Ebola outbreak continues in the Congo as obstacles challenge health care workers

(CNN) — The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, which began August 1, is continuing unabated in the new year.

The total number of probable patients is now 663, while 407 deaths are likely attributable to the viral illness, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday. An additional 123 people, who doctors suspect may be sick with Ebola, are currently under investigation. The ministry also reported that 237 people have recovered from the life-threatening illness.

On average, Ebola — which causes fever, severe headache and in some cases hemorrhaging — kills about half of those infected. The latest outbreak has a case fatality rate of 60%.

The current outbreak is the second-deadliest and second-largest in history, topped only by one in West Africa in 2014, when the disease killed more than 11,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Recent tweets from both Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, and Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, address the “numerous” challenges of this epidemic.

Salama believes the current outbreak “is really several distinct outbreaks,” as North Kivu province remains the epicenter with additional cases occurring in neighboring Ituri province, according to the World Health Organization. The two provinces are among the most populous in the nation and border Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Not only is North Kivu experiencing this deadly Ebola outbreak, but long-term conflict smolders there, with 50 armed groups causing intermittent violence, according to WHO. The UN public health agency estimates that more than a million refugees and internally displaced people are traveling through and out of North Kivu and Ituri, and this movement is a potential risk factor for the spread of Ebola.

Another complication: a high number of malaria cases in the region.

Local grit has overturned some of the obstacles. Though protesters of a long-delayed presidential election vandalized health care facilities in late December, on Monday, locals in Rwangomaworked to repair the damage with their own labor and at their own expense. Each inhabitant contributed 500 Congolese francs (equivalent to about a third of a US dollar).

Hope arrived in the form of a baby girl born earlier this month to a mother who had been cured of the viral disease in December. Twice the healthy baby girl has been tested for Ebola, and twice the results have come back negative.

Other positives include the Ministry’s November launch of the first randomized control trial for experimental Ebola treatments; 248 patients have received one of the four new drugs as of January 1, according to the WHO. Additionally, 60,715 people have been vaccinated since early August.

How the TaxSlayer Center turns an ice rink into a rodeo stadium

MOLINE, Illinois — The TaxSlayer Center is saddling up for a rodeo, converting the hockey rink into a dirt arena.

The Cinch World’s Toughest Rodeo is on Friday, Jan. 18, and Saturday, Jan. 19, and will feature bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, women’s barrel racing and even a rodeo monkey.

But how does the TaxSlayer Center turn ice to dirt and back to ice again?

Kevin Snodgrass, director of operations, told News 8 the ice actually never leaves.

“The ice stays in year round so the time we put it in in September till we put it in April or May,” Snodgrass said. “We did it in basically about 12 hours … last night getting ready for the dirt to come in.”

Snodgrass said crews covered the ice in several layers including fiberglass and wood to keep the ice safe and insulated.

Then, 66 truckloads of dirt rolls in, eventually covering the floor in 6-8 inches.

When the rodeo is over, it’s time to scrape it all back out.

“More time is probably spent in the out because there’s more cleaning involved,” Snodgrass said. “Then, we have to reset for hockey.”

The rodeo starts at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

Iowa food stamps arrive early due to shutdown

DES MOINES, Iowa- The USDA will issue February’s SNAP benefits early.

The Iowa Department of Human Services said in a press release February benefits will become available on January 17, 2019. These are still the normal February benefits, they are just being issued early.

Due to the government shutdown, the Iowa DHS wanted to ensure life still runs as normal as possible. “We understand the importance of ensuring food security for Iowans in need and will do everything we can to ensure there is as little disruption as possible,” said Director Jerry Foxhoven.

The DHS says in the upcoming weeks there may be increased call volume, which may impact the timeliness of returned calls. Contingency plans are being developed for March.


Muscatine County suspends its use of slag for gravel roads

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — An eastern Iowa county has stopped using slag as the gravel on its roads, at least temporarily, because a state toxicologist reported that the steel manufacturing byproduct could be harmful, especially to children.

Muscatine County supervisors voted Monday to suspend the use of slag while they wait for further testing on it, The Muscatine Journal reported.

The move comes after Iowa Public Health Department toxicologist Stuart Schmitz issued a report that said slag contains metals at levels that can be harmful.

