Tag Archive: Blue Cross Of MN Leaving Business


 

 

john-singleton-2.jpgFilmmaker John Singleton, 51, died after suffering a stroke.  The director had been in a coma since suffering the stroke on April 17.  “John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends,” Singleton’s family said. “We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time.”

On April 17, 2019, Singleton reportedly began to experience weakness in his legs after returning to the United States from a trip to Costa Rica.  He suffered a stroke and was placed under intensive care.  On April 25, it was reported that he was in a coma and on April 29, Singleton was removed from life support and died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  He is survived by his mother, Sheila Ward, his father, Danny Singleton and his children Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven.

A slew of actors and musicians paid tribute to him, including Devon Aoki, Tyra Banks, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Morris Chestnut, Snoop Dogg, Omar Epps, Tyrese Gibson, Omar Gooding, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Isaacs, Janet Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Taylor Lautner, Nia Long, Ludacris, Lori Petty, Q-Tip, Michael Rapaport, Busta Rhymes, Kristy Swanson, Mark Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright.  Rapper and actor Ice Cube who worked with Singleton in Boyz N The Hood and Higher Learning said “There are no words to express how sad I am to lose my brother, friend & mentor. He loved to bring the black experience to the world.

In 1992, at the age of 24, Singleton became the first African American—and the youngest person ever—to be nominated for an Oscar for best director, for “Boyz n the Hood,” a film based on his experiences growing up in South Central Los Angeles.  He wrote the screenplay while attending the cinema school at USC, winning various awards while a student that lead to his signing with Creative Artists Agency, the powerful talent agency.

Many of his most notable films, such as Poetic Justice, released in 1993 and Higher Learning, released in 1995, had themes which resonated with people.  In 1997, he directed “Rosewood,” a historical drama based on the 1923 Rosewood massacre, when a white mob killed black residents and destroyed their Florida town. He also directed the films Baby Boy, Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.   As a producer, Singleton was involved with the movies Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow.

Recently, Singleton has been active in television as both a producer and director, which included co-creating the FX series “Snowfall” — a drama about the early rise of the crack cocaine epidemic — and episodes of shows such as “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Billions” and “Empire.”  In a 2017 interview, Singleton reflected on the fact that he could have done more movies but some of his experiences with Hollywood, and its treatment of African-American movies and filmmakers, had inspired his move into television.

 

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The FBI has arrested the head of a vigilante militia group that has repeatedly filmed itself holding migrant border crossers at gunpoint in New Mexico.  Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), allegedly rounded up and held asylum seekers at gun point while posing as US Border Patrol Agents.  Videos posted on social media showed members of Hopkins’s militia pursuing migrants in New Mexico’s desert west of El Paso, Texas, holding them at gunpoint and coordinating their arrests with U.S. Border Patrol agents.

UCP and Hopkins claim to work alongside Border Patrol, though the agency has denied working with UCP.  A Border Patrol official released a statement that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.  Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”

Mitchell, 69, of Flora Vista in northern New Mexico, was indicted on a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.  The charge doesn’t specifically relate to Hopkins’ activities at the border but rather to a federal investigation from 2017.   According to court documents, in November 2017, FBI agents visited Hopkins Flora Vista home after learning he previously claimed the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  They found Hopkins was in possession of nine firearms and ammunition.  He had three prior felony convictions dating back to 1996, including impersonating a policee officer in the state of Oregon in 2006.  If convicted on the charge in the indictment, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

Federal officials have not commented on the timing of the charges against Hopkins for offenses committed in Nov. 2017.  NPR reporter Mallory Falk said “It’s a group of armed civilians often dressed in military fatigues. They’ve been camped out in Sunland Park, N.M., which is a small community very close to the U.S.-Mexico border. And they’ve been stopping migrant families that they’re encountering crossing the border who are trying to come into the U.S. to claim asylum. They’ve been stopping those families, telling them to sit on the ground, and then calling Border Patrol, and Border Patrol then comes in and apprehends those families.”  Falk said that Mitchell’s attorney suggested that state officials want to stop the group’s border activities and are using charges that are a year-and-a-half old to put pressure on them.

Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said that the militia group believes it is aiding an overstretched Border Patrol.  “They generally think that Border Patrol is spread too thin and that there are gaps in the system or there’s literal gaps in the fence,” said O’Connell. “They think they believe that they are helping to enforce the law of America.”  The group has had an encampment in the area since November 2018, and claims to have detained 3,000 migrants in all.

 

 

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The death toll from Easter Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches in Sri Lanka has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects.  Nearly 500 people were injured during the coordinated bombings across the island nation.  Sri Lankan officials say the attacks were a response to last month’s attacks on two mosques by a white nationalist gunman who killed 50 Muslim worshipers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Sri Lankan officials say a little-known Muslim organization called National Thowheed Jama’ath carried out the series of Easter Sunday suicide bombings with another Sri Lankan group known as the JMI.  Officials also apologized for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks.  A confidential memo which was ignored, circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies 10 days prior to the attack that warned of a possible attack and gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects.

The first round of deadly attacks hit busy Easter services at Catholic churches in the heart of Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community in and around the capital Colombo, as well as a Protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.  Bombs also exploded in three luxury hotels in Colombo, with another blast striking a hotel near a zoo south of the capital, and a final blast at a private home believed to be tied to the attackers.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena requested Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks but ath first, the police chief refused.  Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defense secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.   Fernando resigned earlier in the week and Jayasundara later resigned.  Police are looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.  “Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.  Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.

Despite the police having already detained a lot of suspects, they warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers, a leading businessman who is active in politics, has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.

 

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

 

 

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”

 

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Department says it will probe the actions of officers caught on camera brutally assaulting teenagers after responding to a call about an after-school fight in a McDonald’s parking lot near their high school in Coral Springs.  Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said in a statement that the deputy shown in the viral video should be fired.  The incident between the teen and deputy was captured on cellphone video by a group of teens who had gathered at a McDonald’s parking lot after school to watch two teens fight.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said he would launch a “thorough investigation” into deputies who are shown on video pepper-spraying, tackling and punching teens near J.P. Taravella High.  “It may take some time but we will be transparent, and if folks need to be held accountable, it shall be done,” he said in a video statement.  One of the deputies involved, Christopher Krickovich, has been with the department for six years and is on restricted assignment pending the investigation.  The other deputy, Sgt. Greg LaCerra, has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 17 years and his status is unclear.

The cellphone video appears to show one deputy who responded to the scene restraining a teenager in the parking lot when another deputy pushes away a girl who appeared to grab a phone from the ground.  When another teen intervenes, the same deputy then uses pepper spray on the teen before grabbing him and taking him to the ground.  Two other deputies then jump in, one of them straddles the boy who is face down on the ground, punched him in the head repeatedly before grabbing him by the back of the neck and slamming his face into the pavement.  The victim, a 14-year-old student at J.P. Taravella High School, was left bleeding heavily and was later rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

It all began with the initial 911 call at 2:55 p.m. reporting that several students had gathered in the Tamarac McDonald’s parking lot, a popular after-school hangout.  A follow-up call at 3:08 p.m. reported that kids were fighting.  Krickovich wrote in a police report that he and LaCerra saw a fight starting but it ended before they got close enough to break it up. They also spotted a student who had been warned not to trespass at the shopping center and arrested him.  “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me.

I observed a teen wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone,” Krickovich wrote.  The teen “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists,” Krickovich wrote. At that point, one of the deputies pepper-sprayed and “quickly jumped on the male with the red tank top,” Krickovich wrote, saying he was fearing for his safety.  The teen’s “left arm was free and next to him, while he placed his right arm under his face. I struck the male in the right side of his head with a closed fist as a distractionary technique to free his right hand. This technique was successful and I was able to place him into handcuffs without further incident.”  Krickovich’s also stated in the police report that the three officers were outnumbered by about 200 students “who were yelling, threatening us and surrounding us, I had to act quickly, fearing I would get stuck or having a student potentially grab weapons off of my belt or vest.”

Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said the deputy who threw the student to the ground should be suspended at the very minimum and the deputy who punched the student and pushed his head into the ground should be removed.

