Tag Archive: madison wi health insurance


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The bodies of a missing Salem, Oregon mother and her son were found in a remote area of Oregon.  Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her 3-year-old son, William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing last month. Family members said they had not seen or heard from them since May 13.  Karissa’s cause of death was determined to be from a single gunshot to the head, and the manner of death was determined to be homicide.  The cause and manner of death of Billy is yet to be determined, pending additional testing.

Despite the lack of bodies, Michael John Wolfe, 52, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping. Court documents identify him as Billy’s biological father and Karissa’s friends and family say Billy was conceived through an affair.  Wolfe, who is married to another woman, was established as Billy’s biological father through a DNA test in 2018 after Fretwell filed a petition to establish the boy’s paternity.

Wolfe and Fretwell had an affair while working together at a local steel mill and the two were locked in a custody battle.  Court documents state Fretwell and Wolfe were in court as recently as April, and Wolfe was ordered to pay over $900 a month in child support and provide health insurance coverage for Billy.  The court documents state Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.  Fretwell had sole custody of her son, and the two had been living in West Salem.  Billy Fretwell’s babysitter told police Karissa Fretwell reported being threatened by Wolfe and his wife, who said they would take custody of the boy.  Police say the wife is not a person of interest in the case at this point, but that detectives continue to look at anyone who could be connected.

The sheriff’s office said ongoing efforts by detectives to locate the missing mother and son led searchers to a remote area of Yamhill County, about 10 miles west of the city of Yamhill.  Crews searched the heavily wooded and remote area for about two hours before finding two bodies.  Yamhill-area police conducted about 20 searches looking for the bodies since they were reported missing in mid-May.  At one point, they searched about 800 yards away from where the bodies were eventually found partially covered by debris in a forested part of Weyerhauser property 10 miles west of the city of Yamhill.  Investigators say that Wolfe fished and had a permit to cut wood on the Weyerhauser property where the bodies were eventually found.

Detectives obtained data from Karissa Fretwell’s cellphone showing her phone used a cell tower southeast of Gaston, which provides coverage to Wolfe’s rural property.  Cell data also placed her phone Wolfe’s place of work, a steel mill in McMinnville. He told police he was working the night of May 13 and morning of May 14, but detectives believe surveillance video and cell tower activity disputes that.  Footage at the mill shows Wolfe leaving his work area on a golf cart and walking toward a line of trees and bushes to a nearby parking lot.

Wolfe reappears through the trees almost five hours later and drives the golf cart back to his work area while carrying a white trash bag filled with unknown items.  Phone records from May 13 also show Wolfe’s phone pinged cell towers “away from his place of work” shortly after he disappeared through the trees. That evening, Wolfe’s phone pinged a tower that would cover Fretwell’s apartment in Salem and pinged towers near his workplace about the time he reappeared at his workplace. Wolfe told detectives he had not been to Salem in more than a year.

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The New Zealand man accused of massacring Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch in March pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act. The 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, is an avowed white supremacist who emailed out a racist manifesto minutes before he opened fire with an assault rifle at two mosques, live-streaming his massacre on Facebook.

He live streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away and indiscriminately firing into piles of bodies.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  His manifesto expressed several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  He described himself as an ethno-nationalist and referred to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentioned revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Tarrant was judged fit to stand trial after an assessment of his mental state. His pleas of not guilty raise the prospect of a lengthy trial that could give him a platform to air the white supremacist views that allegedly motivated the attack. Tarrant’s trial has been set for May of 2020. He was not in court in person in Christchurch; instead he appeared via a video link from a maximum-security prison where he’s being held in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.  New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1989 and has not executed anyone since 1957. If found guilty, Tarrant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Eighty survivors and family members of victims watched the proceedings. After the hearing, Abdul Aziz, a survivor of the attack said “He’s a coward and he will lose.” Aziz was at Linwood Mosque during the shootings and has been hailed a hero after confronting the gunmen-ultimately stopping him from claiming as many lives at the second mosque as he did at the first.   After hearing shots outside, Aziz ran outside and grabbed the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, which he threw at the gunmen.  The gunmen shot at him but they played cat and mouse between cars.  Then Aziz grabbed a gun that had been discarded by the attacker tried to fire at Tarrant but the gun was empty.  As Tarrant ran back to his car Aziz threw the gun at his car, shattering his windshield.  Tarrant yelled that he was going to kill them all but instead drove off and was apprehended by police minutes later.