Related: Muscatine County residents fighting against slag use on county roads

Children exposed to high levels of manganese, which is in slag, could develop learning disabilities and adverse behavioral changes, according to a U.S. Department of Health report.

Slag dust is also dangerous for adults who are exposed to high concentrations of the material, though adults would have to work “an entire workday, most days of the year,” to be harmed, Schmitz’s report said.

The material hasn’t been used on roads since June, said County Supervisor Nathan Mather.

“Simply put, we suspended the use of slag out of an abundance of caution while more information is gathered,” Mather said.

Glenn Hundertmark is the North American environmental manager at Harsco, the industrial company that provides the county with slag. He said there aren’t health or environmental risks tied with the material.

“We believe that any claims otherwise are completely meritless and based on mischaracterized, misinterpreted data,” Hundertmark said.

Hundertmark requested time to provide additional information. He said samples of the slag were taken recently with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and results should be available soon.

Former ‘To Catch a Predator’ host Chris Hansen arrested in Connecticut

STAMFORD, Conn. — Chris Hansen, best known as the former host of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” turned himself in to police in Connecticut on Monday on charges of issuing a bad check.

The 59-year-old allegedly failed to pay a $13,000 bill despite a police warning, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Hansen allegedly ordered 355 ceramic mugs, 288 T-shirts and 650 vinyl decals from Promotional Sales Limited in Stamford, Conn., receiving an invoice for $12,998.05 in September 2017.

Owner Peter Psichopaidas then filed a complaint in April, saying a check he received had bounced.

An apologetic Hansen offered to make partial payments, but the money never came, according to an arrest affidavit, which notes Hansen also bailed after agreeing to give a statement to police.

The charges came after Hansen was warned he could be arrested for larceny, according to investigator Sean Coughlin. “I told Chris … that nearly $13,000 is a lot of money to a ‘mom-and-pop’ business and it is not fair that he accepted the material but hasn’t paid for it,” he writes.

Per The Wrap, Hansen previously offered coffee mugs and T-shirts as a way to attract investors to a 2015 Kickstarter campaign intended to revive “To Catch a Predator,” which NBC canceled. (The campaign worked, sort of.)

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Scammer poses as Davenport police over the phone

DAVENPORT, Iowa- The Davenport Police Department warns against a telephone scammer impersonating the police.

In a recent Facebook post the Davenport Police say a scam is  falsely threatening locals with arrest. The scammer uses an app to appear as the Davenport Police on caller ID. Then the scammer warns victims they will be arrested unless they pay a large fine. Instructions are then given on how to pay the fine over the phone with a pre-paid charge card.

The Davenport police say they don’t solicit money over the phone. Plus, legal fines cannot be paid on those type of pre-paid cards.

They ask if you receive a call, don’t pay the fine and report the call to the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979.

US service members killed in ISIS-claimed attack in Syria

(CNN) — ISIS has claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed US service members in the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday.

US service members were killed in the attack, according to a tweet from the spokesperson for the US-led coalition Operation Inherent Resolve.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” the tweet said.

The coalition has not said how many service members were killed. Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014.

There were several reported casualties in the city a militia controlling the city and a UK-based monitoring group said.

The ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack in the northern city of Manbij was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest.

“An explosion in Manbij’s busy market street, initial reports of casualties,” spokesman of the Manbij military council Shervan Darwish wrote on Twitter.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people were killed.

A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve tweeted Wednesday that the coalition is “still gathering information” about the explosion.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation. Vice President Mike Pence has also been briefed, according to a tweet from his press secretary.

However, Pence made no mention of the attack or the deaths of US service members while making remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the US State Department Wednesday, claiming “The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.”

The attack comes less than a month after Trump announced that US troops would withdraw from Syria. In making his announcement, Trump declared in a video released on Twitter: “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria, with no specific date for their withdrawal. Last week, the US began withdrawing some military ground equipment from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was a harsh critic of Trump’s plans to bring home US troops from Syria when the decision was announced earlier in December, said Wednesday that he is concerned that the President’s statements about withdrawing from Syria have emboldened the enemy.

