August 07, 2014
LAGOS, Nigeria— Nigerian authorities rushed to obtain isolation tents Wednesday in anticipation of more Ebola infections as they disclosed five more cases of the virus and a death in Africa's most populous nation, where officials were racing to keep the gruesome disease confined to a small group of patients.
The five new Nigerian cases were all in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people in a country already beset with poor health care infrastructure and widespread corruption, and all five were reported to have had direct contact with one infected man.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization began a meeting to decide whether the crisis, the worst recorded outbreak of its kind, amounts to an international public health emergency. At least 932 deaths in four countries have been blamed on the illness, with 1,711 reported cases.
In recent years, the WHO has declared an emergency only twice, for swine flu in 2009 and polio in May. The declaration would probably come with recommendations on travel and trade restrictions and wider Ebola screening. It also would be an acknowledgment that the situation is critical and could worsen without a fast global response.
The group did not immediately confirm the new cases reported in Nigeria. And Nigerian authorities did not release any details on the latest infections, except to say they all had come into direct contact with the sick man who arrived by plane in Lagos late last month.
In Sierra Leone, some 750 soldiers deployed to the Ebola-ravaged east as part of "Operation Octopus," aimed at enforcing quarantines of sick patients. In Spain, the Defense Ministry said a medically equipped plane was ready to fly to Liberia to bring back a Spanish missionary priest who has Ebola.
At the same time, Saudi officials reported a suspected Ebola death, underscoring the risk of the disease spreading by air travel even as many airlines curtail their flights to the most infected cities.
Ebola, which causes some victims to bleed from the eyes, mouth and ears, can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick — blood, semen, saliva, urine, feces or sweat. Millions in Lagos live in cramped conditions without access to flushable toilets. Signs posted across the city warn people not to urinate in public.
Kenneth Akihomi, a 47-year-old worker installing fiber-optic cable, said he was carefully washing his hands to avoid infection. But he said most people were relying on faith to stay healthy.
"They're not panicking. They are godly people," he said. "They believe they can pray, and maybe very soon there will be cure."
The revelation of more infections also came amid a public-sector doctors' strike in Nigeria that began in early July. So far, health workers monitoring the latest Ebola patients are still on the job.
Nigeria is the fourth West African country to be hit by the Ebola outbreak since it first emerged in March in the remote tropical forests of Guinea. The disease then spread to neighboring Sierra Leona and Liberia before reaching Nigeria, where it surfaced shortly before the government drew criticism for its response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Islamic militants back in April. The girls are still missing.
Nigerian authorities said Tuesday that doctors did not suspect Patrick Sawyer was suffering from Ebola when the 40-year-old Liberian-American arrived by plane late last month in Lagos, where the streets are a bewildering mix of wealth and abject poverty, awash in luxury SUVs and decrepit buses.
Sawyer, who worked for the Liberian government in Monrovia and had a wife and three young daughters in Minnesota, was on a business flight to Nigeria when he fell ill. Officials say a nurse who treated him has died and five others are sick with Ebola, including a doctor involved in his care.
West African countries pledged at a meeting in July to step up their surveillance at airports and borders following the start of the outbreak. But the early symptoms of Ebola — fever, muscle aches and vomiting — are similar to much more common tropical diseases such as malaria.
The specter of the virus spreading through Nigeria is particularly alarming, said Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
"It makes you nervous when so many people are potentially at risk," he said.
Authorities in Liberia said Sawyer's sister had recently died of Ebola, though Sawyer said he had not had close contact with her while she was ill.
In announcing Sawyer's death, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu maintained late last month that Nigerian officials had been vigilant in isolating him.
"It was right there (at the airport) that the problem was noticed because we have maintained our surveillance," he told reporters. "And immediately, he went into the custody of the port health services of the federal ministry of health so there was no time for him to mingle in Lagos. He has not been in touch with any other person again since we took him from the airport."
Chukwu's comments were at odds with remarks made Tuesday by the Lagos state health commissioner, who said doctors did not suspect Ebola immediately and identified Sawyer as a possible case only after he had been hospitalized for about a day.
Sawyer, who had a fever and was vomiting on the plane, was coming from the infected country of Liberia but had a layover in Togo. As a result, officials may not have initially known his original point of departure, and it was unclear whether he was traveling on a Liberian or American passport.
Experts say people infected with Ebola can spread the disease only after they show symptoms. Since the incubation period can last up to three weeks, some of the Nigerians who treated Sawyer are only now showing signs of illness.
