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Health Headlines

    Chinese authorities appear to have confirmed a scientist's unpublished claim that he helped make the world's first gene-edited babies and that a second pregnancy is underway, and say he could face consequences for his work. China's official Xinhua News Agency said Monday that investigators in Guangdong province determined that the scientist, He Jiankui (HUH JEEN-qway), evaded supervision of his work and violated research norms because he wanted to be famous. The report said He acted alone and will be punished for any violations of the law, although it didn't say which regulations he may have broken. The scientist stunned the world in November by claiming that he had altered the DNA of twin girls at conception to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus. He's work has been widely criticized as unethical because of questions about whether the participants truly understood the risks. It is also considered medically dangerous because of possible harm to other genes and the DNA changes can be passed to future generations. There has been no independent verification of his claim, first reported by The Associated Press, and it has not yet been published, although He gave details at an international gene editing conference in Hong Kong. Some have even speculated that it could be a hoax. But the Chinese investigation appears to confirm it. The Xinhua report says the twins and those involved in the second pregnancy will remain under medical observation with regular visits supervised by government health departments. 'It does sound like they have confirmed the existence of the babies,' said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a genetics journal editor from the University of Pennsylvania who reviewed materials He provided at the AP's request. Given that the Chinese investigation alleged ethical lapses, He's work might not be published by a scientific journal, but 'the information needs to be made available so we know exactly what was done,' Musunuru said. 'It could be as simple as putting it on the web.' The scientist, He, could not be reached for comment. A media relations person who had been acting as He's spokesman declined comment. It's unclear how many edited embryos remain from He's experiment and what will become of them. He's school, Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, and the Chinese ministries of health and science also have said they are investigating and have put a halt to his work. Gene editing for reproductive purposes is effectively banned in the U.S. and most of Europe. In China, ministerial guidelines prohibit embryo research that 'violates ethical or moral principles.' 'This behavior seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad,' the report of the Guangdong province's investigation said. The statement shows that 'scientific leadership is taking this situation seriously,' said Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin bioethicist and one of the leaders of the Hong Kong conference. It's hard to interpret without knowing who was involved in the investigation and what they did, but it 'does indicate that there is a system of regulatory controls in China that can be brought to bear on any effort to prematurely use this technology,' which may be a better way to regulate it than an outright ban, she said. Stanford bioethicist Dr. William Hurlbut said he has spoken regularly with He since the Hong Kong conference, most recently last week. Hurlbut, who said he disapproves of what He did, met with him often over the last two years to discuss gene editing and when it might be appropriate. A week or so after the news broke of He's work, 'he was calm, he was thoughtful,' and 'was thinking about what he should have done differently,' Hurlbut said. Hurlbut said He 'told me that he's OK, that he is being treated respectfully. He spent long hours talking with people during the investigation ... They asked him to voluntarily give his material to them and he did.' There are plain-clothes guards at the university apartment where He is living, because 'He and the authorities believed it was a good idea' to shield him from media and others trying to contact him, not because he's being treated like a prisoner, Hurlbut said. ___ Marilynn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Chinese investigators have determined that the doctor behind the reported birth of two babies whose genes had been edited in hopes of making them resistant to the AIDS virus acted on his own and will be punished for any violations of the law, a state media report said Monday. Investigators in the southern province of Guangdong determined Dr. He Jiankui organized and handled funding for the experiment without outside assistance in violation of national guidelines, the Xinhua News Agency said. Along with the birth of the twins, another embryo yet to be born reportedly resulted from He's experiment. All three will remain under medical observation with regular visits supervised by government health departments, Xinhua said. It didn't say which laws He might have violated but said he had fabricated an ethical review by others. 'This behavior seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad,' the report said. Then little-known, He attended an elite meeting in Berkeley, California, in 2017 where scientists and ethicists were discussing a technology that had shaken the field to its core — an emerging tool for 'editing' genes, the strings of DNA that form the blueprint of life. He embraced the tool, called CRISPR, and last year rocked an international conference with the claim that he had helped make the world's first gene-edited babies , despite a clear scientific consensus that making genetic changes that could be passed to future generations should not be attempted at this point. China called an immediate halt to He's experiments following his announcement. Gene editing for reproductive purposes is effectively banned in the U.S. and most of Europe. In China, ministerial guidelines prohibit embryo research that 'violates ethical or moral principles.' The chief of the World Health Organization said last year his agency is assembling experts to consider the health impact of gene editing. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said gene editing 'cannot be just done without clear guidelines' and experts should 'start from a clean sheet and check everything.' 'We have a big part of our population who say, 'Don't touch,'' Tedros told reporters. 'We have to be very, very careful, and the working group will do that.
