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Vaping companies sue to delay US review of e-cigarettes
By MATTHEW PERRONE 05:50 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — A vaping industry group sued the U.S. government on Wednesday to delay an upcoming review of thousands of e-cigarettes on the market.
The legal challenge by the Vapor Technology Association is the latest hurdle in the Food and Drug Administration’s yearslong effort to regulate the multibillion-dollar vaping industry, which includes makers and retailers of e-cigarette devices and flavored solutions.
The vaping group argued that the latest deadline of next May to submit products for review could wipe out many of the smaller companies. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.
E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. more than a decade ago and have grown in popularity despite little research on their long-term effects, including whether they can help smokers quit cigarettes.
In recent years, health authorities have warned of an epidemic of vaping by underage teenagers, particularly the leading brand Juul, known for its high nicotine content and easy-to-conceal device, which resembles a flash drive.
Nicotine is what makes both cigarettes and e-cigarettes addictive, and health experts say the chemical is harmful to developing brains.
San Francisco-based Juul is among 800 member companies of the vaping association.
The 2009 law that gave the FDA power over the traditional tobacco products did not mention e-cigarettes. And it wasn’t until 2016 that the agency expanded its own regulations to include the devices. But since then FDA regulators have repeatedly pushed back the timeline, at one point until 2022, to begin review the legions of vaping products that have come to market.
Frustrated by the delays, anti-tobacco groups including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sued the FDA to speed up the process. In June, a federal judge sided with the groups and set a deadline of next May for all companies to submit their products for federal review. The FDA has until next month to appeal the decision.
The vapor group’s lawsuit said the FDA has now set five different deadlines.
“It is time for FDA to stop moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game to the detriment of our manufacturers and small businesses,” said Tony Abboud, the group’s executive director, in a statement.
Vaping executives have long said that most companies will not be able to afford to conduct large, expensive studies needed for FDA review. Only products that meet FDA standards would be permitted to be sold.
The FDA declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
EarthLink – News
Federal appeals court grants Texas inmate stay of execution
Wed, August 14, 2019 10:32 EDT
HOUSTON (AP) — A federal appeals court granted a stay of execution Wednesday to a Texas inmate just one day before he was scheduled to die for the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman during a carjacking in Houston.
In an 18-page opinion filed Thursday, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that under recent case law and intellectual disability standards, Dexter Johnson is sufficiently impaired intellectually to disqualify him for Thursday’s execution.
The Supreme Court in 2002 barred execution of mentally disabled people but has given states some discretion to decide how to determine intellectual disability. However, justices have wrestled with how much discretion to allow. The 31-year-old Johnson’s attorneys say a recent evaluation shows he has an IQ of 70, which puts him in the range of intellectual disability.
A message seeking comment from the Texas Attorney General’s Office was not answered immediately.
Johnson, 31, has been on death row for the June 2006 slaying of Maria Aparece. Prosecutors say she and boyfriend Huy Ngo, 17, were fatally shot during a nearly monthlong spate of crimes by Johnson and his friends.
Harris County prosecutors had described Johnson as a violent person who orchestrated a 25-day spate of crimes and had participated in three other murders in the weeks leading up to the killings of Aparece and Ngo.
Prosecutors say that in the early morning hours of June 18, 2006, Johnson and four others were riding around looking for someone to rob when they came across the couple.
Johnson, 18 at the time, and two members of his group forced their way into the couple’s car, eventually driving the vehicle to a wooded area, where prosecutors say Johnson sexually assaulted Aparece in the backseat while Ngo was forced to listen.
Prosecutors say the couple was then marched into the woods, where Johnson shot both in the head.
Johnson, who was tried and convicted only in the Aparece killing, has long maintained he’s innocent.
“I simply refused to become a snitch which allowed my co-defendants to make up lies so they could all get plea deals,” Johnson wrote in a January letter that was filed as part of his appeal.
Jeremy Schepers, Johnson’s current attorney, accused the inmate’s previous longtime appellate lawyer, Patrick McCann, of having a conflict of interest because he represented Johnson in both state and federal appeals and thus could not have his work evaluated. Schepers also accused of McCann of not conducting investigations into the constitutionality of Johnson’s death sentence and not presenting timely arguments that would have supported Johnson’s claims he is intellectually disabled.
