Fort Worth Officer Charged With Murder

 

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Fort Worth, Texas Police Officer Aaron Dean, 34, has been arrested and charged with murder after he shot and killed a 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson inside her own home.  Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Corrections Center and later released on a $200,000 bond, according to jail officials.  The arrest came just hours after Dean’s resignation from the police force. Dean, who joined the department in April 2018, still faces possible civil rights violations, Kraus said.

Interim police Chief Ed Kraus said during a press conference earlier that he intended to end Officer Aaron Dean’s employment, but that Dean tendered his resignation first.  Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.  Dean was initially placed on administrative leave after he shot Jefferson to death but he has not been cooperating with investigators in the case, Kraus said.

Officer Dean was responding to a non-emergency call from a neighbor for a wellness check after the neighbor saw Jefferson’s front door was open.  Jefferson was playing video games with her 8 year old nephew early Saturday morning just minutes before she was killed.  Body camera shows that when police arrived, Dean shined a flashlight through Jefferson’s window and yelled, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before firing a single shot at Jefferson seconds later.  He never identified himself as a police officer.

Police Chief Kraus said he doesn’t know what, exactly, led Dean to open fire.  “I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life.” The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.  The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn’t be considered unusual in Texas.  “We’re homeowners in Texas,” the police chief said. “Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn’t be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting.” Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was “a bad thing to do.”

Jefferson was staying at her mother’s house in Fort Worth to help her recover from an injury when the shooting happened at about 2:25 a.m.   A lawyer for Jefferson’s family, Lee Merritt, said her relatives were “relieved” over the arrest.  Merritt said that on the night of the shooting she had been playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew and lost track of time. Earlier that night, he said, the family had opened the front door to allow crisp fall air inside to cool down the house.  “We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution & appropriate sentencing,” he tweeted. “The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing.”

In a separate news conference earlier Monday, Jefferson’s family demanded an outside investigation into her death.  “This man murdered someone,” Darius Carr, Jefferson’s brother, told reporters.  Jefferson was “simply going on along with her life, living a law-abiding citizen’s peaceful life, and she was killed by a reckless act of a Fort Worth police officer,” an older sister, Ashley Carr, said. “There is simply no justification for his actions.”  Police Chief Kraus brought the case to the Texas Rangers, who he said were not inclined to take it up at that point, and to the FBI, which did not immediately say whether it would review it.

 

 

Sixth Vaping Death Prompts Congressional Hearing

 

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A 50-year-old Kansas woman became the sixth person in the USA to die of a vaping-related lung illness, an outbreak that has ramped up health concerns nationwide.  Kansas State Epidemiologist Farah Ahmed said in a statement that the unidentified patient had a history of underlying health issues and had been hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly.  Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said that the patient did have underlying health issues but nothing that would have foretold the fact that within a week after starting using e-cigarettes for the first time, she developed full-blown acute respiratory distress.  Doctors say it’s clear the vaping related lung illness is responsible for her rapid deterioration.

Kansas health officials noted six more cases associated with the outbreak, three patients confirmed with the illness and three cases under investigation.  Five previous vaping-related deaths were confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. After the Kansas fatality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied six deaths and more than 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states and one jurisdiction.  The CDC confirmed that investigators narrowed their focus and that the additive vitamin E acetate is a chemical involved in many of the cases, but officials emphasized it is not in all of the cases being reviewed.

People with a history of vaping who experience lung injury symptoms should seek medical care, according to Kansas health officials.  Nationally, symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.  Other symptoms reported by some patients include headache, dizziness and chest pain.  Though many patients across the nation have been in their late teens, 20s or 30s, the Kansas death is a warning that older adults may be at particular risk.

Patients tend to arrive at the hospital short of breath and coughing. Many have also had fevers, general fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. It is not unusual for patients to be put into intensive care units, and on ventilators. All reported vaping nicotine, THC or a combination of the two in the days and weeks before falling ill.  The CDC has recommended people stay away from vaping devices while investigators work to pinpoint exactly what’s behind the illnesses.

The rapid and worrisome increase has now prompted a Congressional hearing on the matter, after a policy discussion on the matter.  The recent death has prompted the U.S. President to call for a ban on thousands of e-cigarette flavors in an effort to get people to give up e-cigarettes.  E-cigarette companies have been given years to gather and submit evidence their products are safe and effective ways to quit smoking traditional tobacco.  A federal judge has set a May 2020 deadline for companies to do so.

