More than 1,700 patients at risk over NHS mail blunder – BBC News

Image copyright SPL
Image caption More than 700,000 patient notes were stored in the warehouse

At least 1,700 patients may have been harmed by an administrative blunder that saw thousands of patient records in NHS England put into storage.

Officials said the number was likely to rise, as a third of the 700,000 cases identified had yet to be reviewed.

Cancer test results, child protection notes and medication advice were among the notes that went missing.

The National Audit Office also said there were serious questions to answer about the handling of the incident.

Its review of the issue looked at the role of the government and the company responsible for the mix-up, which is part-owned by the Department of Health.

The company, NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), was employed in the East Midlands, South West and north-west London to redirect mail for the health service.

It was meant to pass on documents that had either been incorrectly addressed or needed re-routing because the patient had moved to a new GP surgery.

But between 2011 and 2016 a backlog of 709,000 pieces of correspondence built up.

‘Staggering catalogue of mistakes’

The issue came to light in February after the Guardian newspaper exposed what had happened.

The NAO review of what happened found:

  • The company had become aware of a risk to patients in January 2014, but senior managers had not developed a plan to deal with it or tell the government or NHS England for another two years
  • A label with “clinical notes” on it had been removed from the room where the files were stored. A manager had apparently said: “You don’t want to advertise what’s in that room”
  • In August 2015, a member of staff raised concerns the records were being destroyed
  • NHS SBS finally told NHS England and Department of Health of the problem in March 2016, but neither Parliament nor the public were told
  • The episode suggested there had been a conflict of interest between the health secretary’s responsibility for the health service as a whole and his department’s position as a shareholder in NHS SBS
  • NHS England said the company had been “obstructive and unhelpful” when it had tried to investigate issue

The report by the NAO found the cost of dealing with the incident was likely to be in the region of at least 6.6m.

A spokeswoman for NHS SBS acknowledged there had been “failings”.

She added: “We regret this situation and have co-operated fully with the NAO in its investigation.”

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Information about child protection was among the notes that were stored

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was committed to being transparent over the handling of the issue and was working to make sure this did not happen again.

It pointed out as yet there had still been no proof of harm to patients.

Individual investigations – overseen by NHS England – are taking place into the 1,788 cases of potential harm identified.

These are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association, said the “disastrous” situation should never happen again.

“The handling and transfer of clinical correspondence is a crucial part of how general practice operates, and it’s essential that important information reaches GPs as soon as possible so that they can provide the best possible care to their patients.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the whole episode was a “scandal” that ministers needed to answer for.

“This is a staggering catalogue of mistakes on this government’s watch,” he added.

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Tristan Walker launches FORM to make it easier for women of color to manage their hair

Growing up, my hair was always a source of frustration, pain and embarrassment. Part of that was because there were very few products made for people like me, with naturally curly and kinky hair. Hence why I just dropped about $140, tax included, on Walker & Company Brands latest line of products, FORM.

FORM Beauty markets itself as being for all women, but its worth pointing out that since the inception of Walker & Co Brands, the goal has been to make health and beauty products better for people of color.

The company, which has raised $33.3 million in venture funding, has been seemingly successful in the consumer packaged goods market, despite some people not really understanding how big of a market the company is going after. For its first line of products, the Bevel Shave System geared toward men of color, Walker & Co Brands closed a deal with Target, and other retailers, to sell Bevel inside retail stores.

With FORM, the plan isnt to also bring those products inside Target. Instead, Walker & Co Brands Founder and CEO Tristan Walker told me, his company has another retail partner on board, which he said hell tell us more about over the summer.

My FORM process kicked off with an online hair consultation, in which I answered questions about how often I wash my hair, what kind of products I use to wash it, what I use as a leave-in conditioner (oil versus cream, etc.), if I use any chemical processes and if I experience any type of hair breakage or frizz.

By the end of my consultation, FORM suggested the products in its line that may best for me, which included a detoxing shampoo, a gentle shampoo, a restorative conditioner, a three-in-one leave-in lotion, elongating curl creme and moisture-sealing pomade. I bought all of the suggested products, so be on the lookout for a review once Ive received the products and have used them for a little while.

FORMs full collection includes ten products, ranging from $22 to $32 each. The idea is that all women, no matter what their race or hair texture, will be able to find something that works for them.

For some context into black hair care, the market had sales of about $2.7 billion in 2015, not including hair accessories and things like wigs, weaves and extensions, according to Mintel. And the spending power of black consumers is expected to reach $1.3 trillion this year, according to a 2013 Nielsen report.

