Tag Archive: mark j. shuster rochester


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Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, officials are warning the island’s health system is in dire condition as the island still has severely limited electricity and running water.  Many residents have contracted bacterial diseases, likely as a result of their exposure to contaminated floodwaters but without electricity and clean water-treatment is scarce.  The official death toll from Hurricane Maria has now risen to 45.

Hurricane Maria knocked out the water system for more than half the island’s 3.4 million people, leaving many reusing what little water they can get their hands on.  Medical experts say it is one of the factors that make them deeply concerned over a possible spike in infectious diseases in coming weeks.  Twenty of the island’s fifty-one sewage treatment plants are still out of service allowing raw sewage to contaminate rivers, streams and reservoirs.  Those without running water bathe and wash their clothes in contaminated streams, and some islanders have been drinking water from condemned wells.

Nine out of 10 homes on the island still have no electricity, leaving fans and air conditioning units unavailable to stave off mosquitos carrying illness in the storm’s aftermath.  Neither electricity nor running water is expected to be fully restored for months.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 64 of the island’s 68 hospitals are open but only 25 are hooked up to the power grid.  The remaining hospitals are running off of generators that aren’t meant to be used for such long periods and rely on erratic diesel supplies.

Some 11,000 U.S. military personnel have come to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and convoys of military vehicles carrying pallets of bottled water and meals are visible in the interior. Mosquito control units deployed in six municipalities, officials said, and five temporary biomedical waste stations have been set up.

FEMA has 16,000 federal and military assets are on the ground in Puerto Rico and about 350,000 Puerto Ricans have registered so far in the FEMA system to receive financial assistance.  Roads and highways have been washed out, hampering relief efforts to the interior of the island.  Some remote areas have not received any help since the storm.  Food and basic supplies remain scarce in the mountainous interior making the threat of waterborne diseases grow.

Authorities hope the arrival of the USNS Comfort will help ease problems at hospitals around the island.  The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with three operating rooms, 50 ICU beds along with another 200 other beds, and some 500 medical personnel. Two MH-60 helicopters sit on its landing-pad deck.

The ship will treat patients and also provide services to other hospitals such as refilling tanks for medical-grade oxygen and re-sterilizing hospital gear.  The ship’s staff had already treated 64 patients shortly after its arrival and medical personnel expected to see many others with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and lung problems.

 

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Tom Petty Dead At 66

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Tom Petty has died at the age of 66, after he was found unconscious and in cardiac arrest at his California home.  Longtime manager of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Tony Dimitriades released a statement “On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered full cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

The music legend was rushed to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital where he was put on life support and his pulse returned. Later the decision was reportedly made to remove him from life support after it was found that he was lacking brain activity.  Petty is survived by his wife, Dana; daughters Adria and AnnaKim, from his earlier marriage to Jane Benyo; and a stepson, Dylan.

Petty rose to fame in the 1970s as leader of The Heartbreakers and is best known for hit songs including “I Won’t Back Down,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “American Girl” and “Refugee.”  Together, they released 13 albums over their 40 years together and Petty released 3 solo albums as well.  He was also a member and co-founder of the late 1980s super-group the Traveling Wilburys which included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, for their contribution to the recording industry.  In 2001, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Petty received the Billboard Century Award, their highest honor for creative achievement.  Over the span of his music career, he won three Grammys, had 18 nominations and sold more than 33 million albums in the U.S. alone.  In interviews he frequently credited his early interest in music with meeting Elvis and watching The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

On Sept. 25th, Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished their 40th anniversary tour.  Earlier this year, in an interview Petty told Rolling Stone Magazine it would be the last major tour for the group but that it would continue to play concerts.  “I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country,” he told the outlet. “We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road.”

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The U.S. State Department announced that it is evacuating more than half its embassy staff from Cuba and warning US citizens not to travel to the island after a wave of mysterious sonic attacks have harmed 21 American diplomats and family members in Havana.  The evacuation was announced after a series of unexplained health problems that embassy workers are suffering, including hearing loss and brain injury. The health problems appear to be caused by some form of sonic attack.   An official said “The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel.  We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national-security and foreign-policy interest of the United States.”  Several Canadian households in Cuba are also believed to have been affected by the sonic attacks, but Canada said it had no plans to remove any staff from Cuba or warn travelers against heading to the island.

Cuban officials deny any involvement in the apparent attack and Cuban officials are cooperating with U.S. officials to investigate the incidents.  Cuba’s foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs, Josefina Vidal, said “We consider the decision announced today by the US government through the state department is hasty and will affect bilateral relations.”  The decision delivers a significant setback to the delicate reconciliation between the US and Cuba, two countries that endured a half-century estrangement despite their locations only 90 miles apart.

