• US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola. The travel advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year. "The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning. He called Ebola "a tragic, dreadful and merciless virus." The purpose of the travel warning is to not only protect U.S. travelers, but limit their use of overburdened clinics and hospitals for injuries or other illnesses, he said.

  • Default fuels uncertainty, stock drop in Argentina

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina entered economic limbo Thursday, forced into a default that could undermine an already frail economy if a dispute with U.S. creditors is not resolved soon. President Cristina Fernandez and her economy minister both insisted they were open to more discussions with holdout creditors, but also maintained an air of defiance and denied that the situation Argentina finds itself in really amounts to a default. Fernandez in a rousing and emotional speech dismissed the effects of the default, the country's second in 13 years. "In the first place, we are here on the 31st of July and the world continues and so does the Republic of Argentina, which we can all say is very good news," she to

  • Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (AP) — At least 24 people were killed and 271 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday. The series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday struck a district where several petrochemical companies operate pipelines alongside the sewer system in Kaohsiung, a southwestern port with 2.8 million people. The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

  • Oregon Medicaid targets expensive hepatitis drug

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    WILSONVILLE, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon Medicaid committee on Thursday significantly scaled back access to an effective — but expensive — new drug used to treat hepatitis C. The decision allows only a narrow set of Medicaid patients to be treated with the $1,000-per-pill drug known as Sovaldi, made by Gilead Sciences Inc. Medical experts on Oregon's pharmaceutical review committee question whether the drug is worth the price tag, and officials worry it would break the bank. They say treating all Medicaid patients with the liver-wasting disease would cost almost as much as last year's entire drug bill. Oregon's guidelines would allow the drug to be used only for patients with later stages of liver damage who have been d

  • Congress oks VA, highway bills, not border measure

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress ran full-tilt into election-year gridlock over immigration Thursday and staggered toward a five-week summer break after failing to agree on legislation to cope with the influx of young immigrants flocking illegally to the United States. Faring far better, a bipartisan, $16 billion measure to clean up after a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs and a second bill to prevent a cutoff in highway funding gained final passage in the Senate and were sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. With lawmakers eager to adjourn, legislation to send Israel $225 million for its Iron Dome missile defense system was blocked, at least initially, by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

  • USDA overhauls decades-old poultry inspections

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is overhauling poultry plant inspections for the first time in more than 50 years, a move it says could result in 5,000 fewer foodborne illnesses each year. Final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors. But those who remain will focus more on food safety than on quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. More inspectors would check the facilities to make sure they are clean. The changes would be voluntary, but many of the country's largest poultry companies are expected to opt in. The chicken and turkey industries swiftly praised the new rules, saying they woul

  • US, UN announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Friday morning, the United Nations and United States announced, although Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned there were "no guarantees" the lull in violence would bring an end to the 24-day-old Gaza war. The surprise announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas' tunnel network "with or without a cease-fire" and as the Palestinian death toll soared past 1,400. Noting the difficulties that lay ahead, Kerry said: "This is not a time for congratulations or joy or anything except a serious determination — a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead." "This is a res

  • Congress sends VA overhaul to White House

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has passed a landmark bill to help veterans avoid long waits for health care and fix other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate easily approved the $16.3 billion compromise measure Thursday night, a day after it was overwhelmingly passed by the House. The measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The bill provides $10 billion in emergency spending to enable veterans who can't get prompt appointments at VA hospitals and clinics or live more than 40 miles from one of them to obtain care from a private doctor. The legislation also includes $5 billion to hire more VA doctors, nurses and other medical staff and $1.3 billion for opening 27 new VA clinics a

  • Californians to see increase in health plan costs

    Updated: 4 hr ago

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Californians buying individual health plans on the state's exchange will see their premiums rise by an average of 4.2 percent in 2015, about half the increase the industry has seen in the past three years, officials announced Thursday. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the proposed rates suggest the state has been able to slow down health care costs while reducing the number of uninsured as the exchange enters its second enrollment year under President Barack Obama's health overhaul. "It's good news for Californians, it's good news for the Affordable Care Act," Lee said. Covered California enrolled 1.4 million people during its first year. The next sign-up period will

  • CIA spied on Senate, internal review finds

    Updated: 4 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA's insistence that it did not spy on its Senate overseers collapsed Thursday with the release of a stark report by the agency's internal watchdog documenting improper computer surveillance and obstructionist behavior by CIA officers. Five agency employees — two lawyers and three computer specialists— improperly accessed Senate intelligence committee computers earlier this year in a dispute over interrogation documents, according to a summary of a CIA inspector general report describing the results of an internal investigation. Then, despite CIA Director John Brennan ordering a halt to that operation, the CIA's office of security began an unauthorized investigation that led it to review the emails of S

  • Family of American with Ebola claim to be healthy

    Updated: 4 hr ago

    FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The family of a Texas-trained doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia has shown no symptoms of the deadly disease. Dr. Kent Brantly is in the isolation ward of a hospital where he had been treating Ebola patients on behalf of the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. His wife Amber and 3- and 5-year-old children left Liberia days before Brantly quarantined himself after testing positive for Ebola, raising fears they may have been infected. Amber Brantly says in a statement Thursday that she and the children are "physically fine." American volunteer Nancy Writebol is also battling Ebola in Liberia.