This summer, FORM Beauty will unveil a tool to enable customers to better understand their hair. FORMs Microscope Analysis Process (MAP) will study your hair strands to determine your hair needs and provide a more personalized recommendation. This makes me think of 23andMe DNA analysis but for your hair.

Last March, Walker joined me on Bullish, my talk show about tech and whatnot, and he mentioned that, contrary to mainstream belief, what Walker Co & Brands is targeting is not a niche opportunity.

Were targeting a consumer group thats the majority of the world, if you think about black, Latino, Asian consumers, Walker said. And by 2040, theyll make upthe majority of the U.S. Walker went on to say that what hes doing is actually the opposite of niche.

There are, of course, other products available for women of color. Products I currently use include DevaCurls shampoo and Motions Weightless Daily Oil Moisturizer. The products seem to do the trick for me, but something tells me that my hair could look and feel even better. Its possible that Im just a sucker for marketing, but I figure I have nothing to lose by giving FORM a try.

While other brands focus on a single texture, a single styling process, or even a single ethnicity, FORM is unique in that it was inclusive in it works great for hair of all textures and styling processes, Walker Co & Brands Director of Brand Cassidy Blackwell told me. Additionally many brands may use a hero ingredient to drive their innovation, but with FORM we placed a purposeful emphasis on the entire formulation, ensuring that not only does the entire formula actively work to help the hair feel healthier, but also that the products in the entire collection work in harmony with one another.

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The New Face of Trumps Legal Team Is the Christian Rights Pit Bull

Jay Sekulow has had a lively debut as a member of President Donald Trump’s personal legal team.

On June 11, the Washington attorney and conservative television figure went on ABC’s “This Week” talk show and refused to rule out the possibility that the president would fire the special counsel overseeing the criminal probe of the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. A week later, Sekulow appeared on four Sunday shows, vociferously denying that the president is himself under investigation—a direct contradiction of his boss’s June 16 post on Twitter, in which Trump said, “I am being investigated.”

“Oh, boy, this is weird,” said Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” as he tried to follow Sekulow’s verbal back-flips. 

What may be even more weird is that Sekulow is on Trump’s legal team at all. The 61-year-old lawyer has an unusual professional and personal profile—one that doesn’t include experience with white-collar criminal cases, which would seem to be what Trump needs at the moment.

Sekulow formerly served as the general counsel for the organization Jews for Jesus. In the late 1980s, he became the leading U.S. Supreme Court advocate for the Christian right. While appearing regularly on Fox television as a legal analyst and hosting a syndicated radio show, he also runs interlocking Christian nonprofits that raise tens of millions of dollars a year and employ several members of his family.

Asked about Sekulow’s qualifications, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s outside legal team, didn’t directly answer the question. “Jay is a member of the president’s legal team in the fullest sense of the word,” Corallo said. “He is also authorized to speak on television or otherwise.” Corallo said he didn’t know how Trump came to hire Sekulow. The spokesman didn't respond to questions about the Sekulow nonprofits.   

Marc Kasowitz
Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

Trump’s defense team continues to be led by Marc Kasowitz, a New York attorney who has a long history of representing the president in business and personal disputes, but not criminal (let alone high-stakes Washington) matters. Another member of the group is John Dowd, who possesses the Washington white-collar chops that Kasowitz and Sekulow lack. Dowd represented Senator John McCain in the early-’90s “Keating Five” scandal in which the Arizona Republican was eventually exonerated of charges that he met with bank regulators at the behest of a contributor. 

In a 2005 essay entitled, “How a Jewish Lawyer from Brooklyn Came to Believe in Jesus,” Sekulow recounted seeking his father’s permission to attend a Baptist college in Atlanta. “Baptist-shamptist,” the elder Sekulow responded by way of giving his blessing. Raised as a Reform Jew, Sekulow describes himself as still loyal to his family’s faith when he arrived at Atlanta Baptist College (now Mercer University). But intensive Bible study changed his mind. “As I read, my suspicion that Jesus might really be the Messiah was confirmed,” he wrote.

After college, he attended Mercer Law School, graduating in 1980 and becoming a tax lawyer in Atlanta. In the mid-1980s, after initial success specializing in real estate tax shelters for wealthy investors, Sekulow became enmeshed in disputes related to one of his redevelopment projects, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He ended up millions of dollars in debt and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Showing extraordinary resilience, Sekulow switched the focus of his law practice and in 1986 became the general counsel of Jews for Jesus. The following year, he argued his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning a unanimous free-speech decision allowing members of his organization to distribute religious literature at Los Angeles International Airport. “I almost feel like God raised me back from the dead,” he told the Journal-Constitution in 1991. “It was a spiritual rebirth.”