 

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A man accused of setting fire to three historically black churches in Louisiana has been charged with hate crimes.  Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff, was originally charged with two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building after being arrested last week.

Authorities arrested Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, last week on suspicion he set fires to three churches over the span of about 10 days.  The first blaze occurred at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26.  On April 2, the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas was set ablaze and then the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 4.  All three churches were in St. Landry Parish, about 30 minutes north of Lafayette.

An arrest warrant reportedly showed that officials connected Matthews to the crimes through the charred remains of a brand of gas can found at the scene of the April 4 fire.  Investigators learned that a Walmart in Opelousas was a local seller of the Scepter-branded can found at the scene.  Walmart informed investigators that two Scepter cans were purchased late on March 25 — less than three hours before the first fire — along with a 10-pack of automotive cloths and a lighter, according to the affidavit. The receipt showed the purchase was made with a debit card in the name of Holden Matthews.

Investigators also obtained surveillance photos of the purchaser and the pickup he was driving. The affidavit said a Ford pickup like the one Matthews was driving was registered to the suspect’s father, Roy.  The same color and model pickup that Matthews drives was also seen at two of the churches shortly before the fires were reported to 911, according to video footage referenced in the arrest warrant.

The affidavit said the pickup was also later captured driving by the scene of the fire and slowing down. A firefighter also reported seeing the pickup near the burning church.  During his Monday hearing, prosecutors said cellphone evidence placed Matthews at the scenes of the three fires, including photos and videos.   District Judge James Doherty said “There is a substantial amount of evidence, it appears,” before denying Matthews bond and setting a trial date for September.

Matthew’s father, Roy Matthews was unaware of his son’s alleged involvement and was not personally part of the investigation, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told reporters.  Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters “I don’t know what this young man’s motive was, I don’t know what was in his heart, but I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized.  These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value.”  Church burnings were a common occurrence in the Jim Crow era and church fires in the South — immediately bring to mind such racist attacks.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigations. The NAACP has labeled the fires “domestic terrorism,” adding that the “spike in church burnings in Southern states is a reflection of the emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country.”

 

 

 

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Thirteen parents involved in the college admissions scandal, including Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, and one coach, agreed to plead guilty to fraud.  Those who pled guilty are among 50 wealthy people charged in the largest college cheating scandal ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice known as “Operation Varsity Blues.”  Federal prosecutors gave the parents charged in the case a short window to consider a deal or they would potentially face additional charges.  Huffman admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone cheat on the SATs for her daughter and could serve four months in prison as part of her plea.

Federal prosecutors have offered deals to all the parents charged in the scheme but will only accept pleas that include prison time.  The different sentences will reportedly be determined by the amount the parents paid in bribes, as well as by whether they accept responsibility.  Prosecutors have reportedly recommended a range of sentences for those who accepted the deals with sentence recommendations ranging from 12 to 18 months in prison, though prosecutors also requested “low amounts” for certain defendants, like Huffman.

Shortly after the guilty pleas, federal prosecutors swiftly brought new money laundering charges against 16 parents who turned down the deal.  Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are among the parents facing the additional charges, along with previously announced fraud charges, after they allegedly paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California by getting them recruited by the crew team—even though they did not practice the sport.  Loughlin and Giannulli were reportedly facing two years in prison with their plea deals but they turned them down in hopes of a new deal with no jail time.  Now, with the new charges, they could face up to 20 years in prison.  William “Rick” Singer, 58, has already pled guilty to four felony counts after he admitted to collecting over $25 million in the scheme.

Parents charged in the scandal allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.  Singer also allegedly bribed school coaches to give to his clients’ admissions slots reserved for student athletes in sports including crew and soccer. He went as far as to stage fake photos of his student clients engaging in sports they never played, or to digitally place the faces of his clients onto images found online of athletes.  Singer instructed parents to donate funds to a fake charity he had established as part of the scheme.  Parents were then able to deduct the donation from their income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Federal prosecutors have said the probe is ongoing as they continue to investigate schools to see who at the institutions may have been involved.  Several elite Southern California prep schools have received subpoenas from prosecutors seeking information about some of the students involved in the fraud case. Prosecutors want to know whether any parents or others accused in the case sought or received help from the schools.  Stanford University announced this week they expelled a student who they say was connected to a $500,000 “donation” to one of Singer’s “charities”.

