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Police chase deaths reach record highs in the US, new data shows

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 22:51

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From TV's "Law and Order: SVU" to O.J.'s infamous white Bronco chase, Americans have been watching police chases for years. But federal data shows more people were killed in 2022 in police pursuits than during any year on record.

There were 577 deaths nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's a 40% jump compared to 2019.

"It's 577 too many," according to Daryl Washington. 

Washington is representing the family of Andre Craig, a 57-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, man who was killed during a high-speed police chase.

"Andre wasn't doing anything wrong. I mean, Andre was driving and he was abiding by the laws, it was the officer who violated the law," Washington said. 

Craig was not involved in the chase — a Fort Worth police officer ran a red light in pursuit of a stolen vehicle and collided with Craig's car.

Washington has filed a wrongful death suit in reaction to the accident, but he says he still doesn't have access to Fort Worth's full pursuit policy.

The Fort Worth PD is fighting in court to keep parts of the policy under wraps, claiming that releasing it could give criminals an upper hand.

Washington says, "The excuses and the justifications that they're giving is deflection, I think they don't want to come out and say, 'You know what, the way we've been doing this is bad.'"

The policies for police pursuits vary from department to department, but in a new report the Police Executive Research Forum says chases should be "rare" and only used for a "limited and serious set of circumstances."

Washington agrees.

"It should be life or death," he said. "If we talk about a stolen vehicle, that's not worth somebody's life, because that's gonna get replaced, or that car is going to be found. We can't ever bring somebody's life back."

Fort Worth police told Scripps News in an email they have wrapped up their investigation into the incident and will be submitting their findings to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office "in short order."

SEE MORE: Supreme Court rejects appeal from BLM activist over protest lawsuit

Wendy's meal caused 11-year-old permanent brain damage, suit claims

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 22:25

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It was supposed to be a typical post-sports dinner: Aspen Lamfers headed over to a Wendy's in her Michigan city and ate a hamburger, chicken nuggets and French fries after her team's softball practice. Today, that meal Aspen ate at 11 years old has continued to leave its mark, and her family is taking legal action because of it.

In a lawsuit filed against Wendy's parent company, Meritage Hospitality Group, Aspen's family alleges the Wendy's in Jenison gave her a STEC infection, which occurs when a person eats something contaminated by certain E. coli. A week after her first onset of symptoms, Aspen was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare complication from STEC infection that can be life-threatening. 

She was soon diagnosed with Stage 3 acute kidney injury/failure, acute encephalopathy — meaning neurological damage — and hyperglycemia from pancreas damage. She had seizures, transient paralysis on her left side, consistent vomiting and other challenges as a result, the lawsuit said. 

Records included in the complaint assert that the Wendy's location knew it was in violation of multiple health codes that led Aspen to contract the STEC infection and worsening symptoms thereafter. One Ottawa County Health Department inspection listed in the complaint occurred days before Aspen ate there on Aug. 1, 2022, and lists 17 citations, including moldy food, dirty utensils, undated produce and ineffective sanitizing solutions. 

Aspen's mom, who is listed as the plaintiff in the suit, claims this amounts to Wendy's being negligent in keeping its restaurant safe for customers, leaving her daughter to have permanent impairments. 

The suit says Aspen has continued to have erratic blood sugar levels since her hospital discharge, causing her to now be diagnosed as diabetic. She's also been diagnosed with focal epilepsy and has had seizures after missing just one dose of anti-seizure medication, which her mom states will affect her future ability to have children as taking the medicine while pregnant can cause serious birth defects. 

Aspen has also continued to be on blood pressure medication due to persistent hypertension, she'll likely have weakness on her left-side for the rest of her life and she has lasting cognitive deficits that have caused a significant decline in her academic abilities. Before her infection, the suit states Aspen scored in the 70th percentile for math on a state assessment test. After, she scored in the 9th percentile.

The Lamfers are asking Wendy's for $20 million to recover all the damages they have incurred since Aspen became infected, including past and future "extreme pain and suffering," health complications, "loss of earning capacity" and "loss of life expectancy." 

As of now, the family's attorney says Wendy's hasn't been cooperative with any of the family's claims, with or without the law being involved.

"Aspen's life has been forever changed because of this blatant disregard for the health and safety of the public. Despite our best efforts, Meritage Hospitality Group has been unwilling or unable to engage in any effort to resolve Aspen's claims without litigation," Tom Worsfold told Scripps News.

Wendy's hasn't responded to Scripps News' request for comment as of Friday afternoon. 

The case is related to a known E. coli outbreak that the CDC linked to Wendy's restaurants in several states in 2022. 

The federal agency said more than 80% of sick people who public health officials interviewed had reported eating at a Wendy's restaurant before getting sick, many of them eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce. To note, Aspen Lamfers did not eat lettuce at the Jenison Wendy's.

SEE MORE: Wendy's Pulls Lettuce From Sandwiches Amid E. Coli Outbreak

However, these interviews didn't lead officials to track down which ingredient caused the outbreak, and there wasn't enough information collected before the outbreak ended to determine the source either, the CDC said.

Data shows 109 people were sickened in the outbreak, but the CDC says the actual number is likely higher due to many people not testing for E. coli and/or recovering without medical care. Of the 109 people, 67 lived in Michigan, as do the Lamfers.

The family's lawsuit states the OCHD connected an unusual increase in STEC infections in local hospitals to the Jenison Wendy's 11 days after Aspen ate there, the same day she was diagnosed with HUS. 

The connection prompted the health department to investigate and perform another inspection in which they found employees not washing their hands or changing their gloves, a can of Raid pesticide in the kitchen, containers used to store raw beef filled with dirty water and more. 