Over roughly two decades, Sekulow argued a dozen high court cases, winning victories for Christian students seeking to form a school Bible club and anti-abortion activists wanting to protest aggressively at women’s health clinics. In lower-court engagements, he defended the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and its leader, Randall Terry.

Over time, Sekulow shifted his legal operation from Jews for Jesus to a pair of closely linked nonprofits he controls. The one that received the most publicity was the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, a group originally founded in 1990 by conservative Christian media mogul Pat Robertson. Robertson intended ACLJ to be a counterweight to the similarly named ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union. 

Sekulow serves as chief counsel and chief executive officer of ACLJ, which received contributions and grants of more than $19 million in 2015, the most recent year for which IRS nonprofit filings are available. Based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, ACLJ lists Sekulow’s brother, Gary, as chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Adam Sekulow, Gary’s son (and Jay’s nephew), is listed as director of major donors.

ACLJ’s IRS filing indicates that Jay Sekulow received no salary in 2015. But the organization transferred more than $5 million to a Washington law firm of which he’s a 50 percent owner. The firm is called Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group. ACLJ spokesman Gene Kapp referred all questions for Jay and Gary Sekulow to the Trump legal team spokesman, Corallo. 

Jay Sekulow also serves as president of a second nonprofit, Tucker, Georgia-based Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, or CASE, which raised more than $52 million in 2015, according to its IRS filing. CASE says it is “doing business as” ACLJ. Four Sekulow relatives, including Jay’s wife, Pam, and his brother, Gary, are listed as serving on CASE’s board of directors. Gary’s compensation from CASE and related organizations is listed as more than $630,000. CASE’s filing says that in 2015 it transferred nearly $16 million to ACLJ and made payments totaling almost $1.2 million to businesses owned by Jay Sekulow.

On Monday, Sekulow was taking a victory lap on the Christian Broadcasting Network, reasserting that Trump isn’t under investigation and complaining about having to respond to media reports based on unnamed sources. “It’s like trying to swat at Jell-O,” he said. “This is what you deal with in Washington.”   

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    Grand Jury’s ‘Myth’ Report On A California Jail Snitch Scandal Draws Criticism

    LOS ANGELES A grand jury in California that investigated an Orange County jailhouse informant program, which a Superior Court judge and a state appeals court have agreed clearly exists, issued an unsettling report last week claiming that it is a myth largely created by the defense in a mass murder case and the media and that there is no widespread cheating by district attorneys and sheriffs officials, even though another ruling Friday in a murder case again indicated it is true.

    At the center of the scandal are allegations that sheriffs deputies have for decades planted informants next to targeted inmates in the countys jails and have directed them to fish for incriminating evidence to help secure convictions. While its legal for law enforcement authorities to use informants to help bolster cases, in many Orange County trials, its alleged that the informants questioned inmates who were represented by lawyers, violating their right to counsel. Prosecutors are accused of presenting damning evidence gathered by the informants in court while withholding other evidence that could have been beneficial to the defense. That would violate a defendants right to due process.

    While the Orange County grand jury conceded that there have been some violations in a small number of cases, its largely due to laxness in supervision at the agencies, which, the grand jury said, have moved to correct course.

    The grand jury also found that ongoing hearings related to the misuse of informants inside county jails, which are being conducted as part of the penalty phase in the case against mass killer Scott Dekraai, are nothing more than a witch hunt that the grand jury suggested should be stopped.

    Dekraai pleaded guilty to murdering eight people in a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011. He is still awaiting sentencing while the courts wrangle over allegations of malfeasance in the use of a jail informant who was allegedly planted in a cell next to Dekraai. At stake is whether the court will impose a death sentence.

    The Orange County Sheriffs Department and Orange County district attorneys office have long denied that their officials have cheated to secure convictions. And the grand jury indicated that they should be believed.

    But the grand jurys findings fly in the face of years of litigation, a mountain of evidence and multiple court rulings.

    Just Friday, an appeals court unanimously affirmed a ruling that the district attorneys office improperly withheld records on a jailhouse informant used in the 2005 double-murder trial of Henry Rodriguez, who was freed in May 2016 after spending 18 years in prison. His attorney told the Los Angeles Times that he was never contacted by the grand jury about Rodriguezs case.