Dr. Norman said “God only knows what all is in there.  There should be a moratorium on the sale of these products until we know more.”  The American Lung Association also released a statement warning the public that e-cigarettes could cause irreversible lung damage.  “No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product,” Harold Wimmer, national president of the American Lung Association, wrote in the statement. “This message is even more urgent today following the increasing reports of vaping-related illnesses and deaths nationwide.”

RI Corrections Officer Resigns After Driving Truck Into Protesters

 

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The Rhode Island correctional officer accused of driving his truck into a group of peaceful protesters has resigned amid an investigation into the incident that occurred during a protest outside the Wyatt Detention Center.  Captain Thomas Woodworth resigned days after the incident after after initially being placed on leave.

Woodworth was seen behind the wheel of a pickup truck that drove into a crowd of protesters.  The Jewish activist group that started the protest, Never Again Action, released a statement that they are glad Woodworth resigned.  The group also called on authorities to punish the correctional officers that used pepper spray on the crowd of protesters surrounding the truck.

The detention center, owned by a municipal quasi-public agency, has been under scrutiny for months after entering an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees while they await trial. Approximately 139 federal immigration detainees are currently being housed at Wyatt.  The protest was attended by an estimated 500 people who gathered at the facility around 7PM.  The group heard from local faith leaders and community activists, leading one another in chants and songs outside the facility.

Anticipating a shift change by guards, around 30 members of the group moved to block the main parking lot used by employees of the prison at around 9PM. Harvey says they intended to use “peaceful protest in the civil disobedience mode” to disrupt Wyatt’s operations for a few hours.  When the incident occurred, protesters were standing in front of the entrance to the facility, holding hands to form a chain. Another group of protesters sat on the ground, blocking off access to a staff parking lot.  A video showed a pickup truck, driven by Woodworth, 64, driving into the seated protesters, hitting some and sending others running. The protest group says one person has a broken leg.  The truck stopped and honked at the protesters surrounding it, before continuing to drive forward. Several officers were seen on video misting the crowd with what appears to be pepper spray after asking them to move away from the truck.

After Woodworth drove into the crowd, officers from the facility poured into the parking lot and used pepper spray against the protesters. Of the five people who were hospitalized following the incident, two were treated for injuries related to Woodworth’s attack including 64-year-old Jerry Belair, of Warren, who suffered a broken leg and internal bleeding.  Three others were treated for pepper spray-related injuries – including one woman in her 70s.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office said in a statement that it is working with Rhode Island State Police to investigate the event.  “Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans,” the attorney general’s office said. “It is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did.”  Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin said that his office is investigating the incident and looking at how the facility responds to protests.

Newark NJ Water Crisis

 

 

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Newark, New Jersey’s water crisis is growing worse as authorities temporarily halted their distribution of bottled water to families whose tap water is contaminated with lead.  The Environmental Protection Agency told city officials to distribute bottled water “as soon as possible,” after it determined that water filters were ineffective at safely filtering lead from the water supply of thousands of homes. State and local officials began offering free bottled water to 15,000 Newark households, and hundreds of people queued in long lines in the summer heat for their allotment.  Officials stopped handing out the water after discovering many of the bottles had exceeded their best-by date.

The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States.  City and state officials have been violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in several ways, such as failing to treat its water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ drinking water and neglecting to notify people about the elevated levels and the health risks.  For years, the city has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned children in New Jersey. This likely stems from a variety of exposures to lead, including from contaminated tap water and other sources.

One way lead particles get into water is through corrosion in pipes and it’s believed to be the cause in Newark.  The metal in lead service plumbing lines starts to tear away and mix with the water passing through. This is often apparent in older pipes; in some affected Newark neighborhoods, pipes are over 100 years old.  Citywide tests conducted in June 2017 showed that more than 10% of homes across Newark had twice the amount of lead that is considered safe according to federal law.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental and health advocacy group, sent a letter to officials in Newark later that year saying that they had failed to address the lead contamination issue.  After the city failed two more citywide lead tests in December 2017 and June 2018, the city announced in October that year that it would provide over 40,000 water filters to residents.  After the city then failed a fourth consecutive lead test in December 2018, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wrote an open letter to the President asking for federal help to fix the water system in the city.

The city failed another lead test in June 2019 and in August, after testing three homes that were using water filters provided by the city, officials found that two of those homes still had elevated levels of lead in them.  After the results of their water filter tests, city officials have begun handing out packages of bottled water to Newark residents, in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

There is no safe level of lead exposure and pregnant women and children are most at risk.  Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.newark.jpeg

Facebook Paid Contractors To Transcribe User’s Messages

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Facebook has been added to the list of tech firms who’ve paused their audio transcriptions over privacy concerns.  Earlier this year, it was revealed that Amazon, Apple and Google similarly hired thousands of workers to listen to users’ recorded audio.  Amazon saw received backlash for allowing contractors to manually review Alexa recordings without express user permission, forcing the company to add an opt-out to its Echo devices. Google also faced heat for allowing human review of audio data, along with Apple, which used contractors to listen to seemingly private Siri recordings. Microsoft also listened to some Skype calls made through the company’s app translation feature.

