Tag Archive: affordable health insurance Texas


 

In Chicago, a wave of violence over the long holiday weekend left 102 people shot—with 15 people killed and 86 others injured by gunfire.  Nearly half were shot in a spate of violence as the weekend closed out between 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

Violence in Chicago has become the standard as the city is plagued with gang activity.  The Chicago Police Department says that it has become standard procedure during long holiday warm weather weekends to put more than 1,300 extra officers on the street.  A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. The violence this year was largely concentrated in the city’s south and west sides, including districts where the Chicago Police Department have deployed extra resources including hundreds of officers on overtime.

The Chicago Police Department expressed frustrations over the violent long weekend.  They said they are conducting “a very comprehensive review” after experiencing one of its most violent Fourth of July weekends in recent history.  Chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said “It’s perplexing, the mood here is frustration.”  “We deployed some very successful tactics over the Memorial Day weekend.” Yet those same tactics did not seem to work as well over the Fourth holiday.”

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over “petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun.”  He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening. He said a “handful” of shootings were “retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating … It’s just enormously frustrating.”

As part of its review of what happened over the weekend, the department is looking at how amateur fireworks may have interfered with the ShotSpotter system, a relatively new technology the department hopes to expand.  The spotters register a shooting and deploy cameras in the direction of the shots while officers are deployed.  Analysts at the district station look at the data in real time to decide what steps to take next.  Guglielmi called it “micro-deployment.”

The violent weekend brings the total number of people shot in Chicago so far in 2017 to more than 1,800, according to data maintained by the Tribune, still below the 2,035 recorded at this time last year.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured after a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert held in the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.  The explosion occurred as people were exiting the arena after the show ended.  Concert-goers and parents waiting to pick up their children were in the arena’s foyer when the bomb went off.  The dead included ten people under the age of 20, the youngest an eight-year-old girl.  Days later, 75 people remained hospitalized, 23 of them, including five children, in critical condition.

The sold out show was part of Ariana Grande’s 2017 Dangerous Woman Tour where up to 21,000 attended.  As news of the explosion quickly spread, residents and taxi companies in Manchester offered free transport or accommodation to those left stranded at the concert.   Nearby hotel became a shelter for children separated from parents in the aftermath of the explosion.  Many local temples, businesses and homeowners offered immediate shelter to victims as they waited for news of missing loved ones.

The day after the attack, Prime Minister Theresa May raised the terror threat level from severe to critical. A critical threat level means that it is believed another attack is imminent.  It also means members of the British military will be deployed throughout the country to supplement its police forces.  Nearly 4,000 soldiers were deployed nationwide in the wake of the bombing.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing which is the 13th deadly terrorist attack in Western Europe since the beginning of 2015.

The bomber was identified as 22 year old Salman Ramadan Abedi, a British Muslim who was born in Manchester to Libyan-born refugees.  Abedi was allegedly reported to authorities about his extremism, by as many as five people, including community leaders, neighbors and possibly family members.

Authorities had investigated him but did not consider him high risk at the time.  Authorities have revealed that Abedi had returned to the UK from Turkey four days prior to the attack.  French interior minister Gérard Collomb said that Abedi may have been to Syria, and had “proven” links with ISIS.  Manchester police believe Abedi used student loans to finance the plot, including travel overseas to learn bomb-making.

Police have conducted several raids and detained a total of eight people in connection to the attack and said they were investigating a “network” as the probe intensified.  Authorities have confirmed that Abedi’s father and younger brother have been arrested in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.  The brother was suspected of planning an attack in Libya and was said to be in regular touch with Salman.  Investigators believe his brother was aware of the plan to bomb the Manchester Arena, but not the date.  According to a Libyan official, the brothers spoke on the phone about 15 minutes before the attack was carried out in Manchester.

Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi was born in Libya but fled under fear of arrest by the brutal regime of Moammar Gadhafi in 1993. He won asylum in Britain, where his sons were born. Abedi later returned to Libya and works as an administrator for the government, which has been in disarray since Gadhafi was toppled in 2011.

President Donald Trump announced the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the man who is responsible for the bureau’s investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign team colluded with Russia in its interference in last year’s election.  The administration attributed Comey’s dismissal to his handling of the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server, but many suggested the reason behind his dismissal was that Comey was getting too close to the White House with the Russia probe.

The news caught Comey by surprise as it flashed on television screens in the room as he spoke to FBI agents at an event in Los Angeles.  His firing is the first dismissal of an FBI chief since 1993 when President Clinton ousted William Sessions as FBI director after Sessions refused to voluntarily step down amid ethical concerns.

President Trump stated in a letter to Comey that he agrees with his Department of Justice’s assessment that Comey is “not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”   Those findings, specifically from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, stem from Rosenstein’s belief that Comey mishandled the Clinton investigation.

