Tag Archive: www.hi4e.org


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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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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.

 

 

 

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 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has scheduled a briefing for January 16th, 2018 , to outline how the U.S. public should prepare for the event of a nuclear war. The scheduled briefing comes as tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to rise.  A notice on the CDC’s website states “While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps.  Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness. For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation. While federal, state, and local agencies will lead the immediate response efforts, public health will play a key role in responding.”

The session will include information on what public health programs are doing at the federal, state, and local level to prepare for a nuclear detonation, according to the announcement. Additional information will cover how planning for a nuclear detonation is similar to and different from other emergency responses.  The website already has information on What to Do During a Radiation Emergency which lists a nuclear power plant accident, a nuclear explosion or a dirty bomb are examples of radiation emergencies.

While officials stress an attack remains unlikely, Hawaii’s emergency management authorities have released guidelines on what to do, while a monthly statewide siren test was resurrected on Dec. 1, 2017.  Over the weekend, Hawaii residents were panicked for a short time from an emergency alert notification sent out on Saturday claiming a ballistic missile threat was inbound to Hawaii.  The alert turned out to be a false alarm according to state leaders and emergency officials, who blamed it on an employee who “pushed the wrong button.”

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the emergency alert read.  The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency quickly updated the alert to: “THERE IS NO MISSILE THREAT OR DANGER TO THE STATE OF HAWAII. REPEAT. FALSE ALARM, “ but many residents didn’t get the update for 15 to 30 minutes as many factors such as cell tower and a person’s location came in to play.

Many are hopeful for a thawing of relations Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s Day address that he wanted his country to compete in the Olympics. His statement was seen as an olive branch after a tense year of aggression.  Recently, officials from North Korea and South Korea met in the Demilitarized Zone for the first high-level talks in more than two years.  During the meeting, North Korea said it would send a delegation of athletes, officials and cheerleaders to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. The two countries will also reinstate a military hotline that was suspended for nearly two years.

 

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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.

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North Korea has called the most recent U.N. Security Council sanctions “an act of war” and warns that the US and other nations which supported the strict measures will pay a heavy price.  The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted US-drafted sanctions against North Korea in response to their last intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test which experts have said are the most advanced yet.  The new sanctions will strangle North Korea’s energy supplies and tighten restrictions on smuggling.  Then, just days after the new sanctions were imposed; the United States imposed two additional sanctions on two North Korean officials.  The new U.S. Treasury sanctions will freeze all U.S. assets of two North Korean officials accused of being behind the missile program.

North Korea’s foreign ministry lashed out against the latest sanctions, saying the US is intimidated by the nation’s nuclear power.  “The United States, completely terrified at our accomplishment, is getting more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country,” the statement said.  North Korea warned that if the United States “wishes to live safely, it must abandon its hostile policy” toward North Korea.  “We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the US and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula,” the statement said.

Korea foreign ministry described the new resolution as a “complete economic blockade” and threatened nations that helped pass it. “Those countries that raised their hands in favor of this ‘sanctions resolution’ shall be held completely responsible for all the consequences to be caused by the ‘resolution’ and we will make sure for ever and ever that they pay heavy price for what they have done,” the statement said.

The sanctions cut exports of gasoline, diesel and other refined oil products by a total of 89%. It also bans the export of industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles and industrial metals to North Korea, and requires countries currently hosting North Korean migrant workers to repatriate them within 24 months.  According to the UN, around 100,000 North Koreans work overseas and most of their wages are sent back home, bringing an estimated $500 million each year for Kim Jong Un’s regime.  The new UN resolution also prohibits countries from smuggling North Korean coal and other prohibited commodities by sea and authorizes member states to inspect, seize and impound any vessels in their territorial waters found to be transporting prohibited items.  This month, Washington asked the UN to ban 10 ships from entering ports across the world over alleged dealings with North Korea.

Three months ago, the UN passed a US-drafted resolution that at the time was described by US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley as “by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea.”  The previous measures, adopted in September, had been designed to accomplish six major goals: cap North Korea’s oil imports, ban textile exports, end additional overseas laborer contracts, suppress smuggling efforts, stop joint ventures with other nations and sanction designated North Korean government entities.

