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Politics

Biden Pick for Vice President Delayed to Second Week of August: Reports


Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly put off choosing his vice presidential nominee until the second week of August–sometime after August 10–according to reports. Biden had initially set a date of around the first of August but told reporters last week he would likely make his decision this coming week. That appears to be put off yet again.

Joe Biden alongside a rejuvenated Kamala Harris. Could this be the ticket?

Biden is taking advantage of the postponement due to the pandemic of the Democrat National Convention in Milwaukee that was originally scheduled for July 13-16 but is now set for August 17-20. Biden has said he would choose a woman to be his running mate, with many in the party urging him to choose a black woman or woman of color.

Among those thought to be top contenders are: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former Obama national security advisor and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Whomever Biden chooses will have a better than most chance of becoming president due to illness, senility or a decision to not seek a second term by the 77-year-old Biden who would be 78 when inaugurated. Biden would be 82 at the end of a first term.

TRENDING: Leftie James Murdoch Resigns from News Corporation, the Parent Company of FOX News Over “Differences in Editorial Content”

Karen Bass emerged this week as a contender. Bass has served in Congress since 2011 and is currently Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Before that she was Speaker of the California Assembly and a community organizer. A profile of Bass published this week by the Atlantic to inoculate her on being a young communist, details her history in the 1970s of working with the Venceremos Brigades and her many trips to Castro’s Cuba.

The Trump campaign on Saturday questioned Bass’ suitability and Biden’s judgment:





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Health

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount.



As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the coronavirus, Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, recovering and then falling sick again — assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.

Doctors emphasize there is no evidence of widespread vulnerability to reinfection and that it is difficult to know what to make of these cases in the absence of detailed lab work, or medical studies documenting reinfections. Some people could be suffering from a reemergence of the same illness from virus that had been lurking somewhere in their body, or they could have been hit with a different virus with similar symptoms. Their positive coronavirus tests could have been false positives — a not-insignificant possibility given accuracy issues with some tests — or picked up dead remnants of virus, as authorities believe happened in hundreds of people who tested positive after recovering in South Korea.

“You can’t extrapolate those anecdotal, first-person observations to the entire population and make sweeping conclusions about how the virus works,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.

There is still not enough evidence or sufficient time since the virus first struck to draw firm conclusions about how people develop immunity to the coronavirus, how long it might last — or what might make it less robust in some individuals than in others.

When the outbreak first hit, many experts including the National Institutes of Health’s Anthony S. Fauci said they hoped protection from reinfection might last at least through the expected second wave in the fall, or into the next year. For severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the antibodies seem to last for a year or longer. But other coronaviruses, such as the four that cause the common cold, act differently. People seem to be able to get them each season, over and over again.

Daniel Griffin, an infectious-diseases doctor and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, said that with every virus — including chickenpox, for which antibodies are supposed to last a lifetime — there are cases of people who become sick again after recovering from the initial illness. When it comes to Ebola, American doctor Ian Crozier was declared free of the virus but then doctors found it lurking in his eye. In HIV/AIDS cases, a baby in Mississippi born to an HIV-positive mother was thought to be cured but then the virus reemerged 27 months after therapy was stopped.

So in a world where 14.5 million people have had the coronavirus, a small number with resurgent sickness should not be cause for alarm. “The big question is: Is that a rare situation, or is that going to be the rule?” Griffin said.

Based on what we know about the novel coronavirus, physicians and public health officials say reinfection is certainly a theoretical possibility. But they disagree over whether there is convincing evidence that that is happening and if so, what the implications might be for vaccines.

“No one is yet believing in reinfection since there is no good scientific report on it,” Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine and associate chief of infectious diseases at the University of California-San Francisco, said. “On the other hand, no one wants to dismiss the possibility.”

Gandhi and others exhort their colleagues to share data and detailed case reports, so the reported cases can be corroborated as reinfections or disproved. .

Conflicting studies

Last week, a British study posted to a preprint server added to the body of evidence that virus-fighting antibodies drop off steeply two to three months after infection — setting off dire news stories asserting that surviving covid-19 would offer little protection against future coronavirus infection and that billions of dollars gushing into the vaccine race might be for naught.

It was quickly followed by another study, also not peer-reviewed, of antibodies in nearly 20,000 New Yorkers with mild or moderate covid-19 symptoms. After retesting 120 of those people three months later, researchers at Mount Sinai Health System found virus-fighting antibodies were largely stable and had even increased in people that started with lower levels right after their infections. The Mount Sinai researchers speculated that the antibody test they used, which has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, may have been more sensitive than the ones used in other studies. The researcher who led the British study did not respond to an interview request.

“When you look at other respiratory viruses, you see what we are seeing,” said Ania Wajnberg, an internist at Mount Sinai Health System who led the study. “You expect these antibodies to form, and you don’t expect them to drop off after two weeks. That would be strange. Generally, they take some time to decrease.”

