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    A member of the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma told people at the prescription opioid painkiller's launch party in the 1990s that it would be 'followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,' according to court documents filed Tuesday. The details were made public in a case brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that accuses Purdue Pharma, its executives and members of the Sackler family of deceiving patients and doctors about the risks of opioids and pushing prescribers to keep patients on the drug longer. The documents provide information about former Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler's role in overseeing sales of OxyContin that hasn't been public before. The drug and the closely held Connecticut company that sells it are at the center of a lawsuit in Massachusetts and hundreds of others across the country in which government entities are trying to find the drug industry responsible for an opioid crisis that killed 72,000 Americans in 2017. The Massachusetts litigation is separate from some 1,500 federal lawsuits filed by governments being overseen by a judge in Cleveland. But the company documents at the heart of the Massachusetts allegations are also part of the evidence exchanged in those cases. While the Massachusetts filing describes their contents, the documents themselves have not been made public, at the company's request. According to the filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, told the audience at the launch party to imagine a series of natural disasters: an earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane and blizzard. 'The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white,' he said, according to the documents. 'Over the next twenty years, the Sacklers made Richard's boast come true,' lawyers in the attorney general's office wrote. 'They created a manmade disaster. Their blizzard of dangerous prescriptions buried children and parents and grandparents across Massachusetts, and the burials continue,' they wrote. The complaint says the Sackler family, which includes major donors to museums including the Smithsonian Institution, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Tate Modern in London, was long aware its drug was dangerous and addictive but pushed more sales anyway. A memo among family members in 2008 warned of a 'dangerous concentration of risk' for the family, the complaint says. Years earlier, Richard Sackler wrote in an email that the company would have to 'hammer on the abusers in every way possible,' describing them as 'the culprits and the problem.' Joanne Peterson, who runs a Massachusetts-based support network for the family members of people addicted to drugs, said Sackler's comments show a 'blatant disregard for human life.' 'He certainly hammered them six feet under,' Peterson said. 'I've been to more funerals than I can count in the last 15 years.' Purdue Pharma accused the attorney general's office of cherry-picking from millions of emails and documents to create 'biased and inaccurate characterizations' of the company and its executives. The company said in a statement said it will 'aggressively defend against these misleading allegations.' The company also stresses that its drug is approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors; that it accounts for a small portion of opioids sold in the U.S.; and that illicit drugs including heroin and street fentanyl are causing most overdose deaths. 'In a rush to vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than two percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis, the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl,' Purdue Pharma said. Messages seeking comment were left with a spokeswoman for the Sackler family. Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company's executives in a complaint. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau, Richard Sackler and other members of the Sackler family. A suit filed by the New York County of Suffolk also names members of the family. A lawyer who filed that suit, Paul Hanly, said he expects the family to be named in further suits. Last year, Purdue halted efforts to market OxyContin to doctors. ___ Mulvihill reported from New Jersey. Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkinricher and Geoff Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill
  • An intensive care doctor ordered 'significantly excessive and potentially fatal' doses of pain medicine for at least 27 near-death patients in the past few years after families asked that lifesaving measures be stopped, an Ohio hospital system announced after being sued by a family alleging an improper dose of fentanyl actively hastened the death of one of those patients. The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System acknowledged the doses were larger than needed to provide comfort for dying patients. That raises questions about whether there was intentional or possibly illegal use of the drugs to accelerate deaths. The system said it has fired the doctor, reported findings of an internal investigation to authorities and removed 20 employees from patient care pending further investigation, including nurses who administered the medication as well as pharmacists. Mount Carmel said the situation came to light because an employee reported a safety concern. The health system shared no information about what might have prompted employees to approve and administer the excessive dosages. 'Regardless of the reason the actions were taken, we take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,' Mount Carmel President and CEO Ed Lamb said in a video statement . 'We're doing everything to understand how this happened and what we need to do to ensure that it never happens again.' The attorney who brought the lawsuit said, in that case, either layers of safeguards repeatedly failed to flag a 'grossly excessive' dosage of fentanyl, or the medical professionals intended to accelerate the death of the patient, 79-year-old Janet Kavanaugh. 'On balance, it's hard to believe the former occurred rather than the latter. ... This is not just a simple situation of an error,' lawyer Gerry Leeseberg said Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Franklin County against the health system, a pharmacist, a nurse and the doctor, whom it identifies as William Husel. Case records listed no attorney yet to comment on Husel's behalf. There is no public personal phone listing for him, and other numbers linked to him weren't accepting calls Tuesday. Husel's case emerges amid a national debate over physician-assisted death. In such cases, physicians prescribe medications in life-ending amounts to terminally ill patients. Five states — California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Colorado — allow the practice, and 20 have considered but not passed legislation to do so, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. In Ohio, the practice remains illegal. A bill that would have allowed terminally ill, mentally competent patients to self-administer a prescription to end their lives failed in the last legislative session. But Joe Carrese, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said that such laws are carefully crafted. He said that if Husel administered lethal quantities of drugs to unwitting patients in order to end their lives, his acts didn't meet the definition of physician-assisted death. 