Sixth Vaping Death Prompts Congressional Hearing

 

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A 50-year-old Kansas woman became the sixth person in the USA to die of a vaping-related lung illness, an outbreak that has ramped up health concerns nationwide.  Kansas State Epidemiologist Farah Ahmed said in a statement that the unidentified patient had a history of underlying health issues and had been hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly.  Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said that the patient did have underlying health issues but nothing that would have foretold the fact that within a week after starting using e-cigarettes for the first time, she developed full-blown acute respiratory distress.  Doctors say it’s clear the vaping related lung illness is responsible for her rapid deterioration.

Kansas health officials noted six more cases associated with the outbreak, three patients confirmed with the illness and three cases under investigation.  Five previous vaping-related deaths were confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. After the Kansas fatality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied six deaths and more than 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states and one jurisdiction.  The CDC confirmed that investigators narrowed their focus and that the additive vitamin E acetate is a chemical involved in many of the cases, but officials emphasized it is not in all of the cases being reviewed.

People with a history of vaping who experience lung injury symptoms should seek medical care, according to Kansas health officials.  Nationally, symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.  Other symptoms reported by some patients include headache, dizziness and chest pain.  Though many patients across the nation have been in their late teens, 20s or 30s, the Kansas death is a warning that older adults may be at particular risk.

Patients tend to arrive at the hospital short of breath and coughing. Many have also had fevers, general fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. It is not unusual for patients to be put into intensive care units, and on ventilators. All reported vaping nicotine, THC or a combination of the two in the days and weeks before falling ill.  The CDC has recommended people stay away from vaping devices while investigators work to pinpoint exactly what’s behind the illnesses.

The rapid and worrisome increase has now prompted a Congressional hearing on the matter, after a policy discussion on the matter.  The recent death has prompted the U.S. President to call for a ban on thousands of e-cigarette flavors in an effort to get people to give up e-cigarettes.  E-cigarette companies have been given years to gather and submit evidence their products are safe and effective ways to quit smoking traditional tobacco.  A federal judge has set a May 2020 deadline for companies to do so.

Dr. Norman said “God only knows what all is in there.  There should be a moratorium on the sale of these products until we know more.”  The American Lung Association also released a statement warning the public that e-cigarettes could cause irreversible lung damage.  “No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product,” Harold Wimmer, national president of the American Lung Association, wrote in the statement. “This message is even more urgent today following the increasing reports of vaping-related illnesses and deaths nationwide.”

Facebook Paid Contractors To Transcribe User’s Messages

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Facebook has been added to the list of tech firms who’ve paused their audio transcriptions over privacy concerns.  Earlier this year, it was revealed that Amazon, Apple and Google similarly hired thousands of workers to listen to users’ recorded audio.  Amazon saw received backlash for allowing contractors to manually review Alexa recordings without express user permission, forcing the company to add an opt-out to its Echo devices. Google also faced heat for allowing human review of audio data, along with Apple, which used contractors to listen to seemingly private Siri recordings. Microsoft also listened to some Skype calls made through the company’s app translation feature.

In a statement, Facebook said the practice was aimed at improving its artificial intelligence transcription service, but that the company had “paused human review of audio more than a week ago in the wake of worries about other companies’ transcription policies.”  The data was anonymized and came solely from people who’d volunteered for transcriptions, Facebook added.

Facebook’s data privacy policy doesn’t make clear that human beings might monitor content.  According to its support page, if even one person in your chat has consented to Facebook transcribing the conversation, any audio in the thread would have been translated, regardless of who sent it.  Nowhere in their terms of service does it indicate that humans would be reviewing the audio.

The social media giant reportedly paid hundreds of contractors to transcribe audio clips shared by users in private messages. News outlets report that the practice rattled the contract workers, who were often subjected to vulgar and intrusive recordings and were not told whose conversations they were transcribing or why.  Contractors from TaskUs reportedly weren’t told where the audio came from or why they were transcribing it. That led some of the workers to believe their work was “unethical,” especially when some of the conversations included vulgar material.  The company added that the audio snippets were anonymized before being listened to by the workers.

Facebook users concerned with privacy violations should opt out of this feature.  According to Facebook’s instructions: Click the Messenger app button, open a conversation and tap the name on top. Once you’re in the “Chat Details” menu, tap “Automatic Voice to Text” on or off for this chat only.

Last month, the U.S. government issued an unprecedented fine against Facebook as part of a settlement that requires the tech giant to pay $5 billion and submit to significant federal oversight of its business practices.  That decision came after a year of massive privacy mishaps, charging that the company deceived its users and “undermined” choices they made to protect their data

Sixteen months after opening its investigation, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Facebook had repeatedly misled its 2.2 billion users. The agency argued that the social-networking company was not upfront about the ways app developers, advertisers and others gained access to users’ personal data — from the content they “liked” to the phone numbers they stored — in a breach of Facebook’s previous promise to improve its privacy protections online.

