Tag Archive: health insurance 4 everyone


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In just under seven minutes, 17 people were killed and 15 others wounded in Parkland, Florida in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The massacre at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County started as students anxiously waited for the end of the school day. The shooter, 19 year old Nicholas Cruz, was a former student at the school who had been kicked out of school several times for bringing weapons to school and finally expelled last year for fighting.
Cruz entered the school armed with an AR15 rifle and pulled the fire alarm at 2:21pm, confusing many students and faculty because they had already had a fire drill earlier that morning. Police said the 19-year-old also had multiple magazines, smoke grenades and a gas mask. As students began to leave the building because of the fire alarm, Cruz begins shooting into rooms 1215, 1216 and 1214. Hearing the gunshots, students and teachers run back into the classrooms. Some of them had enough time to lock the doors and hide in closets while others were not as lucky.
Many students and faculty were still in the hallways, confused as to where the shooter was while many brave staff ushered stragglers into classrooms or away from the shooter. Cruz returned to rooms 1216, 1215 and 1213, firing into them again. He then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot a person in room 1234. Three minutes into the shooting, Cruz headed to the third floor of Building 12 and tried to bust out a window on the third floor to shoot at students as they fled the building. The windows in that part of the building are shatterproof so he was unsuccessful. A little after 2:27pm, Cruz discarded his rifle and ammunition and fled the school blending in with students fleeing the building. He was apprehended at 3:41pm after an officer spotted him walking down a street.
In those terrifying minutes, many lives were lost, families shattered and an entire school was traumatized. The victims killed in the horrific shooting have been identified as Scott Beigel 35; Peter Wang, 15; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Alex Schachter, 14; Helena Ramsay, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Alaina Petty, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Gina Montalto, 14; Cara Loughran, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Christopher Hixon, 49; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Aaron Feis, 37; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 and Alyssa Alhadeff, 14.
There were many heroes during those terrifying minutes that saved countless lives by helping get others out of the line of fire. Peter Wang, a student and active member of the ROTC program, was last seen alive holding the door open for students who were fleeing the shooter. Colton Haab, another ROTC member, ushered over 60 people into a room. He grabbed Kevlar sheets he and others used for the marksmanship program to shield the students from gunfire. Fifteen year old Anthony Borges helped 20 of his classmates scramble into a classroom as the shooter headed their way and was shot five times as he was locking the door. Borges, is currently in stable condition after hours of surgery with more surgeries to come and a long road to recovery.
Scott Beigel was a geography teacher who unlocked his classroom door to usher a group of students to safety only to be shot and killed while trying to relock the door. Aaron Feis, a popular football coach and school security guard was killed while shielding several students from the shooter’s gunfire.
An unidentified janitor redirected a mass of students who were unknowingly running toward the shooter to another hallway and into the culinary room. Ashley Kurth, a 34-year-old culinary teacher, spotted the mass of terrified children running as she went to lock her door. She ushered the students and two faculty members (including the janitor) into her classroom and locked the door, saving 65 people. Teacher Melissa Falkowski locked her door and hid 19 students in the classroom closet. Countless other faculty and students, remembering their training from drills for active shooter situations, bravely helped save lives yet they are devastated to have lost so many lives.

 

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against chemical giant DuPont, charging the company with illegally dumping a toxic chemical from its Washington Works plant into the Ohio River for decades. The Ohio lawsuit comes as the Environmental Protection Agency ordered DuPont to test water near its Washington Works plant for another chemical, GenX—which was billed as a replacement for C8 but which is linked to many of the same health problems.
The suit charges DuPont released the chemical, which is used in Teflon coating, even though it knew of the dangers of PFOA, also known as C8, which has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and low birth weight in babies. Studies have found Tristate residents have a higher level of the chemical in their bodies, likely a result of industrial discharge into the Ohio River.
“Human Exposure to PFOA — even at very low levels — has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and low birth weight, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis,” the lawsuit says. PFOA is known to be toxic and carcinogenic in animals and is resistant to typical environmental degradation processes. The lawsuit alleges DuPont negligently caused environmental contamination and created a public nuisance by allowing PFOA to enter air, soil and water in Ohio. “DuPont’s conscious disregard for the right of Ohio and the safety of its citizens has caused and continues to cause substantial harm to Ohio, and the property and natural resources it holds in a trust for its citizens and will likely cause substantial harm in the future,” the lawsuit says.
DuPont has been hit with a number of lawsuits in recent years after many have said the company released toxins into the environment. The company now faces 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal court by Mid-Ohio Valley residents in a 185-square-mile area around Parkersburg, West Virginia. An Ohio man who developed cancer was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages against DuPont in 2016.
A New Jersey city filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit against DuPont, alleging the company spun off the Chambers Works facility to avoid environmental cleanup costs. It alleges the Chambers Works site, where Teflon has been manufactured since 1938, is polluted because of a toxic chemical used in the product’s manufacturing. The lawsuit claimed DuPont dumped over 100 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the water and ground since the plant opened in 1892. Toxins from these products, which generated billions of dollars in sales for DuPont, impacted residents as far as two miles away from the plant. Hazardous substances including mercury, benzene and ethyl chloride were all used at the plant. DuPont settled that class action suit for $8.3 million.