  • Macedonia's government has ordered the winter break for students to be extended to Jan. 23 because of extremely high levels of toxic particles in the air in many cities throughout the country. The government said in a statement Sunday that the measure is to 'shorten the time of exposure of students to air pollution and to protect their health.' City authorities in the capital Skopje also have introduced free public transport and have doubled the prices for parking in order to force people not to use private cars. Extremely high levels of air pollution are because of people using wood stoves for heating and the presence of many old vehicles. Toxic PM10 and PM2.5 air particles in the past few days were up to 10 times over allowed limits.
  • Will your favorite hot dog stand be getting an 'A''? New York City's iconic food carts are starting to get health department letter grades, giving on-the-go workers and tourists alike a quick reference for cleanliness and safety. The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene handed out the first batch of grades Friday to about two dozen of the city's more than 5,000 food carts and trucks. They're the same style placards that have been commonplace at restaurants, coffee shops and other establishments around the Big Apple for about a decade. The city has always inspected food carts and flagged violations. The new report cards are the result of a law passed last June. The city says it expects to have all carts and trucks graded within two years.
  • Michigan's attorney general in 2016 promised to investigate 'without fear or favor' the scandal over Flint's lead-tainted drinking water and pledged that state regulators would be locked up for fudging data and misleading the public. Yet three years later, no one is behind bars. Instead, seven of 15 defendants have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors, some as minor as disrupting a public meeting. Their records eventually will be scrubbed clean. That has angered some people in Flint who believe key players who could have prevented the lead disaster are getting off easy. Four of five people at the state Department of Environmental Quality who were on the front line of the crisis have struck deals. The remaining cases mostly center on a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and early disastrous decisions to use water from the Flint River. 'I'm furious — absolutely furious,' said LeeAnne Walters, a mother of four who is credited with exposing the lead contamination. 'It's a slap in the face to every victim in the city of Flint.' Walters, 40, said she was repeatedly brushed off by the Department of Environmental Quality, known as DEQ, even as she confronted officials with bottles of brown water. She testified in Congress after then-Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015 finally acknowledged the lead mess, and she later was honored with an international prize for grassroots environmental activism. 'Instead of people being held accountable, they're getting a free pass,' Walters said. 'The fact remains there wouldn't have been a problem with the lead and the legionella if the water had been treated properly, if MDEQ would have done their job.' Flint was one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history. While waiting for a new pipeline to bring water from Lake Huron, the majority-black city of 100,000 pulled water from a river in 2014-15 without treating it to reduce corrosive effects on old pipes. Lead infected the distribution system in Flint, where 41 percent of residents are classified by the government as living in poverty. Due to poor finances, Flint was being run by financial managers appointed by the governor. The uproar over water quality reached a peak by fall 2015 when a doctor reported high levels of lead in children, which can cause brain damage. The water no longer comes from the river and has significantly improved, but some residents are so distrusful that they continue to use bottled water. Liane Shekter Smith, who was fired as head of Michigan's drinking water office, was charged with misconduct in office and neglect of duty. Special prosecutor Todd Flood later put her on notice that he would pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge, arguing that she could have shut down the Flint water plant and reduced the threat of legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires'. But charges were dropped on Jan. 7 in exchange for a no-contest plea to an obscure misdemeanor that will not result in any jail time: disturbance of a lawful meeting. She had declined to accept a report about water quality from Walters and others. Two other key agency employees, Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch, made deals on Dec. 26. All three will have their records erased if they cooperate with Flood. Shekter Smith wanted 'to put some closure on this matter,' attorney Brian Morley said of her plea agreement. 'Criminal charges weren't warranted.' State Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint, who runs his water through a filter, said he's listened to frustrated residents. 'At the beginning there was a feeling of good, someone is going to be held accountable. Now people don't believe anyone is going to be held accountable,' he said. The outcome so far is different than the dramatic scene in 2016 when Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican who was poised to run for governor, traveled to Flint to announce felony charges against Prysby, a DEQ engineer, and Busch, a DEQ regional supervisor. 'Mr. Busch and Mr. Prysby misled federal and local authorities, regulatory officials, and failed to provide safe and clean water to families of Flint,' Schuette declared at that time. 'When we prove these allegations — and we will — Mr. Busch and Mr. Prysby will be facing five years in prison for this count alone.' Andy Arena, a Flint water investigator and former head of the FBI in Detroit, believes the plea deals are appropriate. 'There are culpable folks out there that we need to get to,' he said. 'This is how it works: You cut deals with certain people to move the case up the line. I believe these people have some information that could significantly assist in our ongoing investigation.' Schuette, who lost the governor's race and is out of public office, said: 'I stand with Andy,' referring to Arena. Flood declined to comment on his strategy. The new attorney general, Dana Nessel, has asked a Detroit-area prosecutor to review the remaining cases , including involuntary manslaughter charges against Nick Lyon, the former head of the Michigan health department who has been ordered to trial. Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public in a timely manner about the Legionnaires' outbreak, which has been linked to foul water and at least 12 deaths. Dr. Eden Wells, who was Michigan's chief medical executive, also is facing an involuntary manslaughter trial, although both cases are tied up in appeals by aggressive defense teams. Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, who were state-appointed emergency managers when Flint was using river water, are also charged. They're accused of being obsessed with saving money instead of protecting residents. All have pleaded not guilty. ___ Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap
