Saturday, December 6, 2014

American hostage 'murdered' during failed rescue attempt in Yemen

The American freelance photographer kidnapped by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen in 2013 was 'murdered' Friday during a U.S. special operations rescue mission inside the country after it was learned that his life was in imminent danger, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement.


Luke Somers was still alive, but badly injured when the team reached him, a Yemeni national security official told Fox News. The official said Somers was shot by militants. None of the special forces members were injured.

Hagel said in the statement that the rescue bid was conducted in partnership with the Yemen's government and its security forces.Ten militants were killed between the rescue attempt and the drone strike prior to the mission, the Yemeni official confirmed.

South African hostage Pierre Korkie was the other hostage killed in the operation, the Gift of the Givers, a South African aid group confirmed.

President Obama, who ordered the mission, released a statement early Saturday morning condemning the "barbaric murder" of Somers.

Lucy Somers, the photojournalist's sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother's death from FBI agents at 12 a.m. ET Saturday.

"We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace," Lucy Somers said from London.

Yemen's national security chief, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Luke Somers on Saturday.

"Al Qaeda promised to conduct the execution (of Somers) today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack," al-Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain. "He was freed but unfortunately he was dead."

Yemen's local Al Qaeda branch, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, posted a video Thursday that showed Somers, threatening to kill him in three days if the United States didn't meet the group's demands, which weren't specified. He was kidnapped in September 2013 from Sanaa.

The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged Al Qaeda militants early Saturday, a Yemeni security official said before news of Somers' death. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen's southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said. The official did not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to brief journalists.

Later Saturday, tribal leaders said they saw helicopters flying over an area called Wadi Abdan in Shabwa province.

American authorities rarely discuss their drone strike campaign in Yemen. The strikes are despised by many in Yemen due to civilian casualties, legitimizing for many the attacks on American interests. At least six suspected militants were killed in an airstrike in the same province last month.

Before her brother's death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who "always believes the best in people." She ended with the plea: "Please let him live."

In a statement, Somers' father, Michael, also called his son "a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people" and asked for his safe release.

Korkie was kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz in May 2013, along with his wife Yolande. His wife later was released returned to South Africa. A non-governmental group, Gift of the Givers, helped mediate her release. Those close to Korkie said al-Qaida militants demanded a $3 million ransom for his release.

"The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al Qaeda tomorrow," Gift of Givers said in a statement Saturday. "A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom. It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5.59 this morning was `The wait is almost over."'

In a statement Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby acknowledged for the first time that a mysterious U.S. raid last month had sought to rescue Somers but that he turned out not to be at the site. The U.S. considers Yemen's Al Qaeda branch to be the world's most dangerous arm of the group as it has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland.

Kirby did not elaborate on the joint U.S-Yemeni operation to free Somers, saying details remained classified.

However, officials have said the raid targeted a remote Al Qaeda safe haven in a desert region near the Saudi border. Eight captives -- including Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian -- were freed. Somers, a Briton and four others had been moved days earlier.

Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 as he left a supermarket in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, said Fakhri al-Arashi, chief editor of the National Yemen, where Somers worked as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen.

Somers, who was born in Britain, earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing while attending Beloit College in Wisconsin from 2004 through 2007.

"He really wanted to understand the world," said Shawn Gillen, an English professor and chairman of Beloit College's journalism program who had Gillen as a student.
Blogger Tricks

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shootout leaves deputy, Gunman dead

A man who had made previous threats against police set his house on fire Saturday and ambushed the first sheriff's deputy who responded, fatally shooting the deputy and wounding another before he was killed by a police officer who lives nearby, a law enforcement official said.