"The large number of violations indicate that food safety is at risk, as they are cited throughout the facility and relate to most aspects of food preparation and service," the inspection note states.

After the health department's visit, the Jenison Wendy's "voluntarily shut down due to illness complaints and potential outbreak" of E. coli infections, the lawsuit says. Less than a week later, it reopened under new management, a day after Aspen had to have her body iced to reduce a sky-high fever.

President Biden's new Title IX rules protect LGBTQ+ students

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 22:08

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The rights of LGBTQ+ students will be protected by federal law and victims of campus sexual assault will gain new safeguards under rules finalized Friday by the Biden administration.

The new provisions are part of a revised Title IX regulation issued by the Education Department, fulfilling a campaign pledge by President Joe Biden. He had promised to dismantle rules created by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who added new protections for students accused of sexual misconduct.

Notably absent from Biden’s policy, however, is any mention of transgender athletes.

The administration originally planned to include a new policy forbidding schools from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes, but that provision was put on hold. The delay is widely seen as a political maneuver during an election year in which Republicans have rallied around bans on transgender athletes in girls' sports.

Instead, President Biden is officially undoing sexual assault rules put in place by his predecessor and current election-year opponent, former President Donald Trump. The final policy drew praise from victims' advocates, while Republicans said it erodes the rights of accused students.

The new rule makes “crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

“No one should face bullying or discrimination just because of who they are, who they love,” Cardona told reporters. “Sadly, this happens all too often.”

President Biden's regulation is meant to clarify schools’ obligations under Title IX, the 1972 sex discrimination law originally passed to address women’s rights. It applies to colleges and elementary and high schools that receive federal money. The update is to take effect in August.

Among the biggest changes is new recognition that Title IX protects LGBTQ+ students — a source of deep conflict with Republicans.

The 1972 law doesn’t directly address the issue, but the new rules clarify that Title IX also forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ+ students who face discrimination will be entitled to a response from their school under Title IX, and those failed by their schools can seek recourse from the federal government.

Many Republicans say Congress never intended such protections under Title IX. A federal judge previously blocked Biden administration guidance to the same effect after 20 Republican-led states challenged the policy.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina and chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the new regulation threatens decades of advancement for women and girls.

“This final rule dumps kerosene on the already raging fire that is Democrats’ contemptuous culture war that aims to radically redefine sex and gender,” Foxx said in a statement.

In the last few years, many Republican-controlled states have adopted laws restricting the rights of transgender children, including banning gender-affirming medical care for minors. And at least 11 states restrict which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender students can use, banning them from using facilities that align with their gender identity.

But the rule makes clear that treating transgender students differently from their classmates is discrimination, putting the state bathroom restrictions in jeopardy, said Francicso M. Negron Jr., an attorney who specializes in education law.

The revision was proposed nearly two years ago but has been slowed by a comment period that drew 240,000 responses, a record for the Education Department.

Many of the changes are meant to ensure that schools and colleges respond to complaints of sexual misconduct. In general, the rules widen the type of misconduct that institutions are required to address, and it grants more protections to students who bring accusations.

Chief among the changes is a wider definition of sexual harassment. Schools now must address any unwelcome sex-based conduct that is so “severe or pervasive” that it limits a student's equal access to an education.

Under the DeVos rules, conduct had to be “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive," a higher bar that pushed some types of misconduct outside the purview of Title IX.

SEE MORE: Vatican condemns gender-affirming surgery, surrogacy and gender theory

Colleges will no longer be required to hold live hearings to allow students to cross-examine one another through representatives — a signature provision from the DeVos rules.

Live hearings are allowed under the Biden rules, but they're optional and carry new limits. Students must be able to participate from hearings remotely, for example, and schools must bar questions that are “unclear or harassing.”

As an alternative to live hearings, college officials can interview students separately, allowing each student to suggest questions and get a recording of the responses.

Those hearings were a major point of contention with victims' advocates, who said it forced sexual assault survivors to face their attackers and discouraged people from reporting assaults. Supporters said it gave accused students a fair process to question their accusers, arguing that universities had become too quick to rule against accused students.

Victims' advocates applauded the changes and urged colleges to implement them quickly.

“After years of pressure from students and survivors of sexual violence, the Biden Administration’s Title IX update will make schools safer and more accessible for young people, many of whom experienced irreparable harm while they fought for protection and support,” said Emma Grasso Levine, a senior manager at the group Know Your IX.

Despite the focus on safeguards for victims, the new rules preserve certain protections for accused students.

All students must have equal access to present evidence and witnesses under the new policy, and all students must have equal access to evidence. All students will be allowed to bring an advisor to campus hearings, and colleges must have an appeals process.

In general, accused students won't be able to be disciplined until after they're found responsible for misconduct, although the regulation allows for “emergency” removals if it's deemed a matter of campus safety.

The American Council on Education, which represents higher education institutions, praised the new guidelines. But the group criticized the Aug. 1 compliance deadline. The timeline "disregards the difficulties inherent in making these changes on our nation’s campuses in such a short period of time,” ACE said in a statement.

The latest overhaul continues a back-and-forth political battle as presidential administrations repeatedly rewrite the rules around campus sexual misconduct.

DeVos criticized the new rule, writing on social media site X that it amounts to “ an assault on women and girls." She said the new procedures for handling sexual assault accusations mark a return to "days where sexual misconduct was sent to campus kangaroo courts, not resolved in a way that actually sought justice,” she wrote.

