Category Archives: Health

Charges: Wis. Woman Was Using Facebook Before Crash That Killed 3 Kids

Charges: Wis. Woman Was Using Facebook Before Crash That Killed 3 Kids

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some 15 months after a Wisconsin mother crashed into an oncoming truck, the district attorney says it’s a homicide case.

Kari Jo Milberg, 34, was driving. Her 11-year-old daughter and two of her 5-year-old nieces were killed.

The crash happened in Oak Grove Township in western Wisconsin back in December of 2013. Investigators say Milberg was exchanging Facebook messages less than 2 minutes before the crash.

The district attorney is charging Milberg with three counts of homicide by negligent operation and one count of reckless driving causing injury.

Milberg herself was thrown from the car and injured in the crash. For a time after the incident, she says she could not remember what happened.

Investigators now believe they’ve figured out what happened.

From the start, this crash rattled those around it — even the professionals. The day after the crash, Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said the emergency workers were shaken by the scene.

“When it comes to dealing with kids, it’s very tough on everybody,” Hove said.

From the start, officers said weather was not a factor.

For months investigators didn’t know why Milberg drove into traffic, it wasn’t until the snow melted that they found her phone.

After requesting information from Facebook, investigators pinpointed a back-and-forth chat Milberg was having with a man as she drove.

Timestamps show she received her last message at 3:39 p.m. The crash was called in at 3:41 p.m.

car wreck

In a Wisconsin State Patrol report, it says “Milberg was actively sending and receiving Facebook chat messages just prior to the crash.”

“It is likely,” the report adds, “that driver inattention is a significant contributing factor in this collision.”

The report also says that Milberg’s tires did not have good tread, and that she had a therapeutic amount of oxycodone in her system.

If Milberg is convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine for each of her felony counts.

Harrison Ford ‘had no other choice’ but to land on golf course, rep says

Harrison Ford ‘had no other choice’ but to land on golf course, rep says

Harrison Ford plane crash

By AND

Shortly after Harrison Ford’s vintage plane took off at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport on Thursday, trouble arose.His World War II-era plane’s sole engine lost power around 2:20 p.m., transit officials said. In a recording, the veteran actor is heard alerting the airport’s control tower, “Engine failure; immediate return.”

Just blocks from the runway, the plane clipped a tree at the Penmar Golf Course in Venice, then landed on a fairway.

“He had no other choice but to make an emergency landing, which he did safely,” Ford’s publicist, Ina Treciokas, said in a statement.

“He was banged up and is in the hospital receiving medical care. The injuries sustained are not life threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.”

A group of golfers helped pull Ford from the plane and began administering first aid, said Carlos Gomez, who lives just yards away from the site of the crash on Dewey Street. Gomez was cooking when he heard the plane hit the ground outside.

At first, Ford, 72, lay motionless, then he started to move. “So I was like, good, he’s alive,” Gomez said.

“Dad is ok. Battered, but ok!” the actor’s son, Ben Ford, posted on Twitter. “He is every bit the man you would think he is. He is an incredibly strong man.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Ford is an avid aviator who is often seen flying vintage planes out of Santa Monica Airport.

Photos on the Internet show Ford piloting the plane involved in the crash, a Ryan PT-22 Recruit that’s registered to Delaware-based MG Aviation, Inc., according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s records.

Immediately after the crash, officials refrained from identifying Ford as the pilot, saying only that he was conscious, breathing and alert when paramedics arrived. He was hospitalized with fair to moderate injuries, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott.

Santa Monica Airport closure in 2015 challenged by tenants

Ford’s aviation hobby has put him in danger before. In 1999, Ford was riding in a helicopter with his flight instructor when it crashed into a Ventura County riverbed. The “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” actor walked away unscathed.

Since June, Ford has been recovering from a broken leg. While filming “Star Wars: Episode VII” last summer, the veteran actor’s left leg broke in an accident involving the door of the famed Millennium Falcon spaceship. The injury required him to have surgery and go through rehab, causing a two-week hiatus in filming during August.

