Tag Archive: La Crosse WI Health Insurance


 

 

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CBS’ CEO Leslie Moonves will remain in his position at the media company as the board of directors launches an investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted several women over decades.  According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims or settlements against Moonves during his twenty-four years at the network. The investigation began after the New Yorker published a detailed report that included the accounts of six women who claim Moonves thwarted their acting careers after rejecting his verbal or physical advances.  Some of the alleged assaults date back to the 1980s through the 2000s.  Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two said Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All six accusers said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.

One of his accusers, writer Janet Jones alleges that in the spring of 1985, she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting.  Producer Mike Marvin had helped broker a meeting between her and Moonves, who at the time was a vice-president at Twentieth Century Fox. The late afternoon appointment was Jones’s first pitch meeting in Hollywood.  Producer Mike Marvin said that he confronted Moonves about what happened at the meeting at a gathering, saying, “Whatever happened, that girl was upset.”   Marvin said Moonves became furious and the two had a screaming match over it.  Not long afterward, Jones received a call from Moonves, who began shouting at her and threatening her career.

Another one of his accusers, Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Illeana Douglas, said Moonves forcibly held her down and violently kissed her.  Douglas was introduced to Moonves in 1996 while she was meeting with networks, looking for a deal to write and perform for television.  Moonves, who was then the president of CBS Entertainment, seemed to take a personal interest in her.  “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating.” lleana Douglas said of the incident.

Emmy-award winning writer and television producer Dinah Kirgo described meeting Moonves to discuss a potential television deal before he joined CBS.  Kirgo said the meeting “went really well” but was surprised when Moonves, who was married to Nancy Wiesenfeld at the time, asked to meet her privately over dinner.  “I’m not actually sure what I said in response, but he said, ‘Look, you’re really expensive and I need to know you’re worth it,’ ” she recalled.  Kirgo said she made an allusion to Moonves’ wife, and her feelings about a one-on-one dinner between the two. “And the conversation ended, and he went from being very friendly to being really cold.”  That was the last Kirgo heard from Moonves.

In a statement, Moonves said, “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected—and abided by the principle—that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”

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Federal Judge Dolly Gee has ordered the transfer of all children out of the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, due to allegations of widespread abuse in the immigrant detention center. Judge Gee condemned the detention center for injecting children with psychotropic drugs without their parents’ consent, imprisoning some children in overly restrictive confinement and prohibiting the children from making private phone calls. She also explicitly ordered that the detention center must obtain permission from a legal guardian before giving any psychotropic drugs to detained children.

A pending class-action lawsuit alleges immigrant children housed at the Shiloh Treatment Center were held down and forcibly injected with drugs, rendering them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly.  Court documents allege troubling practices in which children claim they were tackled and injected and forced to take pills identified as vitamins that made them dizzy and drowsy.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found conditions at the nonprofit Shiloh Treatment Center, in violation of a 1997 settlement, called Flores vs. Reno, requiring immigration officials to place detained minors “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to (each Class Member’s) age and special needs.” Gee ordered that all children involved in the suit be removed from the Shiloh facility “unless a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist” determines that a particular child “poses a risk of harm to self or others.”  She also ordered the government to seek consent before giving psychotropic drugs to any detained migrant child. Without consent, the facility may administer such a drug only in an emergency or under a court order, she said.

The Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, was founded in 1995 by Clay Dean Hill.   In 2013, the resettlement agency began funding the shelter, sending it more than $26 million in grants over five years to house migrant children.  The company that operates the facility south of Houston has a history of problems, including deaths of children in its custody and allegations children were systematically drugged with psychotropic medications.  The children were allegedly drugged with pills and injections at the residential treatment center.

The center, a mobile home complex-turned-child care center, is licensed to serve kids ages 3 to 17, is run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the office is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The center has been cited eight times for by Texas inspectors in the last three years.  Some of the infractions include overdue background check renewals for staff, children being able to get into medication and go to the restroom with it, and children who were inadequately supervised due to staff members being distracted on their cellphones.

