Browsing articles from "December, 2017"

Remembering William Peter Blatty, Author Of ‘The Exorcist’

Dec 26, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Remembering William Peter Blatty, Author Of ‘The Exorcist’

William Peter Blatty was one of the many notable people who died in 2017. He was best known for writing The Exorcist and for adapting it for the screen. Horror aficionado Grady Hendrix gives us an appreciation of Blatty’s work.

Holiday Season Seems To Have Helped Struggling Retail Industry

Dec 26, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Holiday Season Seems To Have Helped Struggling Retail Industry

Americans spent freely over the holidays, making it the best Christmas shopping season in years. Sales picked up as the economy continues to recover, with unemployment down and consumer confidence up. Weather and a favorable shopping calendar also boosted the fortunes of retailers.

Encore: How Trump Teases, Threatens And Dodges With ‘We’ll See What Happens’

Dec 26, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Encore: How Trump Teases, Threatens And Dodges With ‘We’ll See What Happens’

President Trump frequently says “We will see what happens” about matters large and small, creating uncertainty for the media, members of his administration and even world leaders. But what do these constant teases mean for the presidency?

Pennsylvania City Gets Record-Breaking 56.5 Inches Of Snow

Dec 26, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Pennsylvania City Gets Record-Breaking 56.5 Inches Of Snow

In Pennsylvania, people in Erie received 56.5 inches of snow in the past two days. The National Weather Service says that’s an all-time two-day record for Pennsylvania, breaking the previous record of 44 inches in 1958.

How Police In Harrisonburg, Va., Spread A Little Christmas Cheer In Their Community

Dec 25, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How Police In Harrisonburg, Va., Spread A Little Christmas Cheer In Their Community

Often when police approach a person, it’s not always a “Merry Christmas” sort of situation. But some police departments around the country have started taking some time to play Santa — including in Harrisonburg, Va. There, an officer on Secret Santa detail found a mom doing lawn care, and gave her $100.

Former Vice Female Employees Say They Endured Harassment On The Job

Dec 25, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Former Vice Female Employees Say They Endured Harassment On The Job

Vice Media is currently embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. Several women are saying they endured harassment and groping while on the job.

Race To Eradicate Guinea Worm And Polio Experienced Roadblocks In 2017

Dec 25, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Race To Eradicate Guinea Worm And Polio Experienced Roadblocks In 2017

This year, the world came tantalizingly close to wiping out two human diseases: Guinea worm and polio. But right at the finish line, both eradication projects have run into surprising roadblocks.

Remembering Perry Wallace, A College Basketball Pioneer

Dec 25, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Remembering Perry Wallace, A College Basketball Pioneer

Perry Wallace was the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, despite not wanting to be a pioneer. Wallace is one of the notable people who died in 2017. Three years ago, he and his biographer Andrew Maraniss talked with NPR’s Audie Cornish about the realities of desegregation.

Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

Dec 24, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

On Saturday a federal judge ruled an American detainee, held for three months in Iraq by the U.S. military without charge, has the right to counsel. In this 2008 photo, detainees are seen through the door of their cell at the U.S. detention facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, Iraq.

Maya Alleruzzo/ASSOCIATED PRESS


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Maya Alleruzzo/ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Saturday a federal judge ruled an American detainee, held for three months in Iraq by the U.S. military without charge, has the right to counsel. In this 2008 photo, detainees are seen through the door of their cell at the U.S. detention facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, Iraq.

Maya Alleruzzo/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months.”

That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with “immediate” access to a lawyer.

The still-unnamed man was captured by the Syrian militia in mid-September and handed over to the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State.

A couple weeks later, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas corpus petition and seeking to represent the man, who, by the government’s own account, requested an attorney after being read his Miranda rights.

The Defense Department argued that the circumstances did not warrant the ACLU’s having immediate access to the detainee.

But in a case shrouded in secrecy, what exactly those circumstances are remains unclear. And the case is reviving thorny issues around the government’s wartime powers weighed against individuals’ civil liberties.

In her at-times-blistering ruling, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia denied the Pentagon’s motion to dismiss the ACLU’s petition and ordered that it give the group “immediate and unmonitored access to the detainee.”

Read the ruling below.

Chutkan described the Defense Department’s position in denying the ACLU access to the detainee “to be disingenuous at best.”

She went on, “the Department’s position that his request should simply be ignored until it decides what to do with the detainee and when to allow him access to counsel is both remarkable and troubling.”

It remains unclear how long the military plans to hold the detainee. It is also unclear whether the government will comply with the ruling.

Justice Department Spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told The New York Times, “We’re reviewing the ruling and will decline to comment.”

The ACLU welcomed the decision.

