Tag Archive for: mental health




Editor’s note: NEMiss.News is especially proud to re-publish the following article from MississippiToday.Org. It recounts how State Representative Sam Creekmore IV of New Albany crafted a bill to significantly improve mental health care in Mississippi.


‘Transformative’ mental health bill awaits governor’s signature, funding


By Geoff Pender, Mississippi Today


A bill passed unanimously by the Legislature is expected to bring some reform to Mississippi’s long-troubled mental health care system, which often strands people with mental health issues in jail with long delays in treatment and has been under scrutiny from federal authorities for years.

“House Bill 1222 provides solid solutions to national mental health issues and is so transformative that it could be a really strong model for other states to implement,” said Dr. Katherine Pannel, a psychiatrist, president elect of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association and longtime Mississippi mental health advocate.

The measure, authored by Rep. Sam Creekmore, R-New Albany, would provide mental health training for Mississippi’s law enforcement, often the first point of contact for those suffering illness. It would also expand a court-liaison program, helping families dealing with the court system. It also seeks to improve cooperation between county governments and regional commissions that oversee community mental health centers.

The bill faced some realpolitik setbacks as it made its way through the Legislature. The initial version would have created a tax on vaping products that was expected to bring in $6.5 million a year, more than half of which would go to help counties house people people needed mental health services. But the GOP supermajority in the Legislature would not go for any new tax, so now the measure awaits lawmakers approval of a general appropriation. Creekmore expects the Legislature to provide about $4 million a year for the program.

At one point the bill was amended to include measures proposed by Rep. Kevin Felsher, R-Biloxi, that would have set some stringent restrictions on people with mental illness being held in jail to await treatment. It would also have allowed counties to contract for people to receive private mental health services instead of waiting in jail, with counties paying rates capped at what Medicaid would pay. These measures faced political opposition and were removed, but supporters say the final bill is a major step in the right direction for mental health reform.

“It’s not a panacea,” said Senate Public Health and Welfare Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory. “But one of the most important things that has happened in mental health here over the last several years is that there’s attention being focused on the problem.”

Creekmore was tasked last year with leading a House subcommittee on mental health. He is credited with working to get mental health services, law enforcement, the courts and local governments on the same page in dealing with people with mental health issues in authoring “The Mississippi Collaborative Response to Mental Health Act.”

The final version of the bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously, and awaits Gov. Tate Reeves’ signature and approval of funding in the final days of the legislative session. Creekmore said he is confident both will happen.

“Within eight years, every police officer in Mississippi will have a basic knowledge of how to deal with mental health issues, which will help keep them safer, and help others dealing with mental health crises,” Creekmore said. He said that similar training in Tennessee has greatly decreased the numbers of injuries to officers.

Mississippi Department of Mental Health Director Wendy Bailey said, “HB 1222 aims to provide assistance by both providing training for law enforcement and in helping expand programs that work to divert individuals from inpatient stays at state hospitals to community services near them.”

DMH provides Mental Health First Aid training for law enforcement. The bill would require all officers to receive this eight-hour training over the next eight years. Crisis intervention team officers would receive more intensive, 40-hour training. Creekmore said each law enforcement department would be required to have a CIT officer, or to contract with another nearby agency to have one it could call.

The bill would expand the state’s pilot court liaison program, requiring counties with 20 or more mental health commitments a year to have one, either in the local community mental health center or chancery clerk’s office. These liaisons families as they approach the court system help find treatment options other than commitment to a hospital where appropriate. Bailey said, “We have already seen positive outcomes from the pilot court liaisons over the last year.”

Creekmore said the bill would also require better reporting of mental health cases and issues on the state and local level, and revamp requirements for the state mental health board and regional commissions that help oversee community mental health centers. This will help the state better track where issues are and be able to address them, and improve coordination.

“We believe that services and supports are the shared responsibility of state and local governments, communities, family members and service providers,” Bailey said. “We’re in favor of anything that can strengthen communication, relationships and partnerships, and believe this bill aims to do exactly that.”

Bryan said: “One of the things that’s in Sam’s bill is based on something tried in Monroe, Itawamba and Lee counties. When a family member gets to the point they don’t know what to do, they go to the county clerk’s office, because they know they will do something — same as going to the emergency room, because you know they’ll do something. That starts a legal process, and commitment is necessary in some cases, but to a large extent that’s left over from a time when we didn’t know better and didn’t have any services. This will have someone from the community mental health center on call to go to the clerk’s office and talk to the family, discuss some alternatives and what things are available in the community. That conversation has had a very good effect in reducing the number of commitments, and that’s a good thing in and of itself.”

Pannel said, “We have not seen our Legislature this active on mental health and substance abuse issues in a while.”

“Representative Creekmore has been a true mental health champion in Mississippi,” Pannel said.


NEMiss.News published this story about Creekmore’s early work on the mental health bill in November, 2022: https://nemiss.news/why-must-law-enforcement-deal-with-the-mentally-ill-in-mississippi/



In October 2022, a young Black man went missing after calling to telling his mother white men were chasing him in three trucks. When his body was later found, authorities said they didn’t suspect foul play. His family disagrees. What really happened in Taylorsville, MS?



Black man who said he was chased by whites later found decapitated; Sheriff says ‘no foul play’

Rasheem Carter, 25, a welder from Fayette in Jefferson County, MS, went missing on Oct. 2, 2022, near Taylorsville, MS, in Smith County, where he had undertaken contract work. Carter had previously texted his mother, Tiffany Carter, saying he’d had an altercation with someone at work. The text named a person and said “if anything happens… he’s responsible for it. … He got these guys wanting to kill me”.

On Oct. 1, Rasheem called his mother, telling her that a group of white men hurling racial slurs were chasing him in three trucks. Tiffany told her son to go to the police, believing they would protect him. But that was the last she heard from him.

Rasheem’s skull was found detached from his body. The dome of the skull was removed during autopsy. Photos were released by the family. 

When Rasheem’s remains were found on Nov. 2, dismembered and decapitated, in a wooded area near Taylorsville, Tiffany was in no doubt what happened to her son. But a day later, Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston posted on Facebook that there was “no reason to believe foul play was involved”.  