Virologists and immunologists have also been quick to point out that the body’s immune system uses an array of tools to fight infections. Antibodies, a blood protein, have gotten the most attention because they are relatively easy to measure and work in a simple and graspable way — they block viruses from entering cells and rout the infection.

But there are also memory B cells, a type of white blood cell, which create antibodies based on past skirmishes with pathogens. T cells, another type of white blood cell, also play crucial roles — orchestrating the entire immune response, instructing the body to create more antibodies and even actively fighting the virus by killing infected cells.

Scientists are unclear which components of the immune response are most important to fight off the coronavirus. Seeing antibody levels drop off is a concerning sign, but the data is still provisional and conflicting. Even if antibodies decrease, it does not necessarily mean people are just as susceptible if they encounter the virus again.

“Even if you don’t have a very high level of antibodies, you may be able to respond very rapidly to a challenge and nip it in the bud — and that’s because you have memory cells that remember,” said Michel Nussenzweig, head of the laboratory for molecular immunology at Rockefeller University. “You may be able to produce a better response the second time around, a faster response the second time around. So even if you’re exposed to the virus, you may have an aborted infection or something that is very mild.”

In a review of 40 studies published in the Journal of General Virology, British researchers Paul Kellam and Wendy Barclay​ warned that “reinfection of previously mild SARS-CoV-2 cases is a realistic possibility that should be considered in models of a second wave and the post-pandemic era.”

But what “reinfection” means also needs to be studied. A small study of human volunteers who had a common cold coronavirus squirted up their nose — and then came back for a repeat dose a year later — showed that antibodies in their blood declined and people were able to be reinfected with the virus. But they did not develop colds and were less contagious, shedding virus for shorter periods.

Other infections, such as dengue, however, can be more severe the second time around.

Larry Luchsinger, a principal investigator at the New York Blood Center, said the variability in immune responses among people who have been infected — including the finding that some do not develop antibodies at all — suggests people may fall on a spectrum where some have complete immunity, while others are vulnerable to a second infection.

“We wish that everybody that got covid-19 would be protected in the future, but that probably isn’t a reality,” Luchsinger said. But he argues that it is the degree of sickness that matters.

“If we’re finding people who are at-risk, 65-year-olds, get very sick, come out of the hospital and they’re back in — we have a problem,” Luchsinger said. “If 30- to 40-something people [come down] with flu-like symptoms and their immune response wasn’t strong enough and they get it again, that … is terrible, but … we, from a public health policy point of view, want to reduce mortality.”

Kamran Kadkhoda, medical director of immunopathology at the Cleveland Clinic, said the question of what happens when people are re-exposed to the virus is a critical one. If protection tends to be short-lived, he said, it would make masking and social distancing even more important.

“It would definitely be a predicament for public health, there’s no question about that,” he said. “In the absence of a vaccine, the main thing that we’d have against reinfection are these prevention measures.”

But in an interview, Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said short-term immunity is a solvable problem.

“How long it [antibody response] lasts is an important question, but as long as you get it, that’s a good first step,” he said. “We’ll find out and when we find out — and if you need to — we’ll give [you] a boost” with another vaccine.

Robert Glatter, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital and Northwell Health, the largest medical system in New York State, said if widespread reinfection is a possibility, people may have to be vaccinated over and over again, leading to logistical and supply challenges.

“We may find ourselves confronted with continued seasonal outbreaks having to provide multiple booster shots throughout the year, to ensure more robust immunity,” he speculated.

Relapse

There is no data on how many U.S. patients report being reinfected. But doctors say they began seeing a trickle of relapsed patients in June and July. Those patients ran the gamut, including both men and women in their 20s to 60s, who are distinct from the “long-haulers” and who had complained of symptoms for months. These were people who had tested positive way back when and seemed to be recovered.

At the University of Pennsylvania, there was the pregnant woman infected in March who was fine for two months and then became so sick during childbirth she had to be put on a ventilator. At Cleveland Clinic, there was a patient with very mild symptoms in February — just a loss of smell and taste — who was well for two months, but then needed to be hospitalized in early May and was confirmed to have the virus again.

And at ProHealth Care in Long Island, there was a man infected at the end of March who was never sick enough to be hospitalized. He showed up again in July, this time very ill.

“He thought he had an immunity shield, so he took care of his son when he got covid,” Griffin said. “Two weeks later, he was in the ER.”

The man, who had a very high antibody response the first time and donated his plasma so it could be used to treat other coronavirus patients, had barely any when doctors recently tested his blood in the hospital. Griffin said that while he finds this case very “compelling” and knows of five similar cases, he cautions that it was premature to draw conclusions about reinfection.

