Military Families In Hawaii Heading To Court Over 2021 Jet Fuel Leak That Tainted Water 

A massive environmental injury case will be going to trial in Hawaii this week. The case itself regards an incident that occurred in 2021, when a US military fuel tank facility, that was located underground, poisoned thousands of people after leaking jet fuel into Pearl Harbor’s drinking water supply. 

According to reports from NPR, a US District Court judge in Honolulu will hear the lawsuit from 17 “bellwether” plaintiffs, who are made up of relatives of military members that represent more than 7,500 others, including service members in three federal lawsuits.  

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According to the court documents, the US government admitted that the spill, which occurred at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on November 20th, 2021, was a nuisance for the plaintiffs, and the US “breached its duty of care,” causing compensable injuries within the plaintiffs. 

The US government, however, disputed the plaintiff’s claims that the residents were exposed to jet fuel at such a high level that they experienced their alleged health effects. The health effects cited range from vomiting to rashes, with some even alleging their pet dogs experienced vomiting and illness. 

The plaintiffs submitted declarations which described how they got sick after the water crisis, leaving them with ongoing health problems such as seizures, asthma, eczema, and vestibular dysfunction, according to NPR

One of the individuals impacted is Nastasia Freeman, the wife of a Navy lieutenant and mother of three. Freeman described how the family initially assumed they had food poisoning from Thanksgiving 

“I had developed a rash on my arms with sores and lesions on my scalp, feet, and hands accompanied by a headache. I had a very strange sensation that I had never had before — I felt like my blood was on fire,” she said

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Nine days after the jet fuel leak, Freeman was told by a nurse that they had received multiple calls relating to tap water. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are arguing that Navy officials knew that the water had been contaminated but didn’t tell the residents not to drink it.

Freeman’s declaration filed in the case said: “It felt like we were being gaslit. We knew the water wasn’t safe, but the Navy was telling us that it was. They said they didn’t know what was in the water and that they were ‘investigating.'”

According to an investigative report performed by the Navy in 2022, a series of mistakes starting in May 2021 is what led to the November leak. In May an operator error caused a pipe to rupture, and caused around 21,000 gallons of fuel to leak. Most of that fuel spilled into a fire suppression line where it remained for six months, and caused it to sag, so when a cart rammed into that suppression line in November, the 21,000 gallons of fuel was released. 

“A bellwether trial helps attorneys to understand the likely success or failure of the cases that are in the pipeline,” explained Loretta Sheehan, a Honolulu-based personal injury attorney not involved in the water litigation.

“The outcome can help determine future damages to be awarded or settlements,” she said.

student loans

President Biden To Forgive $7.4 Billion In Student Loan Debt For More Than 270,000 Borrowers

President Biden’s administration announced last week that it will be using existing student loan forgiveness programs to cancel more student loan debt. They’re planning on forgiving $7.2 billion for around 277,000 borrowers, according to reports.

The Department of Education has seemingly made it easier for groups like public sector workers to qualify for loan forgiveness. The administration also launched a repayment plan to make it easier for low-income borrowers to pay back their loans. 

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The Biden administration has authorized, in total, the $153 billion in student loan debt cancellation for around 4.3 million people; more than 9% of all outstanding federal student loan debt. 

The Biden administration has eagerly been showing how much student loan debt they’re canceling especially due to the election in November. Around $3.6 billion of student loan debt relief will be delivered to individuals enrolled in the SAVE plan. 

“Republicans in 18 states want to prevent their own constituents from benefiting from the SAVE plan. They want to end SAVE, make their constituents’ payments go up and keep them under mountains of loan debt with no end in sight,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The SAVE plan launched last year and around 8 million borrowers have enrolled with about 360,000 people getting their remaining debt canceled.

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Biden has previously attempted to implement a student loan forgiveness program in 2022, however, it was rejected by the Supreme Court before it could actually deliver any debt relief. 

Biden has, however, canceled more student loan debt than any other president, and he’s mainly been utilizing existing programs. The administration has used the existing programs but made it easier to access for more US citizens. 