Rasheem’s remains were found scattered over two acres, and parts of him are still missing. The delay in finding his remains complicates the picture significantly, as there was evidence of animal predation. When a body lies undiscovered for months, animal activity can scatter remains over a wide area. 

An autopsy report by the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office noted injuries. However the report states that the condition of the remains when they were recovered make it difficult to determine when and in what sequence those injuries occurred. For this reason, the examiner was unable to establish a cause and manner of death with any confidence. 

Ben Crump calls for federal investigation

What we have is a Mississippi lynching,” famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump told reporters on Tuesday. Crump, representing the Carter family, is calling for a federal probe into Rasheem’s death. During the press conference, Crump said, “This doesn’t seem like the act of just one individual. It kind of lines up with what Tiffany said. There was a lynch mob of three trucks chasing her son before he went missing.”

“One thing is for certain … This was not a natural killing. This was not a natural death,” Crump said. “This represents a young man who was killed”. Crump and the Carter family believe that the Sheriff’s conclusion that there was no foul play doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, given the other circumstances surrounding the case.

“This was a nefarious act. This was an evil act,” Crump said. “Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter, and we cannot let them get away with this.”

“Nothing to hide” says Sheriff

Carter was in Taylorsville for short-term contracting work. His mother Tiffany says Rasheem was saving money to reopen his seafood restaurant. The restaurant, named for Rasheem’s 7-year-old daughter Cali, had closed during the pandemic. But at the work site, Carter had a disagreement with at least one of his co-workers and fled.

Rasheem had twice visited the Taylorsville Police Department in the lead up to his disappearance. It was around that time Carter texted his mother indicating he was being targeted by at least one individual.

Despite this, Sheriff Houston initially stood by his department’s conclusion that there was no foul play. Earlier evidence “didn’t suggest anything,” he said. However, Houston has since backtracked following a backlash, saying foul play hadn’t been ruled out. “Nothing is being swept under the rug,” Houston said. “There’s nothing to hide.”

“Running for his life”

Carter’s family has also shared an image from a deer trail camera from the day Rasheem went missing. Carter’s mother says she believes her son was hiding from someone, and “running for his life”. Sheriff Houston said the department had reviewed trail camera footage and didn’t find evidence of anyone else in the area.

After months of refusing to share any details of his department’s investigation, either with the public or apparently with the family, Houston gave an interview to NBC. During the interview, he shared details of leads that had been followed and other information about the investigation.

Houston said the department had interviewed “everybody involved” with Carter’s last job. This includes four to five people Carter had mentioned to his mother. These individuals were “ruled out” as suspects in Carter’s death, Houston said, by phone records and GPS coordinates showing that they were at another job site nearly 100 miles away from Taylorsville when Carter was last seen alive.

“His whole demeanor had changed”

A trail camera captured an image of Rasheem on the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2022.

According to Houston, Carter’s colleagues and supervisor said in interviews that Carter “had not been himself” during the week before he went missing. “They said his whole demeanor had changed, they weren’t sure what was going on,” Houston said. “They just said he kept to himself more. He usually joked around, and in the last week or so they weren’t able to do that”.

Houston confirmed that Carter had “a couple of verbal altercations” with at least one co-worker. However, the Sheriff didn’t say what led to the altercation or whether the conflict might have prompted Carter’s change in behavior.

Having ruled out the prime suspects, Houston submitted search warrants to Google, starting in mid-November. Houston hoped this might reveal whether any devices pinged in the area where Carter’s remains were found around the time he went missing. “It’s a last-straw-type deal to determine if anyone else was with him or not,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to use this tool.” But the department has had to revise and resubmit this request several times, most recently last week.

The sheriff also said he would welcome the Justice Department’s involvement, saying he wants justice for Carter’s family “just as much as the family does.”

Carter’s family has dismissed any suggestion that Rasheem was under the influence of any substances at the time of his disappearance. Tiffany Carter also says her son had no history of mental illness that could account for the change in behavior. “I just know what my son told me,” Tiffany said. “I don’t believe anything [police] say. It’s lies after lies.”


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Arkansas loosens restrictions on child labor as feds crack down.

Snow covered parts of California now brace for heavy rain

Germany: 7 killed in mass shooting at Jehovah’s Witness Hall.



Arkansas loosens restrictions on child labor as feds crack down

Earlier this week, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the Youth Hiring Act of 2023 into law. This is only the latest in a series of bills floated in other Republican-leaning states to loosen restrictions on child labor, but it may be one of the most extreme. Arkansas’ new law removes all burdens on employers to verify the age of their employees before hiring them. Previously, employers had to verify that their employees were at least 16. Teens of 14 and 15 years of age had to receive a special permit from the Division of Labor in order to be eligible to work. Both requirements are now gone.

Huckabee Sanders defended the bill, saying the previous restrictions were “burdensome and obsolete”. But in recent years, child labor violations across the country have surged by 70%, according to the US Labor Department. In a call with reporters, one US official said, “This isn’t a 19th century problem, this isn’t a 20th century problem. This is happening today. We are seeing children across the country working in conditions that they should never ever be employed in the first place”.

Federal law forbids children under 16 from working in most factory settings, and children under 18 from working in hazardous jobs. The Department of Labor is investigating cases in several states where children as young as 12 were working in hazardous jobs. It’s hard to see how even this essential protection would be enforced in Arkansas when employers no longer have to verify the age of their workers.

The pandemic and the tight labor market after the economy re-opened seems to have ramped up violations. Businesses see child labor as a way to fill positions without having to offer competitive pay or benefits.

Snow covered parts of California now brace for heavy rain

Western and Northeastern states are in for more severe weather this weekend including heavy rain and blizzard conditions. In Southern California, where residents in mountain communities are still digging out from several feet of snow, an atmospheric river will be bringing torrential rain. The rain will make the snow heavier and increase the danger of more roof collapses, which have already been a problem. Heavy rain hitting snow-capped peaks will also speed melting and put communities downslope in danger of flash floods. 

Northern California is also at increased risk of flooding. In Humboldt County, conditions are so dangerous that ranchers are unable to tend and feed their cattle. Since Sunday, CALFIRE and the US Coast Guard have been teaming up to deliver hay to stranded cattle via helicopter. So far, they have delivered about 3 1/2 tons of hay.

