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Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:13 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:13 AM
PUNA, Big Island, Hawaii — Lava continued to flow toward a geothermal power plant on Hawaii’s Big Island on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the Kilauea volcano started spewing ash and molten rock into the air, destroying dozens of structures and leaving at least one person injured.
More than 40 structures have been destroyed in the eruption that started May 3. It has since inundated almost 325 acres around Kilauea with lava and led to concerns about laze, a toxic mixture of lava and haze that forms when hot lava hits ocean waters.
Update 10:10 a.m. EDT May 23: Officials said all 11 wells at Puna Geothermal Venture’s plant on Hawaii’s Big Island had been successfully plugged by Tuesday as lava continued to inch toward the plant, Hawaii News Now reported.
“The well field at PGV is essentially safe,” Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator Thomas Travis said, according to the news station. “The probability of anything happening if lava enters the well field is very, very low. They should feel pretty comfortable that there should be no untoward events from Puna Geothermal, assuming the lava doesn't change its pattern or flow."
Reuters reported Monday that workers were scrambling to plug the plant’s wells to avoid an “uncontrollable release of toxic gasses.”
Update 4:37 p.m. EDT May 22: Lava continued to flow Tuesday on Hawaii's Big Island, creating toxic laze as it hit ocean waters.
Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said a majority of the lava was flowing Tuesday from a trio of fissures that have opened in recent days.
Update 11:56 a.m. EDT May 22: The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory released video Tuesday of lava hitting the ocean one day earlier, creating a toxic laze plume.
Laze is formed when lava enters the ocean, setting off a series of chemical reactions and cooling the lava until it transforms into glass, which shatters, according to USGS officials. It creates white clouds of steam that contain toxic gas and tiny shards of volcanic glass.
Update 10:18 a.m. EDT May 22: Officials with the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency warned Tuesday of another “explosive eruption” at Kilauea’s summit
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the explosion around 3:45 a.m.
“The resulting ash plume may affect the surrounding areas,” officials warned. “The wind may carry the ash plume to the southwest toward Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Waiohinu.”
Authorities said the biggest hazard from Tuesday’s early morning eruption is likely to be ash fallout. Residents were asked to stay indoors and keep windows closed.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials warned in an update Monday afternoon that "additional explosions (are) possible at any time" on Kilauea's summit.
May 21 #HVO #Kilauea summit report: Small explosion at 12:55 AM HST at Halema'uma'u crater & produced an ash plume that reached about 7,000 ft asl, carried by the wind to SW. More explosions & minor downwind ashfall possible at any time. https://t.co/7sDZqcOJ5s #KilaueaErupts pic.twitter.com/m9NLTLcNl1— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) May 21, 2018
Update 11:15 p.m. EDT May 21: Lava is flowing toward a geothermal power plant on Hawaii’s Big Island as Mount Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.
Reuters is reporting that workers are scrambling to shut down the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant to prevent the “uncontrollable release of toxic gases.”
The plant provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power, but has been closed since the volcanic eruptions started on May 3.
Update 12:35 p.m. EDT May 21: Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said early Monday that a small explosion happened just before 1 a.m. local time at the Halemaumau crater at Kilauea's summit.
The explosion shot ash about 7,000 feet into the air.
"Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time," USGS officials said.
The Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency warned residents to be aware of ashfall after the "explosive eruption."
Update 12:38 p.m. May 20: Lava from the Kilauea volcano has crossed Highway 137 and entered the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaii County Civil Defense said Sunday. A second lava flow is about 437 yards from the highway, the Star Advertiser of Honolulu reported.
Big Island residents may now have to contend with laze -- a mixture of lava and haze -- that forms when hot lava hits the ocean, CNN reported.
After making contact with the water, the laze sends hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.
Laze can lead to lung, eye and skin irritation, CNN reported.
"This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory wrote on its website.
Officials have told people to avoid areas where lava meets the ocean, CNN reported.
Powerful eruptions accompanied by thunderous booms punctuated the air Friday around Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.