“Since the fall, the Biden administration has been working on set of new proposals, based on a different legal authority, to deliver relief to certain groups of borrowers.
For example, those whose student loan balances are bigger than what they initially borrowed could see their accumulated interest wiped way,” wrote Katie Lobosco for CNN

“Those proposals have yet to be finalized, but some could go into effect as soon as this fall, according to administration officials.”


Dozens Of US Citizens Evacuate Haiti On State Department Charter Flight Amid Increase In Gang Violence 

Dozens of US citizens have been evacuated from Haiti on a State Department charter flight this past Sunday while others wait to be taken back to the states as well. The departures are a result of increasing gang violence and political instability which has left necessities like food and gas in short supply. 

The State Department said that the flight departed from Cap-Haitien and landed in Miami International Airport, but they warned Americans to only consider taking the flight if they could reach Cap-Haitien safely. Government officials are now “assisting with next steps,” after more than 30 Americans made it safely to Miami over the weekend, according to CNN

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A Florida-based nonprofit has also been working to rescue the more than 100 people that are asking for assistance in leaving Haiti. 

The problems in Haiti have increased greatly within the last month. Security sources have stated that rival gangs and coalitions have been “wreaking coordinated havoc,” according to CNN

More than 100 miles from Cap-Haitien, in Port-au-Prince gangs took the airport under siege, and they now control 80% of Port-au-Prince, according to estimates from the United Nations. Through this control, the gangs have “severely limited supplies of food, fuel, and water across the city.” 

Vedant Patel of the State Department said that they will continue to help US citizens truing to leave Haiti, calling it a “fluid and quickly evolving situation on the ground.” 

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“We’ll be in touch with them should additional measures materialize. [Haiti is now] one of the most dire humanitarian situations in the world.”

Project DYNAMO is a non-profit, veteran-led, donor-funded international search, rescue, and aid group based in Florida that has also been conducting evacuations, receiving more than 100 rescue requests from Americans currently in Haiti. 

“What we find is, every time we rescue one person, that actually turns into three or four or five. That’s usually how it works. It is very hard, [we’re] trying to focus on Americans who are in remote areas where no other rescue resources exist. We’ve been working day and night,” co-founder and CEO Bryan Stern told CNN Monday afternoon.

Stern also stated that the waiting list of Americans needing rescuing in Haiti is currently in triple digits, but Project DYNAMO is in need of more funding.

“We need people’s help, and we need it badly. Some of these people are in extremely dire circumstances, and we can do it. I just need help with resources,” he said. 


New York Governor Sending National Guard Into Subways To Combat Crime 

New York governor Kathy Hochul has announced that she will be sending the national guard into New York City’s subway system in order to combat surges of crime. The move has been met with disagreement from some city residents and police reform activists. 

Hochul stated on Wednesday that 750 national guard patrolmen as well as 250 state police and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officers will also be deployed to patrol the stations, as well as conducting bag checks. 

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“These brazen heinous attacks on our subway system will not be tolerated,” she stated according to the New York TImes. 

New York City residents and police reform activists have spoken out against the new measure from the NY Governor. 

The founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), Robert Gangi, spoke to the Guardian and stated that an increased police presence in the NYC subways would work to further criminalize Black and brown commuters. 

“This is overkill. This is a waste of resources,” he stated. 

The Guardian also reported some residents social media posts who were against Hochul’s motion for the national guard to be in the subways. 

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One user posted a photo of his commute and stated: “Seriously I take the subway every day with my kid and it’s fine and safe, Does this look like we need bag checkers or national guard?”

“Seems a bit insane to deploy the national guard to check folks’ bags on the subway. Just random bag checks for public transit customers minding their own business?” wrote another user on X.

The announcement was made citing high-profile crimes in recent weeks, such as a 64-year-old man being pushed onto the tracks at Penn Station, and an MTA employee being cut while working an early morning shift. 