A senior US State Department official said some of the attacks were carried out in hotels; appear to have affected only the diplomats staying there and no other guests or hotel workers.  That gave them reason to believe the attacks were targeted, and that it may be unsafe for US citizens to travel to Cuba.  They still don’t know the means, methods and how these attacks are being carried out. Officials who announced the decision said it was still not clear who was responsible for the “targeted attacks” which have caused injuries including permanent hearing loss, brain injuries, speech problems, dizziness, tinnitus, problems with balance, visual impairment, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulties sleeping.  The range of symptoms has raised speculation of some kind of sonic weapons, while some former intelligence officers have suggested they might be a result of a surveillance effort that went awry.  An official said the possibility that a third country was responsible for the attacks had not been ruled out but investigations are continuing.

The FBI and other agencies that searched homes and hotels where incidents occurred found no devices. Some US diplomats reported hearing various loud noises such as ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas while others heard a loud grinding noise.  In some cases, the effects were narrowly confined, with victims able to walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises audible in only certain rooms or parts of rooms.  Others heard and felt nothing yet reported symptoms later.  The attacks seemed to come at night with several victims reporting that they were in minute-long bursts.

U.S. diplomats first complained of unexplained hearing loss in the fall of 2016 and the US first acknowledged the attacks in August – nine months after symptoms were first reported.  Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, a sign of more serious damage than the US government initially realized.

The cholera outbreak in Yemen has become a dire situation as the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the number of cases has reached over 400,000.   U.N. leaders say the outbreak has increased the number of people in need of assistance to nearly 21 million.  Since late April, the total has reached 402,484 suspected cases, 1,880 of them fatal.  Illnesses have been reported in all but 2 of the country’s 23 governorates.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, along with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, said in a statement that more than 2 years of hostilities have crippled health, water, and sanitation systems, creating ideal conditions for the disease to spread.

“We now call on the international community to redouble its support for the people of Yemen. If we fail to do so, the catastrophe we have seen unfolding before our eyes will not only continue to claim lives but will scar future generations and the country for years to come,” the three said in their statement.

They warned that Yemen is on the brink of famine and 60% of the population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. They added that nearly 2 million of the country’s children are acutely malnourished, making them susceptible to cholera, which leads to more malnutrition.

The outbreak began last year but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last couple of months.  UNICEF and WHO have attributed the outbreak to malnutrition, collapsing sanitation and clean water systems due to the country’s ongoing conflict.

The impact of the outbreak has been exacerbated by many factors including the collapse of the Yemeni health services, where 30,000  health workers have remained unpaid for 10 months but are still reporting for duty. Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are still functional.  WHO officials said “We have asked the Yemeni authorities to pay these health workers urgently because, without them, we fear that people who would otherwise have survived may die.”

Local authorities and humanitarian groups have set up more than 1,000 treatment centers and oral rehydration units.  The UN is working with the World Bank on a partnership to support the response needs and maintain the local health system.

Two years of conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels have taken a heavy toll on Yemen, causing widespread internal displacement and leaving millions facing famine.  The collapse of the country’s infrastructure has led to 14.5 million people, including nearly 8 million children,  having no access to clean water and sanitation.

With thousands more cases reported each day the number of cholera cases in Yemen is expected to exceed 600,000 by the end of the year.

 

 

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has retired from the NFL just before the first full-team practice of training camp.  His decision  came two days after a medical study indicated that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in nearly 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research.  A team source said that the findings weighed heavy on Urschel’s decision to retire.

The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of the 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE, which can lead to memory loss, depression and dementia—often years or even decades after players retire.  Several top names in the game- including Junior Seau, Frank Gifford, John Mackey and Kenny Stabler — were diagnosed with the disease after their deaths.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was surprised when Urschel called him 90 minutes before practice to inform him of his retirement.  “He said he’s going to retire from football, that it was something that’s been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason.”

In August 2015, Urschel suffered a concussion in a helmet-to-helmet collision, which he said “I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically,” Urschel said. “It took me about three weeks before I was football-ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back.”

Urschel will now pursue his PhD in Mathematics fulltime at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.  He had been pursuing it in the offseason prior to his retirement.  Urschel was recently named to Forbes’ “30 under 30” in the field of science. He has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review.  According to the Ravens website, Urschel is an expert mathematician who gets straight A’s while also grinding away in the NFL trenches.

Urschel who played on the offensive line for three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, received a $144,560 signing bonus when joining the Ravens in 2014. The bonus prorated at $36,140 per year. With one year left on the contract, Urschel owes the Ravens $36,140 upon retirement.