“My concern, by the statements made by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting. You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. And as they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help are going to get more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Graham said during impromptu remarks at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Attorney General nominee William Barr.

“Every American wants our troops to come home, but I think all of us want to make sure that when they do come home, we’re safe,” he added. “So I would hope the President would look long at hard at where he’s headed in Syria. I know people are frustrated, but we’re never going to be safe here unless we’re willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology.”

During his surprise visit to Iraq on December 26, Trump was warned by military commanders that — despite his claims — ISIS was not entirely defeated in Syria. People familiar with the President’s reaction said the conversation was eye-opening for a leader who, days earlier, claimed the terror group was defeated “badly” in the country.

The discussion occurred inside a tan tent at the al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad and included the US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, national security adviser John Bolton, and the first lady Melania Trump, along with other officials.

Trump was told that pockets of ISIS militants remained in the Euphrates River valley and that the US military had not yet eliminated all of their strongholds. Commanders told him the US had been successful in taking back other areas but that the job was not finished.

The people familiar with the conversation described it as sobering, and said it broke through to Trump in a way his conversations with national security officials in Washington had not. Coming days after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, it centered partly on the remaining challenges of going after ISIS fighters in pockets of Syria.

In addition to the briefing from the commanders, Trump found the massive security apparatus on the trip surprising — something his advisers told him was reflective of the remaining challenges against ISIS.

Still, it remains unclear whether Wednesday’s attack will impact Trump’s decision to pull US forces from Syria as top administration officials continue to qualify the terms and timing of a pullout — altering the President’s December 19 assertion that forces would leave “now.”

After Trump declared that the US would pull troops from Syria and a US Defense official told CNN that planning was underway for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal, national security adviser John Bolton began adding conditions that could indefinitely delay a troop departure and has refused to discuss timelines.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also avoided offering a specific timeline but insisted in a Cairo speech last week that under the Trump administration, the US is a stalwart presence in the Mideast. He told reporters separately that “there’s no contradiction whatsoever” in the US policy on Syria, arguing that “this is a story made up by the media.”

At the same time, the top US diplomat has denied allies were confused about the US withdrawal from Syria. “I think everyone understands what the United States is doing,” Pompeo said. “At least the senior leaders in their governments do.”

Yet on the ground and in diplomatic circles, Trump’s decision landed with explosive effect.

US allies in the region were blindsided. Two diplomatic sources say their countries were not consulted or informed and the news came as a total surprise.

But discussions about a US withdrawal have continued this week.

Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed “ongoing cooperation in Syria as US forces begin to withdraw” during a phone call Monday, just one day after Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region.

“The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement about the call.

Winter Weather Advisory south tonight… Snow on track to start the weekend

First of two weather systems will be tracking across the area as early as overnight hours with the second still on track to start the weekend.

Expect some light snowfall to begin sometime after midnight Thursday before slowly coming to an end near lunchtime.  For most, a good dusting to a half an inch is likely with roadways looking more wet than slippery.  The only exception will be along Highway 34 from Mount Pleasant, IA to Galesburg, IL. where up to an inch of snow is likely.   A mix of freezing rain is also likely and thus a Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for this area from 9pm tonight to 9am Thursday morning.  Untreated roadways will have the biggest impact.

We continue to track the potential for a stronger system by Friday night and Saturday. The track remains south of the area, keeping any heavy snows well south of the area as well.  Too early on snowfall amounts but given the snowfall road conditions will be a challenge as I expecting plenty of blowing and drifting on main roadways.

As the system departs, temperatures will plummet later Saturday into Sunday with wind chills as cold as the minus teens Sunday night into Monday morning. Highs will struggle to get out of the single digits above zero that Sunday as well.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

Download the News 8 Weather App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

Download the free News 8 App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

FDA expands list of recalled dog food; 9 brands pulled for making dogs violently ill

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has expanded its recall of dog food brands that have too much vitamin D, which could make your pet sick.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for dogs, but very high amounts can cause serious health problems like kidney failure or death.

The recalled products were sold nationwide, and the FDA says the list of recalled products could continue to grow.

