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Health News

  • At first, Tomas Monarrez didn't notice the labels when he went shopping for pots and pans. 'Completely toxin free!' said a big green message on a line of nonstick frying pans in the cookware aisle at a store in the nation's capital. 'No PFOA!' boasted the label on a 12-piece kitchen set. 'Will never release any toxic fumes,' another label promised. 'Oh, wow,' Monarrez, an economist at a think tank, said, when asked if he had ever heard of the toxic chemicals that manufacturers were declaring their products free of. 'I didn't know anything. Should I buy these?' Monarrez asked. 'So all these are bad? Federal regulators are sorting out how to handle health risks from a group of widely used nonstick and stain-resistant compounds. But even reading labels may not be enough to guide consumers who want to limit their exposure to the manmade industrial material, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Scientists say there are many steps people can take to minimize their contact with the compounds, which federal toxicologists say show links to health problems. Some changes are simple, such as checking on the safety of your drinking water or buying different pots and pans. Others require spending and lifestyle changes — for example, passing up fast food or other takeout because the containers the food may be packaged in. For those concerned about exposure, there's one critical thing to know about PFAS compounds: 'They're everywhere,' Linda Birnbaum, head of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, told a recent gathering of her agency's advisory council. 'The carpets and the chairs and maybe the clothes you're wearing,' Birnbaum said. She noted she used to love the ritual of spraying Scotchgard on newly bought tablecloths. No more, she made clear. There are thousands of different versions of the compounds, including PFOA and another early version, both now phased out of production in the U.S. PFAS are used in products including nonstick cookware, but also in stain- and steam-resistant bags for microwave popcorn and many other food containers and packaging, shaving cream, dental floss, stain protection for fabrics and rugs and outdoor garb — for starters. Federal studies of people heavily exposed to the compounds have found links between high blood levels of older kinds of PFAS and a range of health problems, including liver issues, low birth weights, and testicular and kidney cancer. High levels also have been found in many drinking water systems. Military installations that use PFAS-laden firefighting foam and businesses that work with PFAS are two big sources of water contamination. It's probably impossible to avoid all exposures, says Leonardo Trasande, a children's environmental health specialist and vice chair for research at New York University's pediatrics department, and a PFAS expert. But there are 'safe and simple steps to limit exposure based on what we know,' Trasande says. Trasande himself recommends two precautions. One is shunning nonstick cookware in favor of cast iron or stainless steel, Trasande said. That's despite statements from industry and manufacturers that newer forms of PFAS in nonstick cookware are safe. The other is eschewing food packaging as much as possible. In practice, that can require changing habits — cutting your consumption of takeout and packaged food, and committing to cooking more at home, from scratch. 'Literature does suggest that diet is a major route of exposure,' Trasande noted. People also can contact their local water utility to find out if their water system is one of those testing with higher levels of PFAS, Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Andrea Drinkard said. Eating certified organic food can guard against PFAS exposure from fields treated with treated human sewage sludge because federal rules prohibit use of the sludge on organically raised crops and livestock, environmental groups say. Older forms of the compounds are known to build up in people's bodies for years. And the chemical bonds holding PFAS compounds together are among the toughest going, so they are expected to take thousands of years to degrade. There's no across the board consensus on whether newer versions of the thousands of kinds of PFAS are safe. Industry says they are and that there's no reason to swear off all nonstick cookware and PFAS-treated food packaging. 'Consumers should have confidence in the safety of products manufactured with today's PFAS because they have been reviewed by regulators globally and found to meet relevant standards that are protective of health and the environment,' Jessica Bowman, executive director of the FluoroCouncil industry trade group, said in an email. 'Studies show that the newer PFAS do not present significant health concerns — they're not carcinogenic and not endocrine disruptors.' Several nonindustry researchers dispute that, and the Food and Drug Administration noted last month studies showing that that newer forms of the nonstick, grease- and water-repelling compounds may also be a health concern.
