Tag Archive: healthinsurance4everyone


 

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An Arizona jury has found Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter for shooting and killing 16-year-old José Elena Rodríguez through the U.S.-Mexico border fence in 2012.  The jury hung on whether to bring a charge of voluntary manslaughter, leaving it unclear whether prosecutors would seek to try Swartz a third time. A previous jury acquitted Swartz on murder charges but deadlocked on lesser manslaughter charges.

Authorities claimed José Elena Rodríguez was throwing rocks at agents over the border fence before Swartz opened fire.  Medical examiners say José was shot 11 times with all but one of the bullets striking from behind, leading them to conclude the teen was shot in the back as he lay on the ground.  An autopsy revealed that gunshot wounds to the head, lungs, and arteries killed him.

The incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday 10 October, 2012.  Nogales police received a call reporting “suspicious activity” on International Street, a road running directly along the border.  Officers on scene were investigating a report that two men carrying “bundles taped to their backs” had climbed the fence into the United States.  Identifying the bundles, on the basis of similar incidents in the past, as most probably containing marijuana, they called for back-up.  After several Border Patrol and Customs agents arrived, they saw the two men scaling the fence back into Mexico, empty-handed and with nothing on their backs. They commanded the two men to climb back down.  Officers reported seeing “rocks flying through the air” at the agents and also heard “gunfire,” although they were unable to identify its source.

After verbal commands from agents to cease throwing rocks were ignored, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz then discharged his service weapon.  Swartz fired 16 rounds, hitting Rodríguez 11 times.  Rodríguez was unarmed, standing on the Mexican side of the border on a sidewalk on Calle International street, in front of a doctor’s office.  U.S. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Ray Swartz was charged with second degree murder for the killing.  Border Patrol agents are rarely criminally charged for using force but the killing sparked outrage on both sides of the border and came as the agency was increasingly scrutinized for its use of force.

Prosecutors said Swartz was frustrated over repeated encounters with people on the Mexico side of the border fence who throw rocks at agents to distract them from smugglers. They say he lost his cool when he fatally shot Rodriguez. Prosecutors acknowledge that the teen was throwing rocks at the agents but that wasn’t justification for taking his life.  A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said prosecutors haven’t decided whether to try Swartz again on the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Swartz still faces a civil rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the teen’s mother.  Attorneys for Rodriguez’s mother filed the suit in federal district court in Tucson, seeking civil damages against the agents involved in what their lawsuit terms the “senseless and unjustified” death.  The suit alleges that in shooting and killing the teenager, agents “used unreasonable and excessive force” in violation of Jose Antonio’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and that their actions were not legally justifiable or necessary. The suit doesn’t specify an amount sought in damages.

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This year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 116 cases of a rare polio-like disease, Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).  An additional 170 possible cases of AFM are still under investigation.  The condition, which mostly affects children, causes muscles and reflexes to weaken and in some cases become paralyzed.  Most of the children with confirmed cases experienced a viral illness with symptoms including fever and cough about three to 10 days before the onset of paralysis.  It is recommended to see a doctor right away if you or your child notice a sudden weakness or loss in muscle tone, especially in the arms or legs.  Symptoms may also include a drooping face or eyelids, trouble with eye movement or swallowing, slurred speech, and in severe cases trouble breathing requiring a ventilator.

The FDA has launched a task force to further investigate and combat the spread of the illness.  Since 2014, there have been 440 confirmed cases of AFM.  More than 95% of the patients with AFM this year have been children younger than age 18 with the average age of those infected being 5 years old.  The CDC released the information to help parents identify what symptoms to look out for.  While there is no known cure, children who are diagnosed earlier on have been able to gain at least some movement with intense physical therapy.  Officials say that parents can try to prevent the disease by making their kids regularly wash their hands, keep them up to date on their vaccinations and spray them with insect repellent when they go outdoors to prevent mosquito bites.

Medical experts still don’t know much about the rare disease, which strikes just one in 1 million Americans. It’s believed that viruses like polio, West Nile, and various enteroviruses (which cause the common cold) may be linked to AFM.  The children involved in this outbreak have tested negative for polio and West Nile.  Medical experts who have been treating patients with AFM in the latest outbreak say they believe a virus called EV-D68 may be responsible for the recent uptick in cases.

