Four employees fired over day care van death

(CNN)Four Arkansas day care employees were fired Wednesday after the death of a 5-year-old who was left inside a van all day.

The staff did not follow company policies and procedures, Ascent Children’s Health Services CEO Dan Sullivan said in a statement. Had they followed protocol “this tragedy would not have occurred,” he said.
“There are simply no words to express the overwhelming sadness we feel at the death of this child. We are heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Ascent will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and state agencies as they investigate this tragic incident,” Sullivan said.
    The West Memphis, Arkansas, location has been closed since the Monday incident.
    The boy’s mother told CNN affiliate WMC the van picked him up around 6:30 a.m. He may have been asleep when the van arrived at the day care early Monday and never got off the van, West Memphis Police said.
    The van remained in the parking lot all day. The day care’s staff found him dead in his booster seat when they came to load children in the van to go home after 3 p.m., police said.
    Police said the temperature in the day care parking lot was 91 degrees Monday afternoon when authorities responded to the incident.
    Officials with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which regulates day care centers in the state, are investigating, police said.
    Ascent’s CEO said he had spoken with the child’s family to express his “deepest sympathy.” He said he has offered to assist with funeral expenses.

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    4th person charged in Detroit genital mutilation case

    (CNN)A Detroit-area wife and mother accused of being involved in a federal female genital mutilation case was arrested Wednesday near her home and released hours later, under the condition that she doesn’t talk to members of her religious community or attend her mosque.

    Tahera Shafiq, 48, is charged with conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation and aiding and abetting female genital mutilation.
    She is accused of entering the Burhani Medical Clinic, a Detroit-area clinic owned by Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida, in February, when federal prosecutors allege the Attars allowed another Detroit-area doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, to perform female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota. Female genital mutilation is the cutting of part of a girl’s genitals and has been illegal in the United States for decades, but this is the first federal case of its kind.
      A criminal complaint filed Wednesday states that “multiple minor girls in Michigan” told authorities that procedures had been performed on their genitals by Nagarwala, and one girl identified Shafiq as being present for her procedure.
      Shafiq, the Attars and Nagarwala are all members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a religious sect of Islam, said Shafiq’s attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris. They attend the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills, Burton-Harris said.
      The federal complaint claims some members of their community “are known to practice FGM on young girls … as part of their religious and cultural practice.”
      But Burton-Harris said, in the case involving her client, no crime was committed.
      “There was no mutilation of any genitals, of any kind,” Burton-Harris said. “There was no federal crime committed of any type. This is, quite honestly, ignorance of religion that has caused fear and an outright attack on this particular sect of Muslims.”
      The Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque, represented by attorney Ashish S. Joshi, released a statement saying there are about 12,000 members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in the United States, and that they have been in the country since the 1950s.
      “We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking,” reads a statement emailed to CNN. “We are proud that women from our community have high levels of educational attainment and enjoy successful, professional careers.”
      Nagarwala, formerly a Detroit-area emergency room physician, internal medicine physician Attar and Farida Attar face one count of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation, two counts of female genital mutilation and one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Nagarwala, 44, and Fakhruddin Attar, 53, also face one count of conspiracy to transport a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a charge that carries a potential sentence of up to life in prison.
      Shafiq made an initial appearance in US District Court in Detroit and was released by the end of the day on $10,000 bond with an ankle monitor, under the condition that she surrenders her passport, has no contact with victims, witnesses, co-defendants or members of the Dawoodi Bohra community. She will be able to leave her house and go to work. She works in medical billing for an MRI office in Southfield, Michigan, Burton-Harris said.
      The Attars were also released on bond with similar conditions last week, according to a federal court official with knowledge of the case. Calls to their attorneys were not returned.
      Fakhruddin Attar’s attorney, Mary Chartier, who spoke to reporters after his initial appearance in April, said her client is “not aware of any crimes committed at his clinic” and that “what happened at the clinic was not FGM.” Farida Attar’s attorney, Matt Newburg, previously told CNN his “client has not admitted guilt.”
      Nagarwala is still in custody, but her attorney, Shannon Smith, sad she will file an appeal next week for Nagarwala to be released under similar conditions as her co-defendants. Nagarwala is also fighting to keep parental rights for her two children, ages 12 and 6.
      “This situation is extremely tragic,” Smith said. “All that is happening is that these children are being made victims and it’s really unfair to the children. It’s been grossly unfair to them.”
      Shafiq is expected to have her preliminary examination hearing July 5.