The New York Times reported, however, that the data regarding whether or not subway crime is increasing is unclear. The same can be said when it comes to the data showing that an increased police presence in subway systems is actually needed. 

There’s already a record number of New York City Police officers patrolling the subway systems. 

According to reports from Gothamist, there are approximately 3,500 NYPD officers overseeing the subways, and New York City has spent a record-breaking $155 million in overtime pay for subway patrol officers in 2023.


Ten Cases of Measles Confirmed in Florida Elementary School Outbreak

On Tuesday, the Broward County schools superintendent announced that seven children at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, Florida, have tested positive for measles. According to the Florida Department of Health, ten cases have been reported statewide.

Lawmakers and health officials are urging parents and state officials nationwide to take extra precautions to safeguard their children.

In a letter last week, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the health department is “deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” The letter also stated that “up to 90% of individuals without immunity will contract measles if exposed.” However, “Individuals with a history of prior infection or vaccination who have received the full series of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) immunization are 98% protected and are unlikely to contract measles.”

“Because your child may have already been exposed, you should watch your child for signs and symptoms of the disease, including a rash that often develops on the face and neck before spreading to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include high fever, which can reach 105°F, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. All children presenting with symptoms of illness should not attend school until symptoms have fully subsided without medication.”

According to the most recent data from the Florida Department of Health, nine out of the state’s measles cases have been reported in Broward County, and all of those cases have involved children. Two of the children are younger than four years old.

The Florida Department of Health released a memo to healthcare workers, reminding them to report any suspected cases.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) lists measles as one of the world’s most contagious diseases, which spreads through respiratory droplets. The virus remains active and infectious in the air and surfaces for up to two hours.

“Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death. Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children. Measles infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and a rash all over the body.”

Its complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection causing brain swelling), severe diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. “Measles itself also weakens the immune system and can make the body ‘forget’ how to protect itself against infections, leaving children extremely vulnerable.”

The organization also recommends that all children get the measles, mumps, and rubella MMR vaccine. Due to widespread vaccination efforts, the United States had eliminated measles in 2000. It is unclear what the vaccination status was for the children under four.

US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who represents the city of Weston, urged Florida Surgeon General Ladapo to declare a public health emergency and make it a requirement that unvaccinated children stay home during the outbreak.

In contrast to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, Ladapo’s advisory suggests that parents of unvaccinated children make their own decisions about whether or not to send them to school. The CDC advises unvaccinated individuals to remain home for at least 21 days after exposure, around the time it takes for symptoms to manifest.

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In addition to demanding that DeSantis do more to protect Floridians, Wasserman Schultz demanded that Ladapo resign or be fired.

“I would have thought he would have stepped in here or made sure there was some communication to ensure that irresponsible guidance isn’t issued by his surgeon general. And the fact that he hasn’t taken action to roll that back is representative of Ron DeSantis’s disinterest in keeping the public’s health safe.”

On Monday, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Chief Medical Officer Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, issued a statement responding to the outbreaks.

“Measles can be particularly serious for children and potentially deadly. At least 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the United States who contract measles is hospitalized. Nearly 1 out of 20 children develop pneumonia, the most frequent cause of measles-related death in young children. Approximately 1 child out of every 1,000 with measles will suffer brain injury, potentially causing convulsions, deafness, or intellectual disability. For unvaccinated babies who contract measles, 1 in 600 can develop a fatal neurological complication.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but is still the most easily transmitted human virus presently in circulation. Thankfully, by following established public health principles, Americans can make informed decisions, prevent outbreaks, and protect our communities.

Vaccination is the best and safest way to protect children. Two doses of measles vaccine are more than 97% effective in preventing the disease entirely, and vaccinated people may continue to engage in routine activities even if they are exposed to someone with the disease.”

A total of 58 cases were reported last year, and 35 measles cases have already been reported in several states this year. With just 91.7% of Florida’s kindergartners vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, the state is falling short of the national 95% vaccination rate target.


