Firefighter Pension Plan Passes Unanimously in Chattanooga

By: Kelli Findlay

Chattanooga, TN (UTC/The Loop) — Chattanooga Firefighter and Police Pension Fund receives unanimous city council vote.

On February 25, 2014, Mayor Andy Berke spoke at the Chattanooga City Council meeting and proposed the passing of the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund. 

Mayor  Berke addressing Pension Plan

Mayor Berke addressing Pension Plan

A pension is a defined benefit paid monthly to employees during retirement. Police officers and firefighters pay into a large fund with 8 to 9 percent of their salaries. The city contributes to the fund each year. In 2013, the city’s contribution was $11.2 million, an amount that’s expected to rise dramatically over the next 26 years. The fund also receives significant revenue from its investment portfolio.

“What you’re going to do tonight by adopting this ordinance is that you will secure the retirement for our pensioners,” said Mayor Berke.

Berke also said that they want to look these men and women in the eye and promise them a financial future with the new pension plan.

 One part of the bill requires those cities to contribute at least 100 percent of the annual amount needed to make or keep the plans sustainable over a 30-year period. This doesn’t affect Chattanooga’s fire and police pension plan because the city already pays 100 percent of its contribution.

Not all citizens approve of this new pension plan. The full opposition story and interviews about the passing of the Firefighter Pension plan covered by Channel 9  can be found here.

Kirk Salter, former Chattanooga Sgt., was upset that they didn’t take everybody’s interest into account. Salter said, “They wouldn’t listen to anybody in 2000 and they are not listening to us now.”

One part of the bill requires those cities to contribute at least 100 percent of the annual amount needed to make or keep the plans sustainable over a 30-year period. This doesn’t affect Chattanooga’s fire and police pension plan because the city already pays 100 percent of its contribution.

Task Force Proposal

The plan requires approval from the pension board and the City Council. Here are the key details.

• Minimum retirement age for non-vested members 50, new hires 55

• Employee contribution to go up from 8% to 11%, or 9% to 12% over the next 3 years

• Cost of living adjustments for retirees at an average of 1.5%

• The DROP will no longer include interest, and employees will have the option to stay 3 extra years without losing the benefit.

• Increases benefits to 100% for beneficiaries of those killed in the line of duty

Sources: Chattanooga Times Free Press, Nooga.com, Channel 9 News

 

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Rangers Ice Devils in Outdoor Game

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Devil’s goalie Martin Brodeur tries to make a save in the wintery conditions.

By: Sid Sadler

NEW YORK ( AP/The Loop) — Too much sun forced the boys of winter to wait to play at the ballpark in the Bronx.

Once clouds filled the skies over Yankee Stadium and snow began to fall — hockey weather for sure — Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers got the best of the New Jersey Devils.

Rick Nash scored for the fifth straight game during New York’s four-goal middle period, and the Rangers rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Devils on Sunday.

Sun reflecting off the ice delayed the start of the first hockey game at Yankee Stadium for about an hour. The wait was expected to be longer, so Lundqvist took a nap. Cloud cover took care of that problem more quickly than expected.

Suddenly the All-Star goalie was awakened and told warm-ups would take place in 30 minutes. He put on his pinstripe pads, but still looked groggy in the first period when New Jersey took a 3-1 lead.

“I was half asleep, mentally somewhere else, but then I regrouped and I am happy with how I finished,” Lundqvist said.

“I’m not going to lie, when they scored the third one, I had a bad feeling about it. My first thought was, ‘Am I going to be able to finish this game? Then you kind of regroup and tell yourself, ‘I need to stop the next shot. That’s it. There is no other way to do this.'”

Devils counterpart Martin Brodeur had no such luck. He allowed six goals on 21 shots and was replaced by Cory Schneider at the start of the third.

“You rely a lot on instinct, and poise, and I couldn’t close my glove, it was so cold,” said Brodeur, who along with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault criticized the chippy ice that required repairs.

New York got within one before the first intermission and then swarmed Brodeur.

Dominic Moore and Marc Staal had goals in the first for the Rangers, then Mats Zuccarello scored two straight to put New York ahead for the first time. Carl Hagelin and Nash found the net, too, behind the beleaguered Brodeur, who angrily swatted the puck away after one of the tallies.

“Most of their goals went in off our players, or a stick or skate, and that happens. It was just one of those nights,” Brodeur said.

