- big ideas 1:43am ET
An international team of veterinarians has a plan for eradicating rabies in humans, but in order for it to be successful, close to 70 percent of the world's dog population has to be vaccinated.
Rabies is a big problem in areas of Asia and Africa, NPR reports, with more than 69,000 people — many of them children — dying from it every year. Because there are so many dogs in the world, it might seem unfeasible to vaccinate 70 percent. Dr. Felix Lankester, director of the Serengeti Health Initiative that is trying to end infectious diseases in Tanzania, thinks it's possible.
For five years, Lankester's team has driven to 185 communities around the Serengeti National Park to set up makeshift rabies clinics. The team tries to attract kids, since "here, the dogs are owned by children," he said. Usually, they give 1,000 vaccines by the end of the day, and since starting the initiative, the number of rabies fatalities in northeastern Tanzania has dropped from 50 each year to almost zero.
The World Health Organization wants to see rabies in humans eliminated in Latin America by 2015, and in Asia and Africa by 2020. One huge hurdle is the price; each vaccine costs $3, including transportation and vet costs. That's a lot for poor areas, but still much less than the price of treating rabies — $40 in Africa, and $49 in Asia.
- A little piece of history 1:06am ET
Few people probably remember that Cuba sent troops to the African nation of Angola in 1976. But Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State at the time, was so irked that he had a top secret committee of senior officials draw up plans to "clobber" and "smash Cuba," including dropping bombs on Havana, newly released documents show.
"I think sooner or later we are going to have to crack the Cubans," Kissinger told President Gerald Ford at a 1976 White House meeting attended also by then–Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library released the newly declassified documents at the request of the research organization National Security Archive.
Cuba's military assistance to Angola, to help the new nation fight off South Africa and right-wing militants, came just months after Kissinger had sent two deputies to a July 1975 secret meeting in New York City's Pierre Hotel with Fidel Castro's representatives to discuss normalizing relations, the National Security Archive says, citing a new book by Cuba expert William LeoGrande and the National Security Archive's Peter Kornbluh.
Kissinger wanted to attack Cuba after the 1976 election, which Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, rendering the plans moot. "These were not plans to put up on a shelf," LeoGrande tells The New York Times. Adds Kornbluh: "Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head."
It isn't clear why the Secretary of State was ordering up war plans.
- breakthroughs 12:16am ET
A falcon in New Hampshire can see again, thanks to a first of its kind surgery that restored her vision by removing cataracts and implanting synthetic lenses.
Banner, a four-year-old lanner falcon, lost her sight two years ago, and wasn't able to hunt or fly. Her owners, Nancy and Jim Cowan of the New Hampshire School of Falconry, wanted to fix that, but weren't sure if it would be possible. "When we first started looking for help, we heard a lot of anecdotal, 'Well, it can't be done,'" Jim told the Concord Monitor.
It took a team of individuals from around the world to make it happen. A Canadian ophthalmology supply manufacturer, I-Med, donated the six-millimeter-wide lenses, which were created by designers in Germany, California, Abu Dhabi, Ohio, and Montreal. A veterinary ophthalmologist and surgeon donated their time for the hour-long surgery, in which Banner was put under, her corneas cut, the cataracts removed, and artificial lenses placed.
Now, Banner just needs to take anti-inflammatory eye drops to ensure her eyelids don't become irritated by her cornea sutures. Already, the Cowans have noticed her respond to things like a tassel moving in front of her. "You can see something all right," Jim told her. "You can see something."
- safety first September 30
Following the murders of two British backpackers earlier this month, Thailand's tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said she would like to see tourists wear wristbands in order to help identify visitors who are lost or in trouble.
Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found dead Sept. 15 on a beach in Koh Tao, a southern island. Thailand's forensics department said that Witheridge died from severe head wounds, and Miller died from drowning and blows to the head. Police are not close to making any arrests, Reuters reports, and the public is frustrated. Tourism accounts for almost 10 percent of the country's GDP, and officials are worried that the unsolved murders and the fact that Thailand is still under martial law after a May 22 coup will keep people away.
For safety, Kobkarn has suggested that when tourists check into their hotels, they receive wristbands with information on where they are staying in case they get drunk or lost. That way, "they can be easily assisted," Kobkarn told Reuters. "The next step would be some sort of electronic tracking device but this has not yet been discussed in detail."
Other options, she said, include pairing tourists with a local resident at different attractions, and possibly even limiting the places where beach parties can be held. Kobkarn has received some pushback, she said, from hotels who are afraid tourists will not want to wear the wristbands.
- debacles September 30
During a Sept. 16 trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss Ebola, President Obama rode in an elevator with a security contractor who carried a gun and had three prior assault and battery arrests. This was a blatant violation of Secret Service protocols, three sources familiar with the case told The Washington Post.
Prior to an event involving the president, a security measure called the Arm's Reach Program has Secret Service staffers run the names of volunteers, invited guests, and others who might be near the president through several databases, including a criminal information registry. If a person is found to have a criminal history, mental illness, or other "indications of risk," they are kept away. Private security contractors would typically be checked, two former agents told The Post.
