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IN DEPTH: EBOLA CONTINUES SPREAD ACROSS THE GLOBE…FEARS THE VIRUS HAS REACHED ASIA   Leave a comment

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ATLANTA, Georgia | DMN — A woman has been quarantined at a hospital in Hong Kong after falling ill with Ebola-like symptoms when she returned from a trip to Africa. The patient, who is said to be exhibiting symptoms similar to the deadly virus, is undergoing tests to verify the cause of her illness, local media reported. It comes as potential victims were tested for the incurable disease in the UK, and it emerged Sierra Leone’s top doctor, who had been fighting the epidemic, died from the virus. The death of a U.S. citizen in the Nigerian capital of Lagos on Friday, prompted fears of a world pandemic, as experts warned the disease could be spread by air travelers.

Dr Derek Gatherer of the University of Lancaster has warned of a global pandemic, claiming the virus is as infectious as flu. He warned each person infected with the disease could spread the virus to at least two other people, adding that the panic sparked by the death of Mr Sawyer in Lagos, is justified. ‘Anyone on the same plane could have become infected because Ebola is easy to catch,’ he said. ‘It can be passed on through vomiting, diarrhea or even from simply saliva or sweat – as well as being sexually transmitted. ‘That is why there is such alarm over Mr Sawyer because he became ill on the flight so anyone else sharing the plane could have been infected by his vomit or other bodily fluids.’

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It comes as health campaigners today called for U.S. authorities to speed up their approval of a new drug hoped to be the first cure for the deadly Ebola virus. They are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States to fast-track their authorisation of the TKM-Ebola drug. The petition, created on change.org, states: ‘One of the most promising is TKM-Ebola manufactured by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. ‘This drug has been shown to be highly effective in killing the virus in primates and Phase 1 clinical trials to assess its safety in humans were started earlier this year.’ In July the FDA put clinical trials on hold, despite the face 14 research participants had already safely tolerated the drug, campaigners said.

Those responsible for the petition added: ‘Given that at least one patient has transferred the disease from Liberia to Nigeria by air travel, the possibility of a global pandemic becomes increasingly likely.  ‘In view of this it’s imperative that the development of these drugs be fast-tracked by the FDA and the first step should be releasing the hold on TKM-Ebola.  ‘There is a precedent for fast tracking anti-Ebola drugs in emergency cases as happened last year when a researcher was exposed to the virus and received an experimental vaccine.’ Nigerian health officials are in the process of trying to trace 30,000 people thought to have come into contact directly or indirectly with a Liberian Ebola victim.

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Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genusEbolavirus. When infection occurs,symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.

Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

The Ministries of Health (MoH) of Guinea and Liberia and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in several Guinean and Liberian districts.

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There are five identified subspecies of Ebolavirus. Four of the five have caused disease in humans: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.

The natural reservoir host of ebolaviruses remains unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic (animal-borne) with bats being the most likely reservoir. Four of the five subtypes occur in an animal host native to Africa.

A host of similar species is probably associated with Reston virus, which was isolated from infected cynomolgous monkeys imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. Several workers in the Philippines and in US holding facility outbreaks became infected with the virus, but did not become ill.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Topics

magnifying glass and footprintTransmission

How do people get Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever?

stethoscopeSigns and Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms?

pencil and paperRisk of Exposure

Who is at risk?

microscopeDiagnosis

How is it diagnosed?

prescription drugTreatment

How is it treated?

bacteriaPrevention

How can it be prevented?

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, died on Friday after arriving at Lagos airport on June 20, having vomited and suffered diarrhea on two flights. The 40-year-old U.S. citizen had been to the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of the city, home to around 21 million people. Mr Sawyer took two flights to reach Lagos, from Monrovia to Lome and then onto the Nigerian capital. So far 59 people who came into contact with Mr Sawyer have been identified by Nigerian health officials, and are under surveillance. But health officials have said they are looking at contacting 30,000 people who could be at risk of contracting the disease.

Professor Sunday Omilabu, from Lagos University Teaching Hospital,  said health officials are in the process of tracing all those people who are thought to have been in contact with Mr Sawyer. He said: ‘We’ve been making contacts. We now have information about the (flight) manifest. ‘We have information about who and who were around. ‘So, as I’m talking, our teams are in the facility, where they’ve trained the staff, and then they (are) now asking questions about those that were closely in contact with the patient.’ Public health adviser, Yewande Adeshina, added: ‘We’re actually looking at contacting over 30,000 people in this very scenario. ‘Because any and everybody that has contacted this person is going to be treated as a suspect.’