    The grand jurys findings have left many legal experts startled and deeply concerned that there must be an outside, independent probe of the allegations, beyond the investigation by the countys grand jury.

    I was surprised and distressed by the grand jury report, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of law at the University of California, Berkeley, told HuffPost.

    Laura Fernandez, a senior Liman Fellow at Yale Law School who studies prosecutorial misconduct around the nation, said that this situation calls for a genuinely independent inquiry, one that asks real questions in the hopes of getting real answers.

    Heres some of the reasons the report left many feeling that an independent probe is desperately needed now more than ever before.

    Gail Fisher via Getty Images
    The jailhouse informant program in Orange County is believed to have roots that go back decades.

    Grand jury says its just rogue deputies who worked informants improperly, despite court evidence.

    While the grand jury accepts that the Orange County Sheriffs Department may be using jailhouse informants, in its report it advances a narrative that sheriffs supervisors gave at recent Superior Court hearings linked to the jail informant scandal. They testified that it was merely a small group of rogue deputies who were illegally working with informants that violated the rights of numerous defendants and that it was done behind the backs of their supervisors.

    But that narrative disintegrated over the last two weeks of testimony as a deputy and a supervisor indicated that the departments upper management were aware of deputies actions with jail informants and that deputies received supervisor approval to do that work. Theres also a stack of internal memos that have been produced in court that detail the clear understanding of widespread use of jailhouse informants all the way up the chain of command at the sheriffs office for more than a decade.

    One internal memo, dated March 2007 and sent from a sheriffs sergeant on up to a captain, celebrates the intelligence gathering skills of the Special Handling unit at one county jail. It states that the jail unit possesses an excellent expertise in the cultivation and management of informants expertise recognized by the Orange County District Attorneys Office as well as numerous law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California.

    A 2009 internal OCSD memo sent to command staff requests permission from an assistant sheriff to place an informant next to an inmate charged with murder so the conversation can be recorded. The assistant sheriff granted permission the same day it was requested.

    Orange County Courts

    A 2008 memo from deputies to members of the departments command staff indicates that nearly a decade ago the OCSD admitted it had already cultivated hundreds of confidential informants.

    Another internal memo from 2007 details a large informant presence in the jails, saying there were in excess of 40 [informants] throughout the facility at the time.

    Theres also an internal memo once posted on a wall in the office of the Special Handling unit, which dealt with jail informants. The memo listed deputies duties, including Cultivate/manage Confidential Informants.

    Orange County Superior Court

    Before their report was published, grand jurors heard the testimony and observed the key documents being discussed in the courtroom. Grand jurors also had access to court briefs on the internal OCSD memos and other evidence. But the report doesnt address that testimony or evidence.

    The sheriffs department, responding to a request for comment, directed HuffPost to its statement last week on the release of the grand jury report that says it validates many past statements made by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens regarding the use of jailhouse informants and confirms a departmentally sanctioned program does not exist.

    Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
    Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ past denials of a jailhouse informant program were confirmed by the grand jury report, the sheriff’s department said last week.

    Report doesnt address accusations that the D.A.s office failed to turn over internal informant records.

    The Orange County district attorneys office maintains a database of informant records called the Orange County Informant Index, a set of records on jailhouse informants maintained by the prosecutors office stretching back decades. But Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders Dekraais defense attorney, who, in a series of bombshell motions, has unearthed evidence of a long-concealed snitch program operating inside county jails argues that the D.A.s office has repeatedly failed to turn over those records in various cases and has struggled with producing these records for at least two decades.

    Sanders obtained a 1999 lettersent to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas from the California attorney generals office in which David Druliner, who headed the state attorney generals criminal division, describes his serious concern about the unwillingness of prosecutors including the head of Rackauckas homicide unit to turn over informant evidence favorable to a man on death row. Druliner threatened to turn the evidence over himself, which ultimately forced the district attorneys office to comply.

    The grand jury report does address the existence of an informant database and concedes that some prosecutors have used flawed legal reasoning when deciding not to disclose informant information from it, but the report gives little sense of the scope of the problem, it does not address the letter nor what it suggests about Rackauckas apparent ambivalence to determining whether other cases were affected.

    Sanders told HuffPost that he sat down with the grand jurys informant committee and its adviser, former U.S. Attorney Andrea Ordin, and raised the issue of the Rackauckas-Druliner exchange but that they appeared disinterested.

    Omitting from the report any mention of the letter and the cases in which index entries were hidden over the past three decades corroborates that the grand jury was simply never going to call it straight when it came to the D.A.s office, Sanders said.

