Tag Archive: Blue Cross Rate Increases


 

 

Troy Gentry, of country duo Montgomery Gentry, has died at the age of 50, following a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey.  The crash took place around 1pm on Friday September 8th at Flying W Airport where bandmate Eddie Montgomery waited.  Pilot James Evan Robinson, 30, died on the scene and Troy Gentry was taken to nearby Virtua Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.  Montgomery Gentry was scheduled to perform that night at the Flying W Airport & Resort in Medford but the show was immediately cancelled.

Medford police said first responders received news of a helicopter in distress that was returning to the Flying W Airport.  A police statement said “Initial reports were the helicopter was going to attempt to crash land.” “Emergency crews arrived at the airport and shortly thereafter, the helicopter suddenly crashed in a field just south of the airport runway.”  The Federal Aviation Administration has said that the Schweizer 269 helicopter crashed into a wooded area off the Runway 1 at the airport.

Brian Rayner, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, described the flight as a “spur of the moment” helicopter ride.  Rayner explained “Not long after takeoff, the pilot announced over the airport frequency – which was being monitored by a number of people – that he was having difficulty controlling engine RPM.”  “A couple of different responses to that challenge were discussed, and he was performing an auto rotational descent to runway one.  The helicopter landed short of the runway in low brush, it was substantially damaged and the occupants were fatally injured.”

Friends long before they made it big, the Kentucky-based duo formed in the late ’90s.  They produced a number of country music hits, including “My Town,” “Headlights” and “Hillbilly Shoes.”  They were named duo of the year by both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association in 2000, and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.

The duo’s recent years were marked with loss and struggle. In 2014, Gentry grieved the death of his brother, Keith.  In 2015, Hunter Montgomery, the 19-year-old son of Eddie Montgomery died from an accidental overdose.  Gentry was also by Montgomery’s side as he battled prostate cancer in 2010. A few years later Troy Gentry’s wife, Angie McClure Gentry, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was eventually declared cancer-free in 2015.  Troy Gentry also lost his father Lloyd Gentry on August 13 of this year.  Troy Gentry leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

 

 

 

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Hurricane Irma made its first landfall in the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday after growing into one of the most powerful storms ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean.  The storm is one of three (Irma, Jose and Katia) hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have been in the Atlantic.  Jose, in the open Atlantic far to the southeast of Irma, became a hurricane. Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, also became a hurricane.

Irma has maintained intensity above 180 mph longer than any storm in Atlantic basin history.  Late Wednesday night, Irma’s core was spinning about 85 miles northwest of San Juan, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.  In the US Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew.

Irma’s core slammed the tiny island of Barbuda before moving over St. Martin and Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands. Its maximum sustained winds of 185 mph were well above the 157 mph threshold of a Category 5 storm.  Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said that the telecommunications system in Barbuda, where 1,800 people live, was wiped out and cell towers were knocked over.  Both of the island’s hotels were demolished, he added.  There is also no way to land airplanes on the islands, Browne said from Antigua, whose 80,000 people comprise most of the two-island nation’s population.

French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Irma destroyed four of the most solid government buildings on the French-administered portion of nearby St. Martin, an island of about 75,000 people.  Puerto Rico and Storm surge is a concern for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Central Bahamas (up to 20 feet), as is heavy rain (up to 20 inches in the Virgin Islands, and up to 20 in parts of Puerto Rico).

Computer models show that on Thursday the storm will move very near or over the Turks and Caicos, with catastrophic damage likely. The storm will also pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, bringing hurricane force winds to northern sections of the island, with flooding and mudslides probable.

In the Bahamas, emergency evacuations have been ordered for six southern islands — Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island.  “This is the largest such evacuation in the history of the country,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.

It’s too early to tell whether it will make landfall on the US mainland but models show it could hit near  Florida’s east coast by late Sunday, and forecasters warn the core still could hit the Florida peninsula.

Emergency management officials are requiring visitors to the Florida Keys to begin evacuations by sunrise Wednesday due to incoming Hurricane Irma; resident evacuations begin 7 p.m. Wednesday.  Floridians should heed any evacuation order, Gov. Rick Scott said. “A storm surge could cover your house. We can rebuild homes — we cannot rebuild your family,” he said.

 

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Prosecutors have announced charges against a Kansas City man in the shooting deaths of two men.  He is a suspect in three other killings that occurred along or near the Indian Creek Trail, a hiking trail that runs for miles along south Kansas City.  Fredrick Demond Scott, 22, is jailed on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action in the deaths of Steven Gibbons, 57, and John Palmer, 54. Prosecutors said DNA evidence connected him to the victims.