The list includes:

Chicken and Chickpea Dry Dog Food

Chicken & Potato Dry Dog Food

Old Glory Hearty Turkey and Cheese Flavor Dog Food
Evolve Chicken & Rice Puppy Dry Dog Food
Sportsman’s Pride Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food
Triumph Chicken & Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

ANF Lamb and Rice Dry Dog Food

LIDL (Orlando brand)
Orlando Grain-Free Chicken & Chickpea Superfood Recipe Dog Food

Abound Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dog Food

ELM Chicken and Chickpea Recipe
ELM K9 Naturals Chicken Recipe

Nature’s Promise Chicken & Brown Rice Dog Food
Nature’s Place Real Country Chicken and Brown Rice Dog Food

Abound Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dog Food

You can find the full list of bag sizes and lot numbers here.

Increase in passengers shows signs of stabilization at QC International Airport

MOLINE, Illinois - The year 2018 was a successful year for the Quad City International Airport.

There was an increase in passengers by more than 6%, according to new data released by airport executives.

That means there are more people flying into and out of the airport.

Airport leaders say airlines have gotten "really good" at filling empty seats on planes.

Executive Director of the Metropolitan Airport Authority, Ben Leischner, says that keeping those seats filled helps to keep ticket prices down.

When ticket prices are low, more families book vacations, and more people skip the drive from the Quad City Area to Chicago, and choose to fly.

The stabilization comes after nearly a decade of a downward spiral.

2018 was the first year the airport saw an increase in passengers since 2010.

It is also the most promising sign of stabilization at the airport since AirTran left the Quad City in 2012, according to Leischner.

The stabilization means good things for the airport, in terms of potential growth.

"It could be bigger airplanes flying to existing markets, it could be increased frequency to markets already served, or it could be the kind of exciting piece, which is new markets." Leischner told News 8.

Still though, the actual number of passengers flying in and out of the airport is down 1% from the year 2016. Leaders say that just means more work needs to be done as the stabilization continues.

Man charged with murder in death of woman found near Muscatine

MUSCATINE COUNTY, Iowa — A man who was previously arrested as a “material witness” is now being charged with the murder of a woman whose body was found in Muscatine.

Douglas Joseph Foster, 35, of Marion, was charged with first-degree murder on January 15, according to an affidavit from Muscatine County.

On January 7, Lea Ponce called and messaged several people looking for a ride to Cedar Rapids. Her messages showed she was afraid of getting killed by someone the affidavit is calling “Individual A.”

The report states that “Individual A” thought Ponce had stolen meth from a hotel room. The individual knew she had taken the drugs and told several people there was a bounty, which would be paid in meth, for anyone who could find her.

Ponce made arrangements with Foster, who she already knew, according to the affidavit. Surveillance video shows Ponce got into Foster’s white GMC pickup truck at 12:32 a.m. at the Muscatine Walmart. This was the last time she was seen before her body was recovered along the side of Highway 38, just outside of Muscatine.

Before picking her up, the affidavit shows that Foster was talking about harming someone he was planning to pick up in a text argument with a female acquaintance. He texted that he would “turn her over to get (expletive) beaten have (sic) to death.”

Phone records show that Foster called “Individual A” at 12:47 a.m.  and had a conversation that lasted almost two minutes.

The affidavit shows that on January 9, the term “muskatine  (sic) news” was searched on his phone around 9 a.m. and the term “muskatine (sic) murder” was searched at 6:45 p.m.

A news release was issued in the afternoon on January 8 which indicated investigators were looking into what happened but “at no time did law enforcement refer to the death of Ponce as a murder until Foster was taken into custody as a material witness,” read the affidavit.

An autopsy shows Ponce died from blunt force trauma to the head. Her injuries indicate she was struck by a vehicle, dragged by a vehicle and was thrown or jumped from a vehicle.

Foster was arrested on Jan. 10 in Marion, Iowa.

The 2019 Mississippi Valley Fair entertainment list is now complete

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Mississippi Valley Fair officials announced the final act for the 2019 entertainment line up on Jan. 16.

Brooks & Dunn filled the Wednesday slot and completed the list. The duo formed in Nashville in 1988 and have sold more records than any other duo, including Simon & Garfunkel, according to All Music.

