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Newark’s Water Crisis Intensifies as Reports Show City-Issued Filters Failed to Remove Lead Contamination

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  • After a report found a small number of city-issued filters failed to remove lead from Newark’s water system, the city advised all affected residents to avoid drinking from tap water.
  • Monday, the city and state began handing out water bottles, but people soon discovered the water was months past its best-by date. 
  • Many have called for Mayor Ras Baraka to resign because the city has faced elevated lead levels for years, but residents were not told the water was unsafe to drink until last year.

Asking for Federal Aid

Newark and New Jersey state officials are asking the Federal government to step in after the city began handing out bottled water earlier this week in response to growing concerns of lead contaminating its water service lines.

On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy visited the city and reiterated the need for federal aid, saying the state does not have enough water bottles to continue passing out for an extended period of time.

“Everybody, young and old, big and small, regardless of where you are in this state, in this community certainly in Newark in this country: clean water is a right, not a privilege, for everybody, and we believe that with great passion,” Murphy said in a press conference

Earlier in the day, Senator Cory Booker — who lives in Newark — tweeted about the need for federal aid in his hometown.

“It’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own,” he wrote.

Newark’s Lead Crisis Explained

Old and corroding water service lines have propagated Newark’s lead issues for years. 

Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the Newark Board of Education has found elevated lead-water levels in schools every year. Despite attempting to fix the problem by installing new water lines, it persisted. 

In 2016, over 30 schools resorted to using bottled water after shutting off fountains, and thousands of children have been tested to see if they have increased levels of lead in their blood, with about 25 percent of Newark children under six having detectable lead levels.

In 2017, it was reported that 1 in every 10 households in Newark had twice the amount of lead the Environmental Protection Agency sets as a federal standard.

In the fall of last year, the city began handing out lead-safe PÜR filters. The city has estimated it has distributed more than 38,000 filters since October.

The increased calls for federal aid come after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an Aug. 9 statement to Mayor Ras Baraka, urging the city to begin handing out bottled water after it seemed some lead-safe filters were not adequately removing lead from water.

“We are unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their health is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices,” EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez said.

The next day, Baraka held a press conference and announced the city had received reports that two of three tested filters contained lead levels four times above what the EPA allows.

“A small sample of water filters provided to the City of Newark may not be removing lead to the low levels expected by city, state and federal officials,” a report released by the city on Monday said.

Also on Monday, city and state officials began handing out water bottles, advising those in affected areas to use bottled water to drink, cook, and prepare baby formula. 

Later, people began to notice the water was past its best-by date of May 30, and 50,000 more bottles had to be ordered. The state maintains the expired water was likely still safe to drink.

Residents waiting for water faced heat and long lines. Some said they were turned away if they weren’t from a specific area.

At the same time, Baraka has continually encouraged people to run their water for activities like showering or washing dishes. Currently, the city is attempting a corrosion-control treatment meant to re-coat old pipes.

Baraka has said residents should flush their water for 3-5 minutes before using it but has said the process will take some time. 

Because the water crisis affects mostly low-income and African American households, many are drawing comparisons to Flint, though Baraka has denied those associations and called them false comparisons.

Calls for Baraka to Resign

Despite the efforts taken by the city, some are saying Baraka should resign because until last fall, the city denied having a dangerous amount of lead in the water system. 

“It’s wrong,” one resident told ABC. “Something should be done about this. This has been going on for a while, and they’ve been covering it up and nobody didn’t do nothing about it.” 

After being sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Newark released a June 2018 statement saying “the City’s water is not contaminated with lead.”

“The lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council is based on the premise that Newark residents are exposed to dangerous levels of lead in the City’s drinking water,” the statement reads. “That charge is absolutely and outrageously false. The truth is that the water supplied by the city is pure, safe and fully complies with federal and state regulations. The NRDC has seriously mischaracterized the facts.

Many residents have spoken up about similar claims, saying the city lied to them.

“‘Your water’s fine, everything’s fine,’” Evette Jordan said she was told in an interview with CBS This Morning.

“That’s what you heard from the city?” reporter Anna Werner asked her.

“Yes, through several robocalls, through press conferences from our mayor,” Jordan said.

Though Newark admitted to the problems with lead in schools in the June statement, it argued it wasn’t to blame because the lead “stems from privately owned lead service lines,” not city mains.

See what others are saying: (WABC) (Star-Ledger) (New York Times)

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Video Shows High School Coach Hugging Student After Disarming Him

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  • A high school athletic coach in Oregon is being hailed a hero for disarming a teen with a shotgun and then embracing him as he cried in newly released surveillance video. 
  • Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that the student was not planning to carry out a mass shooting but instead showed signs that he was planning to take his own life.
  • He was sentenced to 36 months of probation and will receive mental health and substance abuse treatment. 

