LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The European Union committed itself Monday to step up efforts toward getting 1 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in aid to fight Ebola in West Africa and rejected the idea of halting direct flights coming from the region.
The EU foreign ministers set off a week of continentwide action with a pledge "to play an active role in enhancing the international response" to Ebola, which so far has been late and insufficient to contain the deadly virus that has claimed at least 4,500 lives.
British Prime Minister David Cameron wants a two-day summit of the 28 EU leaders ending Friday to reach the $1.27 billion aid threshold, agreeing on a variety of topics from more financial aid to common repatriation procedures, more Ebola treatment facilities and better training for health care workers.
"It's time to act now ... if we want to limit the amount of cases to an amount that is controllable," said Robero Bertollini, the World Health Organization's representative to the EU.
So far, the overall anti-Ebola total for the EU, including EU national contributions, stands at 500 million euros ($640 million), with Britain contributing 160 million euros ($204 million). The Netherlands also promised to send a frigate to West Africa to help, matching a similar contribution from Britain.
"Money is very important, equipment is very important, staff is very important," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Still, EU ministers rejected the idea of scrapping flights from West Africa to keep the virus out of Europe.
"Instead of going to Brussels or to France, (West African) passengers would go to Dubai or elsewhere and come in from there," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "We would no longer be able to check anything."
In Spain, officials said nursing assistant Teresa Romero appears to have beaten Ebola but won't be considered virus-free until she is tested again Tuesday. She was among those treating a Spanish missionary who died of Ebola on Sept. 25.
Officials also said 15 others linked to Romero had no Ebola symptoms.
A Norwegian doctor, infected with the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, has also been cured, according to Oslo University Hospital. Silje Lehne Michalsen, 30, was evacuated from Sierra Leone to Norway on Oct. 7, two days after it was confirmed she carried the virus.
AP reporters Alan Clendenning in Madrid, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki contributed to this report.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert
WASHINGTON (AP) — September brought more record heat globally, and meteorologists say Earth is now on pace to tie for the hottest year ever recorded.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit. That was the hottest September in 135 years of record keeping. It was the fourth monthly record set this year, along with May, June and August.
The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees, tying with 1998 and 2010 for the warmest first nine months on record.
While parts of the U.S. Midwest, Russia and central Africa were slightly cool in September, it was especially hotter than normal in the U.S. West, Australia, Europe, northwestern Africa, central South America and parts of Asia.
SURUC, Turkey (AP) — In a significant shift, Turkey's top diplomat announced on Monday that his country is helping Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross into Syria to "give support" to fellow Kurds defending the border town of Kobani from Islamic State militants.
The remarks by Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu came hours after the U.S. military announced it for the first time had airdropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies provided by Iraqi Kurdish authorities to Kurdish forces in Kobani.
Sunday's airdrops followed weeks of U.S. and coalition airstrikes in and near Kobani, along the Syrian-Turkish border. A U.S. military official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name, said the airdrops included small arms.
Turkey previously has said it would oppose any U.S. arms transfers to the Kurdish rebels in Syria. It views the main Kurdish group in Syria as an extension of the Turkish Kurd group known as the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and by NATO.
Although a significant departure from previous positions, Turkey's decision to allow fighters to cross its territory is not a complete change of policy, since it involves Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces rather than the PKK.
It remains uncertain, however, whether Ankara would allow large numbers of heavily armed Iraqi Kurdish fighters to make the journey and if significant numbers are likely to do so given the threat IS still poses to Kurdish areas in Iraq.
"Iraq's Kurdish regional government announced that they are in cooperation with Turkey and the U.S.," Cavusoglu said at a press conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
"Actually, we are helping peshmerga forces to enter into Kobani to give support," he added, speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi.
Cavusoglu did not provide details, and it was not immediately clear where and how Turkey was allowing Kurdish fighters into Syria, after blocking them so long. Also unclear was whether this had already happened or was still to take place.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be "irresponsible" and "morally very difficult" not to support the Kurds in their fight against IS.
"Let me say very respectfully to our allies the Turks that we understand fully the fundamentals of their opposition and ours to any kind of terrorist group and particularly obviously the challenges they face with respect the PKK," Kerry said.
"But we have undertaken a coalition effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, and ISIL is presenting itself in major numbers in this place called Kobani," he told reporters in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
In Iraq, meanwhile, the local Kurdish government confirmed the weapons deliveries and expressed its gratitude to Washington.
"Weapons and military aid were delivered to Kobani today from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by American cargo jets," a statement issued Monday said.
Kobani-based Kurdish journalist Barzan Isso said no peshmerga fighters have arrived in Kobani. He added that the statements by the Turkish foreign minister were "a Turkish political maneuver that has nothing to do with reality."
Isso, who said he saw the airdrop, said the bundles included "modern weapons" such as anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles and large amounts of artillery shells in addition to medicines.
He said the Americans dropped the bundles amid heavy wind and that two bundles landed in areas held by the Islamic State group. Kurdish fighters were able to retrieve one of them while the other was blown up by the Americans from the air, Isso said.
The U.S. Central Command said the coalition conducted six airstrikes near Kobani in the past 24 hours that destroyed IS fighting and mortar positions and a vehicle. It confirmed that one airstrike targeted a stray resupply bundle that prevented the supplies from falling into enemy hands.
It previously said U.S. C-130 cargo planes made multiple drops of arms and supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq, saying they were intended to enable continued resistance to the Islamic State group's efforts to take full control of Kobani.