The landing has reenergized the debate over safety at the airport, which is located in the middle of a densely populated community.

“It’s really, really scary to think how close this was to a number of homes,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents the Westside. Thursday’s crash is yet another signal that the airport “needs to be shut down,” Bonin said.

In 2013, four people died in a fiery wreck at the airport when the twin-engine Cessna Citation they were riding in touched down on the runway, then veered hard right and smashed into an airport hangar, bursting into flames and collapsing the building.

Some residents have long pressed to close the airport, saying it poses a safety risk. Pilots and others in the aviation community dispute that and say the airport is perfectly safe.

Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and casino mogul Steve Wynn have been among the celebrities and business tycoons who have kept planes there.

In 2013, as Santa Monica debated the airport’s future, Ford, other airport tenants and national aviation groups filed a federal complaint challenging any move to close it.

There have been at least 11 crashes involving planes coming and going from Santa Monica since 1989, according to federal records. Six were confined to airport grounds, two struck homes, two came down in the ocean and one crashed on a golf course. The airport had about 7,300 takeoffs and landings in August, the most recent month for which data was available.

Santa Monica Airport, established in 1917, is described on a city website as the oldest continuously operating airport in Los Angeles County. After Santa Monica acquired the original 170 acres in 1926, the property became the home of Douglas Aircraft Co., whose DC-3 would introduce average Americans to commercial air travel in the 1930s. At its peak, the company had 44,000 employees, and both Los Angeles and Santa Monica encouraged the building of housing right up to the airport’s perimeter.

Before the United States entered World War II, the federal government leased most of the airport from the city to provide security for Douglas, a major defense contractor. After the war, the federal government returned the improved and expanded property to the city under the “instrument of transfer.”

North Korea applauds ‘knife attack of justice’ on U.S. ambassador

North Korea applauds ‘knife attack of justice’ on U.S. ambassador

By KJ Kwon and Madison Park, CNN

North Korea quickly called the stabbing a “knife attack of justice,” and said it reflected “anti-U.S. sentiment” in South Korea.

The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was in stable condition after undergoing more than two hours of surgery and 80 stitches to his face. He will likely remain hospitalized for three to four days, Dr. Jung Nam-shik at Yonsei Severance Hospital said.

Police identified the suspect as Kim Ki-Jong, a 55-year-old man with a history of unpredictable behavior.

In 2010, he received a suspended two-year prison sentence for throwing a piece of concrete at a Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The motive for his attack Thursday? He wanted to an end to the South Korea-U.S. military drills to better North-South relations, police said. The drills are held annually and are met with harsh criticism from North Korea.

Pyongyang called the attack “just punishment for U.S. warmongers,” according to its official news agency, KCNA.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, on the other hand, condemned the incident.

“This incident is not only a physical attack on the U.S. ambassador, but an attack on the South Korea-U.S. alliance and it can never be tolerated.”

The attack

Lippert attended the event organized by the Korea Council For Reconciliation and Cooperation, and the suspect in the attack was a member of the council, said local police chief Yoon Myung-seon.

The organization advocates peaceful reunification between the two Koreas. Kim was one of its 181 members, all of whom were invited to the event.

There was no request from the U.S. Embassy for security at the event, Seoul police said. There were three police officers on duty at the entrance and 15 more on standby, police said during a news conference.

The attacker, who was seated at another table, ran to the ambassador’s right side yelling something that sounded like anti-U.S. sentiments.

“When the man jumped on the ambassador, I stood up and jumped on the man and they both fell on the ground,” a witness, Jang Yoon Seok told CNN affiliate YTN. “Luckily I got on top of the man’s back and could press him to the floor. Then others came to hold him on the floor.”

Jang said he later saw the knife on the table, which had a wooden handle and did not look like a sophisticated weapon. Seoul police said a knife, about 10 inches long, was used in the assault and the suspect brought it from home.

Videos showed the suspect pinned on the floor, rolled into a blanket and carried out of the building.

He was heard shouting, “The South Korea-U.S. military drills must stop.”

The joint South Korea-U.S. military drills began earlier this week.