Nash has seven goals in his streak and 18 this season.

A day after the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks played in 60-degree weather at Dodger Stadium, the NHL returned to conditions more fitting for hockey.

“Within 16 hours, two of the most-revered venues in sports welcomed more than 100,000 fans to sit under the sky and enjoy two of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The games were spectacular, the images were unforgettable, and the sheer energy our sport creates was unmistakable.”

Lundqvist settled down and made 19 saves. He hadn’t allowed more than two goals in his previous seven outings.

The Devils took care of that in the first.

Patrik Elias scored twice, Travis Zajac once and Jaromir Jagr had two assists in the first to excite the large number of New Jersey fans who made the trek to the Bronx for what was a Devils home game.

“They changed their game in the second period,” Jagr said of the Rangers. “They were flying into our zone, and we didn’t react to it.”

Jagr past former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the NHL career assist list.

The teams played through the second period as the snow started and increased in intensity, not long after they were forced to wait around an extra hour to drop the pick because of bright sunshine that created a dangerous glare on the ice.

The temperature was 24.9 degrees when the game started at 1:41 p.m. in front of a sellout crowd of 50,105.

Jagr said he and his teammates took in the scene, but perhaps a bit too much.

“I think we all did that in the second period,” Jagr said.

Yankee Stadium’s second hockey game will take place on Wednesday night when the Rangers will again be the road team in a matchup with the New York Islanders.

Zuccarello tied it 3-3 at 2:48 of the second when he redirected in a pass from John Moore, and put New York in front at the end of a 3-on-1 rush with 7:16 left. Benoit Pouliot chipped the puck ahead at center ice to Derick Brassard, who sent a pass from the right side to Zuccarello for his 15th goal.

Hagelin made it 5-3 just 1:09 later when he flipped a shot from the right circle that appeared to hit Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky before getting through Brad Richards’ screen and by Brodeur.

The Devils netminder was again victimized by an odd-man attack that Nash finished with 28.5 seconds left in the middle frame. Brodeur was serenaded with derisive chants of “Mar-ty … Mar-ty” as Rangers fans in the stands made their voices heard.

He watched the rest of the game from the bench. Schneider, who made only four saves, gave up Derek Stepan’s penalty-shot goal with 9:54 remaining. The seven goals matched the Rangers’ season high.

NOTES: Schneider is 5-1-2 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in his last eight starts, dating to Dec. 28. Brodeur had played in only two of New Jersey’s previous eight games. … New Jersey had won two straight. New York snapped a two-game losing streak.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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White House Can’t Force Kimmel Off Air

By Robresha Jackson

WASHINGTON (AP/UTC The Loop) — The White House has responded to a petition calling for an apology and the removal of Jimmy Kimmel’s television show by saying the comedian can’t be forced off the air.

More than 105,000 people signed the petition on the White House website. It followed an October broadcast of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” featuring a segment in which Kimmel spoke to young children about U.S. government debt owed to China.

One boy said “kill everyone in China” when Kimmel asked how the U.S. should repay China.

In its response, the White House noted that ABC and Kimmel have apologized, and that the network has removed the segment from future broadcasts and its online platforms.

The White House also noted that the Constitution protects free speech, even when it’s offensive.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Passengers Stranded due to Confused Pilots

By Taylor Ellis

US (AP/UTC The Loop)- A Southwest Airlines flight bound for the main airport in Branson, Mo., instead touched down at a much smaller nearby airfield that gave the pilots only half as much room to stop.

After passengers were let off the jet Wednesday evening, they noticed that the airliner had come dangerously close to the end of the runway, where it could have tumbled down a steep embankment if it had left the pavement.

“As soon as we touched down, the pilot applied the brake very hard and very forcibly,” said passenger Scott Schieffer, a Dallas attorney who was among the 124 passengers aboard Southwest Flight 4013 from Chicago’s Midway Airport to the Branson airport. “I was wearing a seatbelt, but I was lurched forward because of the heavy pressure of the brake. You could smell burnt rubber, a very distinct smell of burnt rubber as we were stopping.”

Branson Airport has a runway that is more than 7,100 feet long — a typical size for commercial traffic. The longest runway at Taney County Airport is only slightly more than 3,700 feet because it is designed for small private planes.

After the jet stopped, a flight attendant welcomed passengers to Branson, Schieffer said. Then, after a few moments, “the pilot came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to tell you we landed at the wrong airport.'”