“Mr. Johnson is an intellectually disabled, brain-damaged schizophrenic who functions at the level of a ten-year-old,” Schepers wrote in a motion filed earlier this month in federal court in Houston.
McCann denied the allegations of ineffective counsel and conflict of interest, saying he “never stopped working for” Johnson.
Johnson had an April execution date. That was put on hold over the allegations against McCann, who later withdrew as Johnson’s attorney.
In a motion filed in April, prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office argued the recent IQ evaluation was based on flawed testing and methodology and that Johnson has failed to show he is intellectually disabled.
Other members of Johnson’s group were also convicted and received sentences ranging from 25 years to life in prison. One who was 15 at the time, cooperated with authorities and was not charged.
EarthLink – News
France honors Allied veterans of World War II landings
PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is celebrating U.S. and African veterans as well as French resistance fighters who took part in crucial but often-overlooked World War II landings on the Riviera.
At a ceremony Thursday in the southern town of Saint-Raphael marking 75 years since the operation to wrest southern France from Nazi control, Macron said, “your commitment is our heritage against darkness and ignorance.”
He urged French mayors to name streets after African soldiers from then-French colonies brought in to fight. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and Guinea President Alpha Conde also took part in the ceremony.
Starting Aug. 15, 1944, some 350,000 U.S. and French troops landed on the Mediterranean coast for Operation Dragoon, which was intended to coincide with the D-Day invasion in Normandy in June but was delayed due to a lack of resources.
EarthLink – News
Hong Kong police: not aware of any military plans by China
By YANAN WANG and CHRISTOPHER BODEEN | Thu, August 15, 2019 10:48 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Three senior Hong Kong police officers said Thursday that they are not aware of any plans for Chinese forces to join efforts to quell mass demonstrations in the territory, as images this week showed paramilitary exercises in a neighboring mainland city.
The officers added that they are unsure whether they would be informed ahead of time if Chinese paramilitary or army forces were deployed in Hong Kong. They agreed to speak to a group of reporters for foreign media only on the condition of anonymity.
Protests that began in early June have paralyzed parts of the territory, including its international airport, and led to more than 700 arrests. The largely peaceful rallies attended by tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have increasingly concluded in clashes between some protesters and police. While protesters have thrown bricks, gasoline bombs and other objects at law enforcement, riot police have countered with tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse crowds.
The senior police officers said the situation is “worse than Occupy Central,” a 79-day pro-democracy sit-in in 2014. While the current movement was initially a response to now-suspended extradition legislation, the focus has since shifted to democracy and demands for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
No officer has been disciplined for use of excessive force since the protests began, according to the senior police officers.
“It’s difficult to say if we are really losing public support,” one officer said. Another officer referred to a “silent majority” of Hong Kong residents who support the police but are afraid to publicly voice their opinions.
Residents of neighborhoods hosting the protests have taken to heckling police officers and calling them “gangsters” after media footage showed police officers swinging their batons at protesters and firing rubber bullets and tear gas at close range. The senior police officers said about 300 of their colleagues have had their personal information shared online. In some cases, people have appeared at officers’ homes at odd hours or circulated photos of their children.
China’s ambassador to the U.K. said Thursday the Beijing government will not “sit on its hands” if the situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate after more than two months of near-daily street protests.
Liu Xiaoming said extremists masquerading as pro-democracy activists are dragging Hong Kong “down a dangerous road.” He told a news conference in London that if unrest becomes “uncontrollable . the central government would not sit on its hands and watch.”
“We have enough solutions and enough power within the limit of the Basic Law to quell any unrest swiftly,” he said, referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution adopted after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997. “We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst.”
Satellite photos show what appear to be armored personnel carriers and other vehicles belonging to the China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police parked in a sports complex in the city of Shenzhen, across the border in Hong Kong, in what some have interpreted as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against protesters.
China’s Defense Ministry has pointed to a legal provision that would allow Hong Kong-based People’s Liberation Army troops to be deployed for “public order maintenance” at the request of the city government. The troops, called the Hong Kong Garrison, released a promotional video earlier this month that showed soldiers partaking in a “riot drill” in which they fired tear gas and water cannons at people who appeared to be protesters.