  • The legal pressure on the prominent family behind the company that makes OxyContin, the prescription painkiller that helped fuel the nation's opioid epidemic, is likely to get more intense. The Sackler family came under heavy scrutiny this week when a legal filing in a Massachusetts case asserted that family members and company executives sought to push prescriptions of the drug and downplay its risks. Those revelations are likely to be a preview of the claims in a series of expanding legal challenges. Members of the family that controls Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma are also defendants in a lawsuit brought by New York's Suffolk County. Few, if any, other governments have sued the family so far. But Paul Hanly, a lawyer representing the county, said he expects to add the Sacklers to other opioid suits. He explained last year that he was targeting the family, known for its donations to some of the world's great museums and universities, in part because they took 'tens of billions' of dollars out of Purdue Pharma. Looming as potentially the biggest legal and financial risk for the family is a massive consolidated federal case playing out in Ohio. More than 1,000 government entities have sued Purdue, along with other drugmakers and distributors, claiming they are partly culpable for a drug overdose crisis that resulted in a record 72,000 deaths in 2017. The majority of those deaths were from legal or illicit opioids. The company documents at the heart of the Massachusetts claims also could be evidence in the Ohio lawsuits, which are being overseen by a federal judge. The allegations ramp up pressure on the industry — and perhaps the Sacklers — to reach a settlement, said Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette University who studies the role of state attorneys general. Having Sackler family members named as defendants in Massachusetts 'indicates that the government attorneys believe they have the 'smoking guns' necessary to broaden the potential liability of those at the top of the organization,' he said in an email. The allegations could tarnish a name that is best known for its generosity to museums worldwide including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a Sackler wing, and London's Tate Modern. The Sackler name also is on a gallery at the Smithsonian, a wing of galleries at London's Royal Academy of Arts and a museum at Beijing's Peking University. The family's best known and most generous donor, Arthur M. Sackler, died nearly a decade before OxyContin was released. The Cleveland-based judge, Dan Polster, has been pushing for a settlement since he took over the federal cases a year ago, arguing that the parties involved should find ways to end this man-made crisis, rather than hold years of trials. A court order prohibits participants from discussing most aspects of settlement talks publicly. In its lawsuit filed last year, the Massachusetts attorney general's office went after members of the Sackler family and Purdue, which is structured as a partnership and is not publicly traded. The company's flagship drug, OxyContin, was the first of a generation of drugs that used a narcotic painkiller in a time-release form. That meant each pill had a larger amount of drug in it than other versions and could get abusers a more intense high if they defeated the time-release process. Many of the attorney general's specific allegations — based on company documents — were blacked out at the request of Purdue and the Sackler family. The state recently filed a new version of its complaint that made public many of their allegations for the first time. The state is asserting that Richard Sackler, a son of a company founder and at the time a senior vice president for Purdue, as well as other family members pushed selling OxyContin even when they knew it could cause problems. When the drug was first sold in 1996, the filing said, Sackler told the sales force 'the launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.' In 2007, the company and three current and former executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they deceived regulators, doctors and patients about the drug's addiction risks. The company agreed to fines of $634 million. The next year, according to the Massachusetts lawsuit, the company pressed ahead with a new version of the drug designed to be harder for abusers to crush. It did so without first conducting trials and despite a warning from the company's CEO that the new version 'will not stop patients from the simple act of taking too many pills.' Purdue responded to the Massachusetts filing with a strong statement: 'In a rush to vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis, the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl.' A spokesman for the Sackler family declined to comment separately. Abbe Gluck, a Yale law professor who is following the federal case in Ohio, said the documents could make Purdue seem more liable or bring the Sackler family into the case in a way that presents obstacles to a settlement. But she said that might not change things for the other companies involved. 'The drug companies have an interest in settling their own claims globally,' she said. ___ Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill
  • The World Health Organization said Friday that it's seeing increasing reports of misconduct reported by staffers within the U.N. health agency, describing the trend as 'a positive thing.' WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said at a press briefing in Geneva the agency has been investigating misbehavior for 'years and decades' and would continue to do so. The comments came after an Associated Press story Thursday which reported that WHO's director-general had ordered an internal probe into claims the agency is rife with racism, sexism and corruption. The AP obtained three anonymous emails addressed to senior WHO managers charging that there were numerous problems at the agency, including 'systematic' racism against African staffers and allegations that some money intended to fight Ebola in Congo was misspent. Last month, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus instructed the agency's internal office of oversight to investigate the allegations, announcing his decision at a staff meeting in Geneva. The first email, which was sent last April, claimed there was 'systematic racial discrimination against Africans at WHO' and that African staffers were being 'abused, sworn at (and) shown contempt to' by their Geneva-based colleagues. Two further emails addressed to WHO directors complained that senior officials were 'attempting to stifle' investigations into such problems and also alleged other instances of wrongdoing, including allegedly misspent Ebola funds. The last email, sent in December, labeled the behavior of a senior doctor helping to lead the response against Ebola as 'unacceptable, unprofessional and racist,' citing a November incident where the doctor reportedly 'humiliated, disgraced and belittled' a Middle East subordinate. Some staffers feared that funds donated to help stop Ebola in Congo 'have not been used judiciously,' the email said, warning such blunders could undermine WHO's credibility. Tedros — a former health minister of Ethiopia and WHO's first African director-general — said during the staff meeting that investigators looking into the charges 'have all my support' and that he would provide more resources if necessary. WHO spokesman Jasarevic said WHO has 'established procedures and people can report on any concern they may have,' and that all such allegations would be assessed by its office of internal oversight. 'There are more reports of concern, and this is a positive trend. It's important for us to know where there are cases of misconduct so we can address them,' Jasarevic said. He added the increased reports also suggest staffers feel 'more confident to report concerns.' But critics questioned whether WHO could effectively investigate itself, pointing out that it was WHO's internal oversight office that botched the initial investigation into sexual harassment allegations at UNAIDS, which is technically part of WHO. WHO's internal investigation dismissed those claims, but an independent report concluded last year there was a culture of impunity and toxic working environment at UNAIDS, which ultimately led its chief Michel Sidibe to announce his resignation last month, effective in June. 'Having an internal investigation at WHO is as good as doing nothing,' said Ed Flaherty, a lawyer who represents Martina Brostrom, the UNAIDS whistleblower whose sexual harassment charges prompted the report. Jasarevic said WHO's internal investigation office reports 'to (an) independent expert oversight advisory committee, and that's not a WHO body.' He said reports on 'substantiated allegations' would be publicly submitted to the World Health Assembly. But according to a report from WHO's internal auditor, the office reports directly to WHO's director-general. And WHO's 2015 'Accountability Framework' said the office is responsible both to WHO senior management and to the U.N. agency's governing bodies. Flaherty disputed Jasarevic's assertion that WHO staffers have confidence in internal misconduct reporting methods. 'Whistleblowers at WHO get crushed,' Flaherty said. 'The fact that people have resorted to anonymous emails to report these allegations is a sign of desperation.' ___ Maria Cheng reported from London.
  • The Trump administration on Thursday announced proposed rule changes that would lead to a modest premium increase next year under the Affordable Care Act, potentially handing Democrats a new presidential-year health care issue. The roughly 1 percent increase could feed into the Democratic argument that the Trump administration is trying to 'sabotage' coverage for millions. The administration said the proposal is intended to improve the accuracy of a complex formula that affects what consumers pay for their premiums. Premiums under the health law were basically stable this year after several sharp annual hikes. President Donald Trump, who once predicted 'Obamacare' would 'implode' or 'explode,' took credit for calm insurance markets. He said it reflects his administration's management skills. In his first year in office, Trump tried unsuccessfully to repeal the health law and then rescinded a major insurer subsidy, triggering a wave of premium increases. The latest details were in a 300-page proposed regulation released Thursday afternoon by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency said the reason for the change is to more accurately calculate premium subsidies under the law. About 10 million people who don't get health insurance on the job purchase individual policies under the ACA, and roughly 9 in 10 receive taxpayer-provided assistance with their premiums. The administration is also proposing to require insurers that cover abortion to offer a 'mirror' plan that does not. The health law allowed insurers to offer coverage for abortions provided they collect a separate premium to cover the cost. Many states, however, have enacted laws that prevent ACA plans from covering abortion. A prominent Democrat criticized the administration's move on premiums. 'Today's proposed rule deliberately and needlessly increases premiums and will result in too many Americans losing access to health coverage,' Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement. 'The Trump administration continues to fan the flames of uncertainty while families pick up the check.' In the regulation, the administration estimated that the government would save about $900 million a year on subsidies, and that 100,000 consumers would drop their coverage. Democrats see health care as a winning issue for them, and one of the main reasons they won control of the House in last year's midterm elections. The Trump administration's refusal to defend protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law put Republican candidates across the country on the defensive. The proposed regulation is open for public comment for 30 days.
