TIME ebola

Halting Flights to Ebola Regions Could Threaten Relief Efforts, Experts Warn

Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material from a plane upon their arrival at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, on Oct. 2, 2014.
Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material from a plane upon their arrival at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, on Oct. 2, 2014. Florian Plaucheur—AFP/Getty Images

Officials and aid agencies say the fight against Ebola is being hampered by the shortage of transportation to the epicenter of the disease in West Africa

You can book to travel on British Airways (BA) from London Heathrow to Roberts International airport in Monrovia, but the direct flight will take nine hours—and at least 25 weeks—to arrive in the Liberian capital.

In August BA suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, citing public health concerns amid the spread of ebola in the region. Now, the U.K. carrier has announced its decision to maintain that suspension through the end of March 2015. BA isn’t alone; there are now so few airlines flying into the area that key workers are being forced onto wait lists and lengthy journeys with multiple stopovers. Right now, European travelers hoping to get to Monrovia or Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown must squeeze on to services operated by Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Maroc, or thumb a ride on a military jet.

Nobody would dispute the wisdom of taking the threat of Ebola very, very seriously, but aid agencies warn that a shortage of transportation to and from west Africa, far from containing Ebola, instead risks undermining efforts to quell the epidemic.

At an Oct. 8 Washington press conference with U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the international community to “step up” efforts against Ebola and stressed the importance of keeping air routes open. It is a point Justin Forsyth, CEO of the U.K.-based charity Save the Children, also emphasizes.

“The main way to defeat the spread of Ebola not just in the region but globally is to get it under control in Sierra Leone and Liberia and Guinea and the best way of getting it under control is to make sure that we can get health workers into the region because they’re not going to have enough capability in these countries themselves,” says Forsyth, whose charity is working with the British military to establish a treatment center in Sierra Leone, as well as setting up care centers in Liberia and training thousands of health workers. “They’re going to need a lot of people coming in, and not all of it by military [flights].”

There have been fresh calls to isolate the disease by further isolating west Africa, after Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan died on Oct. 8 in Dallas, and Spain awaits news of Teresa Romero Ramos, the first person to contract Ebola outside west Africa in this outbreak. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had already advocated banning all flights from the region. “We need to protect our people,” he said last week.

On the surface it makes sense. Ebola may not be airborne, but authorities’ assurances that sitting on a plane with an infected person shouldn’t pose a big risk ring increasingly hollow, as Spanish health authorities try to figure out how Ramos caught the disease. She wore protective clothing and followed hospital protocols, though she has said she may have touched her face with a contaminated glove.

Yet in the view of many experts, following the impulse to isolationism is already making countries beyond Africa more vulnerable, not less. Christopher Stokes, director of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Brussels, told the Guardian “Airlines have shut down many flights and the unintended consequence has been to slow and hamper the relief effort, paradoxically increasing the risk of this epidemic spreading across countries in west Africa first, then potentially elsewhere. We have to stop Ebola at source and this means we have to be able to go there.”

Save the Children’s Forsyth agrees. He recognizes the concerns of airline staff, though, and says “It’s a big decision by anybody to go to work in one of these countries at the moment. We’ve got lots of people stepping forward to do it but it’s not an easy decision.”

The only option, Forsyth believes, is for governments to take the lead. “We need the airline industry to come together. This is where governments have a big role to play, to bring airlines together,” he says. “The other way to do it is to set up an air bridge paid for by governments or the military.”

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats See Obamacare Silver Lining in 2014 Playbook

From fierce opposition to a "fading issue"

A year ago, the health care reform law was an albatross around the Democrats’ collective neck. Its disastrous roll out dominated headlines. Republicans gleefully predicted they would build on their House majority and take back the Senate in the midterm elections thanks to the unpopularity of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Republicans may well still pick up House seats and win the Senate—but if they do, it won’t be because of Obamacare. The “incredibly fading issue,” as U.S. News and World Report recently called it, it has become “background noise” in an election dominated by parochial interests, as Politico put it. Indeed, some Democrats are going so far as to predict that Obamacare could end up a silver lining come Election Day.

The Affordable Care Act is now the second-most important issue for unmarried women, according to a new poll by Democracy Corps for the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a key demographic Democrats are hoping to turn out this November. Unmarried women vote reliably Democratic, but tend not to turn out in midterm elections. If Democrats can turn out that one group at the same levels they voted in 2012, forecasts indicate Democrats would keep the Senate and take back the House.

That kind of turnout is highly unlikely. But every little bit counts as Democrats try to fend off the kind of wave election that drowned them in 2010. That year, a genuine backlash against Obamacare helped Democrats lose the women’s vote for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and the House with it. In most battleground Senate races, Democratic candidates are winning by double-digits with women, particularly unmarried women

The law is also popular with minorities, another demographic with which Republicans have struggled. Some 74% of minorities support the Affordable Care Act, according to the Democracy Corps poll. “The health care law has become much more important as a reason why people are voting for Democrats,” says Stan Greenberg, a co-founder of Democracy Corps. “The threat of repeal appears to be giving unmarried women and minority voters a reason to vote.”

