(Freetown) (AP) – Some residents ran from their homes in Sierra Leone to avoid being trapped during a three-day lockdown to contain the Ebola outbreak, a health worker said Saturday, a minor setback on the second day of a massive effort to confine 6 million people to their homes.
Nearly 30,000 volunteers and health care workers fanned out across the country on Friday and Saturday to distribute soap and information on how to prevent Ebola, which the World Health Organization says has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 in the region. The outreach campaign coincided with the sweeping three-day lockdown so that volunteers could conduct house-to-house searches to identify sick people reluctant or unable to seek treatment for Ebola.
Marathon runner Idrissa Kargbo, 23, is back in Sierra Leone to help the volunteers.
As a boy, Kargbo sprinted through the villages of Sierra Leone on errands for his grandmother and later as a coffee courier. Now his times have qualified him for races on three continents.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Kargbo said the Freetown residents he’d visited were grateful for whatever information they could get.
“Some people are still denying, but now when you go to almost any house they say, `Come inside, come and teach us what we need to do to prevent,’” Kargbo said. “Nobody is annoyed by us.”
For Kargbo, spreading Ebola awareness was a welcome break from idleness after the outbreak cut off all opportunities for him to train and compete. He had been planning to run the Liberia Marathon in August, having placed second in the race last year, but it was postponed until at least early 2015 as the outbreak in that country spiraled out of control.
The stadium where he normally trains in Freetown has also been closed, he said, and his work as a coffee courier was put on hold because most of the clients – international NGO workers – have fled the country.
“Most of those NGO people are going out,” Kargbo said. “Right now, I don’t have the chance to go anywhere. I don’t have the chance to train.”
Sierra Leone’s government is clearly hoping the lockdown will help turn the tide against the disease. In a speech before it began, President Ernest Bai Koroma said “the survival and dignity of each and every Sierra Leonean” was at stake.
The strategy is controversial, however. After it was announced earlier this month, Doctors Without Borders warned it would be “extremely difficult for health workers to accurately identify cases through door-to-door screening.”
Even if suspected cases are identified during the lockdown, the group said Sierra Leone wouldn’t have enough beds for them.
In northern Sierra Leone, health worker Lamin Unisa Camara said Saturday he had received some reports that residents had run away from their homes to avoid being trapped during the lockdown.
“I was informed that people were running from their houses to the bush. Without wasting time, I informed the chief in charge of the area to call his people,” said Camara, who was working in the town of Kambia.
Several health care workers and volunteers complained that supply kits were delivered late, preventing their teams from starting on time. The kits contain bars of soap, cards listing Ebola symptoms, stickers to mark houses visited and a tally sheet to record suspected cases.
Kargbo, however, said his team got to work on time and was on track to meet its goal of visiting 60 households by the end of the lockdown Sunday.
He said the effort would be worth it if the outbreak is shortened even a little. Once it’s over, he is looking forward to getting back to a running career that has taken him to races in London and New York in the last year.
“I want this to be finished so I can have the chance to train and go to other countries,” he said. “That’s why I volunteered to do it.”
Corey-Boulet reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Youssouf Bah in Kambia, Sierra Leone, and Michael Duff in Freetown, Sierra Leone, contributed to this report.
(Tehran) (AP) – Iran and the United States share a common enemy in the Islamic State militant group, but a deep-seated lack of trust has so far kept the longtime foes from publicly joining hands in a coalition to defeat the extremists.
Their inability to work together complicates efforts to beat back the extremists that both Washington and Tehran see as a threat, and has left Iraq’s new government – which considers both countries allies – scratching its head as it tries to tackle the most serious threat to its stability since American troops left in 2011.
Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, made his frustration clear in a recent interview with The Associated Press, saying U.S. pressure to keep Iran away from talks in Paris aimed at combatting the militant threat had left him “in a very difficult position.”
“I actually find it puzzling that we hold a conference in Paris to help Iraq and to fight terrorism and … the biggest neighbor of Iraq – Iran – is excluded,” he said.
