Archive for June, 2017


 

 

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A Tennessee man accused of planning to attack a Muslim community in New York has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court convicted Christian minister Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The FBI began investigating Doggart in February 2015, when agents became aware of a threatening Facebook post by Doggart in which he wrote that Islamberg needed to be “utterly destroyed.”  After an investigation that included wiretaps Doggart was arrested on April 10 by federal marshals and charged with solicitation, intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property and interstate communication of threats, court documents show.

FBI agents discovered Doggart was stockpiling weapons and plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, Doggart saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god.

The investigation showed that he spoke with numerous individuals across the country to plan an attack.  Doggart also traveled to South Carolina, where he met with individuals from an unidentified militia group.

Prosecutors said Doggart made threats against Islamberg near Hancock, N.Y., in phone conversations with supporters in South Carolina and Texas. Jurors listened to many phone calls in which Doggart talked about burning down Islamberg’s mosque with explosives and shooting anyone who opposed his team with assault rifles.

Defense attorneys countered that Doggart exaggerated a number of facts, never had a consistent plan in place, was goaded by a confidential informant into carrying out the attack and only wanted to conduct peaceful recon on Islamberg. Defense attorney Jonathan Turner told jurors in his closing arguments that Doggart was convinced Islamberg’s residents wanted to carry out a terror attack on New York City, in part because of Fox News broadcasts.

Since his arrest in April 2015, Doggart has spent most of the time out on bond until his recent conviction.  After that verdict, Doggart’s defense attorneys had asked Judge Collier to let him stay on house arrest before his May 31 sentencing hearing, citing medical problems.  Collier denied the request saying Doggart appeared obsessed with the community of Islamberg and should stay in custody until sentencing.

 

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Suddenly uninsured?  If you think you’re eligible for a special enrollment period (SEP) for health insurance, be ready to prove it.  New regulations effective June 23, 2017, require 100 percent of consumers seeking an SEP in states served by the federal website platform to provide pre-enrollment verification.[1]Previously, about half of consumers requesting an SEP were required to do so.

The crackdown, which stems from a final rule issued April 18, 2017, aims to curb “misuse and abuse of special enrollment periods” by those who decided to enroll in coverage after they find out they need healthcare.[2]

Don’t Qualify for Special Enrollment?

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Need Coverage for 90+days?

Consider this Long-Term Solution[3]

 

To help you understand how health insurance special enrollment periods will be handled from now on, here are five key things to know:[4]  

1.  You must have a “qualifying life event” to become eligible for special enrollment. Click here for an in-depth look at qualifying life events from CMS

2.  Documentation will be required. If you have a qualifying life event, you will need to submit documentation that confirms it as requested by the exchange through which you enroll.

3. A deadline will apply. You will have 30 days to provide the requested information.

4. Roll-out of pre-enrollment verification will happen in two phases. The first phase starts June 23, 2017, and the second begins sometime in August.

On June 23, 2017, pre-enrollment verification begins for those who experience the following qualifying life events:

a.) Loss of qualifying health coverage (i.e., minimum essential coverage)

  • Job-based coverage – yours or someone else’s
  • Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage including pregnancy-related coverage and medically needy coverage
  • Some student health plans – check with the school to verify that the plan counts as qualifying health coverage
  • Individual or group health plan coverage that ends during the year
  • Dependent coverage through a parent’s plan

b.) A permanent move

  • Gained access to new health insurance plans due to a change in primary residence and
  • Had qualifying coverage for at least one of the 60 days preceding the date of the move or
  • Lived in a foreign country or in a U.S. territory for at least one of the 60 days preceding the date of the move

In August 2017, pre-enrollment verification will be added for those who experience the following qualifying life events (more details will follow later this summer):

a.) Marriage

b.) Gaining or becoming a dependent through adoption, placement for adoption, placement in foster care, or a child support or other court order

c.) Medicaid/CHIP denial

5. If you can’t prove you qualify for an SEP, you could remain uninsured. And, if you are not exempt from having minimum essential coverage, that means you could owe a tax penalty.

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Read the CMS Overview

What if I’m denied special enrollment?

