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How Uganda got results in its fight against Aids

Uganda’s response to HIV/Aids is immediately apparent in the capital, Kampala.

Billboards dominating the roadsides advocate testing for children and protected sex and highlight the importance of taking ARVs – drugs that prevent the progression of the virus.

A marketplace sign indicates its support for communities living with HIV. Brightly wrapped condoms can be seen at intervals between vendors’ stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Though Ugandans still ask whether HIV will ever be totally eradicated, the situation has vastly improved over the past 25 years.

In the early 1990s, HIV/Aids reached a peak in Uganda – 14 per cent of the population was infected with the virus.

However, rapid action by Ugandan-founded NGOs such as the Aids Support Organisation (Taso), as well as the Ugandan government’s public campaigns promoting abstinence, monogamy and condom usage, brought the rate to 8 per cent by 2000.

Figures for 2015 show a slight further reduction to 7.1 per cent.

Harriet (43) became a widow at 24 when her husband died after contracting HIV.

It was 1997 and the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) were not yet widely available in Uganda.

Her husband had been in jail in Mombasa for a year. When he came back he was sick.

She says he never told her exactly what happened in jail.

Harriet later tested positive for HIV and herpes and was left alone with three children to care for.

Death sentence

“A few years before the advent of ARVs, having HIV was actually a death sentence. People had given up,” says Taso’s executive director, Dr Michael Etukoit.

“There were many people at that time who had even distributed their own property, their own wealth, land and even houses knowing they were going to die,” he recalls.

“People left their workplaces, which sometimes were far away, and moved to the villages to wait to die near home and family to minimise the expense of moving a dead body from somewhere far.”

Taso was formed in 1987, before there was any official response in Uganda, by those affected and infected with the virus.

At the time, the stigma of HIV was so bad that many doctors refused to treat HIV-positive patients. Many of the founding members of Taso died due to a lack of treatment options.

“I vividly remember what the picture was at the clinic,” Etukoit says of the year 2001.

“Somebody who did not see that picture cannot understand the significant transformation that the ARVs have brought.”

The widespread arrival of antiretroviral drugs signified the dawning of a new era. People accessed the treatment and were no longer dying in staggering numbers.

Harriet credits ARVs with her own survival. She began taking them three years ago and they have been so effective that the virus is no longer detectable in her system.

This does not mean that she is HIV-negative, simply that the viral load has decreased significantly.

“I’m doing well,” she says. “I thank God for that because there are so many people who died before and I hope to live.”

Life-altering

Still, increased survival rates have brought their own challenges. Being HIV-positive is no longer viewed as a death sentence, but concern is growing that it is also not now recognised as a life-altering virus.

Many no longer go for testing. Kampalans say if it isn’t fatal, they don’t want to know their status – knowing they are HIV-positive would make them sick from stress anyway.

“With ARVs, the survival rate increases, so the message gets distorted either out of ignorance or deliberately,” Etukoit says. “There are ARVs available, so it is a ‘cure’.”

Modern treatments continue to clash with older versions; messages are spread that certain procedures are a substitute for medication – which Etukoit stresses they are definitely not.

One common belief is that circumcision stops the spread of the virus, whereas in reality the procedure can actually spread of the virus when carried out by untrained individuals using unsterilised instruments.

In rural areas, traditional healers often encourage people to end their treatment. Certain religious groups advocate prayer as a cure.

For those taking antiretroviral drugs, the biggest challenge is often hunger. Taking ARVs on an empty stomach is difficult.

Some children say the effects are so severe that they are tempted not to take the drugs because they interfere with their schooling.

They find going to the hospital to collect their drugs frightening in case any of the locals see them and realise they are HIV-positive.

Can’t cope

Robinnah, a Kampalan who has been positive for 27 years, is a keen advocate of antiretroviral drugs in her community.

“When you take it as the doctor prescribed, you don’t get problems,” she says. “If you don’t take them, well, you can’t cope.”

It is actually hard to find someone who will admit to not taking their drugs. Most speak to me with a medical healthcare professional present, and will not admit it.

Overall, the situation has vastly improved. Uganda has been praised for the manner in which it has sought to control the HIV/Aids epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Increased complacency is simply another challenge in Uganda’s journey towards achieving its aim of a HIV-free generation.

Series concluded. This article was supported by a grant from the Simon Cumbers Media Fund Student Scheme.

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Your workout could be killing your sex life

 (iStock)

Could your CrossFit workout take a toll on your sex life?

A study from the University of North Carolina published this month in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that men who exercise intensely may have a lower libido than men who exercise moderately or lightly.

