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Thursday, Oct 19, 2017
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Things to Know in the U.S. for Oct. 10

Washington, D.C.

Seeing hope

A girl saw her mother's face for the first time. A boy tore through the aisles of Target, marveling at toys he never knew existed. A teen walked onto a stage and watched the stunned expressions of celebrity judges as he wowed America's Got Talent. Caroline, Cole, Christian. All had mere glimmers of vision and were destined to lose even that because of an inherited eye disease with no treatment or cure. Until now. On Thursday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers will consider whether to recommend approval of a gene therapy that improved vision for these three youths and some others with hereditary blindness. It would be the first gene therapy in the U.S. for an inherited disease, and the first in which a corrective gene is given directly to a patient. Only one gene therapy is sold in the U.S. now, a cancer treatment approved in August that engineers patients' blood cells in the lab.

Michigan

Another official facing manslaughter charge over Flint water

A special prosecutor said Monday he will add a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Michigan's chief medical executive in a criminal investigation of the tainted water crisis in Flint and an extraordinary outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Dr. Eden Wells was in court for a key hearing on other charges, but the hearing was postponed until Nov. 6 after the announcement by Todd Flood of the Michigan Attorney General's Office. Flood said he'll offer additional evidence and ask a judge to send Wells to trial on four charges, including involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice. Five other people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter tied to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area in 2014-15. The attorney general's office says key officials knew about a spike in Legionnaires' but failed to tell the public until January 2016. Some experts have blamed the outbreak on Flint's use of the Flint River for the city's water supply. Nearly 100 Legionnaires' cases, including 12 deaths, were reported in Genesee County. The Legionnaires' investigation is part of a larger probe into how Flint's water system became poisoned when the city used Flint River water for 18 months. The water wasn't treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes.

Washington

State sues Trump over birth control

Washington state said it is suing President Donald Trump over his decision to let more employers claiming religious or moral objections opt-out of providing no-cost birth control to women. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who successfully sued to block Trump's initial travel ban early this year, announced his latest lawsuit Monday, just three days after the new rules were issued. Trump's policy is designed to roll back parts of former President Barack Obama's health care law, which required that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. Ferguson said the administration's actions violate the First Amendment, because it requires individuals to bear the burden of religions to which they don't belong, and the equal protection requirements of the Fifth Amendment, because it applies to women but not men.

California

Hollywood speaks out against Weinstein

The Hollywood establishment, slow to react to the initial sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, began speaking out against the 65-year-old more forcefully Monday after the powerful studio boss was fired by his own company Sunday. A studio insider who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity told AP that the Weinstein Co. plans to change its name. Weinstein's name also will be stripped from TV series and other projects. Among the A-listers weighing in were his longtime allies and beneficiaries Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and director Kevin Smith. They spoke up with a combination of disgust as well as remorse or defensiveness over their business with him. "He financed the first 14 years of my career," Smith, whose movies Clerks and Chasing Amy were produced by Weinstein, tweeted. "Now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain. It makes me feel ashamed." On Thursday, the New York Times exposed alleged decades of crude sexual behavior on Weinstein's part toward female employees and actresses, including Ashley Judd. The Times said at least eight settlements had been reached with women. Streep, who once called Weinstein "God" while accepting the Golden Globe for The Iron Lady, condemned his alleged conduct as "inexcusable" while also saying she did not know about it beforehand.

New Jersey

Handyman swipes $240K in comics, then flees to Italy

Police say a handyman stole nearly $240,000 worth of comic books and artwork before fleeing to Italy. Sparta police Lt. John Lamon said Monday the theft happened earlier this year when a 64-year-old handyman from Brooklyn, N.Y., was hired to repair a New Jersey home that had sustained water damage. Police say Francesco Bove made off with $239,000 in comic memorabilia from the unoccupied home. The homeowner reported the theft after a friend told him his pieces were on the market. Investigators said Bove sold multiple pieces from the collection before traveling to Italy. Authorities say the homeowner has since located most of his stolen art. Bove is believed to be in the New York area. A phone number to contact him couldn't be immediately located.

Nation

Environmental groups denounce Trump after Pruitt seeks to override climate plan

A coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups are vowing to fight the Trump administration's move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Speaking Monday in coal-mining Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would issue a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's drive to curb global climate change. "The war on coal is over," Pruitt declared. It was not clear if he would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval, which Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for doing. Pruitt's rule wouldn't become final for months and is then highly likely to face a raft of legal challenges. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among those who said they will sue. Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in Kentucky, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that human-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change. President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign. In his order today, Pruitt is expected to say the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting standards plants could not reasonably meet.

Pennsylvania

Slain student had restraining order against ex

A University of Pittsburgh student found dead in her off-campus home during the weekend had recently filed a protection from abuse order against her ex-boyfriend, who is facing rape charges in an unrelated case. Police on Monday said they were looking for Matthew Darby, 21, who has not been charged in Alina Sheykhet's death. Sheykhet, 20, was found Sunday morning by her father, who broke down her door after she failed to answer calls. Her roommates thought she was still asleep when the father arrived to pick up Sheykhet for a breast cancer awareness walk. Authorities said she died of head trauma, and the case was ruled a homicide. Darby was arrested Sept. 26 and charged with felony criminal trespass for allegedly breaking into Sheykhet's apartment. In her protection filing, she wrote that Darby climbed up the gutter of her home and broke in through the second-floor window. "He did this because I left him and stopped answering his phone calls," Sheykhet wrote. She described him as abusive, controlling and jealous. The protection order was granted. Darby was charged in March with rape, sexual assault and other charges in another county. The University of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing sadness over Sheykhet's death and offered counselors to students.

Utah

Police officers 'need to stop killing people'

The family of black man fatally shot after he ran from police said Monday that body-camera footage shows the officer should lose his job. Watching the video of the Aug. 13 shooting that killed Patrick Harmon is heartbreaking and shows police didn't do enough to de-escalate the situation, said his sister, Antoinette Harmon. "They need to stop killing people," she said. "Who gave police the right to be the judge and jury to take people's loved ones?" Her comments came after weekend protests in Salt Lake City following a ruling that the shooting was legally justified. The footage appears to show Harmon, 50, was shot from behind after Officer Clinton Fox, who is white, yelled "I'll f---ing shoot you." District Attorney Sim Gill, however, said a slowed-down version shows Harmon turning toward officers. Police said Harmon had a knife in his hand and threatened to stab or cut them. Though a knife isn't discernable in the video, officers found one at the scene. Harmon was stopped after an officer saw him ride his bicycle across six lanes of traffic in downtown Salt Lake City and noticed he didn't have a required rear light. Police started to arrest Harmon for outstanding warrants. The video shows Harmon looking distraught but cooperating before he suddenly breaks into the run that ended with his death. Antoinette Harmon said he suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Pennsylvania

Mystery couple picks up tabs at Applebee's

A mystery couple has been picking up the checks for other customers at an Applebee's. KDKA-TV reported the couple has been doing that for years at the restaurant in Washington, but only recently have their good deeds come to light. Jolie Welling said she was celebrating her daughter's birthday only to find the couple recently paid the entire tab — for 16 people. Waitress Samantha Powell said the gesture touched her, too, and almost brought her to tears. Assistant manager Bernie Lewis said she has sworn to keep the couple's secret. Powell knows them, too, and said they own a local business. The man once told her he pays others' checks because "I grew up poor, and now I'm not." — tbt* wires

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