AIRLINES ON EBOLA RED ALERT

British airlines are on alert for cases of the deadly virus, after tests revealed a man died in Nigeria from the disease, having been allowed to board an international flight from Liberia. Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, had been in Liberia for the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease, and was on his way back to his home in the US. The 40-year-old arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 20 and had suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea on two flights. He was put in isolation in hospital and died on Friday.

Nigeria has closed the Lagos hospital where Mr Sawyer was treated and put its airports and ports on ‘red alert’. ASKY airlines, the carrier which flew Mr Sawyer, suspended flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone yesterday. In Britain, the Department of Transport said UK airlines are ‘monitoring the situation’. Virgin Atlantic told DMN their staff have been trained to spot the signs and symptoms of the virulent disease, which has claimed the lives of 672 people in West Africa since February.

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Health campaigners have petitioned U.S. authorities, calling for the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track their approval of a new Ebola drug, which could be the first cure for the disease.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond today declared the disease a ‘very serious threat’ to Britain as he prepares to chair an emergency meeting on how to bolster the country’s defenses against the vicious virus. British airlines are on alert for cases of the deadly virus, after tests revealed a man died in Nigeria from the disease, having been allowed to board an international flight from Liberia. A British man has also been tested for the Ebola virus, putting doctors on red alert that it could be on its way to the UK. A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) will be notified if it is confirmed the patient is suffering from the Ebola virus.

In Nigeria health officials said today, they are in the process of tracing 30,000 people at risk of contracting the disease after coming into contact with a Liberian man who died on Friday. Meanwhile, the British man was taken to hospital in Birmingham after complaining of feeling ‘feverish’ on a flight back to the Midlands from West Africa. He had been travelling from Benin, Nigeria via Paris, France when he became unwell on Monday. However, after undergoing a number of tests he was given the all-clear for the virus which has already killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and infected more than 1,200 since it was first diagnosed in February. In another scare, medical staff at Charing Cross Hospital in London became concerned a man in his twenties had caught the virus this week. But his symptoms were quickly confirmed as not being linked to the bug and doctors ruled out the need for an Ebola test.

ARE YOU AT RISK OF CATCHING THE INCURABLE, DEADLY EBOLA DISEASE?

What is Ebola virus disease?

Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90 per cent.The illness affects humans as well as primates, including monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees.

How do people become infected with the virus?

Ebola is transmitted through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

In Africa infection in humans has happened as a result of contact with chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.

Once a person becomes infected, the virus can spread through contact with a sufferer’s blood, urine, saliva, stools and semen. A person can also become infected if broken skin comes into contact with a victim’s soiled clothing, bed linen or used needles.

Men who have recovered from the disease, can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for seven weeks after recovery.

The Ebola virus is fatal in 90 per cent of cases and there is no vaccine and no known cure

Who is most at risk?

Those at risk during an outbreak include:

  • health workers
  • family members or others in close contact with infected people
  • mourners with direct contact with the bodies of deceased victims
  • hunters in contact with dead animals

What are the typical signs and symptoms?

Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness,  muscle pain, headache and sore throat. That is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and internal and external bleeding.

The incubation period is between two and 21 days. A person will become contagious once they start to show symptoms.

When should you seek medical care?

If a person is in an area affected by the outbreak, or has been in contact with a person known or suspected to have Ebola, they should seek medical help immediately.

What is the treatment?

Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. They need intravenous fluids to rehydrate them.

But there is currently no specific treatment for the disease. Some patients will recover with the appropriate care.

Can Ebola be prevented?

Currently there is no licensed vaccine for Ebola. Several are being tested but are not available for clinical use.

Is it safe to travel to affected areas?

The World Health Organisation reviews the public health situation regularly, and recommends travel or trade restrictions if necessary. The risk of infection for travellers is very low since person-to-person transmission results from direct contact with bodily fluids of victims.

Source: World Health Organisation

Fears over the ability to contain the spread of Ebola were augmented last night as it emerged the body of a young stowaway was found hidden in on a U.S. military plane. The Pentagon said the young boy, believed to be of African origin, was found near the wheel of a cargo plane which landed in Germany. The plane was on a routine mission in Africa, and had made stops in Senegal, Mali, Chad, Tunisia and the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily before arriving at Ramstein. It is thought the boy climbed aboard in Mali, which borders Guinea – where the current Ebola outbreak originated at the end of last year. It comes as hospitals and medical centers across the UK remain on red alert for the virus, with doctors being told to look out for symptoms of the disease which can go unnoticed for three weeks and kills 90 per cent of victims.