California Gov. Gavin Newsome has requested federal help to cope with weather emergencies in his state, which President Biden has granted. Another atmospheric river is likely to hit the state early next week, and two more appear to be forming in the Pacific.



Germany: 7 killed in mass shooting at Jehovah’s Witness Hall

Yesterday, a 35-year-old gunman identified only as Philip F. opened fire at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting in Hamburg, Germany. Seven were killed, including an unborn baby, and the gunman also took his own life.

The gunman was a former parishioner at the hall. Apparently he had left the congregation about a year and a half ago “voluntarily, but apparently not on good terms”. In January,  German police interviewed the man after receiving a tip. The tipster said the man had been showing hostility towards Jehovah’s Witnesses and raised concerns about his fitness to own a gun. Police interviewed the man but found no reason to confiscate his weapon, which he legally owned for sporting purposes. 

Germany’s gun laws are more strict than the US but more permissive than most European countries. The country is now eyeing stricter gun laws in light of an increase in activity by political extremists. Last year, German police and intelligence forces rounded up dozens of people who were plotting to overthrow Germany’s democratic government. The plan was to install a minor prince as head of state.



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Virginia: 6-year-old who shot teacher won’t be charged.

Biden releases ambitious budget proposal, challenges GOP to show their hand in debt ceiling fight.



Virginia: 6-year-old who shot teacher won’t be charged

A little over two months ago, a 6-year-old boy in Newport News, VA, brought a 9mm pistol to school and shot his 1st grade teacher in the chest. The teacher, 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, spent two weeks in hospital and is still recovering. Now, the local prosecutor says that the boy won’t be charged with any crime, despite the fact that police described the shooting as intentional.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said the “prospect that a six-year-old can stand trial is problematic,” since the boy is too young to understand the legal system and assist in his own defense. However, Gwynn said his office may yet seek charges for adults connected with the case. Gwynn didn’t offer any specifics, but some have wondered whether the boy’s parents could be charged for not having their weapon properly secured. The family claims the weapon was properly secured and that they don’t know how the boy could have accessed it.

More disturbing details emerge

When the case first made headlines, it quickly became apparent that the shooting was the result of a series of failures by school administrators. On the day of the shooting, no less than three teachers attempted to raise the alarm about the boy’s behavior. Two of them even advised administrators they believed the boy had a gun and was threatening to use it. Administrators’ response was to “ride it out” since the school day was almost over. By Feb. 1, the school’s assistant principal had resigned and the superintendent of schools had been relieved of his position.

Since that time, more information has come to light about the boy’s disturbing behavior and missed opportunities for intervention. Several of these came from a letter from Ms. Zwerner’s attorney Diane Toscano, informing the school district of Zwerner’s intent to sue. According this letter, the boy had “choked his teacher until she couldn’t breathe” in one incident a year prior to the shooting. The boy had also taken off his belt at recess and attempted to whip other children with it, the letter said. The day before the shooting, the boy had received a 1-day suspension after he  “slammed Ms. Zwerner’s phone, breaking it”. 

About an hour before the shooting, Zwerner had texted a loved one, expressing her frustration with the situation. The recipient said Zwerner “was trying to get help with this child, for this child. And then when she needed help, no one was coming”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Biden tries to force GOP to show their hand in budget fight

President Biden released annual budget proposal today which contained an ambitious set of objectives. The budget aims to reduce the federal deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years while expanding services to Americans.

Biden’s proposal reduces the deficit and increases revenue for benefits programs by raising taxes on the wealthy. Among the tax proposals are:

  • A 25% minimum tax on billionaires.
  • Increased taxes on corporations.
  • Repeal some of Trump’s tax cuts that benefit individuals making more than $400,000 a year.

The budget also seeks to improve the financial sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid:

  • Improve Medicare’s finances: 1) by negotiating prices and raising taxes on those making $400k+; 2) negotiating lower prescription prices for Medicare recipients.
  • Lower Medicaid costs: 1) by requiring private insurers providing Medicaid coverage to reimburse the program when they overcharge; 2) by empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate additional drug rebates on behalf of states.

The new taxes and savings will fund expanded benefits for individual Americans and strengthen the economy, while reducing the deficit:

  • $35 insulin for all Americans.
  • Restore the enhanced child tax credit that lifted millions of children out of poverty during its brief 7-month run in 2021.
  • Universal pre-school and affordable childcare.
  • Paid family and medical leave.
  • Increase grants for low-income college students.
  • Funding to reduce maternal mortality.
  • More funding for free school lunches.
  • Addressing climate change.

Biden stakes out his position in debt ceiling fight

With this budget proposal, Biden is showing Republicans his hand in the ongoing fight over raising the debt ceiling. Congress has to periodically raise the amount of money it can borrow to cover money it has already spent. Numerous economists, most recently the Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, have warned of the dire consequences of failing to raise the debt limit.

Despite this, Republicans in Congress have not committed to raising the debt limit. Instead, they are holding the good faith and credit of the country hostage to demand massive spending cuts. However, the GOP hasn’t gone on record to say what they want to cut, only what they won’t cut.

GOP leadership has said they won’t consider spending cuts to the massive Pentagon budget or to programs like Medicare and Social Security. But that really doesn’t leave much to cut, except Medicaid.  According to a recent poll, any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security would be wildly unpopular, even with the Republican base.

Republicans also aren’t likely to entertain any tax increases for the wealthy, despite the fact that Trump’s massive tax cuts alone will add nearly $4 trillion to the deficit over the 10 years following their passage.

Rather than staking out his party’s budget position publicly, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has sought to negotiate privately with Biden. By releasing this budget today, Biden is challenging the GOP to share their budget proposal. 

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Read about what’s in Biden’s budget proposal in greater detail here.



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Why slavery is on the ballot in five states. STL school shooter used rifle previously confiscated by police. UN: World’s efforts to avert climate catastrophe “highly inadequate”.