The man's name and address had been entered into a law enforcement computer system because of previous threats, but the 911 dispatcher who entered the fire call put in the address of a neighbor who reported the blaze, so the alert wasn't activated and the Leon County deputy who responded first had no warning, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

The gunman was hiding outside the house when the deputy approached about 10:15 a.m., the official said. He shot the deputy from behind, shot him again after he fell and then took the deputy's gun. The gunman then tried to take other weapons from the deputy's car, but they were locked down, said the official said, who had spoken to law enforcement officials handling the case.
The gunman, who lived at the end of a cul-de-sac, then shot another deputy, who escaped serious injury because of a bullet-proof vest. A Tallahassee police officer getting ready to work the Florida State University football game heard the shots, ran outside and fatally shot the gunman, who was hiding as other deputies and officers approached, the official said.
The names of the gunman and the dead and wounded deputy have not been released. Details of the gunman's previous threats to police officers were not available. The shootings were captured by surveillance video cameras in the neighborhood, the official said.
Pockets of flames could still be seen in the smoldering wreckage of the destroyed home hours after the fire was set. As night fell in the middle-class neighborhood, investigators sifted through the rubble with shovels under the bright glow of spotlights. The official said authorities didn't think anyone was killed in the fire.
"It is almost unimaginable that a call for help turned into the ambush of a Leon County Sheriff's Deputy and the shooting of another deputy by the assailant. Every one of these first responders is a hero and our hearts go out to them and their families," Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a statement.

Neighbor Joan Cabbage said she called 911 to report the fire while her husband Henry went outside. She said she could see two patrol cars pull into the cul-de-sac when she heard "pop, pop, pop, pop, pop" that she thought was from the house burning.
"I saw a fire truck and he started backing up real fast — I couldn't figure out why," she said. Her daughter, who had just left the house, then called to say police officers were running down the street with guns drawn.
"That's when I knew something big was going on," she said.
Dana Harrison, 20, said she was babysitting three young boys in a nearby house when she heard sirens, went outside and saw the fire. She then heard popping sounds, which she thought was caused by the fire, but a neighbor said they sounded like gunshots. She had hustled the boys inside when two police officers banged on the front door and then ran through the house into the backyard, which is near the burning house. The police told Harrison to get everyone into the bathroom.
"I was scared," she said.
The shooting near Florida's capital comes just two days after a police shootout at Florida State University left a gunman dead after he wounded two students and an employee.

Source: Yahoo News

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nigerian extremist says kidnapped girls married

With a malevolent laugh, the leader of Nigeria's Islamic extremists tells the world that more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls have all been converted to Islam and married off, dashing hopes for their freedom.

"If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you ... to die from grief," Abubakar Shekau sneers, addressing the parents of the girls and young women kidnapped from a remote boarding school more than six months ago.

In a new video released late Friday night, the Boko Haram leader also denies there is a cease-fire with the Nigerian government and threatens to kill an unidentified German hostage.

"Don't you know we are still holding your German hostage (who is) always crying," he taunts. "If we want, we will hack him or slaughter him or shoot him."

A German development worker was kidnapped at gunpoint in Gombi, a town in Nigeria's northeast Gombi in July. Police reported he was ambushed as he drove to work.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, that he had no new information about a German abductee.

In the new video, Shekau wears a camouflage tunic and pants and the black and white flag of al-Qaida is by his side. He is flanked by masked and armed fighters standing in front of four military pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Boko Haram has looted many weapons and vehicles including armored cars from Nigeria's military.

The military has several times claimed to have killed Shekau, and says any new videos are made by a look-alike. But the United States has not removed a $7 million ransom on the head of the extremist leader.

On Oct. 17, Nigeria's military chief, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, announced that Boko Haram had agreed to an immediate cease-fire to end a 5-year insurgency in which thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been driven from homes in northeast Nigeria. And government officials said they expected the Chibok girls to be released any day.

But Shekau denies in the video that he has agreed to any truce and says he is dedicated to fighting and dying a martyr's death to guarantee him a place in paradise.

"You people should understand that we only obey Allah, we tread the path of the Prophet. We hope to die on this path ... Our goal is the garden of eternal bliss," he says.

He said Boko Haram is interested only in "battle, hitting, striking and killing with the gun, which we look forward to like a tasty meal," he said.

