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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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California Parents Who Starved and Shackled Their Children Sentenced to Life in Prison.

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  • Louise and David Turpin, the parents who pled guilty to locking up and abusing their children, have been sentenced to life in prison.
  • The abuse included beating, starving, and chaining up 12 of their 13 children, among other acts.
  • The couple has the possibility of parole in 25 years.

Louise and David Turpin Receive Life Sentence

The California couple who pled guilty to locking up and abusing 12 of their 13 children were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

Both Louise and David Turpin pled guilty to fourteen charges of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment in February. They were charged with the crimes in January 2018, when one of the children escaped from their Perris, California home. The child climbed out of a window and eventually alerted police of the situation.

The Turpin children ranged in age from two to 29-years-old at the time they were found in the house. Of the 13 kids, only the youngest appeared to have never been subject to abuse.

The Turpins chained their children to beds and other furniture, starved them, beat them. They would sometimes keep them chained for months at a time, not allowing them access to the bathroom.

The children were only allowed to shower once a year and seldom left the house. Their parents would also bake pies and not let the kids eat them and buy toys and not let the kids open or play with them. The abuse lasted for over a decade.

The Turpin’s Speak Out

The Turpins’ life sentence leaves them with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Louise Turpin spoke at the sentencing in Riverside County Superior Court, apologizing for the pain she caused her children.

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”

David Turin also had a prepared statement, but it was read by his attorney, as he was too emotional to deliver it himself.

“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” his attorney read on his behalf.

Judge Bernard J. Schwartz condemned them both for their actions and spoke about the long-term effects of their abuse.

“Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive,” he said in court. “What the parents did was selfish, cruel, inhumane treatment.”

The Children Share Statements

The children, who have not been named since the case was first reported, also had a chance to speak in court.

“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one daughter, who is now a college student, said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong.”

One son said he still often thinks about what he and his siblings went through.

“Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” he read. “Like my siblings getting chained up or beaten.”

Another child was sympathetic to their parents and expressed that they believed the Turpins deserved less jail time.

“I think 25 years is too long,” the child read in a statement. “I believe our parents did their best to raise all 13 of us.”

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (LA Times) (NBC)

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U.S. Labeled ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists

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  • Reporters Without Borders dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 countries on its annual World Press Freedom Index.
  • The ranking is three places lower than it was last year, changing the U.S. label from “satisfactory” to “problematic.”
  • The Index states that increased threats against journalists in the U.S. are becoming more normalized.
  • The report specifically cites the U.S. ranking as “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”

World Press Freedom Index

The United States has been ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists, as the threats they face continue to become more standard, according to a new report about press freedom.

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders (RWB), downgraded the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180. The ranking is three spots lower than its place last year.

The downgrade officially changes the press freedom status of the U.S. from “satisfactory” to “problematic,” marking the first time the country has received that label.

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“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report said.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 10 journalists have faced physical attacks this year, and 46 journalists were physically attacked in 2017.

The World Press Freedom Index report also cited the five journalists who were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland last June. The attack was carried out by a man who had threatened the publication for years before the attack.

The report also cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last October.

Trump’s Involvement

The section of the report on North America specifically stated that the drop in rankings was “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”

“Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments,” the report said.“President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level.”

Since being elected, Trump has referred to journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” and continuously accused nearly every mainstream media outlet of reporting “fake news.” He has also commended violence against journalists, like giving praise to a GOP congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.

According to the report, Trump has also called for the revocation of broadcasting licenses and attempted to block certain media outlets from access to the White House. In November, the Trump administration was forced to restore the press credentials of a CNN reporter that had been stripped of his pass after a heated exchange with Trump.

Back in August, United Nations human rights leaders stated that Trump’s attacks have undermined press freedom, and increase the risk of violence against journalists.

“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan told NPR.

Other Findings

The Index also found that the Americas has experienced “the greatest deterioration” in its press freedom regional score.

This is not just because of the United States. The report also cited instances in Brazil, where journalists have been targeted by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro “both physically and online.” Experts often noted that Bolsonaro uses the same “fake news” refrain to discrediting negative media about him.

The report also stated that Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, noting that “at least ten journalists were murdered in 2018.”

RSF identified North Korea and Turkmenistan as the most dangerous countries for the media, stating that their governments control the flow of information and censor journalists who defy them by using tactics including arrest, torture or killing.

In contrast, Norway ranked as the safest country, a title it has held for the past three years. Finland received second place.

Only 24 percent of the 180 countries in the report were given the rank of being “safe” or “satisfactory” for the press. This is lower than the 2018 Index, which gave 26 percent of countries “safe” or “satisfactory” rankings.


Source: 2019 World Press Freedom Index

“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”

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Woman Wanted Over Columbine Threats Found Dead

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  • After a day-long manhunt, the woman who posed as a threat to Denver area schools has been found dead by FBI officials.
  • Sol Pais was known to have an obsession with Columbine and had made credible threats to the area, causing schools to close on Wednesday as a result.

Woman Found After Search

Officials have confirmed that a woman whom FBI officials were searching for after allegedly making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead.

On Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Colorado Police, Jefferson County Police, and the Denver FBI were actively searching for an eighteen-year-old woman named Sol Pais.

At 10:44 a.m. local time, they announced that there was no longer a threat to the area, but did not say whether or not they had found Pais. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader confirmed at a press conference an hour later that she had been found dead on a search. The cause of death appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound.

According to the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, Pais traveled from her home state of Florida to Colorado on Monday night and bought a shotgun and ammunition upon arriving. She was known to be “infatuated” with the school shooting that occurred at Columbine in 1999, killing 13 people. The twentieth anniversary of the tragic event is this week.

Authorities said Pais made threats that warranted investigation and was considered armed and dangerous. This prompted schools all school in the Denver Metropolitan area, where Columbine is located, to close on Wednesday. Several schools were also on lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.

The Denver FBI learned about Pais from the bureau’s Miami branch. They alerted the Denver branch of her travels, and of her past comments regarding Columbine, which have not been specified.

“She has expressed an infatuation with Columbine,” Dean Phillips, an FBI special agent said at a press conference on Tuesday. “With the events and shooting that happened tragically 20 years ago. Because of that, we were concerned.”

School Officials Look Forward

The superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Dr. Jason Glass, thanked both school staff, as well as the public officers and officials who worked to find Pais.                                                                                                  

“We are relieved that the threat to schools and the community is no longer present,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Executive of Safety and Security at Jeffco Public School, John McDonald, said that threats to this district are nothing new, but that everyone knew this was serious.

“We are used to threats at Columbine,” he said. “This felt different. This was different.

The FBI is expected to hold a press conference later today. They are still processing the scene where Pais died.

Dr. Glass said that schools will be open tomorrow with extra safety and security measures on site.

See what others are saying: (Denver Channel) (NBC) (KKTV 11 News)

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