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July 23, 2014
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Sheik Umar Khan, hailed as a "national hero" by Sierra Leone's health ministry, has caught the very disease he has been fighting since February, Reuters reports.

Khan reportedly contracted the deadly tropical virus Ebola, although a statement released by the West African country's president's office did not say how the virologist became infected, nor offer details on his current condition. Ebola can kill up to 90 percent of those who become infected, and there is no cure or vaccine. The current outbreak began in a remote region of neighboring Guinea back in February, but it has since spread across Sierra Leone and Liberia as well. The World Health Organization said on Saturday that 632 people have died from the illness so far.

Khan, whose colleagues said has always been meticulous about protecting himself during checkups by wearing overalls, mask, and gloves, nevertheless had told Reuters in June that he still worried about contracting the disease.

"Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk," he said. "I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life." Sarah Eberspacher

10:30 a.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been formally accused by approximately a dozen of his own department's officials of violating federal child soldier laws, Reuters reports. The State Department publicly acknowledges that Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan have child soldiers, although Tillerson removed the three countries from the U.S. list of offenders in June. "Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with U.S. military assistance," Reuters explains.

The 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act bars countries known to have soldiers under the age of 18 from receiving aid, weapons, or training from the United States. Special exceptions can be made, such as when the Obama administration issued waivers for Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Somalia in 2016, a move that was criticized at the time by organizations like Human Rights Watch.

"The dissenting U.S. officials stressed that Tillerson's decision to exclude Iraq, Afghanistan, and Myanmar went a step further than the Obama administration's waiver policy by contravening the law and effectively easing pressure on the countries to eradicate the use of child soldiers," Reuters reports. Tillerson's adviser, Brian Hook, defended the decision, claiming that while Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar may still have child soldiers, they are "making sincere — if as yet incomplete — efforts" to curb the practice.

The State Department officials used a "dissent channel" to express their disapproval of Tillerson's decision. The memo was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the State Department's inspector general's office. The ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin (Md.), said Tillerson's actions "sent a powerful message to these countries that they were receiving a pass on their unconscionable actions." Read more about the memo and federal child soldier laws at Reuters. Jeva Lange

10:17 a.m. ET

President Trump has long lauded his own tweeting habits as an important way to spread his views directly to the public. "When somebody says something about me, I am able to go 'bing, bing, bing' and I take care of it," he said of Twitter in an October interview, suggesting that those who don't want him tweeting "are the enemies," and that he would not be in the Oval Office were it not for his Twitter account.

Republican fundraisers like the tweets, too, Andrew Malcolm at McClatchy reports, finding them a lucrative outreach tool for the GOP base:

Surprisingly, President Trump's often argumentative, abrasive tweets that bother so many, especially in the GOP establishment, have actually proven to be quite effective fundraising tools. Recited by fundraisers, the tweets are well-received by supporters as candid insights into the unorthodox president's thinking. And they've fueled an historic flow of donations into the Republican National Committee. [McClatchy]

How effective are the tweets? Well, since Trump took office, the GOP has raised $113.2 million, the bulk of it from small-dollar donors giving $200 or less per donation, and much of it from first-time contributors. The Republican National Committee closed the third quarter of 2017 with $44 million on hand to the Democratic National Committee's $7 million. Bonnie Kristian

9:52 a.m. ET

Alabama's Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones is using powerful GOP voices to take down his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

Moore is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing multiple teenage girls as young as 14. "There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children," Jones' new TV ad quotes Ivanka Trump as saying. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quoted saying, "I have no reason to doubt these young women," and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) is quoted saying he will "absolutely not" vote for Moore.

"Conservative voices putting children and women over party," the voiceover adds. "Doing what's right." Watch the spot below. Jeva Lange

9:17 a.m. ET

Thirty-six women staffers of NBC's Saturday Night Live who worked with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the show published a letter Tuesday to "offer solidarity in support" of the alum, who is accused of kissing one woman without her consent and taking a picture groping her while she slept, and by another woman of groping her while posing for a photo at a fair.

The "SNL women," including original cast members Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman, said that "what Al did was stupid and foolish" but that "in our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant."