Trump’s actions were a turnaround from his stance just seven months ago on the campaign trail, when he repeatedly praised Comey for reopening the investigation into the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server.  Just days away from the election, Comey sent a letter to Congress stating that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton. The decision was made because of its investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Clinton confidant Huma Abedin. Comey followed up days later with another letter, informing Congress that the FBI didn’t find anything and continued to believe Clinton’s practices were reckless but did not merit any criminal charges.

After Clinton’s loss, former President Bill Clinton blamed Comey for it.  Hillary Clinton herself told CNN “I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off.”

A senior white house official said that a replacement will be announced in the coming days.  Some possible candidates include Ray Kelly, Chris Christie, David Clarke, Trey Gowdy.  Ray Kelly has a 47 year career within the NYPD.  He served as Police Commissioner from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2013.  Chris Christie is the current governor of New Jersey and is a former Republican-appointed United States attorney in New Jersey.  David Clarke is currently serving his fourth full term as the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, a position he has held since 2002.  Trey Gowdy is a Replublican U.S. Respresentative for South Carolina and a former federal prosecutor.  He led the House committee investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi investigation.

 

The state of Arkansas received heavy criticism and sparked new debates over the death penalty after they rushed to carry out an unprecedented series of 8 executions in 11 days during the month of April as its supply of the sedative midazolam was set to expire at the end of the month.  All eight men were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999 with some of the crimes described as particularly heinous.  The eight men scheduled for execution were Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson, Don Williamson Davis, Ledell Lee, Jack Harold Jones, Jason McGehee and Marcel Williams.

Governor Hutchinson signed proclamations setting four execution dates for the eight inmates between April 17 and 27. Two men would be put to death on each of the four dates.  In a statement he said that it was necessary to schedule the executions close together because of doubts about the future availability of one of three drugs the state uses in its lethal-injection procedure.

Arkansas uses a cocktail of three drugs in its lethal injection formula: Midazolam is used to sedate the prisoner, vecuronium bromide paralyzes prisoners and stops their breathing, and potassium chloride stops the heart.  Midazolam is the most controversial of the three since it has repeatedly failed to make prisoners unconscious in other executions, leading to painful deaths.  It is not approved by the FDA to be used as an anesthetic on its own, but doctors do use it combined with other drugs before surgical procedures. That is not the case in prisons.

The hurried schedule hit roadblocks from the moment it was announced as attorneys for the eight men attempted to block the executions- including using the argument that midazolam does not effectively prevent a painful death.  Separate rulings stayed the executions of two of the prisoners, Don Davis and Bruce Ward.  Arkansas appealed the decision in Davis’ case, but the US Supreme Court upheld it.  Then Federal Judge Kristine Baker put a stop to all eight executions on April 15, a decision that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed two days later.  By the end of April, four of the men received stays for various reasons.

Despite the drug shortage and the controversy over its use-  lethal injection remains the country’s primary method of execution.  The drug shortage has spurred some states to begin adapting new and untested combinations of drugs while other states look at other methods of executions.  Utah, Tennessee and Oklahoma added or broadened their abilities to use a firing squad, electric chair or nitrogen gas.

With the month over and the expiration date passing-the freshly stirred dust on the death penalty debate has not settled.  Capital punishment has long been a divisive issue in the United States with support of it declining to a 40 year low.  According to a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, Americans remain split, with 49 percent in favor and 42 percent against it (9% were undecided).

Nationwide, the number of executions has faced a decline as well.  Since 2007, seven states have abolished the death penalty and the governors of four others have issued moratoria on the practice.  Arkansas is currently one of 31 states with courts that still issue death sentences.

 

United Airlines has reached a settlement with Kentucky physician, Dr. David Dao, who was dragged off a plane at O’Hare International Airport in early April.  The incident aboard Flight 3411 was captured on video by passengers on the plane and widely shared online around the world.   It quickly became an international embarrassment for both the carrier and the city’s aviation department.

Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio,  announced that a settlement had been reached, but terms were not disclosed.  The airline released a written statement in response to the announcement: “We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do.”

The airline unveiled new policies earlier in the same day the settlement was reached.  Part of the new policies include a promise to not use law enforcement to remove overbooked customers from planes, additional training for front-line employees and setting up an automated system that will ask passengers at check-in if they would be willing to give up their seat.  United CEO Oscar Munoz also pledged to reduce the amount of overbooking and offer up to $10,000 for customers willing to volunteer to take a later flight.

Dao’s attorney praised Munoz for agreeing to the settlement.  “Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing and he has. In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded.”

Demetrio added “Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers.  I sincerely hope that all other airlines make similar changes and follow United’s lead in helping to improve the passenger flying experience with an emphasis on empathy, patience, respect and dignity.”