The DeVos rules were themselves an overhaul of an Obama-era policy that was intended to force colleges to take accusations of campus sexual assault more seriously. Now, after years of nearly constant changes, some colleges have been pushing for a political middle ground to end the whiplash. 

Viewer Spotlight: Inside Scripps News' 'Trump on Trial' segment

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 21:58

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Several of you have commented on the new shows we've recently launched in our lineup, including "Trump on Trial," airing weeknights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Our team takes you beyond the legalese of each proceeding as former President Trump faces the first of four criminal trials.

It's an unprecedented moment in American history, one we thought deserved a thorough lens of balanced analysis and in-depth, fact-based reporting. Based on your calls, though, the program's focus has been polarizing.

Bruce in Maryland says: "I feel like the more time you give to Trump with his picture plastered in front of us, the more help he gets at the polls. And I don't think that's very fair-minded of Scripps."

"I understand you're starting a new show tonight, 'Trump on Trial,'" an anonymous caller said. "I suggest you start another one called 'Where in the World is Joe Biden?' And once again, I hear nothing about his son getting ready to go to trial. So you're keeping that all quiet."

But we have been regularly reporting on Hunter Biden and his legal troubles — and we will continue to closely follow those developments.

We stand by our decision to devote a half-hour each night to cover developments in Mr. Trump's court proceedings. We believe a former president and a major party nominee to be our next president facing 91 criminal charges warrants not only our attention, but fair-minded coverage as well.

SEE MORE: Viewer Spotlight: Our commitment to balanced political coverage

In addition to "Trump on Trial," we recently premiered a new weekday show at noon Eastern Time called "Scripps News on the Scene," taking you to breaking news and captivating live events across the county.

"I just wanted to tell you I've been glued to the TV since that new show 'On the Scene' started," said Cheryl, from Oklahoma.

"I really appreciate 'On the Scene,'" said Helen, from Missouri. "I just love how it goes from one story to another story and keeps right on top of everything. So I just wanted to say thank you, Scripps."

Your comments, kind or critical, inform what we do each and every day here at Scripps News. So let us know how we're doing and give us a call anytime on our toll-free Scripps News Viewer Hotline.

Tesla recalls its Cybertrucks because of accelerator pedal issue

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 21:15

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Automaker Tesla issued a recall for nearly 4,000 of its 2024 Cybertrucks after the company said accelerator pedals could become stuck and cause a crash if the vehicles accelerate unintentionally. 

The company didn't immediately post the recall on its news page, but as Barrons reported on Friday, Tesla stock dropped for the sixth straight day after the Cybertruck recall news hit headlines. 

At least 3,878 Cybertrucks were included in the recall, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration said, according to Reuters

Scripps News reached out to the NHTSA for further comment on the matter, but didn't immediately receive a response. 

SEE MORE: Southern governors pressure autoworkers against voting for unions

The Wall Street Journal reported that soap used during the assembly process might have caused an issue with the pedals, causing them to stick and accelerate, the recall report said. 

WSJ reported recently that new Cybertruck buyers had their delivery dates pushed back without a reason given by the company. 

The NHTSA said it was not aware of any deaths, injuries or crashes associated with the problems listed in this latest recall. The voluntary recall includes Cybertrucks manufactured from November 2023 to April 2024. The company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, said it would repair or replace the accelerator pedal assembly in the trucks for free if owners contact Tesla and give the recall number SB-24-33-003, The Associated Press reported. 

4-legged robot to help deter wildlife strikes at Alaska airport

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 20:35

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The Alaska Department of Transportation has hired a unique candidate for a very important job — keeping wildlife off the airport runways so planes can take off and land safely.

Aurora, a four-legged robotic animal created by Boston Dynamics, will patrol the Fairbanks International Airport for wildlife to both reduce collisions with aircraft and collect data on the animals.

“The purpose of Aurora is to help mitigate wildlife on the airfield and we have several tools that we already utilize to do just that thing. Aurora is just one additional tool,” said Zak Mitchell, the communications manager at Fairbanks International Airport in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“When she arrives here, the first year is going to be measuring her efficiency, measuring her effectiveness and whether or not the data that she’s collecting is accurate,” Mitchell said.

Aurora will be outfitted with a covering that mimics a fox, as well as one that mimics a coyote.

@scrippsnews Check this out! This four-legged #robot will be tested in Fairbanks, #Alaska as a way to help keep animals off the runway for the safety of both planes and #wildlife. Thousands of wildlife-aircraft strikes are reported to the Federal Aviation Administration every year. #aviationtiktok #wildlifeoftiktok ♬ original sound - Scripps News

“They’re natural predators for birds so we’d dress Aurora up using those skins and see how effective she is in getting them off the airfield,” Mitchell said.

Aurora will always have a handler and will also be used in coordination with wildlife biologists.

More than 270,000 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft were reported in the country between 1990 and 2022, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A quick search of the wildlife strike database available on the FAA’s website shows more than 19,000 entries for the year of 2023. A total of 93 happened in the state of Alaska.

While most wildlife-aircraft strikes involve birds, other animals are also recorded.

Mitchell said Aurora — which is equipped with a camera — can also collect data on larger animals like a moose, for example, that may walk onto the airfield.

“She’s not going to be used every single day because again there's this assimilation that happens with animals that they’re like ‘Oh OK, well I see that all the time’,” Mitchell explained.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bird and other wildlife strikes to aircraft cause more than $900 million in damage to aircraft annually.

The $70,000 robot was purchased with a grant.

“The money to pay for that is a USDA grant so that was pursued through Statewide Aviation and Fairbanks International Airport,” Mitchell said.

Aurora should arrive in Fairbanks in June. Mitchell said they hope to officially launch the robot in 2025 after some testing.