Republicans seem to have felt the tide receding. In April, Obamacare was the subject of 54% all political TV ads; by July that number had fallen to 27%, according to a July report from nonpartisan analysts Kantar Media CMAG. “Obamacare will not be the most important issue,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres, co-wrote in an August memo outlining 57 alternate lines of attack for outside spending groups such as Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network.

Still, opponents still use the issue far more than supporters; overall this election cycle, anti-Obamacare groups have spent 15 times as much on ads than groups supporting the law, the Kantar Media CMAG found. “Did Obamacare dominate the midterms as some Republicans had predicted? Definitely not,” says Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “But has it been used widely by GOP candidates for House and Senate in their TV ads and on the stump? A resounding yes. And that makes sense. Midterm elections are low-turnout battles between the two party bases. Any hot button issue that gets partisan voters to cast a ballot is used extensively. Obamacare still causes Republicans’ blood pressure to rise.”

The Affordable Care Act almost surely remains a net negative for Democrats. “It helped bake voters’ opinions into the general election cake,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “The early advertising effort also kept vulnerable Democratic incumbents on the defensive. This was particularly helpful in states in which Republicans had primaries.”

Support for Obamacare remains in the red, with 51.1% opposing the measure and only 38.7% supporting it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls. Which is why the handful of positive ads Democratic candidates have attempted to run on behalf of the law—most notably in Arkansas and West Virginia—have been resoundingly mocked by Republicans.

But all the negative attention paid to Obamacare also had another side effect for Democrats. The four states that have seen the highest per capita anti-Obamacare ad spending—Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina—have conversely seen higher rates of enrollment, according to a July study by the Brookings Institution. “In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future,” wrote the study’s author, Niam Yaraghi. “People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.”

TIME Companies

Taxi Drivers Protest Uber and Lyft, Stop DC Traffic

App Car Service Startups Continue To Irk Traditional Cab Companies And Regulators
A Lyft car drives along Powell Street on June 12, 2014 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Taxi drivers are protesting rules that would allow Uber and Lyft to permanently operate in the nation's capital

A taxi driver protest against app-based car share companies UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar tied up downtown traffic in the nation’s capital Wednesday.

Local news reports showed lines of drivers, sitting parked in their cabs along Pennsylvania Avenue in northwest Washington on Wednesday between Freedom Plaza and the district’s City Hall. For about two hours on Wednesday, traffic along the route snarled as police officers issued tickets to some drivers for blocking flow of traffic, according to WJLA.

The protest was held in response to new regulations for the app-based companies introduced in the DC Council that would allow companies like Uber and Lyft to permanently operate in the city as long as they conduct background checks for all drivers, provide minimum $1 million insurance coverage, and never accept street hails, among other rules. The legislation moved out of committee on Tuesday and will face a final vote later this month.

Uber has praised the legislation, but the Washington D.C. Taxi Operators Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters and organized the protest, says the rules give companies like Uber and Lyft a “competitive advantage.” Thousands of cab drivers showed up to protest Wednesday, according to a release from organizers.

This was the second time taxi drivers have protested in Washington this year, with a June protest snarling traffic for hours in downtown DC. Similar protests have been staged in Boston and San Francisco in the taxi industry’s ongoing battle with app-based services who they say are impeding their business while facing much less scrutiny and regulation.

TIME 2014 Election

Two-Thirds of Elected Representatives Are White Males, Study Finds

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Meanwhile, the nation is 52% female and 38% people of color

Two-thirds of elected representatives in the U.S. are white males, while two-thirds of their constituents are not, according to a new research effort that spotlights demographic gaps between America’s leaders and their electorate.

Researchers at “Who Leads Us,” a project backed by the Women Donors Network, collected demographic information on 42,000 elected officials in order to answer the question, “Do America’s elected officials reflect our population?” Judging by their race and gender, not so much. 71% of elected officials are men and 90% are white, representing a national population that, according to Census data cited by the study, is 52% female and 38% persons of color.

Women of color stood out as the most underrepresented group in elected office, making up 4% of elected officials and 19% of the population. This incongruity between electorate and representatives, the study’s authors conclude, confirms “that the face of America’s leadership bears little resemblance to our country’s population.”