“This is a landmark ruling that rejects the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to block an American citizen from challenging his executive imprisonment,” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Jonathan Hafetz told NPR’s Ryan Lucas in a statement. “Ensuring citizens detained by the government have access to a lawyer and a court is essential to preserving the Constitution and the rule of law in America.”

The detainee was captured Sept. 12 and by the end of the month the ACLU had sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, expressing concern about the case and reminding them of the detainee’s constitutional right to counsel.

The Times reports, “officials familiar with the matter have said he is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia who was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents and raised in Saudi Arabia.”

The Times has reported that national security officials in the Trump administration were considering transferring the detainee to Saudi Arabia in a move that could potentially involve the man renouncing his American citizenship.

In her ruling, Chutkan ordered that the Defense Department not transfer the detainee to another country until the ACLU learns about and informs the court of his own wishes.

Could Brain Surgery Save A Father And Son?

Dec 24, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Could Brain Surgery Save A Father And Son?

Carl Luepker, his son Liam, 12, and daughter Lucia, 11, light the menorah during Hanukkah in their home in Minneapolis, Minn. Carl and Liam both have a degenerative nerve disorder called dystonia.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR


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Carl Luepker, his son Liam, 12, and daughter Lucia, 11, light the menorah during Hanukkah in their home in Minneapolis, Minn. Carl and Liam both have a degenerative nerve disorder called dystonia.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR

Carl Luepker was 10 years old when he first noticed his right hand twitching slightly when he played piano. It was like it had a mind of his own.

When he was 12, doctors diagnosed him with a degenerative nerve disease called dystonia. The disorder causes nerves in the brain to misfire, causing uncontrolled muscle spasms that get worse over time.

By the time I met Carl in college in 1991, his hand spasms had gotten bad enough that he couldn’t play piano at all. But he kept it pretty well hidden. He was the kind of guy who led a mock rock band called Cheshire Cat. I remember him straddling the mic stand and singing Foxy Lady, his wide grin framed by flailing red hair.

But the dystonia kept spreading and eventually started to affect his speech. “I started to sound more and more like Chewbacca,” he says.

He can joke about it, but it’s been very painful. Now, at age 45, He’s not the extrovert and life of the party that he once was. He tries to speak and his mouth and jaws clench and spasm. Still, Carl has powered through life. He became a 6th-grade school teacher. He found ways to adapt, like using an interactive whiteboard to communicate with his students. “I never wanted to be considered disabled,” he says.

After he was married, Carl, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., was getting a physical and contemplated getting a blood test to find out the cause of his dystonia. He and his wife, Heather, wanted kids. If Carl’s dystonia was genetic, he could pass it on to his daughter or son. “Heather turned to me and said, ‘Whatever he has, we’re gonna love him just the same,’ ” he says.

So they never got the gene test and had two children, Liam and Lucia. Still, Carl worried. “I’d always looked for it in my kids. I looked for signs. It was my worst fear,” he says.

When Liam was 10 years old, Carl noticed his hand cramping during violin lessons. Then he tripped going up the stairs. Carl was sure he saw his foot twitch under him.

Carl took Liam to a neurologist. “I had to intervene during his examination and say doctor, let’s have him walk on his toes, and he couldn’t,” he says.

Liam remembers the day he was told he also had dystonia. “I kind of knew what was gonna happen, but it still shocked me,” he says now, at age 12. “I was just overcome, not with fear but anxiety. I had so many questions. What will happen to my kids? What are the chances of it getting worse? All these thoughts poured into my mind the instant the doctor said what he said.”

Since Liam’s dystonia started in his foot, it’s very possible he could end up unable to walk. “It hit me hard,” Carl says. “Do I feel shame that he inherited this? Of course.”

Liam and his mother Heather Leupker wrap gifts. Liam decided to get brain surgery to treat dystonia after his father had the procedure.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR


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Liam and his mother Heather Leupker wrap gifts. Liam decided to get brain surgery to treat dystonia after his father had the procedure.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR

Liam’s pain got so bad he started wearing an ankle brace to calm the spasms in his leg. He had watched his father decline to the point that he had trouble cutting his food. Liam can already feel himself losing things that he loves to do — like skateboard. He tripped and then got so frustrated he smashed it on the sidewalk.

Liam knew that he could become unable to walk, and he feared the worst: “That I won’t get cured and I’ll have to live my whole life with this horrible disease.”

Carl began looking for treatments that could help Liam. He himself had tried drugs, but they blurred his vision and didn’t help with the movement symptoms. One treatment made it to the top of his list — it looked exciting, but also scary. It’s a treatment called deep brain stimulation, or DBS. In the past few decades, it’s been also used to treat Parkinson’s and depression, but it requires brain surgery.