  • California has finalized its rules governing the nation's largest legal marijuana market, a milestone coming more than a year after the state broadly legalized cannabis sales for adults. But a dispute over home deliveries into communities that ban pot sales could end up in court. And the hundreds of pages of dense regulations are unlikely to resolve other disputes, including how purity and potency tests are conducted for infused cookies and other products. Even if imperfect, the rules were welcomed by many in the industry who have been contending with shifting temporary regulations since California kicked off broad legal sales last year. 'Love it or hate it, California has regulations for commercial cannabis. There are no asterisks,' said Hezekiah Allen, chair of cannabis growing cooperative Emerald Grown and former executive director of the California Growers Association, an industry group. Meanwhile, the regulations that deal with the minutia of running a legal pot business do not address other broad challenges in the industry, from a lack of banking access for pot companies that will likely need to be resolved in Washington to what to do about a thriving illicit market that is undercutting legal sales. 'Do these solve every problem that exists in the cannabis business regulatory regime? Absolutely not,' said Assemblyman Ron Bonta, a Democrat from Oakland who said the rules nonetheless create a strong foundation for a market that has gotten off to a shaky start. By far the biggest dispute focused on deliveries. The rules released Wednesday will allow home marijuana deliveries statewide, even into communities that have banned commercial pot sales. The regulation by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control was opposed by police chiefs and other critics who predict it will create an unruly market of largely hidden pot transactions, while undercutting control by cities and counties. The League of California Cities said the rule conflicts with Proposition 64, the law approved by voters in 2016 that opened the way for broad legal sales, which says local governments have the authority to ban nonmedical pot businesses. 'This decision puts the public safety needs of communities across the state at risk,' league executive director Carolyn Coleman said in a statement. Many cannabis companies and consumers had pushed for the change, since vast stretches of the state have communities that banned commercial pot activity or not set up rules to allow legal sales. That means residents in those areas were effectively cut off from legal marijuana purchases. 'The public spoke loud and clear in favor of statewide delivery,' cannabis bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said in a statement. Bonta said he supports statewide deliveries for medical patients, regardless of local bans, but not recreational users. He suggested legislation may be needed to deal with the dispute. Kenny Morrison, president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, said the state failed to examine the experience in other states, which in turn has created costly problems for California companies with labeling and testing. Industry officials have complained that the state rules force growers and manufacturers to hit too tiny a target when gauging levels of THC in products, the psychoactive chemical that causes marijuana's high. Rules require the THC concentration come within 10 percent of what is advertised on a product label. Company executives say some products are being rejected after landing outside the margin by tiny amounts, and that hitting that required range is even more difficult with low-dose products. Colorado allows a more sensible 15-percent range, Morrison said. He said the state also should be mirroring rules set by the federal government, which could eventually oversee the national pot market. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. 'Nobody cares more about the quality of the product than the manufacturer,' he said. Ruben Honig, executive director of the United Cannabis Business Association in Los Angeles, said the state's biggest challenges remain cutting hefty tax rates that can approach 50 percent in some communities and cracking down on widespread illegal sales. ___ Blood is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MichaelRBloodAP Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The Sackler name is emblazoned on the walls at some of the world's great museums and universities, including the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim and Harvard. But now the family's ties to OxyContin and the painkiller's role in the deadly opioid crisis are bringing the Sacklers a new and unwanted kind of attention and complicating their philanthropic legacy. The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, the privately held drug company that has made billions from OxyContin, and Sacklers hold most of the seats on the board. Members of the family have been accused in a case brought by the state of Massachusetts of deceiving patients and doctors about the drug's risks as deaths mounted. And documents recently released in the case shine new light on former Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler's role in the aggressive marketing of the powerful opioid. As the allegations mount, family members who made their fortunes well before OxyContin even went on the market have sought to distance themselves from their relatives. At the same time, activists have called on institutions to cut ties with the Sacklers, staging protests at museums that have received millions in donations. 'The Sackler name is becoming synonymous with the opioid epidemic, and it is damning for these institutions to have their name up,' said Nan Goldin, a photographer whose works have been displayed at Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum and at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a Sackler Wing. Lost in the outrage: One of the most generous and best known of the Sacklers died in 1987, nearly a decade before OxyContin was released. Arthur M. Sackler made his money from medical research, medical advertising and trade publications. His younger brothers, Raymond and Mortimer, bought out his stake after he died. Arthur Sackler's name is on a gallery at the Smithsonian, a wing of galleries at London's Royal Academy of Arts and a museum at Beijing's Peking University. The Sackler Wing at the Met, which houses the celebrated Temple of Dendur from ancient Egypt, was funded by all three brothers. Richard has likewise donated heavily to various institutions. After a federal investigation, Purdue Pharma and three executives — none of them Sacklers — pleaded guilty in 2007 and agreed to pay more than $600 million for misleading the public about the risks of OxyContin. The Stamford, Connecticut, company has also been hit with a multitude of lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis that killed more than 47,000 people in 2017 alone. Arthur's nephew, Richard Sackler, who became president of Purdue Pharma in 1999 and remains on the board, is at the center of the litigation. He and other current and former executives have been accused of hiding the dangers of the drug from doctors and patients, encouraging physicians to prescribe more of the highest doses and minimizing the abuse crisis as it was unfolding. 