The slayings terrorized the community for months and left many residents that frequented the trails daily, feeling it was too dangerous.  Palmer was killed Aug. 19, 2016, in a wooded area near the Indian Creek trail and his body was dragged into a wooded area near the trails where it was later found.  The other victims are Mike Darby, 61, co-owner of the popular Coach’s Bar & Grill, who was found dead May 18 along Indian Creek Trail; David Lenox, 67, found killed Feb. 27 a few feet from his front door while walking one of his dogs; and Timothy S. Rice, 57, who was found dead April 4 inside a shelter at Minor Park.

In May 2017, the FBI began assisting with the investigation and the policed warned that the killings may be the work of a serial killer because they were all near the trails and the victims were middle-aged, white men.  All of the victims had been shot, four were shot in the head — three in the back of the head. One was shot in the back.  Three of the victims had been walking their dogs when they were killed though no details linking the crimes were released to the public.

Prosecutors said Gibbons was shot in the back of the head as he walked along a south Kansas City street.  Surveillance video showed Scott following Gibbons off a Kansas City bus and down a south Kansas City street on Aug. 13 while drinking from an iced tea bottle. He was later seen running from the scene of Gibbons’ shooting and getting back on the bus.

Gibbons brazen killing in broad day light is what ultimately lead to Scott’s arrest.  Detectives found the iced tea bottle discarded at the scene and traced it back to the nearby convenience store it was sold from.  After reviewing the store’s surveillance footage, they issued Scott’s picture as the suspect in Gibbon’s killing to area law enforcement.  A Kansas City police officer waiting at a stop-light recognized Scott while he sat on a stone wall smoking a cigarette adjacent to the intersection.

The officer called homicide detectives who followed Scott home and the officer picked up his discarded cigarette butt.  When DNA evidence from the cigarette and the iced tea matched, police arrested Scott at his home.  The DNA evidence also linked Scott to a discarded t-shirt left behind at John Palmer’s 2016 killing.   “They didn’t see it coming,” Scott said under his breath while being questioned by detectives.  Scott has admitted to the two killings he has been charged with though police have not established a motive.  Scott repeatedly said he was upset over the death of his brother who was killed in a robbery in 2015 but he did not indicate a motive for the trail slayings.

Scott graduated from Center Alternative School in 2015 at the age of 20.  His mother said she believes that her son suffers from paranoid schizophrenia though he has never been officially diagnosed and has refused to get help.  A municipal citation for harassment documented by the school in January 2014 revealed that Scott threatened to kill himself, shoot up a school and “kill all white people,” according to court records.

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As the flood waters left behind from Hurricane Harvey recede, the search continues for victims not yet counted in the death toll.  The number of confirmed deaths attributed to Harvey has reached 63 and that number is expected to rise as Houston emergency officials continue to search flooded homes.  Emergency officials have said the number of calls for service and rescue has been steadily diminishing.

Hurricane Harvey hit Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25th and continued to batter cities and towns along the Gulf of Mexico with rain.  Some areas got as much as 50 inches of rain.  Some climatologists are calling Harvey the worst rainfall event in the country’s history.  Officials have estimated the damage to be as much as $108 billion but it’s too early to know the full scope of the Texas disaster.

Across Southeast Texas, police, firefighters, the National Guard, the Coast Guard and other agencies responded with immense force trying to help those in need.  With hundreds of miles of heavily flooded area to cover and days of rain- no government response could have been enough.

As first responders were overwhelmed with calls for rescue, emergency lines were jammed and people were posting desperate pleas for help on social media.  Many had been stranded for days with no electricity, food or water.  Civilians with boats, high water vehicles and small watercrafts, took to the murky waters to help save lives.  Texans hours away-loaded up fishing boats, kayaks, canoes and flat-bottomed skiffs and headed to areas inundated with flood water and over the next six days, rescued hundreds of people and animals.

Others without boats stepped up to help as well.  Stories of people who were out of harms way using social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor and Snapchat along with google maps to connect civilian rescue boats with people who posted pleas for help from their smartphones.    Boaters used Zello, a free “walkie-talkie” app to help each other navigate through rescues.

Three friends created the website “Houston Harvey Rescue,” in under 3 hours, in a leaky office, with intermittent power.  The site allowed users to drop a pin on a Google map to alert rescuers to people in trouble. The color of the pin could be changed to indicate the degree of urgency, and the pin could be removed when the rescue was completed, giving rescuers a real-time view of needs across the city.