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Researchers polled more than 1,000 active men on both their workouts and sex lives. Participants were split into groups by duration of exercise, intensity of exercise and libido levels. When the groups were compared, researchers found that those who reported light or moderate workouts were more likely to report moderate or high libidos than those who reported intense workouts.

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Authors caution that the study was self-reported — which means the data relies on participants to be truthful and self-aware — and doesn’t show that exercise causes a low libido, but rather that the two are correlated.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON PORNOGRAPHY

But they did tell the New York Times that heavy exercisers may be too tired to get it on after a long workout, or may experience a post-exercise drop in testosterone.

Exercise is believed to be better for your sex life — and healthier overall — than no workouts, but if you’re finding yourself so worn out from the gym that you can’t perform in the bedroom, it may be time to tone it down.

Click for more from The New York Post.

25% of all overdoses are from heroin

(CNN)America’s opioid epidemic continues: The latest numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, show that one in four drug overdoses in 2015 was related to heroin. In 1999, just 6% of all overdoses were related to the drug.

When looking at overdoses overall, opioid-related deaths represented the majority. In 2015, overdoses involving opioids represented 73% of all overdose deaths, a significant jump from 57% in 2010. Opioids include heroin as well as drugs with a similar chemical structure, such as oxycodone and illicit synthetics like fentanyl.
Dr. Holly Hedegaard of the National Center for Health Statistics, who co-authored the study, also noted that this was the first time the number of overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 50,000. In 2010, there were 38,329 overdose-related deaths, and by 2015, that number had climbed to 52,404. By comparison, in 2015, there were 36,252 total firearm-related deaths across the country.
As with heroin, there was also a significant increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, the drug that was blamed for pop star Prince’s death. In 2010, these types of drugs were involved in just 8% of all overdose deaths, and by 2015, they were involved in 18% of all overdose deaths.
While there were increases in heroin and synthetic drug-related deaths, there was a drop in overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics, including prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Although these drugs were involved in 29% of drug overdose deaths in 2010, they represented 24% of all drug overdose deaths in 2015.
This shift in numbers may in part be due to a change in user habits, with some starting out with prescription drugs and moving on to heroin because of cost and crackdowns on illegal use of prescription drugs. However, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Brandeis University’s Opioid Policy Research Center, said that switching is only part of the story.
“Starting in 2011, overdoses involving heroin has really skyrocketed. There’s a really good chance the increase involving heroin has to be involved with fentanyl,” he said.

Search for solutions

In an attempt to stem the tide of opioid-involved deaths, state and federal governments have implemented new laws and regulations directed at the epidemic. This month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law that would limit initial prescriptions of opioids to just five days. In Arizona, a similar law limits prescriptions to seven days.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has listed a number of fentanyl variations or analogues as schedule I, drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Dr. Larissa Mooney, director of the University of California Los Angeles Addiction Medicine Clinic, said the new study highlighted the need for opioid addiction treatment. “We need to improve access to treatment and remove barriers,” she said.
When Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act last year, it also dedicated $1 billion toward fighting the epidemic, including expanding buprenorphine treatment, a medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependency.
Unlike methadone, which can be administered only in specific settings, buprenorphine — commonly used under the brand name Suboxone — can be provided outside a clinical setting, which can make it more easily accessible.
But while medical-assisted treatment is considered the gold standard, as with any treatment, it isn’t 100% effective.
A study published this week in the journal Addiction found that 43% of all buprenorphine users filled an opioid prescription during treatment and that another 67% filled an opioid prescription after treatment. However, buprenorphine can also be prescribed to deal with chronic pain, and the study wasn’t able to determine which users were trying to treat their dependency versus to treat pain.

Medically assisted treatment

“The bottom line: It’s no surprise that some people receiving buprenorphine are also receiving prescriptions of other opioids, but we were surprised by the number of patients receiving buprenorphine and other opioids,” said study author Dr. Caleb Alexander. Alexander is Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Alexander pointed out that the study did not aim to assess the effectiveness of buprenorphine but rather “raises (the) question about how we can improve the quality and continuity of this treatment. “
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The study looked at 38,096 buprenorphine users between January 2010 and July 2012, with an average treatment length of 55 days.
“When prescribed appropriately,” Kolodny said, “more than 75% of patients do very well” on buprenorphine. He noted that success from buprenorphine treatment was based on long-term use of at least a year.
In addition, since 2012, awareness of the opioid epidemic has been visibly increased. Last year, the CDC issued new guidelines to physicians on prescribing opioids, including recommending against using narcotics as a first-line therapy for chronic pain.

