Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Aug. 28 2014 8:48 PM

WHO Warns Ebola Infections Could Reach 20,000

The World Health Organization issued a dire warning on the potential toll of the Ebola outbreak on Thursday, saying the virus could infect as many as 20,000 people in the next nine months. The bleak forecast comes as the organization continues to try to mobilize the global community to combat the outbreak in West Africa. The WHO released documents on Thursday indicating the spread of the virus continues to accelerate—with more than 40 percent of the reported cases occurring in the last three weeks—and that “the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than that currently reported,” the New York Times reports. “According to the latest figures released by the health organization on Thursday, the total cases had risen to 3,069, with 1,552 deaths, in four West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria,”

Here’s more from the WHO report via the Wall Street Journal:

The Geneva-based WHO said in its report, which it dubbed a road map for responding to Ebola, strengthening laboratory facilities and adding staff with more expertise in the disease were necessary to containing the outbreak. Public health infrastructure needed to be improved to cope with future threat… The WHO said getting health experts to regions affected by the Ebola virus outbreak was an urgent priority. That has been made difficult because international airlines, including Air France, British Airways and Emirates Airline, have suspended flights to some of the four affected countries. Air traffic into the affected areas was likely to be addressed in the next two weeks, the WHO said. By the end of September, a United Nations-led plan will be launched to improve air access to the area, it added. The WHO program will likely cost around $490 million and require contributions from national governments, some U.N. and non-governmental agencies, as well as humanitarian organizations, it said.
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Aug. 28 2014 7:36 PM

Canada Trolls Russian Geography on Twitter, Russia Snarks Back

Amidst a serious potential escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with evidence emerging that Russian troops are engaged in combat in the country, the good folks at the Canadian NATO delegation decided to go on the snark offensive, firing off the above tweet. While amusing, one might reasonably wonder if there are not better ways to spend a country’s strategic resources than photoshopping a map to tweak an adversary. One might also have thought that Russia, involved in a pretty serious conflict on its border, might have either: a) been too busy to notice, or b) taken the high road. But, alas, even the high road has Wi-Fi these days.

The Russian NATO delegation, while not disputing Canada’s founding of the state of “Not Russia,” did take issue with its depiction of Crimea as still a part of “Not Russia.” In response, apparently relying on the international norm of “annexers keepers,” the Russians fired back.

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There were zero reports of the two delegations resorting to wedgies to settle the dispute.

Aug. 28 2014 6:04 PM

SWAT Team Arrest of Online Gamer Caught Live on Webcam After Hoax 9-1-1 Call

Jordan Mathewson was playing the video game Counter-Strike online Wednesday when he noticed something wasn’t quite right. “Uh oh, this isn’t good,” Mathewson said on the live online broadcast of his gaming session. “They’re clearing rooms, what in the world? I think we’re getting swatted.” Mathewson, sitting in a video game company in Littleton, Colorado was, in fact, being “swatted.”

Within moments, a heavily armed SWAT team charged in the room and arrested the gamer after a call to police said there was an active shooter in the building. "The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them. He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well," the Littleton Police Department said in a statement. "There were no victims or any evidence that a shooting had taken place.” The 9-1-1 call appears to be hoax. But the danger to Mathewson was real as police in Littleton, understandably, take active shooter situations seriously after nearby shooting tragedies at Columbine and Aurora.

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The practice of swatting, as Slate’s Justin Peters wrote last year, is when “you contact the police, falsely report a horrible crime or a hostage standoff, and convince them to send a SWAT team to your unsuspecting victim’s door.” The high stakes prank, which also happens to be illegal, first blipped on the pop culture radar with celebrities getting swatted. Now, the BBC reports, some in the gaming community have adopted it as a way to sabotage opponents.

Aug. 28 2014 5:05 PM

Five Authors of Ebola Paper Published Today Have Died of Ebola

Five doctors, nurses, and hospital staffers who are co-credited as authors of a paper about Ebola published today in Science have already died of the disease, the publication says. All five worked at Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, and all were "experienced members of the hospital's Lassa fever team." (Lassa fever is "a hemorrhagic illness with many symptoms similar to Ebola.")

One of the victims was Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor supervising Sierra Leone's Ebola response, whose death last month was widely reported.

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Three of the victims were infected while caring for another colleague of theirs who contracted the virus while pregnant, Science says. One of those victims, Mbalu Fonnie, was the nursing supervisor of the hospital's Lassa fever ward and had survived a Lassa fever infection. The article does not say whether the colleague that Fonnie and others were caring for survived.

Aug. 28 2014 4:31 PM

NFL Announces Strict Penalties for Domestic Violence Infractions

The NFL faced heavy criticism last month for suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice—who was videotaped dragging his wife out of an Atlantic City elevator after allegedly knocking her unconscious—only two games, a penalty smaller than some of the suspensions the league gives to players who smoke marijuana. At the time Rice was suspended, the league's rules did not specificy a set penalty for domestic violence incidents, and he was disciplined under the broader "personal conduct" policy. Today, league commissioner Roger Goodell has instituted rules that mandate a six-game suspension for domestic violence offenses, with second-time offenders banned from the league (with the possibility of reinstatement after one year). ESPN has posted a letter Goodell sent team owners:

At times...we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.
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NFL players can be punished by the league for off-field incidents even if their behavior does not lead to a criminal conviction.