The volcano spewed lava bombs the size of cows as molten rock flowed from several of the 22 fissures that have opened around the volcano.
Hawaii officials have warned some Big Island residents that fast-moving lava is approaching an area near homes that were previously destroyed by eruptions from Kilauea volcano. https://t.co/CsQ7Tk0uWx— AP West Region (@APWestRegion) May 19, 2018
Update 2 a.m. EDT May 19: Fast-moving lava isolated about 40 homes in a rural subdivision, forcing at least four people to be evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters, the Star-Advertiser of Honolulu reported.
According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense, police, firefighters and National Guard troops were stopping people from entering the area.
Update 11:30 p.m. EDT May 18: Hawaiian authorities have sent the National Guard, police and fire units into the East Rift Zone in Puna, according to the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency.
“There are approximately 40 homes in the area that are isolated. Officials are gaining access by helicopter to the area to assess how many people are there and if they need assistance. All persons in that area are asked to stay where they are and wait for further instructions,” the agency said on its website.
The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has confirmed another fissure opened on Friday, bringing the total number of fissures to 22.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.
Update 8:30 a.m. EDT May 18: More lava is spewing
from the Kilauea volcano as the 21st fissure opened Thursday, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, state officials have been handing out masks to protect people who live near Kilauea, ABC News reported. About 18,000 masks have been distributed, CNN reported. The safety measure protects residents from breathing in pieces of rock, glass and crystals that fall as the volcano continues to erupt, ABC News reported.
Update 10:45 p.m. EDT May 17: Lava is erupting from points along the fissure system on Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but the agency is calling it a “low-level eruption” at this point.
Kīlauea daily status report: 4 am explosive eruption at summit with traces of ash in local community. Low-level eruption of lava continues from multiple points along NE end of active fissure system. https://t.co/K6mzCqRT0E— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) May 17, 2018
Although lava is still spattering from Fissure 17, the flow has not advanced significantly over the past day, the USGS said.
There are currently 18 fissures that have opened due to seismic activity on Kilauea’ over the past two weeks.
Volcanic gas emission are still elevated throughout the area and residents are urged to remain on alert.
“This eruption is still evolving and additional outbreaks of lava are possible. Ground deformation continues and seismicity remains elevated in the area,” the USGS reported late Thursday.
Rain on the Big Island Thursday helped the situation with the ashfall, but volcano experts are warning the situation on Kilauea is still very dynamic.
Original report: Several schools were closed as ash continued to fall Thursday due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels. Officials warned people in the area to take shelter and protect themselves from the falling ash.
"The resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area," officials with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in a 5 a.m. alert. In a subsequent update, USGS officials said the ash plume was moving to the northeast.
The plume could be seen in an image taken from a webcam at the USGS’ Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
"Driving conditions may be dangerous so if you are driving pull off the road and wait until visibility improves," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency warned.
Michelle Coombs, of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, told Hawaii News Now that the situation remained “very, very active and very dynamic,” on Thursday.
“The potential for larger explosions is still there,” she said.
Officials with the USGS warned Tuesday that an eruption of Kilauea's volcano appeared "imminent."
The eruption on Kilauea began May 3. It has since forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed nearly 40 structures -- including dozens of homes -- and created more than two dozen fissures in the ground surrounding the volcano.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 12:43 PM
ATLANTA — Update 4:52 p.m. ET: U.S. vice president Mike Pence has responded to the NFL decision on Twitter, using the hashtag #winning.
Donald Trump Jr. echoed Pence’s statement on Twitter, “STILL NOT SICK OF WINNING.”
Update 1:21 p.m. ET: The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) issued a statement on the new NFL policy:
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new “policy.” NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.
“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principals, values and patriotism of our League.
Our union will review the new “policy” and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
Original story: NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday regarding players who wish to kneel during the national anthem, according to a statement by the National Football League.
According to the NFL, individual teams will have the ability to fine players and other personnel who do not stand and, “show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
The change will go into effect for the upcoming season, according to the Washington Post.
Players who choose not to stand during the national anthem may stay in the locker room or off-field while it is being played.