Norwegian Air: $65 one-way fares from Northeast to Europe now on sale

Norwegian Air is bringing nonstop European flights to three small Northeast airports, adding 10 new trans-Atlantic routes that initially will go on sale for as little as $65 one way.

The fast-growing European discount carrier announced the expansion Thursday, revealing plans for five trans-Atlantic routes from Providence, four from Newburgh, N.Y., and one from Hartford, Conn. The new routes include destinations in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. (Scroll to bottom for schedule and route details)

The first of the new flights kick off in June, with Norwegian offering special introductory fares of $65 one-way to Europe. The special return fares will run €69 or £69, depending on the destination – though overseas taxes can add the equivalent of up to $200 on Norwegian’s U.S.-bound flights.

As of early Wednesday morning, the $65 fares (taxes included) to Europe showed fairly broad availability on Norwegian’s website — though the fares had largely dried up by mid-afternoon. While they lasted, the introductory return fares were roughly $80-$100 from the airports in Ireland and Northern Ireland, meaning some round trips had been available for less than $150 at the special fares. Return flights from Scotland started at about $226, making a round trip cost about $300 at the introductory fares.

Long-term, Norwegian says its lowest fares on the routes will start at $99 one way. Norwegian’s bargain-basement introductory fares come as it leads a new set of European discount airlines set their sights on U.S. airports. Norwegian, along with Icelandic upstart WOW Air, have added multiple new routes between the USA and Europe during the past two years.

But Norwegian has been growing the fastest, using its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to add routes from multiple U.S. cities to more than a half-dozen different destinations in Europe. And it may be no coincidence that its introductory fares from the Northeast have bested the headline-grabbing $69 one-way fares that WOW offered on its flights from California earlier this year.

Norwegian acknowledged its $65 fares are meant to drum up publicity.

“That’s how we do it, instead of spending huge amounts on marketing,” Lars Sande, Norwegian’s SVP of Sales, said in a phone interview with Today in the Sky. “People really pay attention and then you get the word of mouth for people to try your product.”

Norwegian and WOW each operate under low cost models in which they advertise low base fares but charge extra for a bevy of add-on items. Such models are common among airlines in both Europe and the United States. In the U.S., Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant all employ such a strategy. But Norwegian and WOW are among the first modern discounters to meaningfully expand the model to flights across the Atlantic.

As for the new routes coming to the U.S. Northeast, Norwegian will fly nonstop from Newburgh to Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Shannon, Ireland. From Providence, Norwegian also will fly to the Irish city of Cork. Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport near Hartford landed nonstop service to Edinburgh.

While Norwegian first made its mark in the U.S. with its Boeing Dreamliners, the carrier’s new service comes as it prepares to begin flying its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The “MAX” is the newest variant of Boeing’s best-selling 737 narrowbody, and the updated narrowbody planes will be capable of flying nonstop from the U.S. East Coast to many cities in Western Europe. Norwegian says using the smaller single-aisle 737 MAX for international routes — instead of a more traditional twin-aisle “widebody” jet — will allow it to keep costs low and offer fares of less than $100 each way for flights between the USA and Europe — even on non-hub routes between smaller cities.

With the 737 MAX, Sande said “you only need to fill 189 seats, much smaller than what you’d have to sell on traditional (widebody) aircraft” that are typically used for overseas routes. Sande said the new Northeast service “wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t get the 737” to fly the routes.

To accommodate its 737-fueled expansion, Norwegian is opening two bases for 737 MAX pilots in Newburgh and Providence. Norwegian is hoping to develop those as secondary airports for the New York and Boston areas, respectively. Each are about 70 miles away from the downtown areas.

However, Sande cautioned that Norwegian doesn’t think all of its fliers bound to those three Northeast airports will necessarily be headed to New York or Boston. With the large populations living around Newburgh and Providence in the dense Northeast corridor, he predicted the airports will draw people from around the region for Norwegian’s new flights.

Sande added more routes are likely if the carrier’s 737 service from the Northeast proves popular.

“This is just the start,” he said. “We have over 200 aircraft on order, so we’ll be looking for these kind of routes with the MAX.”

He suggested “the next step may be increasing frequencies” on the just-announced routes, though he concluded by noting the MAX “could fly from Providence to just about every city in Western Europe.”

Norwegian’s new 737 routes for the U.S. come after it received Department of Transportation approval in December for a long-haul subsidiary the company is setting up in Ireland.

Norwegian had already been flying to the United States, but the European low-cost carrier had sought approval to begin flights here under the Norwegian Air International subsidiary it has set up in Ireland, where the unit can take advantage of European Union regulations and labor laws.

Airline labor groups and some U.S. carriers and lawmakers fought the approval of the Irish subsidiary, calling it a “flag of convenience” scheme by Norwegian. But, after a lengthy  review, the DOT approved the application.

