Tag Archive: healthinsuranceforeveryone


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Louisiana investigators say confessed serial killer Samuel Little from Lorain, may be linked to two more unidentified cold case victims in the state.  Little has drawn haunting portraits from memory of women the FBI believes he murdered.  The FBI has released the pictures in hopes some of the victims can be identified.  Little, 78, says he killed 94 women from 1970 to 2005.  Police have confirmed more than 36 cases so far, a tally that puts Little among the deadliest serial killers.  He pled guilty to a Texas woman’s death in January and has been convicted in the deaths of three women from California.

Little was arrested on September 5, 2012, at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, after authorities used DNA testing to establish that he was involved in the murder of Carol Elford, killed on July 13, 1987; Guadalupe Apodaca, killed on September 3, 1987; and Audrey Nelson, killed on August 14, 1989.  All three of their bodies were found dumped in the streets of LA.  He was extradited to Los Angeles, where he was charged on January 7, 2013.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in September 2014.

Months later, police said that Little was being investigated for involvement in dozens of murders committed across 14 states between 1970 and 2005.    On November 9, 2018, Little confessed to the 1996 fatal strangulation of Melissa Thomas.  In December 2018, Little pled guilty to the 1994 murder of Denise Christie.  confessed to the 1979 murder of 23-year-old Brenda Alexander whose body was found in Phenix City.  Little also confessed to the 1977 murder of an unidentified woman and the 1982 strangling murder of 18-year-old Fredonia Smith.

According to authorities, he also confessed to the 1982 murder of 55-year-old Dorothy Richards, the 1996 murder of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire, the 1978 murder of 36-year-old Julia Critchfield, the 1978 murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Weston, the 1982 murder of 20-year-old Rosie Hill and the 2005 murder of 46-year-old Nancy Carol Stevens.  Police have linked him to the 1981 murder of 23 year old Linda Sue Boards.  He has also been linked to two murder victims who remain unidentified.

Little confessed to strangling all his victims and dumping their bodies in wooded areas. Without a gunshot or knife wound, many of the deaths were blamed on overdoses or accidents and murder investigations were never opened. The victims were often involved in prostitution or addicted to drugs and their bodies sometimes went unidentified.  According to the FBI, Little remembers his victims and the killings in great detail.   He remembers where he was and what car he was driving but is less reliable with remembering dates.

Little began making the confessions in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles County prison in which he was being held.  The FBI says Little is in very poor health and will stay in prison until his death.  He uses a wheelchair, and suffers from diabetes and a heart condition.  Little has confessed to dozens of murders and has drawn 26 portraits of some of his alleged victims.  One of his victims has been identified from the portraits so far.  Martha Cunningham of Knox County, Tennessee who was 34 years old when Little murdered her in 1975.   The agency is releasing these photos now to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases.  If you have any information that can help, call 800-634-4097.

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A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy.  Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.

They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.

The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label.  Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.

Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”

Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.  Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.

Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.

The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States.  The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

 

 

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”

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Autopsy results have been released in the case of murdered 21-year-old USC student Samantha Josephson, showing she died of “multiple sharp force injuries.” Police believe the University of South Carolina senior and aspiring lawyer was kidnapped and killed after she mistakenly got into a car she believed to be her Uber ride after leaving a bar around 2am Friday morning in Columbia, South Carolina.  The suspect, Nathaniel Rowland, was arrested Saturday and charged with murder and kidnapping.

The investigation began after friends of 21-year-old Josephson filed a missing person’s report around 1:30 p.m. Friday. They told police they were separated from her the night before in the Five Points district and had not been able to get in touch with her after she did not return to The Hub, an apartment complex on Main Street where she lived with friends.  Clarendon County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a body found in a rural area 70 miles from Columbia, around 4pm Friday. Turkey hunters found a body, later identified as Josephson, in a field near a wooded area about 40 feet off a dirt road.