The national health minister on Wednesday said special tents would be used to establish isolation wards in all of Nigeria's states. Authorities were setting up an emergency center in Lagos to deal with Ebola and expected the facility to be "fully functional" by Thursday, he said.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in London, Mike Stobbe in New York and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, also contributed to this report.
July 31, 2014
City News Service
A pair of City Council members introduced a motion July 30 calling for a report from the Department of Water and Power on the water main break that flooded streets and inundated portions of the UCLA campus. The motion by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the Westwood area, instructs the DWP to report on the status and cause of July 29th’s rupture and the water main's operational history and any prior physical integrity issues. It also calls for a report on the status of DWP's water infrastructure program and whether the ruptured main had been scheduled for repair or upgrade; steps that can be taken to reduce any damage or impact on the public and surrounding property, such as technology that can give advance warning of ruptures; and a report on the utility's long-term efforts to replace aging water system components and improve system reliability, including exploring a faster replacement schedule.
The motion will likely be heard later this week in the Energy and Environment Committee, chaired by Councilman Felipe Fuentes, Wesson said. Wesson and other city leaders visited the site of the ruptured water main Wednesday afternoon to assess the extent of the damage, consider the next steps and discuss efforts to replace the city's aging water-delivery infrastructure.
Wesson, who is acting mayor while Eric Garcetti is on vacation, said he will join fellow council members and DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards to inspect the sinkhole and damaged pipe. They also hope to meet with UCLA officials, he said. Wesson said during the visit, he plans to learn everything he can about the main break. He noted that the pipes are graded A-F based on their condition, and the one that broke may have been in the ``C or D category.''
Even though the images of water gushing out of a hole in Sunset Boulevard were dramatic, ``we can't react to the way that it looked,'' he said.
The city will work to ``secure the situation right now and make sure the plan we have moving forward makes sense.'' There also needs to be a ``conversation'' about how to ``fast-track'' repairs for this latest break and other water infrastructure improvements, he said.
July 24, 2014
By STEVEN HERBERT
City News Service
President Barack Obama arrived aboard Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday afternoon for a planned 24 1/2-hour visit to conduct two political fundraisers and speak at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. Los Angeles was the final stop on Obama’s three-day, three-city West Coast fundraising trip, which began Tuesday July 22, in Seattle, where he spoke at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. Obama will begin his day in San Francisco, where he is to attend a morning fundraiser benefiting the House Majority Political Action Committee.
He spoke and answered questions at an early afternoon Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in Los Altos Hills. Obama’s first stop of his visit to Los Angeles was at the Hancock Park home of television producer Shonda Rhimes for a late-afternoon DNC fundraising reception and dinner. Tickets for the event begin at $1,000, according to an invitation posted on the website, PoliticalPartyTime.org, which tracks political fundraisers.
The price was $10,000 to attend the reception and for the opportunity to have a photo taken with Obama, and $32,400 — the maximum allowable contribution to a national party committee in a calendar year — to be a co-host of the event, which also allowed the donor to attend a dinner with Obama in addition to the reception and the photo opportunity. The event’s co-chairs included Kerry Washington, the star of the Rhimes-produced ABC drama “Scandal.” Rhimes is also a producer of two other ABC dramas, the long-running “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” which is set to premiere Sept. 25.
“The overwhelming majority” of tickets for the fundraiser were priced at $1,000 “because most of the people I know cannot afford” a $32,400 ticket, Rhimes told City News Service.
On Thursday, Obama was scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion with about 30 people at the Los Angeles home of Michael Rapino, CEO of the concert promotion firm Live Nation, with tickets costing $32,400 each, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Proceeds benefit the Democratic National Committee. The lone planned non-fundraising event of Obama’s visit to California was also scheduled Thursday at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, where he was expected to speak on the “importance of job-driven skills training, particularly for fast-growing sectors such as health care,” according to the White House.
Various groups describing themselves as pro-immigration and pro-Palestinian planned to protest outside Trade-Technical College, calling for ending deportations of immigrants in the country without legal permission, for the U.S. to demand Israel end its attacks on Palestinians and for the creation of a Palestinian state. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who will become House majority leader on Aug. 1, criticized Obama on Tuesday for not addressing California’s drought during his visit to the state, calling him “clueless to the fact that Californians care more for solving our problems than they care for high-dollar presidential fundraisers.”
