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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Stop & Shop Strike Ends

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on NY State Files Lawsuit Against Purdue and Sackler Family Members

NY State Files Lawsuit Against Purdue and Sackler Family Members

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New York State announced a sweeping lawsuit against members of the Sackler family, the owner of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, the highly addictive drug at the center of the opioid epidemic.  A group of over 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes have filed suit against Purdue and 8 members of the Sackler family, which founded and owns Purdue Pharma, for their role in creating “the worst drug crisis in American history” by lying about the dangers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin and deceitful marketing of the drug.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Sacklers of masterminding a scheme that “literally profited off of … suffering and death.”  While announcing the suit, James said “And as Purdue sold more and more opioids, the Sackler family transferred more and more wealth into their personal accounts. And as the lawsuits have piled up against the Sackler family and Purdue for their roles in this crisis, they continue to move funds into trusts and, yes, offshore accounts.”  The suit states that the Sackler family is worth an estimated $13 billion, partly due to the more-than-decade-long marketing campaign to boost sales of OxyContin.  At the same time, the economic cost to the U.S. for the opioid epidemic was $504 billion in 2015, the lawsuit contends.  Former Purdue CEO Richard Sackler allegedly touted the drug for unapproved uses and that Purdue workers were instructed to tell doctors the painkillers were not addictive and could help an “enhanced lifestyle,” according to the suit.

Portions of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue that were made public, allege that the company, the Sackler family, and company executives misled prescribers and patients as they aimed to blanket the country with prescriptions for their addictive medications.  Five years after the drug was released to the market, questions were raised about the risk of addiction and overdoses that came with taking OxyContin and opioid medications.  Richard Sackler outlined a strategy that critics have long accused the company of unleashing: divert the blame onto others, particularly the people who became addicted to opioids themselves.  In a February 2001 email he wrote “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible.  They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”  The Massachusetts suit claims “By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible and the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”  The complaint reveals that since 2007, Purdue has sold more than 70 million doses of opioids in Massachusetts for more than $500 million. “And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”

Purdue and the family denied any wrongdoing in a statement “The latest legal action is part of a larger effort to “single out Purdue,” and fault it for the entire crisis.  Purdue Pharma and the individual former directors vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint and will continue to defend themselves against these misleading allegations,” the statement said.

The state of Oklahoma recently reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma—settling a lawsuit that claimed the company contributed to the deaths of thousands of Oklahoma residents by downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits.  More than $100 million of the settlement will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University.  The settlement is the first Purdue has made amid more than 2,000 pending lawsuits connecting its painkiller OxyContin to the opioid crisis-which U.S. government data estimates is responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths per year.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Boeing Facing Scrutiny After Crashes

Boeing Facing Scrutiny After Crashes

 

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The Ethiopian transport minister has announced that early investigations have revealed clear similarities between the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and October’s Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia.  The Transportation Department has launched investigations into regulators’ approvals of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, as well as into the development of the aircraft. Just after take-off, both flights, which killed all crew and passengers on board, experienced unpredictable climbs and descents before crashing.  Both pilots immediately recognized a problem and tried to return to the airport.

The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.  Both Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 lacked an optional safety feature that could have saved the lives of 346 people.  The safety feature, called an “angle of attack indicator” and an “angle of attack disagree light”—are indicators that Boeing offers only at an additional cost.  Another similarity believed to have played a role in both crashes is that the planes’ automated “anti-stall” systems inadvertently pushed both planes’ noses downward.

Pilot training requirements on this software came under scrutiny in the days after the March 10th crash with reports that the pilot and co-pilot had never received updated training on a Boeing 737 Max 8 simulator, even though the airline had the technology available since January.  A cockpit recording indicates that the pilots of the doomed Flight 302 were referencing safety manuals but were unable to fix the problem before they crashed.  Officials are probing why pilot manuals did not address the feature.  Reports are now emerging that the Lion Air flight almost went down the day before the deadly accident, but an off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit knew how to disable a malfunctioning flight control system, which was likely pushing the nose of the plane down.