Around the same time, Columbia police publicized Josephson was missing and shared details of a related vehicle.  Surveillance video shows Josephson standing near the road of a crowded street corner, on her cell phone, reportedly trying to find her Uber driver.  A black Chevrolet Impala pulls up into a parking spot next to where she’s standing and she’s seen getting into the back seat of the vehicle.  Prosecutors said 24-year-old Nathanial Rowland, who is not a driver for Uber or Lyft, activated the child locks on his car when Josephson got in, trapping her.

Rowland was arrested around 3 a.m. Saturday, after a Columbia canine officer on patrol spotted the black Chevrolet Impala that matched the description of the vehicle involved in Josephson’s disappearance, two blocks from the Five Points area.  When the officer stopped the vehicle and asked Rowland to step out of the vehicle, he fled on foot.  The officer took him into custody after a foot chase and returned to the vehicle, where a large amount of blood was discovered in the trunk of the vehicle.

Investigators would later find her cell phone, bleach, window cleaner and more blood in the vehicle. Investigators also discovered that the child locks were enabled so Josephson would have been trapped in the back seat of the car.  Police say that there was a woman in the car with Rowland at the time of his arrest, she has been described as a friend of the suspect and is co-operating with the investigation.

Arrest warrants say Josephson had “numerous wounds evident on multiple parts of her body to include her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot.”  Josephson was a senior at USC majoring in political science, according to Jeffrey Stensland, a USC spokesman from the communications department.  Josephson would have graduated this spring and had planned to start law school in the fall.

Samantha’s father, Seymour Josephson, said he would dedicate himself to improving the safety of ride-sharing services.  Her mother Marci Josephson described her daughter as bubbly, loving, kind and full of life.  In her comments to the judge she said “There are no words to describe the immense pain his actions have caused our family and friends.  He’s taken away a piece of our heart, soul and life.”  She also described Rowland’s alleged actions as senseless and vile.

Rowland has not appeared in court and the date of his bond hearing has not yet been set but he will remain in jail until then.  If convicted, Rowland could face up to life in prison or the possibility of the death penalty. Under South Carolina law, kidnapping carries up to 30 years in prison.

 

 

 

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Police in Boulder, Colorado, have launched an internal affairs investigation after video surfaced showing a police officer drawing a pistol on a black man who was picking up trash outside his own home on March 1st.  The police officer, who called other officers to the scene, is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

According to the police department, an officer observed a man sitting in a partially enclosed patio area behind a “private property” sign and asked if the man was allowed to be there.  The man said he lived and worked at the building and produced an identification card but the officer continued to question the man.    The unidentified man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence.

The 16 minute video shows the officer approaching the man, who was using a trash picker and bucket to clean up his yard.  The officer is shown talking with the man and has his hand on his hip, near his gun.  As the video continues, several other officers arrive at the scene as the man is shouting “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash. I hope that camera is on.”  The man’s roommate, who is filming, is shouting “He’s picking up trash, and you have your hand on your gun? He lives here, go home!”  The officer repeatedly tells the man to drop his weapon and both the man and his roommate respond that he does not have a weapon.

The man is shouting that he lives there, on private property and is picking up trash outside his dorm.  He refuses to sit down and tells police to get off his property before asking if they are going to shoot him, tase him or beat him up for picking up trash outside his own home.  The man holds the trash picker in the air saying “you’re calling this a weapon?” and the officer responds that it can be used as a weapon.  The man argues that it is not ok for them to harass him with their hands on their guns for picking up trash in his front yard and repeatedly tells them to leave.  His roommate who is filming comments that one of the officers is holding a shotgun.

A total of eight officers responded, including a supervisor and it was later confirmed by police that the object the man was holding was used to pick up trash.  Boulder police released a statement saying “Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the release said. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”  In a police report, the officer claimed the man was uncooperative and “unwilling to put down a blunt object”—even though the man and his roommate repeatedly identified the object as a trash picker.  The officer who drew his weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.

The video has gone viral and sparked outrage throughout the community.  During a city council meeting, Police Chief Greg Testa told the crowd: “All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated… in contrast to what was stated in the video that is on social media, body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out, and it was pointed at the ground.”