READ: Explaining the joint exercises

Close ally

After the attack, Lippert — clutching his right cheek and holding a bloodied arm — was photographed hurrying out of the Sejong Cultural Institute in central Seoul.

The cut to his face runs from his right cheekbone to his lower jaw and is about 4 inches long and about an inch deep, Dr. Jung said. Fortunately, there were no damages on his facial nerve.

Lippert also suffered five gashes in his left arm and hand, but is not likely have permanent damage on his arm function.

“The ambassador was very calm. People around him were taken back but he was very calm,” said Dr. John Linton. “He was speaking with his doctor on what to do. It was surprising.”

Lippert is a longtime friend and confidant of President Barack Obama, and has been a member of Obama’s inner circle since the President’s time as senator.

Obama called Lippert “to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to wish him the very best for a speedy recovery,” according to National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

Lippert has been close to Obama ever since he arrived in the Senate in 2005. Lippert worked with Obama on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and traveled the world with the then-senator as he garnered the foreign policy experience that helped pave the way for his presidential campaign.

When Obama declared he would run for president in the 2008 race, Lippert was by his side again, and was on the road with the candidate and ultimately served as the chief foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign.

Obama nominated Lippert to serve as ambassador to South Korea last year.

Thursday afternoon, Lippert tweeted that he was recuperating.

“Doing well & in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I – deeply moved by the support!,” he tweeted, referring to his wife, his son and his dog. “Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK alliance.” He then added in Korean, “Let’s work together.”

Superbug outbreak extends to LA’s Cedars-Sinai hospital

Superbug outbreak extends to LA’s Cedars-Sinai hospital

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Four people have been infected with a superbug linked to a contaminated medical scope, Cedars-Sinai has discovered, and 67 others may have been exposed. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

By CHAD TERHUNE

In the latest superbug outbreak, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center discovered that four patients were infected with deadly bacteria from a contaminated medical scope, and 67 other people may have been exposed.

The Los Angeles hospital said Wednesday that it began investigating the possibility of patient infections after a similar outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center that sickened seven patients, including two who died.

The widening problem is certain to ratchet up the pressure on the Food and Drug Administration, already under fire for ignoring warnings about these medical instruments.

Device makers, led by Japanese electronics giant Olympus Corp., face similar scrutiny for designing scopes that are difficult to clean of dangerous germs.

“It’s highly likely many hospitals around the country have had outbreaks, and they haven’t been able to connect the dots until this problem was disclosed at UCLA,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union.

“It’s just a little late — especially for those who got infections and maybe died as a consequence,” she said.

Cedars-Sinai said one of the four infected patients died, but for reasons unrelated to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. The other three patients have been discharged from the hospital, a spokesman said.

The superbug CRE is highly resistant to antibiotics and can kill up to 50% of infected patients.

In these cases, the bacteria can be transmitted during a procedure known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.

Nationally, about half a million patients a year undergo ERCP, in which a fiber-optic scope is threaded down the person’s throat to diagnose and treat problems in the digestive tract such as gallstones, cancers and blockages in the bile duct. These instruments are not the same type used in more routine endoscopies and colonoscopies.

Patients at Cedars-Sinai may have been exposed to the superbug from one Olympus duodenoscope in use from August 2014 to mid-February, according to the hospital. That’s the same model implicated in outbreaks at UCLA and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

In a startling admission this week, the FDA acknowledged that the Olympus scope under scrutiny has been on the market since 2010 without the necessary government approval.

Let us know if you have been affected by the hospital outbreaks
Regulators said they decided not to pull the device from the market because the scope is so widely used by doctors and hospitals and they didn’t want to trigger a product shortage.

As for the Cedars incident, an FDA spokeswoman said the agency will be working with the hospital, local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to learn more about these infections, including the cleaning, disinfection and reprocessing steps in use.”

A spokesman for Olympus said the company didn’t believe further regulatory approval was necessary for the 2010 redesign of its TJF-Q180V duodenoscope. At the FDA’s request, the company subsequently filed for approval, which is pending.