'In this case, if that was the intent, this was essentially euthanasia, which is not legal anywhere in the United States and not at all the same as physician-assisted death,' he said. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien confirmed that his office has met with doctors, hospital executives and attorneys and that an investigation is underway, but he wouldn't discuss details. He said they've received cooperation from Mount Carmel, which operates four hospitals around Columbus, and from parent organization Trinity Health, one of the country's largest Roman Catholic health care systems. Records show the State Medical Board in Ohio has never taken disciplinary action against Husel. It's unclear whether that board ever received a complaint or conducted an investigation about him, as such records are confidential under Ohio law, and outcomes are made public only if the board takes formal action. Husel was a supervised resident at the Cleveland Clinic from 2008 to 2013, according to a statement from the medical center. It's now conducting an investigation of his work. Carrese, from the bioethics institute, commended Mount Carmel for encouraging a culture in which medical staff and other employees can come forward without fear, but he said the extent of the allegations is concerning. 'The fact that there may be other patients, up to 26 other patients, really calls into question whether the culture of safety and reporting that they're shooting for, whether there's more work that needs to be done,' he said. The allegations carry echoes of prior Ohio cases in which patients were killed. Nurse's aide Donald Harvey, dubbed 'the Angel of Death,' claimed responsibility for killing more than 50 people in Cincinnati and Kentucky hospitals during the 1970s and '80s, mostly by poisoning. Many were chronically ill patients, and Harvey claimed he was trying to end their suffering. Admitted serial killer Michael Swango, the former physician dubbed 'Dr. Death,' pleaded guilty to killing four people, including one while interning at an Ohio State University hospital, and was believed to have poisoned dozens as he moved between hospitals in various places. Leeseberg, the attorney in the Mount Carmel lawsuit, said an important difference in this case is that multiple people were involved in the patients receiving the drugs. 'The pharmacist has an obligation to question an order, and the nurse has an obligation to question the order as well,' Leeseberg said. 'All of those safeguards were overridden or ignored. It's like nothing I've ever seen.' ___ Associated Press reporters Julie Carr Smyth and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Mark Gillispie in Cleveland, John Seewer in Toledo and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
  • This story has been updated. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the causes of cancer-causing impurities in multiple blood pressure and heart medications, according to a new report from USA Today. » RELATED: FDA expands recall of heart, blood pressure medication due to cancer risk Factory inspections of facilities in China and India in recent months have revealed a pattern of issues regarding drugs valsartan, losartan and irbesartan, either alone or in combination with other drugs. “I think we have a federal agency that is overwhelmed in trying to keep up,” Public Citizen researcher and director Michael Carome told USA Today, noting the FDA often prioritizes inspections based on potential risk. » RELATED: Silent Killer: 5 reasons to take a second look at your blood pressure The agency has been examining “a backlog of unchecked foreign drug plants” amid the increasing overseas pharmaceutical industry actors, including China’s Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical and India’s Hetero Labs, both of which have been forced to recall carcinogen-tainted drugs. But exacerbated inspection policies, investigations or recalls don’t guarantee prevention or action from drug companies to correct the problems. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told USA TODAY the agency isn’t running those manufacturing plants. “Really, a lot of responsibility is on the people who manufacture and offer these drugs for sale,” she added. » RELATED: This common blood pressure medication linked to greater lung cancer risk, study says More at USAToday.com. Previously: India-based drug company Torrent Pharmaceuticals last week recalled an additional eight lots of losartan potassium tablets in addition to the two it recalled in December. The FDA shared a notice announcing the the blood pressure and diabetic kidney disease medication contained unacceptable levels of the human carcinogen N-nitrosodiethylamine. India’s Hetero Labs has had to recall several commonly prescribed blood pressure drugs since July, including versions of losartan, valsartan and irbesartan. Find a full list of recall-related FDA updates at fda.gov. Losartan potassium hydrochlorothiazide (Losartan) was also recalled by Sandoz Inc. in November over cancer concerns due to an impurity impurity N-nitrosodiethylamine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. » RELATED: Is your medical provider taking your blood pressure all wrong? Experts say probably “This impurity, which is a substance that occurs naturally in certain foods, drinking water, air pollution, and industrial processes, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen as per International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),” agency officials wrote in the Nov. 8 news release. The Sandoz Inc. recall involved 100 milligram/25 milligram Losartan tablets with the lot number JB8912 and expiration date of June 2020. The affected product was not distributed prior to Oct. 8, 2018, according to the FDA. The agency recently recalled two other blood pressure drugs for the impurity, irbesartan and valsartan. Those who take these hypertension medications should consult with a doctor or pharmacist before discontinuing use of the drug. » RELATED: Half of US adults now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines The American Heart Association in January announced new guidelines that lowered the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million U.S. adults to the bucket of those with a condition that now affects nearly half of the American adult population. For decades, high blood pressure was determined with a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90. According to the new guidelines, a reading of 130/80 is considered high blood pressure, a change that adds 30 million U.S. adults to the bucket of those with the condition. Read the full FDA announcement at FDA.gov.