The Department of Health confirmed protections have been put in place to deal with the deadly bug, should it spread to Britain. A spokesman said: ‘We are well prepared to identity and deal with any potential cases of Ebola, although there has never been a case in this country.’ The Government’s chief scientific adviser also issued a frank warning about the disease, which he said could have a ‘major impact’ on the UK. Sir Mark Walport said: ‘The UK is fortunate in its geographical position. We’re an island. But we are living in a completely interconnected world where disruptions in countries far away will have major impacts. ‘The most dangerous infections of humans have always been those which have emerged from other species,’ he told the Daily Telegraph, referring to the virus originating in fruit bats and monkeys. He said the Government was ‘keeping a close eye’ on the outbreak and was prepared for the disease spreading to Britain, but insisted any risk was ‘very low’. He added: ‘We have to think about risk and managing risk appropriately.’

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Public Health England has added to fears about the spread of the virus by saying it was ‘clearly not under control’. The Government agency’s global health director, Dr Brian McCloskey, said: ‘It is the largest outbreak of this disease to date, and it’s clear it is not under control. ‘We have alerted UK medical practitioners about the situation in West Africa and requested they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited the affected area.’ The current outbreak started in Guinea in February and spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone in weeks. Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and damage to the nervous system. There is no vaccine or cure. It is spread by contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids.

All outbreaks since 1976 – when Ebola was first identified – have been in Africa, with the previous highest death toll being 280. However, authorities around the world have been put on high alert in recent weeks after an American doctor working in Liberia became infected and passed through an airport. Nigerian health officials yesterday admitted they did not have a list of all the people who came into contact Patrick Sawyer, prompting fears the outbreak could spread. But the manifesto appears to have been disclosed as Professor Sunday Omilabu, from Lagos University Teaching Hospital,  said health officials are in the process of tracing all those people who are thought to have been in contact with Mr Sawyer.  He said: ‘We’ve been making contacts. We now have information about the (flight) manifest.  ‘We have information about who and who were around.  ‘So, as I’m talking, our teams are in the facility, where they’ve trained the staff, and then they (are) now asking questions about those that were closely in contact with the patient.’

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Public health adviser, Yewande Adeshina, added: ‘We’re actually looking at contacting over 30,000 people in this very scenario.  ‘Because any and everybody that has contacted this person is going to be treated as a suspect.’  Mr Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia’s Finance Ministry, had been in Liberia for the funeral of his sister, who also died from the disease, and was on his way back to his home in the US. The 40-year-old arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 20 and had suffered from vomiting and diaherra on two flights. He was put in isolation in hospital and died on Friday. So far 59 people who came into contact with him have been identified and are under surveillance. But the airlines have yet to release flight information naming passengers and crew members.

Dr David Heymann, head of the Centre on Global Health Security, said every person who had been on the plane to Lagos with Mr Sawyer would need to be traced. Sierra Leone’s top doctor fighting Ebola died yesterday after he contracted the virus just days ago. Sheik Umar Khan was credited with treating more than 100 patients. Liberia closed most of its border crossings on Sunday and Nigeria’s airports and borders have been on full alert since Friday.

 

Posted July 30, 2014 by dmnewsi in Uncategorized

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REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: DRUGS…SEX AND AMANDA KNOX   Leave a comment

Amanda Knox sits alone before being interviewed on the set of ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York

Amanda Knox’s alleged links to a circle of Italian cocaine dealers could provide new clues in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher almost seven years ago. The Italian prosecutor in the murder trial allegedly recently gave a local newspaper the names of the men, one of whom was a known associate of Knox whose number was found on her cell phone.   According to the Italian news agency ANSA, during the investigation into Miss Kercher’s death in Perugia in 2007, police uncovered a drug ring in the sleepy Italian city.

Knox allegedly had the number of a suspected drug dealer in her phone. According to Italian newspaper Giallo, the American met the student from Rome on a train from Milan to Florence and shared a joint with him.  They stayed in touch with the man, only identified as ‘F’, dealing drugs to Knox and occasionally having a sexual relationship with her.  Police papers allegedly show calls had been made between the 26-year-old American and a drug dealer in the days before and after the murder of Miss Kercher. A Giallo article claims that ‘F’ along with two friends ended up on trial for dealing cocaine, charges that were brought after Knox’s phone was analyzed.