Dr. Dao, 69, of Elizabethtown, Ky., was one of four passengers picked to be bumped from an April 9th flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Ky., to make room for four airline employees who were added to the flight shortly before it departed.  When he refused to leave, multiple Chicago Department of Aviation security officers were called to remove him.

According to a report released by the Chicago Department of Aviation, Officer James Long boarded the plane to respond to a disturbance involving two passengers who were refusing to leave the aircraft.  When he approached Dao’s seat and asked him to leave, Long said Dao “folded his arms tightly” and refused to leave the aircraft.   The officer said he was able to “hold” the physician in order to remove him from his window seat.

A struggle ensued between Dao and the officer in the isle of the aircraft. Dao, who was hospitalized in Chicago, suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two teeth in the ordeal.  The viral video shows Dao being dragged by his arms down the aisle of the plane as other passengers watch in horror.

 

President Trump’s proposed budget has received criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The 2018 budget calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs. It also calls for a 31% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency and the elimination of 3,200 jobs. If approved, the EPA’s budget would become the smallest it’s been in 40 years.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the Agriculture Department took the hardest hits. The State Department would see a 29% decrease in funding, eliminating climate-change prevention programs, reducing funding for U.N. peacekeeping, reducing funding for development banks and reducing most cultural-exchange programs.

The Agriculture Department would lose 4.7 billion (21%) of its funding, eliminating the $200 million McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, eliminating the $500 million Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, reducing the budget for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion and cuts $95 million from the Rural Business and Cooperative Services program.

The budget proposes cutting 6.2 billion in funding (13%) for the Department of Housing and Urban Development-eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program and eliminates the $35 million of funding for Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing.  The cuts would also eliminate the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program.

The Department of Health and Human Services would lose 18% of its funding.  The Education Department would see $9 billion (14%) cut from its funding, with a decrease of $3.7 billion in grants for teacher training, after-school and summer programs, and aid programs to first-generation and low-income students.  While “school choice” programs would receive $1.4 billion more in funding, increasing the budget for charter schools and spending $1 billion to encourage districts to allow federal dollars meant for low-income students to follow those students to the public school of their choice.

The Department of Labor stands to lose 2.6 billion (21%) in funding which would eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income seniors find work.  The budget cuts would close poor-performing centers for Job Corps, a job-training program for disadvantaged youth and eliminate grants that help nonprofit groups and public agencies pay for safety and health training.

The proposal also eliminates funding for 19 agencies including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and TV stations nationwide; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free legal aid nationwide.

These cuts are not set in stone just yet but they do show where President Trump’s priorities are.  Congress will still have to draft a formal budget and Trump’s proposed budget is expected to face fierce opposition in Congress.  Congress completely by-passed President Obama’s budget proposal last year while drafting the formal budget.

Three separate shootings have raised worries among Indians and other communities about possible violence against foreign workers in the United States.  The senseless shooting of two technology workers from India and another man at a bar in Olathe, Kansas made national headlines.  The victims, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, both engineers employed by Garmin were at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe.

A witness says Adam Purinton, 51, became agitated by the presence of the two men and was asked to leave by regular patron Ian Grillot.  Purinton left but returned a short time later and approached Kuchibhotla and Madasani.  He opened fire, yelling “Get out of my country!”  Kuchibhotla was killed and Madasani was wounded.  Grillot, who was shot in the hand and chest, was praised as a hero for attempting to intervene and subdue the suspect during the shooting.

Purinton was arrested hours later at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, about 70 miles away from Olathe.  Applebee’s employees called 911 and an Applebee’s bartender told police that a man had admitted to shooting two “Iranian” people in Olathe and was looking for a place to hide.  Purinton faces one first degree murder charge and two charges of attempted first degree murder.

Another shooting occurred in Lancaster, South Carolina when 43 year old Harnish Patel was shot and killed in front of his home.  Patel was killed after returning home from working at the Speedee Mart convenience store, which he owned. Patel had lived in the United States for 14 years. He was married and had one child in elementary school. He was originally from the Indian state of Gujarat. Police are still looking for the shooter.

Police are investigating a third shooting that occurred in Kent, Washington.  The shooting of Deep Rai, a 39-year-old Sikh man, was shot while cleaning his car in his driveway.  The victim’s family said a man approached and began calling him names, telling him, “Go home to your country!” The shooter then pushed him to the ground and shot him in the arm.

The victim lost consciousness and only realized he’d been shot when he regained consciousness in the hospital.  He was released the next day and is expected to make a full recovery.  Rai is a U.S. citizen originally from Punjab, India.  Rai became the fourth Indian man to be shot within the last few weeks in the United States. All of the shootings are being investigated as possible hate crimes.