Children have continued to be placed there despite the center being plagued with serious accusations for years.  In 2001, Stephanie Duffield, 16, died after being restrained by staff. Following her death, Shiloh was found to be “in compliance” with state requirements, according to the refugee resettlement office. Children have died at two other programs affiliated with Clay Hill, Behavior Training Research Inc. and the now-closed Daystar Residential Inc. Between 1993 and 2010, three children died after being restrained at those facilities. In 2002, Latasha Bush, 15, died from asphyxia. Eight years later, Michael Keith Owens, 16, died after being restrained inside a closet. Both deaths were ruled homicides.  In most cases, the children were hogtied. Beyond these deaths, there were reports of sexual abuse and staff making developmentally disabled girls fight for snacks.

 

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Minneapolis prosecutors have announced there will be no charges filed against Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, the two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot 31-year-old Thurman Blevins as he was running away.  His death on June 23 led to protests across the city as activists decried the killing of yet another black man at the hands of white police officers.  The incident was captured in body-camera footage released by the city of Minneapolis a little over a month after Blevins was killed.

The officers were responding to a 911 call of a man who looked intoxicated, firing a gun in the air and at the ground.  The description given in the call was of a black male with a black backpack and a bottle of gin. Six feet tall, 180 pounds, tapered hair, wearing a white-and-gray tank top.  One video begins as Officers Kelly and Schmidt drive through a neighborhood in northern Minneapolis looking for the suspect.  “That’s kind of a really good description for that to be an actual legitimate call,” Schmidt says in the video. “But . . . then again.”

A few blocks from where the caller reported seeing the man, they spot Blevins sitting on the curb with a gray dog.  “He’s got a bottle of gin,” Schmidt says. “Is he . . . black tank top, tapered hair . . . yeah.” Then, with considerably more urgency in his voice, Schmidt says, “He’s got a gun.”  The car comes to an abrupt stop and both officers jump out.  Blevins springs from the curb and starts running, dropping the dog’s leash and nearly knocking over a woman with a stroller.   “Put your hands up! I will f—ing shoot you!” Schmidt yells.

Both officers chase after Blevins, shouting at him to stop and put his hands up.  “Come on, man. Come on, man. I didn’t do nothing, bro,” Blevins says as he runs.  “You’ve got a gun,” Schmidt responds.  “I don’t,” Blevins calls back.  “Yes, you do,” Schmidt replies “Put it down.”  Sprinting past a white picket fence, Blevins rounds a corner and turns down an alleyway.  “Homie, please,” he pants. “Please, don’t shoot me. Leave me alone.”  About 45 seconds into the chase, Schmidt starts firing and Blevins collapses. When the officers get closer, what appears to be a small handgun is lying on the ground near Blevins’s right hand.

In addition to the two officers’ body-camera videos, the city also released an “enhanced” version of the footage in which the gun police say he was carrying has been circled. The object is visible in Blevins’s pocket when the officers arrive at the scene, then in his hands when Schmidt opens fire.  Reactions to the video were mixed. Some argued that the officers had been justified in shooting Blevins, because he appeared to have a gun and had refused to drop it despite multiple warnings. Others argued that police should have done more to de-escalate the situation when they arrived at the scene.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the decision at a news conference that was interrupted by protests.  In Freeman’s prepared remarks, which were released by his office, the prosecutor said there was “no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer,” because Blevins “fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands, and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers.”  Freeman’s office also released a 21-page report further explaining the decision and concluding that Blevins “posed an immediate threat to the officers’ safety.”

The report outlined the findings of a state investigation, which included analyzing the body-worn cameras, forensic analysis of the gun and interviews with officers involved, along with witnesses. The findings were sent to Freeman, who reviewed it with three senior prosecutors to make the decision not to charge the officers.

 

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Satellite images show North Korea has taken the first steps toward its commitment to nuclear disarmament.  Images show they have begun dismantling a missile-engine test site, fulfilling one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s promises during the historic summit in Singapore in June.  The site is believed to play a role in North Korea’s development of liquid-fuel engines, although it’s unclear how much the site’s facilities were still being used.

