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In just under seven minutes, 17 people were killed and 15 others wounded in Parkland, Florida in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The massacre at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County started as students anxiously waited for the end of the school day. The shooter, 19 year old Nicholas Cruz, was a former student at the school who had been kicked out of school several times for bringing weapons to school and finally expelled last year for fighting.
Cruz entered the school armed with an AR15 rifle and pulled the fire alarm at 2:21pm, confusing many students and faculty because they had already had a fire drill earlier that morning. Police said the 19-year-old also had multiple magazines, smoke grenades and a gas mask. As students began to leave the building because of the fire alarm, Cruz begins shooting into rooms 1215, 1216 and 1214. Hearing the gunshots, students and teachers run back into the classrooms. Some of them had enough time to lock the doors and hide in closets while others were not as lucky.
Many students and faculty were still in the hallways, confused as to where the shooter was while many brave staff ushered stragglers into classrooms or away from the shooter. Cruz returned to rooms 1216, 1215 and 1213, firing into them again. He then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot a person in room 1234. Three minutes into the shooting, Cruz headed to the third floor of Building 12 and tried to bust out a window on the third floor to shoot at students as they fled the building. The windows in that part of the building are shatterproof so he was unsuccessful. A little after 2:27pm, Cruz discarded his rifle and ammunition and fled the school blending in with students fleeing the building. He was apprehended at 3:41pm after an officer spotted him walking down a street.
In those terrifying minutes, many lives were lost, families shattered and an entire school was traumatized. The victims killed in the horrific shooting have been identified as Scott Beigel 35; Peter Wang, 15; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Alex Schachter, 14; Helena Ramsay, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Alaina Petty, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Gina Montalto, 14; Cara Loughran, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Christopher Hixon, 49; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Aaron Feis, 37; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 and Alyssa Alhadeff, 14.
There were many heroes during those terrifying minutes that saved countless lives by helping get others out of the line of fire. Peter Wang, a student and active member of the ROTC program, was last seen alive holding the door open for students who were fleeing the shooter. Colton Haab, another ROTC member, ushered over 60 people into a room. He grabbed Kevlar sheets he and others used for the marksmanship program to shield the students from gunfire. Fifteen year old Anthony Borges helped 20 of his classmates scramble into a classroom as the shooter headed their way and was shot five times as he was locking the door. Borges, is currently in stable condition after hours of surgery with more surgeries to come and a long road to recovery.
Scott Beigel was a geography teacher who unlocked his classroom door to usher a group of students to safety only to be shot and killed while trying to relock the door. Aaron Feis, a popular football coach and school security guard was killed while shielding several students from the shooter’s gunfire.
An unidentified janitor redirected a mass of students who were unknowingly running toward the shooter to another hallway and into the culinary room. Ashley Kurth, a 34-year-old culinary teacher, spotted the mass of terrified children running as she went to lock her door. She ushered the students and two faculty members (including the janitor) into her classroom and locked the door, saving 65 people. Teacher Melissa Falkowski locked her door and hid 19 students in the classroom closet. Countless other faculty and students, remembering their training from drills for active shooter situations, bravely helped save lives yet they are devastated to have lost so many lives.

 

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On February 11, 2018, a Russian commercial plane crashed near Moscow, killing all 71 people on board. Among the victims of the crash were 65 passengers including 3 children and 6 crew members. The cause of the crash is unknown. The Saratov Airlines flight 703, crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The plane was headed to the city of Orsk on the Kazakhstan border and officials have said most of the passengers were from the eastern part of the Orenburg region which is on the southern end of the Ural Mountains.
Officials say the aircraft’s speed and altitude started to fluctuate soon after take-off. A preliminary analysis of the on-board flight recorder indicated the plane had problems two-and-a-half minutes after it took off, at an altitude of around 4,265ft. Moments before the crash, Flight 703 had gained an altitude of 5,900 feet. The 7 year old passenger jet then went into a steep decent until it disappeared from the radar at an altitude of around 3,000 feet.
The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee is investigating the crash. They said that faulty instruments could have given the pilots wrong speed data. The instruments began displaying different speed readings, probably because of iced speed sensors while their heating systems were shut off, the committee said. When the crew detected the issue, they switched off the plane’s autopilot. They eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees.
Witnesses say the plane, an Antonov An-148 aircraft, was in flames as it fell from the sky. The crash was caught by a surveillance camera in a nearby house. The footage showed that the aircraft slammed into the ground and immediately burst into flames. The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo, about 50 miles south-east of Moscow. Wreckage and body parts are strewn over a large area of about 74 acres. More than 1,400 body parts and hundreds of plane fragments have been recovered from the crash site.