    Ordin did not respond to HuffPosts requests for comment.

    The D.A.s office misconduct identified by Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals in the Dekraai penalty phase, which led to the OCDA office being recused from the case, was affirmed last November by the states 4th District Court of Appeal, but that ruling is addressed in the report only as a footnote.

    The D.A.s office was also found to be attempting to steer murder cases away from Goethals, a tactic called blanket papering. In 55 of 58 cases over two years, county prosecutors apparently tried to avoid Goethals. Superior Court Judge Richard King said the tactic had substantially disrupted the orderly administration of criminal justice in the county.

    Remember here the Court of Appeal described the behavior of the OC district attorney as egregious, Chemerinsky said. The D.A.s office abused its power by papering Judge Goethals in retaliation in 55 of 58 cases over a two-year period. The D.A.s own commission made recommendations that have been ignored. None of this is reflected in the grand jury report.

    Rackauckas has long maintained that no one in his office intentionally behaved inappropriately in relation to the jailhouse informant program and that no prosecutors have illegally withheld evidence.

    The district attorneys office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in response to the grand jury findings, it said last week that the report confirms the steadfast position of the district attorneys office and that the grand jury debunked the media witch hunt for agency corruption.

    Mike Blake / Reuters
    Decisions against the Orange County district attorney’s office were not addressed or were merely footnoted in the grand jury report.

    Would an illegally operated informant program have job descriptions and calendaring of events? Grand jury thinks it must.

    The grand jury strongly condemned the claims of what it called a structured jailhouse informant program operating in the Orange County jails and argued that allegations that the district attorneys office and sheriffs department conspired to violate inmates rights through the use of such a program are unfounded.

    That narrative does not stand up to factual validation, the report reads. The grand jury says it found no evidence of a strategic plan or schedule for jail snitches, no formal training, dedicated budget, codified job descriptions or calendaring of events for a jailhouse informant program.

    Legal experts were puzzled by this insistence that a shadow program in county jails wouldnt exist without having a formal organization.

    Noting the absence of definitive evidence of a structured jailhouse informant program, the grand jury simply dismissed outright the possibility of something more covert and loosely organized than what it allegedly set out to find, Fernandez, the Yale fellow, told HuffPost. The grand jury, Fernandez argued, never stopped to consider whether evidence of strategic plans, dedicated budgets and calendared events was something one might really hope to find in the context of an (illegal) informant program.

    Moreover, the grand jury does not explain why it has focused on determining whether a formally structured informant program existed instead of analyzing case by case how fair trials may have been affected by jail informant evidence.

    For instance, court records indicate that one section of the jail, called L-20, which was officially designated a mental health ward but has recently come to be understood as an informant tank, appears to have been used for years to obtain evidence in violation of defendants rights. The use of informant tanks is not discussed in the grand jury report.

    They omitted everything that would have decimated their conclusions, Sanders told HuffPost. For instance, before the rogue deputies did their work, supervisors bragged about the cultivation of hundreds of jail informants done by different deputies. Would those deputies qualify as rogue, too, even as their bosses gloated about the informant work they orchestrated? This group … showed not the slightest sign they were concerned about all the evidence kept from indigent defendants.

    Grand jury may have overstepped its authority in suggesting Dekraai hearings should end.

    The grand jurys report implies that Judge Goethals should cease the ongoing evidentiary hearings in the Dekraai case.

    Any further investigation of potential widespread, systemic institutional wrongdoing surrounding discovery or informant issues in Orange County would be far more appropriately addressed by these agencies and not by the trial court for the largest confessed mass murderer in Orange County history, the report reads.

    While a grand jury has broad authority granted by statute to investigate matters of local, city or county concern, it does not have the authority to investigate matters of state concern. Superior Courts are considered state courts.

    So, questioning an ongoing hearing conducted by a Superior Court judge appears to fall outside its mission.

    The grand jury report must be authorized by the Superior Court, but the court does have the right to refuse the filing if the report exceeds established legal limits, according to state statute. The courts are not bound to act upon the grand jury report other than to be informed by it.

    The public information officer for the Orange County Superior Court system, under which the grand jury falls, told HuffPost in a statement that the Superior Court signed off on the grand jury report before it was published and posted but that the presiding judge can reject a report if it exceeds the grand jurys authority. When asked if the court believed the grand jury may have exceeded its authority, the office said it could not provide insight into the judicial decision-making process.

    Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
    The office of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been recused from the Seal Beach mass murder case.

    Reports tone breeds skepticism.