To confirm actual reinfection, scientists say, researchers would need to sequence the genetic code and the virus in a person’s body and find two distinct versions — something no one is known to have done.

“This is one of those things I really don’t want to be true,” Griffin said. “But a lot of us are starting to say, ‘I’m willing to entertain it as a possibility. Let’s keep our eyes out and start watching.’”

Glatter, from Lenox Hill Hospital, said he has been surprised that he is seeing with “relative frequency” patients who had coronavirus infections, cleared the virus for six to eight weeks and who come back with a relapse. Their tests with a nasal swab have come back positive.

In the case of Cunningham, the WNBA player, she said during a preseason news briefing last week that in early March, she suffered headaches and lost her sense of taste and smell for four to five days. At the time, she said, doctors assumed she had covid-19 but did not test her for the coronavirus because her illness was mild, and the kits were not widely available. They asked her to quarantine for 14 days, which she did.

She described spending subsequent weeks, while most of the nation was under stay-at-home orders, on her family’s farm. But she did venture out to the gym — where she fears she caught the virus again.

She tested positive on June 18, and her condition this time was more worrisome — shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches and fatigue — and she was isolated for 32 days.

“I’m not going to lie to you — it was a struggle,” she said. “My breathing was weird.”

Cunningham has recovered, and she is expected to be able to resume playing when the season opens later this month. Reached by phone, her father James Cunningham said he considers her very lucky because she is young and healthy:

“If it happened to me, I would be sick still,” he said.

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.



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Several cities seeing jumps in domestic violence reports amid pandemic


In an eastern Pennsylvania town under a local shelter-in-place order, a man who lost his job due to the pandemic shot his girlfriend in the back and then killed himself on Monday. Just before he went into the basement to get his handgun, he became “extremely upset” about coronavirus, the victim, who survived, told police.

“Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, and all of us are feeling a loss of power and control right now,” said Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “We’re really bracing for a spike post-Covid-19 — that’s when law enforcement and advocates and courts are going to hear the really, really scary stuff going on behind closed doors.”

While police and advocates haven’t seen jumps in domestic violence cases across the board, some hot spots are emerging around the country. Of the 20 large metropolitan police departments that provided data to CNN, nine saw double-digit percentage jumps in domestic violence cases or 911 calls in March, either compared to the previous year or to earlier months in 2020.

Not every department provided standardized numbers — some counted domestic violence-related 911 calls, while others tallied confirmed cases or arrests.

Portland, Oregon had a 27% increase in domestic violence arrests between March 12 and 23, 2020, as compared with the same period in 2019, police said. Boston had a 22% jump in domestic assault and battery reports between March 2019 and March 2020, and Seattle had a 21% increase in reports of domestic violence during the same time period.

But advocates worry that with victims stuck in close proximity with abusers, there are many others who are unable to safely reach out for help.

“I imagine that that is the tip of the iceberg,” said Anne DePrince, a University of Denver psychology professor who studies domestic violence.

How stay-at-home orders impact victims

With more than 96% of Americans living under stay-at-home orders, some cities are seeing significant jumps in domestic violence reports.

Police in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Omaha experienced double-digit percent increases in domestic violence-related calls, comparing March or part of March to 2019 or earlier months in 2020, according to data provided by the departments to CNN. Kansas City reported a similar jump in domestic violence incident reports.

Other cities like St. Louis and Denver registered barely any change in domestic violence calls, while San Diego and Las Vegas saw small declines in calls. New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, saw a 15% drop in domestic violence complaints from March 2019 to 2020, although an aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the state police had received reports about spikes in cases elsewhere in the state.

Coronavirus: What to do if you or a loved one has symptoms
Chicago’s domestic battery 911 calls are up only 3% between March 2019 and 2020, according to data provided by the city — but calls to the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline have spiked, with the hotline hitting its highest daily call volume in its 20-year history this week, city officials told CNN.

Experts say the varying numbers might have to do with the different timing of when shelter-in-place orders went into effect. And in some cities, calling 911 may be domestic violence victims’ main resource to get help, while other areas have robust networks of nonprofit agencies and hotlines that survivors turn to first.

Some organizations are seeing changes in the times their hotlines are busiest. In the last two weeks of March, a Seattle domestic violence hotline, New Beginnings, saw a 34% drop in typical call volume during the daytime on weekdays, but a 13% jump in calls at night. Susan Segall, the organization’s executive director, said that was likely because victims who typically find time alone during the day now don’t have that opportunity to avoid their abuser, or because they’re now busy taking care of kids.

The national hotline, which typically gets around 1,800 to 2,000 calls, chats and text messages a day, has stayed at a mostly normal pace, Ray-Jones said. But because of isolation, she predicted that there would be a flood of more reports after social distancing measures ease.

“They can’t reach out safely, because their perpetrator is sitting right next to them,” Ray-Jones said.

