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18 hours ago · by · Comments Off on Coronavirus Cases Soar

Coronavirus Cases Soar





The death toll from coronavirus continues to soar, now surpassing 1,700 and overtaking the global death toll from the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, the first death of a U.S. citizen was recorded last week. The World Health Organization is warning the coronavirus poses a “grave threat” to the world, as there are more than 73,000 confirmed infections worldwide.

New cases were identified on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, bringing the number of confirmed cases on board to over 500.  Around 3,700 people have been quarantined aboard the ship where crew members say the workers aren’t being protected from infection. Faced with continuing transmissions on the Diamond Princess, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new travel restrictions for the ship’s passengers and crew.

After leaving the ship, on which passengers are scheduled to be released from quarantine Feb. 19, all passengers and crew will be required to wait an additional 14 days before returning to the United States. Should an individual from the cruise arrive in the U.S. earlier than that, they’ll be subject to mandatory quarantine until they’ve gone 14 days without exhibiting symptoms or, conversely, test positive. More than 100 Americans remain either on the ship or hospitalized in Japan.

—The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting COVID-19 is up to 20 times more deadly than the flu, with a fatality rate of about 2.3%.  Doctors in Shanghai have started using the blood plasma from some of the 14,000 patients who have recovered from the disease to treat new patients.  Chinese doctors are also trying antiviral drugs licensed for use against other infections to see if they might help. Scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital had said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.


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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Coronavirus Outbreak Spreads

Coronavirus Outbreak Spreads




As the outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus rapidly spreads, the Chinese authorities said that the official count of known cases jumped again overnight, with the death toll now exceeding 400.  According to the National Health Commission, the number of confirmed cases increased to over 20,000 but a shortage of test kits has led experts to warn that the real number may be higher.

Officials also announced that after repeated offers of assistance, Chinese authorities agreed to allow in teams of international experts, coordinated by the World Health Organization, to help with research and containment.  Government scientists as well as those working at Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are all working quickly to develop a vaccine.  Hundreds of Americans have been evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but some of their family members without U.S. visas have been left behind. British Airways has suspended all flights in and out of China.

The U.S. government declared a public health emergency last week and barred foreign nationals from entering the country within two weeks of visiting China, unless they are immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The State Department has warned Americans against all travel to China, and is planning more evacuation flights to bring Americans home from the country this week. Those flights will land at four U.S. military bases, and similar to the evacuation flight that landed in California last week, passengers will be placed under federal quarantine for 2 weeks.  The planes will be loaded with medical supplies and humanitarian goods, which the U.S. hopes to deliver to Wuhan on the first leg of the journey.

The head of the World Health Organization Ghebreyesus said some nations are lagging in the global fight against the deadly new coronavirus outbreak. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused some governments of wealthy countries of being “well behind” in sharing data on virus cases.  “While 99 percent of cases are in China, in the rest of the world we only have 176 cases,” Tedros said in a technical briefing to the WHO’s Executive Board in Geneva. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t get worse. But for sure we have a window of opportunity to act… Let’s not miss this window of opportunity.”



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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Crash Kills Kobe & Gianna Bryant, Seven Others

Crash Kills Kobe & Gianna Bryant, Seven Others




On Sunday, January 26th, nine people were killed in a helicopter crash in Casablancas California.  The crash claimed the lives of basketball ball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna. The other crash victims were identified as John Altobelli, 56; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli, 13;  Sarah Chester, 45; Payton Chester 13, Christina Mauser, 41 and the 50 year old pilot, Ara Zobayan.  The private helicopter was headed to the Lady Mambas’ basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks where Gianna was scheduled to play and Kobe scheduled to coach.