“This case is among the most novel and complex ever undertaken by the department,” Jenny Rosenberg, acting assistant secretary for international affairs, wrote in the nine-page decision in December. “Regardless of our appreciation of the public policy arguments raised by opponents, we have been advised that the law and our bilateral obligations leave us no avenue to reject this application.”

Norwegian had already been providing 40 U.S. routes under its Norwegian-based parent company’s license while it awaited U.S. approval of the Irish license. The company said the U.S. approval of the Norwegian Air International subsidiary would pave thThe way for it to give travelers more competition for lower fares while hiring hundreds more U.S. crew members.

“Now we’re doing exactly what we said we would,” Sande said as Norwegian revealed its new routes from the Northeast. “We’re looking forward to hiring a lot of American workers.”

Providence

Edinburgh: Begins June 16; four weekly flights in the summer, two during the winter.

Belfast: Begins July 1; Two weekly flights during summer. No wintertime service.

Cork: Begins July 1: Three weekly flights during summer, two during winter.

Dublin: Begins July 2: Five weekly flights during summer, three during winter.

Shannon: Begins July 3: Two weekly flights year-round.

Newburgh/Stewart International, N.Y.

Edinburgh: Begins June 15: One daily round-trip flight, year-round.

Belfast: Begins July 1; Three  weekly flights during summer, two during winter.

Dublin: Begins July 1: Daily service during summer, three weekly flights during winter.

Shannon: Begins July 2: Two weekly flights year-round.

Hartford/Bradley

Edinburgh: Begins June 17: Three  weekly flights during summer, two during winter.

TWITTER: You can follow Today in the Sky editor Ben Mutzabaugh at twitter.com/TodayInTheSky

FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

Washington (CNN)The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate.
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
Late Thursday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer objected to CNN’s characterization of the White House request to the FBI.
“We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth,” Spicer said. The FBI declined to comment for this story.
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a US law enforcement official.
The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts.
But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.
The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn’t discuss aspects of the case but wouldn’t say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.
Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.
The White House did issue its own denial, with Priebus calling The New York Times story “complete garbage.”
“The New York Times put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, some treasonous type of accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you and I have been approved to say this — that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it,” Preibus said on “Fox News Sunday” last weekend.
CNN has previously reported that there was constant communication between high-level advisers to then-candidate Trump, Russian officials and other Russians known to US intelligence during the summer of 2016.
Several members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees tell CNN that the congressional investigations are continuing into those alleged Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, despite Priebus’ assertion that there is nothing to those reports.
It is uncertain what the committees will eventually find and whether any of the information will ever be declassified and publicly released. But the push to investigate further shows that Capitol Hill is digging deeper into areas that may not be comfortable for the White House.
The Trump administration’s efforts to press Comey run contrary to Justice Department procedure memos issued in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI.
“Initial communications between the [Justice] Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President, or the Vice President from the side of the White House,” reads the 2009 memo.
The memos say the communication should only happen when it is important for the President’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.
A Department of Justice spokesman said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviewing the memos and that “the Department is following the guidelines in its communications with the White House.”
The effort to refute the CNN and New York Times stories came as increasing numbers of congressional members were voicing concern about Russia’s efforts to influence individuals with ties to Trump.
On February 17, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a briefing with Comey. It’s unclear what was said, but senators suggested there was new information discussed about Russia.
“Every briefing we go through we gain new information,” said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the committee. Lankford declined to be more specific about the briefing.
Sen. Angus King of Maine also declined to reveal what was discussed during the Comey briefing. In response to a question on Priebus’ strong denial of the claims, King said he was “surprised” that Priebus would be “that categorical.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the goal of his panel’s inquiry is to follow “leads wherever they go even if they may be uncomfortable to Republicans.”
“The American public will want to know if the President had personal or financial ties to the Russian government,” Swalwell said.

Spicer: Feds could step up enforcement against marijuana use in states

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use, a move that could undercut the growing number of jurisdictions moving to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing, said that President Trump sees “a big difference” between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes.

“The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” Spicer told reporters.

Spicer said that state’s allowance of marijuana for recreational purposes “ is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Spicer’s remarks on Thursday afternoon following the briefing.

As of the beginning of the year, seven states and the District had adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

In 2013 — as states took up the issue of legalizing marijuana — then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo reiterating that the Justice Department would continue to enforce federal drug laws.

But Cole said that in places that legalized marijuana, federal officials should look to the regulatory systems of states to determine whether they should intervene.