At first, Schieffer said, he considered it only an inconvenience. But once he got off the plane, someone pointed to the edge of the runway, which he estimated as about 100 feet away.

“It was surreal when I realized we could have been in real danger and instead of an inconvenience, it could have been a real tragedy,” he said.

Mark Parent, manager of the smaller airport also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, described the distance as closer to 300 feet. He said the runway is built partly on landfill. At the end there is a “significant drop-off,” with a ravine beneath it, then busy U.S. 65 on the other side.

He said a Boeing 737 had never landed at the small airfield, which opened in 1970 and normally handles light jets, turboprops and small aircraft for the charter, corporate and tourism markets.

No one was around at the airport when the Southwest flight landed. Airport staffers had gone home about an hour earlier but were called back after the unexpected arrival, Parent said.

Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for Dallas-based Southwest, said everyone aboard the jet was safe. He did not know why the plane went to the wrong airport.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the agency was investigating, but he declined to elaborate.

Jeff Bourk, executive director of Branson Airport, said the Southwest pilot was in communication with the airport tower, which cleared him to land around 6 p.m. The plane touched down a few moments later at the other airport.

Skies were clear at the time, with the temperature in the 50s, Bourk said.

Passengers were loaded on buses for the 7-mile trip to Branson. Southwest brought in another plane for passengers flying on to Love Fiend in Dallas. That flight departed around 10 p.m., Bourke said.

Hawkins said the aircraft involved in the mistaken landing should be able to take off from the smaller runway, though it was not clear when that would occur.

The minimum runway length needed to take off varies depending on a plane’s weight, the temperature and other factors. Based on Boeing documents, a lightly loaded 737-700 can take off from a runway about the length of the M. Graham Clark airport.

Parent said he had no doubts that the plane would be able to take off safely.

Sunday’s event was the second time in less than two months that a large jet has landed at the wrong airport.

In November, a freight-carrying Boeing 747 that was supposed to deliver parts to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., landed 9 miles north at Col. James Jabara Airport. The company that operated the flight later said in a training video that the crew was skeptical about the plane’s automation after the co-pilot’s flight display had intermittent trouble, and the pilot chose to fly visually when he spotted the brightly lit runway at Jabara.

Last year, a cargo plane bound for MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., landed without incident at the small Peter O. Knight Airport nearby. An investigation blamed confusion identifying airports in the area, and base officials introduced an updated landing procedure.

The airline announced last month that it would end service in June in Branson, Key West, Fla., and Jackson, Miss., because it can’t make money in those smaller markets.

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Holding back Students

Posted by: Tia Kalmon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/The Loop) — Flunked, retained, held back.

Whatever you call it, increasing numbers of states are not promoting students who are struggling to read at the end of third grade.

Thirty-two states have passed legislation designed to improve third-grade literacy, according to the Education Commission of the States. Retention is part of the policies in 14 states, with some offering more leeway than others.

“Passing children up the grade ladder when we know they can’t read is irresponsible — and cruel,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in announcing in his recent State of the State address that third-graders should demonstrate an ability to read before being promoted. He also proposed a $12 million program for improving third-graders’ reading skills.

Backers say retention policies put pressure on teachers and parents to make sure children succeed.

But opponents say students fare better if they’re promoted and offered extra help. They say holding students back does nothing to address the underlying problems that caused them to struggle and is the single biggest school drop-out predictor. Students who’ve been retained have a two-fold increased risk of dropping out compared to students with similar academic struggles who weren’t retained, said Arthur Reynolds, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Human Capital Research Collaborative, citing studies of students in Chicago and Baltimore.

Retention policies were tried out in large city districts but in recent years have been scaled back or dropped in places like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Los Angeles district spokeswoman Monica Carazo said her school system studied retention and determined that “research did not show it as an effective practice.”

Ending so-called social promotion was one of Jeb Bush’s education reforms when he was governor of Florida, and his nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education began touting the reform package after it started in 2008.

“I think reform-minded education chiefs and state legislatures and governors are looking for something to do to help kids be successful and to do that they need policies that aren’t the same old, same old,” said Mary Laura Bragg, the foundation’s director of state policy implementation.

Although the number isn’t tracked nationally, some national representative studies show that about one-fifth of eighth graders have been retained at least once, said Reynolds, who has studied retention. He said there is wide variation among school districts, with some in urban areas reporting retention rates as high as 40 percent.