Here’s the complete list of acts:

  • Tuesday – Dan + Shay
  • Wednesday – Brooks & Dunn
  • Thursday – Jake Owen
  • Friday – Tesla
  • Saturday – Nickelback
  • Sunday – Brad Paisley

The fair will go from July 30 – Aug. 4.

Read: Nickelback joins lineup for 2019 Mississippi Valley Fair

Man found guilty in shooting death of anti-violence activist, Jason Roberts

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A jury has found 37-year-old Deondra Thomas guilty in the shooting death of 46-year-old Jason Roberts in downtown Davenport last June.

The verdict came down Wednesday morning, January 16, after jurors heard several days of testimony. 

Thomas was also found guilty on a charge of firearms possession by a felon.

Roberts was one of the founders of the Quad Cities group 'Boots on the Ground' a grassroots effort to fight the very thing that killed him, gun violence, an issue that's become commonplace in the Quad Cities.

Watch: Demo explosions drop old New York bridge gracefully into Hudson

NEW YORK — Explosions sent the old Tappan Zee bridge straight down into the Hudson River on Jan. 15.

A report by ABC says  the bridge was replaced by the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which carries I-87 traffic over the Hudson River about 30 miles north of New York City.

The bridge remained half-submerged after the demolition, the report states. Crews will extract the pieces for recycling.

Giant rotating ice disk draws attention, visitors

WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) — Think of it as a crop circle, but in a river.

A curious formation that’s getting attention in Greater Portland is actually a spinning ice disk that is roughly 100 yards (91 meters) wide.

The formation in the Presumpscot River was widely shared on social media and has drawn comparisons to an alien spacecraft, a carousel and the moon.

The oddity drew a crowd that stood mesmerized by the slow-turning disk Tuesday afternoon in Westbrook.

The ice formation is believed to have formed naturally in a part of the river where there’s a circular current that creates a whirlpool effect, said Tina Radel, the city’s marketing and communications manager.

Locals say they’ve seen smaller ice disks before, but nothing like this one, Radel said.

Rob Mitchell, who owns a nearby office building, spotted the alien-looking disk Monday morning and immediately notified the city.

Officials say the disk is spinning slowly counter-clockwise, and has served as a big raft for ducks and other birds. “The ducks were rotating on this big Lazy Susan,” Mitchell said.

COMING SOON: New Segment Airs on Good Morning Quad Cities Featuring New Development Projects

What's going in here? What's happening over there? These are questions we all ask as we drive around town and Good Morning Quad Cities' newest segment - Coming Soon - is about answering those questions.

Here are this week's updates:

John Deere Road and 16th Street, Moline

John Deere Road and 16th Street, Moline

FedEx Office opens Wednesday, January 16th in its new location at the northeast corner of John Deere Road and 16th Street. FedEx Office is moving from its old location by the old Best Buy to this new location.

According to Ray Forsythe, Moline's Director of Planning and Development, Moe's Southwest Grill is also going in this new building. It's opening its first Illinois Quad Cities location (its Iowa Quad Cities location is at the corner of Utica Ridge Road and 53rd Street in Davenport). Forsythe told WQAD News 8 this location is set to open in late winter or early spring.

John Deere Road and 16th Street, Moline

There's also a lot of work being done on the old building next to this new one.

Forsythe said Jersey Mike's is filling one part. Construction is expected to start this month on the sub shop and this new location is already listed on its website.

Forsythe adds that UnityPoint Health is also opening a new medical facility in this spot.

There's no timeline on either of these projects yet.

Brady Street and Kimberly Road, Davenport

The gas station is gone and now a new strip mall sits in its place. A company from Michigan is behind it - making its first investment in Iowa. One of the businesses is already open: Stanton Optical does eye exams and sells glasses. As for what's going next door, the developers told WQAD News 8 they're still looking for a tenant.

Now, we need YOUR HELP! Do you have a construction site or development project you would like us to look into? If so, take a horizontal picture and send that picture with an address to news@wqad.com with "FOR GMQC COMING SOON SEGMENT" in the subject line. We will do the digging and report back as soon as we can!