 

 

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A Minneapolis judge sentenced Mohamed Noor, the former police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017, to 12.5 years in prison. In April, Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Noor’s lawyers had argued for a light sentence but Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced the 33-year-old Noor to the identical sentence recommended under state guidelines.

Speaking in court before the sentence was read, Noor said that he had felt “fear” as he pulled the trigger. But when he saw Ruszczyk Damond on the ground, “I knew in an instant that I was wrong.  I caused this tragedy and it is my burden,” he said. “I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot and that is a troubling reality for me. I will think about Ms. Ruszczyk and her family forever. The only thing I can do is try to live my life in a good way going forward.”

The court also heard from Don Damond, Ruszczyk Damond’s fiancé, during an emotional victim impact statement that the day of her death was “the last time I felt a sense of happiness, a sense of trust and that everything could be OK.”  “How do I sum up the pain, the trauma, of these last 23 months… How can I provide the court the impact of a lost future? What would have potentially been 30 to 40 years filled with love, with family, with joy, with laughter,” he said.

The July 15, 2017, shooting occurred after Ruszczyk Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her home.  When Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity arrived, Ruszczyk Damond approached the driver’s side of the squad car in her pajamas.  Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk in the abdomen through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley.

Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.  Noor’s lawyers maintained at trial that Noor “acted as he has been trained” and that he should never have been charged with a crime.

“The narrative behind this tragedy really began long before the events that occurred in that alley,” Noor’s defense attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said on Friday. “Ms. Ruszczyk was doing her civic duty, she didn’t deserve this.” But he said that the fear that exists between police and members of the public was behind what happened that night.  “A prison sentence only punishes Mr. Noor for a culture that he didn’t create,” his lawyer said.

 

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The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill which would permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the day after comedian Jon Stewart gave impassioned testimony in support of the bill.  The bill will now go to the floor for a full vote in the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass.  Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010 and the act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. But a portion of the law — the Victim Compensation Fund — was only funded for five years, through the end of 2020.

The fund aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks.  New York City health officials say the number of people who have been diagnosed with 9/11-linked cancers has tripled.  Thousands of first responders rushed to the scene of the attacks and in doing so, exposed themselves to toxic debris in the air, including asbestos, lead, and pulverized concrete, which causes silicosis.

Nearly 5,500 first responders and local residents have now been diagnosed with cancers linked to the toxic smoke and dust of 9/11.  As of September 2018, 2,000 deaths were attributed to 9/11 related illnesses. By the end of last year, many estimate that more people will have died from toxic exposures than were actually killed in the attack.

The spike in claims has left the VCF at risk of a massive funding shortfall. As a result, future payouts to 9/11 victims and their families may be cut by as much as 70%.  The bill that passed the judiciary committee on Wednesday aims to make the VCF permanent and grant additional funding to the bill. A specific amount has not yet been allocated.

At an emotional congressional hearing, Stewart, who has been a longtime advocate for the fund, blasted lawmakers for their inaction ahead of a vote on renewing healthcare funding for 9/11 responders.  During his testimony, Stewart became upset several times as he appealed to Congress. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders. And in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves, for those that aren’t here. But you won’t be, because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”

Stewart made several points during his passionate speech.  “The official FDNY response time to 9/11 was five seconds. ​Five seconds. That’s how long it took for FDNY, for NYPD, for Port Authority, EMS to respond to an urgent need from the public. ​Five seconds. Hundreds died in an instant.  Thousands more poured in to continue to fight for their brothers and sisters.”  He went on to point out that as lawmakers had at first, denied the health issues were caused by the debri left behind the attack and when they no longer could deny it then then said it was a New York issue.    “More of these men and women are going to get sick and they are going to die. And I am awfully tired of hearing that it’s a 9/11 New York issue. Al Qaeda didn’t shout “Death to Tribeca.” They attacked America ​and these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back. It’s what gave a reeling nation a solid foundation to stand back upon. To remind us of why this country is great, of why this country is worth fighting for. And you are ignoring them.”

 

 

 

 

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Mexico’s government says it will send 6,000 troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a crackdown on the unprecedented surge of Central American migrants hoping to seek asylum in the US. The announcement came ahead of a threat by President Trump to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports starting June 10th unless Mexico further tightens controls on immigration.  The deal was reached at the end of three days of negotiations which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.