U.S.-based manufacturer Boeing, which is now under heightened scrutiny around the world, has said previously pilots who have flown earlier models didn’t need additional training.  Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao ordered an audit of the training and certification process for Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft.  U.S. prosecutors are also looking into the development of Boeing’s 737 Max jets and a Justice Department probe will examine the way Boeing was regulated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing has said it has “full confidence” in the planes’ safety. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.  American Airlines pilot and  spokesman for their union, Dennis Tajer said that airline officials told the unions that Boeing intends to offer pilots about a 15-minute iPad course to train them on the new flight-control software on Max jets that is suspected of playing a role in the crashes.  He called that amount of training unacceptable.  “Our sense is it’s a rush to comply — ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,'” Tajer said. “I’m in a rush to protect my passengers.”

These disturbing updates come as families of victims of last October’s Lion Air crash say they were pressured by the airline to sign a pledge not to pursue legal action against the company, in exchange for about $90,000 in compensation which was the minimum amount the families were entitled to under Indonesian law.

 

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

 

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A Chicago judge has acquitted three police officers accused of covering up the 2014 murder of 17 year old Laquan McDonald by a fellow officer Jason Van Dyke.  Van Dyke was convicted in October of the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, which was captured on an infamous police dashboard camera video.  McDonald was shot 16 times, including numerous times as he lay wounded in the street.  The three police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — contradicted what the video showed and prosecutors alleged it was part of a cover-up.  None of them fired any shots that night. Several other officers had witnessed the shooting and given questionable accounts, but a grand jury declined to indict any others.

The acquittal came despite discrepancies between the three officers’ police reports and dash cam video showing that McDonald posed no threat and walked away from officers before he was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.  Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson rejected the prosecutors’ arguments that the officers had shooed away witnesses and then created a narrative to justify the 2014 shooting, which prompted citywide protests, the firing of the police chief and a wide-ranging federal investigation into the police force.  Prosecutors repeatedly cited the footage as they built a case against the officers on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

Judge Stephenson said that even though the officers’ accounts of the shooting differed from the video, that it did not amount to proof that they were lying. “Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event,” she said, and still describe it differently.  The judge said that key witnesses for the prosecution had offered conflicting testimony, and said there was nothing presented at trial that showed that the officers had failed to preserve evidence, as prosecutors allege.  Challenging the point that officers had shooed away a witness as part of a cover-up, the judge said it was not obvious that the police had known the witness had seen the shooting.

The witness in question, Alma Benitez, had stopped for a bite to eat at a nearby Burger King, on her way home from her night shift at a sandwich shop.  Benitez was interviewed by television news crews at the scene and featured in several news reports the next day saying McDonald was clearly not a threat to the officer. She told new crews that Van Dyke had no reason to open fire.  “It was super-exaggerated, you didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face to face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him.”

In a federal lawsuit filed in September 2016, Benitez alleges she had tried to take photos and video of the scene with her cellphone but wasn’t sure the recordings worked.  Once police “became aware” she was trying to record the incident, they demanded she surrender her phone and accompany officers to the detective headquarters, where she was detained and questioned for six hours.  Benitez claims she was allowed to leave the station around 4am, only after she demanded to see a lawyer and that she was “threatened and harassed” on multiple occasions after she was featured in news reports.  The suit accuses several officers and detectives of then writing false reports misstating what Benitez and other witnesses at the scene had told them.

Weeks before the city agreed to pay $5 million to McDonald’s estate, a letter written by lawyers representing McDonald’s family alleged that at least two other witnesses to the shooting were treated in similar fashion.  The letter alleged that all three were questioned for hours at the Area Central police headquarters and pressured into changing their accounts to match the official police version.  The letter also reported that Benitez was so appalled by what she witnessed that she actually screamed out ‘stop shooting!’ as Officer Van Dyke continued to discharge his weapon while Laquan was laid in the street.”

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Kenya Hotel Attack Leaves 21 Dead

