American healthcare worker arrives in U.S. for Ebola treatment
An American who visited Sierra Leone to assist with the emergency response to the recent African Ebola epidemic arrived in the U.S. for observation on Sunday and is now undergoing medical care in isolation.
The unidentified healthcare worker was flown to the Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit. There, the patient will be monitored for signs of the disease during a 21-day period.
According to the Center’s Spokesman Taylor Wilson, the patient has not tested positive for Ebola, but precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of any potential infection. The Center for Disease Control has been notified of the presence of the patient but has not yet become directly involved. CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben stated that if her organization has a hand in the case, it will likely be in an advisory role.
Since the recent Ebola epidemic began, the illness has spread to nine separate countries, though the bulk of cases have been in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Reported cases are tallied at 20,381, while lab-confirmed cases stand at 13,021. The epidemic has resulted in 7,989 deaths.
NYPD turns backs to DeBlasio again during slain officer’s funeral
The NYPD gathered to honor one of their own on Sunday when Officer Wenjian Liu was laid to rest, but many officers also used the opportunity to show their continued contempt for Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s perceived lack of support for police.
Thousand of police gathered for the service to honor Liu, who was gunned down in Brooklyn while sitting in his squad car with partner Rafael Ramos. However, in a similar gesture to the one at the Ramos’ funeral, many of the officers collectively turned their backs on DeBlasio as he spoke, a gesture DeBlasio criticized as “disrespectful” and insensitive to the need of the officers’ families to mourn.
DeBlasio has been blamed by police and their supporters for stoking negative sentiments which they claim culminated in the murders of Liu and Ramos. The man responsible, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had previously indicated on social media that he wished to take revenge for the recent deaths of several unarmed black men by police.
As police support for DeBlasio has grown cold, low-level enforcement activities have also slowed down in both an effort to avoid unnecessary danger to cops and to place pressure on the mayor. During the week of December 22, traffic tickets citywide dropped by 94 percent from the same period last year, while court summonses for minor offenses dropped by the same amount, parking fines dropped 92 percent and overall arrests went down 66 percent.
New Senate Republican majority leader seeks to portray party as kinder, gentler
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has a new goal for the new legislative session in Washington D.C., one which might be seen as atypical given recent friction with the president: Show the Republican party has a friendly face.
According to McConnell the big aim for the Republican leadership during their majority control of the Senate will not be to aggressively pursue major policy victories but set the foundation for a Republican president in 2016. This is a far cry from previous political goals by McConnell, which focused primarily on limiting the political viability of President Barack Obama.
“I don’t want the American people to think that if they add a Republican president to a Republican Congress, that’s going to be a scary outcome,” McConnell said. “I want the American people to be comfortable with the fact that the Republican House and Senate is a responsible, right-of-center, governing majority.”
McConnell explained he was coaching GOP heavies to pull back on some of the more aggressive opposition to budget outlines, federal spending bills and other short-term wins. He also expressed skepticism toward major compromises on issues such as immigration reform, but left open the possibility for bipartisan action on trade deals, infrastructure improvements and large-scale reforms to the tax code.
Famed ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott dies at 49
ESPN Anchor and longtime fixture of sports journalism Stuart Scott died on Sunday morning at the age of 49.
The anchor was known for his flashy, charismatic style which drew on hip-hop music, African-American church sermons and aspects of broader popular culture. During his time with ESPN, he has been credited with the creation of such iconic catchphrases as “Boo-yah” and “As cool as the other side of the pillow” and helped the network appeal to a broader demographic of young black men in the process.
Scott, who began his work at ESPN in 1993, was brought to the network by ESPN vice president for talent Al Jaffe, who wanted a fresh, invigorating face to help the network draw younger viewers. The young sports journalist began with a short sportscast which aired twice an hour, but quickly progressed to a regular anchor position on *SportsCenter* and national coverage of major professional baseball, football and basketball competitions.
Scott had battled cancer for several years before his death, struggling through multiple remissions and recurrences. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Ferguson grand juror sues for right to speak on proceedings
One of the grand jurors in the Michael Brown case has sued St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch for the right to speak out on what happened while the grand jury deliberated on whether or not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
The unnamed grand juror argues McCulloch mischaracterized the case in statements to the press, particularly in suggestions that all grand jurors decided not to indict Wilson for the shooting death of Brown. The grand juror also stated McCulloch turned the proceedings into an examination of Brown rather than Wilson and presented the relevant legal standards to the jury in a confusing and untimely manner.
The case was brought against McCullogh because he would be the one responsible for prosecuting any breach of secrecy by the grand jurors. Missouri state law prohibits grand jury members from disclosing details of their cases, but according to the Missouri ACLU, exceptions are legally permissible in cases when a juror’s First Amendment rights might be unduly hindered.
Jury selection begins in Boston Bombing case
Jury selection has begun in the case of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who stands accused of setting off two homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013. The selection process is expected to last at least three months, during which a pool of 1,200 jury candidates will be whittled down to 12 jurors and six alternates. The trial itself will likely last about four months.
Though questioning of prospective jurors is expected to begin on January 15, the trial proper is not expected to begin until opening statements on January 26. A verdict might not be handed down until the Spring or Summer of 2015.
The trial will occur almost two years after the events of 2013, when Dzokhar and his brother Tamerlan were accused of detonating the bombs, killing three people and injuring 260. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police while Dzokhar was wounded and arrested after hiding in a boat in a residential area.
