Just In: Ebola Scare in Washington, DC

Just in: A woman got off a Metro bus this morning at the Pentagon and then boarded a shuttle bus that was headed to the Change of Command ceremony at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I in SE Washington D.C. Before that shuttle bus left the parking lot she got off and became ill. 

The woman is currently quarantined at a Virginia hospital and claimed to have been in Liberia two weeks ago.

The passengers on the bus were held on board for a period of time at the Marine Barracks. All passengers have now been let off of the bus before it drove away from where it had been parked.

All passengers who were aboard were questioned and screened--two of the passengers told our local FOX affiliate they were cleared and told to follow up with their individual doctors. The health department has not confirmed this information. 

More tonight on Special Report and we will bring you the latest on this story as we learn more. 

 

Turkey, Qatar Complicate Operation Against ISIS

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

Turkish and Qatari interests continue to strain the international coalition, while besieged governments in Syria and Iraq depend heavily on Shiite militias on the ground after the deterioration of state forces at the hand of ISIS.

After much delay, US Central Command on Wednesday announced the name of the operation that began with airstrikes in Iraq on August 8th.

“The name Inherent Resolve is intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the US and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community . . . It also symbolizes the willingness and dedication of coalition members to work closely with friends in the region . . . to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” US Central Command Officials stated.

However, the “willingness and dedication of coalition members to work closely with friends in the region” remains largely in question as fundamental divisions among coalition states linger.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, “have been warning the White House that Qatar is playing a double game in the region—publicly supporting U.S. policies while aiding its enemies.” Adding, “the division largely pits Qatar and Turkey, vocal supporters of Islamist movements, against traditional Arab monarchies in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Amman.”

The clash isn’t a first among these states. Back in March, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar following Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The three acted after Qatar violated the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council agreement, signed in November of last year, not to support “anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC.”

The US Treasury Department has long criticized Qatar for funding Hamas, and expressed concern that Qatar may be funneling money to groups such as al Qaeda, Nusra Front, and even ISIS.

Despite this, former officials say that Qatar is a uniquely capable asset in the region. It was Qatar who largely brokered the deal for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and recently, along with Turkey, pressured Hamas into talks with Israel at the urging of Sectary of State John Kerry. “American diplomacy has seen utility in having an ally who brokers with the bad guys when necessary,” said Juan Zarate, a senior White House and Treasury official in the Bush administration. 

Still, Israeli, Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi officials have objected to reliance on Qatar, contending that Doha would be encouraged to further strengthen ties with extremist groups.  

And while Qatar has provided surveillance from the air, it has yet to actually conduct airstrikes on ISIS militants.

After much pressure from the US, a coalition nation that did recently conduct airstrikes is Turkey—but not on whom Washington had anticipated.

On Monday, Turkish warplanes in southeastern Turkey struck strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, a US and Turkey recognized terrorist group. Though recently removed from a three-decade civil war with Turkey, the PKK also comprises part of the Kurdish ground force struggling to defend the Syrian city of Kobani from ISIS militants just 300 yards from the Turkish border.

Additionally, Turkey barred the PKK and other Turkish Kurds from transporting reinforcements across the border to Kobani to aid their embattled comrades. Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and Turkish expert bluntly opined, “I think they are happy to have [ISIS and the PKK] kill each other.”

Turkish officials in Ankara, sympathizers of Islamist movements such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, have been reluctant to take a more decisive military role in the effort to defeat ISIS. The hesitance continues to trouble the US, whose strategy could benefit from NATO’s 2nd largest military as well as a border with both Iraq and Syria.

Hope appeared to spring for the coalition on Sunday after US National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced that Turkey had agreed to allow the coalition forces to use Turkish bases for launching airstrikes as well as a training ground for Syrian rebels. But it didn’t take long for Turkish officials to deny that such an agreement had been made.

And while addressing Istanbul’s Marmara University on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “The Assad regime should be the target for the real solution in Syria.” The Turks have long called for a broader strategy that would soon topple the Assad regime.

Such strategic disagreements continue to hinder coalition operations.

On Tuesday, military officials from 22 nations met at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to further discuss the operation. President Obama made an appearance and indicated that it would be a “long term campaign” with “periods of progress and setbacks.” Rear Adm. and Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby declined on Thursday to disclose the details of the discussions. 