Aug. 28 2014 3:36 PM

Painkiller Overdoses Up Considerably in New York City Since 2000

Overdose deaths involving painkillers are up more than 250% in New York City since the beginning of the century, the city's health department reported in data released today, though the number of drug overdose deaths overall has stayed relatively stable.

In the year 2000, only 59 overdose deaths in the city involved "opiod analgesics," i.e. painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin. In 2013, that number was 215. (The word "involved" is used rather than "caused" because many victims of drug OD's have multiple substances in their system.) Wealthy neighborhoods had the highest rates of painkiller-involved OD's, the report said.

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The number of total drug overdose deaths has generally stayed in the 600-800 range in the city since 2000—which is perhaps unusual given that drug overdose rates in the cocuntry as a whole have been steadily rising for decades.

Aug. 28 2014 1:37 PM

Retired Marine, in Uniform, Becomes Unofficial  Elementary School Crossing Guard

It's been a rough summer, but here's something nice about retired Marine Cpl. Lewis Alston of Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

...when the school year started on Monday, Alston, who is a chaplain for the Lancaster County Marine Corps League, headed to the school and saw that they didn’t have a crossing guard at one busy intersection. Because he had been at a funeral service that day, Alston was still wearing his marine uniform.
“I had my uniform on, and I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be a golden opportunity for the students to see a marine help them cross the street?’” the former truck driver said.
Every day since then, Alston has gone to the school in his uniform in the mornings and afternoons when he can to walk the children safely across the street.
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The chief of police tells ABC News he supports Alston's efforts. A school representative says another group of community volunteers helps guide students through a local park.

Here's video of Alston in action.

Go out and do something nice for someone today!

Aug. 28 2014 11:46 AM

Minnesota Father of Nine Killed Fighting for ISIS in Syria

Another American, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, has been killed fighting on behalf of ISIS in Syria. Muhumed was from Minnesota; Douglas McAuthur McCain, whose death in Syria was reported Tuesday, attended high school in Minnesota, though it's not clear whether the two men knew each other.

Minnesota Public Radio reported earlier in the summer that Muhumed was among the group of "as many as 15" Americans of Somali ancestry who had left the Twin Cities to fight in Syria:

"A Muslim has to stand up for [what's] right," Muhumed, 29, wrote in a Jan. 2 [Facebook] post. "I give up this worldly life for Allah."
Muhumed, who claims he wants to save the global Muslim community, said if that causes others to consider him a terrorist, he is "happy with it." He asked Allah to forgive him and to "make my mom strong for the decision that I made."
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One man told a Twin Cities Fox affiliate that women are being recruited as well:

According to Abdi Bihi, a leader in the local Somali community, ISIS has recently begun trying to recruit young women from the Twin Cities to their cause as well.
"They are brainwashing them to marry them off to jihadists," he said. "They call them to help out as nurses, help out the wounded -- but the real catch is they will be sexually exploited."

Muhumed leaves behind nine children.

Aug. 28 2014 10:31 AM

Tsarnaev Sister Charged With Making a Bomb Threat

The sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been charged with aggravated harrassment for making a bomb threat against the mother of her boyfriend's children, the New York Post reports:

Ailina Tsarnaeva, who lives in North Bergen, NJ, allegedly phoned the woman at her Harlem home on Monday and warned her to keep her distance or face explosive consequences.
“Leave us alone. I know people who can put a bomb on you,” Tsarnaeva, 23, allegedly said.
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Tsarnaeva turned herself in to police after the threat was reported and has since been released.

The article says she was charged with obstruction in 2011 for allegedly lying to police who believed she was connected to individuals suspected of using counterfeit money to pay for a meal at an Applebee's in Dorchester, Massachusetts. That charge was dismissed.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed while attempting to evade arrest. Dzokhar Tsarnaev is still awaiting trial.

Aug. 27 2014 8:31 PM

USC Football Player Admits Lying About Injuring Himself While Saving Drowning Nephew

The University of Southern California announced on Wednesday that cornerback Josh Shaw lied when he said he injured himself over the weekend while rescuing his 7-year-old nephew from drowning in a pool. USC released a statement saying Shaw “said that the story he told of rescuing his nephew in a pool in Palmdale, Calif., was a complete fabrication… He apologized for misleading his coaches, teammates, athletic department officials and the public.”

The reversal by the Trojans’ senior team captain came after he told USC coaches he sustained the injury this way (via CBS Sports):

Shaw was at a family social function when he saw his 7-year-old nephew, who cannot swim, in distress in a pool. Shaw lept from a second-floor balcony and injured himself landing on the concrete below. He then crawled into the pool and got his nephew out safely.
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“I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew,” Shaw said on Monday in a release. “That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside,” USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said of Shaw's story in a statement earlier this week. “But that's the kind of person he is. It is unfortunate that he'll be sidelined for a while and we will miss his leadership and play, but I know he'll be working hard to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Discrepancies over Shaw’s version of events, however, caused the school to take another look at the player’s account. On Wednesday, USC announced Shaw had fabricated the story, suspending him indefinitely from the football team. Shaw’s attorney, Donald Etra, told USA Today “Shaw fell from a balcony on Saturday night August 3rd in Los Angeles and injured both of his ankles.”

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story. I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized.”

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