Some medical experts and health officials have attributed these outbreaks to the intricate design of these scopes and how it impedes effective cleaning.

A day after the UCLA outbreak was reported by The Times on Feb. 18, the FDA warned hospitals and doctors about the infection risk from these devices. It said that following manufacturers’ cleaning instructions does not ensure that the scopes are free of bacteria, which can become trapped in tiny crevices near the tip of the devices.

Cedars emphasized Wednesday that it had meticulously followed the manufacturer’s instructions.

L.A. County health officials said they found no breaches in the cleaning protocol at Cedars. County officials also are recommending that all hospitals in the county perform a “retrospective review” of ERCP procedures to look for infections.

Before the developments at Cedars, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) sent a letter to the FDA on Wednesday asking what steps the agency is taking on redesign or device cleaning to limit further infections.

They also want to know when the FDA first learned that the scope design could lead to infection.

Scope maker Olympus faces scrutiny over patient deaths, infections
Scope maker Olympus faces scrutiny over patient deaths, infections
Lieu said he pressed his concerns in a meeting Wednesday with Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s chief scientist. Ostroff is slated to take over as acting FDA commissioner when Dr. Margaret Hamburg leaves at the end of March.

“I believe the new revelations at Cedars show that this problem is larger than people may have believed,” Lieu said. “Having met with the incoming commissioner, I am optimistic he is very focused on this issue and wants to solve it.”

FDA officials have defended their response, saying it took time to investigate the source of the infections and what could be done to reduce the risks.

Last month, the agency said it was aware of 135 possible patient infections from January 2013 to December 2014 linked to duodenoscopes.

Olympus spokesman Mark Miller noted that “while any complication affecting a patient’s health is a serious matter, the reported incidence of infections is extremely low” compared with the 500,000 ERCP procedures performed annually.
Cedars launched a review of its scopes and patient records after the UCLA incident became public. The hospital said its infection-control experts used molecular analysis to identify the unique “fingerprint” of bacteria among patients who received ERCP.

To prevent further infections, the hospital took the tainted scope out of service and adopted additional safety measures, including enhanced monitoring of scopes before and after procedures.

Cedars is offering patients who were possibly exposed a free home testing kit.

McGiffert, a consumer advocate, said the intense scrutiny comes too late for some patients.

“It’s really horrific to know so many people underwent these procedures when they could have known the danger beforehand,” she said. “They went in trusting the system, and the system broke down.”

Mystery paralysis in children is perplexing parents — and researchers

Mystery paralysis in children is perplexing parents — and researchers

By Brady Dennis

BALTIMORE — For most of the children who fell ill last year during an outbreak of enterovirus, the symptoms were relatively mild — fever, runny nose, coughing and sneezing.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers Aaron Milstone and Priya Duggal are leading a study to help children who have been paralyzed after contracting enterovirus. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

But then there was this mystery: More than 100 kids suffered an unexplained, polio-like paralysis that struck quickly but even now continues to stump researchers and upend the lives of the families across the country.

For Priya Duggal and her colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University, the biggest puzzle is why those children became paralyzed while their brothers and sisters, who also were exposed to the virus, escaped largely unscathed.

“Is there something in these [paralyzed] kids that is different than the kids that are fine?” said Duggal, a genetic epidemiologist. “Maybe it’s the host, and the virus is a trigger that sets off the paralysis. . . . Maybe it’s something in their genetic makeup.”

Duggal and fellow researchers Aaron Milstone and David Thomas, who are gathering DNA from patients around country, are among the experts trying to find answers for families affected by the paralysis.

Doctors believe the condition, known as “acute flaccid melitis,” is linked to last year’s nationwide outbreak of enterovirus D68, or EV-D68 — part of a family of viruses that appears in summer and fall — but they haven’t proved a connection. The outbreak probably sickened millions of children and sent thousands to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms with severe respiratory problems.

Many of the children with paralysis also got the virus, but initially they weren’t any sicker than their siblings or peers — until they experienced sudden muscle weakness days later.