  • Union: California prison staff told to fake checks

    Updated: 5 hr ago

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California prison employees were pressured into falsifying suicide-watch records at the state's troubled new Stockton medical facility, endangering inmates and violating standards imposed in response to federal court orders, according to the union representing psychiatric technicians. The union told The Associated Press that employees were instructed by supervisors to routinely sign log sheets certifying they had followed rules stipulating they check on inmates in the mental health crisis unit every 12 to 15 minutes when they had not done so because they were too busy with other work. Two workers were disciplined when video surveillance showed that they lied.

  • Medical pot backers hope to speed task force work

    Updated: 5 hr ago

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Potential medical marijuana patients and family members said Thursday they hope to assuage police concerns as the state builds up its new program allowing the treatment of eight illnesses with some forms of cannabis. The four patient advocates on the task force overseeing the rollout and impact of the state's new law know they're outnumbered by law enforcement representatives, medical professionals and substance abuse specialists, who together hold 12 of 23 seats. After the panel's first meeting on Thursday, those advocates said they want to ensure severely ill people can easily access the drug as expected by this time next year.

  • Ebola outbreak to cast shadow over Obama summit

    Updated: 5 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders from nations gripped by an Ebola outbreak are pulling out of President Barack Obama's gathering of African leaders in Washington next week, though the White House says the health crisis won't impact the three-day summit. "We certainly understand the decision that was made by some of these African leaders to not participate," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "They obviously have some very pressing items of business to handle in their own countries." Administration officials said the leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the three main countries affected, had canceled their trip to Washington. It was unclear whether Guinean President Alpha Conte still planned to attend the conference.

  • NC Senate gives tentative OK to state budget

    Updated: 5 hr ago

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kindergarten through college classrooms see an extra $113 million, public school teachers get raises averaging 7 percent, and vouchers allowing children to attend private and religious schools with taxpayer money get an extra boost in the $21.1 billion state budget detailed in documents Thursday. Spending on the state's public university system stays about flat. Most state employees get a $1,000 annual raise and five extra vacation days. Medicaid provider rates were cut. Child care subsidies were reduced. The state Senate gave its tentative approval Thursday. Final approval could come in the House early Saturday.

  • Driving high questioned on busy day in Congress

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid rancorous debate over other weighty issues Thursday on Capitol Hill, lawmakers wondered aloud whether driving cars after smoking marijuana is dangerous. Among the unanswered questions: Would drivers who are "high" travel too fast or too slow for safety? Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican who convened the Transportation subcommittee hearing, said he's concerned that growing numbers of drivers on U.S. roadways are increasingly impaired with a mix of drugs and alcohol. But with no test to determine if a driver is high on THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, it's nearly impossible to gauge the danger. Instead, he said, it's only after a fatal crash that investigators can determine if a driver has me

  • Fremont man sues Nebraska over AA requirement

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Fremont man is suing the state of Nebraska, saying his constitutional rights were violated when he was required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings even though he objected to the organization's religious foundation. Marvin Sundquist, 43, of Fremont, was issued a probationary massage therapist license in late 2012 based on Sundquist's history of drunken driving and other minor convictions. One of the requirements for him to move off probationary status was to attend weekly AA meetings. The Nebraska Attorney General's Office moved to revoke his massage therapy license last year when he objected to mandatory attendance of AA, Sundquist said. "AA is a religious organization," Sundquist said.

  • McConnell offers immigration amendment

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he wants to put strict conditions on transporting migrant children into the country's interior, offering the proposal days after a flap surfaced about whether Fort Knox was targeted to temporarily house some of the young immigrants. The Kentucky Republican raised the issue in an amendment he filed to the Senate's border legislation. McConnell's proposal would require the Obama administration to consult with a state's governor before unaccompanied immigrant children would be temporarily relocated to that state.

  • W. Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — The death toll from the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone's capital Thursday looking for patients and others exposed to the disease. Fears grew as the United States warned against travel to the three infected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — and Sierra Leone's soccer team was blocked from boarding a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, that was to take them to the Seychelles for a game on Saturday. Airport authorities in Kenya said Seychelles immigration told them to prevent the team from traveling. Almost half of the 57 new deaths reported by the World Health Organization occurred in Liberia, where

  • Challenge to gay conversion ban is dismissed

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — For the second time in nine months, a federal judge in New Jersey has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on gay conversion therapy. The ruling filed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson rejected the claims of a New Jersey couple who said their constitutional rights were being violated because the law prevents them from seeking treatment for their 15-year-old son. Last November, Wolfson dismissed another challenge to the law filed by a group of plaintiffs that included two licensed therapists who practice what are called "sexual orientation change efforts," referred to in court filings as SOCE. Gov.