 

 

 

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A Northern California gunman, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, killed three people and wounded at least 19 others at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. Legan died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while exchanging fire with police.  Authorities say they are still determining a motive for the attack, but the gunman’s social media activity shows him promoting a manifesto on white supremacy just moments before the rampage. He also wrote in a post Sunday, “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?”

Authorities say the gunman used an assault rifle that was purchased legally in Nevada. The AK-47-style weapon could not have been legally purchased in his home state of California because of stricter gun regulations.  Six-year-old Stephen Romero was the youngest victim of the shooting. Another child, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, and 25-year-old student Trevor Irby also lost their lives in the massacre.  At least 19 victims were treated at area hospitals, including some who were treated but not admitted. The patients ranged in age from 12 to 69; 11 had gunshot injuries and eight had other injuries.

Police say Legan entered the festival by cutting through a wire fence along Uvas Creek, thus evading security screening.  He began shooting at random with an assault-style rifle he bought in Nevada weeks earlier, authorities said.  Police believe he acted alone.  Officers at the scene reportedly engaged the shooter within a minute of the start of the shooting.  The police chief credited the fast response to a heavy police presence with “many, many officers in the park”.  The three officers who fired their handguns have been hailed heroes for engaging the shooter so quickly.  All three have been placed on administrative leave.

Legan appeared to post a photograph from the festival on his Instagram account soon before the shooting, with captions expressing his disdain for the event.  “Ayyy garlic festival time,” he wrote beneath a picture of people walking through the festival grounds. “Come get wasted on overpriced s***.”  Another photograph posted on Sunday showed a sign warning of a high danger of forest fires. Its caption urged people to read “Might is Right,” a racist and sexist treatise written in the 19th century.

“Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” the caption said, referring to people of mixed race. The account was only a few days old, and was deactivated a day after the shooting.

The city’s Police Chief Scot Smithee identified the officers as Eric Cryar, a 23-year law enforcement veteran; Hugo Del Moral, a 17-year veteran and Robert Basuino, a 13-year veteran of the Gilroy department.  Smithee described his officers as incredibly humble.  “I think they’re heroes. I don’t think they view themselves that way,” Smithee said. “I think they view themselves that they were just doing their job.  And I don’t think they’re particularly excited about being in the limelight, but I certainly think that they deserve recognition for what they did.”

Police and FBI agents were trying to determine a motive for the shooting.  “As we look at the injuries and the victims that are out there, it doesn’t seem clear that he was targeting any particular group,” said John Bennett, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco office.

Man Charged In Murder of Civil Rights Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph

 

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Police in Louisiana are releasing new details about the man accused of killing popular Baton Rouge civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph.  Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, was arrested on one charge of first degree murder.  According to police, Bell was her tenant and owed her about $1,200 in rent.  Both circumstantial and physical evidence led to his arrest after her body was found in the trunk of her car outside a vacant home about 3 miles away from her home last week. According to the arrest report, Bell admitted to being in the area where her car was abandoned, surveillance cameras place him in the area and his DNA was found on her body.

The death of Roberts-Joseph shocked and saddened the community and sparked a swift and coordinated investigation.  Baton Rouge police credited both the community and detectives in helping find Roberts-Joseph’s accused killer. Police say Bell suffocated the 75-year-old on Friday and then placed her body in the trunk of her own car. According to the East Baton Rouge district attorney, Bell was previously arrested after being accused of raping an 8-year-old girl in 2004. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery and served seven years in prison. He was not on probation or parole but was under indefinite supervision as a sex offender.  Officials say they do not believe Roberts-Joseph knew of Bell’s sex offender status.

Bell was already in jail when he was identified as a suspect in Roberts-Joseph’s murder, for violating sex offender registration requirements.  Bell was booked into jail Monday for not paying the $60 annual registration fee required of all sex offenders. He was then rebooked on Tuesday on the murder charges.  Bell told investigators that the activist had allowed him to stay in the home he was renting as long as he paid her something.  However, in the affidavit, investigators noted that Roberts-Joseph’s own notes suggested that she ” intended to contact the defendant on the day of her murder … in regards to the back payments.”

Roberts-Joseph was considered a local icon in Baton Rouge, where she founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum and hosted the annual celebration of Juneteenth, which she fought to have recognized as a state and national holiday.  She also started the Community Against Drugs and Violence (CADAV), a nonprofit to empower people to combat drugs and street violence in order to create a safer environment for children.

Hundreds gathered in the Louisiana heat at the African American history museum Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded nearly two decades ago to mourn the loss.  Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said “Having known her for decades, she was one of the standout matriarchs of Baton Rouge. She was a part of the fabric of Baton Rouge and we will make her legacy a priority in Baton Rouge because of what she gave to so many here.”

Roberts-Joseph’s daughter, Angela Machen, said that although this experience has been heartbreaking and “heinous,” there has been solace in seeing the community unite to solve her mother’s killing and honor who she was as a person.  “All my mother ever wanted was for this community to come together,” she said. “It’s ironic that this happened in death. What she wanted to happen in life came to fruition in death. We will see to it that her legacy continues.”