  • A federal judge is upholding the Trump administration's expansion of cheaper short-term health insurance plans as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act's costlier comprehensive insurance. U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday that the potential downside of expanding short-term plans is 'minimal' and 'benefits are undeniable' for some consumers. He found that the Trump administration had the legal authority to issue rules last year making the plans more attractive to customers. Where available, the plans now are good for up to 12 months and may be renewed for 36 months. But they don't have to cover people with pre-existing conditions or provide basic benefits like prescription drugs. The Association for Community Affiliated Plans, an insurer group that sued the administration, plans to appeal. Health and Human Services Alex Azar called the ruling 'a clear victory' for patients.
  • The release of a massive trove of data from lawsuits over the nation's opioid crisis provides the most detailed accounting to date of the role played by the major pharmaceutical companies and distributors. In legal cases across the country, they have defended themselves as being little more than bystanders — dispensing government-approved drugs at the behest of prescribing doctors. But the data gives a stunning portrait of how the nation's deadly public health crisis unfolded year by year, with manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies turning a firehose of prescription painkillers disproportionately on rural, working-class communities at the same time the death toll from prescription and illegal opioids was climbing. Following are questions and answers about what the federal data includes and what it could mean for the lawsuits, in which some 2,000 local, state and tribal governments are seeking to hold the drug industry responsible for the crisis. Q: What is the data? A: The released data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS. The government requires the drug industry to report information about the distribution of controlled substances. The part that has been released covers opioid painkillers, showing which pharmacies and medical offices they were shipped to from 2006 through 2012. The federal judge, overseeing litigation in Cleveland, has not decided whether to allow data from 2013 and 2014 to be released. Q. Why is it being made public? A: The records lie at the heart of the lawsuits over the opioid crisis. The DEA agreed last year to provide the information to parties in the cases, but the parties initially agreed to tight restrictions on who could see it. While lawyers had access, even the mayors and county officials who decided to sue could not. The Washington Post and HD Media, which owns newspapers in West Virginia, went to court to make it available to the public, an effort supported by other media outlets including The Associated Press. A federal appeals court ruled last month that it could not be sealed entirely. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing most of the opioid lawsuits, agreed this week to let it be released. Q: Who opposed the release? A: The DEA and the companies that are defendants in the opioid litigation. The DEA said revealing the information could show its law enforcement techniques and make it harder to prosecute cases. The companies argued that the records contain confidential business information and are not subject to federal Freedom of Information Act requests. Q: What does the data show about where drugs went? A: It shows that during that seven-year period, 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills — mostly generic versions — were sent to pharmacies and practitioners across the U.S. In 2012, more than 50% more pills were sent than in 2006, according to an analysis by The Washington Post, which was the first news organization to obtain the data this week. The most pills per capita went to areas in the Appalachian region. Some communities, including several in West Virginia and Kentucky, received more than 100 pills each year for every person who lived in the community. Q: What's the significance of that? A: Federal data on deaths related to opioid overdoses shows the places that received the most prescription opioids per capita were also the places with the highest overdose death rates. It also shows that the total number of prescription opioids sent to pharmacies increased even as the number of opioid-related deaths was rising, from less than 18,000 a year to more than 23,000. For most of that that period, prescription drugs were a factor in nearly half of opioid-related deaths. In recent years, opioids have accounted for roughly two-thirds of all overdose deaths each year in the U.S. In 2017, the last year for which official numbers are available, some 47,600 deaths were attributed to opioids. Since 2012, illicit opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is often mixed with heroin, have driven the death totals. Studies have found that 4 in 5 new heroin users started with prescription drugs, although not necessarily from their own prescriptions. Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week shows the number of opioid deaths in 2018 is likely to show a slight decline, the first year in nearly three decades in which the overall overdose total dropped. Still, opioid-related deaths alone are at more than twice the level they were in 2012, and now kill more people than automobile accidents. Q: What companies were involved? A: The leading opioid producers over that span were three companies that make generic drugs: SpecGX, Par Pharmaceutical and Activis Pharma. Together, they produced nearly 9 in 10 opioid pills that were shipped to pharmacies. The next biggest drugmaker was OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which is often cast as the villain of the opioid crisis but produced just 3% of the opioid pills over the span. McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen were the largest opioid distribution companies from 2006 through 2012. Each distributed at least 9 billion pills, representing 12% to 18% of the total market. They were followed by other big pharmacy chains. Q: Does this mean the companies that made or shipped the most pills should be held most responsible? A: This is what litigation and settlement negotiations will determine. Plaintiffs argue that Purdue and later other brand-name drugmakers were the ones who persuaded