The fighting and abductions have continued, with Boko Haram seizing the commercial center of Mubi this week and fighting raging Friday around nearby Vimtin, the village where Badeh was born.

And the only news of the girls has come from Shekau, who appeared to dash hopes that they would be released in an exchange for detained Boko Haram fighters.

"The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off," Shekau says with a chortle. The extremist fighters have ordered girls to stay out of Western-style schools and get married. Boko Haram is a nickname meaning "Western education is sinful" in the Hausa language.

An earlier video in May showed some of the kidnapped girls, including two explaining why they had converted to Islam. Unconfirmed reports have indicated the girls have been divided into groups and that some have been carried across borders, into Cameroon and Chad. There also have been reports that they were forced to marry fighters who paid a nominal bride price equivalent to $12.

Some 276 girls and young women were kidnapped in the early hours of April 15 from a boarding school in the remote town of Chibok. Dozens escaped on their own in the first couple of days but 219 remain missing.

The plight of the girls attracted international outrage, with demands that Boko Haram free them. The Nigerian government and military's failure to secure their release has brought criticism that President Goodluck Jonathan is uncaring of their fate.

Shekau in August announced that Boko Haram wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate, along the lines of the IS group in Syria and Iraq. Fleeing residents have reported that hundreds of people are being detained for infractions of the extremists' version of strict Shariah law in several towns and villages under their control.

Shekau's video announcement further discredits the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner who on Thursday formally announced his candidacy for elections on Feb. 14, 2015, in Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria's 160 million people are divided almost equally between Muslims who dominate the north and Christians in the south. The West African nation is the biggest oil producer on the continent and has its biggest economy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Keanu Reeves Is Super Bummed That Hollywood Studios Have Abandoned Him


Few actors have delivered as many box-office hits as Keanu Reeves has over the last 30 years, and few have suffered more as a result of Hollywood studios’ new era of franchise building and risk aversion.

The actor known for Bill & Ted, Point Break, Speed, and The Matrix trilogy stars in the upcoming John Wick, which, while filled with action, is yet another independent film.

In fact, Reeves hasn’t worked with a major studio since the big-budget martial-arts flick 47 Ronin bombed big time for Universal in 2013 (expensive re-shoots delayed it a year), and before that, he hadn’t worked with a studio since the 2008 Warner Brothers remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. As he explains in a new interview, he’s not all that happy about the studio abandonment.

"It sucks, but it’s just the way it is," Reeves tells Indiewire. “You can have positive and negative experiences, but what I like about studios are the resources and the worlds that they can create. Obviously, a lot of good filmmakers work on studio movies. Even when I was working on studio movies more often, I was always doing independent movies. So for me, that was just not happening, but I want to keep going, making things, and telling stories.”

The inability to land a studio film is not for lack of trying on Reeves’s part. As he told Yahoo Movies recently, he has been attempting for years to bring the Black List script Passengers to the big screen, and in 2013, The Weinstein Company — an indie, albeit a deep-pocketed one — picked up the rights. But the project has been plagued by the departures of actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Rachel McAdams, as well as financial problems. Weinstein eventually dropped Passengers, and earlier this year, Universal’s Focus Features failed to resurrect the film.

Reeves played down the budget problems with the film, saying that “it’s a whole long story,” and is still optimistic that he’ll get to make it.

"I’m hoping somehow, some way, I get to make that movie," he said. "It’s basically about a guy [on a] ship that’s traveling to another planet to homestead, and everyone’s kind of in suspended animation, but one guy wakes up too soon, halfway there, and he starts to go a little crazy, ends up waking someone else, a woman, Aurora, and hijinks ensue.”

That, of course, isn’t the only film that Reeves has been trying to make happen, and fans are much more familiar with — and hopeful for — a potential third Bill & Ted movie.

Sadly, that also faces budgeting issues in the new Hollywood.

"We’ve made attempts,” he says of the long-awaited threequel, echoing the recent words of co-star Alex Winter. “We’ve tried to have less shots of the cosmos ripping apart. Just take a couple of them out, guys! Do we need four of them? Maybe it’s just one!”