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      What’s wrong with too many white men in one place?

      (CNN)President Donald Trump helped the nation reach a rare moment of racial reconciliation, but hardly anyone noticed.

      May 18: A man assaults a stranger for speaking Spanish: Hector Torres was talking to his mother on the phone at the Reno airport, when a man started yelling profanities and assaulted him.

      May 19: New Orleans mayor delivers a remarkable speech on race. After his city removed a monument to a Confederate Civil War hero, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the Confederacy was on the “wrong side of history.”

      May 20: A white Mississippi lawmaker calls for a lynching. State Rep. Karl Oliver made the comment on his Facebook page while denouncing the removal of Confederate monuments. He later apologized.

      May 22: Video of a woman’s racist rant against a Latino shopper goes viral. The white woman in a Sprint store in Virginia calls the Latino shopper a “f#$$ sp#c.”

      May 22: A Walmart shopper goes after two women of color. The white shopper in Arkansas told a Latino woman to “go back to Mexico” and called an African-American woman the N-word.

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      This radical video by Shonda Rhimes and Dove is what unapologetic body positivity is all about

      Fat girls dance.

      That three word statement may seem simple and declarative. Yet, the assertion that fat girls do dance challenges a ton of assumptions and stigma around what plus-size people can and can’t do.

      Cathleen Meredith, a self-proclaimed “fat girl,” knows the importance of dancing while people are watching. Meredith is the subject of the first video in an anticipated partnership between acclaimed producer Shonda Rhimes and Dove, called Dove Real Beauty Productions. The series spotlights real women redefining beauty and Meredith is no doubt doing just that through her brainchild Fat Girls Dance.

      The video racked up over 1.5 million views in less than two days, exposing countless people across social media to Meredith’s story of self-acceptance. A shortened version of the video also appeared as an ad during the season finales of Rhime’s shows Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy on May 18.

      Meredith started Fat Girls Dance in August 2016, pledging to post a video of fat girls dancing every single week for a year. Meredith calls the choreographed dance series a “radical act of fearlessness.” Her mission through Fat Girls Dance was to bring more visibility to the joy of plus-size women, and challenge ideas that fat women aren’t active, talented, or sexy.

      “I had always loved myself and always thought that Cathleen was dope. But I didn’t think that Cathleen’s body was dope.”

      Her story is one of resilience and radical body positivity, challenging a society rampant with fatphobia and bias to see the beauty in women like her.

      “I think there is a negative connotation with the word fat,” Meredith says in the video. “But I never saw it as something negative, just something that I was. And I was not negative. I was awesome.”

      But the year-long Fat Girls Dance campaign not only ended up challenging society’s views of fat bodies. Meredith says the watching herself dance on video began to challenge bias toward her body that she didn’t even known she had.

      “When you’re dancing on a video and then you see it, you’re like, ‘Oh god, I am fat,'” she says in the Dove video. “And it’s very strange ’cause you knew you were fat. But you didn’t see it the way you see it on camera.”

      Meredith says looking at herself over and over again in Fat Girls Dance videos helped her truly love her body, realizing its ability and power. Through that self-reflection and self-acceptance, she was able to truly embody a motto of Curvy. Confident. Conqueror.

      “I didn’t know that it was a love affair I had been missing my entire life,” she says. “I had always loved myself and always thought that Cathleen was dope. But I didn’t think that Cathleen’s body was dope.”

      That deep self-love is a lesson Cathleen wants to help spread to other plus-size women who are constantly told their bodies are not good enough. And she hopes to do that through Fat Girls Dance.

      “If I could give that to every fat chick I ever met, then that would be worth it,” she says.

      This thoughtful video on radical body positivity comes at a good time for Dove. The brand was recently criticized by some body positive activists for trivializing and capitalizing the movement by their body wash bottles reflect different body sizes for a campaign.

