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NYC Mayor Declares Public Health Emergency After Measles Outbreak

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  • New York City has declared a public health emergency following a severe measles outbreak, largely in Brooklyn.
  • Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood will be required to be vaccinated against measles, or else they will have to pay a fine.
  • This has received some backlash, but Mayor Bill De Blasio maintains that this is both legal, and the only way to combat the issue.

Public Health Emergency in NYC

Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a public health emergency in New York City in response to the recent measles outbreak.

The measles outbreak began in the city in October, and since then there have been 285 confirmed cases of the disease. This is a very large increase, as there were only two cases of the diseases in New York City throughout all of 2017.

The outbreak is most severe in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where a vast majority of the cases have been reported. De Blasio is mandating that everyone in four zip codes in and near the area get the MMR vaccine, which according to the disease, is 97% effective. Those who do not will have to pay a $1,000 fine.

During a press conference in Williamsburg, De Blasio insisted that vaccines were the only way to stop the measles from spreading throughout the city.

“We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback in New York City. We have to stop it now,” he said. “The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine. It’s crucial for people to understand that the measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time tested.”

The Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, specifically children, have experienced the most cases of the measles. In December, the city mandated that schools, daycares, and yeshivas, which are Orthodox Jewish schools, had to turn away kids who were not vaccinated. Forty patients alone have come from one yeshiva that did not follow this order.

According to the Commissioner for New York City’s Department of Health, Dr. Oxiris Barbot,  leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community largely approve of vaccines. However, anti-vax beliefs have still spread, causing lower vaccination rates.

Dr. Barbot blames this movement for the outbreak.

“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” she said in a statement. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science. We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk.”

Measles Parties on the Rise

Dr. Barbot also spoke out against “measles parties,” which are situations where parents of unvaccinated children expose their kids to someone who already has measles. This was a popular practice before vaccines were widespread, as many think that by exposing their child to the disease, they will build their immunity.

However, this has not actually been scientifically proven to be effective. In fact, this can actually just result in your child getting the measles, as the disease is highly contagious. Health officials are concerned that this fad is coming back into fashion for New Yorkers.

“We are concerned about families having measles parties,” said Dr. Barbot. “I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.

The CDC’s Disease Detectives

New York City will be using “disease detectives” from the CDC to both enforce this mandate and to stop the spread of measles throughout the city.

Like their quirky name suggests, disease detectives investigate the spread of measles through various stages of questioning, and other kinds of research. On their site, the CDC describes their role by saying, “Like investigators at the scene of a crime, these disease detectives begin by looking for clues.”

They work to anwer four main questions: Who is sick?; What are their symptoms?; When did they get sick?; And where could they have been exposed to the illness? They then try to learn who else could have been exposed, and figure out if these people have been vaccinated.

Reactions to Plans

The city’s plan to prevent the spread of measles has been met with mixed opinions. Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, questioned whether or not this was within Mayor De Blasio’s power.

“The city’s order provides that people will be vaccinated without their consent, an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment,” she said in a statement.

In addressing this public health crisis, the government is required to pursue the least restrictive means possible to balance individual autonomy with the public health risk. In this case, measures such as a quarantine or penalties for non-vaccination may be permissible, but forced vaccination is not.”

A spokeswoman for City Hall, Marcy Miranda, countered this idea and told the New York Times that they will not be physically forcing anyone to get the MMR vaccine.

“We will not be forcibly vaccinating individuals,” she said. “(Officials) will work with people to educate them about the safety and importance of vaccines and will issue necessary fines as needed.”

De Blasio also maintained his right to mandate vaccinations during his press conference, saying, “We are absolutely certain we have the power to do this.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC 7) (The Hill)

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Ring Camera Hacker Harasses 8-Year-Old Girl Through Speaker

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  • An 8-year-old girl was taunted by a male voice when a Mississippi family’s Ring security camera was hacked.
  • The hacker played eerie music and encouraged the child to use a racial slur and destroy her room. 
  • Ring has claimed the incident didn’t occur because of a breach in their security system but rather because the family didn’t set up two-factor authentication. 
  • Several more Ring camera hackings have been reported in the past few weeks.

Camera Compromised

A hacker tapped into a Mississippi family’s home security camera last week and used the speaker feature to talk to an 8-year-old girl.

The video footage shows the child, Alyssa LeMay, walking into her bedroom after hearing eerie music from inside. Blaring from the camera’s speaker is Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a song that was famously featured in the horror movie “Insidious.”

As Alyssa paces around trying to identify the source of the noise, the music stops and a voice comes from the camera, pushing her to say the n-word. 

“C’mon girl, can you say the magic word? N—–,” the voice says to Alyssa, who is white. 

She repeatedly asks out loud who is talking to her.

“I’m your best friend,” the voice responds. “I’m Santa Claus.” 

At one point the hacker also tries to coax Alyssa to destroy her room, telling her, “You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”

The little girl screams for her mother, who was out of the house at the time running an errand. Her father was home and rushed to the room to unplug the camera. 

Security Precautions Gone Wrong

Ashley LeMay, Alyssa’s mother, was horrified when she saw what happened. The 27-year-old had bought a pair of Ring cameras to install in the bedrooms of her four children, per a fellow mother’s recommendation. 

Ring’s indoor cameras have elevated features intended for security, including night-vision and a two-way talk system. LeMay made the purchase on Black Friday, hoping to help her children feel safe as she works overnight shifts in a hospital. 