  • The Food and Drug Administration said it will resume inspections of some of the riskiest foods such as cheeses, produce and infant formula as early as Tuesday. The routine inspections had been briefly halted as a result of the partial government shutdown. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the agency is bringing back about 150 unpaid employees for the inspections. Riskier foods account for about a third of the agency's roughly 8,400 routine inspections each year. The FDA oversees packaged foods and produce. Meat, poultry and processed eggs are checked by the Department of Agriculture and have continued. States handle about half of the FDA's inspections and those haven't stopped. FDA inspections of imported foods and other core functions such as monitoring for food poisoning outbreaks have continued as well, the agency said. The FDA is required to inspect facilities that handle high-risk foods once every three years, and once every five years for other foods. ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The Latest on rulings on Trump birth control coverage rules (all times local): 5:40 p.m. A federal health official says the nationwide injunction on Trump administration rules that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control will force Americans to 'violate' their consciences. Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley says in a statement that 'no American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system.' She says the new rules 'uphold the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution.' The statement did not indicate whether the Trump administration would appeal. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia issued the injunction Monday , stopping the government from enforcing rules scheduled to take effect imminently. A federal judge in California on Sunday blocked the rules 13 states and Washington, D.C. ___ 4:50 p.m. Monday A federal judge in Philadelphia is imposing a nationwide injunction on new Trump administration rules that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued the injunction Monday, stopping the government from enforcing rules scheduled to take effect imminently. In her order, Beetlestone says states should be protected from the potential harm from the rule, which could include people losing contraceptive coverage and seeking state services. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who sued, calls the ruling a victory for the health and economic independence of women. A federal judge in California on Sunday blocked the rules 13 states and Washington, D.C. ___ 3:30 p.m. Sunday A U.S. judge in California has blocked Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control, from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Judge Haywood Gilliam on Sunday granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled on Monday while a lawsuit against them moved forward. But Gilliam rejected their request that he block the rules nationwide. California and the other states argue that the changes would force women to turn to state-funded programs for birth control and lead to unintended pregnancies. The U.S. Department of Justice says the rules protect a small group of objectors from violating their beliefs.
  • A former top prosecutor in Phoenix was hired Monday by a health care facility to investigate the circumstances into how a patient in a vegetative state gave birth after she was sexually assaulted. Police are conducting a separate criminal investigation. Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said Monday that his review for Hacienda HealthCare will focus on patient-security procedures and management practices to ensure patients don't suffer harm in the future. 'They gave me assurances that they wanted to not just find out what happened, but they (also) wanted to correct the situation,' he said. The 29-year-old victim has been in Hacienda's care since she became incapacitated at age 3 after suffering a near-drowning. She gave birth Dec. 29. The child will be taken in by the mother's family. The sexual assault has triggered not only a police investigation but reviews by state regulatory agencies. Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons resigned a week ago after news surfaced of the sexual assault. A nurse who cared for the victim during her delivery said in a 911 call that she was unaware that the patient was pregnant. Investigators are gathering DNA from all men who worked at the facility. A lawyer representing the victim's family has said the family was outraged at the 'neglect of their daughter.' Unlike police, Romley will not have subpoena power to force employees to give DNA samples. Still, he said he would encourage any employee to cooperate with investigators. Romley said he made it clear to Hacienda's board that he will not bury any wrongdoing he may uncover. 'I call it as I see it, and if not, I walk away,' Romley said. Romley said his review will include examining how visitors enter Hacienda's buildings, whether doors are locked, reviewing safety audits and complaints, and trying to speak with the chief executive who recently quit. The former prosecutor also said he will ask doctors who cared for the victim why they didn't know sooner that she was pregnant. Romley is known for leading a team of prosecutors who pressed cases against Catholic priests in a sex abuse scandal about 15 years ago. The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are 'medically fragile' or have developmental disabilities, according to its website. ___ Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.