 
Rescue workers reached the site 2.5 hours after the crash. More than 700 people are involved in the search operation, struggling through deep snow. The emergencies ministry is collecting DNA samples from victims’ relatives as part of the identification process of the 65 passengers and 6 crew members. The wreckage of Flight 703 was scattered over a half mile wide area.
News outlets have reported that the pilot had declined to have the aircraft de-iced before the departure even though the weather at the time of departure included snow showers and −5°C temperature at Domodedovo Airport. The procedure is optional and the crew’s decision is based mainly on the weather conditions.

 

 

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against chemical giant DuPont, charging the company with illegally dumping a toxic chemical from its Washington Works plant into the Ohio River for decades. The Ohio lawsuit comes as the Environmental Protection Agency ordered DuPont to test water near its Washington Works plant for another chemical, GenX—which was billed as a replacement for C8 but which is linked to many of the same health problems.
The suit charges DuPont released the chemical, which is used in Teflon coating, even though it knew of the dangers of PFOA, also known as C8, which has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and low birth weight in babies. Studies have found Tristate residents have a higher level of the chemical in their bodies, likely a result of industrial discharge into the Ohio River.
“Human Exposure to PFOA — even at very low levels — has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and low birth weight, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis,” the lawsuit says. PFOA is known to be toxic and carcinogenic in animals and is resistant to typical environmental degradation processes. The lawsuit alleges DuPont negligently caused environmental contamination and created a public nuisance by allowing PFOA to enter air, soil and water in Ohio. “DuPont’s conscious disregard for the right of Ohio and the safety of its citizens has caused and continues to cause substantial harm to Ohio, and the property and natural resources it holds in a trust for its citizens and will likely cause substantial harm in the future,” the lawsuit says.
DuPont has been hit with a number of lawsuits in recent years after many have said the company released toxins into the environment. The company now faces 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal court by Mid-Ohio Valley residents in a 185-square-mile area around Parkersburg, West Virginia. An Ohio man who developed cancer was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages against DuPont in 2016.
A New Jersey city filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit against DuPont, alleging the company spun off the Chambers Works facility to avoid environmental cleanup costs. It alleges the Chambers Works site, where Teflon has been manufactured since 1938, is polluted because of a toxic chemical used in the product’s manufacturing. The lawsuit claimed DuPont dumped over 100 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the water and ground since the plant opened in 1892. Toxins from these products, which generated billions of dollars in sales for DuPont, impacted residents as far as two miles away from the plant. Hazardous substances including mercury, benzene and ethyl chloride were all used at the plant. DuPont settled that class action suit for $8.3 million.

 

 

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Disturbing details have come to light in the scandal surrounding USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who has been accused by 265 women and girls of sexual abuse dating as far back as 1992. When the FBI began its investigation of Nassar in July 2015, no effort was made by USA Gymnastics officials to warn other potential victims of Nassar. At least 40 of the victims were abused after the FBI began its investigation. Many of his victims were sexually abused under the pretense of providing medical treatment but he has also been accused of molesting children of family friends.
Nassar was the USA Gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. For 15 years, he worked at the Karolyi Ranch, a gymnastics camp facility and the main training center for the United States women’s national gymnastics team. USA Gymnastics said that its executives first learned of “athlete concerns” regarding Nassar in June 2015. Following a five week investigation, he was fired and reported to the FBI in July 2015. They quietly cut ties with Nassar in July 2015, leaving him to continue to work at Michigan State-treating athletes and children at a university clinic until August 2016. Reports have revealed that USA Gymnastics (USAG) board members were aware of accusations against Nassar well before their initial claim in 2015.
Michigan State had first received a complaint against Nassar in 2014 but an investigation into the complaint found no violation of policy. Under an agreement, Nassar was allowed to continue treating patients under certain agreed upon restrictions but no monitoring was instituted. Michigan State fired him for violation of that agreement on September 20 2016 after another woman filed a complaint of sexual abuse.
In November 2016, Nassar was indicted on state charges of sexual assault of a child from 1998 to 2005. He was charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors. Nassar was finally arrested by the FBI in December 2016 after agents found more than 37,000 images of child pornography and a video of Nassar molesting underage girls. On December 7, 2017, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. On January 24th 2017, in Ingham County Circuit Court, he was sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for the sexual assault of minors. On February 5, 2018 Eaton County Circuit Judge Janice Cunningham sentenced Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison for the three counts of criminal sexual assault.
Since the scandal broke, all 18 members of the USAG Board of Directors has resigned amid accusations of negligence. In response to the scandal, USAG adopted reforms based on a June 2017 report by an investigator hired to review the organization’s policies and practices. One of the changes is a requirement that all USAG members report any suspected sexual misconduct to appropriate authorities and the US Center for SafeSport.