“I do believe that we might be the first, so that's really exciting too. Because that is expectation setting, that is setting standards, and we’re leading the charge in science and technology in that regard,” Mitchell said.

SEE MORE: Bird strikes happening more while flying, but FAA may have a solution

DC charity helps those who are homeless get housing

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 19:06

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On any given night in the U.S., an estimated 650,000 people are experiencing homelessness, and the nation's capital has the highest rate in the country, with 73 out of every 10,000 people being unhoused. The Supreme Court is considering a case that could allow cities to make sleeping outside a crime. But advocates say pushing the homeless out of the city limits doesn't help them get back on their feet. So what does?

Amanda Chesney is the executive director of housing and homeless services for Catholic Charities, one of the nonprofits contracted to provide services in Washington, D.C. Across the region, they help shelter 1,200 people every night.

"In the district, there are a good amount of choices available for folks experiencing homelessness. But it can be tough to navigate. And there can be a wait," Chesney said. "It is not a one-size-fits-all. I think the most successful intervention is the opposite of one-size-fits-all."

Wilson Robertson is a lifelong Washington, D.C., resident, and he knows that wait firsthand. He spent eight or nine months staying at the New York Avenue Men's shelter.

He said, "When I first got in there, it was kind of hard for me to get adjusted because who would think that they would be in a predicament like that after all these years? And I felt ashamed. I felt depressed."

SEE MORE: Homeless residents in a suburb of Seattle struggle with camping ban

While experiencing homelessness in the fall of 2020, Robertson suffered a stroke. He then became one of the hundreds to be housed in empty hotels in Washington, D.C. That program provided over 400 rooms per night at its peak, and Chesney said it was very successful. Beyond just providing an increased capacity, they were able to bring multiple services together in one location.

"We were working as a team — the housing-focused case manager, the behavioral health specialists, the medical team, all in one house. Powerful," Chesney explained. "I'm sure it was expensive, but it was really, really effective."

While he was staying in the hotel, Robertson's case manager helped him get a housing voucher and find an apartment he could move into. 

"I could not believe it. And once it's starting to settle in, I say, 'Well, Wilson, looks like you will be here for a while,' and then everything come to fruition," he recalled.

He lived in the apartment for a while before adding any personal touches. But not everyone needs permanent supportive housing, and Chesney says good case management starts with asking the right questions and listening.

"One of the things that the case manager has to do is sort of triage the level of need, and assess: What can we get you today, this week, this month? If you could get 500 bucks a month to help with groceries or rent, would that give you a place to stay? In a lot of cases, yeah, it would. OK, great."

The needs for every community will be different. Chesney thinks the district needs more behavioral health and substance abuse support. But for every community, funding is critical and it's something she says states can't do alone.

"Ending homelessness is a systems-level problem," said Chesney. "There's no state or local jurisdiction that can fund what's needed on their own. Absolutely none. The federal government has to pick it up and prioritize it."

At 64 years old, Robertson is working on his education and hopes to find a job. He said having stable housing gives him peace of mind he's never had before.

New rapid blood test for concussions gets FDA approval

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 19:04

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A new rapid blood test that can reportedly detect brain injuries like concussions in just minutes has cleared a major hurdle toward becoming widely available for use in the U.S.

Health care company Abbott Laboratories announced that its i-STAT TBI cartridge has been granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration and can now be used by clinicians to evaluate patients with suspected mild traumatic brain injury. Abbott says the test requires a small sample of a patient's blood to be inserted into the cartridge, and then it produces lab-quality results in just 15 minutes.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 5 million people visit urgent care centers each year with traumatic brain-related injuries. And for decades, the process of detecting head trauma in patients has primarily been based on subjective doctor assessments or required blood samples to be sent off to a lab for processing and testing. 

However, Abbott claims its new rapid blood test is an important step forward in providing patients with quick results right at their bedside, and eventually at places like sporting events where head injuries are more common.

SEE MORE: How the NFL is working to prevent concussions and protect players

"With the help of this whole blood test, we can quickly and objectively determine whether or not a patient needs a CT scan or additional evaluation, right at the point of care," said Dr. Geoffrey Manley, chief of neurosurgery at the University of California San Francisco. "It's an incredibly helpful tool that advances the treatment of traumatic brain injury." 

For now, the test is only approved for use on patients 18 years or older in places like hospitals and emergency departments. But Abbott hopes to eventually make the tests widely available to people of all ages anywhere they are seeking care for head trauma.

"When you look at all the other diseases, or other organs in the body, they all have blood tests to help assess what's happening," said Dr. Beth McQuiston, medical director in Abbott's diagnostics business. "Now, we have a whole blood test that can help assess the brain right at the patient's bedside — expanding access to more health providers and therefore patients."

Apple pulls WhatsApp and Threads from App Store in China

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 19:01

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Apple said it had removed Meta’s WhatsApp messaging app and its Threads social media app from the App Store in China to comply with orders from Chinese authorities.

The apps were removed from the store on Friday after Chinese officials cited unspecified national security concerns. Their removal comes amid elevated tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, technology and national security.

The U.S. has threatened to ban TikTok over national security concerns. But while TikTok, owned by Chinese technology firm ByteDance, is used by millions in the U.S., apps like WhatsApp and Threads are not commonly used in China.

Instead, the messaging app WeChat, owned by Chinese company Tencent, reigns supreme.

SEE MORE: New bill would force TikTok to divest from China, or face US ban

Other Meta apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger remained available for download, although use of such foreign apps is blocked in China due to its “Great Firewall” network of filters that restrict use of foreign websites such as Google and Facebook.