Why slavery is on the ballot in five states

This November, voters in Vermont, Oregon, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee will decide whether to amend their states’ constitutions to abolish slavery in all forms, including prison labor. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery, with the exception of allowing it as “punishment for a crime”. During Reconstruction, this exception incentivized many states to pass laws now called the Black Codes. These laws enabled states to incarcerate black people in huge numbers for minor infractions and force them to work. The practice of involuntary, unpaid labor still persists in prisons in many states.

Recently, prisoners in Alabama went on strike, refusing to perform unpaid work in prisons’ food services, maintenance and laundry facilities. Prisoners said the strike was to protest inhumane and unsafe conditions in prisons rather than the unpaid labor itself. In response, Alabama’s Department of Corrections cut back prisoners’ daily meals from 3 to 2 and canceled weekend visits. Prisoners said these were retaliation, but ADOC cutbacks were necessary as they couldn’t fully function without the prisoners’ unpaid labor.

In 2017, a Louisiana sheriff infamously complained that parole reforms wouldn’t leave him with enough “good prisoners” to perform unpaid work. “In addition to [releasing] the bad ones”, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said, “they are releasing some good ones that we use everyday to wash cars, change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money”.

These sentiments are echoed by correction officials who are opposing the ballot measures in all five states. Savannah Eldridge of the Abolish Slavery National Network draws a parallel between these objections and the arguments against ending slavery over 160 years ago. ” ‘We know it’s wrong, but we can’t afford to end slavery,’ ” Eldridge says. “It doesn’t even sound right.”


STL school shooter used rifle previously confiscated by police

The parents of 19-year-old Orlando Harris, who carried out Monday’s deadly shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, MO, struggled for years to get him help with his mental health issues. They’d arranged treatment for him, got him medication and even committed him to a mental health facility. On Oct. 15, Harris’ mother was alarmed to discovered an AR-15 style rifle among her son’s possessions. She called police, asking that they remove the weapon from the home.

Missouri does not currently have a “red-flag” law. Red-flag laws enable police officials to confiscate weapons with a court order. Confiscation can be initiated by guardians, family members, or law enforcement when a person is deemed a threat to themselves or others. But without such a law in place in Missouri, the police that answered Harris’ mother’s call had no choice to conclude that Harris was legally permitted to own the firearm, despite his mental health history. However, police did arrange for an adult third party known to the family to take possession of the rifle.

Unfortunately, this was the very same gun that Harris used to murder a 16-year-old student and a 61-year-old teacher at the school just 9 days later. Police say they are unsure how Harris got it back.

St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack says, “I’ve got to give credit to [Harris’] family. They made every effort that they felt that they reasonably could. And I think that’s why the mother is so heartbroken over the families that paid for his episode”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



UN: Nations’ efforts to avert climate catastrophe “highly inadequate”

The United Nations Environment Program issued its Emissions Gap report today and the findings are grim. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres summed it up by saying, “Global and national climate commitments are falling pitifully short. We are headed for a global catastrophe”.

Bill Hare, head of Climate Analytics, says the report, “confirms the utterly glacial pace of climate action, despite the looming precipice of climate tipping points we’re approaching”.

The report finds that the world’s leading climate polluting nations are not doing nearly enough to head off the worst consequences of climate change. Even those nations’ goals are “highly inadequate”. Even if every nation honored their commitments in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords (which they aren’t), average global temperatures would rise by 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. This falls far short of the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the tipping point at which the planet will experience the worst effects of climate change.

The main culprit is fossil fuels and world leaders’ unwillingness to wean us off of them quickly enough. UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen says that to avert disaster, we would have to reduce current emissions by 45% by 2030.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab). 




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Savannah police, FBI search for toddler, missing 5 days. Pentagon struggles to address rising suicide rates. Russia strikes Kyiv in retaliation for Crimea bridge explosion.



Savannah police, FBI searching for toddler, missing 5 days

Quinton Simon, 20-months-old, was last seen in his playpen by his mother’s boyfriend, Daniel Youngkin, around 6am on Wednesday morning. Quinton’s mother, Leilani Simon, 20, reported him missing a little after 9:40am that day, shortly after she awoke. A call from the dispatcher to local police said Leilani believed her son could not have opened the door on his own and that someone must have come in and taken him. Police have since exhaustively searched the home and the surrounding area, including a swimming pool and nearby pond and woods.

Because police could not rule out the possibility of an abduction, the FBI has joined the investigation. Police have said they don’t suspect foul play at this time and have not named any suspects or persons of interest in the case. Quinton’s biological father was not in the area at the time of his disappearance, and police do not suspect a custody dispute. The boy’s parents, the mother’s boyfriend, and the child’s grandmother are all cooperating with detectives.

Disturbing details

There are several oddities in the case that have garnered media attention and rampant speculation on social media. Quinton, his 3-year-old brother Zayne, his mother and his mother’s boyfriend all apparently live with Leilani’s mother, Billie Jo Howell. Howell and her husband now have custody of both Quinton and Zayne. Court records show that in September, Howell had attempted to have her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend evicted from the home. Last week, Howell said of her daughter, “I don’t know if I can trust her or I don’t. I just know I’m hurting and I want this baby home. He’s my baby”.

Quinton and Zayne’s babysitter Diana McCarta normally watches the boys at her home during the day and told reporters she was supposed to watch the boys that day. However, McCarta told reporters she’d received a text at 5:29 am Wednesday morning stating that she wouldn’t be babysitting that day. This was “kind of odd,” McCarta said, “because I have them even when [Leilani] doesn’t work”.

Although, Howell usually keeps the boys, Leiliani had been caring for them while Howell was away on a business trip. While Leilani was taking care of the boys, McCarta said, “I started seeing things that weren’t quite right”. McCarta claims, for example, that she’d seen the boys outside unsupervised while in their mother’s care.

Despite these ominous circumstances, police say they don’t yet have any reason to believe Quinton is dead and remain hopeful of finding him alive.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Pentagon struggles to address rising suicide rates

Since 9/11, four times as many veterans and active-duty military personnel have died by suicide as have died in combat, according to a 2021 study by the Cost of War Project. Between 2015 and 2020, suicides among active-duty service members have increased by 40%. In some postings, the number nearly doubled. 

