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Parkland Grieves After 2 Shooting Survivors Commit Suicide

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  • A second student who survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last year died in an apparent suicide Saturday, less than a week after another survivor took her own life.
  • The two deaths prompted families and local leaders to come together and discuss new ways to address mental health issues in their community.

Student Dies of Apparent Suicide

Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students took their own lives this month, about a year after surviving a mass shooting at the school that left 17 dead.

On March 17, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello, a recent graduate of Stoneman Douglas, died of an apparent suicide. Her family said that she struggled with survivor’s guilt and had recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Sydney Aiello/ GoFundMe

In the shooting, Aiello lost her longtime friend, Meadow Pollack. She also lost her fellow classmate Joaquin Oliver and a school staff member, Coach Aaron Feis. She wrote a Facebook post dedicated to them a few days after the shooting.

A funeral for Aiello, who was a student at Florida Atlantic University, took place on Friday.

Second Death

A few days after Aiello’s death, on March 23, another student who survived the shooting also took his own life. According to Broward County District 3 Commissioner Michael Udine, the student was a 17-year-old male sophomore who attended Stoneman Douglass.

Coral Springs police spokesperson Tyler Reik said the death was an apparent suicide, but explained that authorities were still conducting an investigation and said that ”the cause of death hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.”

Police did not release the second student’s name and said that it is not known whether or not his death can be linked to the school shooting.

Community Reacts

Local leaders met Sunday to grieve and find a way to deal with the new tragedy that has hit their community.

Over 60 teachers, mental health specialists, parents, and school, city, county and law enforcement officials met for an emergency meeting to discuss a plan to better address mental health issues.

“You must communicate with your children, and children, you’ve got to talk to your friends,” said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed during the shooting said this was something parents and officials had warned about immediately after the tragedy last year.

Almost as many people died after Columbine as died during the event, and that was suicide.” he said.

“We lost 17 beautiful souls on Feb. 14 and… now it’s not only 18, it’s 19… The way to prevent number 20 is for parents to ask the questions: have you thought about killing yourself? … If they answer yes to those questions, they’re at risk and you need to get help.”

Parents who attended the meeting said the Broward County Schools Superintendent’s Office is working to reach every parent in the district via text, email, social media, and robocalls.

Petty also said that the district would be giving parents the “Columbia Protocol,” a set of six questions to ask their children. Based on their answers, they will be given several emergency resource options to reach out to for help.

Several nonprofits are also dispatching therapy groups that will offer free services.

Superintendent Robert Runcie encouraged parents to take time to speak with their children in everyday settings. “We need to remove the stigma from talking about suicide,” Runcie said.

Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg tweeted calling for action from the government and school district after learning of the deaths.

Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s emergency management director and a former state representative from Parkland, also called on the Florida legislature to help.


Sandy Hook Parent

The news of the two deaths in Parkland highlight the longterm impact mass shootings can have on victims and their families.

Unfortunately, news of recent suicides are not only appearing in Parkland. On Monday morning, the father of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim was found dead in an apparent suicide in Newtown, Conn.

Jeremy Richman

Jeremy Richman, 49, was found at about 7:00 a.m. in the Edmond Town Hall, a movie theater and event space in Newtown. Richman was the father of Avielle Richman, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (The Miami Herald) (The New York Times)

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources

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NYC Mayor Declares Public Health Emergency After Measles Outbreak

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  • New York City has declared a public health emergency following a severe measles outbreak, largely in Brooklyn.
  • Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood will be required to be vaccinated against measles, or else they will have to pay a fine.
  • This has received some backlash, but Mayor Bill De Blasio maintains that this is both legal, and the only way to combat the issue.

Public Health Emergency in NYC

Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a public health emergency in New York City in response to the recent measles outbreak.

The measles outbreak began in the city in October, and since then there have been 285 confirmed cases of the disease. This is a very large increase, as there were only two cases of the diseases in New York City throughout all of 2017.

The outbreak is most severe in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where a vast majority of the cases have been reported. De Blasio is mandating that every one in four zip codes in and near the area get the MMR vaccine, which according to the disease, is 97% effective. Those who do not will have to pay a $1,000 fine.

During a press conference in Williamsburg, De Blasio insisted that vaccines were the only way to stop the measles from spreading throughout the city.