TIME Military

Pentagon to Brief Obama on Grim Battle Against Jihadists

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani, Oct. 8, 2014.
Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani, Oct. 8, 2014. Umit Bektas—Reuters

Commanders to tell Commander-in-Chief about tough fight to keep key Syrian border town out of ISIS hands

President Barack Obama is heading to the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon for an update on the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), and he’s not going to like what he hears. The key Syrian town of Kobani is likely to fall to ISIS fighters in coming days, senior U.S. military officials will tell Obama—and there’s not a whole lot the U.S. and its allies can do to halt the ISIS victory or the expected bloodbath following its collapse.

“We’re not expecting any change to our strategy as a result of today’s meeting,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday afternoon shortly before the 3 p.m. ET session. “This is going to be a long, difficult struggle.”

An air offensive to protect Kobani from being overrun by ISIS totters on the verge of failure. Stepped-up allied air strikes and Kurdish defenders, armed with only small arms, are fighting up to 9,000 jihadists outfitted with tanks and rockets. But it seems to be too little, too late as ISIS’s black flags rose above an eastern neighborhood Monday and remained flying Wednesday. Kurdish officials have warned that ISIS militants would kill thousands if they prevail.

The fight for Kobani is a key test of a U.S. military strategy limited to air strikes, while its local allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria are proving ineffective or non-existent. Turkish troops with tanks are simply watching from across the border as the battle for nearby Kobani rages. Nearly half of the area’s 400,000 residents have fled to Turkey. U.S. officials are angry that Turkey, a NATO ally, has refused to do more to avert a slaughter, they say largely because of its bloody history with the Kurds. American officials are heading to Ankara to urge Turkish officials to do more.

The second piece of the U.S. strategy is training up to 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels a year to fight ISIS on the ground. But that’s a long-term gambit with no guarantee of success, because many of the rebels are more interested in fighting their three-year old civil war against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad than ISIS.

For now, the jihadists are doing their best to frustrate air strikes by abandoning key outposts and breaking into smaller units. They have given up little ground. The terrorist fighters are moving into civilian areas where they know the U.S. and its allies will not bomb—especially without hard intelligence from on-the-ground scouts they trust. Obama has refused to dispatch such spotters as part of his ban on U.S. ground troops in the conflict.

Obama will be meeting with Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has told Congress he will ask Obama to dispatch U.S. ground troops—especially forward air controllers to call in air strikes—if Dempsey thinks it’s required. Kirby said the Pentagon would not be making such a request of Obama during Wednesday’s meeting.

The growing U.S. frustration has been evident as the U.S. ordered AH-64 Apache helicopters into action beginning Oct. 5 against militant targets in western Iraq. The low-and-slow gunship is better than a jet bomber for attacking moving targets. But that capability also makes its two crewmembers more vulnerable to ground fire. ISIS has shot down a pair of Iraqi choppers in recent days, killing all four pilots aboard.

TIME cities

San Francisco Moves to Legalize Airbnb, But With Restrictions

Airbnb Said to Be Raising Funding At $10 Billion Valuation
The Airbnb Inc. application is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A new law will make it legal to operate Airbnb in San Francisco

San Francisco lawmakers voted Tuesday to legalize short-term rentals in the city by passing the “Airbnb law,” which permits residents to host guests via services like Airbnb but places restrictions on the practice.

The new law, passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors, will allow Airbnb to operate in the city where it began six years ago, and where laws previously barred residential rentals of less than 30 days, SFGate reports. Thousands of residents ignored the existing laws, which have been lightly enforced.

“The status quo isn’t working; we have seen an explosion in short-term rentals,” Board President David Chiu said in introducing the law.

But the “Airbnb law” will also place restrictions on Airbnb hosts, allowing them to offer only short-term rentals, establishing a city registry for hosts, mandating the collection of hotel tax, limiting rentals to 90 days per year, and requiring liability insurance for each listing.

The law passed in a 7-4 vote, and if it passes a pro forma vote and is signed by the mayor as expected, it will take effect in February. The law was first introduced in April and was intended in part to prevent landlords from renting out extra apartments to Airbnb guests, a practice critics say exacerbates an affordable housing crisis.

[SFGate]

TIME animals

Is a Chimpanzee a ‘Legal Person’? Court Set to Decide

Tarongas Animals Receive Christmas Treats
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images

Could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful

A New York appeals court will begin hearing a landmark case on Wednesday that could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful.

Animal rights lawyer Steven Wise filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee kept by a private owner in upstate New York. The lawsuit alleged that keeping the chimpanzee in captivity was unlawful, because a chimpanzee was not merely a possession of the owner, but rather “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

As such, the case called upon the court to grant Tommy the status of “legal personhood,” thereby extending the fundamental human right of habeas corpus, or the right to not be unlawfully imprisoned, to a primate.

The case grabbed headlines, including TIME’s, for its ambitious attempt to blur a longstanding legal distinction between humans and animals. The organization pressing the case, the Nonhuman Rights Project, has stated that the case will not end with Tommy: “Our goal is, very simply, to breach the legal wall that separates all humans from all nonhuman animals.”