The group has been receiving an increasing number of calls from survivors who say the pandemic is making their situation worse. One woman was audibly hoarse and said her partner had tried to strangle her, but she was too scared of the virus to go to the hospital, Ray-Jones said.

Another woman calling in to the hotline said her partner had started slowly loading his gun as she got ready to leave for her job, telling her she couldn’t go outside at all. A third said her partner had forced her to keep scrubbing her hands until they were raw.

Rhonda Voss, 63, a domestic violence activist and survivor in North Carolina, said being cooped up at home is a domestic violence victim’s nightmare.

“I know they would be constantly walking on eggshells just trying their best to stay out of the way, to keep the person appeased,” she said. Getting out of the house can be “such a relief” for victims, she said, “and that’s not available that much now.”

Shelters are struggling to help

In some ways, the coronavirus pandemic seems like the worst possible scenario for domestic violence victims. In addition to being cloistered inside with their abuser, job and financial losses can inflame stress. The economic impact can also make it harder for survivors to plan an escape or hold onto their financial independence.

Research suggests an association between natural disasters and increased rates of domestic violence. After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in 2017, for example, the city saw an increase in domestic violence reports.
Women are using code words at pharmacies to escape domestic violence during lockdown

Now, the pandemic could have a similar effect — but like a hurricane slamming the entire country at the same time.

During Harvey, “the stressors of being out of work, being at home, losing everything — that spiked our violence,” said Chau Nguyen, the chief public strategies officer for the Houston Area Women’s Center. “You’re going to see it more and more.”

Now, Nguyen’s shelter is full, and they’re struggling to help the people calling. One pregnant woman who the shelter is helping is terrified that she’s going to have to go home after giving birth because she has no place to go, Nguyen said. Another woman who fled from another state had been reaching out to domestic violence shelters around the region and finding none of them had any space.

Neha Gill, the executive director of Apna Ghar, a Chicago domestic violence shelter that focuses on immigrant and refugee communities, said her shelter is also full. They had to cut the capacity of the shelter by two-thirds — from about 30 people to about 10 — in order to maintain safe social distancing policies.

“It’s been frustrating and painful for those of us whose job is to help,” she said.

For now, the Houston and Chicago shelters are both paying out of pocket for hotel rooms for some survivors who desperately need to leave home. Gill said she hoped the city or state would start a program to fund similar efforts.

That has left advocates to get creative. In several cities, courts have started granting temporary restraining orders remotely. Others groups are promoting their texting help line, which might be easier for victims to surreptitiously use even from the same room as their abuser. They’re encouraging family members to stay in close contact with victims suffering abuse.

Staff at DC SAFE, a nonprofit that helps coordinate response to domestic violence cases in Washington, DC, has found that as more of the city has shut down, it’s taken twice as long for them to find resources for survivors like mental health services, food or transportation.

“All the services that would normally happen are really not happening,” said Natalia Marlow-Otero, the group’s executive director. “As barriers increase for survivors and services shrink, they are left in situations where there’s not a lot of options for them.”

Reports of deadly domestic violence cases tied to coronavirus

There have already been several domestic violence fatalities around the country which police have tied to coronavirus.

In Colorado Springs, a woman accused of fatally shooting her husband in their home last month said he had brandished a knife at her, “blaming the coronavirus and stating he was not going to live through it,” according to court documents reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette.
In Wilson Borough, Pennsylvania, a town about 50 miles north of Philadelphia, 38-year-old Roderick Bliss IV shot his longtime girlfriend in the back on Monday before killing himself, detective Dan Pacchioli said in an interview. Bliss had become increasingly upset about coronavirus after losing his construction job due to the pandemic, the victim told officers.

“She was completely shocked that he went off the wall in the way he did that day,” Pacchioli said.

But in the vast majority of domestic violence cases, any connection to the pandemic is less obvious.

Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Texas’ Harris County, which includes Houston, said his county has had two domestic violence murders in the last two weeks, including one in which a husband allegedly left his three young children at home with the body of his wife and went to the police to turn himself in.

“It’s not that all of a sudden the virus comes along and people become abusive — it’s already there,” Gonzalez said in an interview. “Many people will not be killed by Covid-19, but instead they’ll die at the hands of an intimate partner.”

Some families are left wondering whether the isolation caused by the pandemic could have played a part in their loved one’s death.

In Mashpee, a Massachusetts town on Cape Cod, 53-year-old Sandra Corfield was killed last week in a suspected domestic beating that took place two days after the state’s shelter-in-place order went into effect. Her boyfriend, Marc Audette, told police that he was “off my meds” and that Corfield had kept saying “I love you” while he was hitting her in the head, according to a police report reviewed by the Cape Cod Times. Audette has pled not guilty to Corfield’s murder.
Corfield was an art teacher at Boston schools who painted murals and taught modeling. She had been with Audette for about a year and had seemed happy with him, her mother, Eleanor Corfield, said in an interview.