doctors to prescribe opioids — a class of drugs known for centuries to both relieve pain and be highly addictive — in higher doses and for more conditions. Lawsuits also assert that drugmakers targeted doctors who overprescribed as a way to distribute even more opioids. While the generic companies produced the most pills, they did not market them. The distribution companies say they were only filling the orders that were placed, but they also have a responsibility to notify authorities of suspicious orders. The DEA itself was responsible for investigating those reports and also for setting limits on how many opioids could be produced. Q: Does the release of this data change anything about the lawsuits or negotiations? A: That remains to be seen. Judge Polster has been trying to get the parties to reach a global settlement, but also has scheduled the initial federal trial for October. The lawyers involved in the case have already been analyzing the data as they negotiate and prepare for trial, so their views might not change. The views of the public and even public officials, however, could be different after having access to the information. Q: Are there other documents in the case that could affect how the opioid crisis is seen? A: Yes. More court filings in the case could be unsealed as soon as Friday. Among them could be internal company documents provided to plaintiffs as they exchanged evidence. Also, Polster is considering whether to allow the public release of suspicious activity reports on unusual opioid orders. ___ Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill
  • Democratic presidential candidates trying to appeal to progressive voters with a call for 'Medicare for All' are wrestling with the thorny question of how to pay for such a dramatic overhaul of the U.S. health care system. Bernie Sanders, the chief proponent of Medicare for All, says such a remodel could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade. He's been the most direct in talking about how he'd cover that eye-popping amount, including considering a tax hike on the middle class in exchange for healthcare without co-payments or deductibles — which, he contends, would ultimately cost Americans less than the current healthcare system. His rivals who also support Medicare for All, however, have offered relatively few firm details so far about how they'd pay for a new government-run, single-payer system beyond raising taxes on top earners. As the health care debate dominates the early days of the Democratic primary, some experts say candidates won't be able to duck the question for long. 'It's not just the rich' who would be hit with new cost burdens to help make single-payer health insurance a reality, said John Holahan, a health policy fellow at the nonpartisan Urban Institute thinktank. Democratic candidates campaigning on Medicare for All should offer more specificity about how they would finance it, Holahan added. Sanders himself has not thrown his weight behind a single strategy to pay for his plan, floating a list of options that include a 7.5% payroll tax on employers and higher taxes on the wealthy. But his list amounts to a more public explanation of how he would pay for Medicare for All than what other Democratic presidential candidates who also back his single-payer legislation have offered. Kamala Harris, who has repeatedly tried to clarify her position on Medicare for All, vowed this week she wouldn't raise middle-class taxes to pay for a shift to single-payer coverage. The California senator told CNN that 'part of it is going to have to be about Wall Street paying more.' Her contention prompted criticism that she wasn't being realistic about what it would take to pay for Medicare for All. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a rival Democratic presidential candidate, said Harris' claim that Medicare for All would not involve higher taxes on the middle class was 'impossible,' though he stopped short of calling her dishonest and said only that candidates 'need to be clear' about their policies. A Harris aide later said she had suggested a tax on Wall Street transactions as only one potential way to finance Medicare for All, and that other options were available. The aide insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly about the issue. Another Medicare for All supporter, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, would ask individuals to pay between 4% and 5% of their income toward the new system and ask their employers to match that level of spending. Gillibrand's proposal, shared by an aide who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign's thinking, could supplement the revenue generated by that change with options that hit wealthy individuals and businesses, including a new Wall Street tax. Gillibrand is a cosponsor of Sanders' legislation adding a small tax to financial transactions, while Harris is not. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who also has signed onto Medicare for All legislation but said on the campaign trail that he would pursue incremental steps as well, could seek to raise revenue for the proposal by raising some individual tax rates, changing capital gains taxes or expanding the estate tax, according to an aide who spoke candidly about the issue on condition of anonymity. The campaign of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who used last month's debate to affirm her support for Sanders' single-payer health care plan, did not respond to a request for more details on potential financing options for Medicare for All. Meanwhile, Sanders argued during a high-profile Medicare for All speech this week that high private health insurance premiums, deductibles and copayments, all of which would be eliminated by his proposal, amount to 'nothing less than taxes on the middle class.' Medicare for All opponents are also under pressure to explain how they'd pay for changes to the health insurance market. Former Vice President Joe Biden is advocating for a so-called 'public option' that would allow people to decide between a government-financed plan or a private one. He would pay for his $750 billion proposal by repealing tax cuts for the wealthy that President Donald Trump and the GOP cut in 2017, and by raising capital gains taxes on the wealthy. ___ Associated Press writers Juana Summers in Washington and Alexandra Jaffe in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contributed to this report.