We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback in New York City. We have to stop it now,” he said. “The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine. It’s crucial for people to understand that the measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time tested.”

The Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, specifically children, have experienced the most cases of the measles. In December, the city mandated that schools, daycares, and yeshivas, which are Orthodox Jewish schools, had to turn away kids who were not vaccinated. Forty patients alone have come from one yeshiva that did not follow this order.

According to the Commissioner for New York City’s Department of Health, Dr. Oxiris Barbot,  leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community largely approve of vaccines. However, anti-vax beliefs have still spread, causing lower vaccination rates.

Dr. Barbot blames this movement for the outbreak.

“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” she said in a statement. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science. We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk.”

Measles Parties on the Rise

Dr. Barbot also spoke out against “measles parties,” which are situations where parents of unvaccinated children expose their kids to someone who already has measles. This was a popular practice before vaccines were widespread, as many think that by exposing their child to the disease, they will build their immunity.

However, this has not actually been scientifically proven to be effective. In fact, this can actually just result in your child getting the measles, as the disease is highly contagious. Health officials are concerned that this fad is coming back into fashion for New Yorkers.

“We are concerned about families having measles parties,” said Dr. Barbot. “I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.

The CDC’s Disease Detectives

New York City will be using “disease detectives” from the CDC to both enforce this mandate and to stop the spread of measles throughout the city.

Like their quirky name suggests, disease detectives investigate the spread of measles through various stages of questioning, and other kinds of research. On their site, the CDC describes their role by saying, “Like investigators at the scene of a crime, these disease detectives begin by looking for clues.”

They work to anwer four main questions: Who is sick?; What are their symptoms?; When did they get sick?; And where could they have been exposed to the illness? They then try to learn who else could have been exposed, and figure out if these people have been vaccinated.

Reactions to Plans

The city’s plan to prevent the spread of measles had been met with mixed opinions. Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, questioned whether or not this was withing Mayor De Blasio’s power.

“The city’s order provides that people will be vaccinated without their consent, an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment,” she said in a statement.

In addressing this public health crisis, the government is required to pursue the least restrictive means possible to balance individual autonomy with the public health risk. In this case, measures such as a quarantine or penalties for non-vaccination may be permissible, but forced vaccination is not.”

A spokeswoman for City Hall, Marcy Miranda, countered this idea and told the New York Times that they will not be physically forcing anyone to get the MMR vaccine.

“We will not be forcibly vaccinating individuals,” she said. “(Officials) will work with people to educate them about the safety and importance of vaccines and will issue necessary fines as needed.”

De Blasio also maintained his right to mandate vaccinations during his press conference, saying, “We are absolutely certain we have the power to do this.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC 7) (The Hill)

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Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, and Others Could Face Prison Time for College Admissions Scam

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  • Fourteen people involved in the massive college admissions scandal have agreed to enter guilty pleas for their role in the scam.
  • Actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli are not part of that group.
  • According to TMZ, all 37 remaining defendants including Loughlin and Giannulli, have been offered pleas, but prosecutors will only accept ones that include prison time.

Huffman Pleads Guilty

At least fourteen individuals, including actress Felicity Huffman and one coach, have agreed to plead guilty for their participation in a scheme to get students into elite schools.

Last month, 50 people, including wealthy parents, celebrities, tech executives, college coaches, and test proctors from across the county, were indicted as part of the Justice Department’s massive investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

The admissions scheme centered on William “Rick” Singer, owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company. Parents are accused of paying Singer and his firm to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and falsify athletic records. The bribes and falsified records allowed their children to secure admission to elite schools like UCLA, USC, Stanford, and Yale.

Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 in bribes so that her daughters SATs could be corrected by a Harvard graduate, giving her a 400 point boost. She agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to federal prosecutors.

The maximum sentence for those charges is 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release and fines. However, in exchange for a plea, prosecutors are recommending incarceration at the “low end” of the sentencing range. This means she will likely face anywhere from four to 10 months in prison.

Along with that recommendation, prosecutors will also recommend a $20,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release.

In a statement Monday, Huffman said, “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,”

“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”

Huffman went on to apologize for betraying her daughter, who she said knew “absolutely nothing about my actions.”

Over a dozen other individuals also agreed to enter guilty pleas to charges of fraud and conspiracy, including Los Angeles marketing guru Jane Buckingham, Bay Area real estate developer Bruce Isackson, and former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas Michael Center.

Loughlin and Giannulli Could Face At Least 2 Years in Prison

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were not part of the group accepting pleas.

However, according to TMZ, they still likely to face prison time. TMZ reported that the remaining 37 people charged in the case, including Loughlin and Giannulli, have all been offered plea deals. but prosecutors will only accept deals with prison time attached.

Each deal includes varying recommendations for prison sentences, which are determined by the amount they paid in bribes, among other factors.

While Huffman’s plea may reportedly allow her to serve as little as four months in prison, Loughlin and Guilianni, who allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes, could face a minimum of two to two and a half years.

According to TMZ, “Our sources say prosecutors have given all defendants an ultimatum … reach a plea deal QUICKLY or else they will go to a Federal Grand Jury and add charges, including money laundering, which significantly raises the low end of prison time.”

Shortly after TMZ’s report, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced a new wave of indictments. Loughlin, her husband, and 14 others were indicted on fraud and money laundering charges.

Netflix Shelves Huffman’s Film

Netflix responded to the news of a planned guilty plea by postponing the release of “Otherhood”, a romantic comedy that was due to be shown on the streaming service on April 26.

The movie, which features Huffman alongside Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett, does not currently have a new release date scheduled, however, Deadline reported that it may stream in August.

The Central Park Five miniseries, “When They See Us,” in which Huffman stars as a prosecutor, is still set to be released May 31 on Netflix.

See what others are saying (CNN) (The Los Angeles Times) (NBC News)

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Baltimore City Council Asks for Mayor’s Resignition

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  • The Baltimore City Council is asking for Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign after a report showed that she had been working on book deals with the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its Board of Directors.
  • The State Prosecutor opened an investigation into the incident.
  • Pugh is currently on a leave of absence for medical reasons but says she intends to return when in good health.

Pugh’s Book Deal controversy

Members of the Baltimore City Council signed a letter on Monday requesting the resignation of the city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh.

Pugh is currently embroiled in a scandal surrounding book deals she made with the University of Maryland Medical System, a group she was on the Board of Directors of. Between the years 2011 and 2018, UMMS paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of her children’s book “Healthy Holly.” They then distributed them to locals schools and daycares.

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According to the Baltimore Sun, who first reported on the controversy in March, Pugh also sold copies of Healthy Holly to Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities.

When these deals started, Pugh was a state senator. During this time frame, Pugh signed onto legislation that aided UMMS. Kaiser Permanente was also working on a contract with the city of Baltimore for employee benefits.

Since the controversy has unfolded, Pugh has stepped down from the board at UMMS. She also returned her most recent payment of $100,000, as the books in that order had yet to be published.  The Maryland State Prosecutor has also opened an investigation into her various book deals, as not disclosing these deals on ethics forms could count as perjury or misconduct.

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“I sincerely want to say that I apologize that I have done something to upset the people of Baltimore,” she said issuing an apology at a public appearance. “I never intended to do anything that could not stand up to scrutiny.”

On April 1, Pugh announced she would be taking a leave of absence from her role as mayor, but cited reasons unrelated to the scandal. Instead, she said the leave was to recover from pneumonia, which she had recently been hospitalized for. Her spokesperson said that she plans to return to the job when her health allows it.

Pugh’s Resignation is Requested

Fourteen councilmembers signed the resignation request. The only member who did not sign was Jack Young, who is serving as the acting mayor while Pugh is out.

The letter is a brief two sentences, and states that her resignation would be in “the city’s best interest.”

With the letter, Councilmember Eric Costello released a statement claiming that the ongoing investigations make it “impossible for Mayor Pugh to govern effectively.”

Peter Franchot, Maryland’s Comptroller, has also asked that Pugh resign. On Sunday, he made an appearance on WBAL-TV saying that this scandal has harmed the city’s reputation and that the first step in repairing it is her leaving office.

“Now (Baltimore) is kind of a laughing stock around the country because of this crazy scandal that the mayor is involved in,” he said during an interview. “We need to emphasize that this kind of disgrace is not what we’re known for in Maryland or in Baltimore. And we need to recover from it. But at a minimum, she has to step aside.”

See what others are saying: (The Baltimore Sun) (CBS Baltimore) (PBS)

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