The initial announcement of tariffs  warned that if Mexico did not do more to curb the current immigration issue, tariffs would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September and reach a permanent level of 25% by October.  According to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrants taken into custody reached a 13 year high in May, with more than 144,000 migrants taken into custody after crossing the Southern border.  The threat of tariffs which would have hurt the US economy, would have been more damaging to Mexico’s economy.  According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, US imports of goods from Mexico totaled $346.5 billion in 2018 and includes cars and machinery as well as agricultural products.  If the tariffs had gone into effect any US companies will have to decide whether to eat the cost or pass them on to American consumers.

Mexican officials have reportedly reached a deal with the White House that would require asylum seekers to seek refuge in the countries they first cross into.  Under a joint agreement released by State Department officials, Mexico will assist the United States in curbing migration across the border by deploying its National Guard troops through the country, especially its southern border.  The deal also imposes a new program called Migrant Protection Protocols, allowing U.S. immigration enforcement officials to send Central American migrants to Mexico as their asylum claims are pending.

Mexico says those migrants will be offered jobs, health care and education, though critics question how safe migrants will be as they await the conclusion of their claims.  The agreement says Mexican authorities will work to dismantle human smuggling operations as well.  Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the National Guard deployment would start on Monday, June 10th– the same day the proposed tariffs were set to begin. The National Guard force was recently established and has not gotten up and running, with estimates of full operations to be underway by 2021.

In a joint declaration released by the US state department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented steps” to curb irregular migration and human trafficking.  The US did not get one of its reported key demands, which would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil.  Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “coordinated actions” and information sharing.

Mexican authorities have dramatically stepped up law enforcement pressure against Central American migrants in recent days in an effort to stave off a trade war with the United States.  Mexican military police intercepted about 600 Central American migrants walking north on a highway in southern Mexico.  Mexican officials also announced federal charges against two prominent migrant activists and financial penalties against more than two dozen people suspected of helping migrants.

Mexico’s finance ministry announced it had blocked the bank accounts of 26 people who had participated “in the trafficking of migrants and the illegal organization of migrant caravans.”  The efforts are a part of a broad crackdown on illegal immigrants, with detentions and deportations of Central American migrants in recent months up significantly compared with the same period last year.

 

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Utah police believe they have found the body of missing 5 year old Elizabeth Shelley just days after her uncle Alex Whipple was charged with aggravated murder.  Elizabeth Shelley’s body was found in a wooded area a quarter mile away from her home in Logan.  Court documents state Whipple, 21, has been charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice and abuse or desecration of a human body.

Elizabeth’s mother reported her missing from her home on the west side of Logan on Saturday at approximately 10 a.m.  Her mother, Jessica, said she and her live-in boyfriend, Detrich Black, last saw Shelley sleeping in her bed at approximately 1 a.m. when they checked on her before going to bed.  Jessica stated that she had been drinking alcohol with Whipple and Detrich on Friday at approximately 10 p.m. She had invited her brother over via Facebook messenger. Elizabeth and her sister were already in bed when Whipple arrived at the residence. Jessica went to sleep around midnight and told Whipple that he could stay on the couch, court documents state.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., Jessica woke up and found the front door wide open. She recalled both Elizabeth and her brother, Whipple, were missing from the home.  Court documents state Whipple left his cellphone and skateboard at the residence.  The couple briefly looked for Whipple and Elizabeth outside before calling the police.  The couple described her as wearing a red tank top and teal skirt to police and volunteers who began searching the area.

At approximately 3 p.m., Whipple was located in a remote area near the home.  In his possession, police found a baseball bat, a pipe commonly used for narcotics, personal items and a Pabst Blue Ribbon 24-ounce beer can. He was transported to the Logan City Police Department for questioning.  At the station, handcuffs were removed from Whipple and he was left alone in the room.  Officers said he started licking his hands to try and wipe them clean.  Police placed the handcuffs back on him to preserve evidence that may be on Whipple’s hands.

During an interview with police, Whipple initially denied going over to Jessica’s house on Friday night and changed his story several times.  Court documents state Whipple said he drank beer at Jessica’s house and later left the residence to go on a walk because he could tell his sister and her boyfriend were “horny.” He told police he didn’t want to hear anything, so he went on a walk to enjoy the scenery just before sunrise. He claimed he had not seen Elizabeth while he was at her house.  While he initially did not admit to any involvement in his niece’s disappearance, he told officers that when he drinks he sometimes blacks out and does “criminal things”.