According to the CDC, the patients with confirmed AFM are in 31 states.  The two states with the most confirmed cases are Colorado with 15 cases and Texas with 14 confirmed cases.  Washington, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania each have 8 confirmed cases.  Illinois has 7 confirmed cases while New Jersey and Wisconsin each have 6 confirmed cases.  Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and Arkansas each reported 3 cases.  South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, New York and Massachusetts each have 2 confirmed cases.  Rhode Island, Virginia, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana each have 1 confirmed case.

Nineteen states have no confirmed cases.  The CDC has encouraged doctors to report cases although there is no requirement to do so.  It is not clear whether there is more of a risk of AFM in states that have a higher number of cases or if those states are just better at identifying and reporting patients.

 

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In Chicago, a gunman shot and killed three people at Mercy Hospital. The victims include a doctor, a police officer and a pharmacy technician. The gunman, identified as Juan Lopez, 32, was also killed at the scene by police gunfire.  Police say the shooting was a domestic violence incident and the shooter was in a previous relationship with the first victim.  The victims were identified as Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38, an emergency room physician, pharmacy resident Dayna Less, 25, a recent graduate of Purdue University and Police Officer Samuel Jimenez.

Police say that at around 3:30 p.m. Monday, the gunman approached ex-fiancé Dr. Tamara O’Neal in the hospital parking lot.  As they started arguing, a friend of O’Neal attempted to intervene.  The gunman lifted his shirt and revealed a handgun, prompting the friend to flee.  O’Neal called 911 and reported the gun, bringing Chicago police to the scene. Police say two additional 911 calls in rapid succession reported an assault and then gunshots.  Lopez shot Dr. O’Neal in the parking lot and then he ran inside the hospital.  Lopez shot at two women getting off an elevator, killing pharmacy resident Dayna Less.

He then went back outside, fired at squad cars that were shielding Dr. O’Neal’s body.  Lopez then headed back inside and officers followed him inside.  Lopez exchanged gunfire with police and was struck twice in the shootout.  Officer Samuel Jimenez was also fatally wounded during that exchange.

Dr. O’Neal was rushed to the University Of Chicago Hospital where friends and colleagues were waiting on the shooting victims, unaware that she was one of them.  Friends said they were unaware of Juan Lopez’s troubled history when the two met a little over a year ago.   As recently as September, Lopez and O’Neal were engaged but O’Neal had broken it off just weeks before she was to exchange vows with Lopez, said her aunt, Vickie O’Neal.  O’Neal’s family members said it was unclear why the engagement was called off but they never could have imagined that the relationship would come to such a violent end.

Police say Lopez had a history of threatening domestic violence and in 2014, a judge granted a restraining order against him for his ex-wife.  Court records show Lopez’s ex-wife accused him of sleeping with a gun under his pillow, brandishing a weapon against a realtor and again against a neighbor.  She also said he began threatening to show up at her workplace and cause trouble. In the 2015 divorce filing, De Asa accused her husband of “constant infidelity and abuse.”  Lopez also had ongoing child support issues according to court records. Documents state that he had a difficult time keeping a job and refused to inform De Asa where he was working or living.  Lopez was currently enrolled as graduate student at DePaul University seeking a master’s degree in public service, after earning a bachelor’s degree in 2013.

The Chicago Fire Department released the personnel file of Juan Lopez.  The summary of the report says that four years ago he was terminated less than 2 months after being hired by the Chicago Firefighter Academy.  The general consensus was that Lopez was disliked.  Of the 11 female trainees interviewed by the CFD investigator, 10 had “negative remarks” about Lopez, and four “had some sort of incident” with him. All nine male trainees interviewed agreed Lopez “was a bad candidate with a bad attitude.”

 

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Prosecutors in Connecticut and New York are considering charges of fraud and racketeering against the billionaire Sackler family, whose company Purdue Pharma produces the prescription painkiller OxyContin.  Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Purdue executives knew OxyContin was highly addictive as early as 1996, the first year after the drug hit the market, but still promoted it as less addictive than other opioids.  Many feel that Purdue Pharma planted the seeds of the opioid epidemic through its aggressive marketing of OxyContin.  The pharmaceutical giant has long claimed it was unaware of the powerful opioid painkiller’s growing abuse until years after it went on the market.

