.

Frein is thought to have prepared in "survivalist" style to live in the woods as a fugitive after his attack on the troopers. Since the shootings took place 39 days ago, authorities have not reported any contact with—or confirmed sightings of—Frein despite a significant manhunt.

Oct. 21 2014 10:27 AM

Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years, May Only Serve 10 Months

Oscar Pistorius—who was cleared of premeditated murder charges but found guilty of a lesser "culpable homicide" charge for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp—has been sentenced to five years in prison in South Africa. Pistorius has been taken to prison, though how long he'll have to serve before being eligible for release is disputed. From the New York Times:

The athlete’s defense team said the law under which he was punished calls for him to serve only one-sixth of the prison term — 10 months — before he can be placed on house arrest. He was also given a suspended three-year term on separate firearms charges.
But some South African legal experts said the conversion of prison time to house arrest was not automatic and required negotiations with the correctional authorities. After serving half the sentence, Mr. Pistorius can also apply for parole.

Pistorius shot Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013. Steenkamp's parents were present in court today, and her father told reporters he was "very satisfied" with the sentence.

Oct. 20 2014 10:15 PM

Fashion Icon Oscar de La Renta Dies at Age 82

Fashion icon Oscar de La Renta died on Monday at the age of 82, ABC News reports. The designer was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. De la Renta’s designs shot to prominence in the early 1960s when he became a favorite of Jaqueline Kennedy and went onto create his own label shortly after.

Here’s more from Variety:

Born in the Dominican Republic to a powerful family, de la Renta went to study painting in Spain and became and apprenticed with Cristobal Balenciaga before moving to Paris to work at Lanvin and Balmain. He launched his ready-to-wear label in 1965 in New York… His work was also a favorite of first ladies — he dressed Nancy Reagan in the 1980s and then provided inaugural gowns for Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Hillary Clinton introduced a recent retrospective of his designs, saying, “His name alone evokes elegance and timeless beauty. And his designs give each of us a chance to feel like we’re special, too.”

Oct. 20 2014 9:14 PM

CDC Announces New Guidelines for Health Care Workers Treating Ebola Patients

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new, revised guidelines for health workers treating Ebola patients on Monday. The new protocol comes in the wake of two nurses treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Presbyterian Hospital Dallas contracting the virus. The changes called for increased training, heightened supervision, and new requirements on the type of protective gear worn by medical staff treating Ebola patients. The CDC described the changes as “tightening previous infection control guidance for healthcare workers caring for patients with Ebola, to ensure there is no ambiguity.”

1. Rigorous and repeated training
Focusing only on [personal protective equipment or PPE] gives a false sense of security of safe care and worker safety. Training is a critical aspect of ensuring infection control. Facilities need to ensure all healthcare providers practice numerous times to make sure they understand how to appropriately use the equipment, especially in the step by step donning and doffing of PPE. CDC and partners will ramp up training offerings for healthcare personnel across the country to reiterate all the aspects of safe care recommendations.  
2. No skin exposure when [personal protective equipment] is worn
Given the intensive and invasive care that US hospitals provide for Ebola patients, the tightened guidelines are more directive in recommending no skin exposure when PPE is worn.  CDC is recommending all of the same PPE included in the August 1, 2014 guidance, with the addition of coveralls and single-use, disposable hoods.  Goggles are no longer recommended as they may not provide complete skin coverage in comparison to a single use disposable full face shield. Additionally, goggles are not disposable, may fog after extended use, and healthcare workers may be tempted to manipulate them with contaminated gloved hands.  PPE recommended for U.S. healthcare workers caring for patients with Ebola includes:
--Double gloves
--Boot covers that are waterproof and go to at least mid-calf or leg covers
--Single use fluid resistant or imperable gown that extends to at least mid-calf  or coverall without intergraded hood.
--Respirators, including either N95 respirators or powered air purifying respirator(PAPR)
--Single-use, full-face shield that is disposable
--Surgical hoods to ensure complete coverage of the head and neck
--Apron that is waterproof and covers the torso to the level of the mid-calf should be used if Ebola patients have vomiting or diarrhea
The guidance describes different options for combining PPE to allow a facility to select PPE for their protocols based on availability, healthcare personnel familiarity, comfort and preference while continuing to provide a standardized, high level of protection for healthcare personnel. The guidance includes having:
--Two specific, recommended PPE options for facilities to choose from. Both options provide equivalent protection if worn, donned and doffed correctly.
--Designated areas for putting on and taking off PPE. Facilities should ensure that space and lay-out allows for clear separation between clean and potentially contaminated areas
--Trained observer to monitor PPE use and safe removal
--Step-by-step PPE removal instructions that include: Disinfecting visibly contaminated PPE using an EPA-registered disinfectant wipe prior to taking off equipment
--Disinfection of gloved hands using either an EPA-registered disinfectant wipe or alcohol-based hand rub between steps of taking off PPE.
3. Trained monitor
CDC is recommending a trained monitor actively observe and supervise each worker taking PPE on and off. This is to ensure each worker follows the step by step processes, especially to disinfect visibly contaminated PPE. The trained monitor can spot any missteps in real-time and immediately address.

“Prior to the three Ebola infections in Dallas, including two health care workers, the CDC did not recommend full body coverage for Ebola, but instead recommended at least gloves, a gown, eye protection and a face mask,” according to Time.