Zuckerberg speaks Chinese, Beijing students cheer

BEIJING (AP) -- China may ban Facebook, but not its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. The young billionaire delighted an audience of students at a prestigious Beijing university this week with a 30-minute chat in his recently learned Mandarin Chinese.

— DID HE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE BAN? He made no explicit mention of China's ban on the social media giant, but an indirect reference to it drew laughter during the question-and-answer session Wednesday at Tsinghua University. Zuckerberg, whose company has long sought to enter China, noted Facebook already helps some Chinese companies in foreign markets, citing computer maker Lenovo's ads on Facebook in India.

"Speaking of China, I have a more difficult question for Mark, which I hope will not get me fired. What are Facebook's plans in China?" asked the forum facilitator and Facebook employee Wei Xiaoliang, to the laughter and applause from the audience.

"We are already in China," Zuckerberg said in Chinese, to more laughter. "We help Chinese companies gain customers abroad," he said.

"We want to help the rest of the world connect to China."

— WHY WAS ZUCKERBERG IN CHINA? Zuckerberg may be hoping to lay the groundwork for an eventual entry into China, but he visited Beijing this week as a newly appointed member of the advisory board for Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and met with the university's president on Tuesday.
Both he and the university posted clips of his Wednesday session, which was open to questions from students for the last 8 minutes.

Facebook has been banned in China since 2009. Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but bans material deemed subversive and blocks access to foreign news and social media websites that authorities believe could stoke social unrest.

— SO, HOW'S HIS CHINESE? Zuckerberg's Chinese pronunciation was far from fluent, and some native speakers called it a "challenge" to understand. He sometimes struggled with certain words and tones, and needed help in understanding questions in Chinese. But he was able to express himself well and maintain an intelligible conversation for a half hour. The students responded with warm cheers for his effort and laughter at his humor.

Zuckerberg married Chinese-American Priscilla Chan in 2012, and set himself the goal of learning Mandarin in 2010. He said Wednesday that he wanted to learn the language partly because his wife's grandmother only speaks Chinese. He recalled informing the grandmother of the marriage plans.

"Priscilla and I decided to get married, so I told her grandmother in Chinese, and she was very surprised," Zuckerberg said.

— WHAT ELSE DID HE SAY? Zuckerberg said several things apparently aimed at endearing himself to the Chinese audience. He said China is a great country and hopes that learning the language will help him learn its culture. "The Chinese language is difficult, and I speak English, but I like challenges," Zuckerberg said.

When asked about his favorite food, he cited "Beijing hutong snacks" sold by street-side vendors in the capital, and Peking duck, Beijing's signature dish of duck meat served with sauce and rolled up in a crepe.

— HOW WAS HE RECEIVED? Tsinghua students gave Zuckerberg a warm reception. On social media, many microbloggers noted the irony that Zuckerberg's famous creation is blocked in China.

Designer David Wang, in an interview in downtown Beijing, said he would be happy if Facebook was allowed across the so-called Great Firewall of China. "Because now we have to use software to jump the wall if we want to access Facebook," he said.

Li Qin, a computer programmer from the eastern city of Hangzhou, said on a microblog that she could barely understand Zuckerberg's Chinese.

"It was a challenge for Chinese listening comprehension. But even though Facebook cannot enter the Chinese market, Mark is still making a fighting effort to learn," she said. "It was quite a funny scenario."

 Source: Yahoo...

White House fence jumper charged with assault

The 23-year-old Maryland man who climbed over the White House fence Wednesday night has been charged with felonies for assaulting two police dogs and making threats, the Secret Service said Thursday.


Dominic Adesanya of Bel Air, Maryland, was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for previous outstanding warrants, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. Adesanya has also been charged with four misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and unlawful entry.

This is not Adesanya's first arrest at the executive mansion. Records show he was also charged with unlawful entry at the White House complex in late July. A court document says he told an officer that a security barrier he jumped over "was easy and that the next fence to the south grounds of the White House would not be a problem as well."