Eleanor said she didn’t know whether the pandemic and shelter-in-place order had played any role in her daughter’s death. “It could have tied into it, it could very well have,” she said. “They were together all the time.”

Now, with a large funeral impossible under the stay-at-home order, Eleanor said she was planning to ask for donations to a domestic violence charity in honor of her daughter.

“I would like the word to get out, if it even helps one battered woman,” she said. “I would like them to know it’s okay to reach out for help.”

Resources for victims of domestic violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673

Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.

Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741

Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453

Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.

Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662

A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.



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Breaking New

George Clooney ‘saddened’ by reports of Nespresso child labor


The 58-year-old star, who has been the company’s brand ambassador since 2006, said he was “surprised and saddened” by allegations made in an upcoming episode of the UK documentary series “Dispatches” for Channel 4.

Journalist Anthony Barnett was given access to farms in Guatemala, which is the world’s 10th largest coffee producer. Footage obtained appeared to show children working for up to six days a week picking beans on plantations and moving heavy loads.

The documentary is set to air on Monday.

Addressing the investigation’s findings in a statement sent to CNN, Clooney, who is a member of Nespresso’s sustainability advisory board, said: “We knew it was a big project when it started 7 years ago, and honestly, I was surprised and saddened to see this story. Clearly this board and this company still have work to do. And that work will be done.”

He went on to say that he hoped Barnett, the Channel 4 reporter, “will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve.”

Clooney signed off by reiterating that “the check and balance of good corporate responsibility lies not just with the company itself but also independent journalists like Mr. Barnett to hold everyone’s promise to account.”

Nespresso, which is a unit of Swiss food giant Nestlé, told CNN in a statement that it has “zero tolerance of child labor” and has launched a “thorough investigation” to identify the farms at the center of the allegations.

The company said it has stopped purchases of coffee from all farms in the region until they are able to guarantee child labor is not being used.

Nespresso said “any issues uncovered will be dealt with diligently and firm action will be taken. We will also double the number of agronomists that we have on the ground in the region and we will implement unannounced visits to check on compliance on social and labor issues.”

It added that it works alongside NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International “to reinforce good working practices and fair treatment of workers, including education on the risks of child labour. “

Han de Groot, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance said: “Our partnership with Nespresso, which reaches back more than 17 years, is focused on producing high quality coffee while also improving farmers’ livelihoods and the wellbeing of their families, workers and communities.”

This story has been updated.



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Breaking New

Kobe Bryant crash: NTSB reports says no evidence of catastrophic engine failure


Friday’s update covered several topics, such as the flight history of the pilot and of the Sikorsky S-76B, the weather on that morning and the interaction with air traffic controllers.

“These (updates) are usually a little bit of a road map of where the investigation is going to go,” said CNN transportation expert Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the NTSB. “If there were concerns about the equipment or anything else, it would be mentioned.

“In this case, they focused in on the weather, they focused in on the pilot’s interaction with air traffic control, and in the end I’m afraid the spotlight is going to be on the pilot and his decision-making.”

The NTSB update focused on the facts of the case, including photographs, but did not include analysis. The board will release a determination on the cause of the crash in its final report months from now.

“Viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure,” the investigative update said.

The board said one witness who was on a mountain bike trail reported he heard the helicopter and saw the blue and white aircraft emerge from the clouds passing from left to right directly to his left. He thought it was on a “forward and descending trajectory.”

The witness told investigators the aircraft started to roll to the left and he briefly saw its belly. It was only a couple seconds before it crashed about 50 feet below him, the update says.

One photograph was taken from a drone that investigators flew along the flight path, as recorded by satellite. The image captures the view of the last reported position of the aircraft.

“The last ADS-B target was received at 1,200 feet approximately 400 feet southwest of the accident site,” the NTSB said.

Another photo, taken by the mountain bike trail witness, shows the fire after the aircraft crashed.

The witness on the mountain bike trail who heard the crash took this photo.

The update found no outstanding airworthiness directives (no safety notices about issues involving helicopter) and that all inspections on the aircraft were up to date.

The NTSB noted that pilot Ara Zobayan scored satisfactory grades in proficiency for maneuvers needed in low-visibility conditions. He had proficiency training in inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions and unusual attitude recovery in May 2019, the update says.

“It really just reinforces the tragic nature of this crash,” Goelz said. “It was a perfectly good helicopter. It was well-equipped. And, unfortunately, it was flying in marginal weather.

“And apparently the pilot got up into the clouds, realized that he was in a more difficult situation than he had planned on and tried to escape. Or simply lost situational awareness.”

The helicopter descended at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute immediately before it crashed into a hillside, the NTSB said.