'This is not too bad. It could have been far worse,' he wrote to Purdue Pharma executives in 2001 after a federal prosecutor reported that 59 people in one state had died from OxyContin, according to documents released this week in the Massachusetts case. At the launch party for OxyContin in 1996, Richard Sackler boasted the drug would bring a 'blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,' the documents say. Years later, they say, he sought to shift blame onto drug users themselves, recommending the company 'hammer on the abusers in every way possible.' 'Richard followed that strategy for the rest of his career: collect millions from selling addictive drugs, and blame the terrible consequences on the people who became addicted,' attorneys in Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's office wrote. 'By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible. And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.' A spokesman for Richard Sackler's family referred questions about the lawsuit to the company. Purdue Pharma said in a statement that Massachusetts' case — the first one brought by a state to personally name members of the Sackler family — is 'littered with biased and inaccurate characterizations.' The company said it will 'aggressively defend against these misleading allegations.' Arthur Sackler's widow and children insist that they never financially benefited from the sale of OxyContin. 'It is a gross injustice to connect Arthur to the opioid crisis some 30 years after his death when he had nothing to do with it,' Dame Jillian Sackler said in a statement. 'It denies the many important contributions he made working to improve world health and to build cultural bridges between peoples.' But activists have made no distinction between Arthur and his relatives. In July, dozens of activists led by Goldin held a protest inside the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard, scattering pill bottles and holding banners that read 'SHAME ON SACKLER.' Similar demonstrations have been held at the Met and the Smithsonian. Goldin, who was addicted OxyContin for years, said that getting the institutions to act will be difficult. 'Who is going to turn down the money? They offer millions to these institutions, and the board members are not necessarily committed to action, so it's going to take a lot,' she said. A Met spokesman said that the Sackler family's support began decades before the opioid crisis, but that the museum will be examining its gift acceptance policies. The Guggenheim, home to the Sackler Center for Arts Education, had no comment. A Harvard spokesman said in an email that Arthur Sackler's donation in 1982 paid for the construction of the building that originally housed the museum but that his foundation does not fund the museum. ___ Associated Press reporter Verena Dobnik contributed to this report from New York. ___ Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkinricher

Local News

  • A University of Georgia student was killed overnight while driving his car on I-20 just west of Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old William Whitaker, of Carrollton. Whitaker was driving in the westbound lanes on I-20 when a tractor trailer crashed with two cars in the eastbound lanes. Debris from the wreck was sent into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles, including the car driven by Whitaker,  who died on the scene.  The driver of the truck has been identified as Mario Polier, 53, of Hialeah, FL. He now faces numerous misdemeanor charges including second degree homicide by vehicle  
  • It's a mild start to Friday but big changes are coming this weekend.  Most people are experiencing fog and light rain this morning. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for most of north Georgia until 10 a.m. Some areas have visibility of less than a quarter mile. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said that on Saturday, we have a chance to see rain, storms and the coldest temperatures this year. 'As we head through the next 24 hours or so, we've got rain moving into north Georgia, we've got a chance for storms moving into north Georgia and then the coldest air of the season moving in,' Monahan said.
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a rare Friday afternoon work session: they say fair housing is the topic of talk in the session that starts at 1 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  The city School Board in Jefferson signs off on the purchase of a new emergency alert system, one that will be used on all four Jefferson schools. The price tag is $165,000.  There is a new City Administrator in Statham: Statham’s Mayor and City Council has signed off on the hiring of Mai Chang. Chang worked previously as City Clerk in Statham. She takes over for former City Administrator Michelle Irizarry. 
  • Deangelo Gibbs’ time in Athens has been up since December, when Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the defensive back was no longer with the team prior to the Sugar Bowl. And now it seems that he will be taking his talents to another SEC East program.  DawgNation can confirm that Gibbs is enrolled at Tennessee and will move to the other side of the ball and play wide receiver for the Vols. The news was first reported by 247Sports’ Grant Ramey. Gibbs was a major recruit coming out of Grayson High School, as he was rated as the No. 49 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. But he struggled to find playing time at Georgia and he was away from the team last spring as well.  Gibbs has a cousin on Tennessee’s team in safety Nigel Warrior. Another one of Gibbs’ cousins is J.R. Reed, who has become a standout safety for the Bulldogs since transferring from Tulsa. Reed made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bolstering what should be a strong secondary, even without Gibbs.  Gibbs had reportedly put his name in the transfer portal, as did Georgia safety Tray Bishop. In Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, the Bulldogs brought in 4-star safety Lewis Cine, who is rated as the No. 61 player in the class.  Tennessee is coached by Jeremy Pruitt, who was the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2014-15.  Georgia visits Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 in Athens last fall.