Because students shift away from learning to read in the early grades to reading to learn in the upper elementary grades, most state-mandated retention policies make third grade the make-or-break year. Such policies also give struggling students another year of instruction before they take a test as fourth-graders used to compare the educational performance of states and nations, called the National Assessment of Education Progress.

“I apologize to the rest of the country,” said Melissa Erickson, of Fund Education Now, a Florida parent advocacy group, of the spread of her state’s reforms. She said Florida’s NAEP scores had risen but noted that the test takers most likely to struggle were now a year older.

“Is the goal to manipulate data so the state looks better or is the goal to help kids?”

In Florida, where the policy is a decade old, reading is generally measured by performance on a state-administered standardized test. Exemptions also are allowed for some students, like those who do well on an alternative test or whose teachers put together a portfolio showing they can read at grade level.

Because struggling Florida students can be held back up to two times, Megan Allen has students as old as 13 in her fifth-grade class in Tampa, Fla. Some of the younger ones still talk about whether or not Santa is real and Disney movies. Among their twice-retained classmates, Allen, the Florida Teacher of the Year in 2010, has confiscated sex notes.

“I think it is defeating for them,” she said of the retained students. “These are students who are already frustrated and instead of having laws that maybe offer them supports and solutions, we have laws that are more focused on the stick than the carrot.”

The fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute studied Florida’s policy and found retained students made larger gains than students who weren’t retained.

But critics like Shane Jimerson, a professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said the study doesn’t monitor the students’ performance long enough. He said researchers have long known that retained students experience an initial academic boost but that the benefits fade.

One of the states where the Bush-backed Foundation for Excellence in Education has been involved in legislation is Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law in May that mandates extra help for struggling young students and bars those considered far behind on reading from advancing to fourth grade without their superintendent’s permission. One year earlier, Oklahoma passed a law that requires third-grade students to demonstrate proficiency in reading before advancing to fourth grade. Schools in both states are putting programs in place to help struggling students in advance of the retention piece taking effect in the 2013-2014 school year.

In Indiana, this is the first year third-graders had to pass a state test to move onto fourth-grade-level reading instruction. Initially, 16 percent of third-graders failed the test and had a chance to retake it over the summer. The final statewide results haven’t been released, said Stephanie Sample, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education.

She said some schools are retaining students while others are promoting them to fourth grade and offering them special reading instruction to bring them up to grade level.

“We just want to make sure the kids aren’t passed along before they are ready to succeed,” she said.

The economy could be part of the reason the reform is gaining traction, suggested Reynolds. He said the main cost of retention — another year of education if the student doesn’t drop out — is years away.

“It’s a way to say to the public that we have tough standards in our school,” said Reynolds, who says early childhood programs have better outcomes. “And because states and districts are in a financial crisis in many respects, there is no high priority placed on programs or practices that are going to have a significant cost initially.”

But Bragg, who was tasked with implementing Florida’s policy after its passage, said she knows what she saw happen in her state.

“That hard line in the sand of retention for third-graders moved schools in a way they had not been moved before,” she said. “I don’t understand why it takes the threat of something like that to do what you should be doing all along, but it worked. What I saw was a change in human behavior when a policy is put in place that forced people to do what they are supposed to be doing.”

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Tennessee Springs into Spring weather Earlier Than Expected

Chattanooga, TN (UTC/The Loop)

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — An end to winter’s bitter cold will come soon, according to Pennsylvania’s famousgroundhog.

Following a recent stretch of weather that’s included temperatures well below freezing as well as record warmth, tornadoes in the South and Midwest and torrential rains in the mid-Atlantic, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair Saturday in front of thousands but didn’t see his shadow.

Legend has it that if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2 on Gobbler’s Knob in west-central Pennsylvania, winter will last six more weeks. But if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

The prediction is made during a ceremony overseen by a group called the Inner Circle. Members don top hats and tuxedos for the ceremony on Groundhog Day each year.

Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle, says that after “consulting” with Phil, he makes the call in deciphering what the world’s Punxsutawney Phil has to say about the weather.

Phil is known as the “seer of seers” and “sage of sages.” Organizers predicted about 20,000 people this weekend, a larger-than-normal crowd because Groundhog Day falls on a weekend this year.

“I just hope he’s right and we get warmer weather soon,” said Mike McKown, 45, an X-ray technician who drove up from Lynchburg, Va., with his mother.