Images published by a leading think-tank on North Korea show activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, located among dense forest and hills close the northern border with China.  Workers are believed to be dismantling a building used to assemble space-launch vehicles and a nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles, the 38 North think-tank said.

The work started at some point in the past two weeks, after the last visit to North Korea by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.  White House officials have stated that the trip made by Pompeo to Pyongyang went “as bad as it could have”.  Jenny Town, the managing editor of 38 North, which is based at the Stimson Center in Washington DC, said the work at Sohae could be an important move to keep negotiations going.  “Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea,” 38 North said in a report.

South Korean officials have also said they detected dismantlement activities at the site, though didn’t specify the exact nature of the activities.  The South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, at a briefing in London, said its reports suggested North Korea was preparing for disarmament in return for a lifting of economic sanctions.  The satellite image analysis leaves it unclear whether North Korea planned to demolish the entire Sohae site, which has been vital to its space program. Other important facilities such as fuel bunkers, a main assembly building and the gantry tower appear untouched.

Senior US officials called on Mr Kim to act on his promise to give up his nuclear weapons and said the world, including China and Russia, must continue to enforce sanctions until he does so.  The US State Department issued an advisory together with the departments of Treasury and Homeland Security alerting businesses to North Korea’s sanctions-evasion tactics.  It said they should “implement effective due diligence policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements across their entire supply chains.”

While the images are encouraging, experts urge caution until the North completely abandons the area.  “If North Korea goes further and dismantle the entire Sohae site, that would meaningfully reduce the country’s long-range missile capability by eliminating a facility where it could fire multiple ICBMs in succession,” said Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.  He added, however, that while the first steps in dismantling the site are important, in reality, Pyongyang is giving up little as it appears the country is content with the current long-range weapons in its possession.

 

 

 

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Aid groups say the toll from the collapse of a billion-dollar hydroelectric dam in Lao’s is far higher than the official figure of 27 dead and 131 missing. Despite a government ban on foreign media covering the disaster, the BBC reports the death toll could be closer to 300. Another 3,000 people are still stranded in homes surrounded by floodwaters and over 6,000 people have been displaced.  The dam collapse occurred around 8 p.m. on July 23rd and caused immediate flash flooding through the villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Ban Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, all in Sanamxay district.  Homes, roads and bridges were swept away.

The disaster has revived the debate about plans by the Laos government to boost the economy by building dozens of dams to export hydroelectricity to neighboring countries.  The South Korean company that is the main builder of the hydroelectric project has admitted that it knew the dam was deteriorating a day before it failed but the reason for the collapse remains unclear.  There are conflicting reports on when damages to the dam were first noticed, raising more questions on whether the order to evacuate villagers from their homes should have been issued earlier.  The portion of the dam that collapsed was reported to be a saddle dam—its official name was “Saddle ‘D’, an auxiliary structure used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam”.

Emergency teams in southern Laos are continuing to search for survivors following the collapse of a dam, which released five billion cubic meters of water.  As floodwaters in began to recede, official sources said eight bodies had been recovered, while an official has suggested more than 1,100 people may still be unaccounted for.  Homes were swept away and farmland submerged when an auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric project collapsed.

An overwhelming amount of mud left behind is hampering search operations.  Some areas are inaccessible by boat, with helicopter flights being the only way to reach some communities.  Rescue efforts are further complicated by the fact that the area is densely forested with no mobile-phone coverage.  Roads that previously existed were washed away in the floods and thousands of people who fled their homes are packed into makeshift shelters.

Officials in northern Cambodia have ordered the evacuation of 25,000 people downriver of the collapsed dam, due to heavy flooding and rising water levels.  The Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, suspended his immediate meetings and travelled in person to the site.  Sisoulith also called in both the police and the army, declaring the area a disaster zone.  The local government requested emergency aid from neighboring communities.  The neighboring countries of China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have offered to provide any assistance needed by Laos.

 

 

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In California, a 27-year-old man has been arrested for attacking two women on a BART train, killing 18-year-old Nia Wilson and wounding her sister.  The Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department identified the stabbing suspect as John Lee Cowell, 27, a parolee who was released from prison about four months ago.  Cowell, a transient with a history of violence allegedly pulled out a knife at the MacArthur BART station Sunday evening and slashed Nia Wilson across the neck before stabbing her sister, Latifa Wilson, and fleeing the scene.  Police have yet to establish a motive for the attack.