Idriss Naasan, a senior Kurdish official in the Turkish town of Mursitpinar, confirmed that the Kurdish fighters received the air drop and asked for more weapons.
"We are not in need of fighters, we are able to defeat the terrorists of ISIS if we have weaponry — enough weaponry and enough ammunition," he told The Associated Press.
President Barack Obama called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday to discuss the situation in Syria and notify him of the plan to make airdrops on Sunday, one U.S. administration official told reporters. He would not describe Erdogan's reaction but said U.S. officials are clear about Turkey's opposition to any moves that help Kurdish forces, whom Turkey views as an enemy.
Turkey has not allowed the U.S. and its allies to use its airspace or air bases to strike inside Syria. The C-130s, which would have taken off from the largely autonomous Kurdish regions of northern Iraq, would have had to fly for some time over Syria. President Bashar Assad's forces have made no attempt to challenge coalition jets as they bombed Islamic State group targets in northern and eastern Syria for the past weeks.
U.S. officials say they informed Damascus before launching the first U.S. airstrike on IS targets in Syria on Sept. 23. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not comment last week on whether they were ongoing discussions with Syria over the airstrikes.
In recent days, much of the coalition strikes have focused around Kobani, which Islamic State group militants have been trying to seize since mid-September. Turkey has so far provided sanctuary to an estimated 200,000 Syrians fleeing from Kobani and dozens of nearby villages that were captured by the IS group.
Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Desmond Butler in Istanbul, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Matthew Lee in Jakarta, Indonesia, Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.
DALLAS (AP) — About 120 people are now being monitored for possible infection with Ebola because they may have had contact with one of the three people in Dallas who had the disease, Texas health officials said Monday.
Officials said 43 of 48 people on an original watch list have passed the 21-day maximum incubation period for the viral disease and are now in the clear.
But others who cared for a Liberian man who died Oct. 8 at a Dallas hospital remain at risk, along with two nurses he infected and their close contacts. That brings the total to 120 people now being monitored, with their wait period ending Nov. 7, said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. He said the number may fluctuate.
Clay Jenkins, the top administrator for Dallas County, said he was unaware that other health officials had allowed one of the nurses, Amber Vinson, onto an airplane the day before she was diagnosed. Vinson had contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dallas County, and she was given permission to fly home to Dallas after visiting family in Ohio.
"It was a mistake" for Vinson to have flown "and we apologize," Jenkins said during a news conference Monday morning.
Still, health officials said they were breathing a little easier Monday as the monitoring period ended for many, and after a cruise ship scare ended with the boat returning to port and a lab worker on board testing negative for the virus.
Among those no longer in isolation are the family and friends who were hosting Thomas Eric Duncan before he was diagnosed with Ebola. The Liberian man — who became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. — died from the disease Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
"I want to breathe, I want to really grieve, I want privacy with my family," Louise Troh, whose family had been hosting Duncan before he became ill, told The Associated Press.
Rawlings, the Dallas mayor, thanked Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas for providing housing for Troh and her family while they were monitored. Rawlings said the family was staying at a Catholic retreat in Dallas owned by the Diocese.
The incubation period also has passed for many health workers who encountered Duncan when he went to the Dallas hospital for the first time, on Sept. 25. Duncan was sent home, but then returned by ambulance and was admitted on Sept. 28. Two nurses who treated him during that second visit — Vinson and Nina Pham — are now hospitalized with Ebola.
Vinson's family issued a statement saying they have hired a lawyer and are troubled by comments and media coverage that "mischaracterize" Vinson, who is being treated at Emory University in Atlanta. Vinson "has not and would not knowingly expose herself or anyone else," and "suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful," the statement says.
On Sunday, a Carnival Cruise Lines ship returned to Galveston, Texas, from a seven-day trip marred by worries over a health worker on board who was being monitored for Ebola. The lab supervisor had handled a specimen from Duncan and isolated herself on the ship as a precaution, though she later tested negative for Ebola. About 4,000 passengers on the cruise had to miss a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, where the boat was not allowed to dock because of the scare.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said those caring for Duncan were vulnerable because some of their skin was exposed.
The CDC is working on revisions to safety protocols. Earlier ones, Fauci said, were based on a World Health Organization model for care in remote places, often outdoors, and without intensive training for health workers.
"So there were parts about that protocol that left vulnerability, parts of the skin that were open," Fauci said.
Health officials had previously allowed hospitals some flexibility to use available covering when dealing with suspected Ebola patients. The new guidelines are expected to set firmer standards: calling for full-body suits and hoods that protect worker's necks; setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of hands; and requiring a "site manager" to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.
The guidelines also are expected to require a "buddy system" in which workers check each other as they come in and go out, according to an official who was familiar with the guidelines but not authorized to discuss them before their release.
Hospital workers also will be expected to exhaustively practice getting in and out of the equipment, the official said.
Nurses have been clamoring for more guidance and better garb, saying they have never cared for Ebola patients before and feel unprepared and underequipped.
"If hospital administrators had to take care of Ebola patients, they would have the gold standard and hazmat suits," said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, a union with 185,000 members.
In some places where they have the suits, nurses have not practiced taking them on and off.
"The hospital is sending them essentially a link to the CDC website. That's not preparation. That's like a do-it-yourself manual," DeMoro said.
The Pentagon announced Sunday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had ordered the formation of a 30-person military support team to assist civilian medical professionals in the U.S. to treat Ebola. The team won't be sent overseas, and will "be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
Stobbe reported from Atlanta.
Associated Press writers Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas; Jill Craig in Galveston, Texas; and Josh Hoffner in Dallas contributed to this report.