Adesanya claimed a banking family that he said owned the Federal Reserve Bank was targeting him, and he said he wanted cameras that had been placed in his home removed, according to a court document. After the arrest he was ordered to get outpatient mental health screening and return to court Sept. 9.

He was apprehended again just three days after the July arrest at the White House complex for refusing to leave the Treasury building next door and swinging his fists at officers. Court records show he was then ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device and abide by a curfew.

Warrants for his arrest were issued after he failed to appear in court in September. An attorney representing him in those arrests did not immediately return a telephone call Thursday.

After climbing over the fence Wednesday night, Adesanya was swiftly apprehended on the North Lawn, on Pennsylvania Avenue, by uniformed Secret Service agents and their dogs. He was unarmed. President Barack Obama was at the White House at the time.

Video of the incident recorded by TV news cameras shows a man in white shorts on the lawn just inside the fence. The man lifts his shirt as if to show that he is unarmed, then is seen kicking and punching the two Secret Service dogs.

Leary said the dogs, Hurricane and Jordan, were treated by a veterinarian for minor bruising and cleared to return to duty.

The incident came about a month after a previous White House fence jumper carrying a knife sprinted across the same lawn, ran past armed uniformed agents and entered the mansion before he was felled in the ceremonial East Room and taken into custody.

That embarrassing Sept. 19 incident preceded the disclosure of other serious Secret Service breaches in security for Obama and ultimately led to Julia Pierson's resignation as director of the agency after 18 months on the job.

After Pierson resigned, an agent who once led Obama's protective detail came out of retirement to lead the Secret Service until Obama names a new director, pending completion of internal and independent reviews of agency practices.

This week, a federal judge delayed the arraignment of Omar Gonzalez, the man charged in September's fence-jumping incident, because of questions about his mental fitness to stand trial.

Gonzalez has been indicted on several charges, including carrying a knife into the White House and assaulting two Secret Service officers.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has been leading congressional investigations into the Secret Service, commended the swift response Wednesday night but said more needed to be known about Adesanya, including whether he was doing anything suspicious immediately before the incident that should have led to his detection. Chaffetz also suggested changes might be needed to "maximize the pain of going over the fence."

"It seems a little too easy to get over," he said.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's more disturbing than Ebola? The outrageous commentary

The U.S. experience with Ebola is generating commentary that is both prudent and outrageous.
There have been three cases of Ebola occurring on U.S. soil, one ending fatally and the other two now under treatment.

 
While health officials provide sober guidance on the deadly disease, several public figures, from high-level politicians to cultural icons, haven't been so even-tempered in their remarks, adding to the public hype that has become associated with the virus.
Here is a sampling of those provocative comments, plus a little myth busting, clarifying and reality checking from Ebola experts from around the world.
"If you bring two doctors who happen to have that specialty (Ebola) into a room, one will say, 'No, it will never become airborne, but it could mutate so it would be harder to discover.' Another doctor will say, 'If it continues to mutate at the rate it's mutating, and we go from 20,000 infected to 100,000, the population might allow it to mutate and become airborne, and then it will be a serious problem.' I don't know who is right." -- Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN. 

Ebola isn't transmitted through the air. It is transmitted through direct contact by bodily fluids with an Ebola-infected person showing symptoms of the disease.

A mutation such as the kind Dempsey describes "would be exceedingly rare" in one epidemic, said Edward C. Holmes of Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney.
"It happens over evolutionary time, millions of years," Holmes said. "This idea that it takes one or two of those mutations and 'Wham!' you pick up airborne transmission, that is way too simplistic."

"If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they're contagious and you can catch it from them. -- Sen. Rand Paul, a physician and potential 2016 presidential candidate

Again, experts say the contact with an infectious person must be tactile, or direct touching, and involve bodily fluids -- blood, sweat, feces, vomit, semen or spit.

People in West Africa are avoiding hugs and handshakes because the virus can be spread through the sweat on someone's hand.