Kenya Hotel Attack Leaves 21 Dead

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A terrorist attack at a luxury hotel and office complex in the Westlands area of Nairobi, Kenya has left 21 civilians dead and dozens more wounded or missing.  Five attackers were also killed during the siege that began around 3pm on Tuesday, January 15th and ended just before 10am the next day.   More than 700 people were safely evacuated during the attack.  In a statement, the Somalia-based Al-Shabab group claimed the assault was retaliation for President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  The attack began at a bank inside the compound after a car bomb explosion ripped through three vehicles in the parking lot, followed by a blast from a suicide bomber in the lobby of the seven-story Dusit Hotel.  The explosion triggered vehicles parked nearby to burst into flames. After the blast the remaining terrorists opened fire on guards, forcing them to open the gates of the complex at 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenyan authorities believe there were four to six attackers armed with guns and grenades.  Security camera footage released to local media outlets showed at least four armed men inside the complex as well as footage of the suicide bomber who calmly walked into the lobby and self-detonated a suicide vest.  The coordinated attack lead to a standoff that continued through the night, with people trapped in various parts of the buildings hours later.  The Recce company, the anti-terrorism unit of the Kenya Police, were sent in to combat the militants.  A member of the British SAS and an unspecified number of United States Navy SEALs, who were in the country to conduct training, also took part in the response.  Australian embassy security detail also exchanged fire with the terrorists as they made their way into the complex.

According to Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett, sixteen Kenyans, one Briton, one American and three unidentified people of African origin are among the dead and twenty-eight others have been hospitalized.  Among the dead was U.S. businessman Jason Spindler, who in 2001 survived the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  He was co-founder and managing director of I-DEV International, a firm advising on business strategy for emerging markets.  A British man is also among the dead and was later identified by the development organization Gatsby Africa as Luke Potter, head of its forestry and tea portfolio.

A few of the victims identified in the attack were: James Oduor, who worked at one of the offices inside the complex.  Oduor was trapped inside the complex in the hours after the initial blasts and sent out a tweet at 2:05am that read “Waaah. What’s happening at 14 Riverside fam? Any news from out there?”  Another victim, Bernadette Konjalo, worked at the Dusit Hotel, and was shot as she ran away from an armed attacker after helping hotel guests find safety.  Also killed were Kenyan development consultants Feisal Ahmed, 31, and Abdalla Dahir, 33, who worked for Adam Smith International (ASI).  Described as “inseparable buddies’ by friends, the two were killed as they were having lunch at the Secret Garden restaurant in the grounds of the hotel when the suicide bomber struck.  Mr Ahmed’s widow is reportedly seven months pregnant.

After the attack, the militant group Al-Shabab, said “In a response to the witless remarks of US President Donald Trump and his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the group targeted “Western and Zionist interests worldwide … in support of our Muslim families in Palestine.”  In 2013, Al-Shabaab militants targeted the luxury shopping center of Westgate, which is 2 miles away from the site of Tuesday’s attack, killing 67 people in a siege that lasted several days. The group also killed nearly 150 people, most of them students, in an attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in April 2015.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on TN Woman Granted Clemency In Murder Conviction As Teen

TN Woman Granted Clemency In Murder Conviction As Teen

 

 

 

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A Tennessee woman who was convicted as a teenager for killing a man while she said she was a sex trafficking victim, was granted clemency.  Cyntoia Brown, now 30, was granted a full commutation to parole by Governor Bill Haslam and will be eligible for release Aug. 7 after serving 15 years in prison.  She will remain on parole for 10 years.  Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.  In 2006, she was sentenced to life for the death of Johnny Mitchell Allen, who paid Brown for sex.

Her case gained national attention and awareness about the toll of human trafficking.  At the time, Brown had run away from home and was living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp known as “Kut Throat,” who Brown said raped her and forced her into prostitution.    According to Brown, on the night of August 6, 2004, Brown, then 16-years-old, met Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old real estate broker and US Army veteran, in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In in Nashville.  Brown agreed to have sex with Allen for $150.  The two then ordered dinner and Allen drove them to his home.

At some point during the evening, Brown shot Allen in the back of the head with a .40-caliber handgun.  Brown said she feared for her life and shot Allen, 43, while in bed with him because she believed he was reaching for a gun.  She then stole $172 in cash, several firearms, and a vehicle, a Ford F150.  She drove the stolen truck to InTowne Suites where she was living with her pimp.

During her trial, prosecutors argued the motive was robbery and say Allen was shot as he slept. Brown’s supporters and lawyer have argued her sentence was too extreme, given her age and circumstances.  Nashville police detective Charles Robinson testified that she told investigators she shot Allen because she feared for her life.  In a letter dated Dec. 12, 2017, Robinson urged Haslam not to grant clemency to Brown.  “First and foremost, Cyntoia Brown did not commit this murder because she was a child sex slave as her advocates would like you to believe. Cyntoia Brown’s motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery.”  Among the evidence cited by Robinson, was how Allen’s “arms were folded underneath his head and his fingers were interlocked together,” which was inconsistent with Brown telling investigators he was reaching for a gun.