 

 

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The Department of Defense has revealed a new strategy for American nuclear policy focused on building up smaller nuclear weapons that are easier to use. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is an effort to “look reality in the eye,” said Defense Secretary James Mattis, and “see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.” The new strategy involves spending at least $1.2 trillion to upgrade the United States’ nuclear arsenal, including developing a new nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile. The policy update calls for the introduction of “low-yield nukes” on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and the resumption of the nuclear-submarine-launched cruise missile (SLC-M) whose production stopped during the George W. Bush era and which Obama removed from the nuclear arsenal.
The “low yield” bombs the NPR focuses on can do damage similar to that of the U.S. nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The two bombings killed 140,000 people in the initial blast, most of whom were civilians. Thousands more died from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries in the two to four months following the bombings. The bombings remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of warfare because of the devastating effects.
Russia, the only country whose nuclear arsenal rivals the United States’ stockpile, already has a large arsenal of weapons this size. U.S. and Russian strategies of nuclear development have differed, with the US favoring larger, longer-lasting weapons and Russia focusing on constantly updating a collection of smaller, more mobile bombs.
The new low-yield nukes are intended to answer any potential overseas attack by Russia. The Pentagon worries that Putin’s army could take control of a U.S. ally and detonate a small nuclear weapon to prevent U.S. troops from responding. Low-yield nukes would provide a proportionate method of response, forestalling a larger nuclear conflict or one with weaker weapons.
Anti-nuclear advocates have accused the Pentagon of lowering the bar for nuclear warfare. The new policy “calls for more usable nuclear weapons with low yields, and for their first use in response to cyber and conventional strikes on civilian infrastructure such as financial, transportation, energy and communications networks,” said Bruce Blair, co-founder of the anti-nuclear-weapons group Global Zero. “It makes nuclear war more likely, not less.” The new nuclear policy has alarmed arms control experts around the globe and been openly criticized by Iran, Russia and China.

 

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A new study finds that roughly half of all U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t get the mental healthcare they need. According to the congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, while many veterans receive good mental health care through the VA, it’s inconsistent across the system. The report recommends changes to improve the care offered by the Veterans Affairs health system.
Roughly half of those veterans surveyed who showed a need for mental health care said they do not currently receive any such care, either through VA or private physicians. That group includes many veterans with prior diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or related challenges.
The assessment, which was ordered by Congress in 2013 found that veterans who seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and other mental health conditions are unable to find treatment because of the VA’s bureaucracy or staffing shortages at clinics and hospitals. The report shows that other factors such as lack of social support, distance and fear of revealing a mental health issue may discourage veterans from seeking care at all.
According to the report, the majority of those who could use these services don’t know whether they are eligible, don’t know how to get the services and don’t even know that the VA provides mental health care while others- frustrated with red tape or long waits-stop pursuing care. The study found that those who do get care encounter “tremendous mental health care expertise” and that the system can deliver care in a “truly integrated and strategic manner.” But the report added that chronic staffing challenges and confusing procedures and policies continue to be a challenge. Researchers said more work needs to be done to improve outreach to veterans in need and public awareness of resources available.
Veterans are often confused as to how to get benefits, unsure of eligibility or frustrated by the red tape and long waits. The VA has had consistent problems with providing care for the more than 4 million service members who have left active duty since the start of the 16 year war in Afghanistan. The report shows that many who served in Iraq and Afghanistan often did multiple tours, served longer deployments and had less time at home compared with earlier conflicts.
In 2014, the stresses of such deployments became hard to ignore when the suicide rate among veterans rose 22% higher than those who had not served in the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently reported about 20 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day. An estimated 265,000 service members transition out each year, adding to the pool of veterans who may need mental health care.
The report recommends that the VA develop a plan to deliver quality mental health care throughout its system in three to five years. On Jan. 9th, an executive order was signed, giving military and VA officials 60 days to develop a plan to give people leaving military service seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention in the year following their service. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has pledged to seek major reform of the VA.