A copy of a confidential Justice Department report uncovered that federal prosecutors investigating the company found that Purdue Pharma knew about “significant” abuse of OxyContin in the first years after the drug’s introduction in 1996 and concealed that information.  Company officials had received reports that the pills were being crushed and snorted; stolen from pharmacies; and that some doctors were being charged with selling prescriptions.  In 2006, 10 years after the drug was first put on the market- federal prosecutors wrote that the drug maker continued “in the face of this knowledge” to market OxyContin as less prone to abuse and addiction than other prescription opioids.

Prosecutors found that the company’s sales representatives used the words “street value,” “crush,” or “snort” in 117 internal notes recording their visits to doctors or other medical professionals from 1997 through 1999.  The investigation cited emails showing that Purdue Pharma’s owners, Richard Sackler and founders Raymond and Mortimer Sackler, were sent reports about abuse of OxyContin and another company opioid, MS Contin.  Purdue Pharma’s general counsel, Howard R. Udell, wrote in an email in early 1999 to another company official “We have in fact picked up references to abuse of our opioid products on the internet.”  That same year, company officials learned that OxyContin was being described as “the hottest thing on the street — forget Vicodin” according to emails.  Just a year after that email exchange, Udell and other company executives testified in Congress and elsewhere that the drug maker did not learn about OxyContin’s growing abuse until early 2000, when the United States attorney in Maine issued an alert. The company still maintains that position despite evidence to the contrary.  After a four-year investigation, the prosecutors recommended that three top Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, which could have sent the men to prison if convicted.

Instead, top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not support the move and the government settled the case in 2007.  Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to a felony charge of “misbranding” OxyContin while marketing the drug by misrepresenting, among other things, its risk of addiction and potential to be abused. Three executives; Michael Friedman, Dr. Paul D. Goldenheim and Howard Udell, each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor “misbranding” charge that solely held them liable as Purdue Pharma’s “responsible” executives and did not accuse them of wrongdoing. The company and the executives paid a combined $634.5 million in fines and the men were required to perform community service.

Over the past two decades, more than 200,000 people have died in the US from overdoses involving prescription opioids and the epidemic was declared a Public Health Emergency in 2017.  While the Justice Department may hail the settlement as a victory, many feel the decision not to bring more serious charges and air the evidence prosecutors had gathered meant that a critical chance to slow the trajectory of the opioid epidemic was lost.

 

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Famed comic book writer Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of some of Marvel’s most well-known and beloved characters, died at the age of 95 on November 12th in Los Angeles.  Lee died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after being rushed there in a medical emergency earlier in the day.  Earlier this year, Lee revealed to the public that he had been battling pneumonia and in February was rushed to the hospital for worsening conditions at around the same time.  Lee was predeceased by his wife 0f 69 years Joan, who passed away in July 2017 at the age of 95.  He leaves behind two daughters, Joan Ceclia and Jan Lee.

Lee has been credited with helping to propel Marvel Comics to the world’s top publisher of comics.  Lee became an assistant in 1939 at the new Timely Comics division of pulp magazine and comic-book publisher Martin Goodman’s company. By the 1960’s, Timely Comics evolved into Marvel Comics and Lee rose through the ranks of a family-run business to become Marvel Comics’ primary creative leader for two decades.  He is credited with leading its expansion from a small division of a publishing house to a multimedia corporation that dominated the comics industry.

Lee became a figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics, making appearances at comic book conventions around America, lecturing at colleges and participating in panel discussions. He served as editor-in-chief and later publisher for Marvel and created or co-created the widely popular characters Black Panther, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man.  Following his retirement from Marvel in the 1990s, he remained a public figurehead for the company, and frequently made cameo appearances in movies based on Marvel characters, on which he received an honorary “executive producer” credit.

In April 2018, The Hollywood Reporter published a report claiming Lee was a victim of elder abuse.  The report alleged that Keya Morgan, business manager of Lee and a memorabilia collector, had been isolating Lee from his trusted friends and associates following his wife’s death.  The report alleges she was attempting to get access to Lee’s wealth, an estimated $50 million.  In August 2018, Morgan was issued a restraining order to stay away from Lee, his daughter, or his associates for three years.

He continued independent creative ventures until his death.  Roy Thomas, who succeeded Lee as editor-in-chief at Marvel, had visited Lee two days prior to his death to discuss the upcoming book The Stan Lee Story.  Thomas said “I think he was ready to go. But he was still talking about doing more cameos. As long as he had the energy for it and didn’t have to travel, Stan was always up to do some more cameos. He got a kick out of those more than anything else.”