 

James Fields Sentenced In Federal Court

 

 

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James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi who killed activist Heather Heyer at an anti-hate rally in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison. Fields plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville at a counter-protest of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally.  Lawyers for Fields, 22, had pleaded for mercy, citing his difficult childhood and mental health problems.  “I’d like to apologize,” Mr. Fields told the judge before his sentencing Friday, according to one of his lawyers. “I apologize to my mother for putting her through all of this. Every day I think about my actions and how this could have gone differently. I’m sorry.”

 

Mr. Fields had previously admitted he intentionally targeted the counter-protesters.  The sentencing came nearly two years after Fields’ attack killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who was demonstrating against the hundreds of white nationalists who took to the streets that day.  Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, asked for a life sentence but said she hoped Mr. Fields “can heal someday and help others heal.”

Fields was among hundreds of white supremacists who swarmed Charlottesville in August 2017 for the rally, in which they shouted anti-Semitic phrases, marched with tiki torches and attacked a racially diverse group of counter-protesters. The rally appeared to be winding down when Mr. Fields drove his car into a crowd of those counter-protesters.  Fields’s lawyers had asked the judge for a sentence that would allow him to eventually be released from prison. Mr. Fields had been trying to leave the rally to return home to Ohio, his lawyers said, but found the street blocked by counter-protesters and made the split-second decision to drive through them.  The incident followed violent clashes that erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Attorneys for Fields had asked the federal authorities to be more lenient than jurors in his state-court murder trial had been late last year when he was sentenced to life plus 419 years.  Mr. Fields pleaded guilty to 29 federal charges earlier this year, including a hate crime for Ms. Heyer’s death. Federal prosecutors dropped another charge that could have led to the death penalty.  Prosecutors had argued that Mr. Fields’s racist, anti-Semitic beliefs motivated his decision to attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and to attack counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others.

“This was calculated, it was coldblooded, it was motivated by this deep-seated racial animus,” Thomas T. Cullen, the United States attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said after the sentence was announced. He said the case set a precedent for future instances of domestic terrorism.  The incident was immortalized in a photo that shows Mr. Fields’ car ramming into the crowd and those hit flying into the air. In addition to killing Ms. Heyer, the attack hurt more than 30 people, whose injuries ranged from fractured skulls to damaged organs to broken arms, Mr. Cullen said Friday.

 

John Singleton Dies At 51

 

 

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.

 

R Kelly Arrested Again After Tense Interview With Gayle King

 

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R&B singer R. Kelly’s legal troubles seem far from over with Chicago police charging him with failure to pay more than $161,000 in child support owed to his ex-wife Andrea-for their three children.  The arrest came just two weeks after he was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault against four women and girls—three of whom were under the age of consent at the time.  Prosecutors say three of Kelly’s victims were underage girls and that Kelly abused them over a span of about a dozen years.  Kelly was once again released from custody after someone paid his bail three days after his arrest.

His second arrest came just hours after an interview with Gayle King where he became visibly upset and was screaming and cursing.  During the interview, which broadcast on ”CBS This Morning,” Kelly again denied the allegations that have followed him for years as well as the more recent allegations that he is holding several young women in what has been described as a sex cult.  The 52 year old singer went from tears to yelling throughout the interview as he claims that the accusations are lies.  During the tense interview, at times, Kelly jumped from his seat, standing over King as he yelled and pounded on his chest.

  1. Kelly: “I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my [bleep] life! Y’all are killing me with this [bleep]! I gave y’all 30 years of my [bleep] career!”

Gayle King: “Robert.”

  1. Kelly: “Thirty years of my career, and y’all are trying to kill me!”

During the interview, when asked about whether he pays child support to his ex-wife, he claimed to only have about $350,000 left in his bank account.

Kelly has faced scrutiny for more than a decade, through you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record sales over the years.  He is notably known for his music as much as the allegations involving underage girls.  It’s been well-known that Kelly settled four cases involving underage girls before his 2002 indictment.  During the six years it took that case to go to trial, Kelly churned out hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,”  “I Wish” and “Fiesta”.  He was eventually found not guilty and though the allegations were well known, they faded from the publics’ mind as his record sales soared.

Attention to the allegations were reignited in January after the six-part Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” aired.  It featured interviews with seven accusers and former members of his inner circle. They all said Kelly preys on vulnerable women and young girls.  All of the girls were willing involved with him but were underage at the time.  They claim that at the time, they loved him and began their relationships believing they had a special connection but began to realize that he had a sickness.

Gayle King also asked King about the two women that currently live with Kelly, whose parents both claim he has isolated them- abusing and brainwashing their daughters.  Aspiring singer Jocelyn Savage, 23, met Kelly when she was just 17 years old and has been living with Kelly since she was 19.  She broke off contact with her parents soon after she began living with him.  Another aspiring singer, Azriel Clary, 20, also met Kelly when she was 17 years old and she broke off contact soon after moving in with him.  In an interview with Gayle King, Clary and Jocelyn defended R. Kelly saying, that their parents are just after money and that they were happy being his girlfriends and living with him.  R.Kelly was in the room during the interview.