It is possible to file an appeal. However, you could find yourself without health insurance coverage and, as mentioned above, may owe a tax penalty if you are not exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Find Temporary Coverage

You may need to consider short term coverage, a hospital indemnity plan or another type of health benefits to help pay for healthcare until you have minimum essential coverage.

How do I begin the special enrollment process?

Visit www.HI4E.Org to get started.   You will then be able to “Request-A-Free-Quote” or request extra guidance and assistance with finding coverage until your new Obamacare plan begins January 2018.   We can also help you shop and price-out the available plans that may be left within your state.

 

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Find A More AFFORDABLE Health Plan That Is Still Being Offered Within Your State, When You Shop At:  www.hi4e.org          HealthInsurance4Everyone & Health & Life Solutions LLC  –  Over 54,000 Combined Fans/Followers & We’re Growing Daily!!

 

 

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It’s been estimated that hundreds of tower blocks in England could be covered in similar cladding to Glenfell Tower.  So far tests have revealed that combustible cladding has been found on at least three tower blocks across the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May had ordered inspections of 600 high-rise buildings across Britain, after a massive fire in Grenfell Tower left at least 79 people dead and over 70 injured.  Dozens more are missing and presumed dead.  Workers were seen removing highly flammable cladding from a tower in North London.  The materials are similar to those used in the Grenfell high-rise, despite the fact the cladding is banned in the U.S. and Europe.

The June 14th fire started in the 24-storey, 220-foot high tower block of public housing flats in North Kensington, west London.  The tower contained 127 flats, with 227 bedrooms.    The fire started in a faulty fridge-freezer in a fourth-floor flat. The building’s recently added exterior cladding is believed to have played a role in the speed at which the fire spread.

Documents show that aluminium composite material (ACM) was used in Grenfell Tower’s rainscreen cladding. ACM is essentially a sandwich of two aluminium sheets with materials for insulation inside.  ACM panels often have a polyethylene core, which can be highly flammable. It is not yet clear whether this material was used in Grenfell Tower’s cladding.

Hundreds of firefighters and 45 fire engines were involved in efforts to control the fire which burned for 60 hours until it was finally extinguished.  Many firefighters continued to attempt to control pockets of fire on the higher floors after most of the rest of the building had been gutted. Residents of surrounding buildings were evacuated due to concerns that the tower could collapse, though the building was later determined to be structurally sound.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced a $5 million fund for victims of the fire; all those made homeless were to receive an initial down payment of $5,500, with each household to be given at least $500 in cash and $5,000 paid into an account. On June 21st, the government announced that 68 new flats in the same borough as Grenfell Tower are to be made available to survivors of the fire.

 

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After five days of deliberations, a jury has acquitted the Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all charges in shooting death of Philando Castile.  Officer Yanez, an officer for the suburb of St. Anthony, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting.  Yanez and the 12 jurors were quickly led out of the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

In July 2016, Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and was shot within 62 seconds of his encounter with Officer Yanez.  Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat, began Facebook livestreaming less than a minute after the shooting as her 4 year old daughter hid in the backseat and Castile slumped over dying.

Dash cam footage shows Officer Yanez approach the vehicle and exchange greetings with Castile and informing him of a brake light problem. He asks for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance.  Castile who had a concealed carry license hands the officer his insurance card and says “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Officer Yanez replies, “Okay” and places his right hand on the holster of his gun and says “Okay, don’t reach for it.” Castile responds “I’m not pulling it out,” as Officer Yanez continues to yell “Don’t pull it out.”  Yanez pulled his gun and fired seven shots in the direction of Castile.  Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!”  Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it”, which were his last words.

Reynolds started live-streaming onto Facebook about 40 seconds after the last shot.  In a shaky voice she explains that the officer has just killed her boyfriend and that he was licensed to carry.  Yanez can be heard shouting “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off of it.” Reynolds replies “He had, you told him to get his ID, sir, and his driver’s license. Oh my God. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.”

Officer Yanez’s recollection of the events was that Castile told him he had a gun at the same time he reached down between his right leg and the center console of the vehicle.  Yanez stated “He put his hand around something,” and said Castile’s hand took a C-shape, “like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”  Yanez said he then lost view of Castile’s hand.  “I know he had an object and it was dark,” he said. “And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”  Yanez said he thought Castile had the gun in his right hand and he had “no option” but to shoot.

Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., released a statement saying that Yanez will not return to the police department after the trial. They said they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”  “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”

Shortly after the verdict was announced, several hundred protesters amassed around the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul.  Police said about 500 activists later moved to Interstate 94, one of the main highways in the Twin Cities area. A few dozen people briefly moved onto the road itself while facing police in riot gear, but most of the protesters soon dispersed.

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking an indefinite leave of absence amid a scandal over sexual harassment.  Billionaire David Bonderman also resigned from Uber’s board, after making disparaging comments about women at a board meeting intended to address sexual harassment in the workplace.  Uber has fired more than 20 employees as part of its own internal probe into what multiple sources have described as a culture of sexism.

The fallout continues four months after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler came forward with allegations that Uber’s human-resources team systematically ignored her reports of sexual harassment during the year she worked for the company.  Fowler detailed her year working for Uber in a February 2017 blog post which went viral and kicked off an internal investigation into her claims of sexual harassment.

Fowler claimed that just days after completing her training, she was clearly propositioned for sex by her new manager over a string of messages over company chat.  She immediately took screenshots of the messages and sent them to Human Resources.  She was told by the HR Team that the manager in question would receive only a verbal reprimand since it was his first offense.  She was then given the option of leaving the team which would give her no contact with the manager in question or stay on the team knowing that he could give her a poor performance review.  She was told a negative review would not be considered retaliation because she had the option to leave.

Fowler left the team and while working with other female engineers within the company, learned that the manager had been reported for inappropriate behavior by multiple women prior to her interaction with him.  She claims that despite having a perfect performance score, a request for transfer was blocked and the reasoning was “undocumented performance problems”.  Her blog post also revealed instances of blatant sexism, the dwindling number of female engineers still with the company and chaotic political games within upper management as well.

CEO Travis Kalanick sent a company-wide email the day after the blog post which addressed the allegations published the day before.   The company launched two internal investigations, hiring the law firm Perkins Coie to investigate Fowler’s claims – which resulted in the firing of 20 people after investigating 215 reported claims of discrimination and harassment, among other issues.  The company then brought on former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, both partners at law firm Covington & Burling, to conduct a separate investigation into Uber’s overall culture.

At the end of May, Uber received Eric Holder’s recommendations for change.  The board met for more than six hours Holder presented the findings of his firm’s report. A representative for Uber’s board said it voted unanimously in favor of adopting all of Holder’s recommendations.

 

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial has ended in a mistrial after jurors remained deadlocked on all counts after 52 hours of deliberation.  Cosby faced three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Andrea Constand has accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home in 2004.  Constand is the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee.

Constand is one of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades.  It’s the only criminal case stemming from dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — all of which the comedian/actor denies.  She says she was “paralyzed” by pills he gave her while he claimed it was just Benadryl and that the encounter was consensual.

Cosby did not take the stand, but his lawyers have maintained the physical contact was mutual and raised questions as to why Constand kept in phone contact with Cosby after the alleged incident.  They also questioned why she did not report it for a year. Prosecutors declined to charge Cosby in 2004 but reopened the case after the scandal erupted two and a half years ago.

The jurors were chosen in the Pittsburgh area and bussed in to Philadelphia for the trial.  After six days of testimony, the jury of seven men and five women began deliberations.  They were soon deadlocked but continued to deliberate, reviewing reams of testimony.  After 52 hours of deliberations, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill accepted a defense motion for a mistrial.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele immediately announced that he plans to retry the case and ordered that Cosby can remain free on $1 million bail he posted when he was first charged.  Steele later told reporters that there “was no pause or hesitation” in deciding to retry the case and that “we had a significant amount of evidence … now we have to prove (the case) beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Prosecutors will retry him on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a charge that carries 10 years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, said that “round two may be just around the corner, and this time, justice may prevail.”  She commended her client Kelly Johnson, the only other accuser allowed to testify at the trial, and thanked all the accusers who have spoken out.  Several of Cosby’s accusers have been attending the trial.

 

3 Dead In UPS Shooting

 

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The gunman who killed three men at a UPS facility in San Francisco and then killed himself has been identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lam.  The victims were Wayne Chan, 56, and Benson Louie, 50, both of San Francisco; and 46-year-old Michael Lefiti of Hercules, California.  Two others were shot but survived the Wednesday morning shooting at the UPS San Francisco Customer Center.