 

 

 

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A 24-year-old woman is facing 3 counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of disregarding a stop sign and causing injury after the pickup truck she was driving struck and killed three siblings who were crossing the road to get to their school bus in rural Rochester, Indiana.  Six-year-old twin brothers Xzavier Ingle and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, died at the scene Tuesday morning.  The children’s classmate and neighbor, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was also hit.  He was airlifted to the hospital and remains hospitalized in critical condition.  The children were crossing State Route 25 to get to their school bus when they were hit at about 7:15 a.m. in front of the Meiser mobile home park where they lived.

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. bus had stopped on the two lane road, lowered its stop-arm and had the emergency lighting activated just before the northbound Toyota Tacoma pickup truck slammed into the children as they crossed the southbound lane.  Alyssa L. Shepherd, of Rochester, was arrested at her workplace, was charged and released on a $15,000 bond.  Shepard told an Indiana State Police detective that she saw flashing emergency lights on the rural highway but didn’t realize it was a school bus picking up the children until it was too late.  By the time she realized a bus was stopped, the children were already in front of her vehicle.  Their father rushed out of their home and identified them after police arrived to investigate, officials said.  State Police Detective Michelle Jumper testified at a probable cause hearing into charges against Alyssa Shepherd, the bus driver told investigators he saw the oncoming truck’s headlights. The bus driver stated that because the truck was far back and had plenty of time to slow, the driver waved to the children, telling them to cross.  The bus driver honked the horn when it was clear the truck wasn’t stopping.  Jumper testified that Shepherd told her she typically did not drive on the route where the crash occurred and that she had three children in the back seat of her truck when she allegedly struck and killed the three siblings.

A witness driving behind Shepherd said she and Shepherd were traveling 45 mph. The witness said the truck’s headlights illuminated the children as they were crossing the road and she said she started to freak out as she realized ‘I’m slowing down, but that truck in front of me is not slowing.”  Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash, cooperating with investigators. She was given a blood test as is standard in all fatal crashes, but police said they do not think alcohol or drugs were a factor.  Shepard who works as children’s director at Faith Outreach, a Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester then went to work to pray.

Parents who live in the mobile home park had previously asked the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation to change the bus route so the children didn’t have to cross State Route 25 to catch the bus. Parents complained that it was dangerous for children to cross a highway where vehicles routinely travel at 50 to 60 mph.  Elgin Ingle, the uncle of the children who died said “There’s plenty of room for the school bus to pull into the mobile home park and pick up these kids.  This school has been warned that this is an issue.  My brother is torn apart, he didn’t lose one kid, he lost all his kids,” Ingle said. “How do you tell your little brother it’ll get better? You can’t. My brother, the most loving man in the world and the best father I’ve ever known, now is a father to no one.”  Blaine Conley, superintendent of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, released a statement that stating that the bus stop will be relocated from State Road 25 into the mobile home park where the children lived.

 

 

 

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A Kentucky man was charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment for killing two African-American customers at a Kroger grocery store. He is being held in jail with bail set at $5 million. Police say 51-year-old Gregory Bush was captured on a surveillance camera trying to force open the doors of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown for several minutes, before turning his attention to a nearby Kroger supermarket. He was charged with killing Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, at the supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., a suburb of Louisville.

Bush allegedly walked into the Kroger, pulled a gun and shot Stallard in the back of the head, then shot him several more times. Then he went outside and killed Jones, who also died from multiple gunshot wounds.  Bush exchanged gunfire in the parking lot with an armed bystander who saw him shoot Jones.  Another armed bystander, Louisville resident Ed Harrell told reporters that as he crouched in the Kroger parking lot clutching his own revolver, the gunman walked by him and said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Prosecutors are investigating the murders as a “possible hate crime” because Bush had no known connection to either victim, or to the store, and had tried and failed to enter a nearby black church moments earlier.  Any charges related to hate crimes would be federal charges and separate from the state charges against Bush.  Officials have said they believe the crimes may fit that definition. Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as a traditional criminal offense but with an added element of bias.