Haslam said in a statement that the decision comes after careful consideration of “what is a tragic and complex case. Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16.  Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”

While in prison, Brown has earned a GED and an associate degree in 2015 through the Lipscomb Initiative for Education Program with a 4.0 GPA, Haslam said. Brown said she is scheduled to earn her bachelor’s degree in May.  Brown said she is committed to live the rest of her life helping others, especially young people.  “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been,” she said.

Brown thanked the governor and her supporters in a statement released by her attorneys.  “Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” Brown said. “I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”  Brown said she is grateful for the support, prayers, and encouragement she has received, including from Tennessee Department of Corrections officials.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on

 

 

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The actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with felony sexual assault for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenager in a bar in Massachusetts in 2016.  A public show-cause hearing was held for the case Dec. 20 where Clerk Magistrate Ryan Kearney issued a criminal complaint for the charge against Kevin S. Fowler, also known as Kevin Spacey.  Spacey is due in court on January 7 to face the felony charge that could bring him up to five years in prison. Spacey has denied the charges.

The alleged assault on a male victim took place at a Nantucket bar in July 2016.  Last year, former Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh held a press conference to share her son’s allegation of sexual assault against Spacey.  She stated that her then 18-year-old son said was sexually assaulted by Spacey inside the Club Car Restaurant on Nantucket. Unruh says her son was not of legal drinking age but had told Spacey he was and that the actor bought him drink after drink after drink.  “My son was a starstruck, straight 18-year-old young man who had no idea that the famous actor was an alleged sexual predator or that he was about to become his next victim,” she said at the time. “When my son was drunk, Spacey made his move and sexually assaulted him.”

The Nantucket Police Department began its criminal investigation in November 2017, said Massachusetts attorney Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for the alleged victim.   The department has since transferred the case to the district attorney’s office.  Garabedian said in a statement, “The complainant has shown a tremendous amount of courage in coming forward. Let the facts be presented, the relevant law applied and a just and fair verdict rendered.”  Multiple men have come forward with accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Spacey since October 2017, which prompted Netflix to abruptly cut ties with and drop the actor from its hit political drama House of Cards.  Spacey is still under investigation in Los Angeles and in England for other alleged sexual assaults.

Soon after the charges were filed against Spacey, the actor posted a bizarre video to his Twitter account where he portrays his House of Cards character Frank Underwood.  The actor addresses his House of Cards fate while also saying that he knows his fans want him back.  “I know what you want,” Spacey begins in Frank’s accent. “Oh sure, they may have tried to separate us, but what we have is too strong, too powerful. After all, we shared everything, you and I. I told you my deepest, darkest secrets. I showed you exactly what people are capable of. I shocked you with my honestly, but mostly I challenged you and made you think. And you trusted me, even though you knew you shouldn’t. So we’re not done, no matter what anyone says. And besides, I know what you want. You want me back.”

“Of course, some believed everything and have been just waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all. They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Only you and I both know it’s never that simple, not in politics and not in life,” he says. “All this presumption made for such an unsatisfying ending, and to think it could have been such a memorable sendoff.” He goes on to say that in both life and in art, nothing should be off the table: “I can promise you this. If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do.”  Spacey ended the 3 minute video by directly calling out his death on House of Cards.  The actor puts on Frank’s signature ring before walking off. “My confidence grows each day that soon enough, you will know the full truth,” he says. “Wait a minute, now that I think of it, you never actually saw me die, did you? Conclusions can be so deceiving.”

 

 

 

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9 months ago · by · Comments Off on Off Duty TX Officer Kills Man In His Own Apartment

Off Duty TX Officer Kills Man In His Own Apartment

 

 

 

 

Many are outraged after a Dallas police officer has only been charged with manslaughter after shooting and killing 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment.  Police Officer Amber Guyger, who was off-duty at the time of the shooting, says she thought she was in her own apartment and fired after thinking she was confronting an intruder in the dark apartment.  She turned herself in and was released on $300,000 bond.  Investigators have taken a blood sample from the officer to test for drugs and alcohol but the results have not been released.

