US On Verge of Losing Elimination Status As Measles Outbreak Continues

 

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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

Two Men Arrested In Killing of Jazmine Barnes

 

 

 

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Two arrests have been made in the killing of 7 year old Jazmine Barnes in Houston, TX.  Eric Black Jr., 20, and Larry Woodruffe, 24, have both been charged with capital murder.  Police say the shooting was a case of mistaken identity after both men mistook the family’s car for that of someone they had gotten into an argument with at a club the night before.  Police say Black was the driver and Woodruffe fired the shots.

On the morning of December 30th 2018, the shooting occurred around 6:50am as LaPorsha Washington, was pulling out of a Wal-Mart parking lot in Cloverleaf, Texas onto a highway road when someone shot into their vehicle.  Jazmine was riding in a car with her mother and three sisters when she was shot in the head.  Washington was shot in the arm, the youngest was injured by shattered glass and the other two girls were physically unharmed.

The shooting was originally feared to be a hate crime because Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, identified the shooter as a white male in his 30’s or 40’s with piercing blue eyes who was driving a red pickup truck.  Investigators distributed a sketch of the shooter based on Washington’s description and the killing was initially investigated as a possible hate crime.  Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had said he was aware of these concerns and investigators looked into the possibility that race could have played a role.  Gonzalez declined to state a specific motive for the shooting before any arrests were made.

Police say they apprehended Black after receiving a tip from journalist and civil rights activist Shaun King that sent the investigation in a new direction.  The tip implicated two black men in the shooting.  Prosecutors allege that Black told investigators he was driving the SUV from which an unidentified passenger fired the shots.  Black implicated Woodruffe and he was arrested on an unrelated drug charge.  Woodruffe denied involvement, but his phone records put him “in close proximity” to the scene of the shooting, according to court documents.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said there was, in fact, a red pickup truck driven by a white man seen at a stoplight just before the shooting, but the driver didn’t appear to have been involved. The sheriff said it was dark, the shooting happened quickly, and the red truck was probably the last thing seen by Jazmine’s family. He said authorities believe Jazmine’s family has been truthful during the investigation.  Several other witnesses placed a red pickup truck at the scene during the shooting.

On Woodruffe’s now-deleted Instagram, a photo was posted after the deadly shooting of the co-defendants. In it, Woodruffe is showing off a fan of cash. Black is flashing gang signs.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott retweeted Houston Police Officers Union President Joe Gamaldi saying, “There are too many gangs in Houston. We must expand the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force in Houston to clean our streets of this trash and restore safety.”

“The family wants to thank all of those that helped capture the suspects, all police agencies and the general public whose tips lead to their capture,” said Dr. James Dixon II of Community of Faith Church.

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Johnson & Johnson Knew of Asbestos In Baby Powder For Decades

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According to an investigation by the Reuters news agency, the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that some of its talcum powder contained dangerous levels of asbestos, but covered up its findings about the deadly carcinogen. Investigative reporters found documents showing the company knew about traces of asbestos in some of its baby powder as early as 1971.  The report came as Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits claiming its talcum powder led to cancer.

The examination of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.  The documents also reveal successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.

The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc come from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab. They describe contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. That’s one of the six minerals that in their naturally occurring fibrous form are classified as asbestos.  Various reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier yielded similar findings into the early 2000’s. The reports identify contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos, such as “fiberform” and “rods.”

In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured the regulator that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. It didn’t tell the agency that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc – in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”

The World Health Organization recognizes no safe level of exposure to asbestos and while most people exposed never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years.  Many plaintiffs allege that the amounts they inhaled when they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder were enough.  The evidence of what Johnson & Johnson knew has surfaced after people who suspected that talc caused their cancers hired lawyers experienced in the decades-long deluge of litigation involving workers exposed to asbestos. Some of the lawyers knew from those earlier cases that talc producers tested for asbestos, and they began demanding J&J’s testing documentation.