Iran is convinced the United States wants to use the fight against the Islamic State group as a pretext to strike Tehran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad. Rejecting any cooperation with Assad, Washington is planning airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and says it will beef up Syrian rebels to fill the void as it drives out the extremists.
Iranian officials are even skeptical the U.S. really opposes the Islamic State group, since it is fighting Assad, whom the U.S. wants removed from power. On Tuesday, the top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard dismissed the anti-Islamic State group coalition as “a show.”
“There is not much hope in this coalition since they’ve set it up for their own objectives,” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said. “We have serious doubts that this coalition seeks to destroy the Islamic State.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also has ruled out cooperating with the United States in helping Iraq fight Islamic State militants. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday in New York, he expressed doubts about Washington’s willingness and ability to fight the group “across the board.”
The United States is wary of furthering Iranian influence in Iraq by bringing it into the fight. It also does not want to alienate key Sunni countries it is trying to rally behind its coalition, like Saudi Arabia, which is Iran’s top rival in the region.
Nevertheless, Iran has already been closely involved in the fight. Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias have been leading some of the fighting against the group on the ground. Iranian Revolutionary Guard advisers in Iraq have helped coordinate between militias and the Iraqi military against the extremists, according to Iraqi officials.
Iran has publicly confirmed that it has provided military advice to Iraqis including Kurds to fight the Islamic State militants but has denied sending forces or shipping weapons.
Zarif says Iran’s assistance – without any troops – helped Iraq prevent the Islamic State group from taking over Baghdad and the Kurdish capital Irbil.
Washington and Tehran have been in back-room contacts about cooperation for weeks, and leaders of the two countries – who talked a year ago – are arriving next week for the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. Within Iran’s diplomatic circles, some moderate voices supported an alliance with the U.S. against the militants.
But on Monday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, decisively ruled out an alliance. He said Iran had rejected an invitation by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss cooperation.
Khamenei said the U.S. was “seeking a pretext” for military intervention in Iraq and Syria and warned that if the Americans go ahead with it “they will suffer the same problems they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years.”
Speaking later the same day, Kerry did not address whether the U.S. had made any such invitation. He said that while the U.S. has ruled out any military coordination with Iran, it is open to communications “to find out if they will come on board, or under what circumstances, or whether there is the possibility of a change.”
Despite their long decades of enmity, Iran and the United States have been united by a common enemy before: Afghanistan’s Taliban. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Iran coordinated with it, especially on operations in the western part of the country near its border. The cooperation ended badly, however, when then-President George W. Bush branded Iran part of an “axis of evil,” infuriating Tehran.
Saeed Leilaz, an Iranian political analyst, says Iran has not completely shut the door to talks with the U.S. on the crisis.
“Nowadays, Iranian and American officials privately talk for 10 hours a day. Definitely, they also talk about the Islamic State group,” Leilaz said. But Iran wants the U.S. to clarify its intentions in the region before any cooperation, he said.
But for the moment, Tehran and Washington are likely to operate separately against the group.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Amir Abdollahian, said his country won’t wait for a coalition to act against extremists. He said the best way to fight the group is “to assist Iraqi and Syrian governments, which are actively involved in the fight against terrorism.”
(Minsk) (AP) – Sporadic artillery fire hit parts of eastern Ukraine on Saturday, hours after negotiators agreed to create a buffer zone between government troops and pro-Russian militants by halting their advances, pulling back heavy weapons and withdrawing foreign fighters.
Despite positive developments coming out of talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk and a cease-fire that has been in place since Sept. 5, the fighting between the two sides was still deadly.
In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, strong explosions could be heard from a munitions factory that a local official said was hit by an artillery shell. It was unclear which side fired it. Explosions were heard in three areas of the city in the afternoon, the city council said.
The Interior Ministry said rebels had opened fire on the village of Stakhanovets in the Luhansk region, but it had no immediate information on casualties.
