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Concerns about Ebola in the United States have grown after the second Texas nurse who contracted the virus reported the Centers for Disease Control had allowed her to board a plane from Ohio to Texas the day before she was diagnosed. The nurse, Amber Vinson, had called the CDC complaining of symptoms, but an official gave her the OK to fly. Two schools in Cleveland will remain closed today because a staff member may have traveled aboard the same plane. On Wednesday, Vinson was transferred to an isolation unit at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.
President Obama has canceled two days of planned travel to stay at the White House and oversee the government’s response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden is set to testify before Congress today at a hearing on what U.S. officials are doing to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. The head of Texas Health Presbyterian, the Dallas hospital where the two nurses were infected and Thomas Eric Duncan died, is also expected to testify and issue an apology.
In West Africa, nearly 5,000 people have died as authorities struggle to contain the outbreak. In Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, police fired tear gas on people who took to the streets to complain that the body of a woman who died from Ebola was left on the street for two days.
The Pentagon says hundreds of Islamic State fighters have been killed in intensifying U.S.-led airstrikes on the Syrian town of Kobani. Rear Admiral John Kirby made the claim on Wednesday.
Rear Admiral John Kirby: “One of the reasons why you’re seeing more strikes there is because there’s more ISIL there. We believe, and it’s hard to give an exact number, but we believe that we have killed several hundred ISIL fighters, again, in and around Kobani.”
The U.S.-led coalition has been hitting the area around Kobani with the highest number of strikes since launching the bombing campaign in Syria more than three weeks ago. It remains unclear if the strikes will stop ISIS fighters from capturing the mainly Kurdish town. ISIS has seized about half of Kobani, and the United Nations has warned of a massacre if they take full control. The strikes come days after the Obama administration appeared to distance itself from defending Kobani, saying it was not a “strategic objective.” Speaking at the State Department, Special Envoy Gen. John Allen said the United States is focused on providing humanitarian aid there, while stopping the ISIS advance in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Gen. John Allen: “We’re actually focusing, obviously, around Kobani, providing airstrikes to provide humanitarian assistance and relief there, obviously, to give some time to the fighters to organize on the ground. But in the Anbar province, our hope is to stop or halt that tactical initiative and momentum that they have there.”
In his comments, Special Envoy Gen. John Allen says the United States has abandoned training existing units of the rebel Free Syrian Army, in favor of building out a new rebel force.
Gen. John Allen: “It’s not going to happen immediately. We’re working to establish the training sites now, and we’ll ultimately go through a vetting process and begin to bring the trainers and the fighters in to begin to build that force out.”
Allen says there has been “no formal coordination” with the FSA during the U.S.-led bombing of Syria.
Comments by Special Envoy Gen. John Allen follow the leak of a CIA study that said previous U.S. efforts to arm and train rebel groups have mostly failed. President Obama first commissioned the study in 2012 as he weighed arming Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The findings fueled White House skepticism about backing the rebels, but Obama went ahead with training efforts that have recently expanded to Saudi Arabia. Although the CIA found most U.S. attempts to prop up insurgent forces failed in countries such as Cuba and Nicaragua, there was one exception: the mujahideen rebels who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Its members would go on to form the core of al-Qaeda.
The United Nations says a lack of funding has forced the cutting of food rations for up to one million people in Afghanistan. The World Food Program director for Afghanistan, Claude Jibidar, said a focus on other global crises has led to a shortfall.
Claude Jibidar: “The world context has become very complicated with a lot of emergencies. Just to name a few: the needs for Ebola, what’s happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Central African Republic, in Sudan. I mean, all of those emergencies of course are all having a toll on the capacity of the donors to provide Afghanistan and Afghanistan people with all they need.”
The cuts mean food rations will be reduced from 2,100 calories per day to around 1,500. Most of them are distributed to the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down the state’s voter ID law days before early voting is set to begin. The court ruled that requiring a voter to present photo identification is unconstitutional. State lawmakers approved the measure last year by overriding a veto from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
A federal jury has awarded $4.6 million to the family of a homeless preacher who died after suffering police brutality. Witnesses to the 2010 incident say Marvin Booker was forcibly restrained, tasered and then placed face down in a holding cell. He was pronounced dead hours later in what the coroner ruled a homicide. Booker’s family won the federal lawsuit against the city of Denver and five of the officers involved.
A New York prisoner has been freed after 29 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. David McCallum, who is African-American, was ordered released on Wednesday after prosecutors said he had falsely confessed at the age of 16. McCallum and another man, the late Willie Stuckey, were convicted of a 1985 kidnapping and murder. No evidence tied them to the crime except their confessions, which prosecutors now say were likely coerced. Recent DNA and fingerprint testing has tied others to the stolen vehicle involved. Stuckey died in 2001 behind bars. In his first comments as a free man, McCallum called the moment bittersweet because Stuckey was not walking out of the courtroom by his side.
David McCallum: “I’m feeling like I want to go home, finally, after 29 years. Of course, this is a bittersweet moment because I’m walking out alone. There was someone else who was supposed to be walking out with me, but unfortunately he’s not, and that’s Willie Stuckey.”
Reporter: “How do you feel having lost three decades of your life for something you didn’t do?”
David McCallum: “I’ve had a long time to think about that, unfortunately. But at the same time I think I’m mature enough to understand that I can’t get that back, and I won’t even attempt to get that back. I think my life kind of starts form this point on.”
McCallum says he plans to become an advocate for the wrongfully convicted. In doing so, he would continue the legacy of another wrongfully convicted prisoner who himself championed McCallum’s case — the late boxer and activist Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Carter was involved McCallum’s case for a decade before his death earlier this year. In an article weeks before his passing, Carter said his “final wish” was for a new look at McCallum’s conviction.
The feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian has been forced to cancel a planned lecture in Utah after threats of a shooting massacre. Sarkeesian has long faced bomb, death and rape threats from online harassers opposed to her critiques of sexism in video games. This week, Sarkeesian was scheduled to give a lecture at Utah State University when the university received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” He used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, police could not prevent people from bringing guns. A university spokesperson told the Standard-Examiner newspaper the school had determined it was safe for Sarkeesian to speak because: “The threat we received is not out of the norm for (this woman).”