 

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A school shooting in Kentucky at Marshall County High School on Tuesday morning, left 18 students injured and two dead.  Prosecutors say the suspect, a 15 year old student at the school, opened fire in the common area.  The victims are Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both 15 years old. Another 14 victims were shot, while four others were injured as they tried to flee the chaotic scene.  Five students are still hospitalized in critical condition.  All of the victims were aged between 14 and 18.

The suspected shooter barged into the school’s common area around 8 a.m., unleashing a hail of bullets that killed Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope.  Secret Holt, who received a phone call from her daughter before she died, said, “All I could hear was voices and chaos in the background and she couldn’t say anything.”  “I called her name over and over and she never responded, so we rushed to the high school.”  After the shooting, buses took surviving students to another school, where parents waited. Secret and Jasen Holt waited for their daughter Bailey to walk off one of the buses but she never did.  They were later told Bailey Holt died at the scene.

Brian Cope said he knew his son Preston was shot when he arrived at the school.  He peered into an ambulance and saw the socks he laid out for his son the night before.  Preston Cope, who was shot in the head and hand was airlifted to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, died during the flight en route to the hospital.

Gage Smock, Bailey’s boyfriend- was also shot in the head but is in stable condition. His father, Gary Wayne Smock, fought back tears as he told reporters that he’s been able to speak with his son but there’s no word from doctors on when the boy will be released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  No other victims have been identified to the media so far.

The suspect appeared to fire his handgun at random, prosecutors said. Students tried to break down fences and gates to escape the building as shots rang out.  Authorities have not identified the shooter because he is a juvenile but he has been identified as Gabe Parker, the son of an online newspaper editor.  When Parker’s mother, Mary Garrison Minyard, heard gunfire had broken out at school, she rushed to the scene only to learn the suspected shooter was her own son.  The suspect appeared in front of a judge at the Marshall County Judicial Center in Benton, less than five miles from the crime scene.  He has been charged with two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault, according to Marshall County assistant attorney Jason Darnall, who is prosecuting the case.  Darnall told reporters that his office would move to have the 15-year-old tried as an adult.

A joint visitation for Preston Ryan Cope, 15 and Bailey Nicole Holt, also 15, will be held 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Reed Conder Memorial Gymnasium at Marshall County High School.

 

 

 

 

 

opioid epidemic.jpgNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the city is suing major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over their role in the opioid crisis.   The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court seeks $500 million in damages for current and future costs from what the mayor described as “corporate drug pushers.”  Among the companies being sued are Purdue Pharma, which is the maker of OxyContin, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The lawsuit alleges opioid manufacturers used deceptive marketing to flood the city with prescription painkillers, creating “a substantial burden on the city through increased substance use treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, inpatient hospital services, medical examiner costs, criminal justice costs and law enforcement costs.”

John Puskar, director of public affairs at Purdue, issued a statement saying the company “vigorously” denies the charges leveled by the city.  “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

The opioid crisis killed nearly 64,000 Americans in 2016 and provisional data for 2017 from the CDC show no signs of the epidemic abating, with an estimate of more than 66,000 overdose deaths for the year.   While overdose rates increased in all age groups, rises were most significant in those between the ages of 25 and 54.  Overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.  “Based on what we’re seeing, it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics.

 

 

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The #MeToo movement continues to expose Hollywood’s dirty secrets but one accusation that has been doubted for years is on topic again.  Woody Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, gave an interview saying she’s hurt and angry that her claims of childhood sexual assault by Allen have been disbelieved for years. Farrow says Allen molested her in 1992, when she was just 7 years old. Allen, who began an affair and eventually married Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn- has strongly denied the claims for years saying Farrow had manipulated Dylan into the claims for vindictive and self-serving motives.