While it’s too soon to know how many of the more than 37,000 heavily damaged homes in Texas are salvageable.  Officials say some will be submerged in water for up to a month and the longer a house is under water, the greater the damage.  Thousands have already been destroyed in the state and evacuees are slowly returning to their homes to try to assess the damage and gather any salvageable belongings.

At least 33,000 people in Texas have fled to more than 230 shelters, with 11,000 people inside Houston’s largest sports stadium. Churches and many businesses have opened their doors to evacuees as well.  Hundreds of thousands could seek some kind of disaster assistance, officials said.  It will likely take years for some areas of Texas to rebuild while other areas will never be the same.  The power of social media and people compelled to help others saved hundreds of lives during this disaster.  The heroes that emerged to help those in need remind us all that our country is not as divided as it sometimes seems.

Tens of thousands of residents began evacuating coastal communities in Texas as forecasters predicted Hurricane Harvey could make landfall late Friday as a major category-three storm, delivering a life-threatening 35-40 inches of rain to some parts of the Gulf Coast.  Several counties along the Gulf coast, including Nueces county, Calhoun county and Brazoria county, have ordered mandatory evacuations in low-lying areas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard and put military helicopters on standby in Austin and San Antonio in preparation for search and rescues and emergency evacuations.  In the Gulf of Mexico, oil and natural gas operators had begun evacuating workers from offshore platforms.

Harvey intensified on Thursday from a tropical depression into a category 1 hurricane. Early on Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported it had become a category 2. Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, it was projected to become a major category 3 hurricane.  Typical category 3 storms damage small homes, topple large trees and destroy mobile homes. The wall of water called a storm surge poses the greatest risk.

Hurricane trackers expect the storm’s eye to come ashore near the city of Corpus Christi, where Mayor Joe McComb called for a voluntary evacuation.  Forecasters predict that if Harvey stalls over Texas it could deliver catastrophic flooding before drifting back over the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana.

The National Hurricane Center said it expected flash flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast. The storm is expected to stall and unload torrents of rain for four to six straight days. In just a few days, the storm may dispense the amount of rain that normally falls over an entire year, shattering records. The storm is also predicted to generate a devastating storm surge — raising the water as much as 13 feet above normally dry land at the coast.

The National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi said that due to the combination of flooding from storm surge and rainfall, “locations may be uninhabitable for an extended period.” It warned of “structural damage to buildings, with many washing away” and that “streets and parking lots become rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged.”

Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at 11 p.m. Friday between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas. With 130 mph winds, the storm became the first major hurricane, rated Category 3 or higher to strike U.S. soil in 12 years.  In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit near Galveston, Texas as a Category 2 storm that killed 113 in the US and caused $37.5 billion in damages.

The US Navy released the names and hometowns of the 10 sailors who went missing after the USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with a merchant ship near Singapore, east of the Malacca Strait on Monday.  Initial reports indicated that the destroyer sustained damage to her port side aft, the left rear of the ship, in the collision that left five injured and 10 sailors missing. Authorities said four of those injured were medically evacuated by a Singapore navy helicopter with non-life threatening injuries and the fifth injured sailor stayed on board with minor injuries.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was en route to a routine port visit in Singapore.   The ship headed to port under its own power after the collision.  The other ship, the Alnic MC, is a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 30,000 and is about three times the size of the McCain.    The USS McCain is based at the fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according to the Navy’s website.

The US Navy confirmed they recovered the remains of two sailors — Kenneth Smith, 22, and Dustin Doyon, 26 but suspended the search for the sailors who are still missing after “more than 80 hours of multinational search efforts,” the statement said.

Those lost in the collision have been identified as Kenneth Smith, 22 of Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Dustin Doyon, 26, of Suffield, Connecticut; Kevin Bushell, 26, of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Jacob Drake, 21, of Cable, Ohio; Timothy Eckels Jr., 23, of Manchester, Maryland; Charles Findley, 31 of Amazonia, Missouri; John “CJ” Hoagland III, 20 of Killeen, Texas; Corey Ingram, 28 of Poughkeepsie, New York; Abraham Lopez, 39, of El Paso, Texas and Logan Palmer, 23, of Decatur, Illinois.