The scheme began in 2011 and was exposed when an  LA parent who was facing stock fraud charges, brought evidence to a law enforcement in exchange for a deal.  Rudy Meredith, Yale’s women’s soccer coach for more than two decades, had previously helped Singer fake the soccer credentials of a child of a Singer client.   In early 2018, on his own accord, he solicited a bribe directly from the father of another Yale applicant.  The man took the proposal to federal prosecutors looking to cut a deal, according to the court papers.

 

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Three former New York City firefighters involved in the 9/11 rescue effort died last week, within 48 hours of each other.   Retired FDNY Lt. Timothy O’Neill, 60, died on April 2 and Firefighter Kevin Lennon, 54, died on April 4 from 9/11-related cancers — nearly 18 years after responding to the terror attacks.  A third retired FDNY member, Fire Marshal Michael Andreachi, died within the same time period.  His death has not been officially linked to the 9/11 illness he was suffering from.

Their deaths come as 101 survivors who either responded to, or lived and worked near Ground Zero following the terror attacks have passed away from a 9/11 illness since September.  John Feal, survivor advocate John Feal said survivors are passing away at a rate of about 12 a month — or three a week.  Between September 2017 and September 2018, 163 survivors passed away from 9/11 illnesses-which was the highest recorded number of 9/11 related deaths since the terror attacks.  Feal said that if the current rate continues, the number number deaths will exceed last years.  “9/11 is still killing,” Feal said  “Sadly, this fragile community of heroes and survivors is shrinking by the day.”

FDNY lost 343 fire fighters on the day of the attack and more than 180 FDNY employees have died of illnesses from the toxic dust at Ground Zero since the terror attack.  It’s estimated that 90,000 first responders showed up at the WTC in the aftermath of the attack. An additional 400,000 survivors lived and worked in the area at the time.  Nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.

More than 7,000 FDNY Firefighters police officers and EMTs have been treated for a 9/11 injury or illness in the 18 years after the attack.  5,400 members have been diagnosed with lower respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and less commonly emphysema, COPD, sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.  Another 5,200 members have been diagnosed with upper respiratory diseases such as chronic rhinosinusitis and/or vocal cord diseases.  5,400 members have also been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disorders.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, when the planes crashed into the towers, 24,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited a fire that spread to 100,000 tons of organic debris and 230,000 gallons of transformer, heating and diesel oils in the buildings, setting off a giant toxic plume of soot and dust from pulverized building materials, The fires continued to burn during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, and workers were exposed to chemicals like asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica and other metals and particulates.

Epidemiology studies have confirmed that 9/11 emergency responders and recovery workers have significantly higher rates of thyroid cancer and skin melanoma than found in the general population.  They also face a higher risk of bladder cancer.  Non-responders have had significantly higher rates of breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and other blood-cell disorders.  As the population of those in the area of the World Trade Center attacks increases, so will the number of cancer cases and other 9/11 illness related deaths.

The World Trade Center Health Program, a fund set up to cover healthcare costs for 9/11 first responders and survivors is set to expire in 2020.  Since so many victims have been requesting compensation, the fund is now expected to run out of money even before the deadline.  Earlier this year, lawmakers including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill to permanently fund the federal program and extend its authorization through 2090.

 

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Texas police have dropped a felony arrest warrant against 24 year old L’Daijohnique Lee, who was threatened with a gun and brutally beaten by 30-year-old Austin Shuffield in a Dallas parking lot on March 21.   Shuffield’s own charges were upgraded after video of the assault went viral.  The attack occurred after what should have been a minor traffic dispute but quickly escalated to violence.

The assault began when Lee’s car was reportedly blocking the exit the parking lot exit behind a barbershop and bar where Shuffield worked serving drinks.  The victim told police that she was driving the wrong way down a street when Shuffield stopped her, got out of his truck and told her to move out of the way because she was blocking the exit to the parking lot.  She said after she moved her car into the parking lot, Shuffield followed her and they got into an argument.  When she tried calling 911, Shuffield slapped her phone out of her hand.