  • The world's thirst for fresh water is causing a salty problem. Desalination plants around the world are producing enough brine waste to swamp an area the size of Florida with a foot of salty water every year, according to a U.N.-backed report released Monday. The study by researchers from Canada, the Netherlands and South Korea warned that much of the brine is being dumped untreated into the sea, and some is laden with toxic chemicals, causing harm to sea life. The authors called for better brine management, particularly in countries that rely heavily on desalination for their water needs, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. 'We know that water scarcity is increasing in many regions across the world due to increased water demands, which are associated with population increase and economic growth,' said one of the authors, Manzoor Qadir, assistant director of the United Nations University's Canada-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health. At the same, climate change is making the availability of freshwater less predictable, such as by changing the amount of runoff snow in some regions, he said. The authors examined 16,000 desalination plants worldwide and found they produce 142 million cubic meters (5,014 million cubic feet) of brine each day, or 51.8 billion cubic meters a year. That's about half more than previous studies had estimated, said Qadir. The researchers called for better brine management, noting that studies have shown it can be used in aquacultures to boost yields of salt-tolerant species of fish, and the metals and salts contained in it — such as magnesium and lithium — could be mined.
  • The Supreme Court is rejecting appeals from military veterans who claim they suffer health problems because of open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that more than 60 lawsuits over the burn pits could not go forward. The lawsuits said military contractor KBR dumped tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials into open burn pits. The suits claimed the resulting smoke caused neurological problems, cancers and other health issues in more than 800 service members. The complaints said at least 12 service members died. The appeals court said KBR was essentially under military control and had little discretion in deciding how to manage the waste. KBR's attorney said the decision to use burn pits 'was made by the military.' KBR was formerly owned by Halliburton Corp.
  • Unusually high levels of smog worsened by weather patterns are raising alarm across Asia, with authorities in Thailand's hazy capital Bangkok handing out face masks and preparing to seed clouds for rain to clear the air. A combination of construction dust, auto exhaust and other pollutants, lingering over Bangkok due to prevailing weather patterns, has taken air quality to unhealthy levels in recent days. 'I admit these are temporary solutions but we have to do it. Other long term measures will also be implemented, Police Gen. Aswin Kwanmuang told a meeting of army, police, pollution control and other officials on Monday. The city was handing out some 10,000 face masks, spraying water to help settle dust and tightening controls on when big trucks can use city streets — the Thai Pollution Control Department said that about half of the high levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that can dangerously clog lungs, was due to diesel engine emissions. The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation said it was preparing to deploy two planes for cloud seeding on between Tuesday and Friday, if conditions are suitable. In South Korea, unusually high PM 2.5 levels prompted emergency measures to reduce the health hazard. The country's National Institute of Environmental Research said the daily average of 120 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul as of late Monday afternoon was the worst since it began monitoring for PM 2.5 in 2015. Over the years, South Korea has suffered repeated spells when silt and pollution-laden winds have swept over from northern China. But vehicle emissions are also a problem. Thailand's air pollution problem tends to wax and wane partly depending on the season. As in much of the rest of Asia, burning of fields after harvests can cause severe smog at certain times of the year. The spring smog has come early to tropical Bangkok. 'There are a lot of factories and now that the pollution score is higher we have to be more careful,' said Oranart Phongpreecha, 55, a housewife who lives just outside of Bangkok. 'It's not that I get sick more often. But when I go outside, I have a sore throat and I can't see clearly. ... I'm afraid that polluted air is going into my lungs so I have to protect myself.' Pralong Dumrongthai, head of the Thai Pollution Control Department, said long term solutions would include switching to use of electric vehicles and better quality gasoline. He said the weather patterns suggest Bangkok might be stuck with bad air for up to three months. 'I ask for public understanding when your vehicles are being checked, especially those that emit black smoke or big trucks,' he said. 'We need your cooperation.' Pollution generally is out of control by the time countries take action. India's cities are among the world's smoggiest and it is just starting to tackle the problem. The Indian government has announced a five-year program to cut air pollution by up to 30 percent from 2017 levels in the country's 102 worst-affected cities. Key targets include reducing burning of field waste, firewood and charcoal, cleaning up thermal power and auto emissions and heavily polluting brick production and controlling dust from construction. Critics say the plan lacks details on enforcement and funding. ___ Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Vineeta Deepak in New Delhi, India contributed.
