• U.S.
    The New York Times

    Another Man Who Said 'I Can't Breathe' Died in Custody. An Autopsy Calls It Homicide.

    SEATTLE -- A black man who called out "I can't breathe" before dying in police custody in Tacoma, Washington, was killed as a result of oxygen deprivation and the physical restraint that was used on him, according to details of a medical examiner's report released Wednesday.The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office concluded that the death of the man, Manuel Ellis, 33, was a homicide. Investigators with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department were in the process of preparing a report about the March death, which occurred shortly after an arrest by officers from the Tacoma Police Department, said the sheriff's spokesman, Ed Troyer."The information is all being put together," Troyer said. "We expect to present it to the prosecutor at the end of this week or early next week."Ellis's sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, called for action to bring accountability in the death and further scrutiny of both the Police Department's practices and how the investigation into his death has been handled."There's a lot of questions that still need to be answered," Carter-Mixon said.Ellis died from respiratory arrest, hypoxia and physical restraint, according to the medical examiner's office. The report listed methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease as contributing factors.Police officers encountered Ellis, a musician and father of two from Tacoma, on the night of March 3 as they were stopped at an intersection. They saw him banging on the window of another vehicle, Troyer said.Ellis approached the officers, Troyer said, and then threw an officer to the ground when the officer got out of the vehicle. The two officers and two backup officers who joined -- two of them white, one black and one Asian -- handcuffed him."Mr. Ellis was physically restrained as he continued to be combative," the Tacoma Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.Troyer said he did not know all the details of the restraint the officers used -- they were not wearing body cameras -- but said he did not believe they used a chokehold or a knee on Ellis' neck. They rolled him on his side after he called out, "I can't breathe.""The main reason why he was restrained was so he wouldn't hurt himself or them," Troyer said. "As soon as he said he couldn't breathe, they requested medical aid."Troyer said the call for aid came four minutes after the officers encountered Ellis.Ellis was still breathing when medical personnel arrived, Troyer said. He was removed from handcuffs while personnel worked on him for about 40 minutes, Troyer said. He was then pronounced dead.Family members said Ellis was the father of an 11-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter. He was a talented musician at his church. Carter-Mixon said Ellis was like a father figure to her boys, coaching them on things like how handle themselves to keep safe in a world of racial injustices."My heart literally hurts," she said. "It's painful. My brother was my best friend."On Wednesday night, she and others held a vigil in Tacoma.Brian Giordano, a close friend of Ellis, said that the two usually spoke several times a day and that Ellis had videochatted with him two hours before his death. He had been excited about a church service he had attended and proud of how he had played drums during the service, Giordano recalled.He said it would be uncharacteristic of Ellis to act in the violent way described by the police.He was living in a clean-and-sober house and was getting his life back together, he said. "He was always uplifting," Giordano said. "He was always on the up-and-up about taking care of people."The death comes as protests have spread around the nation over the case of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police last week. Minnesota officials have charged all four officers in that case, including Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes during the arrest.Forensics experts who conducted a private autopsy for Floyd's family concluded that another officer's knees on Floyd's back contributed to making it impossible for his lungs to take in sufficient air.Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma said Wednesday that she would take appropriate steps based on the findings of the sheriff's investigation."We will learn the results of that investigation even as our country reels from the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others," Woodards said.Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said the issue was a top priority for him."We will be pushing to make sure there is a full and complete investigation of that incident," Inslee said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

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  • World
    The Telegraph

    At least 11 countries have reimposed restrictions amid fears of coronavirus second wave

    The delicate balance between restarting economies and avoiding a second wave of coronavirus is being played out across the world. While the chance of dying from the virus now appears to be very low, particularly for younger people, it has the potential to be indiscriminately lethal and operates in a way we still do not fully understand. Yet lockdown is undoubtedly devastating for livelihoods, education and mental and physical health, and cannot continue for much longer without long-term implications that could last a generation. Treading the line between release and restriction is proving tricky for many countries. At least 11 have now reimposed some, or all, lockdown restrictions to prevent a deadly second wave after virus cases began to rise when measures were relaxed. Japan, China, South Korea, Lebanon, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have all been forced to bring back localised quarantines or widespread shutdowns. Dr Hans Kluge, the director for the World Health Organisation (WHO) European region, has warned European countries to brace themselves for a deadly second wave of virus infections, saying now is the "time for preparation, not celebration".

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  • Business
    The Daily Beast

    Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Coming to the U.S.

