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Red alert declared on Hawaii’s Big Island; major Kilauea eruption ‘imminent’ 

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 11:07 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 11:07 PM

Red Alert Declared in Hawaii, Kilauea Eruption "Imminent"

The U.S. Geological Survey has raised the alert for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano from an orange to a red warning.

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Ash eruption at the volcano’s summit increased in intensity Tuesday, with an ash cloud spewing as high as 12,000 feet above sea level, according to the USGS.

Ashfall and air pollution associated with a volcanic eruption have been reported as far as 18 miles downwind of Kilauea in Pahala.

 

A red warning means a “major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air,” the USGS said.

"At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent," the agency tweeted.

 

The eruption on Kilauea began more than a week ago and has forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed nearly 40 structures, including dozens of homes, and created 18 fissures in the ground surrounding the volcano. 

What You Need to Know: Volcanoes

Lava has inundated almost 120 acres and damaged 50 utility poles.

>> Related: Hawaii volcano eruptions: Kilauea spawns 18th fissure

Hawaii authorities are warning residents in areas around the volcano to be prepared  to evacuate with little or no advanced warning.

 

 

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NFL owners approve new national anthem policy, will fine teams that allow players to kneel

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 12:43 PM

NFL Announces Policy Change Regarding National Anthem

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

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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:

  1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
  2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
  3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
  4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
  5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
  6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”

In an official statement on the NFL website, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote:

“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.

We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it—and on our fans who enjoy it.”

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U.S. Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:00 PM


            Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans. Photo by Mark Wilson
Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans. Photo by Mark Wilson

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.

RELATED: New Dayton VA director wants to be transparent

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.

RELATED: Dayton VA director will be first woman in its 150-year history

“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.”

The bill passed the House last week 347-70, with all Ohio House members supporting it.

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New York gang member found guilty of Atlanta student’s murder

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:32 PM

Cierra Ford is pictured here celebrating her graduation from Contra Costa Community College. She was pursuing a degree from Clark Atlanta University in 2016 when she was murdered at her boyfriend's Sandy Springs apartment.
Cierra Ford is pictured here celebrating her graduation from Contra Costa Community College. She was pursuing a degree from Clark Atlanta University in 2016 when she was murdered at her boyfriend's Sandy Springs apartment.

A New York gang member will serve a life sentence for the 2016 murder of a Clark Atlanta University student.

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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.

>> Related: Clark Atlanta student killed in shooting outside condo

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.

Mug shots of (from left) Devin Kingdom, Malik Ortiz and Joseph Clarke, who were all charged in connection with the 2016 murder of Cierra Ford, an Atlanta college student.(Sandy Springs Police Department)

“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.

>> Related: 3arrested in Clark Atlanta student’s murder

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. 

>> Trending: 7 young men facing murder charges in Georgia motel shooting

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.

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Alcohol, tobacco more dangerous than many illegal drugs, study finds

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:30 PM

Alcohol, Tobacco More Dangerous Than Many Illegal Drugs

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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

"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.

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"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."

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