Johnson & Johnson is facing around 10,600 liability lawsuits across the United States over its talc products, most involving claims that they caused ovarian cancer, and that the company knew of and concealed risks associated with the products.  They have been fighting the lawsuits for several years with some wins and some loses.  In April, they lost the first trial when a jury in New Jersey awarded $117 million to a man suffering from mesothelioma and his wife.  In May, they lost another trial when a California jury awarded $25.7 million to a woman diagnosed with mesothelioma. Both decisions are under appeal.

Strasbourg Shooter Killed

 

 

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French Police have shot and killed 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, the suspected gunman of the attack at an outdoor Christmas market in the northeast city of Strasbourg which killed five people and injured 11 others.  French authorities say Chekatt had multiple criminal convictions and was on a security services watchlist as a suspected Islamist extremist.  Chekatt was reportedly scheduled to be arrested for an armed robbery and attempted murder charge on the day of the shooting.

He was known to security services for a total of 27 convictions in France, Germany, and Switzerland, with 67 recorded crimes in France alone.  French police considered him a “gangster-jihadist”, a term referring to people convicted of various crimes and “radicalized” in prison.  Chekatt was released from prison in France in 2015, then received a prison sentence for theft in Singen, Germany and was expelled to France after his release in 2017.

On December 11th, just before 8pm, Chekatt allegedly entered the outdoor market area and opened fire in three different areas.  The shooting lasted ten minutes and was heard shouting “Allahu akbar” as he fired into the crowd.  He also attacked people with a knife before exchanging fire with soldiers of Opération Sentinelle  and with the National Police.  Despite being shot in the arm during the shootout with authorities, he escaped the area in a taxi cab.  The cab driver was unharmed and reported having taken an armed and wounded man from the area to police immediately.

France issued the highest level of security alert and two days later Chekatt was killed in a shootout with French police after a manhunt involving 700 officers.  An investigation was initiated after the attack and four people close to Chekatt were detained for questioning after the shooting.  Those detained were his father, his mother, and two of his brothers.  A fifth person was taken into custody and a search warrant was issued in Algeria for a “very radicalized” third brother.  Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, who handles terror cases throughout France, told a news conference that a total of seven people were in police custody.  His parents and two of his brothers were later released “due to the lack of incriminating evidence at this stage” according to the prosecutor’s office.

Two victims of the shooting died at the scene and the three others later died in the hospital.  Four of the 11 people injured are in critical condition.  Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, a tourist from Thailand was shot multiple times and died at the scene.  He was on holiday with his wife, who was also shot but survived.  Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries told French TV that a local resident who has only been identified as a 61-year-old retired bank employee had also been killed.  Kamal Naghchband, a 45 year old mechanic and father of three was shot in the head while walking with his family.  He fell into a coma and died two days later.    Antonio Megalizzi, a 29-year-old Italian journalist covering the European Parliament plenary session was critically injured and died of his wounds three days later.  Barto Pedro Orent-Niedzielski, a 36-year-old Polish-born man was also critically injured in the attack and his death was announced three days later.   Orent-Niedzielski and his Italian friend Antonio Megalizzi, who were at the market together, were severely injured when they tried to stop Chekatt from entering a bar during the assault.

 

Three Dead in Chicago Mercy Hospital Shooting

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleven Killed In PA Synagogue Shooting

 

 

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is in mourning after a deadly rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.  Robert Bowers, 46, stormed the synagogue armed with an AR-15 and at least 3 handguns yelling “All Jews must die” as he opened fire on worshipers preparing for Shabbat services.  Eleven people were killed and seven were injured, the victims ranged from 54 to 97 years in age. Officers arrived on the scene as Bowers was on his way out of the building.  He fired on police from the entryway, shooting two officers and police returned fire.

Bowers retreated back into the building and SWAT officers arrived 30 minutes later.  Swat officers entered the building and were again fired upon by the gunman. Officers returned fire and wounded him, leading him to retreat to a room on the third floor of the synagogue.  Two SWAT members were wounded in the shootout, one critically.  Almost 40 minutes after the shootout with SWAT officers, an injured Bowers crawled out of the room and surrendered.