Still frame from security video showing N72EX flying into clouds.

The pilot told an air traffic controller he was climbing to 4,000 feet over US 101 in Calabasas, NTSB investigators reported. Radar showed the helicopter reached 2,300 feet in elevation before making a left turn.

“Eight seconds later, the aircraft began descending and the left turn continued,” the report said. “The descent rate increased to over 4,000 feet per minute, ground speed reached 160 knots.”

Investigators previously said the helicopter descended at a rate of approximately 2,000 feet per minute.

Kobe Bryant memorial service will be held February 24 at Staples Center

“Our investigators have already developed a substantial amount of evidence about the circumstances of this tragic crash,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt in an accompanying statement Friday. “And we are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again.”

In addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, 13, the crash claimed the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and Zobayan, 50.

The cause of death for all nine victims was determined to be blunt force trauma, and the manner of death was certified as accident, according to the coroner’s office.

The group was expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game on the day the helicopter crashed about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Nick Watt reported from Los Angeles. Steve Almasy reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Matthew Hilk contributed to this report.



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Reports of sexual assault rose 27% at military service academies in 2018-19 school year


The report, which included a survey collected by the Defense Department’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, showed a 27% rise in unwanted sexual contacts — from 117 reports the previous year to 149 in 2018-2019.

But Pentagon officials characterized the findings as “encouraging,” and cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the report, asserting the jump in reported incidents should not be interpreted as a “increase in crime rate.”

“The Department recognizes the challenge of combatting sexual assault in the Military Service Academies and the high cost of not succeeding,” Dr. Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said in a statement.

The report said 130 of the 149 accusations were leveled against active-duty cadets or midshipmen. Fifty seven of the incidents were reported at West Point, 33 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and 40 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Of the victims, 122 were enrolled at the service academies. Five active duty service members filed reported assaults, as did three civilian victims.

The rise in assaults has revived questions about the Pentagon’s overall strategy to combat sexual violence – and if it’s failing.

“A stereotypical male culture”

Cadets and midshipmen interviewed for the report acknowledged “a stereotypical male culture” exists at the service academies.

Efforts to change the “boy’s club” attitude, the report said, were unsuccessful.

In the focus groups and interviews for report, cadets and midshipmen told Pentagon officials that sexually harassing behaviors were widely viewed as not that serious or even “normal” within the service academies.

The report also found that the culture at the each of the branches’ feeder institutions creates a trickle-down effect: fewer reported assaults.

The report noted cadets and midshipmen share common beliefs about reporting — that it takes too long, rarely ends in the victim’s favor and forces victims to re-live their trauma.

Students, according to the report, said they feared social or professional retaliation within their unit after making a report decreases the chances they will come forward.

Cadets and midshipmen, the report found, believe they will not only be retaliated against by their peers but that their academic and military careers will be jeopardized if they were to file a report.

This perception of reporting at the academies seemingly translated to the actual reports of sexual violence in the academy system.

More than half of the students who reported being sexually assaulted last year requested that their reports be confidential, or restricted. Restricted reports do not prompt formal investigations by military officials.

One point that the report emphasized repeatedly was that the rate of sexual assault at the academies was in line with that of civilian colleges and universities.

“Despite this apparent national upward trend in sexual assault, the Department holds itself, and the academies, to a higher standard of behavior,” the report stated.

Advocates for military sexual assault victims described the military’s rendering of the facts as misleading.

“It’s another year, another dismal report that the Pentagon’s stubborn and selfish obstruction of reform is hurting the force and devastating survivors,” Don Christensen — president of Protect Our Defenders, an organization devoted to ending rape and sexual assault in the military — told CNN.

Christensen, a veteran military judge who also served as the Air Force’s chief prosecutor between 2010 and 2014, disputed the military’s reading of its findings.

“Sexual assault reports are up because assaults are up,” Christensen said.

He added: “Reports going up is only good if two things happen: the rate of sexual assaults is going down, and you’re actually holding people accountable when survivors come forward. But neither of those things are happening.”

The report drew immediate, bipartisan criticism from members of Congress, and raised the possibility of increased congressional scrutiny of the military’s efforts to curtail sexual assault in its ranks.

“It should absolutely lead to greater scrutiny,” Rep. Brian Mast, a combat veteran and Florida Republican, told CNN. “It’s clear that more must be done from our country’s and our military’s leaders to address this crisis.”

On Twitter, Rep. Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, called for immediate changes among military leadership, saying she is tired of “excuses.”

“For all those generals who say we have zero tolerance, explain to me why 122 sexual assaults occurred at our premier military academies last year?” Speier asked, rhetorically.

“It’s time for heads to roll,” she said.



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Target reports disappointing holiday sales


But strong December sales at Costco show that not all the traditional retailers suffered during the holidays.

