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Sighting: Iron Man at the DMV

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Reality Check: Is an Ebola Flight Ban a Good Idea? Nate Silver Doesn’t Think So

editor-commen-deskIt’s exceedingly rare that I agree with an Obama administration decision (though the decision is infirm, and could be weaseled any way the wind blows over the next several weeks) but the increasing calls to impose an Africa travel ban strike me as reflexive, not founded on proven disease strategy. Unlike a lot of bellyaching conservatives, and a handful of election-panicked Democrats, I’m not convinced that declining to respond to pressure to impose a travel ban is a bad thing. And I don’t think it’s motivated purely by narrow political or economic interests. That said, I don’t claim to be informed enough to have a clear opinion either way. So this morning I saw this, and thought it might be useful reading.

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Nate Silver writes:

On Sept. 19, Thomas Eric Duncan boarded a flight in Monrovia, Liberia, possibly after having lied on a screening questionnaire about his contact with persons carrying the Ebola virus. The next day, Duncan arrived in Dallas to visit his fiancée and son. Initially complaining of a fever, Duncan would soon become the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola. Before dying of the disease on Oct. 8, Duncan would transmit it to two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who treated him at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital.

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Duncan’s case has sparked calls to ban flights to the United States from the countries hardest hit by the recent Ebola outbreak — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — possibly along with others in West Africa. While some of these APPROVED-non-stop-panicarguments have been measured, others seem to convey the impression there are thousands of passengers arriving in cities like Dallas each day from flights originating in these countries.

There aren’t. We searched on Kayak.comExpertFlyer.com and airline websites for direct flights from West African nations (as the United Nations defines the region) to destinations outside the African continent. Specifically, we looked for flights available for the week from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, 2015, a time period far enough in advance that such flights are unlikely to have sold out.

There are no regularly scheduled direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone — and very few from other countries in West Africa. There are far more flights from West Africa to Western Europe instead. Duncan’s case was typical. Before arriving in the United States, he connected through Brussels.

Here are all the routes we identified:

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Our search may be missing a few flights here and there, but it ought to be reasonably comprehensive, especially for travel to and from the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


FBI: Air Marshal Attacked With Syringe In Nigeria

University Of Iowa Begins Vaccinating Students For Mumps

(AP) — The FBI says a U.S. air marshal was attacked with a syringe at a Nigerian airport.

FBI spokesman Christos Sinos said Tuesday that preliminary tests show the syringe did not contain any deadly pathogens. It’s not known what was in the syringe, but Sinos says the tests are “negative for any bad stuff.”

The air marshal was attacked Sunday at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, a country dealing with an Ebola outbreak. Read the rest of this entry »


Boko Haram Extremists Kill More than 100 in Northeast Nigeria

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Boko Haram wants to enforce an Islamic state in Nigeria though half the country’s population of 170 million is Christian.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists have killed more than 100 people and hoisted their black and white flag over a town left undefended by Nigeria’s military, just 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the northeastern state capital of Maiduguri, a civil defense spokesman and a human rights advocate said Saturday.

“Nine major villages are on the run.”

Hundreds of villagers in another northeast area, Askira Uba, are fleeing after receiving letters from the Islamic extremists threatening to attack and take over their areas, spokesman Abbas Gava of the Nigerian Vigilante Group said.

Survivors said Saturday that insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and lobbed homemade bombs into homes, and then gunned down people as they tried to escape the fires in the attack on Damboa town launched before dawn Friday. Most of the town has burned down, they said. Read the rest of this entry »


LEAVING A TRAIL OF SLIME, THE GLOBAL PANIC OF JULY 2014 REACHES LAX

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67 Extremely Invasive Jumbo-Sized Weaponized Ass-Whooping Giant African Snails Intercepted at LAX

“They can be carriers of several parasites which are harmful to humans, one of which can lead to meningitis”

For Breitbart.comKerry Picket reports: U.S. Customs and Border agents may have to allow young unaccompanied illegal immigrants into the country, but giant African snails are turned away.

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Our Roving Anthropod News Analyst and noted Achatina Fulica expert concurred: “You don’t want to mess with these Giant African snails. It’s a nightmare…don’t get me started…”

According to a CBP press release, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) inspected an air cargo shipment declared as 67 live snails. Paperwork accompanying the giant foreign mollusks described them as Achatina Fulica for human consumption.

“These pests are a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy.”

—  From the CBP release

The snails came in from Lagos, Nigeria in two plastic basket packages, CBP says, and weighed slightly more than 35 pounds in total and were destined for San Dimas, California. Read the rest of this entry »