Late-week system still on track to bring accumulating snows

We're slowly beginning to get a clearer picture of what our next potent storm system will bring in terms of snow and wind as we head into the start of the upcoming weekend. The latest trends continue to suggest that we will be dealing with another round of accumulating snow late Friday night into much of the day on Saturday.

Because we are still 3-4 days out from seeing the first impacts from this system, snowfall totals have not yet come in line and confidence remains low on how much snow we will actually see. Looking at accumulation probabilities, there is at least a 50% probability of seeing at least four inches of snow in much of the Quad City region by Saturday evening, with lower probabilities to the north.

This storm system will be working with much colder air compared to our previous weekend system. Take a look at the strength of the cold to our north where temperatures are below zero in many locations, especially north of the U.S. Canadian border.

The storm will use the energy created by the sharp differences in temperatures to drive an area of low pressure that will move from the Southern Plains into parts of downstate Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky by Saturday. As of right now, the strength of the storm remains the same, though the timing continues to shift a bit more into Saturday, with snow beginning by midnight and wrapping up sometime Saturday afternoon.

One key difference with this storm system will be the type of snow we'll experience and the stronger winds along with dangerous wind chills. The storm last weekend contained snow that had a higher content of water because it fell while temperatures were close to freezing. This time around temperatures will be in the 20s, making for fluffier snowflakes. These are the kind that typically accumulates better and will also blow around more easily. With winds expecting to nearly double, blowing and drifting snow will surely be a concern as we get into Saturday. Then, as the system wraps itself up and heads east, a surge of arctic air will dive down from the north creating dangerous wind chills for Sunday and Monday. Highs will be limited to the single digits and wind chill values will likely approach 20 degrees below zero at times.

Bottom Line: By Thursday morning we'll have an early look at where the heaviest snow will fall and what kind of accumulation can be expected. Stay on top of this storm system, especially if you plan to travel this weekend.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

Scam LinkedIn account impersonated U. of Iowa president

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A LinkedIn account that impersonated University of Iowa’s president and privately asked people for money and financial information has been shut down.

University spokeswoman Jeneane Beck says the account purporting to belong to UI President Bruce Harreld was a scam. She says the school was alerted to it Sunday and worked to have it removed.

By then, the fake account had more than two dozen connections, including John Batchelor, who recently earned an Iowa State University graduate degree.

The Harreld impersonator sent Batchelor greetings through private message, then said he was very busy and asked Batchelor to do him a favor and send him $500 in iTunes gift cards for his nephew’s birthday.

The scammer asked Batchelor to send his bank account information so that he could pay him back Monday.

Beck says the university isn’t aware of anyone actually falling for the scam.

An American among 14 killed in Kenya hotel attack

(CNN) — Armed men burst into a hotel complex in Nairobi with gunfire and explosions, killing at least 14 people in an attack that lasted hours and ended Wednesday morning, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

An American, Jason Spindler, was identified by his employer as one of those killed in the attack. He was co-founder and managing director of I-DEV International, a firm advising on business strategy for emerging markets.

“The security operation at Dusit complex is over, and all the terrorists eliminated,” Kenyatta told reporters without giving details. “Fourteen innocent lives were lost through the hands of these murderers, terrorists.”

More than 700 people were evacuated to safety in the course of the attack, he added.

Shortly before Kenyatta declared it over, gunshots and explosions could be heard at the scene.

The coordinated attack started Tuesday afternoon local time at the DusitD2 compound, an upmarket cluster of shops and hotel facilities in the capital of Nairobi.

An unknown number of gunmen attacked the complex, leading to a standoff that continued through the night, with people trapped in various parts of the buildings hours later.

Friends and relatives of those unaccounted for anxiously waited for word on their loved ones early Wednesday as the interior ministry announced that authorities had evacuated people from the compound, and the site had been secured.

The Kenya Red Cross in Nairobi launched a blood drive to help the victims and urged people to donate. It also said it had launched a line to provide counseling and connect people who were searching for loved ones.

“No further threat to public exists,” the interior ministry said in a statement early Wednesday. “Civilians who had been secured in one building by security while mopping up continues now safely evacuated. All buildings and surrounding area secure.”