“The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” Apple said in a statement.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” Apple said.

A spokesman for Meta referred to “Apple for comment.”

Apple, previously the world’s top smartphone maker, recently lost the top spot to Korean rival Samsung Electronics. The U.S. firm has run into headwinds in China, one of its top three markets, with sales slumping after Chinese government agencies and employees of state-owned companies were ordered not to bring Apple devices to work.

Apple has been diversifying its manufacturing bases outside China.

SEE MORE: Most Americans think TikTok is a national security threat, poll finds

Its CEO Tim Cook has been visiting Southeast Asia this week, traveling to Hanoi and Jakarta before wrapping up his travels in Singapore. On Friday he met with Singapore’s deputy prime minister, Lawrence Wong, where they “discussed the partnership between Singapore and Apple, and Apple’s continued commitment to doing business in Singapore.”

Apple pledged to invest over $250 million to expand its campus in the city-state.

Earlier this week, Cook met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi, pledging to increase spending on Vietnamese suppliers.

He also met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Cook later told reporters that they talked about Widodo's desire to promote manufacturing in Indonesia, and said that this was something that Apple would “look at".

Families of hostages held in Gaza call for collective action

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 18:38

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As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Passover, the families of hostages held in Gaza are calling on the world to help rescue their loved ones. 

"This is not a monolithic, homogeneous group of people," said Rachel Goldberg, whose son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7. "These are people who are from 25 different nations. And I would like to ask, Where are the leaders of those specific 25 nations that have civilians, have citizens who are being held still in Gaza?"

Goldberg was one of several parents who were part of a virtual press conference on Friday, noting that it's been nearly 200 days since their loved ones were taken captive. 

More than 130 hostages are unaccounted for in Gaza; several of them are believed to be Americans. Israeli and U.S. officials have been unable to verify their conditions.

"We just don't have the ability to know the individual condition of any one hostage," White House national security spokesman John Kirby said this week. "So, we're obviously doing the best we can to try to gain as much information as we can."

SEE MORE: No deaths or injuries reported after Israel strike on Iran

Several of the families spoke highly of the Biden administration's continued communication about the progress to get the hostages released. 

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagui was taken from his kibbutz on Oct. 7, noted that the families have been critical of the Israeli government but added that there was a recent breakthrough when Israel proposed a deal to Hamas that would see the release of the hostages in exchange for Palestinians who have been incarcerated in Israel. 

Dekel-Chen said Hamas is the one that should be intensely scrutinized for not accepting the deal.

"I think the world's frustration has to be at this point not on the Netanyahu government as much as on Hamas," he said.

Dekel-Chen added that Hamas should be forced to answer why it keeps rejecting proposals for a cease-fire to return the hostages. 

"What is the world community willing to do to get Hamas to get to the answer that is not 'No'?" he said.

Hamas said it rejected the deal because it wants a permanent cease-fire and Israeli troops to leave Gaza. Netanyahu has refused to withdraw from Gaza until Hamas is eliminated.

The stalemate leaves the families in limbo, hoping for a resolution — for them and the people of Gaza.

"We're completely aware and feel the need for relief for the citizens of Gaza. They're our neighbors, and one day perhaps there can be peace," Dekel-Chen said. "What we also know is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the perpetrators of the massacre on October 7. They are the reason for us all having to gather here and for the immense suffering that our region has experienced. 

SEE MORE: US vetoes resolution backing full UN membership for Palestine

Lawmakers want to change how the IRS corrects tax mistakes

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 18:24

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed legislation that would require the Internal Revenue Service to provide more details to taxpayers when automatically correcting a tax return. 

According to the IRS, the agency can automatically fix a return due to a simple math error, or if a form is forgotten. 

"The IRS will correct the math error while processing the tax return and notify the taxpayer by mail. The agency will send a letter requesting any missing forms or schedules," the IRS said. 

However, the lawmakers, who include two Republicans and two Democrats, say the IRS needs to be clearer when explaining why they made these changes. The lawmakers say the bill would have greater benefit to non-English speaking and low-income Americans. 

“Filing your taxes can get confusing — and sometimes, mistakes happen,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. “And when they do, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to decipher confusing, intimidating, and financially-impactful letters from the IRS. It’s time to improve procedures and notices that correct these errors so that hardworking Americans can get the money they’re entitled to and get back to their daily lives.” 

SEE MORE: What happens if you missed the deadline to file your taxes?

The IRS MATH Act would require the IRS to identify the line item the IRS is changing, explain the reason for the change and clearly list the taxpayer’s required response date. The time to challenge the IRS' correction would remain 60 days. 

"The IRS is confusing enough,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisina. “If there’s a mistake on a tax return, the IRS needs to explain it in plain English and there must be clear lines of communication. Taxpayers should have every opportunity to keep their hard-earned income.”

The bill has not yet been assigned to committee. 

As climate warms, wildfires could make air more deadly, study says

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 17:20

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A warming climate could cause more wildfires, and those wildfires could cause the air quality to worsen, a new study finds. 

Multiple universities participated in research published this month in the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that climate change will fuel additional wildfires that could cost Americans more money and potentially their lives. 

Rather than examining the direct impacts caused by wildfires, this study examines how reduced air quality affects the U.S. 

Air quality is gauged by measuring the prevalence of fine particles, generally 2.5 µm or smaller, in the air. When wildfires burn, the number of fine particles in the air increases. 

The research estimates these additional and larger wildfires would cause 27,800 excess deaths per year by 2050 under a high warming scenario, a 76% increase from estimated 2011-2020 levels. 