Target has been one of the few traditional brick-and-mortar retailers thriving against Amazon. However, it reported a sales gain of only 1.4% in November and December at stores open at least a year, a key measure of the retailer’s health. That was below the company’s guidance for the period and well short of the 5.7% growth it had a year earlier.
While the company said it should still be able to hit its profit target for the fiscal fourth quarter, the sales report drove down shares of Target (TGT) 6% during trading early Wednesday.

“Holiday sales did not meet our expectations,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said. The company “faced challenges” in electronics, toys and home goods, he said. Together, those divisions make up around one-third of the company’s holiday sales. Target did enjoy a 19% bump in online sales.

The sentiment among several Wall Street analysts Wednesday was that Target’s holiday results did not signal a systemic problem at the company, but rather a slowdown in key holiday areas like toys.

“Target remains a good retailer on the right trajectory,” said Neil Saunders, analyst at GlobalData Retail.

Overall holiday sales had been reported to be strong this past year, as low unemployment helped spur consumer spending. Costco said its sales in December increased more than 9%.
Target, the nation’s third largest general retailer behind Walmart (WMT) and Costco (COST), is not the only traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to report struggles. Department store chain Macy’s (M) announced last week that it would close 29 stores. JCPenney (JCP), Kohl’s (KSS), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) and other mall staples also reported weak holiday sales.
Walmart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY) do not report holiday sales until next months, but shares of both companies fell during Wednesday trading as Target’s results weighed on investors.

Target has been on a winning streak since 2017, drawing shoppers with private-label brands, remodeled stores and new small-size stores in cities.

But the company also announced a shake up of its executive ranks Wednesday in the wake of the disappointing holiday sales.

Janna Potts, a 30-year veteran of the company, is retiring as executive vice president and chief stores officer, to be replaced by Mark Schindele, a 20-year veteran of the company himself. It also announced two chief merchandising officers. Christina Hennington will oversee merchandising for hardline and essentials, while Jill Sando will be in charge of merchandising for style.



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At least two dead in Texas church shooting: media reports


(Reuters) – At least two people were killed and a third was in critical condition after a shooting at a church in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas, local media reported on Sunday.

One person died at the scene of the shooting and one en route to the hospital, the Dallas Morning News said, citing a spokeswoman for local emergency services.

Authorities were rushing to the scene at White Settlement, a suburb northwest of Fort Worth, where the West Freeway Church of Christ is located, local media said. The Fort Worth Fire Department issued an “active threat” assignment at around 11.30am (1730 GMT) local time and was assisting operations at the scene, according to reports.

A witness told a local CBS affiliate that a man armed with a shotgun walked up to a server during communion and opened fire, before being shot by a person attending the service.

“You feel like your life is flashing before you. I was so worried about my little one,” witness Isabel Arreola told the network.

Authorities believe the attacker was among the three people shot but it was not known whether he had been killed or injured, CBS 11 reported.

The shooting was captured on video as the church service was apparently being streamed on YouTube, according to the New York Daily News.

Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien



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Survivor of the attack on a Jersey City kosher supermarket came face-to-face with shooter, reports say


David Lax was in the JC Kosher Supermarket, according to CNN affiliate WCBS, when the suspects, who first killed a police officer at another location, attacked the store, fatally shooting three people before engaging in an hours-long standoff with police. Lax was also shot in the attack, but made it out of the store.

He told WCBS that he could tell the duo came to kill by the way they came into the store.

“A lot of big bangs, it took me a minute to get, OK this is gunshots, and then everyone jumped on the floor,” Lax told WABC. “I dropped to the floor and then I thought, it’s over. I mean, bullets flying all over.”

Lax told the station that from the floor he could see bullets flying and black raincoats passing by. He stood up, he said, and was facing the second shooter.

“At that time, I thank God I had the courage, I had the right mind, I just re-directed her arm and ran out of the store,” Lax told the station.

Investigated as an act of terrorism

Authorities are not yet sure why the shooters — David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50 — attacked the officer and the store, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. But it is being investigated as an act of terrorism with “a hate-crime bias slant.”

“We believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as a hatred of law enforcement,” Grewal said, citing evidence and witness interviews.

Who are the Black Hebrew Israelites?
Both shooters expressed an interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, though neither appear to have formal links to the movement, Grewal said. Some members of the movement have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments in the past.

Investigators are checking a note found in a stolen U-Haul truck that the killers drove to the market — a note that contained both anti-Semitic and anti-police writing, a law enforcement source told CNN. Posts with similar sentiments also have been found on social media linked to the shooters, the source said.

“Our community has been terrorized once again by violent anti-Semitism,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “From Pittsburgh to Poway, and now to Jersey City, the disease that is anti-Semitism has clearly spread to epidemic proportions.”