Minutes before the crash, the pilot was trying to get special permission to fly though foggy conditions.   Just seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control he was trying to avoid a cloud layer.  It was the last time anyone on the ground heard from him.  While federal investigators try to determine what caused the crash, excerpts of air traffic control recordings will help build a timeline of what happened in the final moments of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter before it crashed into the hillside.  Meanwhile, the nation is mourning alongside the families of those lost in the crash.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were married for 19 years before the basketball star’s sudden death.  They shared four daughters, Gianna, 13, was the second oldest.  Left behind are Natalia Bryant, 17;  Bianka Bryant, 3 and Capri Bryant, 7 months old.

Passengers’ relatives and loved ones are telling their stories.  Christina Mauser was an assistant basketball coach at Mamba who had been personally selected for the job by Kobe Bryant, her husband, Matt Mauser.  Both Matt and Christina were teachers working at a small private school that Bryant’s daughters attended.  Christina left behind three children ages 11, 9 and 3.

John Altobelli was a respected baseball coach, a man who treated his players like family and was known as “Coach Alto.”  Altobelli’s daughter Alyssa, was best friends with Kobe’s daughter Gianna and also loved playing basketball for the academy.  Keri Altobelli was described as a great mom to the couple’s children. They have two surviving children,  a daughter Lexi, in high school, and J.J., who is in his 20s.  Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother, Sarah, were also passengers on the helicopter.  They are survived by husband and father Chris and two boys Hayden and Riley, both 16.





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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Public Outrage in Puerto Rico After Warehouse of Unused Emergency Supplies Discovered From 2017

Public Outrage in Puerto Rico After Warehouse of Unused Emergency Supplies Discovered From 2017






In Puerto Rico, protesters took to the streets calling for the resignation of Governor Wanda Vázquez, after a video was posted showing undistributed emergency supplies sitting in a warehouse in the city of Ponce.   Many are still reeling after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island earlier this month, forcing thousands to leave their homes. Some of the supplies, which include cots, emergency radios, bottled water, baby diapers and propane gas, date back to 2017 and were reportedly intended as emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Maria.  Vázquez is also under fire over her handling of the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed one person and left thousands homeless.  

The warehouse filled with unused emergency supplies was discovered when desperate residents broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from the earthquake.  After the video went viral, Governor Vázquez ordered an investigation and fired three members of her Cabinet as public outrage mounted. Vazquez ordered the dismissal of Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management days after the video emerged.  She then ordered the dismissal of two more cabinet members — her secretaries of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat. The dismissals mean Vázquez fired three members of her cabinet in a little over 24 hours.  

Vázquez said inaction by the fired official, Carlos Acevedo, was unacceptable.  During a news conference, Vazquez said, “Under my administration nobody can come to me with lies. I have a commitment [with the people of Puerto Rico. Public officials serving with me have to have the same commitment.”  Acevedo has denied allegations that his office mishandled the supplies saying the agency continued to distribute them, including during the time Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened the territory. Some of the pallets of water that remained in the warehouse had expired, he said.  He said no residents had been denied the supplies in the warehouse, including food, diapers, baby formula and cots.

Vázquez announced that Nino Correa will be the new chief of operations for Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Office, replacing Acevedo.  The governor had previously said that Secretary of State Elmer Román will now coordinate emergency aid and Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard José Reyes will be in charge of the Office of Emergency Management.  



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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Trial of Harvey Weinstein Underway

Trial of Harvey Weinstein Underway




The trial of Harvey Weinstein is underway in New York and the courtroom will continue to hear testimony from his accusers.  Weinstein faces life in prison on the New York charges and up to 28 years in a separate criminal case in Los Angeles County.  Over 100 women have accused Weinstein of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and professional retaliation.

Actress Annabella Sciorra told a packed courtroom that the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein barged into her New York City apartment one night in the early 1990s, where he held her down and raped her.  She testified that he entered her residence, chased her around and pinned her to the bed during the alleged attack. She said she tried to run to the bathroom, but “he kept coming at me. I felt overpowered because he was very big,” Sciorra told jurors. 

