Nation roundup for May 5
First MERS virus case in American
NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.
The man fell ill after flying to the U.S. late last week from Saudi Arabia where he was a health care worker.
He is hospitalized in good condition in northwest Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indiana health officials said Friday.
The virus is not highly contagious and this case “represents a very low risk to the broader, general public,” Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters during a CDC briefing.
The federal agency plans to track down passengers he may have been in close contact with during his travels; it was not clear how many may have been exposed to the virus.
So far, it is not known how he was infected, Schuchat said.
Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS that began two years ago. The virus has spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that country last spring.
Officials didn’t provide details about the American’s job in Saudi Arabia or whether he treated MERS patients.
Overall, at least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.
Experts said it was just a matter of time before MERS showed up in the U.S., as it has in Europe and Asia.
“Given the interconnectedness of our world, there’s no such thing as ‘it stays over there and it can’t come here,’” said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University MERS expert.
Nine hurt during R.I. circus stunt
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance Sunday, sending eight acrobats plummeting to the ground. Nine performers were seriously injured in the fall, including a dancer below, while an unknown number of others suffered less serious injuries.
The accident was reported about 45 minutes into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ 11 a.m. Legends show at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros., said the accident happened during an act in which eight performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair.
He said the metal-frame apparatus from which the performers were hanging came free from the metal truss it was connected to. The eight women fell 25 to 40 feet, landing on a dancer on the ground.
All the performers have been doing “some variation of this act for some time,” Payne said, though he didn’t know how long. The current incarnation of the act began in January with the launch of the show, he said.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said officials and inspectors haven’t yet determined what caused the accident. He said none of the injuries appears to be life-threatening.
Roman Garcia, general manager of the Legends show, asked people to pray for the performers.
“Everybody’s doing fine, everybody’s at the hospital, everybody’s conscious, everybody’s doing pretty well,” he said at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center less than two hours after the accident.
Rhode Island Hospital in Providence admitted 11 patients with varying injuries, including one in critical condition, spokeswoman Jill Reuter said.
Episcopal bishop divorces husband
NEW YORK (AP) — The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who became a symbol for gay rights far beyond the church while deeply dividing the world’s Anglicans, plans to divorce his husband.
Bishop Gene Robinson announced the end of his marriage to Mark Andrew in an email sent to the Diocese of New Hampshire, where he served for nine years before retiring in 2012.
Robinson would not disclose details about the end of their 25-year relationship but wrote Sunday in The Daily Beast he owed a debt to Andrew “for standing by me through the challenges of the last decade.”
“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples,” Robinson wrote. “All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of ‘til death do us part. But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us.”
Robinson declined to comment further Sunday to The Associated Press.
Robinson has never been fully accepted within the more than 70 million-member Anglican Communion, which is rooted in the Church of England and represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church.
The bishop endured death threats during his 2003 consecration and intense scrutiny of his personal life, and in 2006, he sought treatment for alcoholism. His election prompted some Episcopal dioceses and parishes to break away and establish the Anglican Church in North America with other theological conservatives overseas. Robinson was barred in 2008 by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams from the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade global meeting of all Anglican bishops, as Williams struggled to find a way to keep Anglicans united.
But Robinson was also widely celebrated as a pioneer for gay rights, became an advocate for gay marriage and was the subject of several books and a documentary about Christianity, the Bible and same-sex relationships. He delivered the benediction at the opening 2009 inaugural event for President Barack Obama and, after retirement, became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.
Robinson, 66, had been married to a woman and had two children before he and his wife divorced. He and Andrew had been partners for more than a decade when Robinson was elected to lead the New Hampshire Diocese. The two men were joined in a 2008 civil union in New Hampshire, which became a legal marriage when the state recognized gay marriage two years later.
“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” Robinson wrote. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”
A spokeswoman for Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori referred requests for comment to the Diocese of New Hampshire. A spokeswoman for current New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld cited an email he sent to local clergy and wardens urging prayer for Robinson and Andrew.
Robert Lundy, a spokesman for the American Anglican Council, a fellowship for theological conservatives, said the argument against gay marriage is based on the Bible and will not be helped or hurt by the dissolution of any one marriage.
“The teaching of the Bible and the Anglican Communion is very clear that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life,” Lundy said in a phone interview.
The Rev. Susan Russell, an Episcopal gay rights leader in the Diocese of Los Angeles who preached at Robinson and Andrew’s union, said the end of the men’s marriage was tragic, but Robinson would remain an “icon of a faithful Christian man living out his vocation, not by his choice, but by his placement in history.”
“Of course, he’ll get some slings and arrows,” Russell said in a phone interview. “But the paradigm has shifted so dramatically that people more and more get that our marriages are no different than anyone else’s marriages, and that includes the reality that some of them fail, no matter our dreams and hopes.”
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