As more details of what happened that night are released, the incident seems more and more confusing, adding to the mystery of the case.  According to Guyger’s account, she arrived home around 10pm after working a 15-hour shift to the South Side Flats apartments on September 6th.  She didn’t realize she had parked her car on the wrong level of the parking garage and entered the wrong floor of her building.  Guyger lives on the fourth floor while Jean lived on the third floor.  Once she entered what she thought was her own apartment, she says she saw a “large silhouette” in the dark apartment and she thought she had walked in on a burglary.  She fired, hitting Jean in the chest, ultimately killing him and only realized that the apartment was not hers when she turned on the lights in the apartment.  She then called 911 and checked the apartment number outside the door as she explained what occurred to the dispatcher.

Details of a September 9 arrest affidavit filed after Guyger turned herself in only add to the confusion.  The affidavit, which was written after an interview with Guyger, states that Jean was actually shot farther into his apartment.  In that account, after Guyger returned home and entered the wrong floor of the building, she attempted to use an electronic key to open the apartment front door. However, the door was slightly ajar and the force of using her key pushed the door open, despite the fact that her key did not open the lock.  Guyger then entered the apartment and after seeing a “large silhouette” issued verbal commands and then fired twice.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family, said they are skeptical that Jean would have left the door to his apartment ajar, saying the PricewaterhouseCoopers worker was a “meticulous” person who would have made sure his door was locked for his own safety.  Merritt also said that two sisters who live in the building had come forward giving details that contradict the affidavit.  The sisters claim that before the shooting, they heard knocking followed by a woman’s voice saying, “Let me in. Let me in.” Then they heard gunshots, followed by a man’s voice saying, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”  One of the women also took a video after the shooting, which shows what appears to be Guyger pacing outside the apartment as emergency responders arrive.

The case is still under investigation by the Texas Rangers and separately by the district attorney’s office– and will be presented to a grand jury.  A grand jury will decide whether to indict Guyger on a different charge than manslaughter or not to indict her at all.  Jean’s family and community members have raised a number of concerns about the pace of the investigation and how it is being handled.  They argue that Guyger is receiving deferential treatment that a civilian suspect would not receive, noting that she was charged with manslaughter rather than murder and that the charge did not come until three days after the shooting.

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11 months ago · by · Comments Off on 17 Dead After Duck Boat Capsizes in Branson MO

17 Dead After Duck Boat Capsizes in Branson MO

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On July 19th, seventeen people died after a Missouri duck boat capsized and sunk on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri.  The boat, with 31 people aboard, sank around 7pm Thursday evening after it left for a ride on the lake that was hit by a thunderstorm generating near-hurricane strength winds.  Witnesses captured video of two of the Ride the Ducks vessels being tossed around by waves as they struggled to make it back to land, only one made it back safely.  One video shows water from the waves entering the craft before it capsized (rolled over onto its side) and then sank below the waves.  It is believed the boat sunk in 40 feet of water, rolling as it sank, before landing on its wheels in 80-feet-deep lake water.

Duck boats are amphibious vehicles equipped with wheels and propellers that can be driven on roadways or on water. With a push of a lever, the vehicle can switch from being wheel-driven to relying instead on the rear-mounted propeller. Originally built to transport troops during WWII, they are now popular in many tourist areas with large bodies of water.  The 17 victims in the tragedy ranged in age from 1 to 76 years with nine victims from the same family.  None of the victims were wearing life jackets when found.  There were life jackets on the boat but passengers weren’t required to wear them.

The National Transportation Safety Board recorded wind readings of 73 mph which were estimated to cause waves that rose to around 4 feet, with a possibility of 6-foot crests.  An investigation into the cause of the tragedy and why the Ride the Ducks boat entered the lake despite severe thunderstorm warnings for the area.  Branson is about 200 miles from Kansas City, and is considered a major family vacation destination.  The town was under a severe thunderstorm warning issued about half an hour before the boat capsized.

Tia Coleman and 10 of her relatives were on a family vacation from Indiana.  Her husband, her three children and five other members of her family died in the accident. Their names were: Angela, 45; Arya, 1; Belinda, 69; Ervin, 76; Evan, 7; Glenn, 40; Horace, 70; Maxwell, 2; and Reece, 9. Only Tia and her 13 year old nephew Donovan survived when the boat sank.  The other victims included the driver of the duck boat, Robert Williams, 73; Steve Smith, a retired teacher from Osceola, Arkansas, and his teenage son, Lance; William and Janice Bright, a married couple from Higginsville, Missouri; William Asher and his partner, Rosemarie Hamann from Missouri; and Leslie Dennison from Illinois.