The Footage

Surveillance footage released Friday shows a high school athletic coach in Oregon disarming a student carrying a loaded shotgun, then embracing the teen who broke down in tears.

The video, released by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, shows the incident which took place on May 17 at Parkrose High School. In it, Coach Keanon Lowe is seen moving away from the 18-year-old student and holding the shotgun out of his reach in the hallway.

Lowe appears to be talking to the student and keeping him at a distance with one hand until a nearby teacher grabs the gun from Lowe and moves away with it.

Once the gun is out of the picture, Lowe wraps his arms around the student, who starts to cry. At times it looks like the student tries to break free of the hug, but Lowe continues his hold and the teen gives in.

Student’s Suicide Attempt 

The district attorney’s office said the student had been suicidal for months leading up to the incident. 

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree evidence suggested this was not a potential mass shooting case. Instead, the student’s attorney, Adam Thayne, explained to the judge that the teen planned to take his own life at the school so that his mother would not have to discover his body. Authorities say the gun was loaded with one round, marked with the words, “The last red pill 5-17-19 just for me.”

Another student who had noticed the teen’s troubled state of mind reported him to the administration for “suicidal statements.” Lowe was on his way to bring the teen into the school’s office when the incident happened. 

The district attorney said the student was “visibly upset” as he headed for the classroom where Lowe had just arrived. The student then pulled out the firearm from beneath his coat, prompting students and staff to flee.

The district attorney said he turned the gun on himself and tried to fire, but the weapon did not discharge. That’s when Lowe took action. 

“I saw the look in his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realized it was a real gun, and then my instincts just took over,” Lowe said at a press conference after the incident. “I lunged for the gun, put two hands on the gun.”

“I felt compassion for him. A lot of times, especially when you’re young, you don’t realize what you’re doing until it’s over,” Lowe explained.

“Obviously, he broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him. I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”

No shots were fired that day thanks to fate and Lowe’s quick action.

The coach, who was a former team captain and wide receiver at the University of Oregon, has earned widespread praise for his bravery and compassion towards the student.

The day after the incident he tweeted more about what happened, saying, “When confronted with the test the universe presented me with, I didn’t see any other choice but to act. Thank God, I passed. I’ve spent the last 24 hours being more appreciative of my family and realizing we have

Sentencing  

The student pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in a public building and one count of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in public on Oct. 10.

He was ordered to serve 36 months of probation. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he will also receive mental health and substance abuse treatment. 

Source: KOIN – Multnomah County DA’s Office

“He is deeply remorseful for the pain that he has caused his family, his friends and the community,” his lawyer told the presiding judge, adding that he “has a lot of people who care about him, despite what he thought back in May.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Time) (KOIN

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Woman Who Live-Streamed Her Sister’s Death Arrested Again, Weeks After Early Prison Release

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  • Obdulia Sanchez made national headlines in 2017 when she live-streamed a drunken car crash that resulted in the graphic death of her 14-year-old sister.
  • She was sentenced to six years in prison but was released late last month after serving a little over two years.
  • But just weeks after her release, Sanchez was arrested again after a short police chase and car crash.

Obdulia Sanchez Arrested Again 

The California woman who served time in prison for killing her sister in a drunken car crash on Instagram live was arrested again, just weeks after her early release. 

Obdulia Sanchez, now 20-years-old, was arrested in Stockton on Thursday after a short police pursuit. Local authorities said she refused to stop when officers attempted to pull her over at around 1:30 am. 

Sanchez eventually crashed her vehicle near a highway on-ramp where another male passenger in the car was able to run out. The male suspect managed to escape police, but Sanchez was arrested. She now faces traffic and weapons charges. 

Authorities said she was on parole and driving on a revoked license. Officers also say they found a loaded gun in the car. 

Stockton Police Department

Recent Release and Previous Crimes 

Sanchez was released on parole late last month after she served more than two years in prison for a previous crash.

In July 2017, Sanchez was drunk driving and live streaming on Instagram when she crashed her car, killing her 14-year-old sister Jacqueline Sanchez Estrada. and injuring another passenger. 

The graphic incident made national headlines. On the stream, Sanchez’s hands could be seen leaving the wheel before she swerved and then overcorrected. Her sister, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle.

“I fucking killed my sister, okay? I know I’m going to jail for life, all right?” Sanchez can be heard saying to her sister, who appeared to be already dead. “Ima hold it down. I love you, rest in peace, sweetie.”

Later reports explained that Sanchez had tested positive for alcohol and cocaine. Sanchez was heavily criticized online for continuing to stream after the crash, showing her sister’s dead body. 

In a public letter written from behind bars, she wrote, “I made that video because I knew I had more than 5,000 followers. It was the only way my sister would get a decent burial. I would never expose my sister like that. I anticipated the public donating money because my family isn’t rich.”

Sanchez was ultimately convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI and child endangerment. She was sentenced to six years and four months in prison with the possibility of parole after three years.