Bowers appeared in federal court in Pittsburgh on October 29th, to hear the charges against him.   He has been charged by the US Department of Justice with 29 federal crimes.  The federal charges include eleven counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, eleven counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence, four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.  The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes.  Bowers was also charged with 36 state criminal counts, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, 6 counts of aggravated assault, 6 counts of attempted criminal homicide and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.  He pled not guilty and remains in the custody of the United States Marshals Service without bail pending further hearings.

Just before the shooting rampage, Robert Bowers wrote on a far-right social media site, ”HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS refers to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a humanitarian aid nonprofit group that has provided assistance to refugees for more than 130 years.  As he received medical care in police custody, he allegedly told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die, and that Jews were committing genocide against his people, according to a criminal complaint filed in Allegheny County.

Bowers attended Baldwin High School from August 1986 to November 1989 before dropping out and worked as a trucker.  Neighbors described Bowers as “a ghost” and said that he rarely interacted with others.  Officials say he was reportedly heavily involved in promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online through social media.  He had published posts supporting the white genocide theory and also stated that supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory were “deluded” and being tricked.  Other posts attacked African Americans with racial slurs and images related to lynching, and attacked women who have relationships with black men.

In the weeks before the shooting, Bowers made anti-Semitic posts directed at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)-sponsored National Refugee Shabbat of October 19–20, in which Tree of Life participated.  He claimed that Jews were aiding members of Central American caravans moving towards the United States border and to have referred to members of those caravans as invaders.

 

Officer Found Guilty In Laquan McDonald Shooting

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, 40, was convicted of second degree murder in the 2014 shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald.  Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in about 50 years. Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years, especially for someone with no criminal history but probation is also an option. Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet.

The second-degree verdict reflected the jury’s finding that Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but that the belief was unreasonable. The jury also had the option of first degree-murder, which required finding that the shooting was unnecessary and unreasonable.  Legal experts say Van Dyke will likely be sentenced to no more than 6 years but that because he is an officer, it will likely be in isolation.

The verdict was the latest chapter in a story that shook Chicago residents soon after a judge ordered the release of the video in November 2015.  Protests erupted and continued, demanding accountability for the shooting.  The city’s police superintendent and the county’s top prosecutor both lost their jobs — one fired by the mayor and the other ousted by voters. It also led to a Justice Department investigation that found a “pervasive cover-up culture” and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.

The city had been preparing for possible demonstrations in a case that already sparked protests with many downtown businesses and City Hall closing early in anticipation of protests.  Groups of demonstrators took to the streets for several hours after the verdict, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated,” and “Sixteen shots and a cover up.”

Prosecutors in Van Dyke’s trial called on multiple officers who were there that night in an effort to penetrate the “blue wall of silence” long associated with the city’s police force and other law enforcement agencies across the country.  Three officers, including Van Dyke’s partner, have been charged with conspiring to cover up and lie about what happened to protect Van Dyke. They have all pleaded not guilty.

According to testimony, on the night of the shooting, officers were waiting for someone with a stun gun to use on the teenager when Van Dyke arrived.  Former Police Officer Joseph Walsh, Van Dyke’s partner the night of the shooting, testified that Van Dyke said to him “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot that guy,” before arriving at the scene.  Van Dyke was on scene for less than 30 seconds before opening fire and the first shot he fired was 6 seconds after he exited his patrol car.

The first responding officer said that he did not see the need to use force and none of the at least eight other officers on the scene fired their weapons.  Video of the shooting shows that Officer Van Dyke was advancing on McDonald, while McDonald was walking away from him when the first shot was fired.  McDonald was shot 16 times in 14–15 seconds and 9 of those shots hit his back as he lay on the ground.  Toxicology reports later revealed that McDonald had PCP in his blood and urine.

Assistant special prosecutor Jody Gleason told the jury that Van Dyke contemplated shooting McDonald before he even encountered the young man, referring to testimony about what Van Dyke told his partner before arriving at the scene.  “It wasn’t the knife in Laquan’s hand that made the defendant kill him that night. It was his indifference to the value of Laquan’s life.”   Van Dyke was taken into custody moments after the verdict was read.  He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on October 31.