She said that she confronted Weinstein about the incident at a dinner in New York weeks after. She described his response as very menacing “That’s what all the nice Catholic girls say.”  He then leaned into her and said “this remains between you and I.” She described the exchange “It was threatening, and I was afraid,” she said. She testified that the experience left her so scarred that she fell into a deep depression, started cutting herself and began drinking heavily. It was the first time one of Weinstein’s accusers has confronted him directly in court since his arrest in May of 2018 on charges of rape and criminal sexual acts.

The courtroom also heard the testimony of Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant who has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.  Haleyi, who met Weinstein in 2004 and then had a series of dealings with him in 2006 before, during and after a stint as a production assistant on Project Runway, accuses Weinstein of sexually assaulting her on two separate occasions.  Haleyi said she accepted an invitation from Weinstein to fly her out to California for the premiere of “Clerks 2” in July 2006 as her friend was expecting a baby in Los Angeles. 

She testified that a driver escorted her to his apartment where they were “having normal conversation,” and then he suddenly “lunged at me, trying to kiss me,” she claimed.  She said he backed her into a bedroom, where she fell onto a bed and he pushed her down. She said she told him “no,” that she didn’t “want this to happen,” and that she was on her period, all in attempts to “make him stop.”  After deciding no one would hear her scream and that she couldn’t sprint for the elevator or get out of the apartment in any way, she said, she “checked out.”

Four more of Weinstein’s accusers are expected to testify during the trial, though the statute of limitations has expired for all but two of their claims.  The remaining four will testify about their encounters with him to show a pattern of abuse. Mr. Weinstein is accused of five felony counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault.  Weinstein has maintained that the encounters were consensual. The women, he said, engaged in transactional relationships meant to advance their own careers.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Bills Passed To Boost Safety After 2018 Deadly Crash

Bills Passed To Boost Safety After 2018 Deadly Crash




State lawmakers have passed several bills designed to boost safety requirements for stretch-limo operators, after a deadly crash in upstate New York involving one of the vehicles killed 20 people.  Family members of the victims of the 2018 crash flanked officials during Tuesday’s press conference in Albany and cheered the 10 proposals supported by leaders of the state Senate, Assembly and Gov. Cuomo.

The crash occurred in Schoharie at the junction of New York state routes 30 and 30A  on the afternoon of October 6th 2018. The passengers were traveling to a surprise birthday party in a retrofitted 2001 Ford Excursion.  Among them were four sisters and two recently married couples.  All 18 people inside the vehicle, including the driver, and 2 bystanders in a nearby parking lot were killed.

The investigation of the accident revealed pre-existing problems with the limousine, the driver and the limousine company, Prestige Limousine Services. As a result of failing two inspections due to deficient brakes, which a repair shop allegedly falsified having repaired, and other issues, the state had ordered the vehicle out of service. Inspectors had placed an “inservicable” sticker across the windshield which was removed before the fatal trip.  The vehicle was only certified for 10 seats, but had 18 installed. The driver also lacked the required endorsement to his license for carrying 15 or more passengers at a time.

After the New York State Police determined that the operator, Nauman Hussain, was aware of these issues yet continued to rent the vehicle, he was arrested on a charge of criminally negligent homicide and later indicted on 20 counts each of that charge and 2nd degree manslaughter.  His trial is scheduled for March 2020.

“This has been a difficult journey for all the collective families that said, as everybody knows, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” said an emotional Kevin Cushing, who lost his 31-year-old son, Patrick Cushing, in the October 2018 crash in Schoharie County.  “We can’t change the past but we can make a difference in the future,” Cushing said.

One of the key pieces of legislation requires all new stretch limos to have seat belts starting in 2021 and retrofitted vehicles by 2023.  Multiple reports following the accident found that seat belts could have saved the lives of at least some of the passengers.  Other changes include a bill mandating that riders in taxis, liveries and limos — in both the front and back seats —wear safety belts.  This would apply to Uber, too.  Additional bills set new requirements for drug and alcohol testing of hired drivers, criminal and financial penalties for illegal U-turns and a commercial GPS system. Another bill will implement a study on other safety measures, such as escape hatches.