Around 6:30 p.m., one day after the attack, the police took him into custody at the Pleasant Hill BART station, about 15 miles northeast of where the stabbing took place, said Chief Carlos Rojas of the BART Police Department. He said riders had identified Mr. Cowell, whose picture had been widely distributed. The suspect was unarmed and arrested without incident.  Rojas said “It basically happened at the snap of the fingers, at the drop of the pin,” adding that the attack was “the most vicious” he had seen in his nearly 30-year police career.  “It was a very random attack that occurred at MacArthur,” Rojas said. “We had officers at the station. In order for that to have been prevented, it would have been very difficult. You would have had to be standing right next to the individual. You can’t have an officer on every square inch of a station.”  BART authorities say the entire attack occurred in 20 seconds.

The police said that Nia Wilson and her two sisters boarded the train at Concord Station.  Cowell also boarded there and all three got off at MacArthur Station where the attack occurred.  CCTV footage shows that the women did not interact with Cowell as they rode the train together to the city’s MacArthur Station.  The attack happened as the women stopped to help a woman struggling with a stroller exit a train. It was at that moment that a man — identified as John Lee Cowell, a transient with a history of violence — pulled out a knife, slashed Nia across the neck and stabbed her sister, Latifa, before fleeing. Nia’s wound proved to be fatal while her sister was treated at a local hospital.

Station video cameras captured Cowell fleeing the station and discarding his clothes in the parking garage.  He allegedly discarded the large knife at a construction site outside the station where police found it.  Cowell – who police described as having a “violent past” – has previously been convicted of second-degree robbery, battery, being under the influence of a controlled substance, vandalism and petty theft.

Speaking outside a relative’s home, Letifah Wilson, 26, said that she and her sister were returning home from a family event when they were “blindsided by a maniac”.  “He didn’t know us, we didn’t know him,” said Ms Wilson, who was injured in the attack. “For what? I don’t know why.”  “And I looked back, and he was wiping off his knife and stood at the stairs and just looked – and from there on, I was just caring for my sister.  I was in shock… I didn’t know I was cut because I was paying more attention to my sister. But he just stood there, like it was nothing.”

 

 

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Violent protests erupted in Chicago after police officers shot and killed a 37-year-old African-American man on the South Side of Chicago. Harith Augustus was a well-known barber and the father of a 5-year-old daughter. Hundreds took to the streets to protest his killing.  Protesters and police clashed with protestors throwing rocks and bottles, some filled with urine at officers.  Four people were arrested, several officers were treated for minor injuries and two patrol cars were damaged.

The day after the protests, police released a 30 second clip with no sound of an officer’s body-cam footage.  Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said it was the quickest he had ever ordered such video released and that he hoped to dispel rumors Harith Augustus, 37, was unarmed.  He also said he hoped making the 30-second clip public would prevent another violent confrontation between residents and officers.  “The community needs some answers and they need them now, we can’t have another night like last night.”  Mr Johnson told reporters.  He said Mr Augustus’s family was in favor of releasing the video for the same reason.

The edited clip of body camera video shows at least three officers approaching Augustus as he is talking to another officer outside a store in the city’s South Shore neighborhood.  The first officer points at his waistband and Augustus backs away while reaching into his back pocket.  As Augustus pulls his wallet from his pocket, three officers try to grab his arms.  Augustus tries to get away, backing into a police cruiser as his shirt flies up, showing the gun.  The footage pauses and zooms in on the weapon, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said was done to ensure a semi-automatic handgun in its holster and two bullet magazines tucked into Mr Augustus’s waist could be seen clearly.

Augustus then runs into the street as a police SUV drives up. He spins away from the SUV and darts between the SUV and the police cruiser as he reaches towards his waist.  At that point, an officer opens fire, hitting Augustus multiple times.  Augustus did not fire his weapon and the footage does not show him pulling the gun out of its holster.  Police also released a 50-second, slow-motion clip showing Augustus reaching towards his waist. It was not clear if he was going for the weapon but it does appear he was grabbing for something at his waist.