SEE MORE: Heat-related emergency room visits surged in 2023, CDC says

The research found climate-induced smoke deaths could result in annual damages of $244 billion through the middle of the century.

"Our projections of smoke PM2.5 and mortality effects can support climate science, health, and policy research to better understand drivers and consequences of smoke PM2.5 under climate change, and help inform policy priorities to address their negative impacts," the study's authors wrote. "Our estimates suggest that health costs due to climate-induced smoke PM2.5 could be among the most damaging consequences of climate change in the US. Based on our results, designing and implementing policies to reduce wildfire smoke and protect vulnerable communities has the potential to deliver substantial health benefits now and in the coming decades."

The World Health Organization said the particulates caused by wildfire smoke can cause numerous adverse health effects. 

"PM2.5 from wildfire smoke is associated with premature deaths in the general population, and can cause and exacerbate diseases of the lungs, heart, brain/nervous system, skin, gut, kidney, eyes, nose and liver," the World Health Organization said. "It has also been shown to lead to cognitive impairment and memory loss. Firefighters and emergency response workers are also greatly impacted by injuries, burns and smoke inhalation, particularly at high concentrations."

The authors noted that the study has numerous limitations. One unknown includes where people will decide to live. Living near wildfire-prone areas could cause additional excess deaths, the study warns. 

Maryland teen arrested for allegedly planning school shooting

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 16:30

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A Maryland high school student has been charged after police discovered his plans to commit a school shooting.

The student, 18-year-old Alex Ye, whose legal name is Andrea, was arrested Wednesday following discovery of a 129-page manifesto detailing how he would carry out the shooting. According to police, the document also stated that he contemplated targeting an elementary school and that he wanted "to be famous."

A search warrant retrieved by the Montgomery County Police Department led to internet searches, drawings and documents related to threats of mass violence. Police say that security at Montgomery County Public Schools will increase, specifically at Wootton High School.

Ye is currently in custody at Montgomery County Central Booking where he awaits a bond hearing.

This story was originally published by Dominick Philippe-Auguste at Scripps News Baltimore.

'Unauthorized person' reportedly in flight deck during MLB team flight

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 16:15

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The Federal Aviation Administration and United Airlines have launched investigations after a video reportedly showed an "unauthorized person" in the flight deck during a Colorado Rockies flight. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the incident.

The FAA and United Airlines did not confirm details of the incident. However, a video posted to social media appears to show the team's hitting coach sitting in the cockpit during the flight.

SEE MORE: United plane engine catches fire midflight, passengers fear for lives

In a statement, United Airlines said it is aware of a video "which appears to show an unauthorized person in the flight deck at cruise altitude while the autopilot was engaged." 

"We’re deeply disturbed by what we see in that video, which appears to show an unauthorized person in the flight deck at cruise altitude while the autopilot was engaged," United said. "As a clear violation of our safety and operational policies, we’ve reported the incident to the FAA and have withheld the pilots from service while we conduct an investigation." 

In a statement, the FAA said it is investigating the event and "does not comment on the details of open investigations." Flight deck access is restricted to specific individuals under federal regulations. Scripps News Denver reached out to the Rockies for comment but has not heard back.

This story was originally published by Sydney Isenberg at Scripps News Denver.

Cracking down on password sharing pays off for Netflix

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 15:45

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Netflix has seen a spike in new members in the last year after it implemented changes to limit password sharing.

According to new financial data released by the company, Netflix had 82.7 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada as of the end of March, which was up from 74.4 million a year earlier. 

With average revenue per subscriber increasing by over $1 in the last year, the company raked in $4.2 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2024, an increase from $3.6 billion in the first quarter of 2023. 

In a call with investors, Netflix Co-CEO Gregory Peters said that engagement might be lower due to fewer people sharing a subscription, but the company expects to continue gaining subscribers. 

"Due to the work that we've been doing on password sharing, essentially cutting off some viewers who are not payers, and therefore, we're going to lose some viewing associated with that," Peters said. "So when you see our next engagement report, you are going to see some impact to our overall absolute view hours as a result of that. But despite that impact and despite the general pressure from strong competition, we think our engagement remains healthy. You can see it in terms of the Nielsen ratings and our modest growth in TV time in the United States."

SEE MORE: Disney+ will start its password-sharing crackdown this summer

Although Netflix has seen increased competition over the years in the streaming business, a growing number of consumers are gravitating toward streaming platforms. According to Netflix, 38.5% of U.S. TV viewership is streaming, which is up from 34% a year earlier. In March, 8.1% of all TV viewership was on Netflix's platform. 

Netflix said it hopes new live events will grow its subscriber base. The company plans to stream a live bout this summer between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul. The platform also will become the home to WWE Monday Night Raw in 2025. 

"We're going to continue to try a lot of new things," said Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos. "But the core of it is, do our members love it? And judging from the early excitement around the Jake Paul-Mike Tyson fight, there's going to be a lot of people waking up in the middle of the night all over the world to watch this fight in real time.

Netflix developed three different price points. Its least expensive plan, which includes ads, is $6.99. The next tier is $15.49 a month, while the premium plan is $22.99 a month. The two top tiers allow customers to add another subscriber for $7.99 a month. 

Nestle adding sugar to poorer nations' baby foods, group claims

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 15:07

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Nestle adds sugar to baby formulas and other foods for young children while keeping sugar content lower for the same products in wealthier nations, a new report from the Swiss-based advocacy group Public Eye claims.

In its report titled "How Nestle gets children hooked on sugar in lower-income countries," Public Eye tested several different products for their added sugar content. Public Eye expressed concerns that added sugar in these products was contributing to an increase in childhood obesity in these developing nations. 