Phil’s got company in the forecasting department. There’s Staten Island Chuck, in New York; General Beauregard Lee, in Atlanta; and Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ontario, among others noted by the National Climactic Data Center “Groundhog Day” Web page.

“Punxsutawney can’t keep something this big to itself,” the Data Center said. “Other prognosticating rodents are popping up to claim a piece of the action.”

Phil is the original — and the best, Punxsutawney partisans insist.

The 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray brought even more notoriety to the Pennsylvania party. The record attendance was about 30,000 the year after the movie’s release, said Katie Donald, executive director of the Groundhog Club. About 13,000 attend if Feb. 2 falls on a weekday.

Phil’s predictions, of course, are not always right on. Last year, for example, he told people to prepare for six more weeks of winter, a minority opinion among his groundhog brethren. The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University later listed that January to June as the warmest seven-month period since systematic records began being kept in 1895.

“We’ll just mark it up as a mistake last year. He’ll be correct this year,” McKown said hopefully.

___

Ron Todt reported from Philadelphia.

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Biden meets with gun safety, victims group

Vice President Joe Biden earlier this month.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday heard personal stories of gun violence from representatives of victims groups and gun-safety organizations as he drafts the Obama administration’s response to the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. He pledged that action would be taken.

“I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion (that) unless we can do everything we’re going to do nothing,” Biden said. “It’s critically important (that) we act.”

The meeting was part of a series Biden is holding this week to build consensus around proposals to curb gun violence after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Twenty school children were killed.

Biden meets Thursday with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups. Meetings with representatives of the video-game and entertainment industries also are planned.

President Barack Obama wants Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of the month. Obama has vowed to move swiftly on the package, which is expected to include legislative proposals and executive action.

Participants in Wednesday’s meeting with Biden included the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and groups from Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin, states with spates of gun violence that garnered national attention, including the shooting in Arizona of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Also present were two survivors of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people, as well as a stepfather of a victim of last July’s massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which a dozen people were slain. Attorney General Eric Holder also attended.

Dan Gross, the Brady Campaign’s president, said afterward that the meeting was “very productive and actually inspiring.” He said the administration is trying to figure out how to save many others from losing their lives to gun violence, not take guns away from lawful owners.

“Words like comprehensive and broad don’t mean taking guns away from law-abiding citizens,” Gross said as he stood on the White House driveway with some of those who shared their stories with the vice president. “This is not a debate around the Second Amendment.”

But as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown, Conn., shooting fades, the tough fight facing the White House and gun-control backers is growing clearer. Gun-rights advocates, including the powerful NRA, are digging in against tighter gun restrictions, conservative groups are launching pro-gun initiatives and the Senate’s top Republican has warned it could be spring before Congress begins considering any gun legislation.

“The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said this week. “That’s going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March. None of these issues will have the kind of priority as spending and debt over the next two or three months.”

The killing of 6- and 7-year-olds at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School appeared to stir a deep reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill. Obama pushed gun control to the top of his domestic agenda for the first time and pledged to put the full weight of his presidency behind the issue. Some Republican and conservative lawmakers with strong gun-rights records also took the extraordinary step of calling for a discussion on new measures.

But other gun-rights advocates have shown less flexibility. The NRA has rejected stricter gun legislation and suggested instead that the government put armed guards in every U.S. school as a way to curb violence. A coalition of conservative groups is also organizing a “Gun Appreciation Day” to coincide with Obama’s inauguration this month.

The president hopes to announce his administration’s next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21.

Obama wants Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skirt background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines. Other recommendations to the Biden group include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.

Some of those steps could be taken through executive action, without the approval of Congress. White House officials say Obama will not finalize any actions until receiving Biden’s recommendations.

Gun-rights lawmakers and outside groups have insisted that any policy response also include an examination of mental health policies and the impact of violent movies and video games. To those people, the White House has pledged a comprehensive response.

“It is not a problem that can be solved by any specific action or single action that the government might take,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “It’s a problem that encompasses issues of mental health, of education, as well as access to guns.”

In addition to Biden’s meetings this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with parent and teacher groups, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with mental health and disability advocates.

The White House said other meetings are also scheduled with community organizations, business owners and religious leaders.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Lottery Winner Poisoned

 

Lottery winner was poisoned.

