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Otto Warmbier dies from injuries sustained in N. Korea prison

Published: Thursday, June 15, 2017 @ 7:23 AM
Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 5:43 PM

Warmbier begs N. Korean panel for leniency

UPDATE @ 5:40 p.m.

President Donald J. Trump made the following statement regarding Warmbier’s death: `Bad things' happened in `brutal' North Korea but at least American died at home with parents.

UPDATE @ 5 p.m.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement on the passing of Otto Warmbier: 


"Otto Warmbier was such a promising young man. He was kind, generous and accomplished. He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him. His passing today is a loss for Ohio and for all of us. Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan."

UPDATE @ 4:37 p.m. (June 19)

Otto Warmbier, 22, of Wyoming, Ohio, has died from injuries sustained during detainment in North Korea. 

University of Cincinnati Medical Center released a statement on behalf of Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Monday afternoon. 

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m. 

It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family. 

We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today. 

When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that. 

We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.”

— Fred & Cindy Warmbier and Family


A southwest Ohio college student held captive by North Korea for more than a year — most of that time in a coma — was released this week. Here’s what we know today after Otto Warmbier’s father and doctors spoke Thursday: 

Extensive brain damage: Doctors said Warmbier, 22, shows no sign of understanding language nor has the ability to verbally respond. An MRI revealed “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain,” said Dr. Daniel Kanter of UC Health. Warmbier has spontaneous moments of eye opening but has neither spoken nor made any purposeful movements, according to doctors.

» RELATED: Doctors say Otto Warmbier has ‘extensive loss of brain tissue’ on return from N. Korea 

Kanter said Otto’s vital signs were stable upon arrival, his skin was in good condition and he was well nourished.

Father speaks: Fred Warmbier called the return of his son “bittersweet.” He is relieved his son is home but angry “that he was so brutally treated for so long.” Cindy Warmbier remains by her son’s side at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. 

Quiet diplomacy: New details emerged Thursday about the role of U.S. special envoy Joseph Yun in the release of Warmbier. Yun spoke and met secretly with North Korean counterparts in the months since President Donald Trump took office. Yun was the first to verify Warmbier’s condition during an extraordinarily rare visit to North Korea by a U.S. diplomat. 

» RELATED: US official's 'quiet diplomacy' led to Warmbier's release 

More on the story:

Arrives in U.S.: A small jet carrying Warmbier, 22, landed at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati on Tuesday night about 10:20 p.m.

In need of care: Warmbier is in a coma. News photos showed him with a tube in his nose being carried from the aircraft before he was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for medical care.

» RELATED: US college student released by North Korea home, but in coma

Warmbier has been in a coma for “over a year now and urgently needs proper medical care,” said Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has been in touch with the Warmbier family and served periodically as a negotiator with the North Korean government.

Cincinnati-area man released from North Korea

‘Not in great shape’: Fred Warmbier discussed his son’s captivity with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Wednesday: "Otto is not in great shape right now," Fred Warmbier said. "Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea."

» RELATED: Family of freed student adjusting to 'different reality'

‘Repeatedly beaten’: The New York Times reports that a senior U.S. official said it was only in recent weeks that the “United States obtained intelligence reports indicating that Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten while in North Korean custody.”

Local ties: Warmbier is a 2013 graduate of Wyoming High School in Hamilton County where he was class salutatorian and played soccer. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. 

Charge of subversion: During a one-hour trial in March 2016, North Korea’s highest court sentenced Warmbier to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner. 

Government intervention: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement Tuesday reading: “At the direction of the President, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea.”

North Korea statement: North Korea said in a one-line statement it released Warmbier for what it calls humanitarian reasons. In the country’s first official comment since Warmbier’s return, the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday said Otto Warmbier had been sentenced to hard labor but didn't comment on his medical condition.

» RELATED: Rodman's N. Korea trip off to uncharacteristic low-key start

Flight path home: According to The New York Times, people close to the negotiations said Warmbier was flown to Japan and then Alaska before arriving in Cincinnati. 

Others held: The State Department continues to have discussions with North Korea about three other detained Americans. 

Another Ohioan previously held by North Korea: Warmbier is the second southwest Ohio resident to be held captive and released by North Korea in the past three years. Moraine resident Jeff Fowle was detained for six months after leaving a Bible in a nightclub, considered a crime in North Korea. He was was released in 2014.

The Associated Press and New York Times contributed to this report.

» RELATED: 3 things we learned when North Korea detained a local man

» RELATED: Freed captive explains his secret Bible plan

Kettering volleyball player sings national anthem after pre-recording fails to play

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 8:41 AM

A Kettering Fairmont student sang the national anthem after the normal audio system failed to work

A Kettering Fairmont volleyball player is garnering local attention after she stepped up to the microphone after a pre-recorded version of the “Star Spangled Banner” failed to play prior to the Springboro-Kettering match last week.

Bob O’Brien posted the video of Mikayla Morris performing the national anthem prior to the game.

SPORTS NEWS: Toddler struck in the face with 105 mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium

“With all the hoopla out there in the media, this is what it should be about,” O’Brien said in a Facebook post.  “Very proud to know this outstanding student athlete.  Way to represent yourself, your team and community.”

The video has been shared on social media over 1,700 times.

