Tuesday Oct 21st, 2014

American Jeffrey Fowle leaves North Korea; focus now on 2 other Americans

Fowle, 56, an Ohio municipal worker who visited on a tourist visa, was arrested after he left a Bible in a club in the reclusive country.

By CHRISTI PARSONS, PAUL RICHTER [LA TIMES]

Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in September in Pyongyang. (Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans held by North Korea, was released and headed home after six months in captivity, the White House announced Tuesday.

A U.S. military plane took Fowle from Pyongyang to Guam, officials said, where he will depart for the United States. Fowle was evaluated by a doctor and “appears to be in good health,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Fowle, 56, an Ohio municipal worker who visited on a tourist visa, was arrested after he left a Bible in a club in the reclusive country. Harf declined to offer any additional details about how Fowle’s release was secured, citing concern for the two other Americans still detained there.

“I would remind people that there are two Americans still detained in North Korea, and obviously we want to preserve our ability to work actively to get them home as well,” Harf told reporters.

Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the other two prisoners are now the priority in relations with North Korea. "We remain focused on the continued detention of [the other two men]," he said. "We will continue to work actively on their cases."

Earnest thanked Sweden for its involvement in negotiating the release. As a condition of Fowle's release, the North Korean government asked U.S. authorities to transport him out of the country.

"The Department of Defense was able to provide transportation for Mr. Fowle in the time frame specified" by North Korea, the State Department said in a news release.

Californian Matthew Miller, 24, was detained in April and sentenced to six years of labor on charges of entering the country illegally and trying to commit an act of espionage, the North Korean News Agency had reported.

Kenneth Bae, another American held in North Korea, has been unable to leave since 2012 and is serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile acts.” He had told CNN he has been transferred back and forth between a labor camp and hospitals.

Closed off from the world, North Korea detains foreigners arbitrarily, the State Department has warned, and often negotiates releases in a bid for concessions from the West.

Fowle's employer, the city of Moraine, issued a statement welcoming him back. "He will have the opportunity to return to work with the city of Moraine at his former position, should that be his desire. Jeff was employed by the city as a street dept operator, and had been an employee of the city for 26 years"

Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.

Toys R Us Under Fire For 'Breaking Bad' Action Figures

by SAM SANDERS [NPR]

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have moved from the small screen to your neighborhood toy store. And some people aren't happy about that at all.

A line of action figures based on the characters from the award-winning AMC show Breaking Bad have been seen on Toys R Us shelves and on ToysRUs.com. One mother, Susan Schrivjer of Ft. Myers, Fla., didn't want her children exposed to the toys, which are based on a high school chemistry teacher turned crystal meth dealer and his druggie sidekick. (The Walter White character at Toys R Us even comes complete with a bag of crystal meth.)

Schrivjer started a change.org petition. She wrote:

"Parents and grandparents around the world shop at Toys R Us, online and in stories, with their children and should not be forced to explain why a certain toy comes with a bag of highly dangerous and illegal drugs or why someone who sells those drugs deserves to be made into an action figure.

"Please sign to join me in asking Toys R Us to stop selling the Breaking Bad dolls and return to the family focused atmosphere for which they are known."

As of Tuesday, the petition had over 7,000 signatures.

Schrivjer also made an appearance on Ft. Myers Fox affiliate, Fox4Now. She had harsh words for the toys, but actually admitted she was a fan of the show:

"'Knowing those are the items one needs to make meth I just think that it's wrong.' Schrivjer says.... 'Kids mimic their action figures, if you will." Schrivjer tells FOX 4 "Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?'

NBC says Toys R Us defended the action figures:

"In a statement, Toys 'R Us told NBC News that 'the product packaging clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up' and 'are located in the adult action figure area of our stores.'

Breaking Bad action figures did not show up on the Toys R Us website during a search by NPR Tuesday. And Toys R Us has not responded to our request for comment. But, Walmart, eBay and Barnes and Noble all had the toys for sale online.

Meanwhile, Breaking Bad's star, Bryan Cranston, is taking all of this news in stride:

Using music to fight Ebola in Liberia

By Susannah Cullinane,  [CNN]

(CNN) -- With more than 2,400 Ebola deaths in Liberia alone, the killer virus may not sound like the most obvious subject to write a song about.

But health officials are using all means at their disposal to educate Liberians on how to contain the spread of the disease.

The United Nations Children's Fund -- UNICEF -- has worked with local musicians to produce a song "Ebola is Real," which urges Liberians to take measures against the disease, such as washing their hands.

The chorus runs: "Ebola is real, it's time to protect yourself, Ebola is real, protect your family, Ebola is real, protect your community."

Near the song's end, the musicians say Ebola is a severe disease that spreads fast. While it can't be cured, they explain, the symptoms of the virus can be treated and explain that the only way of catching Ebola is through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and sweat.

"For our traditional people, when somebody die, don't touch the body with your bare hand -- you can call a health worker closer to you to help you to bury the body but wearing protective clothes and gloves," the song continues, saying the message is from Liberia's Ministry of Health and partners.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said music is "an integral part of life" in Liberia and across Africa.

"Everything from elections to polio campaigns have used songs," he said. "We used songs as a medium of getting out the information to a wide segment of the population, through the best medium available in Liberia -- radio."

UNICEF chose to work with Liberia's cultural ambassador Julie Endee and some well known musicians.

The style of music is a popular form in Liberia known as Hipco and the song has been very successful, playing on radios across the country, Boulierac said.

"Some people even use it as a ring tone," he said. "My colleague in Sierra Leone has heard it play in street side stalls."

CNN's Nima Elbagir is in Liberia covering the outbreak.

Elbagir recalled hearing "Ebola is Real" being playedduring an earlier visit and said it was very popular and instrumental in getting the public healthcare message across.

Susan Krenn, director at the John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP), spoke to CNN from Nigeria, where she was working on the launch of a weekly television series "Newman Street."

Newman Street is aimed at addressing the topics of family planning and malaria.

"There is a whole communication science behind this," Krenn said.

"One of the things we really emphasize is that the entertainment has to be of very high quality. You really want to attract people to whatever the piece is because it's something they really want to listen to, or want to watch, because it's entertainment," she said.

"This type of programing really allows you to use creativity and pull people in for the value of the entertainment, while a communication plan allows us to weave messaging in."

The entertainment vehicle itself could get people talking about an issue and get them to adopt certain behaviors, she said.

"One of the beauties of entertainment education is that your reach is phenomenal ... you're impacting a huge number of people."

The CCP has been involved in entertainment education for nearly three decades.

In 1988 it released two family planning songs and music videos -- "Choices" and "Wait for Me" -- in Nigeria.

"Someone actually made a remake of ('Wait for Me')," Krenn said. "It's incredible to see the long life these things have."

The center has gone on to release many more songs but Krenn said it used entertainment within a wider communications strategy.

In the case of "Newman Street," the series was being used as a "national overlay," she said.

Krenn said there were a number of family planning and malaria programs in different states and cities in Nigeria's four main languages. At a more local level, CCP's strategy included radio and working with service providers.

CCP was also involved in Liberia, Krenn said, trying to monitor and help coordinate the communication interventions there.

"With so many different entities, one of biggest needs is communication. We really need to find out where the gaps are," she said.

Additional Headlines from October 21st