But sporadic gunfire continued hours after the all clear. The nation’s police chief, Joseph Boinnet, told CNN that the evacuation was still ongoing Wednesday morning despite the interior ministry’s announcement.

Police warned residents to refrain from sharing unconfirmed news or images of the security operation on social media.

After declaring the attack over, Kenyatta praised Kenya’s security services for their swift response, saying: “The operational priority of the security services was first and foremost to safeguard civilian life.”

Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross, also hailed the rescue effort. “To have gotten out over 700 people out of that place, one would have to go in to understand and imagine what it took to get there,” he told CNN.

Terror group claims responsibility

A source helping with security at the hotel called the death toll “conservative,” and said it’s expected to rise. The US State Department confirmed that the fatalities included a US citizen, but did not provide details.

Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. It’s the highest profile terror attack in the East African country in years, and it happened three years to the day after Al-Shabaab militants targeted a Kenyan military base in neighboring Somalia, killing dozens of soldiers.

In 2013, Al-Shabaab militants targeted the luxury shopping center of Westgate, killing 67 people in a siege that lasted several days. Westgate is about two miles away from the site of Tuesday’s attack.

Militants from the group also killed nearly 150 people, most of them students, in a brutal attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in April 2015.

Attack started with car bombs

The latest attack began at a bank inside the compound Tuesday afternoon. An explosion ripped through three vehicles in the parking lot, followed by a suicide blast in the foyer of the Dusit Hotel, Boinnet said.

Crowds in bloodied clothes fled as armed officers escorted office workers to safety amid the gunfire. The flames in the parking lot raged, with the smoke visible from buildings far away in Nairobi’s affluent Westlands neighborhood.

“As we were leaving, there were gunshots all over the place,” said Evans Ng’ong’a, who was inside the complex. “Attackers jumped over the fence and started shooting after the explosion.”

In a series of tweets, US Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec condemned the attacks and said all embassy personnel in Kenya were safe.

The European Union also offered its condolences to those affected and pledged its continued support to Kenya.

“Kenya’s stand against terrorism, at home and abroad, is a necessary fight against a challenge that we all face — being it in Africa, in Europe or in the rest of the world — which will contribute to bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the country, the region and beyond,” it said in a statement.

River Center transformed into Pool Hall for regional tournament

DAVENPORT, Iowa – If you walk into the River Center on January 16, you might stumble upon a giant pool hall.

That’s because the  Omega Billiards American Cue Sports Alliance (ACS) Midwest 8-Ball Championships are taking place Jan. 16 through Sunday Jan. 20.

More than 800 players be in the Quad Cities to compete for a grand prize totaling nearly $50,000.

There are 80 pool tables to play on, and 15 divisions players will compete in.

This is the second year the event is being held in the Quad Cities.

ACS Midwest Executive Director John Lewis joined WQAD’s Ryan Jenkins on Good Morning Quad Cities to explain the connection  pool has to the QCA and to describe how much demand exists for Billiards tournaments in the United States.

Players in the tournament are part of pool leagues throughout the Midwest.

If you'd like to watch them in action, you can attend for free Jan. 16 - Jan. 20.

Here is the full Tournament Schedule:

Wed, Jan. 16:                           12 pm - Men’s & Women’s Senior Singles/ Scotch Doubles (Man/Woman)

Thurs., Jan. 17:                        10 am - Men’s & Women’s Open/Standard

3 pm - Men’s & Women’s Advanced 8-Ball Singles

Fri., Jan. 18:                              12 pm - Men’s & Women’s 9-Ball Singles

8 pm - Men’s & Women’s 4-Person 8-Ball Teams

Sat.-Sun., Jan. 19-20:            Men’s & Women’s Open/Standard 8-Ball Teams


The tournament also provides some economic benefits as well, according to leaders with "Visit Quad Cities."

“We’re thrilled to serve as host of the 2019 ACS Midwest 8-Ball Championships,” said Dave Herrell, President and CEO, Visit Quad Cities.  “800 of the best pool players will compete for four days in the 8-Ball Tournament showcasing their talent at the RiverCenter.  Sporting events are incredibly important for our economic development and branding efforts and we are grateful for the partnership that we have with American Cue Sports in hosting their championship event.”

For more information about American Cue Sports, click here.