Italy Student Slain

One man, ‘Luciano’, was arrested in 2006 for attempting to murder his brother with a kitchen knife in a dispute over drugs.  According to ANSA, prosecutor Luciano Giuliano Mignini confirmed the link of the drug ring to Amanda Knox.  Mignini allegedly told Giallo that he could not say if Knox knew drug dealers – but wrote down their names for the paper’s reporter.  According to reports earlier this month, Italian prosecutors are preparing to use Amanda Knox’s alleged links to the cocaine ring to extradite her to Italy.  Knox has vowed she would never ‘willingly’ return to Italy, where she and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were reconvicted earlier this year of the killing of 21-year-old Miss Kercher.  Both Knox and Sollecito are appealing the verdict.

Sollecito and Knox were originally sentenced to 25 and 28 years in prison, respectively, for the murder of Kercher in Perugia and served four years before being released on appeal in 2011. On January 30, an Italian appeals court reconvicted the pair of murdering Miss Kercher – a ruling the pair are again appealing. Rudy Hermann Guede is serving 16 years for the British student’s murder after a separate fast-track hearing in 2008. It was reported earler this month that Knox could no longer rely on Sollecito being her alibi after he denied she was with him the whole of the night on which Miss Kercher was murdered. Knox and Sollecito have always maintained that they were together the evening of the brutal 2007 murder after which Miss Kercher was found half naked her throat slit in the cottage she shared with Knox.

 

 

SURVEILLANCE REFORM BILL INTRODUCED IN U.S. SENATE   Leave a comment

nsacongress

WASHINGTON, D.C. | DMN — A surveillance reform bill backed by the Obama administration was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday, raising the possibility that Congress could this year take the National Security Agency out of the business of collecting and storing all US phone data.  Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill is a counterpart to the USA Freedom Act, which the House of Representatives passed in May, but contains some stricter privacy measures and broader transparency requirements – the absence of which caused civil libertarians, privacy groups and technology firms to abandon their support for the House version. Many of them are backing Leahy’s bill.

The question underlying the legislation is “whether we are in control of our own government or the other way around,” Leahy, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said on the Senate floor. Warning that the legislative calendar will make passing reform this year difficult, Leahy said he wants to take the bill directly to the Senate floor. His 13 co-sponsors include Republicans Ted Cruz, Dean Heller and Mike Lee, who on the floor said the “broad-based bipartisan” bill “is absolutely necessary.” Leahy’s bill, like the House’s, would still provide the NSA with access to enormous amounts of American phone data. Though it would require a judge to issue an order to telecos for “call detail records” based on a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of association with terrorism or a foreign power, the NSA will be able to use that single order to obtain the “call detail records” of a suspicious entity, as well as those of entities in “direct connection” with it and entities in connection with those. While that would permit the NSA to yield thousands of records off of a single court order, on a daily basis for six months, the NSA and the bill’s architects contend that it bans “bulk collection.”

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Leahy’s bill would go further than the House version in narrowing the critical definition of “specific selection term,” a foundational aspect of the bill defining what the government can collect. The House definition is a “term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device,” which privacy groups have lambasted as unreasonably broad. Seeking to plug that loophole, Leahy would prevent the NSA or the FBI from accessing a service provider’s entire clientele or a wholesale “city, state, zip code, or area code.” Although the Leahy bill has the support of several civil libertarian groups and major tech firms like Facebook and Google, it does not revive some privacy proposals that those organizations considered crucial but the intelligence agencies and their advocates in Congress stripped from the House measure.

Leahy’s bill would not ban the NSA from warrantlessly accessing Americans’ communications information collected in its ostensibly foreign-focused dragnets, something civil libertarians call the “backdoor search loophole.” The NSA considers its ability to conduct those searches more important than collecting all US phone data. Instead, the Leahy bill’s disclosure requirements instruct the director of national intelligence to annually reveal “the number of search terms that included information concerning a United States person that were used to query any database of the contents of electronic communications or wire communications” as well as the total number of searches. But the bill, as first noted by journalist Marcy Wheeler, continues a practice ofexempting the FBI from even noting that it has performed such searches. The NSA recently disclosed that it searched for 198 “identifiers” of Americans’ data within the troves in 2013, something the CIA and FBI can also access. In June, the House voted to forbid the warrantless searches.