Records show Augustus had a legal permit to carry a firearm and no recent arrest history. Augustus was known in the Grand Crossing neighborhood as “Snoop” — worked at a barbershop and had a five-year-old daughter.  A police spokesman said more videos will be released within 60 days but declined to say how many different angles exist or whether any of the officers’ cameras captured audio.

While the snippet of video released seems to have calmed some tensions, some pointed out that Augustus, a quiet man with only a few minor arrests from years ago, appeared to be trying to show the officers some sort of identification during the street stop, possible his firearm permit.  Experts on use of force have focused on how Augustus tried to evade arrest, twisting away from officers and fleeing into the street with his right hand hovering near his holstered gun.  The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates police-involved shootings, will try to determine if the officers followed policy and if any training issues need to be addressed.

 

 

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In Thailand, rescuers raced to free 12 members of a youth soccer team and a coach who had been trapped in a flooded cave for nearly three weeks.  Divers found the teammates and coach alive, but had been unable to rescue them.  In the last 18 days, a local search for the missing 13 turned into a complex rescue operation, involving hundreds of experts who flew in from around the world to help in the rescue efforts.  The rescue has been a race to extract the boys and their coach ahead of monsoon rains that could haved flooded the cave completely.  Cave experts grappled with the problem of how to free the young, malnourished boys, some of whom couldn’t swim, from a flooded cavern as monsoon rains threatened to raise water levels even further.  The boys received a crash course in swimming and the use of SCUBA gear.

The final boy and his coach rescued Tuesday are still being treated at an on-site medical center, while three other boys have been transported to a nearby hospital where eight of their teammates are recuperating after being rescued Sunday and Monday.  Nineteen divers entered the cave at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday (11 p.m. Monday ET), many on their third mission in three days, with the aim of bringing everyone inside the cave out.  Tuesday’s rescue efforts took nine hours from the time the divers entered the cave to bringing out the boys and their coach.

Divers involved in the rescue described dangerous conditions involving fast-moving shallow water passing through very narrow passages. Poor visibility, razor sharp rocks and narrow passages made the rescue very tricky.  As rain threatened to hamper what was already a complicated rescue mission it became clear the boys were going to have to dive out  Officials scrambled to find full-face oxygen masks small enough to fit the boys and experts were sent in to teach them how to use scuba gear.

Two days before the first four boys were rescued, officials warned that oxygen levels within the cave had fallen to 15%.  The “optimal range” of oxygen needed in the air a person breathes in order to maintain normal function is between 19.5% and 23.5%.  Such low levels creates the risk of hypoxia, a condition that causes altitude sickness.

During the hours-long trip out of the cave, each boy was accompanied underwater by two divers helping them navigate the dark, murky water. The most dangerous part required the divers and boys to squeeze through a narrow, flooded channel. Rescuers had to hold the boys’ oxygen tanks in front of them and swim pencil-like through submerged holes. Once they completed this section, the boys were then handed over to separate, specialist rescue teams, who helped assist them through the remainder of the cave, much of which they can wade through.

All the boys rescued are being treated in an isolation ward in a Chiang Rai hospital. Medical officials told reporters that they’re healthy, fever-free, mentally fit and “seem to be in high spirits.”  They will remain in insolation until the risk of infection has passed.  Parents of the boys have been able to see their children through a glass window and talk to them on the phone. They’ll be allowed to enter the room if tests show the boys are free of infection.

The permanent secretary of the Thai Health Ministry, said the first group of boys taken out on Sunday were aged 14 to 16. Their body temperatures were very low when they emerged, and two are suspected of having lung inflammation.  The second group freed on Monday were aged 12 to 14.  Authorities will look for signs of Histoplasmosis, also known as “cave disease,” an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.  They are all likely to stay in hospital for seven days due to their weakened immune systems.