  • A federal judge on Monday put a nationwide hold on Trump administration rules that allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia agreed with a lawsuit originally filed by Pennsylvania, citing the potential harm to states should the rules be enforced. Numerous citizens could lose contraceptive coverage, Beetlestone wrote, resulting in the increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, as well as increased costs to state services from unintended pregnancies. The rules, scheduled to take effect Monday, would change a mandate under 2010's Affordable Care Act by allowing more employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to women by claiming religious objections. Some private employers could also now object on moral grounds. Pennsylvania's attorney general, Josh Shapiro, called the court ruling a 'victory for the health and economic independence of women' and the rejection of a Trump administration move to violate a federal law that requires insurers to cover the services. 'Congress hasn't changed that law, and the president can't simply ignore it with an illegal rule,' Shapiro said. New Jersey later joined Pennsylvania in suing. In issuing the injunction, Beetlestone wrote in her opinion that the states were likely to win their lawsuit's claims that Trump's administration violated procedural requirements for how regulations must be created and that the rules exceed the scope of authority under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Justice did not say whether it would appeal, saying only that it will 'continue to vigorously defend religious liberty.' The Department of Health and Human Services said the rules affirm the administration's commitment to upholding constitutional freedoms. 'No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system,' Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement. On Sunday, a federal judge in California blocked the rules from taking effect in the jurisdictions in the lawsuit before him. Those included California, New York and 11 other states along with Washington, D.C. At issue is a requirement under former Democratic President Barack Obama's health care law that birth control services be covered at no additional cost. Obama officials included exemptions for religious organizations. But the administration of President Donald Trump, a Republican, sought to expand those exemptions and added 'moral convictions' as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services. The Justice Department has argued that the new rules 'protect a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs.' Beetlestone had previously blocked an interim version of the rules in a December 2017 ruling. In November, the Trump administration rolled out a final version of the rule, prompting another challenge by states. ___ Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.

News

  • A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. 'Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that's gone on this long, and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point,' Bottoms said. The mayor and others at a Tuesday news conference said two years of planning have them well-prepared to protect the public. 'Our goal is for our officers to be visible, for the public to feel safe, be safe, and be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with,' Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said. 'I think that with anything you can go in with a spirit of confidence if you have prepared, and we have prepared well.' But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. 'Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,' Bottoms said. 'We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.' The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport before departing, airport statistics show. On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing from Atlanta's airport one day after the Super Bowl. The partial government shutdown has meant missed paychecks for Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports nationwide. TSA workers have been calling in sick at a rate that's been twice what it normally is, the agency has said. That's led to a shortage of screeners at some airports across the country. No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday. The TSA had a national absence rate of nearly 7 percent Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on a comparable day a year ago, the agency reported Tuesday after getting complete numbers on the absences. A chaotic scene unfolded at Atlanta's airport on Monday, the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time. Mondays are typically busy for the airport as Atlanta business travelers depart for the work week, and some security lanes went unstaffed as lines backed up. Atlanta passengers led the nation Monday in terms of longest screening delays: The 'maximum standard wait time' was 88 minutes, the TSA reported. Passengers who went through TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program which is typically faster than regular lines — waited 55 minutes, statistics showed.
  • After a dramatic ending to a sentencing hearing on Monday, Channel 2 Action News has learned former Mayor Kasim Reed’s top aide, Katrina Taylor Parks, made nearly a dozen recordings related to the bribery probe at Atlanta City Hall. As a judge read the sentence against Park on Monday, she passed out and was taken out of court on a stretcher.  In August, Parks pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a city vendor in exchange for city work.  In court, prosecutors reveled parks took $15,000 in cash and gifts over an 18-month period starting in 2013 and lied to FBI about it at least twice. Why experts say those recordings were not enough to keep her out of prison, on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a local church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted. [READ MORE: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history] Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday seeking aide. [READ MORE: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth] “When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. Channel 2's Tom Jones has the full interview with Pastor Bryant on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Police: Officer attacked with own Taser after dangerous suspect resists arrest Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines