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.
Baltimore parents, teachers and students are protesting frigid conditions at public schools, with schoolchildren left shivering in classrooms and temperatures barely rising above freezing. Photos shared widely on social media show children bundled in winter parkas seated on a classroom floor; a high school classroom and a gymnasium left badly damaged after they were flooded by burst pipes; and a thermometer measuring one classroom’s temperature at 42 degrees.
In a letter sent to families, students and staff members on January 2nd, they were told that workers had visited the buildings over the winter break to try to ensure they were ready and that principals are combining classes if one room is colder than another. School uniform rules had been lifted so students could choose warmer outfits.
On January 3rd, the Baltimore Teachers Union president Marietta English sent a letter to Sonja Brookins Santelises, the chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. The letter was also published in The Baltimore Sun. The letter condemned the conditions as “unfair” and “inhumane” and called on officials to close schools for the rest of the week. According to the letter, students and teachers have endured dangerously low temperatures in buildings that are struggling to operate with bursting boilers and drafty windows. Ms. English wrote “I implore that you close schools in the District until your facilities crew has had time to properly assess and fix the heating issues within the affected schools in Baltimore City.
That day, as temperatures dipped in the low 20’s, four schools were closed and three released their students early because of the heating issues in their buildings. As blizzard conditions raged along the East Coast on January 4th, the closings extended to all Baltimore city schools, as well as those in other major cities including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.
After receiving the letter, Santelises published a Facebook Live presentation where she said that as some schools are fixed, others might encounter problems elsewhere in the district, making a request to shut down all the schools an “overly simplistic” measure. “I don’t knee-jerk close anything down just because I have one perspective,” she said. She said that other factors went into the decision to keep schools open despite frigid classroom temps such as considering the impact on students’ access to hot school meals and adult supervision while parents work. Dr. Santelises added “About 60 schools have been affected over the winter break and this week by heating problems, representing about one-third of the schools in the system. Maintenance workers have been sent to schools as the district gets complaints about them and as some fixes are made at some schools, problems arise at others as workers try to keep ahead of the problems. “It is a juggle, and I don’t think we get it perfect every time,” she added.
State Senator Bill Ferguson—a former Baltimore public school teacher—said the city’s schools requested funds for heating and air conditioning but were denied due to “fiscal constraints.” Ferguson blasted Republican Governor Bill Hogan on twitter- writing, “Governor Hogan suggests enough money has gone to Baltimore City, additional resources not needed.”
Twelve people were killed and four critically injured, after a fire broke out in an apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York City. Dozens of other victims were rescued with injuries but were expected to recover. The fast moving fire sent residents running into the freezing temperatures for safety just before 7pm on Thursday.
The fire was started by a three year old boy who had been playing with the burners on the stove in a first floor apartment. The boy’s screams alerted his mother that a fire had erupted. The mother fled the burning apartment with the boy and his 2-year-old sibling, leaving the apartment door open. That fatal mistake allowed the fire to spread quickly through the 5 story building-trapping families on the floors above.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the apartment’s stairway acted “like a chimney” as the fire burst from the apartment, feeding the flames and allowing them to spread throughout the building. The smoke from the fire filled the stairway and halls, quickly cutting off visibility to those trapped inside. The 26-unit apartment building was required to have self-closing doors, which swing shut on their own to keep fires from spreading, city Housing Preservation and Development Department spokesman Matthew Creegan said. Investigators will look at whether the door to the apartment was defective or if an obstruction prevented it from closing, he said.
Killed in the blaze were Maria Batiz, 58; her 8 -month-old grand-daughter Amora Batiz; Gabriel Yaw Sarkookie, 48; Justice Opoku, 54; Solomon Donkor, 49; William Donkor; Hannah Donkor, 17; Shantay Young, 19; Karen Francis, 37; Kylie Francis, 2; Charmela Francis, 7 and Emmanuel Mensah, 28. Mensah, has been hailed a hero for heading back into the fire to save others. Private Mensah, had been home from Army duty for the holiday after finishing basic training in Georgia. His father said he had been awarded a medal for marksmanship and was planning to join the military police. He was scheduled to head to Virginia and from there to battlefields unknown. His sister wept as she said he always put others before himself.
Mensah, lived in Apartment 11, on the 3rd floor with a friend of his father’s who was at home with his wife and four children when the fire broke out. After Mensah got that family to safety, he returned and pulled out four more people. He was last seen heading back into the fire to help others. When he couldn’t be found, family members said they were hoping he was among those injured in the fire. His remains were found in Apartment 15 on the 4th floor.
One family, the Stewarts, lost four family members during the deadly blaze. Karen Stewart-Francis, Kylie Francis, Charmela Francis, and their cousin Shawntay Young were killed. In all, 13 family members — cousins, uncles, aunts – all lived in the building after emigrating from Jamaica between 1980-2004 and deciding to stay close. Another family member, Holt Francis, emerged alive from the deadly mix of smoke and flames, but was put into a medically induced coma with a dire prognosis. Family members say he’s a fighter and the family wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. His wife Karen was killed in the blaze.