Coalition states have yet to offer ground troops for the operation.

And though the conflict largely arose from sectarian strife—states are, for now, relying on more sectarian strife to control the conflict on the ground.

Along with both extremist and moderate Kurdish groups, the AP reports that Shiite militias have stepped up in Iraq and Syria after state forces have collapsed at the hand of Sunni ISIS militants.

In Iraq, Shiite militias, many of whom allied with Iran, have rallied to defend the government. However, Amnesty International suggests that these militias have also been responsible for killing and abducting Sunni civilians.

In Syria, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, Hezbollah, has fought alongside pro-government militias to defend the Assad regime from ISIS overthrow.

Ebola has reached the United States—now what?

By: Katy Ricalde

Exactly one month ago today President Obama took to the podium at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to assure the American people that U.S. would be prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak in the “unlikely” event that someone with Ebola made it into the country.

There have now been three diagnosed cases of the Ebola virus in the United States. The first patient, Thomas Duncan, died and two nurses who cared for Duncan have tested positive for Ebola. Dozens of other healthcare workers in Dallas are being monitored for the virus.

Duncan was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian, but they did not quarantine him right away. The hospital has come under fire in the past and even lost federal funds because of its high discharge rates of patients who later had to return for treatment. They were also penalized in Dallas under a three-year program designed to reduce the number of patients readmitted for care.

Nurses at the same hospital have come forward stating protocol was not followed while caring for the patient. They claim their protective gear left their necks exposed, medical waste was allowed to pile up, they did not have access to proper supplies, and that they did not receive proper hands-on training.

The head of the CDC is assuring Congress Ebola is not a significant threat to the U.S., but lawmakers are accusing hospitals of being unprepared, health care workers not properly trained, and bureaucrats guilty of making false assumptions.

Hospital officials in Dallas are admitting they made serious mistakes in dealing with the first Ebola patients to be diagnosed in the U.S.  

The first nurse to test positive, Nina Pham, is being taken to NIH outside of Washington, D.C., where she will be transferred to a biohazard infectious disease isolation area. She received a potentially life-saving blood transfusion from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly.

The second nurse, Amber Vinson, has already been moved to isolation at Emory University Hospital. Vinson flew commercially the day before testing positive for Ebola. The CDC said that Vinson called the agency before flying to alert them she had a fever of 99.5 degrees, but because it was below the 100.4 degree mark she did not fall into a “high risk” group and was allowed to fly.

Officials are now trying to ease fears as they alert the passengers who were on board that flight and as concerns over air travel increase.

Fever screenings at major international airports began for anyone coming from West Africa and some lawmakers are questioning whether a travel ban should go into effect.  

A CDC official tells Fox News that in order for a travel ban to be effective, it would have to be universally adopted by all nations where travelers from West Africa come through. If the U.S. adopted a travel ban it would still be possible for a person infected with Ebola to enter the country if the traveler came in contact with a person with Ebola somewhere outside of West Africa.

Another concern is the rate at which the virus spreads. The reproduction number, or “R nought,” is a mathematical term that tells you how contagious an infectious disease is—aka the number of people who, on average, catch the disease from one sick person. The rate for Ebola is around 1.5-2.0—relatively low, however it has proven to be true with Duncan infecting two others.

Political arguments over Ebola have already begun and it has become yet another issue that will be a fixture ahead of the midterm elections. A new Fox News poll shows that nearly half of Americans believe the government is hiding information on Ebola.

What are your thoughts? How do you think this will play out in the midterm elections?

 

Ebola Fact vs. Fiction: Dr. Mary Schmidt, Infectious Disease Expert

Dr. Mary Schmidt is board-certified in infectious diseases and internal medicine. She has practiced infectious diseases in the northern Virginia community for 22 years. She also has a  Master’s Degree in Public Health  from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  She is an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University, Virginia Commonwealth University and is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy at George Mason University. She has published in major journals and has given presentations at national specialty meetings.

 

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Turkey Idle As Kobani Under Siege

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

Both US and Turkish officials acknowledge the impending ISIS siege of Kobani, a Kurdish Syrian border town just 300 yards outside Turkey. Yet Turkey, NATO’s second largest military force, remains idle, as US-led airstrikes and outgunned Kurdish ground forces have failed to thwart ISIS advances.