The letter was not received well by some. Elle's culture editor Estelle Tang tweeted: "Congrats on this harmful, distracting, useless statement, @NBCSNL. It's LITERALLY 'family men,' 'comedians,' & 'honorable public servants' being revealed as harassers. Progressive men can mistreat women too, and it's dangerous to imply otherwise."

SNL actually addressed the Franken scandal over the weekend. "I know this photo looks bad, but remember: It also is bad," said Colin Jost in a Weekend Update segment on the subject. "And, sure, this was taken before he ran for public office, but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school. It's pretty hard to be like, 'Oh, come on. He didn't know any better. He was only 55.'"

Read the full SNL statement below. Jeva Lange

8:49 a.m. ET

The Trump administration is close to naming a Republican professor whose work has been used to support GOP redistricting efforts as deputy head of the Census Bureau, Politico reports. The rumors of Thomas Brunell's impending appointment are concerning to many voting rights advocates because as deputy head, he would not require Senate confirmation and therefore could not be blocked. After the resignation of former Census Director John Thompson in June, and Trump's failure to nominate anyone for permanent director in his wake, Brunell could become the most powerful permanent official in the agency.

If indeed appointed, Brunell's decisions ahead of the 2020 Census would theoretically shape the future of American elections: "There are tons of little things he could be doing to influence what the final count looks like," a former high-ranking official in the Commerce Department explained to Politico. "The ripple effect on reapportionment would be astounding."

What's more, Brunell has little obvious experience for the job, having no background in statistics or in government, as the position's appointees typically do. In addition to a Ph.D. in political science, Brunell is the author of a 2008 book, Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America. In it, he argues:

…[P]artisan districts packed with like-minded voters actually lead to better representation than ones more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, because fewer voters in partisan districts cast a vote for a losing candidate. He has also argued that ideologically packed districts should be called "fair districts" and admits that his stance on competitive elections makes him something of an outlier among political scientists, who largely support competitive elections. [Politico]

The former director of the Census-tracking organization Census Project, Terri Ann Lowenthal, said if the rumors of Brunell's appointment are true, "it signals an effort by the administration to politicize the Census. It's very troubling." Read more about Brunell at Politico. Jeva Lange

8:16 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Republicans who implicitly or explicitly support Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, despite the credible accusations that he sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls as young as 14, tend to point to his support for tax cuts or opposition to abortion and transgender rights. Moore is still in a competitive race against Democrat Doug Jones in part because Alabama is about half evangelical Christian, and many evangelical Christians and their leaders either give Moore the benefit of the doubt or, like Gov. Kay Ivey (R), say they believe Moore's accusers but will vote for him anyway.

The Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders who support Moore are vocal about it, but the ones who don't, for a variety of reasons, are "reticent," says New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, who spoke to many of them. And of the ones who are vocal about their support, Earl Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, wins the prize for worst defense of Moore, so far.

"I don't know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they're getting a healthy sum," Wise told The Boston Globe, which contacted pastors on a list shared by Moore and his wife. (Ten responded to the Globe, including Wise, whose church and religious affiliation are not noted, though he appears to be a real estate agent and pastor at Hunter Station Baptist Church.) "How these gals came up with this, I don't know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line," he said, adding, "Plus, there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20."

You can read what some of the other pastors have to say at The Boston Globe. Peter Weber

7:42 a.m. ET

CBS This Morning hosts Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King delivered powerful, shaken reactions Tuesday morning to the news that their co-host, veteran journalist Charlie Rose, was suspended following eight women's accusations of sexual harassment. "Let me be very clear," said O'Donnell, looking firmly into the camera. "There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive, and I've been doing a lot of listening."

King was also deeply affected by the news. "I am really reeling," she said, calling the Washington Post article that first reported the allegations "deeply disturbing, troubling, and painful for me to read."

"Oprah called me and said, are you okay? I am not okay," King said. She explained: "I'm really struggling, because how do you — what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible?"

King added that despite her conflicted feelings, "Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn't get a pass from anyone in this room." Watch her comments below. Jeva Lange

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