In states with robust systems, Cole wrote, federal officials should continue to leave the matter to local law enforcement. But states without such systems might face challenges from the federal government, he said.

Cole said the federal government’s priorities would include preventing distribution of marijuana to children and preventing cartels from getting their hands on revenue from marijuana sales.

Advocates of liberal marijuana laws have eyed the arrival of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with unease. The former Republican senator from Alabama has a long track record of speaking out against marijuana use.

In his confirmation hearings, Sessions acknowledged that disrupting states marijuana markets by enforcing federal marijuana laws could create a strain on federal resources. But he said he “won’t commit to never enforcing the law.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose state was among the first to authorize recreational use of marijuana, said in a statement Thursday that he was “deeply disappointed” to hear Spicer’s comments and noted his earlier call for a meeting with Sessions to discuss the matter.

“My office will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the federal government does not undermine Washington’s successful, unified system for regulating recreational and medical marijuana,” he said.

In explaining the rationale of greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Spicer cited growing problems with other illicit drug use.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the National Cannabis Industry Association took issue with that argument.

“Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug, and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis,” said Aaron Smith, the organization’s executive director.

He also argued that the current state programs are well-regulated and operating well.

In a separate statement Thursday, the Marijuana Policy Project pointed to polling showing a strong majority of voters opposed to the government enforcing federal prohibition laws in states where marijuana is legal for medical or adult use.

“The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws,” said Mason Tvert, the group’s communications director. “This administration is claiming that it values states’ rights, so we hope they will respect the rights of states to determine their own marijuana policies.”

An array of marijuana industry executives also spoke out against Spicer’s comments, including Danny Davis, managing partner of Convectium.

“We are hopeful that Mr. Spicer’s comments are not representative of the entire administration,” Davis said. “Many of the states who helped elect President Trump just voted to also support recreational marijuana; it is hard to imagine that he would push an agenda with the support ratings where they are.”

Man Who Allegedly Yelled ‘Get out of My Country’ Before Shooting Three Investigated for Hate Crime

The Wednesday night shooting of three men in a Kansas City sports bar is now being investigated as a possible hate crime after witnesses say the shooter yelled “get out of my country” before opening fire on two Indian men.

The Kansas-City Star reports that Adam W. Purinton allegedly shot three men in the incident —Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32; Alok Madasani, 32, and Ian Grillot, 24, who was shot after trying to intervene. Kuchibhotla died Wednesday evening.

Witnesses report that they heard Purinton yell “Get out of my country” before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madsani. After fleeing the scene, Purinton made his way to an Applebees in the town of Clinton, reportedly telling the bartender there that he “needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men.” Neither Madsani or Kuchibhotla are of Middle Eastern descent; they worked as engineers at Garmin and are believed to be from India, the Verge reports.

Grillot, the third man who was injured during the altercation, reportedly intervened in order to try and “subdue” the shooter. From the AP:

“I got up and proceeded to chase him down, try to subdue him,” Grillot said in a video from the University of Kansas Health System posted on the Star website. “I got behind him and he turned around and fired a round at me.”

Grillot said that the bullet went through his hand and into his chest, just missing a major artery.

“It’s not about where he (victim) was from or his ethnicity,” Grillot said. “We’re all humans, so I just did what was right to do.”

As of now, the FBI doesn’t have enough information to determine whether or not this is a hate crime. “This was a violent crime and we want the best prosecution that relates to this because there are victims of this crime and we want the community to know that,” FBI special agent Erick Jackson said, adding that they will “make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Kuchibhotla to cover funeral costs and grief and recovery support for his family, exceeding its goal of $150,000 in just nine hours. Purinton is being held on a $2 million bond.

Stephen Bannon Reassures Conservatives Uneasy About Trump

OXON HILL, Md. — In an administration hardly five weeks old, Stephen K. Bannon’s reputation has taken on almost mythic proportion as a fire-breathing populist, emerging power center, man of mystery.

When Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, appeared in public on Thursday for the first time since the president was sworn in, it was to deliver, in his own combative way, a message of soothing reassurance to the conservative activists gathered here for their annual assessment known as the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Do not believe the “corporatist globalist media” that was “crying and weeping” on election night and is still “dead wrong” about what the Trump administration is doing. Inside the White House, Mr. Bannon said, everything is going according to plan. The “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun.

Appearing with Reince Priebus, the president’s chief of staff, he joked about how well the two get along despite the friction that had always existed between them. “I can run a little hot on occasion,” Mr. Bannon said, complimenting Mr. Priebus’s equanimity.

And he urged a ballroom full of activists to stick together against the forces that were trying to tear them apart. “Whether you’re a populist, whether you’re a limited-government conservative, whether you’re a libertarian, whether you’re an economic nationalist,” he said, “we want you to have our back.”