Gregory Bush has a history of mental illness and of making racist slurs.  He also has a long rap sheet of misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence, for punching his father in the face and lifting his mother by her neck.   Records show he attempted suicide in 2001 and convictions for menacing and making terroristic threats.  In 2009, a judge ordered Bush to surrender his guns and undergo mental health treatment, after his parents claimed Bush threatened to shoot them in the head. Bush’s father said his son “carries a gun wherever he goes.” It’s not clear whether Bush’s guns were returned when the court order expired in 2011.

Jeffersontown residents gathered to honor the victims of the senseless shooting.  Maurice Stallard had served in the Air Force and married his high school sweetheart.  He worked in the security department of GE Appliances.  He is survived by his wife, a son and daughter and four grandchildren.

Vickie Lee Jones was a regular churchgoer and breast cancer survivor who had retired from a veteran’s administration hospital to help care for her ailing mother.   She is survived by her mother, four children, 11 grandchildren and 5 siblings.

 

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Federal authorities have made an arrest in the pipe bomb mailings four days after the investigation began.  Cesar Sayoc, a 56 year old DJ and former stripper, is accused of sending 13 pipe bombs through the mail to a range of Democrats and critics of the president.  Authorities say Sayoc left a trail of forensic and digital evidence behind that authorities used to track him down and arrest him.  Prosecutors charged Sayoc with five federal crimes and he faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Sayoc, who has a long criminal history, was arrested in Florida after investigators linking DNA found on two bomb packages to a sample that was previously collected by the state of Florida.  They also matched his fingerprints to one from a separate pipe bomb mailing he sent.  Authorities say  he had previously filed for bankruptcy and appeared to be living in his van, showering on the beach or at a local fitness center.

Authorities launched an investigation after packages containing homemade pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats.  The packages were sent to Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Soros, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Congress member Maxine Waters and former CIA Director John Brennan.  Investigators say the devices may have originated in southern Florida and were sent through the U.S. Postal Service. The 10 packages being examined had a return address for Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and on some of the packages, her last name was misspelled.

CNN had to evacuate its New York office in Manhattan after it received what police described as a “live explosive device.”  The package was delivered by courier to CNN’s offices at the Time Warner Center in New York and was addressed to the former CIA director John Brennan.  The package also contained an envelope containing white powder.   Police are also investigating a suspicious package found early this morning that was mailed to actor Robert De Niro’s restaurant in New York. De Niro has frequently publicly criticized the president.  Two additional packages were intercepted Thursday, headed for former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware.  Authorities discovered the two packages at post offices in Delaware addressed to the former vice president.  At least one of them had been misaddressed and returned to sender.  No one was hurt in any of the cases.

Authorities say the devices sent to Soros, Brennan and the Democratic officials appeared to be pipe bombs that were rudimentary but functional.  All the explosive devices had similar construction, had timer devices and at least one contained projectiles, including shards of glass.  Sources say the bombs were unstable and could have been set off by handling.  The FBI said all the packages were in manila envelopes with bubble-wrap interior and had six American flag Forever stamps on the envelopes.

Investigators are analyzing the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply cause fear before the Midterm Election.  Law enforcement officials said that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged to explode upon opening. They are uncertain whether the devices were just poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.

 

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A 14-year-long oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico is set to become one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history. The leak is releasing between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day off the coast of Louisiana.  The spill started in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan battered the area resulting in a mudslide that sank an oil production platform.  The platform is owned by Taylor Energy and the oil wells have not been capped and continue to spill into the Gulf.

Taylor Energy kept the spill a secret for six years until environmental groups discovered it while monitoring the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill just a few miles away.  In 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that 16,000 gallons were flowing from the well into the surrounding water each day.  Just last month, the Department of Justice submitted an independent study that claims previous evaluations of the damage, submitted by the platform’s owner Taylor Energy Co. and compiled by the US Coast Guard, significantly underestimated the amount of oil being leaked.  The study gave a new estimate of between 10,000 and 30,000 gallons of oil leaking from wells around the platform each day.

In the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 176 million gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf, contaminating 1,300 miles of shoreline and killed thousands of marine mammals and contaminated their habitats.  The spill lasted 87 days and a range of protected species were exposed to oil during the spill.  If the estimates of the Taylor Energy spill are correct then between 81 and 153 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over the last 14 years.  With no plan to stop the flow of oil, the Taylor Energy spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever offshore oil spill in US history.

Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008.  In 2015, Taylor Energy settled a lawsuit with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).  A complaint filed in relation to the suit, Taylor Energy claimed the sheen at the site of the Taylor spill was “residual” and “there is no evidence to suggest” an ongoing leak. The company also claimed it had been fully compliant with US Coast Guard regulations regarding the spill.

The Taylor Energy oil spill has been well-known to people in the area for years but has never maintained national conversation because it isn’t as “in your face” as the Deepwater Horizon spill.  This leak has managed to fall through the cracks for over a decade and is set to potentially become the worst leak in US history because its effects are not immediately seen and because of flawed estimates when it was discovered.  Companies responsible for significant spills report them to the National Response Center operated by the Coast Guard.  Mandatory reports from the company are then submitted containing regular aerial measurements showing the iridescent sheen on the water that appears to the naked eye.  Estimates of spills are calculated by calculating those measurements with the estimated minimum thickness the oil needs to be to cast such a sheen.

The initial estimates when the leak was discovered in 2010 are based on the reporting from Taylor Energy.  The Department of Justice findings are based on estimates of satellite imagery.  Some of the resulting measurements of the oil leakage were 17 times larger than Taylor Energy’s initial estimates.  The numbers show the volume of the spill is much higher but the environmental impact remains unknown.  There hasn’t been enough public or political pressure for research to figure out the damage of a long-term, chronic leak.

NY Limo Crash Leaves 20 Dead

 

 

 

 

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On October 6th, a deadly limo crash in upstate New York killed 20 people, making it the deadliest transportation accident in the U.S. since 2009.  The crash occurred just before 2pm on Saturday in the town of Schoharie, about 25 miles west of Albany.  All 18 people inside the limo, including the driver and 2 pedestrians were killed.

The limousine, a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran a stop sign and crossed the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A, traveling at about 50 mph. The limo struck an unoccupied Toyota Highlander in a parking lot of a local country store, which then hit and killed the two pedestrians.  The limo then barreled through the parking lot before landing in a shallow ravine beyond the road.

The occupants, a group of 17 family and friends, had just set out to celebrate one of the victims, Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday and were headed to a brewery in Cooperstown.  Among the dead were Amy Steenburg and her husband of four months Axel Steenburg, and her brother-in-law Rich Steenburg who is survived by a 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson.  Amy’s three sisters and two of their husbands were also killed in the limo crash.  Mary Dyson, 33, one of Amy’s sisters, along with her husband, Rob Dyson, 34.  Amy’s sister Abigail Jackson, 34, and her husband Adam Jackson, 34, left behind two daughters, Archer and Elle, ages 4 and 1.  Amy’s other sister Allison King, 31, was also killed.

Also in the group were newlyweds Erin McGowan, 34 and Shane McGowan, 30; Amanda Halse, 26, and her boyfriend Patrick Cushing, Amanda Rivenburg, Rachael Cavosie, Michael Ukaj, a marine who served in Iraq and Matthew Coons and girlfriend Savannah Bursese.  The limo driver, Scott Lisinicchia, 53 and two pedestrians; 46-year-old assistant professor Brian Hough and his 71 year old father-in-law James Schnurr were also killed.  Hough and Schnurr were standing in the store parking lot talking when they were killed.

The limo involved in the crash, which was owned by Prestige Limousine, had failed a Sept. 4 safety inspection in part due to an Anti-lock braking system (ABS) malfunction indicators for the hydraulic brake system.  The driver, Scott Lisincchia also did not have the appropriate driver’s license required to drive a vehicle that can hold more than 15 people.  Joseph Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “The assertion that the limousine was cleared to be on the road following the September inspection is categorically false.  The vehicle was subject to inspections and the owner was warned not to operate the vehicle; the vehicle was placed out of service.”

Just days after the deadly crash, the operator of the limo company, Nauman Hussain, 28, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.  Hussain’s car was packed with luggage when he was stopped Wednesday on a highway near Albany.  Police say he was charged because he put a defective vehicle back on the road and hired a driver whom he knew was not properly licensed to drive the vehicle.  Hussain pled not guilty was released after posting $150,000 bond that same day.

Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client only handled marketing duties and phone calls, while his father, Shahed Hussain, is the owner of Prestige Limousine, and the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of the limo company.  Shahed Hussain is currently in Pakistan.  Police say Nauman Hussain is the one who put the vehicle back on the road despite it failing inspections and hired the driver who did not have proper licensing to operate the vehicle.