 

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The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that makeup products from two popular brands of cosmetics contain the carcinogenic substance asbestos.  FDA tests of three powdered makeup products from Claire’s, and one from the brand Justice, tested positive for asbestos, which can cause cancer.   Both retailers market their products to young girls and teens.

Asbestos is believed to cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer affecting the lining of the chest and abdomen, and is linked to an increased risk of other forms of cancer and lung disease.  The FDA released a safety alert about the products and called for more expansive authority to regulate cosmetics, saying the law about its role has not been updated since it first entered into force in 1938.  Americans spend some $60 billion a year on cosmetics, though the industry is largely unregulated.

“The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers,” it said, adding that total responsibility for the safety of these products now rests with the companies that make them.  “To be clear, there are currently no legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer marketing products to American consumers to test their products for safety,” the FDA said.   Because of the lack of regulation, the agency says that in this case, it did not have the authority to force Claire’s to pull the potentially dangerous products off store shelves.  The F.D.A. called on the industry to be more forthcoming about its safety procedures, especially in relation to how it sources and tests talc. The agency said it had used the most sensitive methods available to test 34 cosmetic products from four talc suppliers in 2010 and found no traces of asbestos.

The FDA said the Justice product, a shimmer powder, had already been recalled from the market in 2017.  Claire’s says that “out of an abundance of caution,” it has removed the three products — eye shadows, compact powder and contour powder — from stores and is also removing any remaining talc based cosmetic products (talc sometimes contains asbestos).  Claire’s disputes the test results, saying they “show significant errors” and claims its “products are safe.”  The retailer says the tests “have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos.”

Independent testers dispute Claire’s claim that these products are safe. Consumer advocacy group, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, released results last March that said its testing showed that the same three Claire’s products contained asbestos.  After the U.S. PIRG report, the Dutch government said they also found asbestos in two of Claire’s products.

Regulators are trying to keep a closer eye on companies after the New York Times and Reuters reported late last year that Johnson & Johnson had known for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its popular baby powder and other talc-based body powders, but tried to keep negative information from reaching the public. The company received subpoenas for more information last month from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

 

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The State Department has said it will not intervene in the case of a Saudi man accused of killing a 15-year-old American student in a hit-and-run in Portland, Oregon.  Twenty year old  is believed to have fled the United States back to Saudi Arabia, with the help of Saudi officials, who reportedly helped him obtain a fake passport in order to fly him out of the U.S.  An Oregonian reporter has revealed there are several similar cases of Saudi nationals accused of crimes that are suspected of receiving assistance fleeing the US by Saudi officials.

In October 2018, reporter Shane Dixon Kavanaugh received a tip from federal law enforcement about the case involving Abdulrahman Noorah, the Saudi national accused in the fatal hit and run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland, Oregon.  Noorah had lived in Portland since 2014 on a student visa living off an $1,800 monthly stipend paid for by the Saudi government.  In August 2016, he was driving with a suspended license when he struck Fallon Smart as she tried to cross at 43rd Avenue in Portland.  Witnesses told police the driver was speeding and did not attempt to stop.  Noorah was arrested the next day and charged with manslaughter, felony hit and run and reckless driving.

Noorah was considered a high flight risk and likely would have remained in custody had the Saudi government not paid the $100,000 bond set on his $1 million bail.  He was put on house arrest and ordered to wear a GPS monitoring system.  According to Kavanaugh’s report, on June 10th, Noorah received permission from his release supervisor, Deputy Kari Kolberg, to study at the community college’s Southeast 82nd Avenue campus.  That afternoon a GMC Yukon XL arrived outside the host home where he had been living and picked him up.  GPS data from Noorah’s monitor bracelet shows he never went to the campus but instead traveled east along Southeast Division Street until the SUV arrived at Portland Sand & Gravel on 106th Avenue.

It is believed that his GPS monitoring device was removed on this day but his release supervisor didn’t discover he was missing until two days later on June 12th.  Investigators later discovered a bag packed at the home.  After the U.S. launched an international manhunt for Noorah, the Saudi government reached out to the Department of Homeland Security in July and told officials Noorah returned to Saudi Arabia on June 17th, five days after the SUV at picked him up.  Federal law enforcement believes that the Saudi government helped Noorah escape prosecution and return to Saudi Arabia by getting him a fake passport and flying him out of the country on a private plane.