Despite Mr. Bannon’s assurances, a simmering unease remains among conservatives over whether Mr. Trump will honor his promises to them, given that he was not part of their movement — or any political movement, for that matter — until very recently.

Not too many years ago CPAC almost denied Mr. Trump a speaking slot because it feared he only wanted to promote himself. As for Mr. Bannon, he was essentially banished from the premises when he was running Breitbart News. So Mr. Bannon started a rival conference at a hotel down the street and called it The Uninvited.

Photo

The ballroom at a Maryland resort was packed with conservative activists during speeches from several of President Trump’s staff members on Thursday. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, acknowledged the discomfort that comes with any hostile party takeover when she addressed the meeting. Mr. Trump, she said, had to uproot the political system.

“Every great movement ends up being a little bit sclerotic and dusty after a time,” she said. She predicted that CPAC would wholly embrace the new president.

“Well, I think by tomorrow this will be TPAC,” she said.

Part of what has been so problematic in Mr. Trump’s first month is that the disruption he promised to unleash on the federal bureaucracy so far seems to be occurring in the wrong place: his administration, which has been rife with infighting and rattled by early missteps. The destructive forces that Mr. Bannon and other conservatives complain about can sometimes come from within.

Mr. Trump’s first nominee for labor secretary withdrew after allegations of domestic abuse and revelations that he had employed an undocumented immigrant he did not pay taxes on. His hastily carried out executive order barring refugees and all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries has been tangled up in the courts and blocked from going into effect. He fired his national security adviser. And questions of how closely members of his inner circle may have worked with the Russians to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign continue to attract interest from investigators.

“Disruption is a good thing,” said Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC. Still, he acknowledged, “on some days they do it better than others.”

There is another lens through which to see the disorder that has characterized this White House, Mr. Trump and his supporters say. And that is to understand that the president’s enemies — especially in the news media — want to distort his actions, exaggerate his mistakes and not discuss issues like safety and unemployment that are on the minds of his supporters.

Gov. Matt Bevin, Republican of Kentucky, said he was appalled by the “unbelievable incessant focus on the most mindless things,” with regard to how the president is portrayed in the news media. “Let’s talk about crime rates. Let’s talk about economic viability. Let’s talk about joblessness,” Mr. Bevin added. “Let’s focus on things that matter and stop being so tabloid-like and titillated by idiocy.”

Ms. Conway said the stories of disarray in the White House, including recent accounts that she has been sidelined lately, were nothing more than tiresome palace intrigue. And without naming names, she said the attacks directed at her were really desperate attacks against the president by political enemies still sore about the election.

“To try to remove me from the equation would remove one of his voices and one of his trusted aides. And that would be hurtful to him,” she said. “They didn’t see this coming. They weren’t prepared for this result — even though they all ran around and said: ‘We’re a divided country! We’re a divided country!’”

It was not as if the support for Mr. Trump, who will speak to the conference Friday morning, is not enthusiastic.

“I always said he’s not a stupid man. And if he has the right people around him he’s going to do the right thing,” said Daniel Cirucci of Cherry Hill, N.J., who was standing in line on Thursday evening to listen to Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative he said he deeply admired. “I think he realizes the enormity of the job,” Mr. Cirucci added. “Now does that mean Trump is going to stop being Trump? No.”

These should be good times for conservatives — and much of the time they are. They control not just the White House but both houses of Congress and appear on the verge of regaining a majority on the Supreme Court. They have not dominated so many state governments in close to a century.

But part of the subtext of CPAC this year has been how conservative leaders are trying to smooth out the rougher edges of their movement, not all of which involve Mr. Trump.

Because of the association that a fringe element of Trump supporters has with white nationalists, the CPAC organizers held a panel discussion on Thursday to signal their strong disapproval. Its title: The Alt-Right Ain’t Right at All.

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Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, left, acknowledged concerns over Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials when she spoke on Thursday. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Yet after the panel was over, the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer stood in the hall just off the main stage and declared himself a conservative. “I’m a conservative in a deep sense, in a sense that I care about people and defending a culture.”

And the organizers had to cancel a planned speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart editor and Trump supporter who has a history of insulting Jews, Muslims, African-Americans and other minorities, after a tape surfaced in which he condoned sex with boys as young as 13.

The projections of placidity inside CPAC tried to mask how fractious the movement remains. Yet optimists were not hard to find.

Mr. Pence said the Trump victory has given conservatives “the most important time in the history of our movement.”

“My friends, this is our time,” he told the conference Thursday night. “This is the time to prove again that our answers are the right answers for America.”