When police asked why he left his cellphone and skateboard and why he left the door open, Whipple claimed he didn’t know and that he didn’t need his personal items.  During the interview, investigators noticed dark colored stains on Whipple’s pants that were consistent with dried blood and several cuts on his dirty fingers.  While Whipple was being questioned, investigators found a bloody knife that matched one missing from the Shelley home in a nearby parking lot, a PVC pipe with a red substance on it and a partial palm print, along with a teal skirt that was hastily buried under dirt and bark.

Court documents show that blood found on the knife, Whipple’s watch and a hooded sweatshirt all had positive matches to Elizabeth’s DNA profile. The beer can tested positive for Whipple’s DNA and the palm print on the PVC pipe was determined to be Whipple’s.  When confronted with this evidence, Whipple admitted to the killing and drew a map for police to located her body in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table.

 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that there have been 971 known cases of measles in in 26 state in the US so far this year, surpassing the number of cases during the last outbreak in 1994.  Public health officials blame lower vaccination rates based on misinformation for the current surge in infected people.  Public health officials blame lower vaccination rates based on misinformation for the current surge in infected people.

As many as four million people got measles each year in the United States before the vaccine became widely used, according to the C.D.C., with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations annually.  Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, major outbreaks were a common global occurrence, with two to three outbreaks occurring annually. These outbreaks led to approximately 2.6 million deaths each year.

After decades of work by public health officials to educate the public about the importance of vaccination, measles was eliminated as an endemic disease in the United States in 2000.  While the elimination status didn’t mean the disease was completely eradicated, it meant that the country had gone more than 12 months without “continuous disease transmission.”

The C.D.C. pointed to a continuing outbreak in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., as posing a particular public health threat.  There have been 550 confirmed cases of measles in New York City since September 2018.  Rockland County officials said another 254 cases of measles had been reported there as of May 28.  Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious respiratory symptoms, fever and rash, as well as permanent deafness or encephalitis in severe cases, according to the C.D.C.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require vaccinations for children entering kindergarten, however all states also provide medical exemptions to these requirements and some states also offer exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons.  Some states are taking precautionary measures to stop the outbreak.  Maine became the fourth state, along with California, Mississippi and West Virginia, to end most nonmedical exemptions for childhood vaccines.  Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in heavily Hasidic portions of Brooklyn, mandating that people who have not been vaccinated receive fines. Health workers have been offering free vaccines in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Measles is highly contagious and if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.  The measles virus can live for up to two hours in a space where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears- meaning infected people are spreading the disease before they even know they have it.

The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection – the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, the second dose 4 through 6 years of age.travel-infographic.jpg

 

michael-wolfe.jpgAn Oregon man, Michael John Wolfe, 52, was arrested and charged in the presumed kidnapping and murder of a 25-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son.  Karissa Fretwell and the pair’s son, William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing by relatives on May 17, four days after they were last seen or heard from. Wolfe was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping while police continue to search for Karissa and Billy.

Fretwell’s vehicle is reportedly still parked on the street in front of her apartment with a child’s car seat is in the back.  Karissa Fretwell is described as a white female who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds. She has blue eyes and naturally blond hair that is dyed red.  Billy Fretwell is described as a white male who is about 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes.  Police have been searching a rural Yamhill County property in the Hopewell area and Wolfe’s Gaston home he has shared with his wife for 10 years, as part of the investigation.

Wolfe, who is married to another woman, was established as Billy’s biological father through a DNA test in 2018 after Fretwell filed a petition to establish the boy’s paternity.  Wolfe and Fretwell had an affair while working together at a local steel mill and the two were locked in a custody battle.  Court documents state Fretwell and Wolfe were in court as recently as April, and Wolfe was ordered to pay over $900 a month in child support and provide health insurance coverage for Billy.  The court documents state Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.

Two months prior to Fretwell’s disappearance, her neighbor said he heard fighting taking place in her apartment. Neighbor Robert Allen said “We heard a man and woman arguing incredibly loud. The man was swearing a lot and there was a kid crying in the background, and the woman was yelling at him to get out of her apartment.”

A close friend of Karissa’s, Bethany Brown, told reporters she felt some relief that Wolfe is behind bars.  “How could he do that to her and him? Little Billy, that’s his son! God, it hurts,” she said. “She was a good mom. She was just trying to make it through life.  “I hope he rots in prison for the rest of his life,” she said.  Brown said Wolfe was apparently trying to hide the affair.  “He’s married and has another kid and he didn’t want anything to do with Karissa or Billy. He didn’t want his wife finding out about the affair and she did find out, and that’s when everything went sour.  He told her ‘Don’t ruin my marriage,’ and, ‘I can’t afford this $1,100 amount in child support,'” Brown said.