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An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the storm’s “official” death toll of 62.   The government allowed 911 bodies to be cremated without being physically examined by a government medical officer to determine if they should be included in the official death toll from the storm.  Each cause of death was listed as being of “natural causes.”

The revelation of the new data also coincides with accounts from relatives’ reports of victims that point to problems with essential health services such as dialysis, ventilators, oxygen, and other critical circumstances caused by the lack of electricity in homes and hospitals throughout Puerto Rico.

The majority of the deaths were men and women over 50 who died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. When compared to the same time period from 2016, there was a significant increase in deaths, especially in hospitals and nursing homes.

Some have said they considered heart attacks and people who died of lack of oxygen because of lack of power as hurricane-related deaths, while others said they considered those “natural causes.”  Accurate information about the death toll is important because it allows victims’ families to claim federal relief aid.  It has also been used as a measure of how effective relief efforts have been.  The official death toll likely fails to take account of all those who died as a result of the deadly hurricane.

Demographer José A. López, the only person at the registry in charge of analyzing this data, has said that the increase in deaths in the first two post-Maria months is significant and the government’s inability to link more deaths to the hurricane shows that the current process of documenting causes of death in a disaster is not working and must be reformed.  López and the Department of Health appeared before Puerto Rico’s Senate to request that a dialogue begin about the issue and that they lead to changing the system.

Currently, linking a death to a disaster depends almost exclusively on a physician making an annotation related to the hurricane in the death certificate and listing the clinical cause of death, but both doctors and hospitals maintain that their responsibility and knowledge are strictly tied to the clinical cause of death.  In most cases, the doctor who certifies the death may not be the same doctor who was in charge of the patient.   Because of this, most death certificates do not include additional information about the other circumstances that could lead to death — such as the stress caused by an emergency; lack of power, transportation services or medications; lack of access to health services; changes in diet; and increases in ambient temperatures, among others.

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South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals has more than doubled the prison sentence for Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.  The sentence has now been increased from six years to 15 years, with time served.  Under that initial sentence, which the court called “shockingly lenient,” Pistorius could have been released on parole in mid-2019. Now, the earliest he’ll be eligible for parole is 2023.  Supreme Court judges are generally reluctant to change sentences handed down by trial courts, and it’s rare for them to change one so dramatically.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 by shooting four times through a closed toilet cubicle door with his 9 mm pistol. He claimed he mistook the 29-year-old model and reality TV star for an intruder.  Throughout the trial, the prosecution had been looking to prove that the couple had gotten into an argument, and Pistorius intentionally murdered his girlfriend.  A few of Pistorius’s neighbors testified to hearing an argument that lasted nearly an hour, followed by a woman screaming before and during the shots being fired.

A police ballistics expert concluded that the first shot fired through the bathroom door hit Steenkamp in the hip and caused her to collapse.  The second shot missed.  Prosecutors tried to prove that Steenkamp screamed while she was hit by two more shots as she covered her head with her arms in a desperate attempt to protect herself.

Pistorius was initially convicted of manslaughter by trial Judge Thokozile Masipa.  That conviction was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015.  Masipa then sentenced Pistorius to six years for murder, which prosecutors called much too lenient.

Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said a panel of judges unanimously upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius’ original six-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp.   The Supreme Court agreed that the sentencing was too leniant, saying in a full written ruling released later that “the sentence of six years’ imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivializing this serious offence.”  The Supreme Court said Pistorius “displays a lack of remorse, and does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.”  As Seriti delivered the verdict he said “Pistorius should have been sentenced to the prescribed minimum of 15 years for murder.”

The new sentence of 13 years and five months took into account the one year and seven months Pistorius served in prison and under house arrest after his manslaughter conviction.  The new sentence was backdated to start on the day he began his murder sentence, on July 6 last year.  Pistorius must serve at least half of the 13 years and five months — nearly seven years — before he can be considered for parole. He has served a year and five months of his murder sentence.