In his brief remarks, Mr. Bannon ended on a conciliatory note. He insisted that conservatives all had more in common than most people realized.

“We have wide and sometimes divergent opinions,” he said. But the core of what conservatives believe is “that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders — that we’re a nation with a culture and a reason for being.

“And I think that’s what unites us,” he added. “And I think that’s what’s going to unite this movement going forward.”

Keith Ellison (Nigger), in run-up to DNC chair election, calls for party to fight anti-Semitism

(JTA) — Rep. Keith Ellison called for Democrats to speak out against anti-Semitism and reject hatred of refugees during a debate for candidates to head the Democratic Party.

The Minnesota Democrat also made clear during the CNN debate Wednesday evening that he supports Israel and has strong backing from the Jewish community. He is vying with seven others to chair the Democratic National Committee; Ellison is considered among the front-runners with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Ellison noted his “long, strong history of interfaith dialogue, interfaith communication.” He called suggestions that he is anti-Semitic – based on his involvement with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam while he was in college – “smears.”

“I just want to say, it is critical that we speak up against this anti-Semitism because right now, you have Jewish cemeteries being defaced and desecrated,” he said. “Right now, you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand with the Jewish community right here, right now, four square, and that’s what the Democratic Party is all about.”

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, added that he spoke at a HIAS event last week to support the right of refugees to enter the United States.

“They’re saying, we were once refugees, and they stood out in New York and demanded that we have respect for refugees now,” he said of the Jewish organization that assists refugees.

Ellison was asked about aid to Israel, noting that at a private 2010 fundraiser, he said that American foreign policy is seen through the eyes of the 7 million citizens of Israel. He responded that he believes the U.S.-Israel relationship is “special and important,” and noted that he has “voted for $27 billion in bilateral aid to Israel over the course of about six or seven votes. I have been to the region many times and sat down with members of the Knesset and worked with them.”

Some 447 electors made up mostly of  state party officials and officials in state government, among others, will vote for DNC chair on Saturday in Atlanta.

Israel and the Middle East likely will not figure highly in their considerations. The electors are concerned much more with rebuilding a party devastated by its across-the-board losses in November’s elections, including for president.

Near San Francisco, Karaite Jews keep an ancient movement alive

DALY CITY, Calif. (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — Show up on a Shabbat morning at Congregation B’nai Israel in this Northern California suburb and, if you’re a typical American Jew, you will see plenty that’s familiar.

At the front of the sanctuary is an ark, and inside the ark are several Torah scrolls. There is a memorial wall at the back listing the names of the community’s lost loved ones. Near the entrance is a rack of tallitot, or prayer shawls.

But before you come in, you must remove your shoes, as Moses did when he approached the Burning Bush. Examine the rack of tallitot and you will find that the fringes are dyed, knotted and wrapped in an unusual way. In front of the pews is an open space covered in rugs. Some worshippers sit or kneel on the floor; when they bow, they touch their heads to the ground. The prayers follow a unique structure, and the sound is very Middle Eastern.

B’nai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the Diaspora’s largest community of Jews carrying on the traditions of a movement that diverged from the rabbinic “mainstream” as far back as the eighth century C.E. About 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews, as Karaites call Jews who follow rabbinic tradition, in that they rely on what is written in the Torah and reject practices and interpretations derived from the oral law — the Talmud and other rabbinic literature. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when the (Rabbanite) sage Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between the two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but the initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, the relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues.

Still, B’nai Israel’s is a small, closely knit community drawn together by the Egyptian ancestry of many of its members as well as their Karaite practice. Like many other small Jewish communities, they are concerned about the future. Who will induct their children and other interested Jews into Karaite traditions?

To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center,attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the Diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project.

“If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, it’ll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion,” said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.

Karaite practice is usually defined by its differences with rabbinic Judaism, whose acceptance of the oral law is considered foundational by Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, even if Reform Judaism does not consider its rules binding.

The rabbinic kosher practice of not mixing milk and meat, for example, is derived from fairly limited verses in the Bible that one should not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. The rabbinic tradition expanded the prohibition to prevent the mixing and consumption of any kind of dairy with any kind of meat, including chicken, and created an array of laws about separating cooking utensils and waiting between eating meat and dairy.

In the Karaite view of kashrut, one may mix meat and dairy products that come from different animals, and each community — and individual — has autonomy to decide how strict or lax to be. Karaites also do not accept rabbinic loopholes that ease various Shabbat restrictions. Karaite Jews have embraced some Rabbanite traditions, such as b’nai mitzvah, while rejecting others, such as celebrating Hanukkah (which marks events that occurred 1,000 years after those described in the Torah).

