Tag Archive: Blue Cross Plan Offerings


 

 

 

16 servicemen killed.jpgSixteen service members were killed after a military transport plane that was being used on a training flight crashed in Mississippi, prompting an urgent rescue effort in one of the South’s most rural regions, the authorities said.  A Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon, Capt. Sarah Burns, said that one of the service’s KC-130 aircraft had “experienced a mishap.” The Marines use KC-130s for aerial refueling.

The cause of the crash, in an unincorporated part of Leflore County, was not immediately clear.  The plane crashed along County Road 547, a dirt road that connects acres of farmland between Itta Bena and Moorhead.  Military aircraft are a common sight in the skies of rural Mississippi.  Witnesses described the plane as disintegrating in the air as it neared the ground, leaving a debris field about five miles in diameter.  Many speculate that the plane experienced an explosion mid-air because of the large debris field.

The air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and was on its way from a Marine installation at Cherry Point, North Carolina, to a naval air field at El Centro, California, when it went down, officials said.  The planes final destination was Yuma, AZ.  The plane vanished from air traffic control radar somewhere over Mississippi before the crash that killed all fifteen marines and a navy corpsman on board.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C.. Nine were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., home of a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.  The service members were identified as Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20; Staff Sgt. Robert Cox; 28, Capt. Sean Elliott; 30, Maj. Caine Goyette; 41, Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins; 34, Sgt. Chad Jenson,; 25, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson; 46, Sgt. Julian Kevianne; 31, Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat; 33, Sgt. Talon Leach; 27, Sgt. Owen Lennon,; 26, Sgt. Joseph Murray; 26, Cpl. Collin Schaaff;  22, Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman; 26, Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden; 31 and Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey, 30.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud bloom around 4pm  and then the plane began spinning down to the ground.  Eyewitnesses recall hearing ammunition exploding after the crash.  The Marine Corps acknowledged that ammunition was on board the flight without specifying what kind. Due to the presence of the ammunition, restrictions were placed on who could initially approach the scene of the crash, officials said.

The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane and witnesses said there were bodies across a highway, more than a mile from the crash site.  Firefighters tried to put out the fire but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fierce blaze produced black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours later.  The fire department used about 9,000 gallons of foam to extinguish the blaze.

Marine Corps officials are being aided in their investigation by a number of different agencies, including the Mississippi Management Association, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Cholera-outbreak-in-Yemen.-806x450-640x357.jpgThe United Nations says Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 200,000 people in Yemen are infected with cholera and that number is growing by 5,000 a day, they say.  “In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every (part) of this war-torn country,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a joint statement.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 1,310 people have already died, a quarter of them children.  A UN report has said children account for half of the registered cases to date.  Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water. If left untreated, it can cause severe dehydration and can be fatal within hours.

Rarely seen in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, it primarily affects developing areas that lack adequate water treatment or sanitation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Cholera is preventable and easily treatable but the collapsing infrastructure in Yemen has cut off an estimated 14.5 million people (about half the country’s population) from regular access to clean water, increasing the likelihood for the disease to spread. There are reportedly 7.3 million people on the brink of famine.

The outbreak began last year but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last two months.  UNICEF and WHO have attributed the outbreak to malnutrition, collapsing sanitation and clean water systems due to the country’s ongoing conflict.  April’s cholera resurgence began ten days after Sana’a’s sewer system stopped working.

The impact of the outbreak has been exacerbated by many factors including the collapse of the Yemeni health services, where many health workers have remained unpaid for months. Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are still functional. Hospitals are lacking medical equipment, rehydration solutions and medicine while still receiving patients from all over the country.  They are also dealing with a shortage of doctors and nurses so they have been working round the clock to deal with the crisis.

philando-castile-mother.jpgThe city of St. Anthony, Minnesota will pay nearly $3 million to the family of Philando Castile to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on manslaughter charges for killing Castile during a 2016 traffic stop.  Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed.

The settlement is to be paid to Castile’s mother Valerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee.  The $2.995 million settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court.

Attorney Robert Bennett, who is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

The settlement will help benefit the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.  Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation hopes to continue to award an annual $5000 scholarship.  Through donations and part of the settlement, organizers hope to establish a permanent endowment to fund the annual $5,000 scholarship.  In May, 18-year-old Marques Watson was announced as the first recipient.

Watson intends to study mechanical engineering. He’ll take advantage of a tuition-free offer at St. Paul College this fall and hopes to complete his four-year degree at a historically black college or university.  Watson has participated in AVID, a school-based program that prepares underrepresented students for college, since seventh grade. He said he’ll be the first in his extended family to attend college.

Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who witnessed the shooting and posted video seconds after, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim.

A claims manager with the League of Minnesota Cities, said St. Anthony’s insurance coverage is $3 million per occurrence. If Reynolds were to file and win a claim, the city’s remaining $5,000 in coverage would be paid to her and St. Anthony would have to cover any additional money awarded.

 

 

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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.

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.”

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.

U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Leigh Winner, pleaded not guilty to charges that she leaked a top-secret document to The Intercept. Winner was charged for allegedly leaking a top-secret document claiming Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before last November’s election.

Winner, a National Security Agency contractor and Air Force veteran, was arrested at her Georgia home on June 3 and charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to the news outlet The Intercept.  According to the Department of Justice, the 25-year-old printed and improperly removed the classified information on May 9.

The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, shortly after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the document that they claim was submitted anonymously.  The document was a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency.  The report described two cyberattacks by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — one in August against a company that sells voter registration-related software and another, a few days before the election, against 122 local election officials.

The F.B.I. affidavit said reporters for the news outlet, had approached the N.S.A. with questions for their story and, in the course of that dialogue, provided a copy of the document in their possession. An analysis of the file showed it was a scan of a copy that had been creased or folded, the affidavit said, “suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.”

The N.S.A.’s auditing system showed that six people had printed out the report, including Ms. Winner. Investigators examined the computers of those six people and found that Ms. Winner had been in email contact with the news outlet, but the other five had not.

She appeared in court on June 8 in Augusta, Georgia where prosecutors told a judge Winner had plans to reveal more classified files. A federal judge denied bail to Winner pending her trial on charges she violated the Espionage Act. Espionage Act charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, although conventional leak cases have typically resulted in prison terms of one to three years.

The F.B.I. said that at the time of her arrest, that she had confessed to an agent that she had printed out a May 5 intelligence file and mailed it to an online news outlet.  She may face additional charges as an investigation into whether she leaked other documents continues. That investigation was sparked after a conversation between Winner and her mother was overheard by a government official, where Winner said she was arrested for numerous documents.

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.