Ukrainian national security council spokesman Volodymyr Polyoviy said Saturday that about 20 rebels and one soldier had been killed in clashes but did not specify if those took place after the negotiators agreed on the buffer zone around 4 a.m.
The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe marks an effort to add substance to a cease-fire agreement that has been frequently broken.
The signed deal says the two sides should stay where they were Friday and make no attempt to advance.
Leonid Kuchma, a former Ukrainian president who represented the Kiev government at the talks, said the memorandum will be implemented within a day.
Under the deal, each party must pull back artillery of 100 millimeters (about 4 inches) or larger at least 15 kilometers (9 miles), setting up a buffer zone that would be 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide. The longer-range artillery systems are to be pulled even farther back to make sure the parties can’t reach one another.
The deal also specifically bans flights by combat aircraft over the area of conflict and setting up new minefields.
“It should offer the population a chance to feel secure,” said Igor Plotnitskyi, the leader of rebels in the Luhansk region.
The rebels are located near the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov coast, but their positions elsewhere are not clear. Ukrainian government forces are at the airport in Donetsk but the location of their lines outside that city is also unclear.
The memorandum also envisages the withdrawal of “all foreign armed units and weapons, as well as militants and mercenaries” – a diplomatic reference to Russians fighting alongside the rebels.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of fueling the insurgency in eastern Ukraine with weapons and soldiers. Moscow has denied that, saying that Russians who joined the mutiny did so as private citizens.
The Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, who represented Moscow in the talks, said “those whom we call mercenaries are present on both sides.”
Heidi Tagliavini, the OSCE’s envoy in the talks, said the group’s monitors will be deployed to the buffer zone to monitor the cease-fire.
In the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, NATO’s top general, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, said the September deal is a “cease-fire in name only.” He said the violence, including the number of artillery rounds fired in the past few days, is as high as prior to the cease-fire.
Breedlove said he hopes the agreement announced Saturday to create a buffer zone between Ukrainian government troops and the pro-Russian militants will succeed in stabilizing the situation.
The agreement Saturday could be a significant step forward but negotiators have not yet addressed the most difficult issue – the future status of the rebel regions.
The insurgency in the mostly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions flared up after the ouster of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president in February and Russia’s annexation of Crimea the following month. Five months of fighting has killed at least 3,000 people and devastated the regions that formed Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
The Ukrainian crisis has also pushed Russia-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War. Faced with several rounds of Western sanctions that are badly hurting the Russian economy, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has pushed for a peace deal that would ease Western pressure while protecting Moscow’s interests in Ukraine.
As part of a compromise to end the hostilities, the Ukrainian parliament this week passed a law giving a broad autonomy to the areas controlled by the rebels, including the power to hold local elections and form their own police force.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of rebels in Donetsk, said Ukraine and the rebels have conflicting interpretations of the law and the talks should continue.
(Edinburgh) (AP) – They arrived before polling stations even opened, dressed for the school day in striped ties and blazers, dress slacks and tartan skirts, book bags over their shoulders – and for the first time in British history, ballot cards in hand.
Scotland’s experiment of allowing more than 100,000 teens aged 16 to 17 to take part in this week’s independence referendum has demonstrated how the youngest voters can be some of the most enthusiastic in a mature democracy. More than 90 percent of the previously disenfranchised teens registered to vote – and, to the surprise of many analysts, proved not so ready to rebel against their parents as might be expected.
Many say the Scottish success showed that the voting age ought to be lowered to 16 across Britain and Europe. It happened, in part, because the Scottish National Party expected the youngest voters to back independence heavily. Surveys and anecdotal evidence, however, suggested that wasn’t decisively the case.
“We talked a lot about it at school the next day, how we voted versus our parents or our older brothers and sisters,” said Sinead McLoughlin, 17, standing with her family outside the Edinburgh Zoo. “A lot of my friends say they voted just like the rest of their family. There seemed to be more disagreement between the older ones, really. I think more younger people did vote yes. But we weren’t quite the revolutionaries the SNP thought we’d be!”