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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Monsey Attacker Charged With 5 More Hate Crime Charges

Monsey Attacker Charged With 5 More Hate Crime Charges



A grand jury indicted the suspect in the Hanukkah attack with five more federal hate crimes charges. Grafton Thomas allegedly stabbed at least five Jewish worshipers who were celebrating Hanukkah at a rabbi’s house in Monsey last month. The grand jury in Rockland County had already indicted Thomas, 37, on six counts of attempted murder in the second degree, three counts of assault in the first degree, three counts of attempted assault in the first degree and two counts of burglary in the first degree in the mass slashing on Dec. 28.

The indictment charges Grafton Thomas with five counts each of attempting to kill victims based on their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon.  He is being held without bail on the federal charges.  “We now allege that he did this with the intention of targeting his victims because of their religion,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a news release. “Thomas faces life in prison for his alleged violent acts of prejudice and intolerance.”

Newly elected DA Thomas E. Walsh, who took office on New Year’s Day, announced the state charges at a brief press conference.  “Thomas violently attacked numerous individuals inside the home, slashing at least six individuals, with the intent to cause their deaths,” he said. Initial reports said there were five injured in the attack, though there were no details on what injuries the newly-added victim suffered.  Those charges carry a maximum of 25 years in state prison.

Thomas was arrested shortly after the attack with 2 bloodied weapons in his car.  Police say he also had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic references and recently used his phone to look up information on Hitler and the location of synagogues.  The worst of the injured victims was clinging to life after suffering devastating machete blows to his head; the man, great-grandfather Josef Neumann, 72, remained comatose, partially paralyzed and on a respirator.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Michigan State Police Reach Settlement With Family of Damon Grimes

Michigan State Police Reach Settlement With Family of Damon Grimes

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The family of Damon Grimes, a teenager who died in 2017 after a Michigan state trooper stunned him with a Taser has reached a $12 million settlement with the Michigan State Police. Fifteen-year-old Grimes was riding an ATV in a residential area of Detroit, when a police officer tased him for not pulling over fast enough. The teen then crashed into the back of a parked truck and died quickly after. 

This is the Michigan State Police Department’s largest-ever settlement for a single incident.  The Grimes family, including Damon’s mother Monique Grimes and his sisters Dezjanai and Dezanique Grimes, are to get about $8 million of the settlement. Most of the remaining $4 million is to go to the family’s lawyers at the Fieger law firm.

The family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Bessner, fellow trooper Ethan Berger and Michigan State Police Sgt. Jacob Liss said “I’m very thankful that the attorney general recognized the grave injury that occurred in this case, and the intolerable circumstances, and therefore accepted responsibility and allowed justice to be done.”  Fieger added Grimes’ family is “very pleased” with the settlement.

“The facts of this case are so horrendous, and it was difficult dealing with the bureaucracy of the state of Michigan and dealing with the police agencies, but having cut through all that, the attorney general did the right thing and settled the case, and didn’t subject the state to a trial that could have resulted in a much larger verdict,” Fieger said.

The now-former Michigan State Police trooper who used the taser, Mark Bessner, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. It is a violation of Michigan State Police policy to deploy a Taser from a moving vehicle. The State Police revised its chase policy for ATVs in the aftermath of Damon’s death and stopped doing chases in Detroit involving traffic or misdemeanor violations. That new policy was later adopted statewide.

The settlement will end a federal lawsuit filed by Damon’s family in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Bessner and two other troopers, Ethan Berger and Sgt. Jacob Liss, a supervisor. Berger, who was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the Taser, has since resigned from the agency.  A State Police internal affairs report in 2018 accused Berger and Liss of attempting to cover up details of the ATV incident, such as the use of the Taser. Neither were charged in relation to the incident. The Michigan State Police internal affairs investigation had been critical of Liss, the supervisor at the crash scene, for omitting key details from his incident report, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did not pursue criminal charges.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said in a written statement: “The Michigan State Police extends its continued condolences to the Grimes family, friends and supporters. Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former Michigan State Police trooper.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Monsey NY Machete Attack

Monsey NY Machete Attack


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On December 28, 2019, the seventh night of Hanukkah, a masked intruder wielding an 18 inch machete entered the home of a Hasidic Rabbi in Monsey, Rockland County, NY where a Hanukkah party was underway and began attacking the guests. Five people were wounded, two of whom were hospitalized in critical condition. Grafton Thomas, 37, was arraigned in a Rockland County court and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary. He is also charged with a federal hate crime and his bail was set at $5 million. 