The uninfected person would have to have a break in the skin of their hand that would allow entry of the virus, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. But "we all have minor breaks in our skin. And there is a possibility that some of the virus can be transmitted that way."

Paul also made other remarks regarding direct contact: "They say all it takes is direct contact to get this. If you listen carefully, they say being three feet from someone is direct contact. That's not what most Americans think is direct contact."

Without directly addressing Paul's claims about contact over three feet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden indicated that's not a possible mode of transmission for the virus.
"Should you be worried you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone?" Frieden said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "The answer to that is no."

"The most comforting thing that I heard from (Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health) was that water kills the Ebola virus. I've never heard that before. I thought it was something that was so contagious there wasn't much you could do to prevent it or anything else, so her advice was 'wash your hands.' " -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told the Marietta Daily Journal.

In fact, water alone does not kill Ebola. Soap and water does. So does chlorine and bleach, experts added.

"As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren't available," the Mayo Clinic said about the prevention and spread of Ebola infection.

"The U.S. must immediately stop all flights from EBOLA infected countries or the plague will start and spread inside our 'borders.' Act fast!" -- Real estate mogul Donald Trump said on Twitter.

Most public health experts oppose such a ban.

"Many nations have banned flights from other countries in recent years in hopes of blocking the entry of viruses, including SARS and H1N1 'swine flu,' " wrote Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. "None of the bans were effective, and the viruses gained entry to populations regardless of what radical measures governments took to keep them out."

No ban will completely stop people moving about the world, experts said.

"It gives us the false assurance that we can ignore the problems that are happening in Africa," Wendy Parmet, director of the Program on Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law, told National Geographic. "At the end of the day, we can't. And our own safety depends on our getting it right there, not on building the walls."

President Obama this week said he opposes a travel ban.


"Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning." -- Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, a medical doctor, wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gingrey and other Republicans have claimed that Latino immigrants are carriers for Ebola, particularly via the U.S.-Mexico border.

"One of the reasons why I've been so adamant about closing our border, because if people are coming through normal channels -- can you imagine what they can do through our porous borders?" former Massachusetts senator and now New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown said in a radio interview.

Marine Gen. John Kelly, chief of the U.S. Southern Command said, "If Ebola breaks out, in Haiti or in Central America. I think it is literally, 'Katie bar the door,' in terms of the mass migration of Central Americans into the United States."

Health experts said those fears are grossly exaggerated.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden dismissed the possibility of Ebola reaching the United States via the southern border. "That is not happening," he said.

"I don't know ... But I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control. S*** is getting crazy bruh," R&B star Chris Brown tweeted.

Brown and a number of other public figures, including radio show hosts Rick Wiles and Michael Savage have advanced perhaps the most provocative statements.

Let's take this one by one.

The numbers don't support Brown's comment.

There are more than 7 billion people living on Earth. Worldwide, there have been a total of 8,997 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in seven affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States), according to the latest World Health Organization figures.

There have been 4,493 deaths, the WHO says.

Then there's Christian radio broadcaster Wiles, who said Ebola "may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming," according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Ebola "could solve America's problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion," Wiles said on his Trunews program, according to the Colorado Independent.

A prominent Christian evangelical group, Focus on the Family, denounced those remarks.

"Our first response as Christians to tragedies such as Ebola ought to be one of concern and compassion," Ron Reno, the group's vice president of orthodoxy, said, according to the Independent. "[P]ublicly speculating on God's motives in allowing specific outbreaks of disease is both unwise and unhelpful."
Finally, talk radio host Michael Savage said President Barack Obama wants to infect America with Ebola.

"There is not a sane reason to take three- or four-thousand troops and send them into a hot Ebola zone without expecting at least one of them to come back with Ebola, unless you want to infect the nation with Ebola," Savage said.

Obama sent those U.S. troops to West African nations with Ebola as part of an international effort to help eradicate -- not spread -- the disease.