McLoughlin voted Yes and was crestfallen at the result.
“I’m not too, too sad,” she said. “I’m hoping the pandas will cheer me up!”
That would be the zoo’s most famous residents, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, aka Sweetie and Sunshine.
On social media, news that independence was rejected by a clear 55 percent triggered much grief and some nastiness in teen chat. Some denounced Edinburgh, which recorded the strongest anti-independence vote, as anti-Scottish. Many teens said, because pro-independence activists were so much more vocal and visible, the result felt like a shock.
“I kind of felt like I was the only boy in Scotland voting No,” said Iain McLeod, 17. “Then the next day at school, there was this big `coming out.’ Suddenly it seemed like everybody was standing up to say they’d voted No too.
“But you could tell the real believers for independence just by eyeballing them,” he added. “You didn’t have to ask. They looked shattered.”
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot whose impassioned defense of the anti-independence side dominated the final days, said Saturday that he found the sight of students lining up to vote at dawn among the most inspiring moments of the campaign.
On the day of the vote, Brown said, his eldest son John asked him a question.
“Why is it the case that some of the pupils in this school can have the vote and I’m 10 years old and I’m denied it?” Brown told supporters to a gale of laughter.
Brown said the passion of Scottish youth for voting mirrored that of democracy’s founding fathers “when they demanded that decisions … be made not by royal instructions, and not by elites ruling over us, but by people exercising their power through the ballot box.”
He declined to say whether he’d like to lower the voting age across the United Kingdom for the British parliamentary election next year and for the Scottish Parliament vote in 2016.
Thursday’s voting rules showed that, wherever the line is drawn, those too young to vote feel left out.
“Every morning I’d walk to school with one of my friends, and literally all we would talk about was the referendum,” said Holly Foxwell, 15, who is in a high school class with mostly 16-year-olds. She’d have voted No if given the opportunity, like her mom and dad.
She said teens should be allowed to vote “because it’s our generation really that’s going to be affected, more than older people.”
“I find politics quite interesting, but I know a lot of my friends didn’t. But suddenly everyone knew everything about politics. Everyone researched it, because they wanted to know what was going on,” she said.
Data on how Scotland voted Thursday is incomplete because of the lack of rigorous exit polling, but partial surveys by pollsters in the hours before and after the vote concluded that the biggest backers of independence were people aged 25 to 34, not the youngest group of 16- to 24-year-olds. Only one survey specifically asked voters aged 16 and 17, finding 14 of them; 10 had voted Yes, four No.
Sarah Buchan, a 17-year-old already studying at Edinburgh University, said she hadn’t taken an interest in politics before but now was hooked. She credited social media campaigns tailored to mobilizing younger voters with making her think, defend her views and eventually change them.
“I think it’s engaged so many young people that to not be so interested in how it’s going to go from here would be weird,” she said of the independence debate. “I wasn’t really that into politics, but since it blew up so big, especially on social media – you can’t not get involved, because it’s everywhere. And now I’m interested to see where it goes next.”
Buchan said she shifted her support to independence after talking with other young activists.
“I’ve seen a lot of good stuff that made me rethink a lot of things,” Buchan said as she tucked into lunch at McDonald’s.
McLoughlin felt certain that today’s teen voters would get another chance to back independence one day.
“And next time Scotland will say yes. I might be in my 30s! But I’ll see the day that Scotland is its own proper nation,” she said. “I just hope they’ll be letting people my age vote for everything by then, because we’ve shown that we’re just as good at voting as anybody else. And it’s our future as much as anyone’s.”
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri officials are moving forward with a $750,000 renovation of the Senate, although Gov. Jay Nixon is blocking hundreds of millions of dollars of spending for other programs and facilities because of concerns about the state’s finances.