 

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A school shooting in Kentucky at Marshall County High School on Tuesday morning, left 18 students injured and two dead.  Prosecutors say the suspect, a 15 year old student at the school, opened fire in the common area.  The victims are Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both 15 years old. Another 14 victims were shot, while four others were injured as they tried to flee the chaotic scene.  Five students are still hospitalized in critical condition.  All of the victims were aged between 14 and 18.

The suspected shooter barged into the school’s common area around 8 a.m., unleashing a hail of bullets that killed Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope.  Secret Holt, who received a phone call from her daughter before she died, said, “All I could hear was voices and chaos in the background and she couldn’t say anything.”  “I called her name over and over and she never responded, so we rushed to the high school.”  After the shooting, buses took surviving students to another school, where parents waited. Secret and Jasen Holt waited for their daughter Bailey to walk off one of the buses but she never did.  They were later told Bailey Holt died at the scene.

Brian Cope said he knew his son Preston was shot when he arrived at the school.  He peered into an ambulance and saw the socks he laid out for his son the night before.  Preston Cope, who was shot in the head and hand was airlifted to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, died during the flight en route to the hospital.

Gage Smock, Bailey’s boyfriend- was also shot in the head but is in stable condition. His father, Gary Wayne Smock, fought back tears as he told reporters that he’s been able to speak with his son but there’s no word from doctors on when the boy will be released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  No other victims have been identified to the media so far.

The suspect appeared to fire his handgun at random, prosecutors said. Students tried to break down fences and gates to escape the building as shots rang out.  Authorities have not identified the shooter because he is a juvenile but he has been identified as Gabe Parker, the son of an online newspaper editor.  When Parker’s mother, Mary Garrison Minyard, heard gunfire had broken out at school, she rushed to the scene only to learn the suspected shooter was her own son.  The suspect appeared in front of a judge at the Marshall County Judicial Center in Benton, less than five miles from the crime scene.  He has been charged with two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault, according to Marshall County assistant attorney Jason Darnall, who is prosecuting the case.  Darnall told reporters that his office would move to have the 15-year-old tried as an adult.

A joint visitation for Preston Ryan Cope, 15 and Bailey Nicole Holt, also 15, will be held 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Reed Conder Memorial Gymnasium at Marshall County High School.

 

 

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Alaskans were left panicked after they were jolted awake overnight Tuesday by a powerful earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska – then by sirens that warned of a possible tsunami.  A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck at 12:32 a.m. off the Alaska coast. The quake itself was far enough away not to cause major damage but occurred in an area that triggered a potential tsunami.

Evacuation sirens blared “Attention, a tsunami warning has been issued for this area,” officials warned over loudspeakers.  “The National Weather Service’s Tsunami Warning Center has advised that widespread hazardous tsunami waves are possible.”  That warning covered not only most of coastal Alaska, but also the entire coast of British Columbia. Tsunami watches were posted from Washington state to California — and even Hawaii and as far away as American Samoa.

Within minutes, the roads in the seaside town of Kodiak, Alaska, were filled cars heading to higher ground.  Residents of Kodiak were asked by police to move at least 100 feet above ground as a precaution.  For two hours, many braced for the worst but by 4 a.m. — less than four hours after the quake hit — all warnings were lifted. The only tsunami was an 8-inch wave in Kodiak.

Around 4 a.m. local time, officials canceled tsunami warnings for coastal areas of South Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. Warnings were also called off for Hawaii and the Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and California coasts.  Tsunami warnings were later canceled in other parts of South Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula, specifically the coastal areas from Hinchinbrook Island, about 90 miles east of Seward, to Chignik, Alaska.

