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The governors of New York and New Jersey are facing federal pressure to reverse new quarantine rules on medical workers returning from West Africa. Under the policy, arriving passengers with a risk of Ebola exposure will be placed in a 21-day quarantine. Illinois has implemented a similar policy. White House officials lobbied New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the weekend, saying the rules would discourage workers from joining the Ebola response in West Africa. On Sunday night, Cuomo announced a slight easing of the restrictions, saying the workers can be quarantined at home. At a news conference, Cuomo said he is trying to balance the need to help contain Ebola in West Africa with the protection of New Yorkers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I understand that some people may believe the 21-day home quarantine is a burden. I would ask for their cooperation and understanding, and remember what we’re trying to balance. We’re trying to balance aid to West Africa and protection and the public health of New Yorkers and addressing the fear and concern of New Yorkers.”
A nurse named Kaci Hickox became the first health worker isolated under the rules after returning to New Jersey from Sierra Leone. Hickox has been placed in an isolated tent inside a Newark hospital despite testing negative for Ebola. She has threatened to fight her 21-day quarantine in court, saying the order violates her constitutional rights.
The World Health Organization says nearly 5,000 people have now died from Ebola out of 10,000 known cases. But the actual death toll may be significantly higher in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three worst-hit countries. On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, kicked off a visit to West Africa in Guinea.
Samantha Power: “I want to say to the Guinean people, on behalf of President Obama, that we stand with you, and we will be with you ’til the end, until we have ended this horrible epidemic in your country. Together, we can beat this epidemic. We have beaten every Ebola epidemic in history, and we will do so if we dramatically increase our involvement and our engagement.”
The virus is now threatening Ivory Coast, which shares a border with Guinea and Liberia. The World Health Organization has sent experts to Ivory Coast and Mali to help prepare for a possible outbreak.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces have made gains on the Islamic State with the backing of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The strikes continued over the weekend with dozens of attacks in the cross-border area under ISIS control. The Iraqi military regained control of a town south of Baghdad while the Kurdish Peshmerga ousted ISIS fighters in the northern town of Zumar. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces in Syria say they have thwarted a new ISIS push on the besieged town of Kobani.
U.S. and British forces have formally ended combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. On Sunday, the NATO occupation handed over formal control to the Afghan military. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Afghanistan is poised for a more stable future.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon: “There is a better chance of a more stable future in Afghanistan because we have a government there of national unity and an army that is supported by the local population that represents all parts of Afghanistan — you don’t have the sectarian divide that we’ve seen in Iraq — and an army that’s already proved itself over the last couple of years that it is prepared to tackle the Taliban in some of the more difficult areas of north Helmand, and therefore there is a greater chance that Afghanistan will be more secure.”
Helmand is the center of Afghanistan’s drug trade, housing more than 80 percent of the poppy growth used for heroin. The New York Times reports “the Taliban have never been stronger in [Helmand],” claiming large areas around government centers and rural districts. The handover comes amidst the deadliest six-month period for Afghan forces since the war began 13 years ago. The handover also marks the end of British combat operations inside Afghanistan, while around 10,000 American forces will remain.
In Egypt, 23 pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to three years in prison for rallying against the government’s anti-protest law. The activists took part in a June demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners and the annulment of a law that only allows government-approved demonstration. The group includes Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, deemed by Amnesty International to be “prisoners of conscience.”
A Palestinian American has been killed in the latest shooting of a young teenager by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. The victim, 14-year old Orwah Hammad, was shot in the head in the village of Silwad. Hundreds of people marched Saturday after his funeral. The killing comes days after a Palestinian man slammed his car into a group of Israelis in Jerusalem, killing an infant and wounding eight others. That attack followed the running over and killing of a five-year-old Palestinian girl by an Israeli settler in the West Bank. The Israeli military ruled the death an accident.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has won re-election in a runoff contest. On Sunday, Rousseff defeated pro-corporate candidate Aécio Neves with just more than 51 percent of the vote.
Two people were killed and three severely wounded on Friday when a student opened fire at his high school in Washington state. The shooter was identified as 14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman. He opened fire in the school cafeteria before taking his own life. One girl died at the scene, while another girl succumbed to her wounds on Sunday night. Three others remain hospitalized, two of them in critical condition. A female teacher has been credited with preventing more deaths by wrestling the shooter to the ground as he tried to reload. There have been more than 75 school shootings since the Newtown massacre that left 26 dead in December 2012.
In California, two sheriff’s deputies were killed and another wounded Friday by a shooter wielding an AR-15 assault rifle. The suspect was arrested after a police chase.
New details have emerged on the captivity of several Americans and other Westerners by the Islamic State in Syria. The New York Times reports the hostages were subjected to months of psychological and physical torture.
According to freed survivors, the six American and British male hostages were subjected to the worst abuse, because of the militants’ political grievances and their governments’ refusal to negotiate a ransom. The American journalist James Foley was subjected to the worst treatment, undergoing mock executions and repeated waterboarding. Foley was among four people — another American and two Brits — executed in beheading videos since August. A number of European hostages have been released after their governments paid a ransom. The United States says its policy of not paying ransoms ultimately protects more Americans by making them less valuable targets.
Amnesty International is calling for an investigation of potential human rights abuses in the police crackdown on protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In a new report, Amnesty says police committed violations in the weeks that followed the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. Amnesty researcher Justin Mazzola said the militarized crackdown raises major concerns.
Justin Mazzola: “They came out in a presence that only served to intimidate. They used tactics such as the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, oftentimes when it probably was not justified, considering what was happening on the ground at that point in time. Then you had local officials imposing policies restricting people’s rights to actually go out and protest, whether it was the imposition of a curfew, the imposition of a five-second rule, people had to continue to keep walking, designated assembly areas where there’s like a free speech zone within Ferguson, but anywhere else you have to keep walking. And these all go to show that basically there needs to be a national review both of use-of-force policies as well as policies in policing protests.”
In a separate report out today, the advocacy group PEN American Center calls on the Justice Department to investigate a police crackdown on journalists covering the Ferguson protests. PEN says its compiled more than 50 cases of press freedom violations, culminating in the arrest of 21 journalists.