In a statement, Facebook said the practice was aimed at improving its artificial intelligence transcription service, but that the company had “paused human review of audio more than a week ago in the wake of worries about other companies’ transcription policies.”  The data was anonymized and came solely from people who’d volunteered for transcriptions, Facebook added.

Facebook’s data privacy policy doesn’t make clear that human beings might monitor content.  According to its support page, if even one person in your chat has consented to Facebook transcribing the conversation, any audio in the thread would have been translated, regardless of who sent it.  Nowhere in their terms of service does it indicate that humans would be reviewing the audio.

The social media giant reportedly paid hundreds of contractors to transcribe audio clips shared by users in private messages. News outlets report that the practice rattled the contract workers, who were often subjected to vulgar and intrusive recordings and were not told whose conversations they were transcribing or why.  Contractors from TaskUs reportedly weren’t told where the audio came from or why they were transcribing it. That led some of the workers to believe their work was “unethical,” especially when some of the conversations included vulgar material.  The company added that the audio snippets were anonymized before being listened to by the workers.

Facebook users concerned with privacy violations should opt out of this feature.  According to Facebook’s instructions: Click the Messenger app button, open a conversation and tap the name on top. Once you’re in the “Chat Details” menu, tap “Automatic Voice to Text” on or off for this chat only.

Last month, the U.S. government issued an unprecedented fine against Facebook as part of a settlement that requires the tech giant to pay $5 billion and submit to significant federal oversight of its business practices.  That decision came after a year of massive privacy mishaps, charging that the company deceived its users and “undermined” choices they made to protect their data

Sixteen months after opening its investigation, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Facebook had repeatedly misled its 2.2 billion users. The agency argued that the social-networking company was not upfront about the ways app developers, advertisers and others gained access to users’ personal data — from the content they “liked” to the phone numbers they stored — in a breach of Facebook’s previous promise to improve its privacy protections online.

 

 

Financier Jefferey Epstein Charged With Sex Trafficking

 

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Federal prosecutors charged financier Jeffrey Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking on July 8 2019.  Epstein was first arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on July 6, after arriving back in the United States from France.  Federal prosecutors also searched his New York City home over the weekend and news outlets report that during the search of his townhouse, investigators seized photographs of nude underage girls, federal prosecutors said.  Epstein has pleaded not guilty on both charges.  If convicted of the charges, Epstein faces a maximum of 45 years.

A federal judge in New York has denied bail to Jeffrey Epstein, declaring him a danger to the community and a significant flight risk. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman pointed to a raid by investigators on Epstein’s mansion earlier this month that found “piles of cash,” stashes of diamonds and an expired passport with Epstein’s photo next to someone else’s name listed under a Saudi address.  Prosecutors accused the serial child sex abuser of possible witness tampering, saying he made payments totaling $350,000 to two people he feared could testify against him in court.

Court documents say “over the course of many years, Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”  It also notes that “in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused.” The prosecution alleges that he sexually assaulted girls as young as 14 years old.

Epstein started his career in New York City as a math teacher at the Dalton School, but went to work at the investment bank Bear Stearns in the 1970s before founding his own firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982. According to Vox, he specifically marketed his services to “those with assets worth more than $1 billion,” and operates his company out of the U.S. Virgin Islands for tax reasons.  Throughout the years, Epstein belonged to a high society social circle that included politicians and elitists.

Epstein’s bust comes months after a federal judge ruled his 2007 non-prosecution agreement —violated federal law by keeping Epstein’s victims in the dark. Under the sweetheart deal, Epstein dodged federal charges that might have sent him to prison for life. He instead pleaded guilty in 2008 to felony state charge of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  He served 13 months in a private wing of a county jail, mostly on work release, which allowed him to commute to an office outside the jail six days a week. He also registered as a sex offender.  Many say it was a slap on the wrist for someone accused of abusing dozens of underage Florida girls.

“It’s been a long time coming—it’s been too long coming,” said attorney David Boies, who represents Epstein accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome. “It is an important step towards getting justice for the many victims of Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise.  “We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible.”

 

Oregon Man Charged With Murder in Disappearance of Young Mother and Son

 

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.