    The tone of the report, whichis dismissive of the years-long efforts by multiple lawyers and judges in the county, has also raised questions about its fairness, particularly with information coming to light that the grand jurors met with dozens of prosecutors but few defense attorneys.

    The jail informant program is a myth, the grand jury declared. Current investigations of the sheriffs department and prosecutors are a witch hunt, it said. And even when the grand jury argued that just a few deputies might have illegally used jail informants, the deputies were presented as having somewhat noble intensions, that they had gotten carried away with efforts to be crime-fighters.

    Once I saw them describe the investigation as a witch hunt, I was very skeptical of the report, Chemerinsky said.

    Fernandez said that the grand jury opting to use such incendiary language was disturbing because it flies in the face of contrary, carefully reasoned findings by the two courts who have considered the question the most closely.

    That language, like the reports broader findings, has left everyone familiar with the situation scratching their heads including, unfortunately, some of the victims, Fernandez said.

    Fernandez referred to the reaction of Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy, was one of the eight people killed by Dekraai. A myth? What a slap in the face to each of these families, Wilson said to the court. We have had to suffer through this, and they call it a myth.

    The Orange County allegations have prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation.

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    San Francisco’s Transit Agency Promises No Immigration Raids

    Bay Area Rapid Transit, which operates mass transit in the San Francisco area, reassured riders Thursday that it wont conduct immigration raids on board its vehicles or target people seeking a job with the agency.

    The transit agencys board passed a resolutionthat prohibits the use of its funds or resources to enforce federal immigration law. The measure, called the Safe Transit Policy, bans employees from seeking riders immigration status, limits the cooperation of employees with federal authorities in conducting immigration checks and arrests, and prevents BART from asking job applicants about their immigration status.

    BART joins transit agencies in Chicago and in Portland, Oregon, in reassuring riders that employees wont enforce immigration laws or lead raids.

    The BART resolution was floated in March by board member Lateefah Simon, who campaigned for the position in November on a platform that safe access to transportation is an issue of social and economic justice.

    Encountering Immigrations Customs Enforcement can take a physical and emotional toll on peoples health, Alameda Public Defender Raha Jorjani argued in support of the resolution during a hearing Thursday at BARTs Oakland headquarters.

    Were talking about the health, well-being and civility of families, Jorjani said. In the Bay Area, specifically, our office has noticed a distinct rise in the presence and enforcement of ICE operations. There are few spaces left that are safe, and a space that is as important as BART simply must be one of them.

    Those concerns arent completely unfounded. In February, rumors spread online that ICE had set up checkpoints throughout the East Bay, including one outside a BART station, though authorities later said those claims were false.

    Similar online rumors swirled in Chicago and the greater Portland, Oregon, area earlier this year, and authorities reacted by reassuring riders that transit employees would not enforce immigration laws.

    We do not participate in or support this type of activity, the Chicago Transit Authority said in a statement in February. Its important to us that everyone, no matter who they are, how they identify, or where theyre from feel comfortable and confident riding transit in Chicago: You are welcome here.

    Oregons TriMet transit agency announced a no-raid policy the same month.

    We do not support targeting any of our riders or any members of our community. Period, TriMet said in a statement. We deeply regret that these fast-spreading rumors have caused concerns about TriMet and the safety of our riders.

    BARTs resolution reaffirms the regions leadership on progressive immigration policies in the face of President Donald Trumps vows to boost deportations and enact hard-line immigration policies.

    In April, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that the Trump administration cannot withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities local jurisdictions, including San Francisco,that limit cooperation with federal authorities in immigration law enforcement.

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    What an autopsy may (or may not) have revealed about Otto Warmbier’s death

    (CNN)What happened to Otto Warmbier while he was in North Korean custody is a mystery. And it’s likely to remain that way. Following his death on Monday, Warmbier’s parents Cindy and Fred asked the coroner not to perform an autopsy on their son.

    “The family’s objection to an autopsy was honored, and only an external examination was performed,” the Hamilton County (Ohio) Coroner’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.
    “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time, as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview,” the statement said.
      Forensic experts say autopsies can reveal important information about how or why a person died; in this case, determining what events may have led up to Warmbier’s arrival in the United States in a persistent vegetative state.

        What happens during an autopsy?

      “I think it’s a terrible mistake” not to perform an autopsy, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist who was not involved in Warmbier’s case. “If you have something that could be anything other than a natural death, you’re obligated to do an autopsy.”
      As far as what put Warmbier in a coma in the first place, Wecht said it would be difficult to determine in someone who had been comatose for such a long time “because the brain continues to undergo decomposition.”
      The possibilities could have been any number of things, Wecht said, including strangulation, suffocation, medication or a botched suicide attempt. But “the basic cause, no matter what the mechanism, would have been … hypoxia,” the medical term for insufficient oxygen reaching the brain.