The frenzied attack took less than 2 minutes at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, where almost 100 people had gathered to watch the rabbi light the candles and to celebrate a Hanukkah party.  Around 10 pm, Thomas entered the home with his face covered by a scarf and immediately began stabbing guests with a machete. Rabbi Rottenberg’s son was among the injured. Guests struck back, hitting the attacker with chairs and a small table, forcing him to flee the home. 

Thomas attempted to enter the synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, but the doors were locked.  Thomas then fled the scene in a car but a witness provided police with the license plate number of the car. At 11:45 pm, a license plate reader on the George Washington Bridge captured the license plate of the car as it entered New York City.  Police stopped the car in Harlem and arrested him without incident after midnight.  Rockland County Senior District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said police found the suspect with blood on his clothes and smelling “strongly” of bleach at the time of his arrest. 

Thomas’ family said in a statement Sunday night that Thomas has “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations” and that his attorney, Michael H. Sussman, had been instructed to seek “immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton.” Thomas was arrested at least seven times since 2001, on charges which include assault, resisting arrest, killing or injuring a police animal, driving under the influence, possessing controlled substances, and menacing a police officer. In 2013, he was arrested for punching a police horse and was jailed briefly for possession of a controlled substance.  In 2018, he was charged with weapon possession, endangerment, and menacing a policeman.


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One of the two gravely injured victims is 72 year old Josef Neumann, who has been in a coma since the attack and is connected to a breathing tube. According to his family, he had been struck three times in the head and suffered a wound that penetrated directly into the brain.  His doctor does not have high hopes of a recovery. He turned 72 on Dec. 30 while unconscious.


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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on California Man Killed During Traffic Stop

California Man Killed During Traffic Stop





Newly released body-camera video shows a Sonoma County sheriff deputy fatally slamming a man’s head into his own car. The sheriff deputy, Charlie Blount, and his partner, Deputy Jason Little, apparently thought the driver, David Glen Ward, had stolen the car — which he in fact owned.  Ward had been the victim of a carjacking days earlier and reported the car stolen.  


He had somehow recovered the vehicle but hadn’t notified police yet.  When the officers spotted the Honda Civic they attempted to pull the vehicle over thinking he was the perpetrator, which resulted in a police chase that lasted more than 5 minutes.  Once Ward finally stopped, deputies can be heard shouting at Ward to put his hands up, with their guns drawn. Ward puts his hands up but repeatedly tries to put them back on the wheel before putting them up again.  


In the video, Blount tries to pull Ward out of the vehicle but Ward says that his legs are in pain and Deputy Jason Little can be heard off-camera saying that his legs are stuck.  Blount and Little both can be heard saying that Ward bit them. As the officers try to pull Ward from the vehicle, Deputy Blount grabs him by the hair and slams his head into the car’s frame.  Deputy Little deploys the taser on Ward and Blount puts Ward in a “sleeper hold” to restrain him. The deputies then pull Ward’s limp body out of the car and handcuff him. They then call for medical assistance.  Ward was declared dead at a local hospital later that day.  


Later, Deputy Nick Jax can be heard telling the two officers that Ward was the owner of the vehicle.  “Then why did he run?” Little asks. Jax responded that he didn’t know and there was no reason for him to respond that way.  “Oh well,” Blount said.  


Deputy Blount’s lawyer Harry Stern said “ Mr. Ward caused his own death by inexplicably taking a number of bizarre actions that confirmed in the deputies’ minds that he was an armed carjacker rather than the victim of that crime.”


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