CHICAGO (AP/The Loop) — The wife of a Chicago lottery winner who was poisoned with cyanide said Tuesday she was devastated by his death and cannot believe her husband could have had enemies.

Shabana Ansari spoke to The Associated Press a day after news emerged that 46-year-old Urooj Khan’s death in July was the result of cyanide poisoning and not natural causes, as authorities initially concluded. Prosecutors, Chicago police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating Khan’s death as a homicide, but they have not given any details, announced any suspects or said whether they believed the lottery win could have presented a motive. Ansari would not talk about the circumstances of her husband’s death, saying it was too painful to recall. She said only that he fell ill shortly after they had dinner together. She described Khan as a hard-working and generous man who would send money to orphanages in their native India. “I was shattered. I can’t believe he’s no longer with me,” the short, soft-spoken Ansari said tearfully, standing in one of three dry-cleaning businesses her husband started after immigrating to the U.S. from India in 1989. Khan’s death on July 20 was initially ruled a result of natural causes. But a relative’s request for a deeper look resulted in the startling conclusion months later that Kahn was killed with the poison as he was about to collect $425,000 in winnings. Authorities won’t identify the relative. Ansari, who said she has spoken with police detectives about the case, said she was not the one who asked for a deeper investigation and that she doesn’t know who it was. “I don’t think anyone would have a bad eye for him or that he had any enemy,” said Ansari, adding that she continues to work at the dry cleaner out of a desire to honor her husband and protect the businesses he built. Khan planned to use the lottery winnings to pay off mortgages, expand his business and give a donation to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Ansari said her husband did not have a will and the money is now tied up in probate. She said she hopes the truth of what happened to her husband will come out. She said she could not recall anyone unusual or suspicious coming into their lives after the lottery win became public. Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that he had never seen anything like Khan’s case in his 32 years of policing in New York, New Jersey and now Chicago. “So, I’m not going to say that I’ve seen everything,” McCarthy said. Authorities plan to exhume Khan’s body in the next few weeks in hopes they might be able to test additional tissue samples and bolster evidence if the case goes to trial. “It’s always good if and when the case goes to trial to have as much data as possible,” said Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina. He added that he did not believe additional testing would change the conclusion that Khan was a homicide victim, saying those comprehensive toxicology results were validated in the lab. “Based on the investigative information we have now and the (toxicology results), we’re comfortable where we are right now,” he said. Ansari, 32, moved to the U.S. from India after marrying Khan 12 years ago. Khan and his wife were born in Hyderabad, a city in southern India, and their story is a typical immigrant’s tale of settling in a new land with big dreams and starting a business. Their daughter, Jasmeen, now 17, is a student here. “Work was his passion,” Ansari said of her husband, adding that she plans to stay in the U.S. and keep his businesses running. “I’m just taking care of his hard work,” she said. She recalled going on the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, with her husband in 2010, an awe-inspiring trip that was a first for both of them. One of Islam’s pillars requires every able-bodied Muslim to make the journey at least once in their lifetime. She said her husband returned even more set on living a good life and stopped buying the occasional lottery ticket. Nonetheless, he couldn’t resist buying one for an instant lottery game in June while at a 7-Eleven near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s north side. It was a $1 million winner. Khan opted for a lump sum of slightly more than $600,000. After taxes, the winnings amounted to about $425,000, said lottery spokesman Mike Lang. The check was issued on July 19, the day before Khan died. Some other states allow winners to remain anonymous, but Illinois requires most winning ticket holders to appear for a news conference and related promotions, partly to prove that the state pays out prizes. Khan’s win didn’t draw much media attention, and Lang noted that press events for $1 million winners are fairly typical. “We do several news conferences a month for various amounts,” he said. ___ Associated Press writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Pregnancy Drug Lawsuit

The common birth control pack.

BOSTON (AP/The Loop) — Four sisters who claimed in a lawsuit their breast cancer was caused by synthetic estrogen their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s have reached a settlement with the drug company Eli Lilly and Co., a lawyer for the sisters said Wednesday.

Attorney Julie Oliver-Zhang said the settlement, for an undisclosed amount, was reached on the second day of a trial in U.S. District Court in Boston. They had not specified damages sought in the lawsuit.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The sisters’ case was the first to go to trial out of scores of similar claims filed in Boston and around the country. A total of 51 women have lawsuits pending in U.S. District Court in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed the drug.

DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over three decades to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other problems. It was taken off the market in the early 1970s after it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used DES.