The camera initially was a positive asset to the home, but just a few days after its installation, on Dec. 4, that sense of safety was abruptly violated.  

“I did the exact opposite of adding another security measure,” LeMay told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I put them at risk and there’s nothing I can do to really ease their mind. I can’t tell them I know who it is. I can’t tell them that they’re not going to show up at our house in the middle of the night.”   

When asked about the incident, Ring released a statement to WMC5, claiming that the hack wasn’t a result of a breach in their security system but rather it happened because two-factor authorization was not set up by the family.

“Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services,” the company said. “As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords.”

LeMay felt frustrated by Ring’s lack of answers when she contacted them.

“To be honest, it felt like they were trying to place the blame on me,” she told The Washington Post. “As a mother, I already feel guilty enough that I let this happen to my family… There’s just no need for that.”

This is not the first time that Ring’s security cameras have been hacked into. There have been multiple reports of security breaches in the past few weeks, from Georgia to Florida to Texas

Ring states that their mission is to “reduce crime in neighborhoods,” but the digital age has brought in new ways for hackers to virtually break into a home and cross lines.

“What’s so scary to us is that this person did not care that it was a young child,” LeMay said to The Washington Post.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vice) (ABC)

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Virginia Man Gifts $12,000 Worth of Toys to Low-Income Children

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  • Virginia local Adam Armstrong gifted $12,000 worth of toys to children living in low-income apartment complexes.
  • His first stop was Harris Gardens, where he lived as a young man about 15-years ago after serving a short sentence in jail.
  • After making a successful life for himself, Armstrong decided he wanted to give back.

Virginia Man Returns to His Roots

Adam Armstrong, a 35-year-old Virginia native, returned to his old apartment complex in Harrisonburg to hand out early Christmas presents to the children who live there now. 

Armstrong rolled up to Harris Gardens Apartments in a moving truck on Dec. 7 wearing jeans and a Santa hat. When he arrived, he handed out bikes, stuffed animals, Nerf guns, and other toys. The total cost of the truckload was about $12,000, he told The Washington Post

Armstrong once resided in that same low-income complex about 15 years ago. He went to live there after serving a three-month stint in jail for selling marijuana when he was 18.

After his release, Armstrong decided that he needed to turn his life around. He went on to get into several business endeavors, including working as a loan officer and buying and flipping houses. 

Once he had saved some money, he decided he wanted to give back. He has been donating toys to various organizations since 2013. 

“I remember government housing and a lot of poverty, crimes, drugs, violence and things of that nature,” Armstrong told NBC News about Harrisonburg. “Every time I see kids, I know it’s not their fault where they are.”

Giving Back to Children

When Armstrong approached Harris Gardens property manager Sara Lewis-Weeks and told her he was looking to donate toys to the kids, she was skeptical. 

She had seen a lot of people make false promises of this nature before and wasn’t sure that he would follow through, she told the Post

But sure enough, Armstrong made good on his promise and handed out gifts to about 50 children and their parents.

“He didn’t miss anybody,” Lewis-Weeks told NBC. “His heart was truly in this.”

After Armstrong visited Harris Gardens, he visited three more low-income developments nearby, and afterward, he donated the leftover toys to the Salvation Army. 

“The kids were so innocent and sweet,” Armstrong told the Post. “They’d say, ‘Thank you.’ Some would be shy or reluctant. You can’t put a price on looking at these kids’ happy faces.”

See what others are saying: (NBC) (Washington Post) (WHSV)

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Houston Man Saves Neighbor’s Dog After Leash Gets Caught in Moving Elevator

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  • Johnny Mathis, a man from Houston, Texas, saved his neighbor’s dog on Monday after its leash got caught in closed elevator doors.
  • Mathis sprung into action, removing the leash from the dog’s neck as the elevator moved to a higher floor.
  • Apartment security cameras captured video of the incident, which Mathis posted to his Twitter account.
  • The video has received much attention online, with many praising Mathis and some criticizing the dog owner.

A Heroic Act

A Houston man rescued his neighbor’s small dog on Monday after its leash got caught in a moving elevator. A video of the incident, caught by their apartment’s security footage, has now gone viral.

In the video, 27-year-old Johnny Mathis can be seen exiting the elevator as a woman and her Pomeranian walk past him toward its doors. Mathis rounds the corner but backpedals when he sees that the dog was left behind.

He takes tentative steps toward the dog and then quickly lunges into action when he realizes the leash around the dog’s neck was stuck in the lift.   

“Instinct just kicked in, I just grabbed that leash,” Mathis told CNN. “There was so much fur, that’s why it took me a bit to get that lever off of the collar and when I did, I let go, you could see that leash just shoot off to the top of the elevator.”

Mathis recounted the story on his Twitter account, where he also posted the security footage and described the dog owner’s panic. 

“She started screaming as soon as the door shut and was bawling her eyes out when it came back down,” he wrote in another post. “She thought the worst.”

Mathis told CNN that the woman was very grateful but visibly shaken when she returned to the ground floor. 

“I think she just said ‘thank you’ and we hugged but she was just so overcome with emotion,” he said.

He expressed his gratitude that he was in the right place at the right time, and hopes that the situation can be taken as a lesson.

Online Response

Mathis’s post of the video has been viewed millions of times and he has received much praise in response.

Some have hurled a lot of criticism at the dog owner, accusing her of negligence. 

Mathis defended the unidentified woman in another post on Wednesday night. 

Others have also been more forgiving of the dog owner, calling it an honest mistake.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Fox News)

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