The state corrections office said Sanchez was approved for early release after earning credit for good behavior, for attending rehabilitation programs, and for time served in jail before she was sentenced. 

See what others are saying: (Sacramento Bee) (NBC News) (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times

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Chicago Teachers Strike Over Pay, Class Sizes, and More

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  • Around 25,000 teachers and educational staff members in Chicago began striking Thursday, leaving 300,000 kids out of class.
  • The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, as well as more nurses, social workers, counselors, and librarians. 
  • The city’s mayor and Chicago Public Schools have announced plans that include these demands, but the Union says the contract language does not hold CPS accountable enough for these terms.
  • While the strike continues, schools will be open even though classes are canceled. Principals and associate principals will still on campuses, and breakfast and lunch will sill be served.

Chicago Public School’s Plan

Around 25,000 teachers and educational employees in Chicago began striking Thursday morning, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more efficient staffing.

The strike was announced Wednesday night when Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union failed to reach a deal. Chicago is home to the third-largest school district in the country, which means close to 300,000 students have been left without classes to attend.

CPS’s announced a plan that would, among other things, raise teachers’ salaries by 16% over the course of five years. According to Fox Business, the starting salary for Chicago teachers is already the highest in the state of Illinois, coming close to $53,000 a year. By the end of this five-year time period, that salary would increase to $72,000. CPS Says that the average salary would be close to $100,000.

Their plan also included adding a nurse to every school by 2024 and doubling the number of social workers. 

What the Union Wants

CTU was not satisfied with the offer. First, they thought that CPS’s numbers were wrong and that the average salary would only get to $85,000. Raises were also not the only issue at stake for them. 

CTU is asking for a hard cap on class sizes and for teachers to receive a stipend if that cap is ever exceeded. They want support for hiring social workers, counselors, nurses and other positions at recommended ratios, as well as a librarian and restorative justice coordinator in every school.

Another priority for them is to make sure these positions, social workers in particular, have an appropriate workload. Some schools have counselors that only come in a couple of days a week but have around 100 cases to work on. So, when they are unavailable, teachers find that they end up acting as counselors themselves. 

While CPS’s plan did include increases for nurses and social workers, the CTU says it is not enough. They say that CPS is not putting the exact terms in the contract language allowing them to not be held explicitly accountable for these terms. Even when CPS added more to their plan in regards to these demands earlier this month, CTU still criticized the contract language. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s Role

On Thursday morning, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot held a press conference regarding the strike. She maintained that the union was being offered a good package and that she hoped for a deal to be reached.

We don’t have unlimited resources, but having said that, we put very generous offers on the table both for teachers and support personnel,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring them back to the table and resolve all the open issues.” 

Lightfoot is new to the role. She took office in May, making this one of the first hurdles she has had to face as mayor. 

The CTU is accusing her of not fulfilling campaign promises As far as staffing, they claim she fully supported hiring full-time nurses, social workers, and librarians, but that she has rejected contract language that would hold CPS accountable for this. 

The Union also claimed that she supported additional counselors. Now, however, she and CPS “want to issue tentative assignments for next year by June 15 instead of May 15, creating more uncertainty for educators.”

What Is Being Said at the Strike

Frustrations with Lightfoot were made clear during the strike, with reports saying participants chanted things like “Lightfoot Lightfoot, get on the right foot.” 

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter spoke to a teacher who mentioned Lightfoot. He said he was not looking forward to striking but added, “We’re teachers. Sometimes we’ve got to teach the mayor.”

CTU’s President, Jesse Sharkey, attended a strike outside of an elementary school and defended their demands.

“Our demands are significant, and we have real demands, but that’s because the needs are significant,” he said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  We ask for a lot because we give a lot. All of our schools here deal with real traumas, and we need support.”

Options for Students

Because of the strike, Chicago has to find something to do for the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have classes to attend. Lightfoot said that while classes are off, the schools will be open during their normal hours. Principals and Associate Principals will be on hand, and breakfast and lunch will still be served. 

Other camps and the YMCA are also offering programs, though unlike the schools, they will not be free. 

But not all students are taking the day off. Some are supporting their teachers and attending the strike. The Chicago Sun-Times spoke to Senior Jude Greneir who went to hand out snacks and beverages.

“My teachers are striking so everyone has equal resources,” she told them. “I hope the city understands. My school is very lucky, but every school needs a nurse and proper resources for their children.”

Another senior, Anthony Jordan, joined his teachers in a picket line.

“I want to support my teachers because they taught me everything I know,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Our class sizes are too large. We really do need more nurses. It’s worth being out here because it’s for a good cause. It will help us all in the end.”

Right now, it is unclear how long the strike will last. Lightfoot said a deal could be struck as early as today, but members of CTU do not anticipate that soon of an end. Schools will remain closed for class until further notice. 

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (Chicago Sun-Times) (Fox Business)

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