  • The Trump administration has told federally funded family planning clinics it is considering a delay in enforcing a controversial rule that bars them from referring women for abortions. That comes after clinics had vowed defiance. Two people attending meetings this week between the Department of Health and Human Services and clinic representatives told The Associated Press that officials said the clinics should be given more time to comply with the rule's new requirements. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly before any decision has been announced. HHS said Friday that its policy has not changed. On Monday, agency officials announced that the government would immediately begin enforcing the rule, catching the clinics off-guard and prompting an outcry. Planned Parenthood said its 400 clinics would defy the requirement. Some states, including Illinois and Maryland, backed the clinics. The family planning program serves about 4 million women a year, and many low-income women get basic health care from the clinics. The administration's abortion restrictions, cheered by social and religious conservatives, are being challenged in court by groups representing the clinics, several states, and the American Medical Association. The litigation is still in its early stages. An enforcement pause may allow for a clearer indication of where the court cases are headed. The people who spoke to AP said that HHS Office of Population Affairs Director Diane Foley told representatives of the clinics the administration is considering rewinding the clock on enforcement. Instead of requiring immediate compliance, the administration would issue a new timetable and start the process at that point. Some requirements would be effective in 60 days, others in 120 days, and others would take effect next year. The clinics had complained to HHS that the agency gave them no guidance on how to comply with the new restrictions, while expecting them to do so immediately. The rule bars the family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. Abortion could still be discussed with patients, but only physicians or clinicians with advanced training could have those conversations. All pregnant patients would have to be referred for prenatal care, whether or not they request it. Minors would be encouraged to involve their parents in family planning decisions. Under the rule, facilities that provide family planning services as well as abortions would have to strictly separate finances and physical space. Known as Title X, the family-planning program funds a network of clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates. The clinics also provide basic health services, including screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. The program distributes about $260 million a year in grants to clinics, and those funds cannot be used to pay for abortions. The family planning rule is part of a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health to please conservatives who are a key part of its political base. Other regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to women workers on the basis of religious or moral objections, and grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples. Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. Planned Parenthood is also the nation's leading abortion provider, and abortion opponents see the family-planning money as a subsidy, even if federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a leadership upheaval, after its board abruptly ousted the organization's president this week. Leana Wen, a physician, had sought to reposition Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. In her resignation letter, she said the organization's board has determined the top priority should be to 'double down on abortion rights advocacy.