Another friend, Mykeal Moats said Fretwell met Wolfe when she was living in McMinnville and was a delivery driver for a sandwich shop. She made deliveries to Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, where Wolfe worked. Moats said Fretwell subsequently got a security job at the industrial plant but was no longer working there.   Another friend, Bethany Brown, said Karissa had told her she found out she was pregnant three days after finding out he was married and that Wolfe had cosigned on an apartment for her provided he have a key.  Karissa told her she would come home to find him in her apartment which led her to move into a new apartment.  Moats said that Wolfe would not stop calling Karissa or showing up at her work.  She couldn’t get away from him.” Moats said.

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Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a $44 million deal to settle a number of lawsuits, including a class-action suit brought by alleged survivors of rape and sexual assault. The will use $14 million to pay legal fees of Mr. Weinstein’s associates, including his former board members; the remaining $30 million will go to settle claims by survivors who allege sexual crimes going back decades. The names of the women involved in the settlement have not been released but the deal was reached in order to settle a multitude of civil suits against Weinstein in the US, UK and Canada,.

The tentative settlement won’t affect a criminal case against Weinstein in New York City charging him with rape and other sex crimes brought on by two women. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and that trial is scheduled for September.  In a separate case, Actress Ashley Judd, one of the first women to come forward, tweeted that her legal case against Mr Weinstein was ongoing and that she intended to take him to trial.

The deal was reached during bankruptcy proceedings for Weinstein Co. The sprawling negotiations encompassed attorneys for Weinstein, Weinstein Co., the company’s unsecured creditors and the New York attorney general’s office. The New York attorney general’s office sued Weinstein Co. last year after revelations surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. They initially pushed for a victims’ fund of up to $90 million before the plans faltered after the company went bankrupt.  Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which would be paid through insurance funds, no party would admit wrongdoing.

In October 2017, the New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein.  Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the first women to come forward.  The accusations include forcing women to massage him and watch him naked. He also allegedly promised to help some women advance their careers in return for sexual favors. Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

The film producer issued an apology acknowledging he had “caused a lot of pain” – but denied allegations that he harassed female employees over nearly three decades.  The scandal surrounding Weinstein led to the #MeToo movement, which has seen hundreds of women accusing high-profile men in business, government and entertainment of sexual abuse and harassment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine mass shooting and advocate for those suffering from addiction, was found dead in his home this past weekend at the age of 37. Eubanks became a public speaker on the issue of addiction after battling with opioid abuse.  Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.  Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work” his family said in a statement.  The family noted that Eubanks’ cause of death is unknown and it is awaiting autopsy results.

Eubanks said he became addicted to opioids after being put on powerful painkillers to manage the pain from gunshot injuries sustained in the Columbine massacre.  Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting.  He was in the library with his friends, trying to decide whether they were going to go fishing or play golf after school, when they heard the sound of gunshots.  “A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock.”

Eubanks, his best friend Corey DePooter and a couple of other students hid under the same table.  About 10 minutes later, the shooters entered the library and methodically fired under each table, Eubanks said. He was shot in the hand and knee while Corey DePooter was killed instantly.  Eubanks never returned to Columbine High School after the shooting.  He was privately tutored at home three days a week until he graduated in 2000.

“Obviously, after the shooting, my life took a pretty big detour,” Eubanks said.  “As a result of my injuries, I was pretty significantly medicated about 45 minutes after being shot. I remember immediately being drawn to that feeling, because it took the emotion away,” he said of the pain medication.  Eubanks said that within a matter of weeks he developed an opioid addiction. “I learned I didn’t have to process emotion. I could keep myself numb if I was on substances,” he admitted.

He continued to struggle with addiction in his 20s.  Eubanks married at the age of 25 and had two sons but divorced four years later. Eubanks candidly spoke of years of abuse of Oxycontin, Adderall and Xanax growing worse until he lost his career in advertising and marketing, descending into a life he described as “Grand Theft Auto,” stealing cars and writing bad checks as he fed his addiction.  After multiple attempts at residential treatment, he found long-term recovery in 2011, at the age of 29.  He decided to devote his time to speaking out about addiction recovery.  He worked at Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs from 2015 to 2019, serving as Chief Operations Officer.