      What happened in North Korea?

      Up until last week, one of the last times the world saw Warmbier, an American college student, was at a news conference in North Korea on February 29, 2016. Warmbier stood accused of a “hostile act”: taking down a political poster in a hotel in Pyongyang. Through tears, the then-21-year-old begged for forgiveness but was ultimately sentenced to 15 years of hard labor during his one-hour trial on March 16, 2016.
      Then, on June 13, 2017: North Korea released Warmbier in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness,” according to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, who examined him upon his return to the US. In a news conference last week, they disputed the North Korean regime’s claims that Warmbier had contracted botulism and slipped into a vegetative state after taking a sleeping pill.
      Dr. Daniel Kanter, director of UC Health’s Neurocritical Care Program, said Warmbier’s MRI scan showed “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain” but no evidence of a skull fracture.
      “We have no certain or verifiable knowledge of the cause or circumstances of his neurological injury,” Kanter said. “This pattern of injury, however, is usually seen as the result of cardiopulmonary arrest, where the blood supply to the brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue.
      “He has spontaneous eye-opening and blinking,” Kanter continued. “However, he shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings. He has not spoken. He has not engaged in any purposeful movements or behaviors.”

      Determining cause of death

      According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just two states — Arkansas and Nevada — have no conditions under which an autopsy is required by law.
      The remaining 48 states and the District of Columbia have different criteria as to when an autopsy is mandatory. In Warmbier’s home state of Ohio, an autopsy is required in five circumstances, including when a death is ruled a homicide, in cases where it is related to a public health threat, and when a “child death appears natural and occurs suddenly when in good health.”
      The Warmbier family has not said why they objected to an autopsy, but Wecht said some families cite religious reasons, overwhelming grief or a desire to more quickly move on.
      “It’s not that I’m insensitive or indifferent to family objections,” Wecht said. “When I was coroner, for 20 years, of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), if I could bend, I bent. Other times, you cannot bend. This is a case of unknown etiology, and the only way to ascertain what may have gone wrong would be to do an autopsy.”
      Despite the tragic circumstances, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the case was very interesting from a medical perspective.
      “For 15 months or so, (Warmbier) had a devastating neurological injury but was kept alive,” said Gupta, who is also a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners and a practicing neurosurgeon. “One of a few things likely happened here — and we may never know, especially if there’s no autopsy.
      “One thing to keep in mind is that he did just have a long flight from North Korea to the US,” he said. “Even healthy people can develop deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT. With someone who is not moving, the risk is even greater. The risk of a blood clot in the lungs is also a possibility, especially given how sudden this was.”
      Gupta, who has not reviewed Warmbier’s medical records, said Warmbier could have been given a new medication or have had an old medication withheld.
      For example, “he could have been treated for a body-wide infection such as sepsis, which is not uncommon in someone who is bedridden,” Gupta said. “The family could have decided to stop giving him antibiotics, then sepsis may have led to his death.”
      Given Warmbier’s prognosis last week, “this would not have been unreasonable,” Gupta said.

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      Warmbier also may have been given new medications for comfort care in the US that he didn’t receive while in North Korea, which could have led to his death, Gupta said.
      Wecht said he was surprised the family didn’t want to make one last attempt at determining what happened to their son while he was a prisoner of what President Donald Trump has called a “brutal regime.”
      For their part, Cindy and Fred Warmbier said their son had “completed his journey home.”
      Otto Warmbier will be laid to rest Thursday after a funeral service at his high school in Wyoming, Ohio.

      Read more:

      Family declines autopsy for former North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier

      (CNN)The family of American college student Otto Warmbier objected to an autopsy, leaving the former North Korea detainee’s official cause of death a mystery for the time being.