While investigating this case, Kavanaugh uncovered four similar cases in Oregon and more cases in other states, where young Saudi students were accused of serious crimes, from rape to possession of child photography.  Many of them were bailed out by the Saudi government and all of them have since disappeared.  After Kavanaugh’s report started receiving national attention the Saudi government released the following statement “The notion that the Saudi government actively helps citizens evade justice after they have been implicated in legal wrongdoing in the U.S. is not true,” said the statement issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. “Contrary to some media reports, Saudi diplomatic missions in the United States do not issue travel documents to citizens engaged in legal proceedings.”

 

 

 

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R & B singer R Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault on Feb 22 and his bail was set at $1M.  He posted bond on Feb 25 and plead not guilty to the charges. The charges involve four women, three of whom were under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged crimes.   The events related to his charges spanned from 1998 to 2010. Three of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 16 at the time.  The charges came soon after the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” was broadcast on Lifetime in January 2019.  Over the course of six hour-long episodes, the documentary included testimony from several women who accused the singer of abuse dating back to the 1990s, footage of parents attempting to rescue daughters they haven’t seen in years and rams home the argument that Kelly was enabled by those around him.  Two weeks after the broadcast, Kelly was dropped by his record company and concerts in the US and New Zealand were cancelled.

Allegations of criminal sexual assault and his predatory pursuit of teenage girls have plagued the singer for years and may finally be catching up to him.  The allegations began with his secret marriage to singer Aaliyah.    Kelly began mentoring her when she was 12 and the two secretly married when she was 15 years old without her parent’s knowledge.  A marriage certificate shows that the two married on August 31, 1994.  Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time, was listed as 18 on the certificate; the illegal marriage was annulled in February 1995 by her parents.  It was reported that she cut off all professional and personal ties with Kelly after the marriage was annulled and ceased having contact with him.  Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001.

Between 1998 and 2002, Kelly settled four cases filed against him by women claiming to have been in sexual relationships with him when they were underage.  The star settled the cases out of court, paying an undisclosed sum in return for a non-disclosure agreement.  In 2002, he was charged with 21 counts of making child pornography, involving intercourse, oral sex, urination, and other sexual acts with a girl who was allegedly 14 at the time.  Chicago police accused him of videotaping each of these acts and enticing a minor to participate in them.  The case took 6 years to go to trial and he was eventually tried on 14 counts of child pornography and ultimately acquitted in 2008.  While he was awaiting trial, Kelly was charged with a further 12 counts of making child pornography in Florida, where he was arrested at his holiday home.  Police seized a camera during the arrest, which allegedly showed the star having sex with a different underage girl.  Those new charges were dropped when a judge declared that police lacked sufficient evidence to justify a search.

A July 2017 Buzzfeed report accused R Kelly of having a sex cult after three former employees and the parents of several women said their daughters had all but vanished.  The article alleges that Kelly seduced young women who approached him for help with their music careers, before taking control of their lives – dictating “what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records”.  Kelly again denied the claims but the report prompted two other women to come forward with similar claims against him.  In March 2018, several members of members of R Kelly’s inner circle came forward with claims that Kelly regularly asked them to scout out women “that looked young” at parties, and claimed that it was “common knowledge” that the singer preferred young girls.  A #MuteRKelly campaign started that encouraged record label RCA, concert promoters, ticket sellers and streaming services to sever ties with the singer.  Around the same time, the star’s lawyer, publicist and personal assistant all quit.  Kelly’s charges seem long overdue and many feel the #MeToo movement has allowed the victims, who were dismissed years ago when they first came forward-to finally be heard.