Studies later showed the drug did not prevent miscarriages.

In his opening trial statement Tuesday, Aaron Levine, another lawyer for the sisters, said Eli Lilly failed to test the drug’s effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages.

James Dillon, a lawyer for Eli Lilly, told the jury there is no evidence the drug causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it. He also said no medical records show the mother of the four women in the Boston case took DES, or that if she did take it, that it was made by Eli Lilly.

DES was not patented and was made by many companies.

The Melnick sisters, who grew up in Tresckow, Pa., say they all developed breast cancer in their 40s after their mother took DES while pregnant.

Levine told the jury that their mother did not take DES while pregnant with a fifth sister, and that sister has not developed breast cancer.

The four Melnick sisters also had miscarriages, fertility problems or other reproductive tract problems long suspected of being caused by prenatal exposure to DES. They were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2003 and had treatments ranging from lump-removal surgery to a full mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy.

Dillon said that the doctor who treated the Melnick sisters’ mother is now dead, and that there are no records of him prescribing DES. Dillon said Eli Lilly at the time recommended DES for women who had had three or more consecutive miscarriages.

The sisters’ mother, he said, did not have consecutive miscarriages, so prescribing it to her would have gone against the company’s recommendations. Dillon said leading researchers at the time recommended that DES be used for pregnant women.

Dillon told the jury that while it is “terribly unfair” that the four sisters got breast cancer, it is a common disease and doctors still don’t understand what causes it.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed alleging links between DES and vaginal and cervical cancer, as well as fertility problems. Many of those cases were settled.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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QB’s Girlfriend Gains Fame During BCS Championship Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  (AP/The Loop) – A day after ESPN cameras lingered on her, announcers piled on compliments and at least one pro athlete made an online pass at her, Twitter was still abuzz Tuesday about former Miss Alabama Katherine Webb, who is dating Crimson Tide championship quarterback AJ McCarron.

Katherine Webb, Miss Alabama 2011, at the BCS Championship game.

Webb gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers during and after Alabama’s 42-14 win over Notre Dame on Monday to claim its third national championship in four seasons. For her part, the surprised beauty pageant queen isn’t taking it too seriously.

“It’s been actually kind of fun,” the 23-year-old model and Miss Alabama USA 2012 told The Associated Press.

She said at the time it all started, she was oblivious in the stands, sitting near McCarron’s mother. Her iPhone had died so she didn’t know about the attention until friends seated nearby showed her what was happening on Twitter and pointed out that her picture was on TV.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Webb, who, according to her pageant biography, graduated with a business degree from Alabama rival Auburn University in 2011. “I was just in complete surprise.”

Dee Dee Bonner, McCarron’s mother, said the two laughed as Webb’s Twitter count grew.

“We were like, ‘Oh my God,'” Bonner said. “She said, ‘All I want to do is date your son.’ We’ve been laughing about it. It’s quite shocking.”

ESPN announcer Brent Musburger remarked that Webb was a beautiful woman as the cameras revisited her. “Wow, I’m telling you quarterbacks: You get all the good-looking women,” he said.

Some found the remarks from the 73-year-old Musburger out of line. On Tuesday, ESPN released this statement: “We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”

But Webb said Musburger’s comments didn’t bother her.

“It was kind of nice,” she said. “I didn’t look at it as creepy at all. For a woman to be called beautiful, I don’t see how that’s an issue.”

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Webb had topped 175,000 Twitter followers, trumping McCarron’s 114,000. Before the game, she reportedly had about 2,000.

Webb told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that she first encountered McCarron on Twitter, and they met in early December when he attended the Miss Alabama USA pageant in Montgomery. Her biography says she was born in Montgomery and grew up in Phenix City, but now lives in Los Angeles — though Bonner said she is considering moving back to Alabama to be with McCarron.

Before Monday’s game, Webb tweeted a photo of herself wearing a jersey with McCarron’s number, her arms wrapped around him.

Early Tuesday, Webb posted her first tweet to her new followers: “So extremely blessed… (at)10AJMcCarron. Congrats to Alabama and making history! (hash)BCSChamps.”

Webb later said she doesn’t think McCarron minds the attention on her.

But when Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett tweeted Webb his telephone number and suggested they meet after the game, McCarron responded, telling Dockett, “(hash)betterkeepdreaming like the rest of these dudes.”

Associated Press writer John Zenor contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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