The US Geological Survey (USGA) said the earthquake was located in an area south of where the Pacific tectonic plate converges with the North America plate and at a depth of about 12 miles.  Research geophysicist for USGA Will Yeck said the quake occurred on a fault within the Pacific plate that had not been previously charted and the area that ruptured is approximately 140-by-30 miles.  Yeck said there have been at least 30 aftershocks from the initial quake, the largest being a magnitude 5.3.

From Indonesia, to Japan, to Hawaii and Alaska, the entire region sits in what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire – an extremely volatile chain of active volcanoes, tectonic plates and earthquake zones. Most of the world’s earthquakes happen in this region.  That’s the same spot which saw the second largest earthquake ever recorded: A 9.2 magnitude in March 1964 that caused widespread destruction and death in Alaska.  That earthquake occurred over an area measuring 155 miles wide by 500 miles long. The epicenter was about 12 miles north of Prince William Sound, and 75 miles from Anchorage, the state’s largest city.

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A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with operating a large-scale drug trafficking scheme.  Deputy Kenneth Collins and three other men were arrested by FBI agents in a sting operation when they arrived to what they thought was a drug deal, according to records unsealed after the arrest.

Court documents outlining the case show that Collins, 50, has been under investigation for months. He was recorded by agents discussing “his extensive drug trafficking network, past criminal conduct, and willingness to accept bribes to use his law enforcement status for criminal purposes,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Last year, an undercover agent met with Collins while posing as the relative of a wealthy investor looking to finance an illegal marijuana grow house.  Collins offered to provide security and said he had three teams already working in the region, including one that was protecting an illegal marijuana grow house disguised as an auto repair shop, according to the complaint.

At a second meeting, Collins showed off his sheriff’s badge and lifted his shirt to show a gun in his waistband, the complaint said.  He later said that he could provide teams of security made up of cops who “travel … with guns”.  Collins sold about 2 pounds of marijuana to the agent for $6,000 as a “test run” to demonstrate his ability to arrange and carry out deals, federal authorities allege. The deputy said he had connections to marijuana operations in Northern California and could sell the agent $4 million of marijuana each month, according to the court records.

Undercover agents hired Collins to provide security while they drove several pounds of methamphetamine and other contraband from Pasadena to Las Vegas, the court records said.  On the drive to Las Vegas, one of the other men charged in the case, David Easter, drove a lookout car while another, Grant Valencia, rode with the undercover agent in the vehicle with the drugs, according to court records. Collins rode in a third car keeping watch from behind.

In the complaint, agents said that Collins, Easter and Valencia had agreed to provide security for a large drug transaction at an events venue in Pasadena in exchange for $250,000.  Collins and his team were p to help oversee the transport of a large cache of drugs and cash.  Collins said he had a team of six men, including three other law enforcement officers, who could ensure the cargo made it to its destination “untouched, unscathed,” the document says.

According to court documents, after a Dec. 11th meeting to plan the transport, Collins called another L.A. County sheriff’s deputy to discuss the deal, according to the complaint. Thom Mrozek, a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman, said that the investigation is continuing but that no other law enforcement officers had been implicated so far.

 

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing recently on the series of bizarre, unexplained health problems suffered by U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Officials originally said the health problems were caused by a likely “sonic attack” however a new FBI report says there’s no evidence of sonic waves being used in an attack in Havana. At the Senate committee hearing, officials suggested the unexplained health problems might have been caused by an intentionally deployed virus. The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the alleged attack and says it’s helping to investigate the incidents.

U.S. experts are still investigation what was behind the mysterious illnesses that began occurring in late 2016.  They have seen no evidence it was an episode of mass hysteria among the 24 affected U.S. personnel and family members, a senior State Department medical officer told a Senate hearing.  State Department officials testified that it was “incomprehensible” Cuba’s Communist government would not have been aware of what happened or who was responsible, though they stopped short of assigning direct blame to Havana.

Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director at the State Department, said that as well as the possibility of an acoustic or sonic attack, U.S investigators were considering whether people might have been deliberately exposed to a virus but he did not offer details or evidence of that.  “I do know other type of attacks are being considered in a connection with this,” he said. “There’s viral, there is ultrasound, there’s a range of things that the technical experts are looking at.”

Some experts have argued that an acoustic attack seems implausible, given that it likely would have caused an extremely loud noise in the area, which was not the case.  Lawmakers asked whether rogue elements of the Cuban government or security services or a third party such as Russia might have been involved. The State Department officials said they could not address or speculate on such matters in a public hearing.