  • The 92-year-old had a painful tumor on his tongue, and major surgery was his best chance. Doctors called a timeout when he said he lived alone, in a rural farmhouse, and wanted to keep doing so. 'It was ultimately not clear we could get him back there' after such a big operation, said Dr. Tom Robinson, chief of surgery at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System. The Denver hospital is trying something new: When their oldest patients need a major operation, what to do isn't decided just with the surgeon but with a team of other specialists, to make sure seniors fully understand their options — and how those choices could affect the remainder of their lives. It's part of a move to improve surgical care for older Americans, who increasingly are undergoing complex operations despite facing higher risks than younger patients. The American College of Surgeons launched a program Friday to encourage hospitals around the country to adopt 30 new standards to optimize surgery on patients who are 75 and older — information seniors and their families eventually will be able to use in choosing where to get care. Seniors account for more than 40% of surgeries, which is expected to grow as the population ages. Certainly there are plenty of robust elders who can withstand major operations. But as people get older, they don't bounce back like they did even in middle age. Seniors rapidly lose muscle with even a short period in bed. They tend to have multiple illnesses that complicate recovery. And 15% of older adults who live at home — and a third of 80-somethings — face particular risks because they're frail, meaning they're weak, move slowly and get little physical activity. The new standards stress team-based care and better communication about surgical risks and quality of life, to help patients choose their treatment. They must be evaluated for vulnerabilities such as frailty, being prone to falls or having dementia, and the hospital must have plans to handle them. After surgery, standards run the gamut from geriatric-friendly hospital rooms — with non-skid floors and windows to help stay oriented to day and night — to preventing post-surgery complications like delirium, a frightening state of confusion that can impair recovery and cause long-term memory and thinking problems. Some of the steps have long been recommended, 'but we realized guidelines are just that — they're suggestions. The uptake of them in hospitals is pretty spotty,' said Dr. Ronnie Rosenthal of Yale University, who chaired the standards task force. So the surgeons' group, with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation, created a geriatric surgery 'verification program,' similar to programs credited with spurring trauma and pediatric surgery improvements. Hospital participation is voluntary, but those that join will be inspected and have to document how patients fare. Eight hospitals including the Denver VA tested the standards. Robinson already sees a difference: 1 in 4 patients change their original surgical plan after a team review, and more go home rather than needing at least a temporary stay in a nursing home or other facility. Consider that 92-year-old with a tumor on his tongue. After consultations with speech and swallowing experts, and an evaluation of his house, Robinson said the man ultimately chose a smaller operation. The tumor and only part of the tongue were removed to relieve pain rather than trying for a cure, and he returned home. 'These are difficult conversations,' Robinson said. But choosing to spend, say, their last year at home rather than two in a nursing home, 'those are trade-offs people are making.' After surgery, the standards also focus on seniors' special needs such as maintaining mobility; prompt return of glasses and hearing aids to help keep patients oriented and able to follow care instructions; and steps to prevent delirium that include avoiding risky medications. To implement them, Robinson's hospital set up new nurse-led teams that check each older patient daily. For example, no more waiting for the surgeon to decide if physical and occupational therapy are needed; the nursing team puts that in place up front, explained geriatric nurse specialist Jennifer Franklin. One of her team's patients, George Barrett, 85, of Lakewood, Colorado, is recovering from successful open-heart surgery, and being prepped to go to a cardiac rehabilitation facility to regain his strength. 'They told me about all the risks and I wanted to go ahead with it anyway,' Barrett said of the surgery. 'I want to hang around.' Even before any hospitals go through the quality-improvement program, the standards can offer guidance to seniors and their families in making surgical decisions. For example, make sure the patient's vulnerabilities are discussed up front: If dad already needs a walker, will being in the hospital make him worse? And what will the hospital do to help? Especially make clear the patient's goals: 'It's most important they ask, 'What will my life look like after? What will I be able to do?'' said Yale's Rosenthal. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Health Reporter Sabrina Cupit

  • An E.coli outbreak has sent more than twenty people to the hospital in seven states. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the sickness is linked to ground bison. State officials have reported sick people from Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The ground bison and bison patties were supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. in Saint-Leonard, Quebec, Canada. E.coli may cause diarrhea illness often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious damage and even death.  It is advised distributors, retailers and restaurants not use or serve recalled ground bison. Consumers should check their freezers to see if they have any of the recalled ground bison.  More info here.
  • Various brands of hummus and dips made by Pita Pal Foods out of Houston, Texas are being recalled because they could be contaminated with Listeria. The company has issued a voluntary recall of certain hummus products that were made between May 30th and June 25, 2019. They were sold nationwide under the name brands of Bucee's, Fresh Thyme, Harris Teeter and others. They have a use by date from July 28th through August. Listeria monocytogenes was found at the manufacturing facility during an FDA inspection.
  • New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta finds two investigational Ebola treatments effective. An antiviral drug called Remdesivir and another antibody treatment called ZMapp, both inhibited the growth of the virus strain in human cells in laboratory studies according to the research in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in Congo is the second biggest outbreak of the disease in history with more than 1600 people killed by Ebola. The largest outbreak was in West Africa in 2014 when 11,000 people died.

