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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Trump Suggests His Immigration Stance Could Have Prevented 9/11 Attacks

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Donald Trump continued his spat with Jeb Bush over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, implying that had he been president at the time, things “would have been much different.”

“I am extremely, extremely tough on illegal immigration,” the Republican front-runner said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m extremely tough on people coming into this country. I believe that if I were running things … I doubt that those people would have been in the country.”

All of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country on U.S.-issued visas. However, a federal report did find that they all broke immigration laws — for example, some used fraudulently manipulated passports.

Bush fired back at Trump on CNN, reiterating that his brother, then-President George W. Bush, “responded to a crisis … and he kept us safe.”

He also said Trump is not taking important issues seriously. “Across the spectrum of foreign policy, Mr. Trump talks about things as though he’s still on ‘The Apprentice,’ ” Bush said. “As though it’s some sort of board game.”

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference to reveal his tax policy at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. Ebola Survivor Reveals Identity, Says He’s Grateful

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

A former Ebola patient and physician whose identity was kept secret during his 40-day treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta chose to reveal his ordeal this weekend, saying he was “profoundly grateful” for his care and the chance to help others.

American infectious disease specialist Dr. Ian Crozier fell ill in September, World Health Organization spokeswoman Nyka Alexander told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. He was hospitalized longer than any other U.S. Ebola patient, she said, and his family feared he would die.

Born in what is now Zimbabwe, Crozier moved with his family to the U.S. when he was about 10, living mainly in Kentucky, North Dakota and Iowa, Alexander said. He became a U.S. citizen and attended medical school at Vanderbilt University. But he maintained deep roots in Africa and wanted to return, he told The Times.

Earlier this year, Crozier, then 43, was living in Uganda and mentoring doctors about HIV management when the Ebola outbreak intensified in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. He had emailed a friend in Sierra Leone about helping.

“At the time, many of us in Africa were thinking about how best to engage in the response,” Crozier told The Times by email. “To be honest, it was all quite abstract” until his friend called him back.

The WHO offered him the chance to deploy to Sierra Leone, where he arrived in mid-August. He was based at the Kenema Government Hospital and worked at several Ebola units across the country, Alexander said.

“Nothing really prepares you for the realities of an Ebola treatment unit,” Crozier said. “The virus is a villain of the first order and causes a clinical illness that is not only associated with an extremely high mortality, but does it in a manner and at a pace that robs the infected of their dignity.”

Although medical training provides doctors with “the technical aspects of providing care,” he said, “nothing really prepares you for dealing with the devastation it causes, personally, in families, in communities.”

Ebola’s symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding. Kidney and liver function weaken and can shut down. The virus spreads through contact with a symptomatic victim’s bodily fluids, so health care workers must wear protective gear that, in Africa’s sweltering heat, limits the time they can spend with patients.

Crozier began feeling sick Sept. 6 while doing his hospital rounds. He cut his day short, isolated himself and drew a sample of his blood for testing, the WHO spokeswoman said. The test came back positive for Ebola the next morning. He was soon on a flight to the U.S., arriving at Emory on Sept. 9.

He spent many of his 40 days there sedated and unconscious, Alexander said.

Crozier, who stands about 6 feet 5, used to weigh about 220 pounds, but he lost about 30 pounds while his body grappled with the virus, Alexander said.

He doesn’t remember the first three weeks of his hospitalization, she said, although he was conscious and lucid early on.

“His family was certainly very concerned” that he would die, she said. “He wasn’t bouncing back as others have.”

Crozier turned 44 during his treatment at Emory, which released him Oct. 19.

His family believes he’s his old self again, Alexander said, but “he himself feels he has some short-term memory loss…. It’s hard to know how much of that is the effect of Ebola and how much is being in intensive care for several weeks.”

His identity was first reported by the New York Times.

The WHO estimates there have been more than 17,000 cases of Ebola, mostly in West Africa, since the outbreak began a year ago, and more than 6,000 victims have died. Sierra Leone has had more than 7,300 cases and nearly 1,600 deaths, according to the latest tally.

Despite his narrow escape, Crozier wants to return to Africa. “It’s where his heart is, I guess,” Alexander said.

The dedication of African health care workers inspires him, Crozier said.

“We tend to remember and recognize the international health workers who come to help,” he said. But “the national healthcare workers have been responding … long before then, often as their colleagues died around them.”

The courage of the patients and their relatives inspired him too.

“These are difficult places where people are fighting for their lives at almost every moment,” he said. “In an often desperate setting, I was struck by the spirit of the people we were caring for. Parents who had lost children would care for children who had lost parents. Caretakers were doing the best they could to help with limited resources and few hands to help.”