Doctors implant electrodes deep into the brain to calm the neurons that are misfiring. The electrodes stay there forever, like a pacemaker for the brain. In one randomized trial, people with the device had a 39 percent reduction in symptoms, compared to 4 percent in those who had sham surgery. It does seem to work better in people who have the hereditary form of dystonia. Carl came to believe that it was the best hope that Liam could live a normal life.

Carl planned to try the surgery first. He can’t ask Liam to do something this scary without experiencing it himself. “I have no choice; I have to get this surgery done.”

So last December, Carl sat down in the office of his neurologist, Dr. Jerrold Vitek at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, to talk about the surgery. It’s not an easy decision to let a doctor drill a hole in your skull and put electrodes deep in your brain.Carl talked about his three biggest fears: death, loss of cognition and behavioral changes.

Carl decided to have a second surgery to see if it would help reduce problems with speech.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR


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Carl decided to have a second surgery to see if it would help reduce problems with speech.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR

Vitek told him that the biggest risk was from bleeding that could cause brain damage — about a 1 to 2 percent chance. “That’s the greatest risk. The chance of benefit is marked. the vast majority of people will benefit.”

Decades ago, scientists tried to treat dystonia by operating on the part of the brain that was malfunctioning, destroying the tissue. Sometimes symptoms went away, but sometimes people got much worse. Vitek says there’s a reason doctor’s would be willing to try something so brutal. “One word will answer that — desperation,” he says. “And people get desperate. Desperation will lead you to try things that maybe you wouldn’t normally try.”

Things have improved a lot since then. The Food and Drug Administration allows DBS for dystonia under its humanitarian use exemption, designed for rare diseases or conditions where fewer than 8,000 people a year are treated. But the surgery is still no simple undertaking.

On January 10, Carl went into surgery. They drilled a hole in his skull and then slowly eased the electrodes a few centimeters into the brain.

They guided the electrodes to the right area by listening — they literally pick up the sounds of nerves firing. The activity in different areas of the brain sound distinct.

Carl was awake the whole time. There are no pain receptors in the brain and the surgeons needed Carl to be conscious so they would know it’s not causing debilitating side effects.

Liam was at school that day. “Well, actually, I was so anxious, just thinking every moment … every cut, every stitch,” he says. “I could kind of feel it. And I threw up at school that day, actually.”

In the operating room, they inserted the electrodes into the correct area of Carl’s brain. Then they turned on the electrodes and asked Carl how it felt. “It’s kind of like putting your tongue onto a battery,” he says. “It felt like that kind of electricity.”

The surgery was a success — no brain bleed. I visited him a few months later. He showed me the remote control that he uses to turn on and off the electricity in his brain. “It’s off now, and now my hands are cramping up there,” he says. When he turns it back on, I can see his hand relaxing. But it didn’t significantly reduce his symptoms. He says he feels less pain through the day and is more coordinated with his right arm. But his speech is still garbled. Vitek, his neurologist, says that’s because the electrodes are in the left side of his brain — which most directly controls his right arm. It would take another surgery to target his mouth and jaw muscles.

But Carl also got what he hoped for. After his surgery, his son Liam decided to get DBS. In June, he flew to the University of California, San Francisco, where they could do the surgery in an MRI so that Liam wouldn’t have to be awake.

I hadn’t seen Liam for around 10 months. Back then, he was in constant pain from muscle cramps in his foot and was wearing a ankle brace.

When I visited Liam again this September, he whizzed by me on a skateboard —- pushing with the same foot that had been in a brace. I asked him how he felt. “It feels like I’ve never had dystonia,” he said with a wide grin.

Liam’s symptoms have improved a lot after having the DBS device implanted, but Carl hasn’t seen as much success.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR


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Liam’s symptoms have improved a lot after having the DBS device implanted, but Carl hasn’t seen as much success.

Jenn Ackerman for NPR

It’s a bit of a mystery why the surgery worked better for Liam than Carl. Doctors suspect it might be because he’s younger and his disease is less advanced. DBS hasn’t cured Liam, but it has given him the ability to control the symptoms and hopefully stop them from getting worse. “I think that it’s gonna halt the progression or at least that’s what the doctors say,” he says. “If I’m feeling as good as I am now, for the rest of my life? That would be pretty amazing.”

When Carl was growing up, he just had to accept that the dystonia would rob him of things he loved to do. But Liam doesn’t have to think that way.

And he’s given Carl new hope, too. In November, he returned to have an electrode placed on the other side of his brain to see if it would improve his speech — he should know if it’s going to help by February. This one, he says, is for himself.

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