The Cost of War study attributed the high suicide rates to service members’ “high exposure to trauma — mental, physical, moral, and sexual — stress and burnout, the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life”. In recent years, active service members are also increasingly contending with added stressors such as food insecurity and housing insecurity.

Although Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged the problem and issued directives for mental health resources and quality of life improvements, service members still face many barriers when trying to get the help they need. The culture of self-sufficiency in the military means that service members fear stigma and consequences for their career if they seek help for their mental health. Even when they do request help, resources are stretched thin, and service members may have to wait weeks for their first appointment.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

If you’re experiencing depression or thoughts suicide, help is available by calling or texting 988. You can also access an online chat at 988lifeline.org.



Russia retaliates for Crimea bridge explosion with missile launches missiles at Kyiv, other Ukrainian cities

On Saturday, an explosion destroyed part of the Kerch bridge which connects the Crimean Peninsula with Russia. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, and the Kerch bridge served as both a physical and symbolic reunification of Crimea with the Russian motherland. President Vladimir Putin personally attended its dedication. Since the invasion begin, the bridge has also been a major military supply artery for the Russian military.

It’s not clear as yet what caused the explosion. Russian authorities have blamed a truck bomb, but independent analysts have disputed the evidence for this. Some have speculated the Ukrainians may have used a special “drone boat” to attack the bridge. Whatever the case, Putin has branded the attack on the bridge an “act of terror” by Ukraine, and ordered today’s wide-ranging missile campaign across the country in retaliation.

Part of this relation included several missile strikes against the capital in Kyiv, the first in several months. In the early days of the invasion, Russia tried and failed to occupy Kyiv. For four hours, air raid sirens rang out in every region of Ukraine, apart from Crimea. Dozens of missile strikes targeted civilian and energy infrastructure in various cities, possibly signaling a major escalation in hostilities.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


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NEMiss.News some things call for a casserole



“…little children let us not love in word and speech, but in deed and truth.” 

–1 John 3:18


Some things call for casseroles.


I like words. Words are powerful. Words can give comfort. Words can cause pain. Words are indeed powerful and should be employed with utmost caution. When times dictate that we express our love for one another, words can be soothing and pleasant but not an acceptable substitute for loving, constructive action. Action conceived in truth, action dedicated to real needs, action that makes any problem slightly better speaks with hopeful volume.

NEMiss.News Steve Patterson and CHhicken

Steve Patterson and his beloved companion birddog, Chicken

Actually, it is a pretty simple concept used in Southern culture with great effect for many generations. Every Southern church lady understands that the action of making a cake or a pie or, especially, a casserole and delivering it to a grieving or sick family in need speaks louder than all the words in Mr. Webster’s book. We have always known that speaking words alone, no matter how sincere or eloquent, and then doing nothing, is not enough. Without action, words are of little benefit.

In recent days, we have heard a lot of empty, yet sincere, words. Our thoughts and prayers are indeed with all those impacted by the senseless killing of innocent little children and folks everywhere. Our attention has been especially drawn to the horrific slaughter of innocence in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

We ask, “Why?” Over and over again we ask “Why?” Why were 19 precious little fourth grade children and two devoted heroic teachers slaughtered? Why? Why? What words can be said? Are there any powerful enough to ease the suffering, the fear, the hopelessness?

What actions would best demonstrate our love for one another? Words continue to fail us. We need a few casseroles!

Some say we need more mental health awareness. Most agree we need better access to mental health resources.  I agree. So why not bake a casserole filled with adequate dollars for mental health delivery and deliver it to the American people? Well, Democrats in Congress and in state houses tried that approach, and Republicans either blocked the bills or vetoed the bills in states with Republican Governors.

Others say we must improve architecture to make public places more secure and safer for use and enjoyment.  I agree.   Most folks, in fact, agree. Well, once again Democrats in state after state have offered this solution, but the casserole never gets cooked because of Republican obstructionists.

Many say guns are the problem. I say guns are definitely one of the problems. Folks, let’s face the facts and start telling the truth. We have a gun problem in this country! I’ve been around guns my entire life. I received a single barrel twenty-gauge Winchester shot gun on my tenth birthday. And before that, I was fairly proficient with BB guns and pellet rifles. Many a medicine bottle and fruit jar met their demise at my hand.

Over the years I’ve owned countless shotguns and hunting rifles made by manufacturers all around the world. I dare say I’ve shot more quail with a side -by-side double barrel fox shotgun than most anyone reading this article. I’ve hunted ducks, geese, deer, turkey, elk, and quail in 11 different states. I know a fair amount about guns. Especially hunting guns.

I also know I have no need or desire to ever own a gun that is designed solely to kill and maim people by the dozens in seconds. Those should be reserved for the military, law enforcement, and a “well regulated militia,” namely the national guard, as mentioned in the Second Amendment of the Constitution!

We need to bake a casserole that removes access to weapons of mass destruction from the recipe. Democrats, namely Joe Biden and Bill Clinton, did this in the 1990’s, and gun violence dropped by a whopping 47 percent, and rose again upon repeal by a startling 246 percent.

Alas, Republicans, who are bought and paid for by the NRA, once again were obstructionist and refused to renew the ban when it came up. Banning assault weapons should be the first layer of our lovingly baked casserole.

The second carefully prepared layer should be the love-adorned healthy, sensible ingredient of red flag laws that allow law enforcement to remove guns from anyone’s hands that families, churches, counselors, trained professionals, or law enforcement itself views as either a threat to society or to themselves.

Of course, none of this can be permissible without due process standards.

And, finally, our lovingly prepared casserole should contain the wholesome, easily digested ingredient of universal background checks. We require drivers licenses and drivers tests to drive an automobile; shouldn’t at lease the same standard be applied to owning and presumably operating a deadly weapon? Who among us really wants to keep violent criminals and crazed folks armed?  We require fishing licenses to go fishing, and that’s a good policy, but for God’s sake, isn’t licensing gun ownership equally as important? The casserole will never be lovingly delivered to a grieving America until the obstructionists, the oppressors have a change of heart.

So, I have a proposal. Let’s all unite in a loving spirt and send our thoughts and prayers to the do-nothing Republican obstructionists. Let us pray that they will loose themselves from the corrupt dollars of the gun lobby and have a change of heart that allows America to address a big problem with a lovingly baked casserole filled with good ole common sense.

Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles were the two teachers murdered by a mentally ill 18 year-old child using a military style assault weapon last week in Texas. They were killed desperately trying to protect 19 little fourth grade students. According to the New York Times, Mrs. Garcia was eventually found by officers “embracing children in her arms pretty much until her last breath.” Visions of that horrific scene are clear in my imagination and can never be unseen again. What if my Grandson were in that room? Or yours? No greater horror can be imagined. What Mrs. Garcia was doing is what others that knew her expected of her. She was protecting her Kids to the very end.

Only two days later, Mrs. Garcia’s husband John Garcia died of a broken heart, after a memorial service for his beloved wife. The couple is survived by four children ranging in age from 13 to 23.

It’s easy to pray for the Garcia family and the Mireles family, too. These two teachers were angels before the shooting and now have beautiful protective wings in heaven. Angels are easy to pray for, but do they really need our prayers? I don’t know, but it makes more sense to me to pray for those still with us who need it most. Those who need just an ounce of these angels’ courage to find divine inspiration to act.

America is a great country because we are problem solvers. Gun violence is indeed a problem that needs solving. There is a casserole filled with common sense solutions waiting to be prepared, and the American people eagerly await its delivery.

If young Afghan little girls can pray for their Taliban oppressors, if Church families in Charleston South Carolina can forgive and pray for a white supremacist that murdered their loved ones, we can surely pray for the Republican obstructionists to solve this problem.

Nineteen precious little souls needlessly perished in Uvalde, Texas. Which one of these angels could have saved the world? I say every single one had that potential. But we will never know, will we?

Angels don’t need my thoughts and prayers. Those among us who allow this carnage to continue do. From this day forward, dear Republican obstructionists, my thoughts and prayers are with you – we need a solution-filled casserole!

A Columbine survivor speaks out, encourages action over words: 




Navy desertions up along with suicides. Biden, Congress act on baby formula shortage. Russian soldier pleads guilty in Ukraine war crimes trial.




Navy desertions up along with suicides

Earlier this month, the father of a deceased US Navy sailor spoke out about how conditions aboard his son’s ship, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, and inaction by Navy brass contributed to his son’s suicide. Xavier Hunter Sandor was the third Washington sailor to commit suicide in one week in early April this year. In all, seven sailors from that same ship have committed suicide since 2019. Other Washington sailors who have attempted suicide described the unlivable conditions aboard the carrier, which is undergoing a refit in Virginia, as well as a “toxic leadership” environment on the ship.

Following Sandor’s death, the Navy belatedly assigned additional mental health resources for Washington sailors. But when Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith visited the carrier, his remarks illustrated the dismissive attitude towards mental health that others have described. Smith acknowledged to sailors the Navy could have done more to “manage your expectations” about the assignment, but minimized the sailors’ ordeal saying “you’re not in a foxhole”.

According to the latest available figures, Navy suicides rose 16% between 2019 and 2020. The tragic suicides have also drawn attention to a growing number of Navy deserters. In 2021, there were 157 new Navy deserters, compared with 63 in 2019 and 98 in 2020. Of the 152 deserters remaining at large as of May 9, two are from the USS George Washington. Captured deserters can spend years in prison.

Lenore Yarger, a resource counselor with the GI Rights Hotline, explains that sailors in crisis feel “trapped” both by nearly unbreakable 6-year contracts and a lack of help or concern from their superiors.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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White House, Congress act on baby formula shortage

President Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula. Specifically, the order directs suppliers of raw materials used in producing formula to prioritize orders to formula manufacturers. It’s not clear what effect this will have since a shortage of raw materials doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. However the order also authorizes the Department of Defense to use commercial aircraft to import formula from overseas that meets US quality standards. This will have a more immediate effect.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed two bills to address the current crisis and prevent future ones. The first will allow beneficiaries of the WIC supplemental nutrition program greater flexibility in brands and amounts of formula they can purchase. It also requires formula manufacturers to form contingency plans to meet future supply disruptions. This bill passed with broad bipartisan support at 414 to 9.

The second would grant the FDA an additional $28 million to remove fraudulent formula products from stores and to boost the workforce focused on formula. This bill also passed, but with only 12 Republican votes. Republican critics of the second bill say does too little to address the current crisis.

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Related: Experts warn parents against making their own formula.

How formula maker’s greed led to infant deaths, shortage



Russian soldier pleads guilty in Ukraine war crimes trial

A 21-year-old Russian Army sergeant pleaded guilty in the first war crimes trial of the Ukraine conflict. Vadim Shishimarin admitted to shooting 62-year-old male civilian in the early days of the invasion. Shishimarin said that he saw the man talking on a cell phone and shot him, fearing he was calling in their position to Ukrainian resistance fighters. When the judge asked “Do you accept your guilt?”, Shishimarin replied “yes… totally”. The soldier faces a sentence of 10 years to life.

Reporters crowded into a tiny Kyiv courtroom to observe the proceedings. The baby-faced Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hoodie, sat in a glass cage just a few feet from the victim’s widow. “I feel very sorry for [Shishimarin],” the widow said. “But for a crime like that – I can’t forgive him”.

Ukrainian officials say they have identified over 11,000 war crimes committed by Russian soldiers that they intend to pursue and prosecute. In general, war crimes trials take place when a conflict is over. However, Ukrainian prosecutors argue it is better to begin prosecutions now since conflicts can last for years, by which time witnesses can be hard to find and evidence may be lost.

The Ukrainian attorney defending Shishimarin has emphasized that the world is watching Ukraine’s actions and that care must be taken to ensure the proceedings are just. There are concerns the trials could complicate the plight of Ukrainian prisoners of war in Russian custody. Displaying prisoners of war publicly is also a violation of the Geneva convention.

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Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Brooklyn subway shooting suspect tipped police to his location. Feds warn of cyber attacks against energy firms. Israel: More deaths as tensions escalate ahead of Passover.