The United States pulled out more than half of its personnel out of Havana in September and U.S. officials say the government will not send staff back to the U.S. Embassy in Havana yet.  Canada has said several Canadians reported symptoms similar to the U.S. diplomats but it has not publicly ordered any evacuation of embassy staff in Havana.  Symptoms suffered by the diplomats have included hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, headaches and fatigue, a pattern consistent with “mild traumatic brain injury,” said Charles Rosenfarb, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services.

Medical testing revealed that both the US and Canadian embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts in the brain.  These regions act like information highways between brain cells letting different parts of the brain communicate.   Doctors still don’t know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how exactly those changes might relate to their symptoms.

 

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Two men have been arrested in the grisly murders of a same-sex couple and two children in Troy, New York.  James White, 38, and Justin Mann, 24 have been charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder.  The victims were 36-year-old Shanta Myers, her partner 22-year-old Brandi Mell and Myers’ two children, Jeremiah, 11, and Shanise, five.  Myers’ oldest son, 15-year-old Isaiah, was not home at the time of the murders.

Their bodies were discovered in their basement apartment around noon on Dec. 26th by the property manager while doing a well-being check.  According to family members, the Myers family moved in with Brandi Mells following an eviction earlier this year but because of apartment’s small size, Isaiah stayed with a relative.

Mells’ cousin, Sharonda Bennett said she last spoke to Brandi on Dec. 19 to discussed holiday plans  The couple were deciding between celebrating in Troy or in Paterson, New Jersey, where the Mells family lives, she said.  She said that the couple became unreachable around 11 p.m. on Dec. 21st, after Mell’s mother couldn’t reach her by phone and no one answered at the apartment.   Bennett said her calls to Brandi went straight to voicemail and she assumed maybe they had decided to spend Christmas in New Jersey.

Two days later, Isaiah stopped by to deliver Christmas presents to his siblings but no one answered the door, which was locked.   He left for a basketball tournament, thinking they’d stepped out for a bit.  After still not being able to reach them the day after Christmas, Mells’ mom called the property manager and asked the manager to see if her daughter was home.  The manager found the bodies and immediately called cops.

The motives of these murders have not been revealed but Troy Police Chief James Tedesco said these victims were targeted and confirmed that the victims were killed late in the evening of Dec 21st.  He called the slayings the worst “savagery” he’d ever seen in his 42-year career.  Police did not detail how they caught the suspects, and a family member of one of the victims said that she had never heard of the men and knew no reason why the women and children would be targeted.

Police have said Justin Mann was “acquainted” with Brandi Mells.  He said that both suspects have a criminal history and that Justin Mann was on parole.   Department of Corrections records show Mann was released on parole in June 2017 after serving time for a first-degree robbery conviction in 2014. Both men, from nearby Schenectady, were apprehended without incident Friday night and arraigned Saturday.   Both are being held without bail in the Rensselaer County Jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 4th.

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Disney is set to buy a major part of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion.  Both sides have  said it will likely take 12 to 18 months to complete.  They will still have to sell the deal to government regulators, who must review the merger to determine its effects on competitors and consumers.   That task will likely fall to the Justice Department, which weeks ago took the rare step of suing companies in a different blockbuster deal: AT&T’s bid for Time Warner.

Members of Congress have already stated that they want to hold hearings on Disney’s billion dollar bid to buy 21st Century Fox.  Key voices on competition and consumer protection fear the deal will only solidify Disney’s dominance in entertainment — granting it too many major box-office franchises and too much power over regional sports networks and streaming video services.  Lawmakers don’t actually have a say in major mergers but they tend to scrutinize them anyways since the Department of Justice investigations happen outside of public view.  Hearings-sometimes featuring testimony from major chief executives — can ultimately shape public opinion about the companies’ plans.

If the deal goes through, Disney will own the rights to everything from the Avatar movies to FX’s The Americans.  They will also own the film rights to the Marvel comics characters associated with the X-Men and Fantastic Four, which Marvel sold off to Fox long before either was a Disney subsidiary.  Federal Communications Commission regulations state that no one company can own more than one broadcast network and since Disney already owns ABC, Fox broadcast network was off the table.

Fox, will maintain the rights to Fox News, Fox Sports 1, the Fox broadcast network and the Fox studio lot in Los Angeles.  Fox broadcast network is home to everything from The Simpsons to New Girl to The X-Files. The network launched in 1986 and by the mid-’90s, it was a mainstay in most American homes, competing with ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The massive deal would consolidate two of the biggest players in Hollywood and would reshape the media and entertainment industries.  Disney will also get Fox’s 30 percent share of ownership of Hulu in this deal.  Disney already owns a 30 percent share so Fox’s share will now make Disney the majority shareholder in Hulu.  NBC still owns a 30 percent stake and Warner Bros. owns the remaining 10 percent.