The official statement from the National Football League states:
“The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
“The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.
It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.
This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a VA Health bill Wednesday that would expand the private health care options for veterans, extending and streamlining the current VA Choice program and providing $5.2 billion for that program.
Both Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman voted for the bill, which embraces increased flexibility, allowing veterans to seek private provider options if VA centers within 40 miles cannot meet the necessary care requirements The current VA bill — which increased flexibility in part as a reaction to reports of long waiting lists for services at VA health centers — expires May 31. The bill, which passed the Senate 92-5, now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.
Critics of the bill — including a group of 17 labor organizations, some representing federal workers — criticized the bill by arguing it would “outsource primary care to the private sector” - but Brown, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the bill was “a good bill for veterans.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted against a House version of the bill, saying it “opened the door to privatization.”
But Brown, D-Ohio, appeared to dispute that notion, saying during a press call Wednesday that he would oppose any effort to privatize the VA.
“I think we need to be very cautious because there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of interests, especially the Koch brothers, who just love privatization,” Brown said, adding, “I wouldn’t have written the bill exactly this way, but Republicans are in the majority.”
Portman, R-Ohio, meanwhile, said the bill helped open up more options for veterans seeking care. He said he’s talked to veterans who are barred from seeing certain specialists because they live within 40 miles of a VA facility. “This removes that sort of arbitrary distance and helps them be able to get the care they need,” he said. He said he was also satisfied with how the bill addresses opioids, ensuring that the VA does not give veterans more opioids than they need and thus discouraging addiction.
David Blom, president and chief executive of OhioHealth, was on the Congressional Commission on Care that, in 2016, issued a report on veterans’ health care with 18 recommendations, some of which are contained in the bill. He said the bill helps smooth out some friction points that exist between the VA healthcare system and the health-care system at large and will lead to expanded options for veterans.
“The barrier used to be so high … that patients suffered, the veteran suffered,” he said. “And the bill that is before us makes it easier for the veteran to access community health care.”
Also of significance is that the bill allows access to community doctors for veterans who live in areas where VA centers perform poorly, said Lt. Gen. Martin Steele, who served on the commission with Blom and spoke to veterans at an OhioHealth event last year. A report published in April in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that, while the VA performed on average the same as or significantly better than non-VA hospitals in most areas, there was a great deal of performance variation across VA facilities.
“We owe it to this cohort of people who selflessly served this country,” said Steele, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corp after more than 34 years of service and lives in Florida. “We’re trying to do something to ensure they’re receiving proper medical care, as they well deserve, for the rest of their lives.”
According to the U.S. Census, some 21 million Americans are veterans. Nearly 865,000 live in Ohio. Steele said about 6 million veterans regularly use VA health services.
Blom said he’s also optimistic about ongoing changes that will make the VA’s electronic medical record system compatible with those used by most hospitals. He’d next like to see leaders address issues around supply chain, racial disparities, eligibility rules and workforce promotions and discipline.
Also needed, Steele said, are mandatory workforce development rules that would ensure adequate leadership succession and more consistent performance across the system.
Still, both men are pleased to see action on the bill.
“It is positive progress in fixing a system that is in dire need of fixing,” Blom said. “It won’t all be fixed through this bill, but it’s a good first step.”
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:32 PM
ATLANTA — A New York gang member will serve a life sentence for the 2016 murder of a Clark Atlanta University student.
A Fulton County jury convicted Devin Kingdom, 24, of murder in the shooting death of 25-year-old Cierra Ford. Ford, a communications major at Clark Atlanta, was shot in the head when several accused gang members broke into her boyfriend’s Sandy Springs apartment in November 2016.
Ford was a California native who wanted to be a journalist. She was a good student and an inspiration to other young women, her brother said.
“Cierra was intelligent, charismatic, and she had a vibrant sense of humor that resonated with her friends and family,” Clarence Ford said.
Her boyfriend, Tyrique Lobban, was shot three times and injured. Lobban was a leader of the same New York Gang, prosecutors said, and the men intended to kill him to remove him from his position.