Urschel released a statement shortly after the announcement.  “Thank you to everyone for the kind words today. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one for me,” Urschel said in a statement. “There’s no big story here, and I’d appreciate the right to privacy. I’m extremely grateful to the Ravens, and blessed to have been able to play the game I love at the highest level.

It is a great game. There are some games — like the playoff game at Pittsburgh — that I will never forget. I’m excited to start working on my doctorate in mathematics full time at MIT. I’m looking forward to the chance to take courses that are only offered in the fall semester, while spending time with my fiance and preparing myself for the new challenges that will come with fatherhood. We’re expecting our first child in December.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has extended the state of emergency for another three months.  The extension followed weekend ceremonies to commemorate the first anniversary of the failed military coup in which around 250 people, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed.  Anniversary celebrations came a week after the leader of the main opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, ended a nearly 280-mile “March for Justice” from Ankara to Istanbul by holding a rally attended by more than a million people calling for an end to emergency rule and injustice.

President Erdogan vowed to continue the brutal crackdown against activists, journalists, teachers and opposition lawmakers.  He also called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey.  Since emergency rule was imposed on July 20 last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 people have been suspended in a crackdown which Erdogan’s opponents say has pushed Turkey on a path to greater authoritarianism.

Speaking at parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the emergency rule had helped created the necessary legal environment to cleanse the state of Gulen’s network. The Turkish government says it is necessary to root out supporters of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who is believed to be behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Since the failed coup where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken what some say are controversial steps to strengthen its power.   In March, the Jurist Report was published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The report describes a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016.

The same month the report was published, around 330 individuals were put on trial for alleged involvement in an attempted coup.  In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders alleging they were connected to terror organizations.  Earlier this month the Turkish Parliament elected seven new members to the country’s 13-member Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) in an overnight vote.

Ten human rights activists, including Amnesty International Turkey director Idil Eser, were in court to face terrorism related charges.  The targeting of human rights defenders and similar earlier crackdowns on lawyers and associations raises the question of who will be left to defend the tens of thousands of people caught up in the post-coup purge.

 

In Chicago, a wave of violence over the long holiday weekend left 102 people shot—with 15 people killed and 86 others injured by gunfire.  Nearly half were shot in a spate of violence as the weekend closed out between 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

Violence in Chicago has become the standard as the city is plagued with gang activity.  The Chicago Police Department says that it has become standard procedure during long holiday warm weather weekends to put more than 1,300 extra officers on the street.  A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. The violence this year was largely concentrated in the city’s south and west sides, including districts where the Chicago Police Department have deployed extra resources including hundreds of officers on overtime.

The Chicago Police Department expressed frustrations over the violent long weekend.  They said they are conducting “a very comprehensive review” after experiencing one of its most violent Fourth of July weekends in recent history.  Chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said “It’s perplexing, the mood here is frustration.”  “We deployed some very successful tactics over the Memorial Day weekend.” Yet those same tactics did not seem to work as well over the Fourth holiday.”

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over “petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun.”  He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening. He said a “handful” of shootings were “retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating … It’s just enormously frustrating.”

As part of its review of what happened over the weekend, the department is looking at how amateur fireworks may have interfered with the ShotSpotter system, a relatively new technology the department hopes to expand.  The spotters register a shooting and deploy cameras in the direction of the shots while officers are deployed.  Analysts at the district station look at the data in real time to decide what steps to take next.  Guglielmi called it “micro-deployment.”

The violent weekend brings the total number of people shot in Chicago so far in 2017 to more than 1,800, according to data maintained by the Tribune, still below the 2,035 recorded at this time last year.

 

 

 

philando-castile-mother.jpgThe city of St. Anthony, Minnesota will pay nearly $3 million to the family of Philando Castile to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on manslaughter charges for killing Castile during a 2016 traffic stop.  Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed.

The settlement is to be paid to Castile’s mother Valerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee.  The $2.995 million settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court.

Attorney Robert Bennett, who is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

The settlement will help benefit the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.  Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation hopes to continue to award an annual $5000 scholarship.  Through donations and part of the settlement, organizers hope to establish a permanent endowment to fund the annual $5,000 scholarship.  In May, 18-year-old Marques Watson was announced as the first recipient.

Watson intends to study mechanical engineering. He’ll take advantage of a tuition-free offer at St. Paul College this fall and hopes to complete his four-year degree at a historically black college or university.  Watson has participated in AVID, a school-based program that prepares underrepresented students for college, since seventh grade. He said he’ll be the first in his extended family to attend college.

Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who witnessed the shooting and posted video seconds after, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim.