    This article originally appeared on The Conversation.This summer, for the first time, genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the U.S. On May 1, 2020, the company Oxitec received an experimental use permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release millions of GM mosquitoes (labeled by Oxitec as OX5034) every week over the next two years in Florida and Texas. Females of this mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, transmit dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses. When these lab-bred GM males are released and mate with wild females, their female offspring die. Continual, large-scale releases of these OX5034 GM males should eventually cause the temporary collapse of a wild population. However, as vector biologists, geneticists, policy experts and bioethicists, we are concerned that current government oversight and scientific evaluation of GM mosquitoes do not ensure their responsible deployment. Genetic engineering for disease controlCoral reefs that can withstand rising sea temperatures, American chestnut trees that can survive blight and mosquitoes that can’t spread disease are examples of how genetic engineering may transform the natural world. Genetic engineering offers an unprecedented opportunity for humans to reshape the fundamental structure of the biological world. Yet, as new advances in genetic decoding and gene editing emerge with speed and enthusiasm, the ecological systems they could alter remain enormously complex and understudied. Recently, no group of organisms has received more attention for genetic modification than mosquitoes—to yield inviable offspring or make them unsuitable for disease transmission. These strategies hold considerable potential benefits for the hundreds of millions of people impacted by mosquito-borne diseases each year. The Deadliest Hunter of Humans on the PlanetAlthough the EPA approved the permit for Oxitec, state approval is still required. A previously planned release in the Florida Keys of an earlier version of Oxitec’s GM mosquito (OX513) was withdrawn in 2016 after a referendum indicated significant opposition from local residents. Oxitec has field-trialed their GM mosquitoes in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Panama. The public forum on Oxitec’s recent permit application garnered 31,174 comments opposing release and 56 in support. The EPA considered these during their review process. Time to reassess risk assessment?However, it is difficult to assess how EPA regulators weighed and considered public comments and how much of the evidence used in final risk determinations was provided solely by the technology developers. The closed nature of this risk assessment process is concerning to us. There is a potential bias and conflict of interest when experimental trials and assessments of ecological risk lack political accountability and are performed by, or in close collaboration with, the technology developers. This scenario becomes more troubling with a for-profit technology company when cost- and risk-benefit analyses comparing GM mosquitoes to other approaches aren’t being conducted. Another concern is that risk assessments tend to focus on only a narrow set of biological parameters—such as the potential for the GM mosquito to transmit disease or the potential of the mosquitoes’ new proteins to trigger an allergic response in people—and neglect other important biological, ethical and social considerations. To address these shortcomings, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign convened a “Critical Conversation” on GM mosquitoes. The discussion involved 35 participants from academic, government and nonprofit organizations from around the world with expertise in mosquito biology, community engagement and risk assessment. A primary takeaway from this conversation was an urgent need to make regulatory procedures more transparent, comprehensive and protected from biases and conflicts of interest. In short, we believe it is time to reassess risk assessment for GM mosquitoes. Here are some of the key elements we recommend. Steps to make risk assessment more open and comprehensiveFirst, an official, government-funded registry for GM organisms specifically designed to reproduce in the wild and intended for release in the U.S. would make risk assessments more transparent and accountable. Similar to the U.S. database that lists all human clinical trials, this field trial registry would require all technology developers to disclose intentions to release, information on their GM strategy, scale and location of release and intentions for data collection.This registry could be presented in a way that protects intellectual property rights, just as therapies entering clinical trials are patent-protected in their registry. The GM organism registry would be updated in real time and made fully available to the public. Second, a broader set of risks needs to be assessed and an evidence base needs to be generated by third-party researchers. Because each GM mosquito is released into a unique environment, risk assessments and experiments prior to and during trial releases should address local effects on the ecosystem and food webs. They should also probe the disease transmission potential of the mosquito’s wild counterparts and ecological competitors, examine evolutionary pressures on disease agents in the mosquito community and track the gene flow between GM and wild mosquitoes. To identify and assess risks, a commitment of funding is necessary. The U.S. EPA’s recent announcement that it would improve general risk assessment analysis for biotechnology products is a good start. But regulatory and funding support for an external advisory committee to review assessments for GM organisms released in the wild is also needed; diverse expertise and local community representation would secure a more fair and comprehensive assessment. Furthermore, independent researchers and advisers could help guide what data are collected during trials to reduce uncertainty and inform future large-scale releases and risk assessments.The objective to reduce or even eliminate mosquito-borne disease is laudable. GM mosquitoes could prove to be an important tool in alleviating global health burdens. However, to ensure their success, we believe that regulatory frameworks for open, comprehensive and participatory decision-making are urgently needed. Written by Brian Allan, Associate Professor of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Chris Stone, Medical Entomologist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Holly Tuten, Vector Ecologist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Jennifer Kuzma, Goodnight-NCGSK Distinguished Professor, North Carolina State University; Natalie Kofler, Levenick Resident Scholar in Sustainability, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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  • U.S.
    The Guardian