The incident is the second serious collision for a Navy vessel in two months and fourth since January. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan on June 17, leaving seven sailors dead.  The Navy last week relieved the Fitzgerald’s skipper and two top sailors of their command for losing “situational awareness” in the hours leading up to the collision. About a dozen sailors in all are facing some punishment, including all of the destroyer’s watch, the Navy said.

The Navy is preparing to conduct an extremely rare suspension of ship operations worldwide for a day or two in order to review safety and operational procedures. Navy officials are also investigating the role that training, manning and crew communications may have played in the accidents.  Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the head of the Seventh Fleet, the Navy’s largest overseas, was removed Wednesday in connection with the four accidents since January, according to a statement by the Navy.

Admiral Aucoin had been expected to retire in the coming weeks, but his superiors pushed up his departure date after losing confidence in his leadership.  Admiral Aucoin is being replaced by Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, “who has already been nominated and confirmed for the position and promotion to vice admiral,” the Navy statement said.

 

 

 

Three people died and 19 were injured in Charlottesville, Virginia after violence erupted between white nationalist protestors and counter-protesters.  The protests began on Friday night, as thousands of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white nationalists began descending on the city of Charlottesville to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally.

Hundreds bearing torches marched on the University of Virginia campus and surrounded the statue of Thomas Jefferson on Friday night, chanting “You will not replace us” and “White lives matter.”  Thousands of counter-protestors also descended on Charlottesville over the weekend, including clergy, students, Black Lives Matter activists, and protesters with the anti-fascist movement known as “Antifa.”

On Saturday morning, more than 1,000 white supremacists marched to the public park, recently renamed Emancipation Park, which is home to the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Many were carrying Nazi flags and other white supremacist paraphernalia, wore body armor and carried assault rifles and pistols. They were met by the thousands of anti-racist counterdemonstrators.

Soon after this march, the violence began as fights broke out with little police intervention.  Around 1:45 p.m., as police were attempting to disperse the crowds, 20 year old James Alex Fields, drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter-demonstrators and then peeled away.  Fields, a resident of Maumee, Ohio had been rallying with the white nationalists earlier in the day.

Local paralegal Heather Heyer was killed in the attack, and at least 19 others were injured. Two state troopers, Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, also died Saturday, when their helicopter crashed en route to the scene of the violence.

James Alex Fields, Jr. was initially charged with 1 count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.  Police have now charged him with five additional charges.  The five additional charges include two more counts of malicious wounding and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding.  No bond was set, and he remains in custody.

Fields grew up in Kentucky and recently moved to Ohio, his mother, Samantha Bloom.  She told the Associated Press that she knew he was attending the “Unite The Right” rally this weekend and that he supported President Donald Trump, but said she didn’t know it was a white nationalist rally.  She added that she didn’t “get involved” with her son’s political views.  Neighbors describe him as a quiet teenager who had trouble making friends.  Former class mates , teachers and school officials noticed Fields had “deeply-held, radical” beliefs on Nazism and race.

 

Barcelona Terrorist Attacks

 

In Barcelona, Spain, 13 people died and over 100 were injured when a van plowed into a pedestrian walkway on La Rambla during a terrorist attack.  The driver of the van then fled on foot, killing a 14th victim during a carjacking while escaping the scene of the van attack.   Two hours later, the attacker then rammed a police barricade, exchanged gunfire with an officer who was injured and fled the scene, later abandoning the car.

Nine hours after the Barcelona attack, five men wearing fake suicide vests, drove into pedestrians in nearby Cambrils, before emerging and attacking people with knives.  One woman was killed and six others injured in this attack. All five attackers were shot by police as they were carrying out the attack.

Police have now connected an explosion that occurred in a house in Alcanar the night before to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks. The explosion was initially thought to be a gas leak but the investigation revealed the home had over 120 gas canisters inside, which police believe were planned to be used in a larger terror attack.

Police say that the 40-year-old imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty,  thought to be the mastermind of the terrorist cell, accidentally caused the explosion.  The second man police believe was in the house, identified as Youssef Aalla, brother of one of the Cambril attackers- is missing and presumed dead.

In the aftermath, 15 people of nine different nationalities were killed, 13 died during the La Rambla attack, one stabbed during the carjacking and  and one in the Cambrils attack.  Over 100 people from over 34 nations were injured, 15 critically.

The police believe a terrorist cell of twelve members is responsible for the attacks.  Eight of them are dead and four are in police custody. The imam Abdelbaki Es Satty died in the Alcanar gas explosion and Youssef Aalla is believed to have also died in the explosion.