Obama spoke about the drought at a farm in Los Banos in the San Joaquin Valley in February. The Obama administration has provided assistance to the state's farmers and ranchers in a variety of programs, sought to increase coordination and flexibility in water allocations; and improve drought monitoring, research and tools. The trip was Obama’s 19th to Los Angeles or Orange counties since taking office in 2009 and the third in three months. All but three of his trips have included political fundraisers.
LAWT News Service
President Obama’s recent town hall with 500 of Africa’s most promising young leaders provided an inspiring window into what the future holds for Africa, and the world.
The 500 participants in the Washington Fellowship program were selected from nearly 50,000 applicants from across Africa, as part of the president’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI was launched by President Obama in 2010, as part of a long-term investment in the next generation of African leaders. It aims to sharpen their skills, to improve their networks, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa for years to come.
The president announced during the town hall that the Washington Fellowship was being renamed as the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honor of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Mandela Washington Fellows represent the best and brightest from communities across Africa, and fields ranging from education, medicine, law, business, and beyond. These are the young leaders whose skills, passion, and visions for the future, will help shape the fate of their countries and the world. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them prepare with the tools they need to build a healthier, more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful Africa, which is why President Obama launched YALI in the first place.
“Even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate the headlines; even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day — we have to make sure that we’re all seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, the youngest and fastest-growing continent,” Obama said.
YALI is about capitalizing on the creativity and talent of Africa’s young leaders by empowering them with the skills, training, and technology necessary to make lasting change, and meaningful progress back home. And to do so, we are engaging public and private sector partners to create new Regional Leadership Centers across Africa to reach more young leaders. We’re joining with American universities, African institutions and business partners like Microsoft and MasterCard Foundation. Starting next year, young Africans can come to these centers to network, access the latest technology, and get training in management and entrepreneurship. The first centers will be located in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya — and will provide tens of thousands of young Africans the resources they need to put their ideas into action.
As last year came to a close, the world said goodbye to one of the brightest lights the world has ever known — President Nelson Mandela. His life was proof of the power within each of us to leave the world better than we found it. Yet, as that brilliant star dimmed, we now have the opportunity to see 500 more shine brightly this week.
One of this summer’s Fellows, Sobel Ngom from Senegal, captured the spirit of his experience in the YALI program this way: “Here, I have met Africa. The [Africa] I have always believed in. She is beautiful, young, full of talent, motivation and ambition.” And being here with all of his Fellow Mandela Washington Fellows — learning together, working together, dreaming together — has only strengthened his determination, he says, to realize his aspirations for his country and his continent.
July 17, 2014
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (District 2) announced his support for Chief Jim McDonnell for LA County Sheriff.
“Chief Jim McDonnell has the integrity and foresight to lead the Sheriff’s Department into a new era of transparency and success,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Throughout his years of public service, he has shown that he is not just tough on crime, but smart on crime, with the insights to recognize the value of investing in prevention and crime reduction strategies that keep our community safe and also help promote more positive outcomes for those at risk of entry into the justice system. I look forward to working with Chief McDonnell to ensure we are providing community-based treatment options instead of incarceration for those who suffer from mental illness and could benefit from these services.”
At the press conference, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Chief McDonnell were joined by more than a dozen local South LA community leaders and ministers, including Pastor Xavier Thompson, President of the Baptist Ministers Conference.
Pastor Thompson said, “Chief McDonnell understands the balance that the Sheriff’s Department must have within our communities, protecting the rights of our residents while ensuring the safety of our families. There is no question that Chief McDonnell is the right person for this job.”
Chief McDonnell has now received the support of all five current supervisors, Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, as well as Supervisor-Elect Hilda Solis and a host of other elected officials, law enforcement professionals and community leaders from all sides of the political spectrum.
In response to the endorsement, Chief McDonnell said, “I’m proud to have the support of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, a highly regarded County leader who is deeply committed to transparency and accountability in the Sheriff’s Department and a tremendous advocate for community engagement. I look forward to working together to find ways that we can protect our neighborhoods and help our children and families thrive.”
Chief McDonnell has served as Chief of the Long Beach Police Department since 2010 and previously served as the second in command in the Los Angeles Police Department. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence to “initiate and carry out a community-level review of alleged inappropriate use of force by deputies assigned to the jails.” Chief McDonnell is been a vocal supporter of developing diversion programs to help provide support for the mentally ill in the justice system, believing there are some inmates who would be better served by community-based treatment options that can address the underlying problems, while still maintaining community safety.
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