Some of the children, whose average age is a little younger than 8, have lost the use of an arm or a leg. Some have ended up in wheelchairs or on breathing machines. Although some have improved, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost none have fully recovered.

When viruses mutate, scientists try to stay one step ahead. Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello explains the different ways that viruses like enterovirus D68 can change. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Doctors flummoxed

Recently, as part of the Hopkins genetic study, Duggal sent DNA kits to some of the families wrestling with their new reality. One of the kits arrived at the Sheehan residence in Welches, Ore., a hamlet near Mount Hood.

Bailey Sheehan, then 7, had woken up Oct. 21 with a headache and pain in her neck and back. She soon developed a respiratory infection. The rest of the family — her parents; brother Caleb, 5; and sister Andi, 4 months — also came down with flu-like symptoms.
Everyone but Bailey recovered. Her respiratory problems cleared up, but the nerve pain got worse. One morning she had trouble lifting her arms. She later collapsed while trying to get up from the couch. “Mom,” she shouted, “my leg’s not working!”

Mikell Sheehan rushed her daughter to Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, an hour’s drive away. Bailey’s right arm had grown weak from shoulder to elbow; her right leg was numb from ankle to knee. She underwent tests, including for West Nile virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Physicians determined that Bailey had been infected by enterovirus D68, but they couldn’t say for sure whether that caused the paralysis.

“The doctors just tell us they don’t know [the cause],” Sheehan said. “It’s the most terrible feeling to have to tell your little girl, who’s in so much pain and whose leg won’t work, ‘I don’t know how to fix it and neither do the doctors.’ ”

In her hunt for answers, Sheehan has scoured medical literature, called experts at the CDC and traded information online with other parents whose children have been affected. She has written to President Obama and other elected officials, talked to reporters, and enrolled her daughter in studies like the one at Johns Hopkins.

Nearly four months after her ordeal began, Bailey, now 8, still undergoes intense physical therapy six days a week. She’s learning to ride a bike again; her paralyzed foot must be strapped to the pedals. She recently returned to second grade but still uses a leg brace and a walker.

Other children are having similar struggles.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Sticklen of Joplin, Mo., developed polio-like paralysis this summer during an outbreak of the respiratory virus EV-D68. Billy’s family moved from Joplin to Kansas City, Mo., to access physical therapy at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Occupational therapist Kelly Grabendike works with Billy in the therapy pool on Jan. 28. (Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star)

A 13-year-old boy from Joplin, Mo., spent months in a wheelchair after he became paralyzed in September; he still uses a cane to walk. A first-grade boy in Tennessee lost the use of his right arm. Another girl in Oregon was almost completely paralyzed from the neck down.

In Seabrook, N.H., Dan Dugan, 13, spent nearly 50 days in Boston hospitals last fall after he had paralysis in his left arm and leg. Friends and businesses organized fundraisers. A store posted a sign saying, “Pray for Danny.” After months of rehabilitation, Dan, the youngest of six children, was able to move from a wheelchair to a walker and he recently began using special crutches.

“He’s got a good attitude,” said his father, Patrick Dugan, a mechanic who owns Pat’s Towing in Seabrook. “He’s not down about what happened. He has kind of accepted everything.”
No direct link to virus found
Mary Anne Jackson, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., is one of the researchers trying to explain the inexplicable condition.

When several cases surfaced at her hospital last year in children between the ages of 4 and 13, she and other doctors suspected that enterovirus was the culprit.

“We looked at blood, spinal fluid, stool — thinking we’d find [the EV-D68] virus,” Jackson said. “It just wasn’t there.”

They also saw on MRIs what other doctors nationwide were noticing: distinctive damage to a specific part of the spinal cord. “That’s the classic feature of polio,” Jackson said. “On the scan, it looks like polio.”

Doctors in Kansas City and at other children’s hospitals are examining hundreds of old MRIs of children who had suffered from limb weakness to see if the same pattern on the images may have been overlooked in the past.

Researchers at the CDC are equally perplexed.

In any given year, it’s not uncommon for several cases of acute flaccid paralysis to occur, said Jim Sejvar, a CDC neuroepidemiologist. But when the agency queried doctors around the country, he said, “almost unanimously, you get a response that they’ve really never seen anything like this.”