 

 

 

 

 

A 3-year-old child refugee from Ethiopia attacked at her birthday party by a knife-wielding man has died of her injuries. Ruya Kadir died at a trauma center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she was flown for treatment.  Police said five other children and three adults were wounded in the stabbing attack.  Police have arrested a 30-year-old man from Los Angeles who had been staying in the same apartment building.  Seven of the other eight victims remain in the hospital, many with serious or critical injuries, and one child was treated and released. The wounded children ranged in age from 4 to 12 years old.

The suspect, Timothy Kinner, 30, was initially charged with nine counts of aggravated battery, and six counts of injury to a child.  Kinner was arraigned in Ada County Court in Boise when a judge informed him that the charges had been amended and that he’s now facing one count of first-degree murder.  Kinner has an extensive criminal record spanning multiple states and has spent time in prison for previous violent offenses.  If convicted, Kinner could be eligible for the death penalty under Idaho law. Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts said her office has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty, saying those “high-level decisions” are made only after all the facts are in.

Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said during an emotional news conference that the suspect’s motive was “vengeance” for being asked to leave an apartment in the complex due to his behavior.  Bones said Kinner had been invited to stay for a few days at the apartment of a renter who had shown him compassion but was asked to leave on Friday due to his disruptive behavior.  According to Police Chief Bones, Kinner returned to the apartment where he had been a guest on Saturday and found nobody home.  Around 8:45 p.m. Kinner went a few doors down to where the party was going on and allegedly stormed the apartment, stabbing the people with a folding knife.

Zine Mutlack, the 8 year old boy who was treated and released from the hospital said he first saw Kinner hiding near the party.  “Then he popped up and I was in front of my aunt,” Zine said. “He just came to me and stabbed me in my belly. Then he went to her, made her fall on the ground, then he stabbed her lots of times and I heard her yelling.”  In the chaos that followed, Zine said his mother was stabbed in the neck and his father told him to run home and call the police.  “I said, ‘Somebody is stabbing people in the apartment,'” Zine said. “They said they were already on their way.”

The attack took place at an apartment complex that is home to refugee families. Kinner is not a refugee but he temporarily lived at the complex until he was asked to leave the day before his attack.  The chief said the victims were all refugees from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia who had escaped violence in their homelands only to be confronted with it in America. The victims were placed in Boise as part of the refugee resettlement program.  International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband said his group settled Ruya and her mother in Boise from Ethiopia in December 2015. Her father is in Turkey.

Monday evening, around 1,500 people turned out at a vigil honoring members of refugee families targeted in the stabbing.  People wept, sang and shouted their support for the refugee community, and many brought bouquets of white flowers intended to symbolize peace. By the end of the rally, hundreds of bouquets filled dozens of baskets on the steps of Boise’s City Hall.

 

 

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For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a cannabis-based drug.  The drug, Epidiolex, has been approved to treat two types of epileptic syndromes. The drug’s approval comes as an increasing number of states have approved medicinal and recreational marijuana use.  Epidiolex was recommended for approval by an advisory committee in April, and the agency had until this week to make a decision.

The twice-daily oral solution is approved for use in patients 2 and older to treat two types of epileptic syndromes: Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in the first year of life, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement “This is an important medical advance because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”

The drug is the “first pharmaceutical formulation of highly-purified, plant-based cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid lacking the high associated with marijuana, and the first in a new category of anti-epileptic drugs,” according to a statement from GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK-based biopharmaceutical company that makes Epidiolex.  Justin Gover, chief executive officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, described the approval in the statement as “a historic milestone.”

He added that the drug offers families “the first and only FDA-approved cannabidiol medicine to treat two severe, childhood-onset epilepsies.”  “These patients deserve and will soon have access to a cannabinoid medicine that has been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, manufactured to assure quality and consistency, and available by prescription under a physician’s care,” Gover said.  He said Epidiolex will become available in the fall would not give any information on cost, saying only that it will be discussed with insurance companies and announced later.

Cannabidiol is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals, yet unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it does not produce a high.  The FDA has approved synthetic versions of some cannabinoid chemicals found in the marijuana plant for other purposes, including cancer pain relief.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, up to one-third of Americans who have epilepsy have found no therapies that will control their seizures.  With this approval, Epidiolex could be a new option for those patients who have not responded to other treatments to control seizures.