Brooklyn subway shooting suspect tipped police to his location

Yesterday afternoon, 30 hours after a shooting in a Brooklyn subway station left nearly 30 people injured, police apprehended their suspect, Frank R. James, in a bustling section of East Village in Manhattan. Reports indicate that James himself called police and tipped them off to his location. He told them he would either be at a particular McDonalds or down the block charging his phone. When police arrived an hour later, he was indeed down the block charging his phone. Police arrested him without incident.

James, 62, seems to have been somewhat transient and has links to Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Ohio, New York and New Jersey. In the months leading up to the shooting, James had posted numerous videos and other media online in which he expressed sympathies for black nationalist ideology. He also had criticized New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ policies on crime and his push to clear out homeless encampments in the city. James also alluded to his mental health struggles and disparaged interactions he’d had with the city’s mental health services.

Police had originally only named James a “person of interest” since witnesses had described the attacker as 5’5″, 170 lbs, whereas James is in fact 6’2″ and close to 300 lbs. After re-interviewing some witnesses, police were more confident in considering James a suspect.

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Feds warn of possible Russian cyber attacks against energy firms

Several federal agencies issued an alert warning that malware had been detected in computer systems of some energy firms. The malware types, which the investigators refer to as “cyber tools”, are “exceptionally rare and dangerous”. The malware is designed to disable and interfere with firmware governing industrial processes in liquid natural gas (LNG) processing and other operations related to energy production.

Experts from one of the government’s private cyber security partners said that the malware was “consistent” with previous Russian attacks. However, government sources did not confirm the suspected origin of the malware. 

No one would say how they found the malware, only that they found it before any attack occurred. Robert M. Lee of Dragos, a cybersecurity firm, said, “We’re actually one step ahead of the adversary. None of us want them to understand where they screwed up. Big win”.

The malware would have disrupted various industrial processes, including possibly disabling safety controls. This could have resulted in the destruction of critical machinery and loss of life, as well as power outages in some areas.

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Israel: More Palestinian deaths as tensions escalate

Israeli police and military personnel have killed 5 more Palestinians in the last 24 hours. Among those killed was a 34-year-old Palestinian human rights lawyer who was driving his nephews to school. Israeli troops stopped the car near Nablus in the West Bank and shot the lawyer in the chest. The Israeli military say they were in Nablus near a holy site purported to be the final resting place of the Biblical figure Joseph. Palestinians recently vandalized the site.

In the past two days, Israeli troops also killed four youths, including a teenager who police say had thrown a Molotov cocktail. So far, 12 Israelis, 2 Ukrainians and more than 20 Palestinians have been killed in recent clashes. Recent actions by Israelis hard-right government that have further marginalized both Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have stoked tensions.

There may yet be more trouble coming on Friday. That day, Jewish Passover celebrations will begin, with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan already under way. On Friday, Jewish pilgrims will be making their way to the Temple Mount, a site revered by both Jews and Muslims. Hamas and other groups have called on Palestinians to assemble at the site to “protect” it from Jewish activity.

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Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!

School wins right to continue electric shocks on disabled students. Miami: Rescuers say “no chance” of more survivors. Haiti president’s killers posed as US agents.


School for disabled children wins right to continue shocking students

The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass., has successfully challenged the FDA’s ban on the use of electric shocks on its disabled students to “correct behavior”. The Center is the only school in the US that administers electric shocks to its students. The Mental Disability Rights International (DRI) and the United Nations have criticized the practice and consider it a form of torture.

The shocks are administered via anklets equipped with Graduated Electronic Decelerator shock devices. When a student misbehaves, staff can activate the device remotely, delivering a powerful shock.

According to the school’s website, the school hosts “emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems, as well as those with intellectual disabilities or on the autism spectrum”.

Last resort?

Advocates of the practice, including the children’s parents, consider electric shock an effective means of discouraging aggression or self-harm. They even argue it is more humane than use of pharmaceuticals. After the ruling, parents of students at the school said, “We have and will continue to fight to keep our loved ones safe and alive and to retain access to this life-saving treatment of last resort”.

Troublingly, a 2006 report by the New York State Education Department found that the shocks were anything but a last resort. That investigation found that staff used shocks when students exhibited, “behaviors that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.

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Miami condo: Rescuers admit “no chance” of more survivors

Rescue workers at the site of the Miami condo which collapsed two weeks ago today have announced that the mission has shifted from rescue to recovery. As of yesterday evening, a total of 54 bodies had been uncovered, as well as sundry human remains. 86 are still unaccounted for.

At the site, rescue workers, officials, survivors and victims’ families were led in a brief ceremony of remembrance by local clergy. Many of them embraced and wept at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Extraordinary efforts, slim odds

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava summed up the situation at a news conference. Levine Cava said the decision to transition to recovery was a difficult one. She recognized the extraordinary efforts of the rescuers under difficult and dangerous conditions.

“They’ve used every possible strategy, and every possible technology available to them to find people in the rubble,” she said. “They’ve removed over 7 million pounds of concrete and debris from the mound… They ran into a building they were told could collapse, and they braved fire, smoke, torrential rain, and strong winds in the hopes of finding people alive”.

Work will continue to recover and identify the remains of as many victims as possible.

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Haiti presidents’ assassins posed as US agents

Following a shootout, Port-au-Prince police believe they have killed four of the men who murdered President Jovenel Moïse in his home yesterday. They have also detained two other men in connections with the murder. Other suspects remain at large.

So far, officials have not identified any of the suspects. But police chief Leon Charles has described the assailants as mercenaries. Yesterday, witnesses stated that they believed the men were foreigners, as they spoke English and Spanish. It’s not certain how many men took part in total.

Video from Moïse’s home has also confirmed earlier reports that his assassins posed as US drug enforcement agents. Audio from the tape captures one man speaking into a megaphone in English saying, “This is a DEA operation”.

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1/3 of COVID survivors suffer psychiatric, neurological issues. Biden agenda gets boost. AstraZeneca jab linked to rare clots. 4000-year-old stone map found.


Study: 1/3 of COVID survivors suffer mental, neurological problems

Scientists at Oxford University in the UK have surveyed the health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from US. Their analysis revealed that as many as one-third of survivors were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months. The link between the disease and the disorders remains unclear. Of the 14 neurological and mental disorders studied, the two most common among survivors were anxiety and depression. Occurrences of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer but still significant, especially among those who had suffered severe COVID symptoms.