The Senate renovation will remove staff offices that had been built in what once was an open space overlooking the chamber’s dais. The intent is to restore the chamber to its original appearance while also making the space available for Senate committee meetings.
Bids received this week ranged from $429,000 to $527,000 for construction. Nixon’s Office of Administration says the total cost will be closer to $750,000 when designing and other expenses are included.
The project is going forward while Nixon has frozen $735 million of spending for other programs.
(Little Rock) (AP) – Republican Senate hopeful Tom Cotton is accusing Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of being weak on national security, as the vote to arm and train Syrian rebels battling brutal Islamic State militants steered foreign policy into their nationally watched race.
Cotton, the freshman congressman hoping to unseat Pryor in November, accused Pryor of being inconsistent on arming Syrian rebels and cited Pryor’s earlier vote against doing so. Both Cotton and Pryor voted this week to give the president authority to train and arm Syrian rebels in legislation that was signed into law Friday.
Cotton called Pryor a “weak and unsteady voice” on national security issues.
Pryor has said he voted for Thursday’s measure because it included safeguard and oversight measures. His campaign accused Cotton of “kneejerk politics” and misleading voters.
(Little Rock) (AP) – U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman have announced that four Arkansas airports will share more than $1.3 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to support facility upgrades and expansions.
Clarendon Municipal Airport will receive $43,587 to design a taxiway pavement extension, Delta Regional Airport at Colt will receive $703,393 to build a 12-bay T-hangar, Magnolia Municipal Airport will receive $200,907 for an automatic weather observing system and the Howard County Airport in Nashville will receive $396,000 to rehabilitate its runway and improve the runway safety area.
The funding is supported by the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, which was signed into law in January.
Seymour Apple Festival
The air has turned cool, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. Gone are the days of late night walks through the fields, instead, early harvesting has begun and many of us in the 33rd District have begun to plan for the colder days and nights ahead.
But before it is winter, let’s enjoy the great things fall brings to the great Missouri Ozarks. Along with the turning of leaves and cooler temperatures, fall means farm harvesting and festival time. I not only enjoy the cool weather but the chance to join in fun and fellowship with many of you before winter arrives.
I attended the 42nd Seymour Apple Festival this last weekend. Along with many of you, I enjoyed the gospel singing, pet show, vendor booths, displays and, especially, the crowning of the Apple Festival Royalty.
In addition to a whole host of senior citizens and children’s activities, there was a Johnny Appleseed contest, the annual World Champion Apple Peeling Contest, a raffle by the Merchants Association, quite a few bands, performers, and more. I even rolled up my sleeves and enjoyed working alongside friends in the corn dog and chicken huts.
I also made time to attend Bakersfest at Pride Park in Ozark County. This small town of about 265 swells to hold more than 1,000 people during this event. What I enjoy most about this event is the wide variety of craft booths and watching the all-day softball tournament and the horseshoe tournament. The horseshoe tournaments are for people of all ages. A good time was had by all.
As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol; however, during interim I may be in district. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.
The House and Senate convened on Wednesday, September 10th for the annual Veto Session. This year’s session was one of the longest in recent history, with the House convening for 16 straight hours of floor debate and discussion. By the end of the marathon session, the legislature, with bipartisan support, successfully overrode 10 of the governor’s 33 vetoed bills and 47 of his 160 budget line-item vetoes. For some historical perspective, prior to this session our state had seen a total of 32 overrides of non-appropriations bills and just two overrides of line-item vetoes.
That is not to say that numbers such as these are important, because in truth they are not. Rather, the sudden spike in numbers of veto overrides is reflective of a more concerning fact; the out-of-line agenda, and political gamesmanship of the governor. Sadly, the governor, in recent years has rarely communicated with the legislature during session, despite numerous attempts by the legislature to discuss issues with the governor while legislation is being drafted. Instead, the governor waits until after the legislature is adjourned and abuses his veto and withhold power to force his will on the legislature.