  • A former Athens-Clarke County police officer is suing the police chief who fired him last June. Former Chief Scott Freeman terminated officer Taylor Saulters for hitting a suspect with his patrol car, but a state investigation later cleared him. It happened after a police pursuit on Athens’ east side. Saulters, his lawsuit, is seeking financial compensation for what he says is emotional distress and slander. He is now working as a part-time reserve deputy in Oglethorpe County. 

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia sacks leader D’Andre Walker has pulled out of the Senior Bowl, not yet ready to compete on account of what has become a nagging groin injury. Walker has been projected as a third-round NFL Draft pick, but the Senior Bowl offered him an opportunity to improve his draft stock competing against top talent in the annual all-star event. The Bulldogs will be represented by defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and long snapper Nick Moore. Practices and drills begin on Tuesday before the watchful eyes of hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and general managers. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending the Senior Bowl. I will be getting a second opinion on my groin this week to ensure I’ll be ready for the combine. I am very disappointed because it’s such a great opportunity to showcase my talent. — D’Andre Walker (@DAndreWalker15) January 21, 2019 Walker was injured early in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Alabama with Georgia leading 28-21. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Fairburn, Ga., was enjoying an MVP performance against the Tide before suffering the injury. Walker had five tackles, two TFLs, two QB hurries a forced fumble and a deflected pass in three quarters, wreaking havoc in the Alabama backfield. Georgia’s backup outside linebackers weren’t able to have the same sort of success. The Bulldogs young outside linebackers lost contain on crucial plays and allowed Jalen Hurts to buy time and make game-winning plays in Alabama’s 35-28 win. Walker practiced on a limited basis and dressed out for the Sugar Bowl, but he declined to play. Bulldogs’ cornerback Deandre Baker also had an invitation to test himself against the nation’s best in the Senior Bowl, but Baker declined his invitation. Baker also skipped the Sugar Bowl, which, coupled with injuries to Walker and Freshman All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis, severely hampered the Georgia defense in the 28-21 loss to Texas. The post Georgia football OLB D’Andre Walker uncertain of health, pulls out of Senior Bowl appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — If “Genius is patience,” as Isaac Newton once suggested, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s I.Q. must be off the charts. Smart has exhibited a deliberate approach at each turn in his young career, from not naming a starting quarterback during the 2018 offseason, to holding off on naming a defensive coordinator. Could there be more staff changes ahead? Perhaps, though it wouldn’t seem likely. The 43-year-old Smart named 41-year-old Charlton Warren his defensive backs coach on Saturday, shortly after crossing paths with him on the recruiting trail and conversing. RELATED: Georgia football adds ‘Mr. Intensity’ to defensive meeting room Warren’s hire comes more than six weeks after Colorado announced former UGA secondary coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as its new head coach (Dec. 5). Some speculated Smart would elevate 32-year-old outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning or 28-year-old inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann to defensive coordinator — or both, in a co-coordinator role. Here are three things that are next for Georgia football: Defensive coordinator It’s going to be Smart’s system on defense, regardless who gets the coordinator title, so the key here is how the staff chemistry shakes out with Warren added to the defensive meeting room. Lanning said in New Orleans that there could be an internal promotion to the coordinator position, but also, that Georgia would see how things shook out against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. RELATED: Georgia football assistant Dan Lanning shares insight into DC search Obviously, the Bulldogs didn’t fare well without Deandre Baker in the secondary, D’Andre Walker at linebacker and Jordan Davis on the defensive line. It’s hard to know how much of the defensive dropoff had to do with Tucker’s absence versus the team’s motivation after its gut-wrenching loss in the SEC title game and exclusion from the CFB playoff. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smart made the decision on his DC immediately. But it is also possible the Georgia head coach will wait until after signing day (Feb. 6), or even spring drills to name the defensive coordinator, after he gets a better feel for the chemistry and ability in the room. James Coley confirmation Coley’s promotion to play caller and full-fledged offensive coordinator from co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach wasn’t surprising. RELATED: Kirby Smart pulls trigger on elevating James Coley to OC, as expected It was, however, second-guessed by outsiders overlooking Coley’s experience as Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Florida State and his work as Miami’s coordinator. Coley’s stock recently shot up, however, when NFL.com analyst Ian Rapoport reported last Friday that the Dallas Cowboys could consider Coley for their offensive coordinator position. As the #Cowboys dig into possible replacements for embattled OC Scott Linehan, they have one on their current staff — TE coach Doug Nussmeier — and may look to the college game to better utilize Dak Prescott’s talents. UGA OC James Coley will receive some consideration there. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2019   A FOIA request for Coley’s new contract last week revealed that he doesn’t yet have one, leaving room for speculation that need soon be answered. Is Coley staying, or might   he be headed for the NFL? Big staff raises The bottom line for the Georgia football coaching staff is there is plenty of money available for raises and the new hires. So far, the Bulldogs’ offensive staff has traded Jim Chaney’s $950,000 salary for new tight ends coach Todd Hartley’s first-year deal of $300,000. RELATED: Details of Georgia football assistant Todd Hartley’s new contract The defense, meanwhile, has the $1.5 million Tucker was making to spread around. Warren was due to make $401,500 at Florida next season, per the USA Today salary database, but he’s sure to get a healthy boost at Georgia. Bulldogs defensive line coach Tray Scott has earned a raise up from $420,000, with Georgia’s defensive line showing more improvement than perhaps any other position group last season. Certainly, linebackers coaches Schumann and Lanning — both previously making $325,000 — will have deals worth more than a half-million annually next season. It’s more math for Smart to do, more pieces of the puzzle, and if the Georgia head coach has proven anything his first three seasons, it’s that he’’ll take his time to make sure he gets things right. Georgia football coaches 2018 annual salaries DEFENSE DC, secondary: Mel Tucker $1.5 million Defensive line: Tray Scott $420,000 Inside linebackers: Glenn Schumann $325,000 Outside linebackers: Dan Lanning $325,000 Special teams Scott Fountain $300,000 * Charlton Warren, new coach was due $401,500 at Florida in 2019 OFFENSE OC, tight ends: Jim Chaney $950,000 Offensive line: Sam Pittman $825,00 Quarterbacks, Co-OC James Coley, $850,00 Running backs: Dell McGee $550,000 Receivers Cortez Hankton $375,000 * Todd Hartley, new tight ends coach, will make $300,000 in 2019 at UGA   The post 3 things: What’s next for Georgia football and ever-patient Kirby Smart? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The Georgia basketball challenges could be attributed to the brutal league slate assigned by the SEC office. Already, the Bulldogs (9-8, 1-4 SEC) have played the three top-ranked teams in the league in Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn, and next up is a road trip to red-hot LSU. Georgia coach Tom Crean hasn’t mentioned the schedule since it was released in the preseason, instead focusing on what he can control, which would include the roller coaster play of forward Rayshaun Hammonds. The talented 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Norcoss is the Bulldogs leading scorer this season — except when he isn’t, which would be against the better teams this season. Hammonds has been held scoreless in losses to Tennessee and most recently at home against Florida, running into foul trouble early in both games, offering little help to his teammates in other capacities. Georgia was outscored by 18 points with Hammonds in the game against the Gators, as shown below in the plus-minus category for UGA players: “ I am going to look around and see what we can do to help him and I talked to him a lot,” Crean said. “I am not down on him at all, I want him to continue to learn and want him to understand he is a lot more than just a guy who shoots and scores.” But yes, Crean admitted, “him not scoring and us not scoring are together.” Hammonds has at times shown the sort of growth and ability many projected when he was rated the No. 51 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite. It’s far too early for Hammonds to be considered a bust, especially when others have noted the growth they’ve seen from him under Crean’s direction. “I thought (Nicolas) Claxton and Hammonds have both blossomed this year under Coach Crean and that staff, and I told them both that after the game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “They ask Rayshaun to do a lot, they don’t have a lot, they are kinda point guard by committee.” Hammonds’ issues involve fundamentals and decision making, Crean indicated. “Sometimes right now he makes the read and people are just lining up for the charge because he is going to go right into their chest,” Crean said following Saturday’s 62-52 home loss to Florida. “He is not low enough when he makes the move. “I am going to have really spend some time and be creative, look for creative ways to get him the ball in better spots than we are right now because we need him to score.” Georgia is 3-1 in its last seven games Hammonds has scored in double figures, and 0-3 when he’s been held to single-digit scoring. Rayshaun Hammonds against SEC teams 0 points Vs. Tennessee 0-for-4 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) 1 turnover 19 points Vs. Vanderbilt 6-for-13 shooting (2-of-6 from 3) 3 turnovers 9 points Vs. Auburn 2-of-6 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) 5 turnovers 11 points Vs. Kentucky 3-of-8 shooting (1-of-5 from 3) 2 turnovers 0 points Vs. Florida 0-for-4 shooting (0-for-2 from 3) 4 turnovers   The post Georgia basketball: Roller coaster Rayshaun Hammonds a key for Bulldogs appeared first on DawgNation.