The five attackers killed in Cambrils were identified as Moussa Oukabir, Omar Hychami, El Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami.  The man believed to have been the van driver in the Barcelona attack, Younes Abouyaaqoub, was killed by police on August 21st.  Four additional suspects have been detained by police.  The  men arrested are the owner of the car used in the Cambrils attack, the brother of Moussa Oukabir, a 20-year-old who survived the Alcanar explosion and a fourth man.

The cholera outbreak in Yemen has become a dire situation as the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the number of cases has reached over 400,000.   U.N. leaders say the outbreak has increased the number of people in need of assistance to nearly 21 million.  Since late April, the total has reached 402,484 suspected cases, 1,880 of them fatal.  Illnesses have been reported in all but 2 of the country’s 23 governorates.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, along with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, said in a statement that more than 2 years of hostilities have crippled health, water, and sanitation systems, creating ideal conditions for the disease to spread.

“We now call on the international community to redouble its support for the people of Yemen. If we fail to do so, the catastrophe we have seen unfolding before our eyes will not only continue to claim lives but will scar future generations and the country for years to come,” the three said in their statement.

They warned that Yemen is on the brink of famine and 60% of the population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. They added that nearly 2 million of the country’s children are acutely malnourished, making them susceptible to cholera, which leads to more malnutrition.

The outbreak began last year but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last couple of months.  UNICEF and WHO have attributed the outbreak to malnutrition, collapsing sanitation and clean water systems due to the country’s ongoing conflict.

The impact of the outbreak has been exacerbated by many factors including the collapse of the Yemeni health services, where 30,000  health workers have remained unpaid for 10 months but are still reporting for duty. Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are still functional.  WHO officials said “We have asked the Yemeni authorities to pay these health workers urgently because, without them, we fear that people who would otherwise have survived may die.”

Local authorities and humanitarian groups have set up more than 1,000 treatment centers and oral rehydration units.  The UN is working with the World Bank on a partnership to support the response needs and maintain the local health system.

Two years of conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels have taken a heavy toll on Yemen, causing widespread internal displacement and leaving millions facing famine.  The collapse of the country’s infrastructure has led to 14.5 million people, including nearly 8 million children,  having no access to clean water and sanitation.

With thousands more cases reported each day the number of cholera cases in Yemen is expected to exceed 600,000 by the end of the year.

 

 

A federal judge in Michigan has blocked the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, giving them time to make their cases in court before the government may deport them.  U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction request made by attorneys for the Iraqi nationals who had asked him to halt their deportation, saying they would be persecuted in Iraq. Goldsmith said the possible deportees, many whom are Chaldean Christian, would face “grave harm and possible death” in Iraq because there they are members of a persecuted minority.

In June, 234 Iraqi nationals were arrested and detained on removal orders that in most cases had been dormant for five to 10 years. For many years Iraqi has refused to accept deportees from the U.S. but they recently agreed to start accepting them after their country was taken off of the travel ban.

In addition to the 114 arrested during the ICE raids in Michigan in June, the judge’s order applies to 85 other Iraqis arrested outside the state. In total, there are 1,444 Iraqi nationals in the U.S. with final orders of deportation who could be affected by the judge’s ruling.

Judge Goldsmith entered a preliminary injunction to give the Iraqis 90 days to argue their cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the courts before the government can deport them back to Iraq.  Goldsmith said that the government made legal representation of the immigrants difficult because many of them have been moved around from state to state to different immigration centers.  Many of those targeted entered in the U.S. as children, and more than half of them have been in the country for more than a decade because Iraq refused to take them back, according to the ruling.

The court said that those detained have been housed around the country in federal detention facilities with limited access to legal advocates and their families.  Most of them are from Detroit, which has a large Chaldean Christian population.  They were targeted for deportation because they overstayed their visas or committed crimes — typically misdemeanors, according to advocates.

Clarence Dass, an attorney who represents about 25 of the 114 Iraqis arrested last month said “For people who have been learning their fate every two weeks, 90 days is a lifetime,” Dass said. “All we are asking is for a chance to show that deportation of these particular individuals is a death sentence, and the judge’s decision today allows us to do that. Once we show those facts and circumstances, I am hopeful we will be able to save their lives.”

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the agency declined to comment on the ruling. ICE has said previously that the Iraqis detained have criminal records, pose safety threats, and have already had their cases heard in courts. The crimes they were convicted of range from marijuana possession to homicide.