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.
A fire at an underground electrical facility caused an 11 hour blackout that brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill. The blackout at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led to the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights and stranding tens of thousands of people in darkened terminals or on the tarmac, where some passengers sat for more than five hours on grounded planes.
The power outage began shortly after 1 p.m. leaving passengers in dim and overcrowded terminals as afternoon turned to evening. Frustrated travelers lighted their way through smoky corridors with cellphones. On Twitter, passengers reported waiting on the tarmac for more than five hours as the lack of power at the terminals made it hard to de-plane. Getting out of the terminals quickly became difficult as traffic snarled access roads and MARTA trains ran at capacity to downtown.
The train between terminals was shut down and elevators, escalators, automatic doors and baggage carousels stood still. Screens went black and the intercom for flight updates was silent. No one could get reliable phone or internet service to access texts, email, flight apps or social media. With a lack of information, travelers were too nervous to leave their spots, fearing the power might soon return at any moment and they’d lose their place in the line they were in.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed later said the fire was so intense that it damaged two substations serving the airport, including the airport’s back-up power system and prevented emergency crews from accessing the site for two to three hours. Paul Bowers, Georgia Power’s president and CEO said there was a failure in the switchgear that caused the fire and the fire was contained by 3:30pm. An estimated 30,000 people were affected by the power outage.
Delta bore the brunt of the impact, cancelling approximately 900 flights and diverting 48 more. The carrier said about 300 flights would also be cancelled on Monday, as the chaos spilled into one of the busiest air travel weeks of the year. The blackout led the Federal Aviation Administration to declare a ground stop at the airport, preventing Atlanta-bound flights in other airports from taking off and causing inbound flights to be diverted. The ground stop in Atlanta disrupted air travel across the United States.
Some power was restored just before midnight but stranded travelers were still sleeping on the floor the day after the outage. Long ticket and security lines were moving slowly as normalcy began returning to the airport Monday. Volunteers in shirts that said, “Ask Me,” tried to allay concerns and passed out doughnuts to those in line, many of whom shared horror stories about the night before.
Some travelers said airline and airport employees did their best to take care of stranded passengers, handing out blankets, beverages, even slices of pizza. Others reported a lack of communication, widespread rumors, the strong smell of fire near baggage claim and a taxi line that amounted to “pandemonium.” While some fortunate passengers were able to board the flights departing Atlanta the day after the outage, other passengers were being told they’d have to wait hours or days. One airline was telling passengers it would be five days before they could get a flight out.
Facing mounting evidence that Puerto Rico has vastly undercounted the number of people who died because of Hurricane Maria, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló ordered that every death on the island since the devastating storm be reviewed. Officials will look review all deaths attributed to natural causes after the hurricane, which made landfall Sept. 20 and knocked out power to 3.4 million Puerto Ricans and to their hospitals and clinics.
Roselló made the order to the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry, which is the island’s vital statistics bureau, and to the Department of Public Safety following the investigative media reports on the death toll and after residents claiming deaths of their loved ones were caused by Maria. The governor also said he’d create an expert panel to review the island’s death certification process.
The Puerto Rican government has put the official death toll at 64 but several investigations have revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died. The prolonged blackout hampered critical medical treatment for some of the island’s most vulnerable patients, including many who were bedridden or dependent on dialysis or respirators. But if they died as a result, the storm’s role in their deaths may have gone officially unrecorded.
Several news organizations, including The New York Times, conducted independent analyses and found that the number of deaths traceable to the storm was far higher than the official count. The Times’s review, based on daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau, found that 1,052 more people than usual had died across the island in the 42 days after Maria struck. The analysis compared daily figures for 2017 with an average of figures for the corresponding days in 2015 and 2016.
The leading causes of death on the island in September were diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, Puerto Rican government data show. There was a sharp 50 percent spike in the number of recorded deaths from sepsis, a complication of severe infection that can be tied to delayed medical care or poor living conditions. Reports emerged of people being unable to use oxygen and dialysis equipment, unable to refrigerate insulin, evacuated from hospitals that lost emergency power and other problems.
Reviewing the circumstances surrounding each death will require interviewing family members and doctors who signed death certificates to find out if, for example, a heart attack might have been brought on by stress from the hurricane, or might have been fatal because an ambulance could not get through debris-blocked streets in time to help.
The governor’s announcement comes as the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico reported that nearly three months since the storm, 45 people are still listed as missing and efforts by Puerto Rico’s police to locate them have been minimal or almost nonexistent. Parts of the island are still without power leaving many to celebrate Christmas in the dark. The power grid is only operating at 70 percent of capacity and officials say power won’t be fully restored until the end of May.