Texas doughnut shop offering 'scary clown deliveries'

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 12:13 PM

Pennywise? Pa. Town Sees Red Balloons Tied To Sewer Grates

A doughnut shop in Texas is offering an unusual delivery service, for those brave enough to accept.

Hurts Donut Company in Frisco is offering "scary clown deliveries" for a limited time. If the service is popular, the company may expand to surrounding areas, according to its Facebook post.

>> Read more trending news

The creepy clown holding a box of doughnuts and red balloons is inspired by Pennywise, the terrifying star of “It,” the movie based upon Stephen King’s epic novel. The movie was released this month and is the book’s second film adaptation. 

Other Pennywise “sightings” have been spotted across the country, including in one Pennsylvania town, where a prankster tied red balloons to sewer grates.


Major pension changes considered for public workers in Ohio

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 12:54 PM
Updated: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 12:54 PM

Major pension changes considered for public workers in Ohio
Major pension changes considered for public workers in Ohio

Ohio’s five state pension funds are all considering changes that impact millions of public workers around the state.

From teachers to police, firefighters and prison workers everything is being considered from changes to cost of living increases to changes in health plans.

Here’s a look at what’s being talked about:

1 million may see pension cut

Ohio’s biggest public pension system is considering cutting the cost of living allowances for its 1-million members as a way to shore up the long-term finances of the fund.

Ohio Public Employees Retirement System trustees on Wednesday discussed options that could affect all current and future retirees, including tying the cost of living allowance to inflation and capping it and delaying the onset of the COLA for new retirees.

Read more on this story

Pension fund moves toward health care cuts for cops, firefighters

The pension fund wants to switch to stipends for retirees to buy health care by Jan. 1, 2019. Currently, retirees are offered pension fund-sponsored health care plans that cover 75 percent of the premium costs for retirees and 25 percent of the cost for their spouses. The amount of the stipends has yet to be decided.

Read more on this story

Cost of living changes for school employees

The School Employees Retirement System of Ohio is asking lawmakers for permission to cut the cost of living allowance given to retirees and use that money to shore up funding for retiree health care.

High county infant death rates remain worrisome for health officials

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 12:53 PM

            GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The number of infants who die before their first birthday in Montgomery County remains alarmingly high, particularly for black babies, local health officials said.

About 14 out of 1,000 black babies born in the county died compared to 4.5 deaths per 1,000 white babies born, according to the Ohio Department of Health using 2014 to 2015 data, which is the latest available.

“The disparities between the white and black infant death rates are a grave concern,” said Cheryl Scroggins, coordinator of Dayton Council on Health Equity, which is the local Office of Minority Health.

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Officials with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County continue to push for solutions to the high infant mortality rate and the disparities within the rate, including a conference in Dayton today and Saturday called “EveryOne should Turn One” that will highlight initiatives to reduce infant mortality.

The conference at the Dayton Convention Center, geared toward both professionals and residents, will both teach attendees about local initiatives from prenatal outreach and doula support, as well as promote policy that can address the causes of poor maternal health outcomes and racial health disparities.

Some of the talks are “Grassroots Initiatives to Address Infant Mortality” by West Dayton Health Promotion Partnership, “Implicit Bias & Racism in Health Care,” by the Kirwan Institute, and “Impact of Responsible Fatherhood on Infant Mortality” presented by multiple community groups.

RELATED: Local job fairs seeking employees

The three times higher rate of black infant deaths has remained high for years. In 2011, the black infant mortality rate was 17.1 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 6 deaths per 1,000 births for white babies.

Ohio overall has a rate of 5.5 deaths per live births for white babies and 15.1 deaths per births for black babies.

The main cause of infant mortality in Montgomery County is prematurity and low birth weight, said Maleka James, supervisor of birth outcomes at Public Health.

Scroggins said there are differences in root causes based on race. White babies have deaths often caused by genetic malformations, or connected to sleep related deaths, or connected to smoking by the mothers as a risk factor.

LOCAL: Area health agencies get federal grants

For black mothers and black babies, infant deaths are commonly connected to mothers not having good health when they conceive and having maternal complications. The mothers are also more likely to have less of a support system and more likely to be impacted by prolonged stress.

Dr. Sara Paton, epidemiologist with Wright State University, said prolonged stress has a weathering affect that causes all kinds of health problems. It can contribute to infections and can be connected to high levels of hormones that can trigger premature birth.

There are effective initiatives like safe sleep and tobacco cessation that the department can promote to reduce infant mortality, but it will take more work and more organizations coming together to address the racial disparity that’s held steady for almost 30 years of data reporting.

RELATED: CareSource donates to planned Dayton co-op grocery store

“In order to actually address the disparity and close the gap which makes our rate higher than it needs to be in any case, we have to look at what’s affecting our black moms so we can improve the infant mortality for black infants as well,” she said.

“We need to address the different types of risk and we need to work on providing support to our African American moms.”

Public Health is offering approved continuing nursing education credits for the event. The RTA is offering free rides to the conference and interested riders can call 224-3696 for more information.

Montgomery County infant mortality rate by race per 1,000 births

White 4.5

Black 14

All races 7.5

Source: Ohio Department of Health, 2015

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This newspaper will feature on Sunday the state’s first crisis care nursery for drug-addicted newborns, Brigid’s Path, that will open next week in Kettering.