"The most important thing in addition to treating and monitoring anybody who even has a hint of potential exposure here in this country, the most important thing that I can do for keeping the American people safe, is for us to be able to deal with Ebola at the source, where you have a huge outbreak in West Africa," Obama said Thursday.

 Source: CNN News

Effectiveness of Ebola travel ban questioned

 A ban on travel from West Africa might seem like a simple and smart response to the frightening Ebola outbreak there. It's become a central demand of Republicans on Capitol Hill and some Democrats, and is popular with the public. But health experts are nearly unanimous in saying it's a bad idea that could backfire.
The experts' key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say.
In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.
The U.S. has not instituted a travel ban in response to a disease outbreak in recent history. The experts insist now is not the time to start, especially given that the disease is still extremely contained in the U.S. and the only people who have caught it here are two health care workers who cared for a sick patient who later died.
"If we know anything in global health it's that you can't wrap a whole region in cellophane and expect to keep out a rapidly moving infectious disease. It doesn't work that way," said Lawrence Gostin, a professor and global health expert at Georgetown University Law Center. "Ultimately people will flee one way or another, and the more infection there is and the more people there are, the more they flee and the more unsafe we are."
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health voiced similar objections at a congressional hearing this past week. So did President Barack Obama after meeting with administration officials coordinating the response.
Obama said he didn't have a "philosophical objection" to a travel ban but that he was told by experts that it would be less effective than the steps the administration has instituted, including temperature screening and monitoring at the five airports accounting for 94 percent of the arrivals from the three impacted nations. There are 100 to 150 arrivals daily to the U.S. from that region.
"Trying to seal off an entire region of the world — if that were even possible — could actually make the situation worse," Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.
Still, with little more than two weeks from midterm elections and control of the Senate at stake, the administration is facing mounting pressure on Capitol Hill to impose travel restrictions. Numerous Republicans have demanded a ban, as have a handful of Democrats, including at least two endangered incumbent senators, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also favors a travel ban, and his spokesman, Kevin Smith, said the speaker hasn't ruled out bringing the House back into session to address the Ebola issue. Obama "has the authority to put a travel ban into effect right now," Smith said.
Lawmakers have proposed banning all visitors from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, or at least temporarily denying visas to nationals of those countries. They've suggested quarantining U.S. citizens arriving here from those nations for at least 21 days, Ebola's incubation period, and limiting travel to West Africa to essential personnel and workers ferrying supplies.
Related steps that have been proposed by Pryor and others include strengthening existing quarantine centers, getting health officials to assist with screenings at airports and ensuring that information collected at airports on travelers from hot zones is shared with state officials.
Experts say some of those limited steps make sense but question the legality, ethics and effectiveness of large-scale quarantines. Although it would be theoretically possible to get supplies and medical personnel to West Africa even while shutting down commercial air travel, in practice it would turn into a logistical nightmare, they say. They cite expenses and difficulties in chartering private aircraft or enlisting the military's assistance to transport thousands of personnel and huge amounts of supplies from around the world that is now moving freely on scheduled air travel.
Screening measures now in place allow arrivals from West Africa to be tracked; if those people go underground, attempt to enter via the Southern Border or by other means, it becomes that much harder to keep tabs on them.
Another difficulty arises because there are no direct flights to the U.S. from the impacted nations, raising the question of where to draw the line. Should flights from Paris, Amsterdam, London or Munich be banned if it turns out there is a passenger from Monrovia, Liberia, on them? Or should the other passengers just be screened? What if Ebola breaks out on European soil — should the travel ban be extended?
Among the travel ban skeptics is former President George W. Bush's top health official, who coordinated the government's response to bird flu in 2005 and 2006. At the time, it was feared that the H5N1 flu strain, capable of jumping from birds to humans, could become the catalyst for a global pandemic.
A travel ban "is intuitively attractive, and seems so simple," said Mike Leavitt, who led the Health and Human Services Department from 2005-2009. "We studied it intensely in preparation for H5N1. I became persuaded that there are lots of problems with it."