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      Rower says she learned she was assaulted after friends saw it on video

      (CNN)A University of Washington rower says she found out in April that she was sexually assaulted in December, after friends told her they had seen cellphone video of the incident, a police affidavit says.

      The university said Wednesday it has suspended two male members from the rowing team while the allegations are investigated, and University of Washington police filed a search warrant asking to access the Apple iCloud accounts of both suspects to see if evidence of the crime exists.
      The alleged victim came forward to university officials in April, and campus police say the case is under investigation but no charges have been filed.
        According to a police affidavit, the incident occurred in a dorm room at the university’s Seattle campus in December after those involved attended various parties.
        The victim alleges she met the two male rowers back in the dorm room, and the last thing she remembers about the evening was lying next to one of the male rowers on his dorm bed, according to the affidavit.
        She said she does not remember anything after that, but woke up the next morning, “hungover and still drunk,” the affidavit says. She asked one of the male rowers “what happened last night” and, according to the affidavit, she says his response was that he didn’t know.
        She said she began hearing rumors after the incident, according to the affidavit. People were saying things like, “Oh I heard you had a lot of fun with XXX and XXX [names withheld],” she recalls, according to the affidavit. She says she confronted them and both denied anything had happened, the affidavit says.
        She says she first found out about the incident on April 7, when she was hanging out with two former members of the crew team, and they mentioned there was a rumor going around about what happened on that December night, according to the affidavit.
        The alleged victim attempted to dismiss those rumors, and it was then she was told there was a video of the incident, and both the former crew team members had seen the video, according to the affidavit.
        The alleged victim says she spoke with several other members of the rowing team, who said they had heard that video of the incident had been circulating since December, according to the affidavit.
        On April 10, the alleged victim and her mother met with campus police to file a sexual assault report with authorities.
        The University of Washington said: “We are aware of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct involving two members of our men’s rowing program. Both students were suspended indefinitely from the program pending the outcome of the investigation. We take these matters very seriously and are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our students. As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”

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        Inmate seeks execution by firing squad, says lethal injection too painful

        (CNN)A Georgia inmate is asking to be executed by a firing squad because he says lethal injection would be too painful for him.

        Convicted murderer J.W. Ledford Jr. takes a pain medication, gabapentin, that changed his brain chemistry so much the lethal injection drug pentobarbital might not make him unconscious and would cause him “to suffer an excruciating death,” according to documents filed by his lawyer in US District Court.
        “Mr. Ledford proposes that the firing squad is a readily implemented and more reliable alternative method of execution that would eliminate the risks posed to him by lethal injection,” his lawyers said in court papers filed Thursday.
          The Georgia attorney general’s office replied Friday there was no proof a firing squad would be less painful and contended there was “no substantial risk” he would suffer severe pain in a Georgia execution by lethal injection.

            Lethal injection explained

          The state also questioned the timing of Ledford’s arguments. He is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.
          “Plaintiff has waited until the eve of his execution to suddenly claim that he has been treated for pain with medication that will allegedly interfere with his execution, …” the state’s lawyers wrote. “If plaintiff really thought the firing squad was a reasonable alternative he could have alerted the State years, instead of 5 days, before his execution.”
          Ledford’s lawyers concede they don’t expect their legal strategy to succeed.
          Legal precedent only allows him to suggest an alternative form of execution allowed by Georgia, but the state only authorizes lethal injection, the lawyers wrote. Ledford’s “dilemma illustrates why this standard is unworkable,” the lawyers said.
          The lawyers ask that the judge grant a declaratory judgment that Georgia’s use of lethal injection violates Ledford’s eighth amendment rights, grant an injunction preventing the state from proceeding with an execution using pentobarbital and prevent the state from discontinuing Ledford’s use of his pain medication.

          Killed neighbor in 1992

          Ledford has been on death row 25 years. He was convicted of murder and other crimes in the death of an elderly neighbor, Dr. Harry Buchanan Johnston Jr., in Murray County, Georgia, on January 31, 1992.
          He’s suffered nerve pain in his back, hips and legs for at least 10 years, his lawyers say, and has been treated with gabapentin, commonly marketed as Neurontin, which is often used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain.
          His lawyers say gabapentin alters a person’s brain chemistry by making brain receptors more receptive to the drug and less receptive to other drugs, including pentobarbital.
          In the court documents, the Georgia attorney general’s office calls that statement speculative and says the 5,000 mg of pentobarbital used in Georgia executions is more than enough to prevent Ledford from feeling pain.