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Relatedly, the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act bans the government from using in court communications data collected warrantlessly, something the Justice Department has begun informing defendants it is doing. Democratic senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, the intelligence committee’s leading civil libertarians, praised Leahy’s bill but said it needed to go further to protect Americans from the warrantless searches. “Congress needs to close this loophole, and we look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and our colleagues to address this issue when the bill comes before the full U.S. Senate,” the two senators said in a joint statement. The Senate version of the Freedom Act would also create a stronger privacy advocate for the secret Fisa Court, which currently only hears the government’s perspective before issuing the records orders. The House voted for an ad hoc advocate for cases involving “a novel or significant interpretation of the law,” although Fisa judges could determine its presence is unnecessary in a specific case.

Leahy’s bill instead would create a standing panel of special advocates before the court – one which will not necessarily participate in each case the court hears – and allow the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the government’s official privacy watchdog, to aid in its empanelment. As well, Leahy’s version would provide for greater transparency by companies subjected to national-security records orders, another priority for civil libertarians. Yet Leahy’s bill, like its House counterpart, grants legal immunity and financial compensation to service providers complying with surveillance orders. Like the House bill, it does not provide any additional privacy protections to non-Americans.

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The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. The intelligence committee in June showed itself to be an outpost of opposition even to the House version of the Freedom Act that lacked Leahy’s privacy provisions. The calendar is also an obstacle: the Senate leaves on Friday for its August recess, only to reconvene in the height of the midterm election season. Without action ahead of the expiration of the legislative session in December, NSA reformers would have to go back to square one in the next Congress, leaving the NSA with practically all of its pre-Snowden powers, absent some restrictions President Obama ordered in January.  “We’re running short on time in this Congress,” Leahy said.

The introduction of Leahy’s bill was greeted warmly but measuredly by privacy advocates and tech firms disappointed by the House version. Mozilla’s privacy chief, Alex Fowler, said: “We’re pleased to see the Senate propose limits on mass surveillance but more reform is needed to repair the damage inflicted on Internet users and the Web economy. We hope the Senate will hold firm to the bill’s language and forgo loopholes that would further undermine trust, such as allowing bulk collection through broad ‘selector terms’ that sidestep the problem.” Microsoft’s top lawyer said the bill “strengthens our privacy rights and our civil liberties.” Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the digital rights group Access, which is supporting the bill, urged Congress to “immediately turn to Section 702” after the Leahy bill, a reference to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – the wellspring of NSA’s foreign digital dragnets, the collection of Americans’ international communications and the backdoor-search loophole.

Congress should “pass comprehensive reform which limits [section 702’s] scope and ensures that the US government isn’t sweeping up the communications of millions of innocent users. In addition, the administration needs to focus on ending massive surveillance programs under Executive Order 12333, which the intelligence community unilaterally executes without any court or congressional oversight,” Stepanovich said.

Posted July 29, 2014 by dmnewsi in Uncategorized

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REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: TWO INDIANA SHERIFF’S ‘BROUGHT DOWN’ BY SAME PROSTITUTE   Leave a comment

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The same woman, an alleged prostitute, involved in a scandal that forced Boone County (Indiana) Sheriff Ken Campbell to resign is a central figure in an investigation that led to a federal indictment Tuesday against the Clark County (Indiana) sheriff, according to law enforcement sources. The woman was not named in the investigation involving Campbell or the indictment handed down Tuesday charging Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden with eight counts linked to allegations he paid a prostitute for sex, but a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation confirmed the cases involved the same woman.

The Associated Press on Tuesday also cited an anonymous source “with knowledge of the connection” who confirmed the same woman was involved in both the Campbell and Rodden investigations.  Campbell resigned as sheriff June 19 at the same time the Sheriff’s Office announced that the Hamilton-Boone County Drug Task Force was investigating Campbell’s relationship with a prostitute that spanned about four years. Campbell has not been charged. Chief Deputy Major Mike Nielsen took over as acting sheriff. On Tuesday, a judge unsealed a federal indictment charging Rodden with one count of counseling someone to destroy evidence in a federal investigation and seven counts of making false statements regarding a 2013 encounter at a Louisville hotel where Rodden is accused of paying a prostitute $300 for oral sex.

The indictment, handed down July 23, alleges Rodden provided the prostitute “with law enforcement credentials and an official deputy’s badge of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department,” so the prostitute could obtain a government employee’s rate at hotels. Rodden will remain sheriff unless he is convicted of a felony, according to Brad Blackington, senior litigation counsel for the U.S. Justice Department. If convicted of all the charges, Rodden could face up to 65 years in federal prison as well as fines of up to $2 million, Blackington said. He is nearing the end of the state’s two-term limit, however, meaning Rodden cannot seek re-election this year.

Rodden has been placed on administrative leave.

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