Disney already announced plans for its own streaming business in 2019, which will feature films from Disney and Pixar, content that specifically won’t be available on Netflix.  Hulu already has 12 million subscribers so it remains to be seen whether Disney will piggyback their own streaming business with Hulu or just convert Hulu into Disney’s streaming service.  Disney’s Marvel and Lucas film franchise will still appear on Netflix as part of a multiyear agreement, but that runs out in a few years and will almost certainly be exclusive to their own streaming service.

 

 

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The Pentagon says the U.S. military plans to accept openly transgender recruits on January 1, 2018—despite President Trump’s announcement earlier this year of a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. In October, a Washington, D.C., district judge blocked Trump’s order from taking effect.   The Justice Department is now trying to delay the acceptance of transgender recruits.  The Pentagon’s announcement came just days after the Trump administration asked a federal judge to temporarily put on hold a portion of the October U.S. District Court ruling that required the military to begin accepting transgender troops on Jan. 1.

The Pentagon announced that it would enforce the Jan. 1 court-imposed deadline for processing transgender military applicants as the Department of Justice appeals the ruling.  Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, though difficult, for them to join the armed services.

Under the new guidelines, the Pentagon can disqualify potential military recruits who have a history of gender dysphoria or of medical treatments associated with gender transition, as well as those who underwent reconstruction surgery.  Those recruits can be allowed to serve if a licensed medical provider certifies they have been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months and are free of “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”  Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months.

The administration has filed an appeal to the decision, which blocked Trump’s policy and set the January enlistment date, to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.  In a recent motion, officials argued that the federal government would be “seriously and irreparably harmed if forced” to implement the requirement to accept transgender recruits by next month.  A Washington state federal court ruled against the president’s proposed ban, marking the third to do so.

The Department of Defense has stated that current transgender service members would be treated with respect as the Pentagon worked through the policy shift — which came one month after U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis gave military chiefs another six months to review whether allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the military would affect the force’s “readiness or lethality.”

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members, allowing them to serve openly in the military. He said that within 12 months — or by July 2017 — transgender people also would be able to enlist.  Lat July, President Trump tweeted that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. military.” In August, the president reversed the Obama directive to allow transgender individuals to serve in the armed forces, directing the Pentagon to renew the ban. He gave the department six months to determine what to do about those currently serving.

That decision was quickly challenged in court, and two U.S. district court judges ruled against the ban.  District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her decision that transgender members of the military who had sued over the change were likely to win their lawsuit, and she barred the Trump administration from reversing course. Part of one ruling required the government to allow transgender individuals to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

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An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the storm’s “official” death toll of 62.   The government allowed 911 bodies to be cremated without being physically examined by a government medical officer to determine if they should be included in the official death toll from the storm.  Each cause of death was listed as being of “natural causes.”

The revelation of the new data also coincides with accounts from relatives’ reports of victims that point to problems with essential health services such as dialysis, ventilators, oxygen, and other critical circumstances caused by the lack of electricity in homes and hospitals throughout Puerto Rico.

The majority of the deaths were men and women over 50 who died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. When compared to the same time period from 2016, there was a significant increase in deaths, especially in hospitals and nursing homes.

Some have said they considered heart attacks and people who died of lack of oxygen because of lack of power as hurricane-related deaths, while others said they considered those “natural causes.”  Accurate information about the death toll is important because it allows victims’ families to claim federal relief aid.  It has also been used as a measure of how effective relief efforts have been.  The official death toll likely fails to take account of all those who died as a result of the deadly hurricane.

Demographer José A. López, the only person at the registry in charge of analyzing this data, has said that the increase in deaths in the first two post-Maria months is significant and the government’s inability to link more deaths to the hurricane shows that the current process of documenting causes of death in a disaster is not working and must be reformed.  López and the Department of Health appeared before Puerto Rico’s Senate to request that a dialogue begin about the issue and that they lead to changing the system.

Currently, linking a death to a disaster depends almost exclusively on a physician making an annotation related to the hurricane in the death certificate and listing the clinical cause of death, but both doctors and hospitals maintain that their responsibility and knowledge are strictly tied to the clinical cause of death.  In most cases, the doctor who certifies the death may not be the same doctor who was in charge of the patient.   Because of this, most death certificates do not include additional information about the other circumstances that could lead to death — such as the stress caused by an emergency; lack of power, transportation services or medications; lack of access to health services; changes in diet; and increases in ambient temperatures, among others.