Paul Harrison, a co-author and professor of psychiatry at Oxford, says that “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial”.

The study was not able to determine the biological or psychological mechanisms behind the complications. The researchers urged further in-depth studies of the problem to help identify treatment and prevention measures.

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Biden agenda gets boost from Senate parliamentarian

A decision by the Senate parliamentarian this week has broadened the application of “budget-reconciliation” rules. A bill passed through reconciliation requires only a majority vote of 51 in the Senate. This will allow Democratic Senators to bypass any filibuster threat from Republicans, which would need 60 votes to overcome. Senate Democrats used reconciliation to pass the most recent COVID stimulus with a simple majority.

The parliamentarian’s ruling means that reconciliation could potentially apply to a broader range of bills. This could include bills relating to infrastructure, immigration and Medicare reform.

This could create a big opening for Biden’s ambitious $multi-trillion infrastructure agenda. Republican Senators oppose key parts of the bill, including an increase in corporate taxes to pay for it. Instead, the GOP wants a combination of “user fees” (such as toll hikes) and public-private partnerships to pay for it. Biden is betting that GOP expectations for everyday Americans to foot the bill will prove unpopular even among Republican voters.

While the new ruling means Biden will not necessarily have to bow to GOP demands, there are some divisions in the Democratic party to overcome. One such stumbling block is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who wants to increase corporate taxes by a relatively modest 4% compared to Biden’s 7%. It’s unclear where Manchin and other dissenters plan to make up the 3% difference.

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EU regulator links AstraZeneca jab to rare blood clots

A study by the European Medicines Agency has found a possible link between AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine and subsequent blood clots in some recipients. The agency said that the blood clots were an exceedingly rare complication, and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh possible risks. For the moment, the agency has not recommended any restrictions for administering the shot.

The report on the findings explains that “One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin”.

For the sake of perspective, the review examined a few dozen cases of blood clots out of approximately 25 million recipients in the EU and UK. The vast majority of recipients have had no issues. Most of the cases arose in women under 60 within 2 weeks of their vaccination, but the agency was not able to identify more specific risk factors.

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Archaeologists: 4000-year-old slab is “3D map”

Researchers studying a newly re-discovered slab of rock say that carved markings on the stone may be the oldest 3-dimensional map in Europe. The slab dates to the Early Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1650 BC. Local archaeologist Paul du Chatellier first uncovered the stone in 1900 during excavations of a burial ground in western Brittany, France. The slab was then lost for almost a century until archaeologists re-discovered it in 2014 during an excavation of du Chatellier’s home.

Examining the curious markings on the stone, archaeologists suspected it might be a map. A survey found that the markings mapped an 18-mile stretch of the Odet River valley, where it was found, with 80% accuracy.

Archaeologists speculate that the slab depicted the features and boundaries of the territory of an ancient chieftain.

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Renters still being evicted despite ban. Cities adopt new approach on mental health crisis calls. COVID variants will “sweep the world”…That and more below.


Renters still being evicted despite CDC ban

Last year, the CDC issued a ban on evictions during the pandemic. The ban has been effective in many cases, and may have prevented as many as 250,000 evictions since last year. However, shoddy enforcement and inconsistent application mean that many renters are being forced out regardless.

One of the many drawbacks of the ban is that renters must know about the order and how to use it. While as many as 90% of landlord’s have legal representation in eviction cases, fewer than 10% of tenants do. This means many tenants have no one to inform them of their rights under the ban, and what they have to do to qualify.

Even in many cases where renters are aware of the ban, there are many loopholes that landlords and their attorneys can exploit. The ban does set out punishment for landlords who push out qualified tenants, including fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and even jail time. But these punishments have almost never been enforced.

Advocates are calling for a blanket eviction ban and greater oversight to protect beleaguered renters. The December COVID stimulus package has also promised $25 billion in rental assistance. But this money has been slow to reach the people who need it.

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Denver sends mental health workers to 100s of 911 calls instead of police

According to a Washington Post database, police dispatched to mental health calls have fatally shot nearly 1,400 people with mental illnesses since 2015. Several cities across the country are adopting a community-centered approach to address the problem. Some have set up pilot programs to dispatch community aid and mental health workers to emergency calls instead of police.

In Denver, the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) pilot program has directed mental health calls to two-person teams with a medic and a clinician. The teams answer calls related to mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness, or substance abuse issues. Since June last year, the STAR program has successfully answered 748 mental health calls in the past year. None of these calls required law enforcement assistance, and none ended in arrests. A report found that an expansion of the Star program could reduce police calls in Denver by nearly 3%.

The STAR program emulates the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS was created in 1989. In 2017, CAHOOTS answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume.

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COVID variants set to “sweep the world”

Experts say more contagious and possibly more lethal variants of the coronavirus may soon be the dominant COVID infections worldwide. The UK variant, which emerged late last year in the English county of Kent, is 70% more contagious and perhaps 30% deadlier than the original COVID virus. It now accounts for 90% of all COVID cases in the UK and has spread to more than 80 countries worldwide.

The South African COVID variant is even more contagious than the UK variant, but it is unclear whether it is more lethal. One of the major vaccines in circulation from AstraZeneca has been found to be far less effective in protecting against it. South Africa is now pinning its hope on a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Another new variant has emerged in the Amazonian region of Brazil. Experts say this variant is 3 times as contagious as original COVID. Like the South African variant, the Brazil variant has a mutation on its spike protein, which may make it more resistant to existing vaccines.

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US lawmakers push foreign allies to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia

Last week, the Biden Administration announced that the US would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive war in Yemen. The 6-year conflict between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels has devastated the already poverty stricken country. Aid groups estimate that as much as 80% of Yemen’s population of 30 million now depend on aid for bare survival. The UN has recently warned that as many as 400,000 Yemeni children under 5 could starve to death this year.

US lawmakers, including Democrat Ron Wyden, are calling on foreign US allies to follow Biden’s lead. Shortly after Biden announced the end of US support, the UK government approved a $1.4 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. The State Department so far has not weighed in or made any official appeal to allies to halt Saudi weapons sales.

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