The Sikh Coalition said members of its community are at heightened risk of hate-crime attacks -partially because their faith requires the wearing of turbans and beards.  In a statement, spokesman Rajdeep Singh said it’s important the Kent shooting be investigated as a hate crime.  “While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority,” he said. “Tone matters in our political discourse, because this is a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate.”

“The Sikh community is shaken and very frustrated at the hate and rhetoric that is being spread today about anyone that looks different, who looks like an immigrant.”

In January, President Trump said he wanted to empower local law enforcement to act as immigration officers and help with the “investigation, apprehension, or detention” of immigrants in the country illegally.  Traditionally, local police departments are not involved in immigration enforcement and those duties are carried out by federal authorities.

Police chiefs from cities across the U.S. are resisting the move by the administration to enlist local police officers to help deport undocumented immigrants. In a joint letter sent to Congress, 61 sheriffs and police chiefs wrote, “We can best serve our communities by leaving the enforcement of immigration laws to the federal government. Threatening the removal of valuable grant funding from jurisdictions that choose not to spend limited resources enforcing federal immigration law is extremely problematic.”  The White House plan would also withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Some of the cities that have vowed not to participate in the involvement of immigration laws include Los Angeles, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Providence and Denver.  Many expressed concerns that immigrants already wary of reporting crimes or being interviewed as witnesses will retreat further into the shadows.

Trump’s plan is not a new idea but is not regularly practiced throughout the country.   A 1996 federal law opened up the possibility for local agencies to participate in immigration enforcement on the streets and do citizenship checks of people in local jails.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement trained and certified roughly 1,600 officers to carry out these checks from 2006 to 2015.

The Obama administration phased out all the arrest power agreements in 2013, but still let agencies check whether people jailed in their jurisdiction were citizens. If an inmate is found to be in the country illegally, the department typically notifies federal authorities or hands them over to immigration officers. Today, more than 30 local agencies participate in the jail program.

Experts said Trump’s outreach to local law enforcement will create an even bigger split between sanctuary cities that keep police out of immigration enforcement and those eager to help the new president bolster deportations.

During the election, Trump found support among some law enforcement officers who viewed him as more pro-police than his Democratic opponent.  But even officers who privately said they had voted for him- are not eager to help with his immigration agenda.  Many officers feel that they have enough on their plate.  They are too busy answering 911 calls, arresting robbers, stopping erratic drivers and solving homicides to add federal immigration enforcement to their to-do lists.

 

The father of Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during a U.S. military raid in Yemen in January, says he refused to meet with President Trump and is calling for an investigation into his son’s death. When President Trump made his way to Dover Air Force Base to pay his respects to the returning body of Ryan Owens, Bill Owens refused to meet with the president. Bill Owens stated “My conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.” The SEALs’ widow Carryn Owens met with Trump instead.  The Yakla raid on the Yemeni village left 25 civilians dead, including nine children under the age of 13.

Owens, 36, was a Virginia-based Navy SEAL from Peoria, Illinois and was killed during the controversial nighttime raid.  The married, father of three-joined the Navy in 1998 and joined the Navy Seals in 2002.  Owens was twice awarded the Bronze Star medal with V for valor in combat.

During President Trump’s first speech to Congress, he honored Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and referred to the raid as being “highly successful.”  Owens’s widow, Carryn Owens, fought back tears as Trump called her late husband a “warrior and a hero.”

The raid took place in central Yemen on Jan. 29th and was Trump’s first counter terrorism operation after taking office. Administration and Defense Department officials have praised the operation for gathering intelligence from documents and electronic devices in the house, and for killing at least a dozen combatants including Abdulrauf al Dhahab, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The aftermath of the raid has been controversial with some lawmakers, pundits and news reports being highly critical of its’ “so-called” success.  The raid has been called an intelligence-gathering operation but it quickly turned into a lengthy firefight that killed Owens and potentially dozens of civilians, wounded three American soldiers, and destroyed a $70 million Osprey. Critics have also questioned the quality of the intelligence gathered.

Senator John McCain has called the operation “a failure” because the terrorists were allegedly tipped off in advance.  The Trump administration has emphasized that a trove of intelligence was gathered but various news reports, citing anonymous administration officials, have produced inconsistent reports about the quality of the intelligence gathered.  There hasn’t been an official investigation or report on the operation yet, so how the event actually played out and the value of the intelligence gathered is not completely clear.

The administration was initially hesitant to confirm reports from local witnesses that Yemeni civilians were killed in the firefight.  On February 1st, U.S. Central Command announced that “regrettably, civilian noncombatants were killed” and “casualties may include children.”

The Pentagon has opened at least three investigations into the Yemen raid. The Pentagon is “following standard procedures for reviews into the death of a service member, the deaths of civilians and the destruction of hardware.”