Karaites also include a blue strand in their tzitzit, giving their tallitot a distinctive look — and informing the name of A Blue Thread, Lichaa’s long-running blog on Karaite Judaism.

In the B’nai Israel sanctuary, most women sit off to one side, though there is no mechitza to separate them formally from the men. As each Karaite community is empowered to set its own standards, American mores rubbed off on the community, and some women now prefer to sit in the main area.

Today there are an estimated 30,000 Karaite Jews in Israel, 1,500 in the United States and small communities in places like France, England, Turkey and Russia. But until the mid-20th century, many lived in Arab lands. For centuries, one of the most prominent Karaite communities in the world was in Cairo, where the first Bay Area Karaites came from. Cairo once had a Karaite quarter of about 5,000 people adjacent to the mainstream Jewish quarter. Relations between Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Cairo were close; the Cairo Genizah, a vast store of Jewish writings discovered in a Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo in the 19th century, included a number of Karaite documents.

In what Karaites sometimes call “the second exodus,” they left Egypt en masse during the last century after Israel became a state in 1948. More left after the 1956 Sinai War. During the 1967 Six-Day War, the remaining Jewish men in Egypt were put in camps, where they were held for over two years; they were the last to leave. Over the years — mostly because of relatives already in the Bay Area — many of the Egyptian Karaite Jews wound up here.

In 1994, the Bay Area Karaite community bought the Daly City building from an existing Congregation B’nai Israel that was closing. The Karaite congregation adopted the name B’nai Israel because it was already painted on the side of the building.

The cultural center would have been no more than a dream were it not for the fortuitous union, in their 60s, of David Ovadia and Maryellen Himell-Ovadia, who are leading the fundraising and renovation efforts. Ovadia is a Karaite Jew by heritage and a structural engineer by training; Himell-Ovadia is a former member of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El and an experienced fundraiser.

Ovadia came to the Bay Area from Egypt at age 13 in 1963.

“During that time, a lot of my other uncles and everybody else was feeling the pressure and everything that was going on in Egypt,” he said.

While others in his community have feared for its future, Ovadia’s faith never wavered.

“I never doubted that this is going to continue,” he said. “This is making sure that there is going to be a tradition kept alive. We will live for a thousand years and more.”

Himell-Ovadia sees herself as part of a bridge between the Karaite and mainstream Jewish communities of the Bay Area — a bridge that she hopes will grow.

“This is not just about improving or facilitating things within the Karaite community, but to build bridges to the larger world and to make this a welcoming place for others who want to come and learn about this unique culture within the branches of the Jewish family tree,” she said.

With groundbreaking set for the end of this month, the B’nai Israel community has already raised $1.1 million of its $1.2 million goal. The cultural center campaign is an approved grantee of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation’s donor-advised funds, though it only accounts for a small percentage of the money raised. In about six weeks, the congregation will move out of its building and be hosted by other congregations until the High Holidays, when it expects to be back home again.

A Blue Thread blogger Lichaa, 37, is also the creator of the Karaite Press. Launched in February 2016 with the publication of a 12th-century Karaite commentary on the Book of Esther, the Karaite Press aims to make great historical Karaite writings — many of them written in Arabic and until now locked up in manuscript form — available to the global Karaite community and the public at large.

Lichaa, a San Francisco native and the son of Karaite parents from Cairo, grew up in Foster City, where he attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Sinai Congregation.

In Cairo, members of the Karaite community lived close together. But, Lichaa said, “When we came to the U.S. we didn’t have proximity, a central place where a critical mass lived where we could do education with our own teachers. The easiest thing to do was join local synagogues.”

Today, the Daly City congregation offers some education programs, but none specifically for kids.

“We do train them in prayers, one on one. I do some of that,” Lichaa said.

A recent bar mitzvah at B’nai Israel was a major affair, drawing a crowd of 150 to the small sanctuary.

The new center will offer a range of programs, “everything from cooking classes, history classes, to arts,” he said. “I see a Tuesday night open house where we’re open to the community. People can drop by, there will be food and beverages. And maybe Thursday nights we’ll have a specific learning opportunity.”

Lichaa is working to make sure all of the classes will be live-streamed, making the learning available to a wide audience.

The center also will include a rotating exhibit of Karaite Torah scrolls, art, manuscripts and the like.

Lichaa views himself as Jewish first and Karaite second.

“I made an active decision that my preferred form of Judaism is Karaite Judaism,” he said. “If you’re an Orthodox Jew, I understand why you follow the rabbinic tradition. But for everyone else, I wonder why Karaite Judaism can’t be one of the menu options.”

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