News

  • It's been a major distraction for drivers on Florida’s Turnpike in Osceola County. They don't know if she has a home, but a dog, whom some are now calling Ozzy, certainly has a lot of people watching out for her. >> Read more trending news  Dispatchers at the turnpike’s Traffic Management Center have spent months doing everything they can to catch the dog before she or a driver gets hurt. On Friday, Florida Turnpike officials said she was captured. She is very calm and quiet. There's a whole team of people watching hundreds of cameras along the turnpike and keeping an eye out for anything that may be dangerous for drivers. But consistently since May, in one particular part of the road, they kept seeing the same dog over and over. Road Ranger Jonathon Hester patrols a stretch of the turnpike near the Yeehaw Junction. “Our No. 1 job is safety,' Hester said. He's usually routing drivers around wrecks or helping with a flat tire. But lately, he's been determined to find the furry fugitive. 'This one has just evaded us for a long time and we keep trying to find him,” Hester said. For about two months, dispatchers were seeing the yellow Labrador between mile markers 196 and 205 on the turnpike, headed southbound. 'And just kind of runs up and down the roadway. It's a big distraction for the motorists driving by,” Hester said. “People see it and slam on their brakes.' Officials said they have no idea where she came from. 'It's possible it could've come from a vehicle crash,” Hester said. “A motorist could've been traveling with this dog, and crashed and the dog got scared and ran away.' Because she's been living on the road in Osceola County, they have affectionately named her Ozzy. Osceola County Animal Control let Hester borrow a trap in an effort to catch Ozzy. Now that the dog is caught, they plan to scan Ozzy for a chip to see if she has a home. If not, Ozzy may be up for adoption.
  • The Jacksonville Game Center has been burglarized twice in less than a month with thieves making off with nearly $10,000 worth of Magic the Gathering cards.  >> Read more trending news  Store owners told Action News Jax that both times, the thieves busted through a wall to get in. Hector Ortiz is a regular at the game center. Action News Jax caught up with him as customers and staff were preparing for their Friday night Magic the Gathering tournament. “The place is pretty packed, we have anywhere from 20-plus players,” Ortiz said. “It’s like a second home. A lot of people come to get away from issues.” So, when these crimes occur, Ortiz said the customers take it as a personal attack. “The first time it happened was really heartbreaking,” Ortiz said. Action News Jax first reported three weeks ago when thieves busted a hole in the wall to take more than $5,000 rare Magic the Gathering cards. The owner said they came back again overnight Friday. Surveillance video showed the glow of their flashlights. The owner said this time, they left another hole in the wall and stole more than $3,000 in those same, valuable cards.  He said they busted through the wall at the restaurant next door. Friday, Hunan Wok had a board up in the window where the thieves broke their glass to get in.Ortiz had a message for the thieves. “Just grow up,” Ortiz said. “It’s not necessary. You’re attacking us for a quick buck. Just go out there and get a job, man.
  • A woman is in jail facing felony charges after Clayton County authorities said she allegedly sneaked a firecracker into a courtroom and threatened to blow up the place.  >> Read more trending news  Whitney Jefferies, 32, was arrested Monday night after a judge saw the threat the woman allegedly posted on social media, Channel 2 Action News reported.  Judge Michael Garrett said Jefferies was in the front row in his courtroom. He told Channel 2 she seemed agitated that it was taking so long for her case to be called.  Later, he saw a video she posted on her social media page in which she held up a firecracker and said she was going to blow the courtroom apart, the news station reported.  It is not clear how Jefferies got the firecracker into the courtroom, and Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has not commented on the situation. Deputies went to Jefferies’ condo in Morrow to arrest her, Channel 2 reported. Nobody answered when agents first knocked on her door, according to the news station.However, deputies realized someone was inside the home when a pizza was delivered to the house later that evening, Channel 2 reported.  Deputies went back to Jefferies’ door and brought her out in handcuffs, the news station reported.  Jefferies was booked into the Clayton jail, where she remains held on a $35,000 bond. She face three charges, including making terroristic threats and possession of a destructive device.