          Controversy over midazolam

          Lethal injection is the most common form of execution in the United States, but pentobarbital is not the most controversial element.

            Court rules on the use of lethal injection drug

          Death row inmates nationwide have challenged the use of midazolam in executions.
          Critics say it’s a sedative but not a painkilling anesthetic, meaning the condemned would feel tortuous pain from the drugs that come next.
          Some inmates executed with midazolam convulsed and gasped after receiving injections. For instance, it took almost two hours for an Arizona inmate to die in 2014, with one witness saying it was like a “fish on shore gulping for air.”
          Some states turned to using midazolam because manufacturers of other drugs said they didn’t want their products used for the death penalty.

          3 states allow firing squads

          Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah allow a firing squad to be used for executions, though lethal injection is the primary method in all three states, according to the Death Penalty Information Center website.
          Ledford’s lawyers concentrate on Utah, saying the state has executed three people by firing squad since 1976, most recently in July 2010.
          “In Utah’s most recent execution by firing squad, the inmate was seated in a chair set up between stacked sandbags to prevent the bullets from ricocheting,” his lawyers wrote. “A target was pinned over the inmate’s heart. Five shooters set up at a distance of 21 feet from the inmate, armed with .30-caliber Winchester rifles. One rifle was loaded with blanks so that no one knew which officer killed the inmate. The inmate was pronounced dead two minutes after he was shot.”
          A firing squad has less chance for “operator error” and would reduce Ledford’s chance of experiencing severe pain, his lawyers wrote.

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          Donald Trump takes a not-half-bad stance on medical marijuana

          President Donald Trump attempts to smile as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House.
          Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

          President Donald Trump took on the topic of medical marijuana for the first time since he took office in November, and it appears he’s kind of in favor of it.

          Along with signing the most recent federal funding bill (the one that always brings the threat of a government shut down if it isn’t passed), Trump signed an amendment to the bill Friday that stops the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal funds to arrest people simply for working at a medical marijuana dispensary in a state where it’s legal.

          Here’s Trump’s full statement on the amendment:

          Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. Iwill treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

          In the United States, marijuana is illegal in all forms at a federal level, but 29 states have legalized the production, sale, and usage of medical marijuana in some form.

          Trump’s laissez-faire approach isn’t exactly an endorsement of medical marijuana, but it’s not an active stance against it.

          The amendment doesn’t include anything about states that have legalized recreational marijuana in any form.

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          Jimmy Kimmel put a face on pre-existing conditions, his cousin says

          (CNN)Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin, Dr. Denise Hayes, said Tuesday that the late-night comedian’s emotional monologue about his son’s heart surgery was important for the debate on pre-existing conditions.

          When Kimmel spoke on his show about his newborn son’s heart complications, he thanked his cousin, a pediatric cardiologist, for her counsel.
          “There’s one smart person in our family, and she counseled us and explained everything to our family so I didn’t have to,” Kimmel said.
            Hayes shared what it was like to be a part of the emotional ordeal.
            “It’s very surreal to suddenly see my family experiencing something that I deal with on a daily basis at work,” she said. “I am glad I was able to provide them with some counseling.”
            “What drove Jimmy to make that decision — to say, ‘I am going to speak about this publicly?'” Burnett asked.
            “One of the most important things was to recognize the actions of all the people that helped take care of Billy and helped saved his life,” Hayes replied. “I think Jimmy really wanted to show the appreciation.”
            “Appreciation,” was not all Kimmel wanted to share at Monday night’s show. He offered his thoughts on access to health care, specifically coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
            “We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,” he said.
            Before the Affordable Care Act mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions,”if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” Kimmel added. “(If) you were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”
            President Barack Obama praised Kimmel’s monologue and his plea for health care access.
            “Well said, Jimmy,” Obama wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “That’s exactly why we fought so hard for the (Affordable Care Act), and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!”
            Burnett asked Hayes if she encountered patients prior to the ACA who were turned down from care because of lack of health insurance.
            “Luckily in the critical care setting we would never deny a baby health care,” she responded. “So once you’re admitted to the hospital, you’re absolutely going to get the care you need. There’s things like emergency Medicaid that patients can obtain. The problem comes in the outpatient world when you are trying to get tests done and medications from pharmacies. So any baby with this form of heart disease would’ve absolutely gotten surgery and lifesaving care.”

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            An unusually large number of humpback whales died last year

            (CNN)The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched an investigation Thursday into a large number of humpback whale deaths from Maine to North Carolina.

            The agency declared the deaths an unusual mortality event, the first one observed in humpback whales in nearly a decade. An unusual mortality event (UME) is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.”
            The last unusual mortality event declared for humpback whales was in 2006. Two other events were declared in 2005 and 2003, said Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer for NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. The cause of those UMEs was undetermined.
              Forty-one whales died in the region last year. According to NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources, the 16 year average for the region from 2000-2015 is 14 whales per year. As of April 24, 2017, 15 whales have died.
              Out of the 41 dead whales that died last year, 20 of them have been examined so far, said Mendy Garron, Stranding Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. Of those, 10 appear to have hit marine vessels. The whales’ bodies showed evidence of blunt force trauma, Garron said.
              Vessel strikes have been documented in Virginia (3), New York (3), Delaware (2), Massachusetts (1) and New Hampshire (1).
              Greg Silber, Large Whale Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said many factors could have caused the whales to move closer to shipping routes, but there hasn’t been a spike in ship traffic.
              “It’s probably linked to prey sources,” he said. “Humpback whales follow where the prey is and there may be aggregation in certain areas.”
              Now that the unusual mortality event has been declared, NOAA’s investigation will involve data collection and analysis as well as monitoring environmental and habitat conditions, including human-caused threats.
              Humpback whales were recently taken off the endangered species list, but are still protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Fauquier said.
              Since the marine mammal UME program was created in 1991, there have been 63 formally recognized UMEs in the United States involving a variety of species.

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              Manhattan man pleads guilty to ‘Producers’ scheme

              New York (CNN)A Manhattan resident on Wednesday pleaded guilty to conning several investors into giving him money intended to fund the production of a fake Broadway play, according to Manhattan district attorney spokesman Justin Henry.

              Roland Scahill pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny in the third degree and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree, according to court documents. The former talent agent owes $189,885 to the various investors he was accused of taking money from.
              “Through his elaborate overtures to investors, Roland Scahill scammed patrons of the arts to the tune of more than $200,000. We are pleased to have brought his larcenous scheme to a grand finale,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus B. Vance said in a statement.
                Scahill’s scheme bears a striking resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Broadway musical, “The Producers” in which a producer and his accountant try to bilk victims by getting them to invest in a musical that is intended to fail.
                But Scahill didn’t have plans for his musical to fail, because he didn’t have plans to make the show happen at all, authorities claimed.
                He allegedly told investors he was creating a Broadway play about the life of Kathleen Battle, a famous opera singer, called “The KB Project.”
                Scahill allegedly created an elaborate storyline for his investors, telling them he had secured the life rights to Battle’s story, Lupita Nyongo’o had agreed to play the leading role and the show would play at the famed Booth Theater.
                In his plea statement, Schahill wrote, “All of these representations were false.”
                Over a nine-month long period, Scahill convinced 10 sets of investors to donate money to his project, according to court documents. All of those investments were deposited into two bank accounts. Scahill was the sole signatory on both of those accounts, according to his plea statement.
                In the plea, Scahill writes that he used the investors’ money for “personal expenditures” and “to purchase and trade securities.”
                Scahill paid $100,000 of his debts when he pleaded guilty. He must pay the remaining $89,885 within the next six months. If he does so, he will receive a six-month prison sentence followed by five years’ probation with ongoing mental health treatment, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor. If he fails to pay, he could face additional jail time, according to court documents.
                CNN has reached out to Scahill’s attorney for comment.

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