 

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R & B singer R Kelly was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault on Feb 22 and his bail was set at $1M.  He posted bond on Feb 25 and plead not guilty to the charges. The charges involve four women, three of whom were under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged crimes.   The events related to his charges spanned from 1998 to 2010. Three of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 16 at the time.  The charges came soon after the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” was broadcast on Lifetime in January 2019.  Over the course of six hour-long episodes, the documentary included testimony from several women who accused the singer of abuse dating back to the 1990s, footage of parents attempting to rescue daughters they haven’t seen in years and rams home the argument that Kelly was enabled by those around him.  Two weeks after the broadcast, Kelly was dropped by his record company and concerts in the US and New Zealand were cancelled.

Allegations of criminal sexual assault and his predatory pursuit of teenage girls have plagued the singer for years and may finally be catching up to him.  The allegations began with his secret marriage to singer Aaliyah.    Kelly began mentoring her when she was 12 and the two secretly married when she was 15 years old without her parent’s knowledge.  A marriage certificate shows that the two married on August 31, 1994.  Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time, was listed as 18 on the certificate; the illegal marriage was annulled in February 1995 by her parents.  It was reported that she cut off all professional and personal ties with Kelly after the marriage was annulled and ceased having contact with him.  Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001.

Between 1998 and 2002, Kelly settled four cases filed against him by women claiming to have been in sexual relationships with him when they were underage.  The star settled the cases out of court, paying an undisclosed sum in return for a non-disclosure agreement.  In 2002, he was charged with 21 counts of making child pornography, involving intercourse, oral sex, urination, and other sexual acts with a girl who was allegedly 14 at the time.  Chicago police accused him of videotaping each of these acts and enticing a minor to participate in them.  The case took 6 years to go to trial and he was eventually tried on 14 counts of child pornography and ultimately acquitted in 2008.  While he was awaiting trial, Kelly was charged with a further 12 counts of making child pornography in Florida, where he was arrested at his holiday home.  Police seized a camera during the arrest, which allegedly showed the star having sex with a different underage girl.  Those new charges were dropped when a judge declared that police lacked sufficient evidence to justify a search.

A July 2017 Buzzfeed report accused R Kelly of having a sex cult after three former employees and the parents of several women said their daughters had all but vanished.  The article alleges that Kelly seduced young women who approached him for help with their music careers, before taking control of their lives – dictating “what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records”.  Kelly again denied the claims but the report prompted two other women to come forward with similar claims against him.  In March 2018, several members of members of R Kelly’s inner circle came forward with claims that Kelly regularly asked them to scout out women “that looked young” at parties, and claimed that it was “common knowledge” that the singer preferred young girls.  A #MuteRKelly campaign started that encouraged record label RCA, concert promoters, ticket sellers and streaming services to sever ties with the singer.  Around the same time, the star’s lawyer, publicist and personal assistant all quit.  Kelly’s charges seem long overdue and many feel the #MeToo movement has allowed the victims, who were dismissed years ago when they first came forward-to finally be heard.

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As the measles outbreak continues into 2019, the World Health Organization has said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat.  More than 270 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the highly contagious and sometimes deadly pathogen since last fall with 100 of those cases being confirmed since the start of 2019.  Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year and the virus had been eliminated in the US by the year 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine but as the Anti-Vax movement has grown, the disease has resurfaced in the US.

Many are blaming policy failure and calling for a re-examination of laws that allow people to opt out of the vaccines on behalf of their children.  Every state allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients.  While all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations.

Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines.  Eighteen states grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs.  Mississippi, California, and West Virginia have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.  Right now, in 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up on vaccination records.

In Washington State, where at least 55 cases were confirmed since the start of 2019, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws.  Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.

In Oregon, where the Portland area has experienced a recent outbreak, the percentage of children unvaccinated for measles varies widely from school to school.  Most schools are at or near the 93% threshold protection levels that epidemiologists say keep the virus at bay.   Still, at some Portland schools, 10 to 20 percent or more of their students are unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons.  Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country.  At least seven schools in the Portland area have measles vaccination rates below 80 percent, lower than some developing countries like Guatemala.  The rate of unvaccinated children is even higher in specialty and private schools with some having a low rate of only 40% of students vaccinated.  Oregon lawmakers are working on legislation that would eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.