      The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office in Ohio confirmed that it received and examined the 22-year-old’s body after his death on Monday.
      The Warmbier family’s “objection to an autopsy was honored,” the office said, and only an external examination was performed.
        The coroner’s office reviewed medical records from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and the air ambulance service that helped bring Warmbier from Pyongyang to Cincinnati after 17 months. “Extensive” conversations with his treating physician took place, too.
        “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview,” the statement said.
        His death led to strong condemnations of the regime and speculation about the implications. Politicians renewed calls for the regime to release three US citizens being held in the country.
        Warmbier visited North Korea in January 2016 on a sightseeing tour. He was arrested for allegedly stealing a political sign from a restricted area and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
        US President Donald Trump’s administration worked to secure his return. He died less than a week after returning from North Korea. He could not speak or move voluntarily and his doctors said he suffered extensive brain damage.
        His treating physicians said he suffered from unresponsive wakefulness, a condition also known as persistent vegetative state. In a news conference before Warmbier’s death, they said they could not speculate on the cause of his condition. But they found no evidence that he had contracted botulism, casting doubt on North Korea’s claim that he fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill.
        “This pattern of brain injury is usually seen as result of cardiopulmonary arrest where blood supply to the brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue,” Dr. Daniel Kanter said last week.
        A funeral will be held Thursday at Warmbier’s alma mater, Wyoming High School in Ohio.

        Read more:

        Dogs trained to sniff out cancer are helping Japanese residents

        A town in Japan with high rates of stomach cancer is turning to sniffer dogs for help.

        Kaneyama, a town in northeastern Japan with 6,000 residents, has Japan’s highest fatality rates stemming from stomach cancer, local reports say.

        The town is now taking part in a research programme, in which residents’ frozen urine samples are sent to the Nippon Medical School, just east of Tokyo. At the school, dogs are trained to sniff out signs of disease.

        Dogs have some 300 million sensors in their nose, compared to five million in a human. They also have a second smelling device in the back of their noses, the combination of which allows trained dogs to detect cancerous tumours which is said to give out a specific odour.

        “Nearly 100 percent accuracy.”

        “In our research so far, cancer detection dogs have been able to find [signs of] cancer with an accuracy of nearly 100 per cent,” said Professor Miyashita, of the Nippon Medical School.

        There are only five dogs trained to work as cancer detection dogs in Japan, according to a training facility in the country. It costs about $45,000 to train each dog.

        Cancer sniffing dogs are not unique to Japan.

        In the UK, a major trial was conducted last year at Medical Detection Dogs, where dogs were taught to sniff out prostrate cancer from urine samples. The group claimed to have a 93 percent success rate.

        In a training session, dogs are taken around a room with different samples only one sample will contain cancer cells.

        When the detect the smell, they are trained to sit down in front of the sample and touch it with their nose.

        “We are now understanding the huge potential dogs have,” Claire Guest, founder of the Medical Detection Dogs told news outlet the Huffington Post.

        “I think the potential for this is absolutely huge and we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface.”

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        Um What The Fuck, Caitlyn Jenner?!

        Why would anyone think this is even remotely OK to joke about?!

        Jenner was speaking at one point about the shooting that took place earlier this week at a baseball field in Virginia during a Congressional baseball practice — the horrific event that critically wounded Congressman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — and she laid out some pretty insensitive comments.

        In part, she started well by saying all the right things before devolving into an attack.

        Her quotes:

        “Nobody deserves what happened out there. There’s no justification. There are crazy people. We have to minimize that type of stuff. As far as the people that were injured, it’s an absolute shame. You just want them to recover.”

        Ok, so far so good.

        Related: Kendall Jenner Signs With Adidas!

        But then she said:

        “Fortunately the guy was a really bad shot liberals can’t even shoot straight.”


        Why does she have to go from a nice, well-thought response to the shooting to a hacky, partisan attack on politics? Isn’t hyper-partisan politics part of the reason why we’re here in the first place?!

        Come on, Caitlyn.

        Gotta do better than that. Period.

        [Image via WENN.]

        Read more:

        The coroners report investigating Carrie Fishers death has been released


        When Carrie Fisher diedat the age of 60 last December, it was reported that she had suffered a massive cardiac arrest. Best known as playing Princess Leiain the Star Warsmovies, Fisher suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to New York and died a few days later.

        On Friday night, the coroners report was released, and though it said the exact cause of her death was unknown, sleep apnea and a buildup of fatty tissue in her arteries played a significant role, according to the Associated Press. The coroners release also said there were signs of multiple drugs in her system, but it couldnt be determined whether they contributed to her death.

        Her death certificate, released in January, said she had died from cardiac arrest.

        Her brother, Todd Fisher, said the family hadnt wanted a coroners investigation, telling the AP, Were not enlightened. Theres nothing about this that is enlightening.

        In a statement given to People, Fishers daughter, Billie Lourd, said, My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.

        She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom, shed want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby.

        Fisher will reprise her roleas Leia Organain the eighth episode of the Star Wars franchise.

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