While US officials downplay the importance of Kobani, others disagree. Retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan writes, “Strategically, Kobani’s capture provides a territorial link across a span of land ranging from Allepo on the west to the outskirts of Baghdad off to the south east.”  ISIS would control a large region on the border through which hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to Turkey, and trucks and trains have driven from Turkey into Syria. Another big gain could also boost ISIS recruiting efforts.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s hesitance to play a more direct military role for the coalition forces may stem from a US strategy that does not soon include taking on the Assad regime, which may benefit from initial degradation to ISIS. Turkey’s absence from US-led coalition forces have largely been excused in recent months. Dire security concerns arose from the over 40 Turkish government officials held hostage by ISIS since mid-June, who were released a few weeks ago.  

And though last Thursday Turkish lawmakers did approve the use of ground forces in Syria and Iraq, Turkish tanks along the border with Syria remain steadfastly inactive.

Retired General John Allen, special envoy and coordinator of the international coalition, and Brett McGurk, deputy assistant Secretary of State, traveled to Turkey Thursday to discuss Turkey’s role in the effort to “defeat and degrade” ISIS.  But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier insisted that it was not “realistic” to expect a Turkish ground operation against ISIS in Kobani.

Within the Turkish border, domestic politics may encourage inaction. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whom the US and Turkey recognize as a terrorist organization, handles much of the ground battle against ISIS in Kobani. They also just ended a three-decade civil war with Turkey. Thus, most Turks oppose intervening on behalf of their recent adversaries. And now in peace talks with the PKK, Turkish officials hope to use the battle as leverage, a Western diplomat and analysts say.

Unfortunately for Turkey, non-intervention hasn’t kept the domestic peace. Kurdish Turks make up the majority of the southeastern part of Turkey and continue to protest inaction, which has so far ended in at least 25 dead and nearly 150 wounded. 

In spite of the discord, Turkish officials spoke of their concern.

“Turkey will not be content with the fall of Kobani into the hands of terrorist organizations,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said Tuesday. “Our government and related institutions have underlined the necessity to intensify aerial bombings in a more active and effective way...”

Though US-led aerial bombings around Kobani have intensified in recent days, US officials conceded their limitations and implied defeat.

“Airstrikes alone are not going to do this, not going to fix this,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary, said Wednesday. “They’re not going to save the town of Kobani, we know that.”

Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to the long term goal: “As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening to Kobani . . . you have to step back and understand the strategic objective.”

What’s yet to be determined is just how many more cities coalition forces can allow to fall to ISIS without major disruptions to the “strategic objective.”

It would take up to a year to recruit, vet, and train 5,000 Syrian rebel fighters in Saudi Arabia, which may not get underway for another five months, General Dempsey indicated. Many question the potential of President Obama’s plan, among them recently included former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and even former President Jimmy Carter.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post editorial board weighed in: “For now, the US Operation in Iraq and Syria is defined mainly by its limitations. The restrictions Mr. Obama has imposed on his commanders are not compatible with the objectives he has asked them to achieve.”

Special Report Grapevine: Red Bull paying for not living up to claims

Clipped Wings: Red Bull is handing out up to $13 million for not actually giving you wings.

The energy drink giant has settled a pair of class action lawsuits for false advertising.

The suits claimed people were misled by the slogan and the advertised benefits of increased performance, improved concentration, and better reaction speed.

Promises the still wingless drinkers call false.

Red Bull has denied any wrongdoing but has settled in order prevent further litigation.

The settlement entitles anyone who bought a red bull product from 2002 until last Friday to a cash settlement of $10 or $15 worth of Red Bull products.

Quid Pro Quo: Thailand is taking a stand against policemen taking bribes by offering them bribes.

The government wants to provide a financial incentive for cops to turn down freebies as part of an effort to combat the ingrained culture of corruption within the police force.

And it appears to be working.

The country's police major general announced that two policemen were awarded the equivalent of $310 for refusing a $3 bribe.

In Thailand, bribes are commonly used to get out of minor traffic offenses.

Final Exit: Finally, the last remnants of the metric system on the interstate highway system may be heading for an exit.

Signs like this one use the metric system in Arizona for a stretch of 60 miles -- or about 100 kilometers.