Like other specialists, Sejvar thinks there’s a striking association between EV-D68 and the sudden onset of paralysis. “If you overlay the epidemiological curves,” he said, “they are almost identical.”

CDC scientists haven’t had any more luck than other researchers in finding a direct link. They recently developed a test for antibodies in the blood that was designed to show whether children who became paralyzed were more likely to have had EV-D68 than other children.

But when officials tested the blood of children who had experienced severe respiratory problems and other flu-like symptoms from last fall and from previous years, nearly all of them possessed antibodies to the virus, offering no new evidence that EV-D68 was the cause of the paralysis cases. It was another dead end.

Freak Accident Kills Virginia Man In His Kitchen

Freak Accident Kills Virginia Man In His Kitchen

A freak accident occurred in a Chesterfield, Virginia, home Thursday evening, as William Hillsman had just sat down to eat dinner at his kitchen table.

Minivan Crashes Into Home, Kills Man Eating At Kitchen Table
Minivan Crashes Into Home, Kills Man Eating At Kitchen Table.

Out of nowhere, an out of control mini-van went airborne off of a snow bank, and came crashing in through his kitchen wall, killing the 54-year-old man instantly.

“A 2008 Kia Sedona was traveling west on Robious Road when it veered across several lanes of traffic at the intersection of Robious Road and Greenfield Drive. The van hit a mound of snow, went airborne, struck several trees and a fence, and went through part of a residence,” a Chesterfield Police spokeswoman stated in an email. “The van’s driver and passenger were transported to Johnston-Willis Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.”

The impact of the car sent Hillsman’s body flying into the backyard, where he was found next to the minivan.

Man Enjoying Dinner When a DEADLY Surprise ERUPTS From His Kitchen Wall

According to the victim’s brother, Tom Hillsman, his brother died instantly. “He never knew what hit him,” he said.

Several neighbors were in their yards at the time of the crash, and heard the loud collision.

“We heard a revving engine, a big loud screech and a big crash. We saw smoke coming out of the yard,” neighbor Jeff Duncan said. “It completely destroyed the man’s kitchen. There were appliances in the backyard.”

Man Enjoying Dinner When a DEADLY Surprise ERUPTS From His Kitchen Wall

Upon arriving to Hillsman’s home, Duncan found the female passenger of the car motioning for help.

“She thought the gentleman who was driving the car was having a stroke and his foot got caught on the accelerator,” Duncan said. “They went across a lane of traffic and into the guy’s house.”

Following the incident, police confirmed that the driver did in fact suffer some type of medical issue prior to the crash. Both the driver and passenger were treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.

Hillsman worked at a local Lowe’s store, where he is remembered as a nice guy and a dedicated worker by his managers.

“He was a very humble guy, very nice guy,” Lowe’s Assistant Store Manager Mike Cobbs said. “Great worker, very knowledgeable, too. He did a lot of stuff outside work — around his home and his neighborhood. I even heard a story today that I didn’t know about. I heard that he used to fix up the front of his neighborhood.”

“He always said hello to everybody,” Cobbs added. “Even if you walked by him and didn’t see him, he was sitting there saying hello to you.”

 

Astronaut’s Final Farewell To Leonard Nimoy Goes Viral

Astronaut’s Final Farewell To Leonard Nimoy Goes Viral

On Friday, actor Leonard Nimoy, famous for his role in the iconic television show Star Trek, passed away at the age of 83, sending shockwaves across the country and prompting an astronaut on the International Space Station to tweet a final tribute to the actor who inspired countless people.

Terry W. Virts, an American aboard ISS, snapped a touching photo of himself giving the Vulcan salute back to Earth Saturday morning, speaking to the impact that Nimoy and Star Trek had on American space exploration, according to the Washington Post.

“Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague.”

According to Fox News, Nimoy died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease inside his Los Angeles home with his family at his side. His last public statement, made last Sunday on Twitter, was both thoughtful and bittersweet.