Three accused gang members were arrested following Ford’s death and a fourth, Gregory Battle, is still on the run. Initially, police believed robbery was a motive. Kingdom was the first to be convicted.
Malik Ortiz also stood trial last week and was acquitted of the homicide. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on the remaining 12 counts, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.
Joseph Clarke, another murder suspect, is still awaiting trial.
Prosecutors said the trouble started two years after the New York gang members relocated to Atlanta in 2014. They lived with Lobban in his apartment until infighting resulted in a leadership struggle.
“The dispute between Lobban and the other four men came to a head in October of 2016 when Lobban asked Clarke, Ortiz, and Battle to move out of the apartment,” said Chris Hopper, the spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. “Once they moved out of the apartment, the men made a decision to kill Lobban and remove him from his leadership position in the gang.”
In the deadly coup, the four allegedly entered the Sandy Springs apartment through an unlocked door with weapons drawn, the jury heard at trial.
They first encountered a roommate and another alleged gang member, Jabar Brady. Hopper said the men gave Brady, who was 19 at the time, a chance to live and he left the apartment.
Prosecutors intended for Brady to testify, but he killed himself in New York shortly before the trial, according to the DA’s office. He was considered one of the state’s key witnesses.
“The gravity of these violent deaths never seems to end,” Howard said of Brady’s death.
Ford and Lobban were shot when the group kicked in the door to Lobban’s upstairs bedroom and found them in bed, prosecutors said.
In addition to felony murder, Kingdom was found guilty of first-degree home invasion, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
He was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams to life in prison plus 10 years.
The jury apparently could not reach a conclusion on Ortiz’s involvement in the crime.
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:30 PM
— Legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, cause significantly more harm to people globally than illegal ones, a new international study suggests. But researchers say that’s not surprising, considering the varying prevalence of each.
The research, which was published this month in the journal Addiction, found that combined tobacco and alcohol use cost more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life-years worldwide. Illegal drugs on the other hand, only accounted for tens of millions. A disability-adjusted life year, according to the study, represents the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or early death.
"These findings are not surprising given that legality of the drugs coincides with social norms around drug use as well as use prevalence," Dr. Carla J. Berg, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Globally, one in five adults reported at least one occasion of heavy drinking in the past month and one in seven smokes tobacco, according to the 2015 data used for the study. Conversely, fewer than one in 20 people worldwide were estimated to use illicit drugs in the past year, including amphetamines, opioids, marijuana and cocaine.
But study co-author Dr. Robert West of University College London pointed out that the United States and Canada had among the highest rates of dependence on opioids (650 cases per 100,000), cocaine (301 cases per 100,000) and marijuana (749 cases per 100,000 people), according to U.S. News and World Report. Overall, the rates of marijuana and opioid dependence were about three times higher than the rest of the world.
"The U.S. has major research agendas moving forward to advance our knowledge-base in order to inform policy and practice regarding how to best address this problem," Berg said. "Surveillance is a key part of monitoring the problem, informing interventions, and evaluating policies and practices that are adopted and implemented."
Berg said that broad international studies, such as this one, help researchers better understand differences in drug use across countries.
Study: The Most Harmful Drugs Are Legal https://t.co/xhJpFt1YSU— Tom Murphy (@tjm9722) May 18, 2018
"Not all countries regulate alcohol and tobacco in similar ways nor have policies or practices in place that aim to address specific aspects of behavior related to alcohol and tobacco use," Berg said.
"Social norms are also quite different in relation to the use of these substances, particularly among different genders within a country or within other sub-populations," she explained. "Understanding these different multilevel factors and their impact on alcohol- and tobacco-related consequences are key to informing how countries like the U.S. should address this critical issue."
Berg adds that this kind of study is "critical" in helping researchers and governments understand the societal and individual costs of substance abuse. It also gives a better picture of how legalization and regulation impact usage and dependence.
"There could be a great deal to be learned from countries or areas of the world with lower prevalence of opioid dependence and areas of the world that have combated opioid dependence successfully," she said. "This speaks to how critical international research is to informing policy and practice."