In one example cited, Public Eye compared the added sugar content in Cerelac, a cookie-flavored cereal intended for babies 6 months and older. While Cerelac had no added sugar in products marketed in the U.K. and Germany, Public Eye said products in Thailand had 6 grams of sugar per serving. Cerelac also had 5.2 grams per sugar per serving in Ethiopia, and 4 grams of sugar per serving in South Africa. 

Similarly, the report noted that added sugar was significantly higher in Nido powdered milk sold in Panama and Nicaragua. 

A Nestle spokesperson responded to Public Eye's claims. 

"We apply the same nutrition, health and wellness principles everywhere which are aligned with international guidelines and regulations," a Nestle spokesperson said. "This includes compliance with labeling requirements and thresholds on carbohydrate content, which encompasses sugars. We communicate transparently about our products to consumers and always declare the total sugar content of the product

"Slight variations in recipes across countries depend on several factors, including regulations, consumer trends, and availability of local ingredients, which can result in offerings with lower or no added sugars. This does not compromise the nutritional value of our products adapted to infants and young children. For example, our range of cereals in Europe comes with and without added sugars. The same applies to several markets across Asia, Latin America and North America, where no-added sugar options are also available to consumers."

SEE MORE: What is the 'Oatzempic' trend, and are its social media claims true?

It should be noted that the products that don't have added sugar may still contain natural sugars, like ones found in milk and fruit. According to the University of California San Diego's School of Medicine, natural sugars are digested more slowly and help keep the metabolism stable. Natural sugars also tend to carry more nutrients like potassium and vitamin C.

The World Health Organization has noted a rise in the number of children who are overweight and obese. The WHO said 37 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were overweight in 2022, and over 390 million children and adolescents ages 5–19 were overweight in 2022. 

The WHO said that while just 2% of children in 1990 were considered obese, that number grew to 8% worldwide in 2022. 

The number of children under age 5 who are overweight in Africa has increased by nearly 23% between 2000 and 2022, the WHO said. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children over age 2 should be limited to 25 grams of sugar per day. The organization says, "Avoid serving food and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years of age."

Taylor Swift drops surprise double album for 'Tortured Poets'

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 14:29

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It was all going as expected.

Taylor Swift dropped her new album "The Tortured Poets Department" at midnight, with 16 songs and a bonus track whose titles were previously announced.

But Swifties were in for a big surprise waking up Friday morning.

In true Tay fashion, the pop star had something up her sleeve.

At 2 a.m. ET, Swift announced a surprise double album, "The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology," with another album's worth of songs added to the original list.

"It's a 2 a.m. surprise: The Tortured Poets Department is a secret DOUBLE album️," said Swift on Instagram. 

"I'd written so much tortured poetry in the past two years and wanted to share it all with you, so here's the second installment of TTPD: The Anthology. 15 extra songs. And now the story isn't mine anymore … it's all yours," she said.

Swifties have come to learn nothing is an accident with their favorite pop star, and this case was no different. 

Fans have been adding up the clues, known as "Easter eggs," with some even speculating about the meaning behind the number two. 

In her Grammys acceptance speech earlier this year, Taylor announced Tortured Poets and its April 19 release date, notably emphasizing the number two as she threw up two fingers. The gesture was widely dissected by fans online, with many speculating that meant her "Reputation (Taylor's Version)" was also on the way.

Little did they know it meant a double album.

A mysterious pop-up had also emerged in Los Angeles this week ahead of the singer's album release, sending fans on a journey to decode all the clues. Notably, in one part of the installation, a clock was set to 2:00.

Songs like "The Black Dog," "imgonnagetyouback" and "How Did It End?" were among those added to the mega album. 

"So High School," another of the unexpected tracks, is seemingly about boyfriend Travis Kelce. It features lyrics like "you know how to ball, I know Aristotle," a nod to Kelce's career as a Kansas City Chiefs player. She also sings, "you knew what you wanted, and boy, you got it." Kelce first put himself out there when he tried to send Tay a friendship bracelet — which are big in Swiftie culture — with his phone number on it during an "Eras Tour" concert. He publicly shared his unsuccessful attempt at getting her the bracelet, and said he invited her to see him play at that very same stadium in Kansas City.

Swift's album also reflects on her breakup with British actor Joe Alwyn, with songs like "So Long London." The pair dated for six years before breaking up a year ago.

'The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology' full track list:

1. Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

2. The Tortured Poets Department

3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

4. Down Bad

5. So Long, London

6. But Daddy I Love Him

7. Fresh Out the Slammer

8. Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)

9. Guilty as Sin?

10. Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?

11. I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

12. loml

13. I Can Do It With a Broken Heart

14. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

15. The Alchemy

16. Clara Bow

17. The Black Dog

18. imgonnagetyouback

19. The Albatross

20. Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus

21. How Did It End?

22. So High School

23. I Hate It Here

24. thanK you alMee

25. I Look in People's Windows

26. The Prophecy

27. Cassandra

28. Peter

29. The Bolter

30. Robin

31. The Manuscript

3 arrested after malnourished 5-year-old girl dies from neglect

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 13:36

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Three people are facing charges after a 5-year-old Indiana girl died due to severe neglect.

Kinsleigh Welty was taken to a hospital after officers found her unresponsive in her home on April 9. She was pronounced dead at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.

Her mother, 29-year-old Toni McClure, was arrested on charges of murder and child neglect resulting in death. McClure’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Ryan Smith, is charged with child neglect resulting in death. Days later, police also arrested the child’s grandmother, 53-year-old Tammy Halsey, on charges of neglect.