Crozier said he was still processing the lessons he had learned, but he suspected that his experiences would be “watershed moments in my life.”

“At its simplest, I’m a profoundly grateful patient for a group of Emory doctors and nurses who fought tooth and nail for me…. I am also a profoundly grateful doctor to have spent time caring for patients” in the company of African and WHO colleagues “who do this quietly and resolutely with very little fanfare.”

AFP Photo/Jessica McGowan

Montana Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down, Effective Immediately

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down Tuesday afternoon by a federal judge who called the ban unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris did not stay his injunction, which means state officials could begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

In 2004, Montana voters passed an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

In his ruling, Morris said that amendment violated the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and barred Montana from enforcing it.

“Montana is no longer left in the cold. It joins the ranks of states where all committed, loving couples can marry,” Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement. “This brings marriage equality to 35 states and counting.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Ebola Vaccine Effective In Tests On Monkeys

By Lauren Raab, Melissa Healy, and Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

Tests of an experimental Ebola vaccine have shown positive results, protecting healthy monkeys from the virus, the National Institutes of Health announced Sunday, as West Africa grapples with an epidemic that has killed about 2,000 people.

Researchers gave four macaque monkeys a shot of the experimental vaccine, called ChAd3, and exposed them to high levels of the Ebola virus five weeks later. All the monkeys were protected, the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

The protection decreased over time, however: Ten months after receiving the vaccine, just two of the four were protected.

Researchers also tried giving monkeys the experimental vaccine and then, eight weeks later, a booster vaccine. Ten months after the initial dose, all four monkeys were fully protected, the institute said.

The authors of the latest study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine, suggested that without the booster, the Ebola virus can quickly regain a foothold and attack the immune system.

Human safety trials of the ChAd3 vaccine were scheduled to start last week in Bethesda, Md., with preliminary results due by the end of 2014. In the current crisis, American officials overseeing the trials suggested that the availability of a tested vaccine would offer some assurance of protection to health-care workers wary of going to West Africa.

The experimental vaccine was developed by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The research team was led by Nancy J. Sullivan of the NIH and included scientists from Okairos, a biotechnology company that is now part of GlaxoSmithKline, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Separately, an Ebola-infected American doctor being treated in Nebraska has shown improvement but is still very ill, his wife said.

Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, an obstetrician who lives in the Boston area, contracted the deadly virus while treating patients in Liberia as part of a missionary program. He was flown to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on Friday.

This year’s Ebola outbreak is the worst on record, with a fatality rate of 53 percent, according to the World Health Organization.

Rick Sacra is the third American to be transported to the United States this year after contracting the virus.

Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, who were also missionaries in Liberia, recovered after treatment at a special infectious-disease unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Writebol and Brantly received an experimental medication, ZMapp, but it is unclear whether that helped them.

In all, seven Ebola patients received ZMapp. Five were later released from hospitals; the other two did not survive. The company that developed the drug, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego, says it has no doses left. Making it is time-consuming, but the U.S. is trying to help the company speed up the process.

There is no cure or approved vaccine for Ebola, which triggers hemorrhaging and is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of those infected. The latest outbreak was first detected in Guinea in March and has since affected Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, where at least one patient has been identified.

Times staff writer Alexandra Zavis contributed to this report.

AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso

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Uzi ‘Too Much’ For Girl Who Accidentally Shot Instructor, Report Says

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times

The mother of a 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed her gun instructor while learning to fire an Uzi told sheriff’s deputies that the weapon was “too much for her” daughter and that it hurt the girl’s shoulder, according to a report released Tuesday by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

The girl’s father told a deputy that he, his wife and three children arrived at Last Stop in White Hills, Arizona, around 9:45 a.m. Aug. 25 and took a ride in a monster truck before being brought to the establishment’s Burgers and Bullets shooting range, the report said.

According to the report, the father said he shot the gun first. Then, instructor Charles Vacca began showing the girl how to fire the Uzi. After she fired off “a couple of rounds,” her father said in the report, he suddenly heard several rounds fire and saw her drop the gun. She was holding her shoulder, so the family thought she was injured and crowded around her without realizing Vacca had been hit, he said.

The girl’s mother told a deputy that her daughter said the Mini-Uzi “was too much for her and it hurt her shoulder,” according to the report.

Another gun instructor told a deputy he saw the recoil put the Uzi into the path of Vacca’s head. He saw Vacca fall, noticed heavy bleeding from Vacca’s head, and hurried to apply pressure to the wound and call 911, the report said. The father said that’s when he realized Vacca had been hit.

The parents said they quickly brought their children into the establishment’s restaurant so the kids would not see what had happened.