Tia Coleman, one of the 14 survivors, said passengers were told there was a storm coming before the trip and that they would alter their route to tour the lake before the storm hit.  During an emotional interview from her hospital bed she said that the captain mentioned the life jackets before they went on the lake but said, “you won’t need them so we didn’t grab them, nobody did.”

She described the amphibious vessel being hit by waves and taking on some water.  She said that immediately after a large wave went over the vessel, they were plunged under water where she couldn’t see or hear anything but felt her head hitting the top of the craft.  Passengers were unable to make an immediate escape as the craft sank because the sides of the craft are windows with a canopy top.  Once the canopy top gave way, some were able to swim to the surface as the craft continued to sink in the murky later water.

Vacationers and employees of a nearby dining showboat immediately began throwing life preservers, and life rafts into the water.  Others jumped in and pulled people out of the water.  Several people nearby with medical training tried unsuccessfully to revive unresponsive victims.  Rescuers searched late into the night for survivors before calling it off due to poor visibility.  The searching resumed the next morning until the remaining victims were found.

 

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11 months ago · by · 0 comments

Thailand Soccer Team Rescued From Cave

 

 

 

In Thailand, rescuers raced to free 12 members of a youth soccer team and a coach who had been trapped in a flooded cave for nearly three weeks.  Divers found the teammates and coach alive, but had been unable to rescue them.  In the last 18 days, a local search for the missing 13 turned into a complex rescue operation, involving hundreds of experts who flew in from around the world to help in the rescue efforts.  The rescue has been a race to extract the boys and their coach ahead of monsoon rains that could haved flooded the cave completely.  Cave experts grappled with the problem of how to free the young, malnourished boys, some of whom couldn’t swim, from a flooded cavern as monsoon rains threatened to raise water levels even further.  The boys received a crash course in swimming and the use of SCUBA gear.

The final boy and his coach rescued Tuesday are still being treated at an on-site medical center, while three other boys have been transported to a nearby hospital where eight of their teammates are recuperating after being rescued Sunday and Monday.  Nineteen divers entered the cave at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday (11 p.m. Monday ET), many on their third mission in three days, with the aim of bringing everyone inside the cave out.  Tuesday’s rescue efforts took nine hours from the time the divers entered the cave to bringing out the boys and their coach.

Divers involved in the rescue described dangerous conditions involving fast-moving shallow water passing through very narrow passages. Poor visibility, razor sharp rocks and narrow passages made the rescue very tricky.  As rain threatened to hamper what was already a complicated rescue mission it became clear the boys were going to have to dive out  Officials scrambled to find full-face oxygen masks small enough to fit the boys and experts were sent in to teach them how to use scuba gear.

Two days before the first four boys were rescued, officials warned that oxygen levels within the cave had fallen to 15%.  The “optimal range” of oxygen needed in the air a person breathes in order to maintain normal function is between 19.5% and 23.5%.  Such low levels creates the risk of hypoxia, a condition that causes altitude sickness.

During the hours-long trip out of the cave, each boy was accompanied underwater by two divers helping them navigate the dark, murky water. The most dangerous part required the divers and boys to squeeze through a narrow, flooded channel. Rescuers had to hold the boys’ oxygen tanks in front of them and swim pencil-like through submerged holes. Once they completed this section, the boys were then handed over to separate, specialist rescue teams, who helped assist them through the remainder of the cave, much of which they can wade through.

All the boys rescued are being treated in an isolation ward in a Chiang Rai hospital. Medical officials told reporters that they’re healthy, fever-free, mentally fit and “seem to be in high spirits.”  They will remain in insolation until the risk of infection has passed.  Parents of the boys have been able to see their children through a glass window and talk to them on the phone. They’ll be allowed to enter the room if tests show the boys are free of infection.

The permanent secretary of the Thai Health Ministry, said the first group of boys taken out on Sunday were aged 14 to 16. Their body temperatures were very low when they emerged, and two are suspected of having lung inflammation.  The second group freed on Monday were aged 12 to 14.  Authorities will look for signs of Histoplasmosis, also known as “cave disease,” an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.  They are all likely to stay in hospital for seven days due to their weakened immune systems.

 

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