Tsarnaev has pled not guilty to the 30 charges against him. Tsarnaev’s attorneys have stated they have not had adequate time to prepare for the trial and argued that appointing impartial jurors in Boston was impossible.
Fate of 53 Cuban political prisoners remains unclear
Three weeks after a historic decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between America and Cuba, the status of 53 Cuban political prisoners who have been slated for release has not been announced.
Officials from both the White House and Cuba’s ruling party confirmed several of the prisoners held by the Castro Regime have already been released, but would not provide details such as names, charges or a specific number of freed convicts. According to White House Spokesman Josh Earnest, the release is not a traditional simultaneous release by both sides but rather a gradual exchange of prisoners over a period of time.
The lack of timely information has raised doubts about the viability of future deals with the island nation. According to critics such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the vagueness of recent statements could signal the Castro regime might alter the terms of the deal or even send common criminals rather than political prisoners.
Cuba has already released one 65-year old American prisoner, Alan Gross, shortly after the deal was announced in late December. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to release three Cubans imprisoned for espionage.
Plane crash kills all except 7-year-old girl
A 7-year-old-girl escaped death after a small plane she was on crashed in rural Kentucky on Saturday, killing all onboard except for her. The plane lost contact with air traffic controllers over Southwestern Kentucky after the pilot reported engine trouble, but was not found until Sailor Gutzler was found wandering through the woods by a local homeowner, bloody, shaken and wearing summer clothes in the chilly Kentucky winter but largely unharmed.
Emergency crews responded, searching the area until they found a crashed Piper PA-34 containing the bodies of Sailor’s family. Onboard were Sailor’s parents Marty and Kimberly Gutzler, 48 and 46, respectively, her sister Piper, 9, and her cousin Sierra Wilder, 14. The family had been traveling home to Nashville, Illinois from Florida’s Tallahassee Regional Airport after visiting family in Key West.
The girl has been taken in by her mother’s side of the family and is reportedly doing well. Her surviving family has set up a fund to help raise money for her continued emotional and physical recovery and her future education.
Armed gang member sent to probe Baltimore police security
An armed member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang was arrested in Baltimore on Tuesday after he was sent into a police station to test its security.
Jason Armstrong, 29, entered the Northeastern District station with a loaded .22 caliber pistol. Officers reportedly smelled marijuana on his person and searched Armstrong, finding the weapon. Armstrong confessed not long after that the gang had sent him to test security at the station.
According to Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, Armstrong did not appear to go of his own free will and seemed to have been forced to go for running afoul of the gang previously. Nonetheless, Armstrong has been charged with several weapons and narcotics violations. Additionally, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts pledged to step up security at stations to counter the gang.
The Black Guerrilla Family appeared on police radars last month after the FBI warned it might begin to target cops in retaliation for recent killings of young black men by white police officers.
Rubenstein cleared of rape allegations, Sharpton embarrassed by search
Prominent attorney and former Rockland County legislator Sandy Rubenstein, 70, was cleared of rape allegations on Monday, but not before a revelation created some embarrassment for close friend Rev. Al Sharpton.
Rubenstein, who was accused of drugging and raping a woman associated with Sharpton’s National Action Network in October 2014, was the subject of an investigation which included a search of his apartment, reviews of security footage and interviews with 48 people. After investigating, prosecutors announced on Monday that there was no case to be made against the attorney, who has made a career of representing victims of police misconduct in civil rights cases.
However, the search of his apartment turned up more sensitive material on Sharpton. An unnamed police source stated a prescripton for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra with Sharpton’s name was found at the Rubenstein residence. Sharpton has accused the source of releasing the information as part of a smear campaign against him.
Though Rubenstein has been cleared of criminal charges, he still faces a civil suit for the incident. His accuser argues she woke up after being drugged to find Rubenstein raping her. Rubenstein countered by claiming the sex was consensual.
Radical Islamists storm French magazine office, kill 12
Three gunmen thought to have sympathies with radical Islamists attacked a French satirical magazine on Wednesday morning, killing police and cartoonists in a seeming retaliation against anti-Islamic cartoons published by the publication.
Armed with Kalashnikov rifles and RPGs, two of the masked gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, opening fire on staff and reportedly going from office to office to ask for workers’ names. The attackers also allegedly yelled “The prophet has been avenged” and told survivors to attribute the attack to Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
The suspects engaged in a firefight with police, killing one wounded officer execution-style before they escaped in a stolen car. A manhunt is still underway for the suspects.
Those killed in the office include several nationally-renowned satirists and cartoonists. Among the slain was Stephane Charbonnier, a satirist noted for frequent opposition to Islamic fundamentalism and a recent, famous statement that he would rather “die than live like a rat.”
As a frequent critic of conservative wings of many major religions, political and cultural movements, Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy and physical violence. Before the attack this week, the magazine also weathered a fire-bombing in 2011 which was thought to have been linked to recent satirical depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
FBI investigating bombing outside Colorado NAACP
The FBI has initiated an investigation into a failed bomb explosion outside the Colorado Springs offices of the NAACP, an act the Bureau has already concluded was a deliberate attack.
The bomb, a homemade explosive device which used a can of gasoline as explosive materials, detonated on Tuesday morning. However, the bomb proved to be a dud when the gasoline failed to ignite. Both the offices and a hair salon in the same building sustained minor damage, but nobody was injured in the subsequent blast.
According to the FBI, witnesses have reported that a bald, heavyset man in his 40s was seen leaving the scene in a white pickup truck with obscured or missing license plates. They have also consulted the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
It is unknown at this time whether or not the attack was a hate crime or otherwise politically-motivated.