    California: Vallejo police kill unarmed 22-year-old, who was on his knees with his hands up

    An officer mistakenly believed Sean Monterrosa had a gun, but it was a hammer in his pocketPolice in northern California fatally shot an unarmed 22-year-old who was on his knees with his hands up outside a Walgreens store while responding to a call of alleged looting, officials said.An officer in the city of Vallejo was inside his car when he shot Sean Monterrosa on Monday night amid local and national protests against police brutality. Police said an officer mistakenly believed Monterrosa had a gun, but later determined he had a hammer in his pocket.The killing of Monterrosa, who was a San Francisco resident, has sparked intense outrage in the Bay Area, particularly in the city of Vallejo, a city with a long history of police violence and high-profile killings and excessive force complaints. “When confronted by the police, he dropped to his knees and surrendered, and they fired at him,” said Melissa Nold, a Vallejo civil rights attorney representing Monterrosa’s family. “He wasn’t doing anything to warrant it. They shot him from inside their car. What opportunity did they give him to survive that situation? … It’s egregiously bad.” The exact circumstances that led to the killing are unclear, and police have not yet released footage. In a news conference on Wednesday, two days after the killing, police chief Shawny Williams said officers were responding to a call of possible looting at the pharmacy shortly after midnight when an officer in a cruiser drove up and saw a dozen people in the parking lot getting into a car. A second officer in an unmarked car drove up and found Monterrosa, who was still on the scene, who then kneeled down and started to raise his hands. At this point, the police chief said, this officer “perceived a threat” and fired five shots through his window at Monterosso. The chief declined to identify the officer who killed Monterrosa, saying only that the officer was an 18-year veteran of the force. The chief also dodged questions about whether he considered the shooting to be excessive force and ignored questions from angry community members who showed up to a press conference. When asked about the merits of shooting through a window, the chief said some officers are trained to shoot through their windshields and said this was allowed under policy. Monterrosa died at the hospital, the chief said. The last person killed by Vallejo police was Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old who had been sleeping in his car in February 2019 when six officers fired 55 bullets in 3.5 seconds. One of the six officers who killed McCoy, a rising rapper in the Bay Area, had previously killed an unarmed man who was fleeing on his bike. Another Vallejo officer killed three men in a five-month period and was subsequently promoted. Vallejo, a city 30 miles north-east of San Francisco with 121,000 residents, has over the years had a significantly higher rate of killings by police than the national average and other Bay Area cities. Despite promises of reform in the wake of widespread scrutiny, the killing of Monterrosa and police leaders’ actions in the aftermath suggest that nothing has changed, said Nold, who has long advocated for policy shifts. A day after the shooting, police and other Vallejo leaders held a news conference about the ongoing protests and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but refused to provide any details about Monterrosa’s killing, saying only that there had been an “officer-involved shooting” and declining to specify whether it was fatal.“It’s just unfathomable,” said Nold, adding that the news was devastating to many families of people killed by Vallejo police, who were trying to be optimistic about change in the city, since police had not killed anyone for more than a year. Even though the chief likely knew the circumstances of the killing by the time he held his first news conference, he refused to discuss it, while citizens were continuing to march for Floyd, Nold noted. “We’re protesting for a guy who lived thousands of miles away. And the day we’re marching, our own police are gunning down an unarmed man on his knees.” While Nold has not yet seen body-camera footage, which police are eventually required to release, and has not yet viewed Monterrosa’s body, she noted that “even their own version of the story is horrific”. The department, she said, has a track record of initially misrepresenting the circumstances of killings, which the public later learns when video is released. Even if police believed Monterrosa was involved in looting, the officers had no evidence of that when they arrived and immediately shot him, she added. Nold said she was anxious to learn the identity of the officer, given that the force is relatively small and she knows of more than a dozen officers in recent years who have killed more than one citizen. Monterrosa grew up in San Francisco, where he attended an arts high school and had previously worked at the local Boys and Girls Club, a not-for-profit.“He was a true native son of San Francisco and Bernal Heights,” said Jake Grumbach, a family friend, who posted a video of Monterrosa speaking at a youth program in the city, where loved ones and local residents gathered on Thursday for a vigil. “He was loved and respected by so many … There is just so much community support and solidarity.”Vallejo police representatives did not respond to questions. Adante Pointer, another civil rights lawyer who has long represented Vallejo families, said it was especially alarming that officers would kill a resident at this moment: “The eyes of the world are on policing and yet your officers still feel comfortable enough to shoot someone under what are the most questionable circumstances? If they could do this during the light of the George Floyd protests and world scrutiny, you can only imagine what they do in the dark of the night when no one is looking.”

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