Thousands of AT&T Customers Report Phone Service Outages Across America

On Thursday morning, a large portion of AT&T’s customer base in the US experienced a network outage, rendering them unable to use the internet or make and receive calls.

Among the more than 74,000 reported outages as of 9 am, the top cities experiencing problems were Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, according to the tracking site Downdetector.

While some Verizon and T-Mobile customers also experienced outages, the companies stated that those affected were likely attempting to reach AT&T users. As of 7 am, 3,000 Verizon outages and 1,100 T-Mobile outages were reported by customers. Verizon told CNN, “Verizon’s network is operating normally.”

“Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier. We are continuing to monitor the situation.”

AT&T acknowledged the outages in a statement but did not specify why the system failed.

 “Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them. We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored.”

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The company did not provide a timeline for when the system would be completely restored, but it did say that portions of the network are starting to recover. AT&T has been directing people to contact customer service via direct message in their online responses to customer complaints.

According to CNN, an anonymous source in the industry said that the problem seems to be associated with the way cellular services hand off calls from one network to another, a process called peering. The source also stated there is currently no evidence to believe that a cyberattack caused the widespread outages.

A significant concern is that due to the outages, some individuals might be unable to reach emergency services by dialing 911.

On X, San Francisco’s Fire Department told users they were aware of the issue and the trouble it posed for people in crisis.

“We are aware of an issue impacting AT&T wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 911). We are actively engaged and monitoring this. The San Francisco 911 center is still operational. If you are an AT&T customer and cannot get through to 911, then please try calling from a landline. If that is not an option, then please try to get ahold of a friend or family member who is a customer of a different carrier and ask them to call 911 on your behalf.”

Officials from emergency services nationwide, including Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Georgia, have stated that the outage is affecting their operations. Many of the departments advised relying on Wi-Fi for calls.

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On Thursday morning, members of the New York Police Department informed CNN that their AT&T phones could not make or receive calls or emails unless they were connected to Wi-Fi.

Officials from emergency services, such as those from The Massachusetts State Police, also told residents not to test their service by placing 911 calls.

“Many 911 centers in the state are getting flooded w/ calls from people trying to see if 911 works from their cell phone. Please do not do this. If you can successfully place a non-emergency call to another number via your cell service, then your 911 service will also work.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement saying the city is gathering more information to address the outages adequately.

“Atlanta’s e-911 is able to receive inbound and make outbound calls. We have received calls from AT&T customers that their cellular phones are in SOS mode.”

The company’s FirstNet network is still up and running, according to an AT&T representative. As a more robust network than AT&T’s commercial network, FirstNet offers coverage for police, fire departments, and first responders during national disasters.


Nearly Entire Population Of California Remains Under Flood Alerts 

Currently almost the entire population of California remains under flood alerts as the state has experienced major rain storms within the past few weeks with more on the horizon. Officials are urging people to try to stay off the roads in the early days of this week, according to reports

Southern California is still recovering from a large storm that had some areas see record-breaking rainfall and hundreds of dangerous mudslides. The storm’s forecasted for this week aren’t projected to be that severe, however, parts of California could see up to 5 inches of rain, and currently 37 million residents are under flood watches, according to CNN

The National Weather Service office in Los Angeles warned of flooding and a possibility of 2 to 5 inches of rain, with up to 10 inches expected in other areas such as Santa Lucias. The office posted online to “avoid flooded roadways and prepare your property for flooding.” 

The office also warned of mud or rock slides on canyon roads as well as an increased presence of debris in areas recently overwhelmed by wildfires. 

“Multiple rounds of moderate to heavy showers, and perhaps a couple of thunderstorms, are expected to affect the region from this evening through Wednesday morning.”

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Central California saw the first round of rain late Saturday afternoon with a second storm on Sunday moving more slowly. At one point this weekend, around 38 million people were under a flood watch. 

State Governor Gavin Newsom’s office announced on Sunday in a news release that they’ve activated the state’s operations center. 

“Our state is taking this next storm seriously, and we ask all Californians to take steps now to prepare.”