Every session, the general assembly is required to pass a balanced budget. The process is long and tiring, but members from both parties work diligently to ensure that money is spent in a responsible manner. It is important to understand the legislature came together in bipartisan fashion to draft and pass these incredibly important funding items during the regular session only to see the governor use his veto pen to undo our work. That is why each of the motions to override the governor’s vetoes received strong support from members of both parties on Wednesday. Regardless of party affiliation, the members of the House and Senate believe the governor has emphasized the wrong spending priorities with his budget actions. While he continues to find money in the budget to pay for numerous flights in his taxpayer-funded plane, or for membership dues for various associations, he has somehow been unable to justify spending for worthy causes like our sheltered workshops or independent living centers.
A brief look at some of the spending items vetoed by the governor and overridden by the legislature:
- $2.5 million for an intensive reading instruction program for kids in failing school district
- $150,000 for the Bright Futures Program that empowers communities to meet the needs of their children
- $1.45 million to provide forensic exams for physically abused children
- $1.3 million for programs to help children with Autism
- $948,381 for a Medicaid waiver for individuals with brain injuries
- $125,000 for services for Missourians with Alzheimer’s
- $400,000 for the Area Agencies on Aging to provide home delivered meals to Missouri seniors
- $500,000 to provide assistance to victims of sexual assault
- $5.2 million for services to Missourians with asthma
- $500,000 for the Alternatives to Abortion Program
- $455,000 for Missouri’s 22 Centers for Independent Living
- $500,000 in state aid for sheltered workshops
- $200,000 to provide dental care to developmentally disabled young people
- $191,400 to enhance and expand newborn screening services
These are just a few of the many items we voted to immediately fund. Our hope is that the governor will now comply with our votes rather than use his withholding authority to continue to deny these funds to the programs that will use them to help Missourians who need and deserve our assistance.
Though the numerous budget item overrides took much of the day on Wednesday, the House and Senate also joined together to override 10 non-budget bills.
HB 1307 will provide more time waiting period between will require a woman to take additional time to consider her decision. Currently, Missouri requires a 24-hour waiting period between the time a woman seeks her first consultation and exam from a physician and the time she returns to undergo an abortion procedure. HB 1307 extends the waiting period to 72 hours. The circumstances leading up to an abortion often are highly emotional and difficult. HB 1307 will provide more time to consider all alternatives before making an ultimate decision.
HB 1132 will increase the amount of tax credits that are available for donations to various organizations that assist Missourians in need. The bill will increase the amount of credits available each year for contributions to pregnancy resource centers to $2.5 million. The bill also will increase the amount of credits that may be claimed but those who contribute to a local food pantry from $1.25 million to $1.75 million, and the cumulative amount of tax credits that can be claimed by individuals who contribute to maternity homes from $2 million to $2.5 million annually.
The other 8 bills overridden by the legislature:
- SB 523 Prohibits school districts from requiring a student to use an ID device that uses radio frequency ID technology
- SB 593 Modifies provisions relating to nonpartisan elections
- SB 656 modifies several provisions relating to firearms including concealed carry permits and school protection officers
- SB 727 Creates a sales and use tax exemption for farm products sold at farmers’ market
- SB 731 Modifies provisions relating to nuisance ordinances and actions
- SB 829 Modifies provision relating to burden of proof in tax liability cases
- SB 841 Modifies state law regarding the sale of electronic cigarettes
- SB 866 Modifies and defines requirements regarding traditional installment loan lending
For more information of the above legislation visit www.house.mo.gov
(West Plains) – Bethel Baptist Church, 4228 County Road 7100, West Plains, invites you to join them for a day of worship and fun at our High Attendance Sunday on September 28.
Sunday School will be at 9:45 AM and Worship Services at 11 AM. After morning worship service there will be a fish fry with dinner on the grounds, and special music with Amy Wright, Vicky Dancer, and Debbie Silvia along with other select groups.
Please call 417-274-9433 or 417-256-9367 with any questions.