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory,” Nimoy wrote. The post was tagged with his customary sign off, “LLAP,” which is a shortened version of his character Mr. Spock’s catch phrase on Star Trek, “Live long and prosper.”

Nimoy said that an early stage role left him “obsessed” with pursuing work with a social impact during a 2009 Associated Press interview. A goal which he had easily achieved with his role as Mr. Spock.

“I’ve fulfilled that dream, including Star Trek, for that matter,” he said. “If that’s part of the legacy, then I’m very pleased with that. I would hope the work I chose to do had some reason for being done other than just simply being a job.”

Treasury won’t explain decision to make $3 billion in Obamacare payments

Treasury won’t explain decision to make $3 billion in Obamacare payments

BY PHILIP KLEIN

money wasted flushed down the drain dollars

The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations.

At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.

What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.

Health and Human Services spending on these cost-sharing payments is one of the issues named in House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the Obama administration’s executive actions on Obamacare.

In a Feb. 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Ryan, along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked for “a full explanation for, and all documents relating to” the administration’s decision to make the cost-sharing payments without congressional authorization.

In response, on Wednesday, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Ryan largely describing the program, without offering a detailed explanation of the decision to make the payments. The letter revealed that $2.997 billion in such payments had been made in 2014, but didn’t elaborate on where the money came from. Over the next decade, cost-sharing payments to insurers are projected by the Congressional Budget Office to cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion.

RELATED: More than half of federal Obamacare enrollees were new in 2015

Instead of detailing the basis for making the payments without appropriations, Treasury officials cited the ongoing House GOP litigation, and referred Ryan to the Department of Justice.

In a brief filed on Jan. 26, DOJ lawyers wrotethat the Boehner lawsuit was incorrect in saying that the payments required annual appropriation. “The cost sharing reduction payments are being made as part of a mandatory payment program that Congress has fully appropriated,” the brief read.

But this argument is undercut by the administration’s own previous budget request.

RELATED: Majority of Obamacare customers must pay back tax credits

For fiscal year 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (the division of Health and Human Services that implements the program), asked Congress for an annual appropriation of $4 billion to finance the cost-sharing payments that year and another $1.4 billion “advance appropriation” for the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, “to permit CMS to reimburse issuers …”

In making the request, CMS was in effect acknowledging that it needed congressional appropriations to make the payments. But when Congress rejected the request, the administration went ahead and made the payments anyway.

The argument that annual appropriations are required to make payments is also backed up by a report from the Congressional Research Service, which has differentiated between the tax credit subsidies that Obamacare provides to individuals to help them purchase insurance, and the cost-sharing payments to insurers.

RELATED: Obamacare backers try to sway Supreme Court

In a July 2013 letter to then Sen. Tom Coburn, Congressional Research Service wrote that, “unlike the refundable tax credits, these [cost-sharing] payments to the health plans do not appear to be funded through a permanent appropriation. Instead, it appears from the President’s FY2014 budget that funds for these payments are intended to be made available through annual appropriations.”

Emergency responders investigate possible Virginia Ebola case

Emergency responders investigate possible Virginia Ebola case

Reuters
ebola TX Sheriff Texas Dalls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Medics, firefighters and a hazardous materials team investigated a possible case of the deadly Ebola virus in a Virginia suburb of Washington on Thursday, an official said.

Emergency crews transported a patient from an apartment in the Clarendon section of Arlington County to Virginia Hospital Center using Ebola precautions, said Lieutenant Sarah-Maria Marchegiani of the county’s fire department.

See Also:  Ebola Virus Pictures and Images

Marchegiani said the patient had recently traveled to a country affected by Ebola and exhibited symptoms of the disease.

The patient was unlikely to be suffering from the disease, Marchegiani said.

Nearly 10,000 people have died from Ebola in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hit hardest by the outbreak.

At least 10 people are known to have been treated for Ebola in the United States, and two people are known to have contracted the virus in the United States.

Calls to the hospital were not immediately returned.

(Reporting By Lisa Lambert and John Clarke; Editing by Bill Trott and Will Dunham)