The Weather Prediction Center has issued excessive rain outlooks through Tuesday for many parts of both California and Nevada. Santa Barbara is currently at a Level 3 of 4 risk through the rest of the day, and Los Angeles is currently at a Level 2. 

For areas at higher elevations, the National Weather Service in Sacramento also warned of winter storms, effective through Wednesday morning. 

“Heaviest snowfall will be tonight into Monday morning. Sierra travel will be difficult with possible road closures, chain controls and reduced visibilities,” forecasters said on X.


Job Openings In The US Grew In December According To New Labor Data 

The US job market currently remains stable with workers being in demand in multiple industries, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau reported that the number of available jobs in the US rose in December to an estimated 9.026 million. 

The data specifically came from the Bureau’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report, according to CNN. The December data marks the first time job openings exceeded 9 million since September. 

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Economists were surprised by this as the additional jobs have outpaced November’s 8.925 million jobs, which initially led them to believe December would see around 8.7 million jobs added. 

“We’re back over the 9 million mark, which is a three-month high, and the bulk of the gains were in the private sector,” Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, wrote.

“So the good news is that there are options out there — if one is still unemployed or is looking for extra work. The bad news is that it means that the consumer could spend more, and that’s not what the Fed wants right now,” she added. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell discussed that the labor market has “remained robust but in better balance” than it was during the initial years of the pandemic. In early 2022, job openings reached above 12 million. 

The Bureau noted that other aspects in the Survey report “changed little” from months previous, which could be an indication of the labor market slowing down. 

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“We’re all trying to figure out whether we’re going to manage a soft landing [of tamed inflation without significant job losses],” Fiona Greig, global head of investor research and policy at Vanguard, told CNN.

 “There’s no doubt that the level of openings is still exceeding pre-pandemic times [of 7 million]. The labor market isn’t as tight as, say, a year ago; but it is still strong,” she added. 

In December, layoffs increased to 1.616 million from 1.531 million the month before, which is still well below pre-pandemic averages. 

Tech, media, and transportation industries are seeing massive layoffs, leading to a lack of employee confidence for those in the field. According to research published by Glassdoor, their recorded employee confidence index dropped in January to 45.6%, a record-low. 

“This is a reflection of increasing fear around job security among employees,” Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor’s lead economist, told CNN.


US Experiences Record Breaking Cold Temperatures From Intense Snow And Ice Storms

An intense arctic blast has brought heavy snowfall, wind, and ice storms to the US, threatening to bring record breaking low temperatures and dangerous conditions, especially in the South, this week.


Judge Rules That Idaho Cannot Enforce Ban On Gender-Affirming Care For Transgender Youth 

A federal judge has ruled that Idaho cannot enforce a law that would ban transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone treatments. This is being hailed as a major victory for the families who had sued the state initially challenging the law.

This past Tuesday, US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote a preliminary order that stated the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees equal protection and due process to give the parents the right to get gender-affirming care for their children. 

“Transgender children should receive equal treatment under the law. Parents should have the right to make the most fundamental decisions about how to care for their children.”

“We’re thankful the court saw the danger this law represented to our clients and we’re determined to fight this ban until Idaho is a safe place to raise every family,” Li Nowlin-Sohl of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

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Idaho initially passed a law banning puberty blockers, hormones or surgeries that would “affirm the child’s perception of the child’s sex if that perception is inconsistent with the child’s biological sex.”

Idaho is one of about 20 Republican-led states that have either banned or restricted gender-affirming treatments.

In May, two families with transgender daughters who were receiving hormone therapy sued the state, claiming the law would cut off medically necessary care for their children, and violated their rates, according to NBC News. 

Winmill wrote that the treatments the law is banning were “safe, effective, and medically necessary for some adolescents,” while he granted the motion to block the laws enforcement. 

There are many courts throughout the US that are divided on the legal challenges of gender-affirming bans. Many lower level courts throughout the nation, however, have blocked the bans so far, with multiple appeals being made in response.