Officers responded to a report of an active shooter about 8:55 a.m. local time at the UPS package sorting and delivery facility.  When officers entered the building, they found the suspect armed with an assault pistol.  The suspect immediately killed himself and no officers fired their weapons during the incident.

Lam, had worked as a driver for the Potrero Hill facility which employs 350 people.  He was wearing his uniform during the shooting spree and opened fire on coworkers during a morning meeting for UPS drivers.  Joseph Cilia, with a local Teamsters union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco has stated that Lam filed an internal grievance in March saying he was working excessive overtime.  Cilia told the Associated Press that Lam did not seem angry when he filed the grievance.

A police official said it appears that Lam felt disrespected by co-workers, but it’s not clear if that was the motivation for the bloodshed.  Lam appears to have targeted the three drivers he fatally shot.  Shaun Vu, a senior UPS driver, has said Lam also struggled with personal issues and was depressed a few years ago. Vu said that Lam had shown improvement but seemed troubled a few weeks ago-which was around the time he filed the grievance.

Another UPS driver Leopold Parker, who witnessed the shooting, said that he was standing a few feet behind Benson Louie during the morning meeting when Lam walked up and shot Louie in the head.  Lam then glanced at Parker but walked the other way so Parker jumped into the cab of his truck and later ran to the roof of the building.

Parker said drivers at the warehouse generally got along and didn’t mind working there. If they did have a problem with colleagues, they would talk to them or ignore them. He also stressed that drivers spent much of their time alone in their trucks, so they had limited interaction with their colleagues.  He recalls that Lam sometimes complained about the workload but he never suspected that he would turn violent.

Other witnesses said that Mike “Big Mike” Lefiti was fleeing from the building as Lam followed him into the street and shot him.  Mike McDonald, an area resident was walking home from work when he found Lefiti face down, bleeding profusely from the back.  McDonald stayed with him and tried to comfort him until help arrived.  McDonald said that in his final moments, Lefiti spoke lovingly about his three children.  “He said he loves his family, he loves his children and that he didn’t do anything to this man.”

cosby trial.jpgBill Cosby’s sexual assault trial has ended in a mistrial after jurors remained deadlocked on all counts after 52 hours of deliberation.  Cosby faced three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Andrea Constand has accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his home in 2004.  Constand is the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee.

Constand is one of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades.  It’s the only criminal case stemming from dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — all of which the comedian/actor denies.  She says she was “paralyzed” by pills he gave her while he claimed it was just Benadryl and that the encounter was consensual.

Cosby did not take the stand, but his lawyers have maintained the physical contact was mutual and raised questions as to why Constand kept in phone contact with Cosby after the alleged incident.  They also questioned why she did not report it for a year. Prosecutors declined to charge Cosby in 2004 but reopened the case after the scandal erupted two and a half years ago.

The jurors were chosen in the Pittsburgh area and bussed in to Philadelphia for the trial.  After six days of testimony, the jury of seven men and five women began deliberations.  They were soon deadlocked but continued to deliberate, reviewing reams of testimony.  After 52 hours of deliberations, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill accepted a defense motion for a mistrial.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele immediately announced that he plans to retry the case and ordered that Cosby can remain free on $1 million bail he posted when he was first charged.  Steele later told reporters that there “was no pause or hesitation” in deciding to retry the case and that “we had a significant amount of evidence … now we have to prove (the case) beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Prosecutors will retry him on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a charge that carries 10 years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, said that “round two may be just around the corner, and this time, justice may prevail.”  She commended her client Kelly Johnson, the only other accuser allowed to testify at the trial, and thanked all the accusers who have spoken out.  Several of Cosby’s accusers have been attending the trial.

 

The number of health insurers participating in the ‘Affordable’ Care Act exchanges has declined by 24 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

In 2016, there were 287 insurers who offered insurance on the Obamacare exchanges and in 2017 that number dropped to 218. There were 34 states that saw the number of insurers decline, 15 states have the same amount of insurers from 2016 to 2017 and only one state added an insurer in 2017.

Five states, ALABAMA, ALASKA, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA, and WYOMING, have only one insurer operating on the exchanges, leaving consumers with little choice.    

In one-third of counties in the United States, about one in five enrollees, or 21 percent, have access to only one insurer operating on the exchanges. This is a significant increase from the 2 percent of enrollees in 7 percent of counties that had access to only one insurer last year.

“In 2017, insurance company losses led to a number of high profile exits from the market,” the study explains. “In 2017, 58% of enrollees (living in about 30% of counties) had a choice of three or more insurers, compared to 85% of enrollees (living in about 63% of counties) in 2016.”

As larger commercial insurers such as Aetna and United Healthcare have dropped out of Obamacare, many areas will only have regional insurers to choose from, said Ed Haislmaier, an expert in health care policy at the Heritage Foundation.

                           

“The reality is that the individual market even pre-Obamacare was a very small part of their business,” said Haislmaier. “So those companies have basically dropped out and what that leaves are a couple of companies with broader footprints but not more than about 10 or 12 states.”

“What you’re down to is basically in most cases your dominant Blue Cross plan and then depending on the size and location you may have regional players and by regional it could mean either across two or more states or just within a state,” he said.       

Haislmaier and the Heritage Foundation, who originally created the methodology for this type of study earlier this year, said that the ‘Affordable’ Care Act has left consumers with less competition and choice than ever before.

“One of the stated aims of the ‘Affordable’ Care Act was to increase competition among health insurance companies,” said Haislmaier.

“That goal has not been realized, and by several different measures the ACA’s exchanges offer less competition and choice in 2017 than ever before. Now in the fourth year of operation, the exchanges continue to be far less competitive than the individual health insurance market was before the ACA’s implementation.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said that Congress needs to repeal and reform Obamacare without delay. 

“The Obamacare death spiral is continuing,” she said. “As rates rise, healthy people drop out and the share of sick people rise, causing further increases in rates. Since these rates are capped then the insurance business becomes less profitable and companies leave the business.”   

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According to state and county data, drug overdose deaths surged in 2016, killing nearly 60,000 Americans last year.  It is an alarming 19% increase over the 52,404 recorded in 2015 and the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States.  All evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017.  The epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse means that for Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.

The New York Times compiled estimates for 2016 from hundreds of state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners.  The initial data points to large increases in drug overdose deaths in states along the East Coast, particularly Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maine. The Times analysis suggests that the exponential growth in overdose deaths in 2016 didn’t extend to all parts of the country. In some states in the western half of the United States, overdose deaths may have leveled off or even declined.

The Times data showed that heroin and fentanyl-related deaths are still increasing across the United States – particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.  The death rate from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, surged 72% in 2015, and heroin death rates increased nearly 21 percent.

In Ohio, overdose deaths increased more than 25% in 2016, largely driven by Cook County, where 1,091 of the state’s 3,310 overdose deaths were reported.  Last week, the state of Ohio filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry, accusing drug manufacturers of aggressively advertising opioids and lying to both doctors and patients about the dangers of addiction.

The Drug Enforcement Agency wrote in a 2016 report detailing what the organization calls a global threat “The United States is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis, with law enforcement reporting and public health data indicating higher availability of fentanyls, increased seizures of fentanyls, and more known overdose deaths from fentanyls than at any other time since the drugs were first created in 1959.”

California had the largest total number of overdose deaths at 4,659 in 2015, followed by OH with 3,310, which like West Virginia has been hard hit by the epidemic.  The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimated that misuse or abuse of narcotic pain relievers were responsible for more than 420,000 emergency department visits in 2011, the most recent year for which we have data.

Experts warn a key factor of the surge in deaths is fentanyl, which can be 50 times more powerful than heroin.  Fentanyl has been popping up in drug seizures across the country.  It is usually sold on the street as heroin or drug traffickers use it to make cheap counterfeit prescription opioids. Fentanyls are showing up in cocaine as well, contributing to an increase in cocaine-related overdoses.

Research suggests that since heroin and opioid painkillers, (including prescription ones) act similarly in the brain.  Opioid painkillers are often referred to by some doctors as “heroin lite” and taking one (even “as directed”) can increase one’s susceptibility to becoming hooked on the other.