“But we will not be defeated, we will not stand down, we will not be intimidated,” Greenblatt said.

Surveillance video shows the shooters approaching the store.

Deadly attack began at a cemetery

Authorities have said that the attack began near a city cemetery where the shooters killed Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals.

He was trying to stop the shooters when he was killed, police have said.

A bystander called 911 to report Seals’ body at the cemetery at 12:38 p.m., authorities said. But by that time, the shooters had already driven the stolen U-Haul to the market and began their attack.

Surveillance video shows the pair get out, and a man — Anderson, police say — walks directly toward the store, apparently ignoring several people on the sidewalk nearby, and starts firing a gun into it before entering. Graham follows, police say.

Police arrived at the supermarket around 20 minutes after the attack began, starting a long shootout that left two police officers injured.

The shooters were armed with an AR-15-style weapon, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, a 9mm Ruger semiautomatic firearm and a 9mm Glock 17, with a pipe bomb and a fifth gun in the U-Haul, Grewal said. If not for the actions of the police, they could have dome more harm, Grewal said.

Around 3:25 p.m., a police armored vehicle broke into the supermarket’s entryway, and law enforcement soon found the bodies of the three victims and two attackers inside the store, Grewal said.

The three people in the market were Mindy Ferencz, 31, the store’s co-owner; Moshe Deutsch, 24, a customer; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, a store employee.

Store owner next door as his wife died

Two of the four victims were laid to rest Wednesday night.

In Jersey City, crowds of men in black hats surrounded Ferencz’s casket in the Jersey City neighborhood of Greenville at the site of a synagogue under construction. Hundreds of women, separated from the men as per Orthodox Jewish tradition, were standing in the bitter cold sobbing.

Jersey City shooting victims are an officer who responded and civilians in a kosher deli

Ferencz owned the store with her husband, who was next door at the small synagogue at the time of the attack, according to Yossi Steinmetz who was there as well.

When shots broke out, her husband desperately tried to call her and tell her to lock the doors to take cover, Steinmetz said. She didn’t answer.

At Deutsch’s Brooklyn funeral, mourners spoke in Hebrew through tears as at least a dozen NYPD counterterrorism officers and nearly 100 “Shomrim” members — Hebrew for guardians — stood watch.

Deutsch and Ferencz both had ties to the Jewish community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This is just an atrocity. Of course, we accept everything but this is more than we can handle,” Deutsch’s cousin, also named Moshe Deutsch, told CNN. “The question is, is it a sign of hatred? Is it a sign that we are not safe in New York anymore?”

CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph, Melanie Schuman, Alec Snyder, Alexandra Field, Rob Frehse, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Nicole Chavez and Julian Cummings contributed to this report.



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U.S. CDC reports ‘breakthrough’ in vaping lung injury probe as cases top 2,000


CHICAGO (Reuters) – Tests of lung samples taken from 29 patients with vaping-related injuries suggest all contained Vitamin E acetate, a discovery U.S. officials described on Friday as a “breakthrough” in the investigation of the nationwide outbreak that has topped 2,000 cases.

The discovery of Vitamin E acetate in lung samples offers the first direct evidence of a link with the substance and vaping-related lung injuries. The substance has also been identified in tests by U.S. and state officials of product samples collected from patients with the vaping injury.

In a telephone briefing on Friday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called Vitamin E acetate “a very strong culprit of concern” and referred to the discovery as “a breakthrough” in the investigation.

She cautioned that more work is needed to definitively declare it a cause, and said studies may identify other potential causes of the serious injuries as well.

Vitamin E acetate is believed to be used as a cutting agent in illicit vaping products containing THC – the component of marijuana that gets people high.

The substance was identified early in product testing done in the New York Health Department’s Wadsworth laboratory, but not every THC vaping pen the lab tested contained Vitamin E, a lab official told Reuters.

Schuchat said researchers must now establish a causal link between exposure and injury, adding that “many substances are still under investigation.”

On Thursday, the CDC reported there have been 2,051 confirmed and probable U.S. lung injury cases and 39 deaths associated with use of e-cigarettes, or vaping products. Nearly 85 percent of lung injury patients in the nationwide outbreak have reported using products containing THC.

FILE PHOTO: A man uses a vape device in this illustration picture, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Illustration

In the CDC analysis, THC was detected in 23 of 28 patient samples of lung cells, including from three patients who said they did not use THC products. Nicotine was detected in 16 of 26 patient samples.

In a separate report, Illinois officials found that compared to vapers who did not get sick, those who had a lung injury were significantly more likely to use THC-containing vaping products exclusively or frequently, and were nine times more likely to have purchased products from illicit sources, such as from on-line or off the street.

Together, the findings reinforce public health officials’ recommendation that people avoid using e-cigarettes that contain THC or any products that come from illicit sources.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bill Berkrot



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