The markers are the last remaining relic of a failed Carter administration pilot program aimed at convincing Americans to adopt the measuring system used by much of the rest of the world.

The state was planning to replace the signs because of wear and tear and converting them to miles.

One supporter admitted the conversion would make things simpler.

Quote -- "When I'm driving, I definitely can't do that math."

The plan was stalled after business owners complained about exit numbers and road markers changing which would force them to update marketing materials.

Officials say they will seek public input before making a final decision.

US aid workers go through intensive Ebola training in Alabama

John Roberts reports

Gardner Closes the Gap in Colorado

By: David Bastawrous- Special Report College Associate

While you may not have uttered the “my dad is better than your dad” classic American snub since your days on the school playground, don’t put it past Colorado’s political playground. Anything goes in this high stakes race as Republican Rep. Cory Gardner seeks to oust Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall.

The Wall Street Journal argues that Colorado’s Senate candidates are vying for an electorate composed of voters who decide presidential elections: suburban women, an increasing Hispanic population, and a plurality of unaffiliated, independent voters. In fact, of the past 6 presidential elections, Colorado chose the Republican and Democratic candidate 3 times each, and 5 of whom went on to become the President.

Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute, a Denver based libertarian think tank, labeled this a true kitchen table-issue election. A recent Suffolk/USA Today poll suggests that voters pinpoint jobs, healthcare, and national security as priority issues.

Though it didn’t take long before Democrats aimed to cast Gardner as a republican of the Todd Aiken ilk. A July ad put out by the Senate Majority PAC accused Gardner of trying to “redefine rape.” Udall’s team also blasted Gardner for co-sponsoring a federal Personhood Amendment that would effectively outlaw abortion. But in March, Gardner said he was “not right” and “can’t support personhood” after the realization that the bill would outlaw certain forms of birth control. He also clarified his support for exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother to his pro-life position.

But back in July, Patrick Davis, a Colorado Republican consultant, suggested that Udall went too negative too early, “pulling out an October tactic in July,” he said. And he just may have been right.

While Sen. Udall kept a slight, but consistent lead throughout the summer, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball recently moved Colorado from “Lean’s Democratic” to “Toss Up”. All indicators show that momentum is swinging Gardner’s way. Though the Real Clear Politics average has Gardner up by just 0.6% (a statistical tie), they write, “the race seems to have closed and Gardner now has a slight lead.”

And the biggest thorn in Udall’s side: President Obama. During a Sept. 6 debate, Udall said, “Let me tell you, the White House, when they look down the front lawn, the last person they want to see coming is me.” But it may be the other way around. When President Obama flew up to Udall’s turf in Colorado to host a fundraiser in July, Udall elected to stay in Washington. The Real Clear Politics average shows Colorado with a 54% disapproval to 41% approval rating of the President. And while Gardner repeatedly claims that Udall has “voted with President Obama 99% of the time,” Udall has made clear efforts to distance himself away from the President, but maybe in the wrong direction.

Sen. Udall criticized President Obama’s plan to carryout airstrikes against ISIS, a decision that the American people overwhelmingly support.

On the other two aforementioned issues pinpointed by Colorado voters, healthcare and jobs, public opinion bears more bad news for Udall.

55% of Colorado voters say that Obamacare has been bad for Colorado, while only 37% would disagree. In yesterday’s debate, Udall said that he would vote for Obamacare again, touting the 400,000 now on the Colorado exchange and that the uninsured in Colorado dropped from 17% to 11%. Gardner, on the other hand, mentioned the 340,000 health insurance cancelations due to the law and argued that 2.5 million jobs were lost because of the law. Though Udall attacked Gardner for voting to repeal the law over 50 times without suggesting with what to replace it.

In a state with a booming oil and natural gas economy, energy has emerged as a key issue. A poll conducted in March showed that the majority of Colorado voters support the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Gardner noted this in yesterday’s debate and argued that it would bring thousands of jobs to Colorado. Udall expressed environmental concerns and said that Gardner exaggerates the economic benefits of the project.

Still, this race remains as close as any in the country. 50 million dollars could be spent to court a state with a population of just 5 million. This race may very well decide who controls the Senate and may indicate the national mood for an early look at 2016.

For interviews with both candidates and more on the race, be sure to tune in to Special Report tonight as Bret reports live from Denver. 

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