The emergency call came in at 10:02 a.m., according to the report. Vacca died at a Las Vegas hospital that night.

Last week, asked why a 9-year-old had access to the automatic weapon, range operator Sam Scarmardo told local television station KTNV that Bullets and Burgers allows children 8 and older to shoot firearms. “We instruct kids as young as 5 in .22 rifles,” he said. “They’re under the supervision of their parents and of our professional range masters.”

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has said it will not file charges.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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Pope’s Reported Comments On Clergy Abuse Stir Controversy

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times

An interview that credits Pope Francis as saying about 2 percent of Roman Catholic clerics are pedophiles stirred controversy Sunday, as the Vatican sought to raise questions about the article’s accuracy and others called on the pope to take more action on the issue.

The remarks, reported in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, came a week after the pope asked for forgiveness in his first meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The interview by Eugenio Scalfari, published Sunday, quotes the pope as calling the rash of sex abuse scandals “a leprosy in our home” and saying the pedophiles include “priests and even bishops and cardinals,” according to a CBS News translation. “And others, even more numerous, know about it but keep quiet, they punish without saying the reason why. I find this state of things untenable and it is my intention to confront it with the severity it requires.”

The Vatican has pushed back on some points. According to Vatican officials, Scalfari does not record his conversations with the pope nor transcribe them word for word. News.va, an official Vatican news source, cited Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi as saying Scalfari quotes Francis from memory alone, and that the pope does not review the results before publication.

Lombardi did not rebut any assertions Francis was said to have made, but raised questions about the lack of a closing quotation mark at the end of the paragraph that included the 2 percent figure.

“A lapse of memory or an explicit acknowledgment the naif reader is being manipulated?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the “real percentage of predator priests” is much higher than 2 percent and called on the pope to defrock clerics who participate in cover-ups.

“I’m convinced that no threat of penalty will deter a child molester,” David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, told the Los Angeles Times. However, he said, “defrocking a bishop or cardinal who hides abuse would have an enormous deterrent effect.”

“I would challenge fans of this pope to name a single step he’s taken that has had a practical impact on the crisis,” Clohessy said. “He’s made significant, dramatic, quick effective steps to transform church governance and finances. He obviously has both massive power and the willingness to use it, but not on this crisis.”

At a United Nations hearing this year, the Vatican said it had defrocked 848 priests over the last decade and ordered 2,572 to “live a life of prayer and penance” because of abuse allegations. There are about 414,000 Roman Catholic priests worldwide, according to the BBC; if 2 percent are pedophiles, that would be more than 8,000.

In his meeting last week with victims of clerical sexual abuse, Francis pledged that bishops who covered up such abuse of minors would be held accountable.

In late June, the Vatican defrocked its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who was accused of having sexually abused boys in Santo Domingo.

In May, members of a U.N. committee on torture questioned Vatican officials for two hours about the church’s handling of sexual abuse cases, and this year, the pope assembled a panel of advisers to create protocols to protect children from such abuse.

AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro

Smallpox Discovered In Old Storage Room Near D.C.

By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times

National Institutes of Health workers preparing to move a lab in Bethesda, Md., found an unwelcome surprise in a storage room this month: vials of smallpox.

There is no evidence that any of the vials was breached, and no lab workers or members of the public were exposed to the infectious and potentially deadly virus, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its announcement Tuesday.

The vials labeled variola — a name for the smallpox virus — were found July 1 “in an unused portion of a storage room” and seem to date to the 1950s, the CDC said. They were immediately put into a containment lab, then moved Monday to the CDC’s containment facility in Atlanta, it said.

The samples are being tested to see whether any of them are viable — that is, can grow — and will then be destroyed, the CDC said.

The most common type of smallpox is serious, contagious, and frequently fatal, with about 30 percent of cases resulting in death, according to the CDC. Luckily, the disease was declared eradicated in 1980 after a worldwide vaccination program.

The last U.S. case of smallpox was in 1949, and the last naturally occurring case anywhere in the world was in Somalia in 1977, according to the CDC. Since then, according to the World Health Organization, the only known cases stemmed from a 1978 lab accident in England.

By international agreement, live smallpox samples are supposed to be held in only two places worldwide: one at the CDC in Atlanta and the other near Novosibirsk, Russia. A debate has been taking place in recent years over whether (or when) to destroy the last living strains of the virus. Some argue that the disease could re-emerge, so virus samples are needed to conduct research that would protect the public. Others argue that keeping live samples is the very thing ensuring smallpox is not fully wiped out.

The World Health Organization decided in May to postpone a decision on whether to destroy remaining stocks.

Photo via WikiCommons

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