During the Sept. 16 incident, the Secret Service agents on the elevator became concerned when the private contractor pulled out his cell phone and started filming the president; when asked to stop, he did not comply. After Obama exited the elevator, some agents stayed behind and questioned the man, the sources said, and checked his criminal history on a national database.
A supervisor from the firm providing security for the CDC came up and once he was told of the agents' concerns, the contractor was immediately fired. He gave up his gun, startling the agents, who did not know he was armed. Obama was not notified of the breach, the sources said, and while Secret Service Director Julia Pierson asked that the incident be looked into, she did not forward it to an investigative unit created to review violations of standards and protocol.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads the House subcommittee that oversees the Secret Service, was told of the incident by a whistleblower. "You have a convicted felon within arm's reach of the president, and they never did a background check," he said. "Words aren't strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family. His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun."
The unidentified contractor was never convicted after any of his several arrests, the most recent in 1996, The New York Times reports. A Secret Service official told The Post an investigation into the episode is ongoing.
- This just in September 30
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday said it had confirmed the first case of Ebola in the United States.
A Dallas hospital on Monday announced it was treating a patient in isolation whose "symptoms and recent travel indicated a case of Ebola." The CDC added more detail Tuesday, saying the patient traveled by plane from Liberia on Sept. 19 and became ill four or five days after returning to the states. The CDC added that the patient, whose name has not been released, did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola while on the plane.
CDC Director Tom Friedman said the agency had identified all the people whom the patient interacted with and could have infected after developing symptoms. He added there was no reason to suspect anyone else had been infected, and said there was "no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here."
"I have no doubt that we will control this importation — this case — so that it does not spread widely in this country," he said.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa — the largest outbreak in history — has killed nearly 3,100 people, per the CDC.
- Talk to your doctor September 30
Erectile dysfunction ads tend to follow a pattern: They usually show rugged, good-looking older men doing manly things, sometimes with a woman in the background. A new ad for Viagra, however, bucks that trend by featuring just a woman — a first for the company. The ad is also the first time someone in a Viagra commercial says "erection" rather than "erectile dysfunction" or "ED."
The new strategy for Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, comes at a time when the company is looking to remain competitive even after it loses the monopoly on the drug. Its European patent expired 15 months ago — resulting in an 8 percent sales drop as generics flooded the market — and the U.S. patent is set to expire in 3 years. The new marketing strategy also seeks to change the behavior of men who may be suffering from ED but are unwilling to talk to their doctor. Half of men over 40 suffer from ED, occasionally or always, and only 10 percent take medicine regularly.
Check out the ad below. --Marshall Bright
- legal issues September 30
The ongoing legal battle over the June automobile collision that left comedian Tracy Morgan hospitalized and one colleague dead continues — and it doesn't sound like a settlement is on the horizon. Earlier this week, Walmart argued that the injuries sustained by Morgan when a Walmart truck collided with a limousine carrying him and other comedians "were caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs' failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device."
The claim is a direct refutation of Morgan and the others injured in the collision, who are suing the retail giant for negligence over charges that the Walmart driver who sparked the six-car New Jersey Turnpike pileup was fatigued.
Walmart's argument isn't sitting well with Morgan, who issued a statement on Tuesday criticizing the retail giant. "After I heard what Walmart said in court I felt I had to speak out," he wrote. "I can't believe Walmart is blaming me for an accident that they caused. My friends and I were doing nothing wrong. I want to thank my fans for sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I'm fighting hard every day to get back."
- 2014 Watch September 30
The intense battle for North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat is being touted as one of the most crucial elections in the GOP's quest to take back control of the Senate. Republican Thom Tillis (North Carolina's House Speaker), who is trailing in the most recent polls, launched an attack this week on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan's Senate record "by questioning her national security credentials in light of the growing Islamic State threat."
The Tillis campaign has released an attack ad targeting Hagan for being a part of the Democratic-controlled Senate that allegedly joined President Obama in dismissing ISIS as a "jayvee team." The 30-second ad also criticizes Hagan for missing half of meetings of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"While ISIS grew, Obama kept waiting and Kay Hagan kept quiet," the ad announces. "The price for their failure is danger."
Sunday's CNN/ORC poll has Hagan up by three percentage points (46-43).
- ObamaCare September 30
A federal judge in Oklahoma on Tuesday ruled that ObamaCare enrollees who obtained coverage through the federally-run exchange program cannot receive federal subsidies offered under the law.
At issue was a snippet of language in the health care law that suggests ObamaCare's subsidies can only go to people who obtain insurance through state-run exchanges. Hence, Judge Ronald A. White said the rule was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law."
If the ruling stands, it would invalidate subsidies in 36 states.
Other courts have returned mixed opinions on the issue. In July, a three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the White House, though the full court is reconsidering that decision.
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