Police said Kinsleigh was kept in a closet that had small handprints of what appeared to be feces on the door. There was also soiled clothing and a strong smell of urine. The malnourished child had sunken eyes and feces on her feet and in her hair when she was found. She also had what appeared to be lice crawling on her face, according to court documents obtained by Scripps News Indianapolis. Hospital officials said Kinsleigh was so malnourished, she weighed more at 2-and-a-half years old than she did at 5. 

Authorities said McClure has a history with the Department of Child Services. Kinsleigh’s grandparents, Tricia and Brian Welty, told Scripps News Indianapolis the warning signs of the child’s failing health were reported but said DCS let them down and they want accountability.

“We just don’t want her death to be in vain. We want change. We don’t want any more kids to have to die because of the failure of the system,” Tricia Welty said. “She was in our home, and she was safe, but she was handed back to her abuser and she’s not here anymore.”

The Weltys say Kinsleigh temporarily lived with them twice after other reports of mistreatment. In 2018, McClure was formally charged with neglect when Kinsleigh was just a baby.

The officer said the home was in one of the worst conditions he’d ever seen and noted a three-week-old child who appeared to be malnourished. The family says it was Kinsleigh, and McClure served 21 days in jail for that case.

“When she came to us the second time, she was bruised from head to toe. She had chunks of hair missing throughout her whole head and she was given back. She already tried to starve her to death when she was three weeks old and they gave her back,” the Weltys said.

Following a welfare check in 2021, the grandparents said they were fearful Kinsleigh would die.

“I pleaded with DCS before that court case and my concerns about every bit of it were ignored,” Tricia Welty said.

According to police reports, just before Kinsleigh died, DCS was at the house after McClure’s newborn tested positive for THC. Kinsleigh did not test positive.

McClure allegedly said Kinsleigh frequently expressed that she wanted more food or that she was thirsty but had a desire for her to be out of her life. The Weltys want DCS to improve its reunification process.

“The child’s safety should be the priority. It shouldn’t be getting them back to the parent if that person isn’t right. They failed her.” Tricia Welty said.

Scripps News Indianapolis has reached out to DCS over the past few days for comments, but a law that took effect in 2019 prevents the agency from releasing records on a child’s death until after the criminal case is resolved.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Indianapolis and Court TV.

Trump loses bid to halt lawsuits over Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 13:21

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Donald Trump lost a bid Thursday to pause a string of lawsuits accusing him of inciting the U.S. Capitol attack, while the former president fights his 2020 election interference criminal case in Washington.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington denied defense lawyers' request to put the civil cases seeking to hold Trump responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on hold while the criminal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn his election defeat to President Joe Biden plays out.

It’s the latest legal setback for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, whose trial in a separate criminal case related to hush money payments made during the 2016 campaign began this week with jury selection in New York.

SEE MORE: 12 jurors have been seated in Donald Trump's hush money trial

The lawsuits brought by Democratic lawmakers and police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 seek civil damages for harm they say they suffered during the attack, which aimed to stop Congress' certification of President Biden's victory.

Trump has claimed he can’t be sued over the riot that left dozens of police officers injured, arguing that his words during a rally before the storming of the Capitol addressed “matters of public concern” and fell within the scope of absolute presidential immunity.

Washington's federal appeals court ruled in December that the lawsuits can move forward, rejecting Trump's sweeping claims that presidential immunity shields him from liability. The court, however, said Trump can continue to fight, as the cases proceed, to try to prove that his actions were taken in his official capacity as president.

SEE MORE: Supreme Court hears debate over charges against Trump, Jan. 6 rioters

In court papers filed last month, Trump's lawyers told the judge that “basic fairness to criminal defendants” warrants pausing the civil cases until after the 2020 election criminal case is resolved. They argued that allowing the lawsuits to proceed could force Trump to “prematurely telegraph" his defense strategies in the criminal case.

Mehta, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, said the public has an interest in the prompt resolution of the civil lawsuits in addition to the criminal case. And the judge said “appropriate safeguards” can be put in place to allow for the lawsuits to advance without infringing on Trump's Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week on Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal prosecution in the election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. The ruling will determine whether Trump will have to stand trial in the case accusing him of a sprawling conspiracy to stay in power after Americans voted him out of office.

Virginia fisherman hears gunshot, then finds body in the water

Fri, 04/19/2024 - 13:14

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A man fishing before sunrise Thursday made a gruesome discovery at the Appomattox River in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

He found a woman's body.

"I was sitting there just enjoying the evening ... no phone, no radio ... I’d been there a half hour, 45 minutes," the man, whose identity we've protected, told Scripps News Richmond. "I was putting a piece of bait on a hook and I was sitting there and I heard 'pow!'  So I put my hand over my headlamp [and thought], what the heck just happened?"

A second noise followed.

"After the gunshot was what sounded to be a large object splash in the water," he said.

Then he spotted something along the riverbank.

"A few seconds later, a set of headlights slowly made their way through the parking lot and just kind of eased on out from the park," the fisherman shared.

He then packed up his gear and made his way back to the dock.

"I was uncertain what I was getting ready to get into," he admitted. "I turned the lightbar on and I seen a colorful object. All I seen was clothes."

Colonial Heights Police arrived at about 5 a.m. and, with the help of the Virginia State Police dive team, recovered a woman's body.

The body was taken to the medical examiner's office for identification.

"I didn’t hear any commotion while I was sitting there [before the shooting]," the fisherman said."I will go back, yeah, but it’s going to take some time. It will be a little while."

Anyone with information was asked to call Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660.

This story was originally published by Wayne Covil at Scripps News Richmond.

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