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Morning Briefing: Dikembe Mutombo hopes to help block Ebola

Mutombo Ebola
Dikembe Mutombo
(Themba Hadebe / AP)

Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, known for his finger wag after blocking shots, will be wagging that finger at something else now: Ebola.

Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials have asked Mutombo to record radio and video spots to hopefully be played in the Congo, his native country. The spots are designed to persuade people to take precautions and get care that might stop the disease’s spread.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began posting the spots Monday on their YouTube channel.

About 1,500 people have died in eastern Congo since August 2018 and rebel attacks have harmed the medical response. A World Health Organization doctor was killed in April, health centers have been attacked, and the U.S. State Department has ordered CDC disease specialists to stay out of the outbreak areas.

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“Someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, who is not from your village, who is from other places, just walk to your village with a nice beautiful white truck and telling you ... ‘Inject this chemical into your body to protect you from this deadly virus.’ That’s where there’s a fight,” Mutombo told the Associated Press. “This is where we’re having a conflict.

“How do you that build trust? That’s the big problem we’re having in the Congo. I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to the humanity and the health.’'

Welcome to L.A.?

With the opening of NBA free agency just around the corner on June 30, a pair of digital billboards wooing NBA Finals most valuable player Kawhi Leonard went live over the weekend in Southern California.

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The billboards are located along northbound Interstate 5 in Downey. One is an image of a California vanity license plate featuring the word KAWHI. Another says King of SoCal plus #KAWHI2LAC.

The Clippers are one of several teams attempting to sign Leonard, a Southern California native and two-time NBA champion, in free agency should he decline a player option with Toronto for next season, which he is expected to do.

The person or group behind the effort wasn’t immediately known but a Clippers spokesman said the organization had nothing to do with the billboards. Because Leonard is still currently under contract with Toronto, the billboards could constitute a tampering violation if the Clippers were involved.

She’s No. 1

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty is the new top-ranked women’s tennis player, becoming the second Australian woman to reach the top of the list since computerized rankings began in 1975. The first, Evonne Goolagong Cawley (in 1976), couldn’t be more pleased.

“In 2019, with all the pieces in place, her rise has been almost unstoppable,” Goolagong Cawley said in a statement Monday. “Ash is a very worthy No. 1, and winning at the French [Open] will have given her even more confidence. I am so proud that another Aboriginal player sits on top of the rankings in women’s tennis, particularly a young lady who conveys such happiness in all she does.”


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