New York City police have identified the suspect in the bombing attack in a Midtown Manhattan subway station that took place during the busy Monday morning commute. The accused attacker was identified as 27-year-old Brooklyn resident and Bangladeshi immigrant Akayed Ullah. Ullah was carrying a pipe bomb strapped to his body with Velcro and zip ties whe he detonated it in a tunnel connecting the busy Port Authority and Times Square terminals. Five people were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals, while the suspect was said to be seriously injured.
Investigators have been pouring over surveillance footage of the area. Ullah was first spotted on a security camera as he climbed the subway station stairs to the 18th Avenue F. train platform in Brooklyn at 6:25 a.m. He then switched to the A train at Jay St./MetroTech stop in Brooklyn before exiting the train at the Port Authority Bus Terminal stop in Manhattan.
The blast detonated around 7:20 a.m. in an underground walkway connecting two subway lines beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal, near Times Square, which accommodates 220,000 passenger trips a day. Surveillance footage shows commuters walking through a tunnel when a burst of smoke erupts into the hallway, quickly filling it. Commuters flinch and take cover, and when the smoke clears, an injured man, Ullah, can be seen lying on the ground in the hallway.
Law enforcement officials say Ullah was inspired to set off a bomb in retaliation for U.S. attacks against ISIS in Syria. He faces five federal terrorism-related charges and three state terrorism-related charges after he allegedly detonated the homemade device made of a battery, wires, metal screws and a Christmas tree lightbulb during the busy morning commute. According to Department of Homeland Security, Ullah is a Bangladeshi immigrant who has been living in the United States since 2011 on an F43 family immigrant visa. He is a legal permanent resident living in Brooklyn and has no criminal record in the United States.
According to a federal complaint, Ullah admitted to investigators that he built and detonated the device and said he was inspired to do so by ISIS. He said that he was prepared to die and told investigators he was motivated in part by pro-ISIS Christmas attack propaganda circulated about a month ago online with an image of Santa Claus over Times Square. Investigators recovered a passport in his name with a handwritten message: “O America, die in your rage.” Investigators say Ullah’s ISIS radicalization began in 2014 and he began researching how to build improvised explosive devices about a year ago. He began collecting the necessary items to make the device two to three weeks ago, and built the bomb in his home a week ago.
According to law enforcement officials, Ullah had two homemade devices with him but they did not elaborate on the second device. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview that the device was an amateur, “effectively low-tech device” that partially detonated. The explosive chemical ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode, lessening its impact. Cuomo added “Fortunately for us, the bomb partially detonated, he did detonate it, but it did not fully have the effect that he was hoping for.”
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.
The Pentagon says the U.S. military plans to accept openly transgender recruits on January 1, 2018—despite President Trump’s announcement earlier this year of a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. In October, a Washington, D.C., district judge blocked Trump’s order from taking effect. The Justice Department is now trying to delay the acceptance of transgender recruits. The Pentagon’s announcement came just days after the Trump administration asked a federal judge to temporarily put on hold a portion of the October U.S. District Court ruling that required the military to begin accepting transgender troops on Jan. 1.
The Pentagon announced that it would enforce the Jan. 1 court-imposed deadline for processing transgender military applicants as the Department of Justice appeals the ruling. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, though difficult, for them to join the armed services.
Under the new guidelines, the Pentagon can disqualify potential military recruits who have a history of gender dysphoria or of medical treatments associated with gender transition, as well as those who underwent reconstruction surgery. Those recruits can be allowed to serve if a licensed medical provider certifies they have been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months and are free of “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months.
The administration has filed an appeal to the decision, which blocked Trump’s policy and set the January enlistment date, to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. In a recent motion, officials argued that the federal government would be “seriously and irreparably harmed if forced” to implement the requirement to accept transgender recruits by next month. A Washington state federal court ruled against the president’s proposed ban, marking the third to do so.
The Department of Defense has stated that current transgender service members would be treated with respect as the Pentagon worked through the policy shift — which came one month after U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis gave military chiefs another six months to review whether allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the military would affect the force’s “readiness or lethality.”
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members, allowing them to serve openly in the military. He said that within 12 months — or by July 2017 — transgender people also would be able to enlist. Lat July, President Trump tweeted that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. military.” In August, the president reversed the Obama directive to allow transgender individuals to serve in the armed forces, directing the Pentagon to renew the ban. He gave the department six months to determine what to do about those currently serving.
That decision was quickly challenged in court, and two U.S. district court judges ruled against the ban. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her decision that transgender members of the military who had sued over the change were likely to win their lawsuit, and she barred the Trump administration from reversing course. Part of one ruling required the government to allow transgender individuals to enlist beginning Jan. 1.
1 month ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Oscar Pistorius Sentence Doubled
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.