Dylan Farrow gave an emotional interview to Gayle King, host of CBS This Morning where she spoke of the abuse and her frustration of not being believed for so many years.  She said a few months after the affair was exposed, Allen had come to their house for visitation while her mother was out shopping.  “I was taken to a small attic crawl space in my mother’s country house in Connecticut by my father. He instructed me to lay down on my stomach and play with my brother’s toy train that was set up. And he sat behind me in the doorway, and as I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted… As a 7-year-old I would say, I would have said he touched my private parts.  Dylan also said that prior to the assault, he was always overly affectionate with her but not her other siblings and used to have her get in bed with him while both were in their underwear.

Woody Allen was never charged with a crime in this case. Both New York state child welfare investigators and a report by the Yale New Haven hospital found that the abuse did not happen. The Connecticut state prosecutor on the case, Frank Maco, said he found no evidence of coaching and questioned the report’s credibility saying there was probable cause to charge Allen but he thought Dylan was too fragile to face a celebrity trial.  Dylan said she wished they had gone to trial because all these years of being ignored, disbelieved and tossed aside have been painful.

Woody Allen released at statement after the interview aired stating “When this claim was first made more than 25 years ago, it was thoroughly investigated by both the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital and New York State Child Welfare. They both did so for many months and independently concluded that no molestation had ever taken place. Instead, they found it likely a vulnerable child had been coached to tell the story by her angry mother during a contentious breakup.”

“Dylan’s older brother Moses has said that he witnessed their mother doing exactly that – relentlessly coaching Dylan, trying to drum into her that her father was a dangerous sexual predator. It seems to have worked – and, sadly, I’m sure Dylan truly believes what she says.”

“But even though the Farrow family is cynically using the opportunity afforded by the Time’s Up movement to repeat this discredited allegation, that doesn’t make it any more true today than it was in the past. I never molested my daughter – as all investigations concluded a quarter of a century ago.”

 

 

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Two men have been arrested in the grisly murders of a same-sex couple and two children in Troy, New York.  James White, 38, and Justin Mann, 24 have been charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder.  The victims were 36-year-old Shanta Myers, her partner 22-year-old Brandi Mell and Myers’ two children, Jeremiah, 11, and Shanise, five.  Myers’ oldest son, 15-year-old Isaiah, was not home at the time of the murders.

Their bodies were discovered in their basement apartment around noon on Dec. 26th by the property manager while doing a well-being check.  According to family members, the Myers family moved in with Brandi Mells following an eviction earlier this year but because of apartment’s small size, Isaiah stayed with a relative.

Mells’ cousin, Sharonda Bennett said she last spoke to Brandi on Dec. 19 to discussed holiday plans  The couple were deciding between celebrating in Troy or in Paterson, New Jersey, where the Mells family lives, she said.  She said that the couple became unreachable around 11 p.m. on Dec. 21st, after Mell’s mother couldn’t reach her by phone and no one answered at the apartment.   Bennett said her calls to Brandi went straight to voicemail and she assumed maybe they had decided to spend Christmas in New Jersey.

Two days later, Isaiah stopped by to deliver Christmas presents to his siblings but no one answered the door, which was locked.   He left for a basketball tournament, thinking they’d stepped out for a bit.  After still not being able to reach them the day after Christmas, Mells’ mom called the property manager and asked the manager to see if her daughter was home.  The manager found the bodies and immediately called cops.

The motives of these murders have not been revealed but Troy Police Chief James Tedesco said these victims were targeted and confirmed that the victims were killed late in the evening of Dec 21st.  He called the slayings the worst “savagery” he’d ever seen in his 42-year career.  Police did not detail how they caught the suspects, and a family member of one of the victims said that she had never heard of the men and knew no reason why the women and children would be targeted.

Police have said Justin Mann was “acquainted” with Brandi Mells.  He said that both suspects have a criminal history and that Justin Mann was on parole.   Department of Corrections records show Mann was released on parole in June 2017 after serving time for a first-degree robbery conviction in 2014. Both men, from nearby Schenectady, were apprehended without incident Friday night and arraigned Saturday.   Both are being held without bail in the Rensselaer County Jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 4th.