  • A Charlotte, North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend were murdered while they were traveling the world, officials said. >> Read more trending news  Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, were found shot and killed on a remote western Canadian highway Monday near their broken down van, WSOC-TV reported. Officials said they were exploring Canadian national parks and heading to Alaska. Police said this does not appear connected to any other crimes. Friday night, WSOC-TV interviewed Chynna's mother Sheila Deese, who said despite not knowing how her daughter died, she's comforted in knowing her daughter and Fowler were together until the end. 'It is a love story, a southern girl goes out of the country, meets this Australian and they were just the same personality,' Sheila Deese said. Canadian Police said they don't know if Deese and Fowler were targeted or if this was random. They said they are working with the FBI to find the couple's killer. 
  • A 77-year-old convicted murderer who was released from prison after being deemed 'too old' to kill again was convicted this week of fatally stabbing a Maine woman. >> Read more trending news  Albert Flick was found guilty Wednesday of killing 48-year-old Kimberly Dobbie in July 2018 outside a Lewiston laundromat. The attack happened in front of Dobbie's 11-year-old twin boys. 'I'm glad the verdict is done and over and I'm glad he'll never be able to walk the streets again,' said Dobbie's friend James Lipps, NBC News reported. This is Flick's second murder conviction. Flick was convicted in the 1979 death of his wife, Sandra. Similar to Dobbie's death, Flick stabbed his wife as her daughter watched, CNN reported. Flick was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1979 murder. He was released and was released in 2000 after 21 years for good behavior, The Washington Post reported.  By 2010, when he was in his late 60s, Flick had been convicted of assaulting two other women. Despite his record, the judge in the 2010 case sentenced him to four years. “At some point Mr. Flick is going to age out of his capacity to engage in this conduct,” Maine Superior Court Justice Robert E. Crowley said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “And incarcerating him beyond the time that he ages out doesn’t seem to me to make good sense.” Judge Crowley retired in 2010. He hasn't responded to media requests for comment. Flick is scheduled for sentencing August 9. He faces 25 years to life behind bars. “I firmly believe this could have been prevented,” Elsie Clement, whose mother was stabbed to death by Flick in 1979, told the Press Herald last year of Dobbie's death. “There is no reason this man should have been on the streets in the first place, no reason.”
  • Public school students in New Hampshire will be provided with free menstrual products thanks to the passage of a new law. SB 142, signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Sununu, will require public schools to provide feminine hygiene products in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in high schools and middle schools starting January 1, The Concord Monitor reported.  >> Read more trending news  “This legislation is about equality and dignity,” Sununu said. “SB 142 will help ensure young women in New Hampshire public schools will have the freedom to learn without disruption – and free of shame, or fear of stigma.” The idea for the law came from 17-year-old Caroline Dillon, a high school student in Rochester, N.H. The high schooler was inspired to act after learning in U.S. History class about 'period poverty,' where those who can't afford feminine hygiene products miss work or school during menstruation. “It was sad to think about,” Dillon told The Monitor. “Girls in middle and high school would never dream of telling somebody that they have to miss school or use socks because they can’t pay for pads.” Dillon approached state Sen. Martha Hennessey with her idea, and Hennesey became a main sponsor of the bill. Educating some lawmakers was initially awkward, Dillon said. Most lawmakers are men, and wanted to avoid words like 'menstruation,' 'tampon' and 'feminine hygiene products,' The Monitor reported. “They would say ‘the thing’ or just try to avoid saying it all together,” Dillon said. “I would say to them, ‘If this makes you uncomfortable, think about how uncomfortable it is to be in this situation yourself. If you can't really picture it yourself, think about any woman in your life: your mom, your daughter, your aunt – think about how uncomfortable she feels – you are in the position to make it so these women don’t have to feel that way.’ ”  Dillon's efforts were ultimately successful. Funding for the new measure will come from school districts' budgets, according to CNN. Districts can partner with nonprofit organizations to provide the feminine hygiene products. Opponents of the bill said its amounts to an unconstitutional unfunded mandate,  USA Today reported. Similar laws currently exist in New York, Illinois and California.