TIME Crime

Vermont Mom Accused of Killing Son By Spiking IV With Alcohol

Teen born with serious medical conditions and physical handicaps that required constant IV

A Vermont mother is accused of killing her 13-year-old son by putting alcohol in his IV, police say.

Investigators said Melissa Robitille and Walter Richter III of Hardwick, Vt. put alcohol in teenager Isaac Robitille’s IV, which he required to keep him alive after being born with serious medical conditions and physical handicaps.

Robitille called police after finding her son dead, UPI reports. Isaac was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.146 percent, and a medical examiner said that alcohol was a contributing factor in the teen’s death. The cause of death was homicide, said the examiner.

Police arrested her and her boyfriend Tuesday after completing the teenager’s autopsy and toxicology.

[UPI]

TIME ebola

U.S. Ebola Survivor Donates Blood to Infected Journalist

Emory Hospital Releases American Aid Workers Treated For Ebola
Dr. Kent Brantly an Ebola patient at Emory Hospital during a press conference announcing his release from the hospital on Aug. 21, 2014 in Atlanta. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

Dr Kent Brantly, who contracted the disease in west Africa, gives blood to help NBC journalist fight the disease

The first American flown back to the U.S. after contracting Ebola has donated blood to an NBC News freelance cameraman who was also diagnosed with the virus.

Photojournalist Ashoka Mukpo’s family told NBC News early Wednesday that Dr. Kent Brantly was contacted by the Nebraska Medical Center and asked to give plasma. Experts hope the survivor’s antibodies will kick-start Mukpo’s immune system.

Brantly was on a road trip from Indiana to Texas when he received a call from the medical center telling him his blood type matched Mukpo’s…

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Courts

Gay Marriage to Begin in Las Vegas, Idaho

Nevada state Senator Kelvin Atkinson rubs tears from the eyes of Sherwood Howard during a rally to celebrate an appeals court ruling that overturned Nevada's gay marriage ban Oct. 7, 2014, in Las Vegas.
Nevada state Senator Kelvin Atkinson rubs tears from the eyes of Sherwood Howard during a rally to celebrate an appeals court ruling that overturned Nevada's gay marriage ban Oct. 7, 2014, in Las Vegas. John Locher—AP

(LAS VEGAS) — A federal appeals court declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, setting the stage for couples to marry in Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed wedding capital of the world.

State after state has joined the national tide in seeing same-sex unions made legal, given a push by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal earlier this week to hear appeals. That effectively made gay marriage legal in 30 states and might have signaled it’s only a matter of time before same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states.

On Tuesday, Idaho and Nevada joined the group when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the gay marriage bans in both states.

“This is a super sweet victory,” said Sue Latta, who along with Traci Ehlers sued Idaho last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban.

“Taxes are easier, real estate is easier, parenting is easier, end-of-life planning is easier,” Latta said.

Logan Seven, 54, a limousine driver for Chapelle de l’amour wedding chapel in downtown Las Vegas, said he always wanted to get married on a beach, barefoot and in a white tuxedo.

“Trying to find the right man is the hard part,” he said Tuesday after his boss told him about the gay marriage ruling.

The Chicago native said he was surprised when he moved to Las Vegas and learned that the town that touts itself as a marriage capital didn’t allow gay marriages. “It’s a no-brainer,” Seven said. “Love is love.”

Couples in Idaho can start getting married immediately, likely tomorrow. In Nevada, a U.S. District Court judge still must issue a formal injunction overturning the state’s gay marriage ban.

That likely won’t stop weddings from going forward Wednesday in Las Vegas. Officials in the Clark County clerk’s office say the marriage license bureau in Las Vegas will begin accepting license applications at 2 p.m. Wednesday from same-sex couples.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.

“Idaho and Nevada’s marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states,” Reinhardt wrote.

He rejected the argument that same-sex marriages will devalue traditional marriage, leading to more out-of-wedlock births.

“This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response,” Reinhardt wrote. “We reject it out of hand.”

The appeals court panel did not rule on a similar case in Hawaii, which legalized gay marriage in December. Hawaii’s governor had asked the court to toss out a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban and an appeal to the 9th Circuit filed before Hawaii lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage.

All three judges on the panel were appointed by Democratic presidents. President Bill Clinton appointed Judges Marsha Berzon and Ronald Gould. President Jimmy Carter appointed Reinhardt.

The court also has jurisdiction in three other states that still have marriage bans in place: Alaska, Arizona and Montana. Lawsuits challenging bans in those states are still pending in lower courts and have not reached the 9th Circuit.

___

Kruesi reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writers Paul Elias in San Francisco, Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Rebecca Boone in Boise contributed to this report.

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