A claims manager with the League of Minnesota Cities, said St. Anthony’s insurance coverage is $3 million per occurrence. If Reynolds were to file and win a claim, the city’s remaining $5,000 in coverage would be paid to her and St. Anthony would have to cover any additional money awarded.

 

 

 

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After five days of deliberations, a jury has acquitted the Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all charges in shooting death of Philando Castile.  Officer Yanez, an officer for the suburb of St. Anthony, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting.  Yanez and the 12 jurors were quickly led out of the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

In July 2016, Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and was shot within 62 seconds of his encounter with Officer Yanez.  Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat, began Facebook livestreaming less than a minute after the shooting as her 4 year old daughter hid in the backseat and Castile slumped over dying.

Dash cam footage shows Officer Yanez approach the vehicle and exchange greetings with Castile and informing him of a brake light problem. He asks for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance.  Castile who had a concealed carry license hands the officer his insurance card and says “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Officer Yanez replies, “Okay” and places his right hand on the holster of his gun and says “Okay, don’t reach for it.” Castile responds “I’m not pulling it out,” as Officer Yanez continues to yell “Don’t pull it out.”  Yanez pulled his gun and fired seven shots in the direction of Castile.  Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!”  Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it”, which were his last words.

Reynolds started live-streaming onto Facebook about 40 seconds after the last shot.  In a shaky voice she explains that the officer has just killed her boyfriend and that he was licensed to carry.  Yanez can be heard shouting “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off of it.” Reynolds replies “He had, you told him to get his ID, sir, and his driver’s license. Oh my God. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.”

Officer Yanez’s recollection of the events was that Castile told him he had a gun at the same time he reached down between his right leg and the center console of the vehicle.  Yanez stated “He put his hand around something,” and said Castile’s hand took a C-shape, “like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”  Yanez said he then lost view of Castile’s hand.  “I know he had an object and it was dark,” he said. “And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”  Yanez said he thought Castile had the gun in his right hand and he had “no option” but to shoot.

Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., released a statement saying that Yanez will not return to the police department after the trial. They said they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”  “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”

Shortly after the verdict was announced, several hundred protesters amassed around the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul.  Police said about 500 activists later moved to Interstate 94, one of the main highways in the Twin Cities area. A few dozen people briefly moved onto the road itself while facing police in riot gear, but most of the protesters soon dispersed.

3 Dead In UPS Shooting

 

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The gunman who killed three men at a UPS facility in San Francisco and then killed himself has been identified as 38-year-old Jimmy Lam.  The victims were Wayne Chan, 56, and Benson Louie, 50, both of San Francisco; and 46-year-old Michael Lefiti of Hercules, California.  Two others were shot but survived the Wednesday morning shooting at the UPS San Francisco Customer Center.

Officers responded to a report of an active shooter about 8:55 a.m. local time at the UPS package sorting and delivery facility.  When officers entered the building, they found the suspect armed with an assault pistol.  The suspect immediately killed himself and no officers fired their weapons during the incident.

Lam, had worked as a driver for the Potrero Hill facility which employs 350 people.  He was wearing his uniform during the shooting spree and opened fire on coworkers during a morning meeting for UPS drivers.  Joseph Cilia, with a local Teamsters union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco has stated that Lam filed an internal grievance in March saying he was working excessive overtime.  Cilia told the Associated Press that Lam did not seem angry when he filed the grievance.

A police official said it appears that Lam felt disrespected by co-workers, but it’s not clear if that was the motivation for the bloodshed.  Lam appears to have targeted the three drivers he fatally shot.  Shaun Vu, a senior UPS driver, has said Lam also struggled with personal issues and was depressed a few years ago. Vu said that Lam had shown improvement but seemed troubled a few weeks ago-which was around the time he filed the grievance.

Another UPS driver Leopold Parker, who witnessed the shooting, said that he was standing a few feet behind Benson Louie during the morning meeting when Lam walked up and shot Louie in the head.  Lam then glanced at Parker but walked the other way so Parker jumped into the cab of his truck and later ran to the roof of the building.

Parker said drivers at the warehouse generally got along and didn’t mind working there. If they did have a problem with colleagues, they would talk to them or ignore them. He also stressed that drivers spent much of their time alone in their trucks, so they had limited interaction with their colleagues.  He recalls that Lam sometimes complained about the workload but he never suspected that he would turn violent.

Other witnesses said that Mike “Big Mike” Lefiti was fleeing from the building as Lam followed him into the street and shot him.  Mike McDonald, an area resident was walking home from work when he found Lefiti face down, bleeding profusely from the back.  McDonald stayed with him and tried to comfort him until help arrived.  McDonald said that in his final moments, Lefiti spoke lovingly about his three children.  “He said he loves his family, he loves his children and that he didn’t do anything to this man.”