Bystander video shows Shuffield confronting her with a gun in his hand.  When the victim pulled out her phone to call 911, Sheffield slapped it out of her hand.  After he slapped her phone out of her hand she hit him.   Shuffield is then seen savagely punching Lee at least five times while shouting racial slurs before attempting to kick or stomp on her phone that was still on the ground.

Initially Lee was charged with felony criminal mischief for allegedly smashing the windows of Shuffield’s truck after she was assaulted by him but those charges were later dropped.  The assault left Lee with a concussion and cranial swelling.  Shuffield was arrested minutes after the attack and charged with one count of assault and interference with an emergency call.  He was released the next day on the two misdemeanor charges

His charges were upgraded last week after video of the assault circulated on several social media outlets, sparking protests.  His upgraded charges include unlawfully carrying a weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, bodily injury, interfering with an emergency call and public-intoxication misdemeanor charges.  He has since been released from jail.  Shuffield was fired from his job as a bartender at Deep Ellum’s High and Tight Barbershop and his former employer said it was shocking to see such violent behavior from someone who was otherwise a very good employee.

L’Daijohnique Lee’s attorney Lee Merritt said that his client was “pleased” to learn that Shuffield will face more serious charges. “Ms. Lee will fully cooperate with DA John Creuzot who has indicated he would like to interview her directly in order to ensure a thorough presentation to the Grand Jury,” Merrit said in a statement. “We believe that additional details from the DA investigation will warrant hate crime enhancements as well.”

Merritt criticized the Dallas police officer who arrested Shuffield for not filing the felony charges in the first place, and credited the backlash on social media and protests in Deep Ellum with spurring the police department to take action. “Despite reviewing video evidence, independent witness statements, securing a firearm and receiving the victim statement,” Merritt wrote. “However, we are grateful that after significant community backlash and protest more serious charges were perused. The delay however has allowed a dangerous assailant to continue to roam freely among the public and had caused Ms. Lee a great deal of unrest.”

 

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Ethiopia released its’ preliminary findings from its investigation into last month’s fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed all 157 crew and passengers on board. Ethiopia’s transport minister said the pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet followed normal procedures but were unable to overcome a flaw in the plane’s software that automatically pushed the plane’s nose down. The preliminary report found similarities in the technical failures experienced by pilots of October’s Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which also crashed just minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board.  The report, which could change in the coming months when it’s completed, doesn’t rule out the potential for pilot error in the Ethiopian crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all 737 MAX aircraft while Boeing works on fixes to the planes’ software.  Boeing said this week that it needed more time to finish a software update and training, which will be necessary before the planes can fly again.  Lawmakers and regulators are scrutinizing Boeing and the process for certifying the 737 Max. The families of passengers and crew killed in the two crashes have hired lawyers to pursue claims against Boeing.  Boeing is working on an additional software fix for another problem which is related to aircraft flaps and other flight control hardware. These issues are reportedly classified as critical to flight safety.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg released a video apology  “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. … From the days immediately following the Lion Air accident, we’ve had teams of our top engineers and technical experts working tirelessly, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and our customers, to finalize and implement a software update that will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.”

Boeing dismissed concerns about a powerful new anti-stall system on the 737 Max for months, insisting that pilots could deal with any problems by following a checklist of emergency procedures.  The preliminary findings from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash have raised speculation of the sufficiency of those instructions.   The findings show that the pilots on the Ethiopian Airlines flight initially followed the prescribed procedures he was trained on after the anti-stall system malfunctioned. They shut off the electricity that allows the automated software to push the plane’s nose down and took manual control of the jet. They then tried to right the plane, with the captain telling his co-pilot three times to “pull up.”

Unfortunately, they could not regain control and about four minutes after the system initially activated, the plane hit the ground at high speed, killing all 157 people on board.  The report’s findings are not yet final but the initial evidence suggests that Boeing’s procedures may not have worked well when a plane was flying at a high speed.  The system, according to the investigators’ findings, appears to have forced the nose of the plane down several times in less than three minutes leaving pilots with a very short window to react before going into an irrecoverable nose dive.