Hong Kong authorities, however, have maintained that they are capable of handling the situation themselves.
The senior police officials said they have 3,000 officers who are currently deployed for riot control operations and hundreds others to draw from.
Flights have mostly resumed after being halted by mass demonstrations and spasms of violence at Hong Kong’s airport on Monday and Tuesday. Police made five arrests Tuesday night and 17 more on Wednesday during clashes outside police stations in the Sham Shui Po district.
This week’s clashes highlighted the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities, which show no sign of abating as long as the government continues to refuse calls for dialogue. Along with scrapping the extradition legislation, under which criminal suspects could be tried in mainland China, where critics say they could face torture and unfair justice, protesters are demanding electoral reforms and an investigation into alleged police abuses, with some calling also for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
That is also having an effect on what is already a difficult economic situation for the financial services and export hub, with the forecast for economic growth for the year downgraded to 0 to 1%, city Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced Thursday.
“Domestically, the recent social incidents have hit the retail trade, restaurants and tourism, adding a further blow to an already weak economy, and also affected the international image of Hong Kong,” Chan said.
A total of 29 countries have issued travel safety alerts for Hong Kong, while international credit rating agencies have also expressed concern about the situation in the territory, he said.
While human rights groups, foreign governments and many members of the U.S. Congress have expressed concern over the events in Hong Kong, President Donald Trump has taken an almost cavalier attitude, calling the protests “riots” and saying they were solely a Chinese affair.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that he knew Chinese leader Xi Jinping “very well.”
“He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a ‘tough business,'” Trump tweeted. “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”
In a possibly hopeful sign for the opposition, a leader of an earlier protest movement imprisoned on public disorder charges was released on bail Thursday.
Benny Tai was sentenced to 16 months in April as one of nine leaders put on trial for their part in a 2014 drive for universal suffrage known as the Umbrella Movement. He was allowed to return home on $12,755 bail but was barred from leaving Hong Kong and will have his appeal heard in late February, according to the court.
Bodeen reported from Beijing. Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that economic forecast was reduced to 0 to 1%, not to 0%.
EarthLink – News
London teen lost at Malaysian resort died from ulcer bleed
Thu, August 15, 2019 03:50 EDT
SEREMBAN, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police said Thursday there were no signs of foul play in the death of a 15-year-old London girl who mysteriously disappeared from a nature resort, with an autopsy showing she succumbed to intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress.
Nora Anne Quoirin’s body was discovered Tuesday beside a small stream about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the Dusun eco-resort after she disappeared from her family’s resort cottage on Aug. 4.
Negeri Sembilan state police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop said the autopsy found no evidence the teenager had been abducted or raped. She was estimated to have been dead two or three days and not more than four when her naked body was found, he said.
“For the time being, there is no element of abduction or kidnapping,” he told a news conference at a police station.
“The cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to duodenal ulcer, complicated with perforation… it could be due to a lack of food for a long period of time and due to prolonged stress,” he said.
Mohamad said there were also some bruises on the girl’s legs but wouldn’t cause her death. Samples taken from her body will be sent to the chemistry department for further analysis, he said.
The girl’s family can take her body back to their country if they wish, he added.
Quoirin’s family has said she wasn’t independent and wouldn’t wander off alone as she had learning and physical disabilities. Police believe she climbed out through an open window in the living room of the cottage but said they were investigated all aspects including possible criminal elements.
Police from Ireland, France and the U.K. are in Malaysia to assist in the investigation. The girl’s mother is from Ireland and her father is French, but the family has lived in London for 20 years.
The Paris prosecutor’s office on Wednesday said it has opened a preliminary investigation into the girl’s death, on potential charges of kidnapping and sequestration. The prosecutor’s office wouldn’t elaborate. French authorities often open such investigations when French citizens are victims or otherwise involved in suspected crimes abroad.
Quoirin’s family arrived Aug. 3 for a two-week stay at the Dusun, a small resort located in a durian orchard next to a forest reserve 63 kilometers (39 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur.
Her family on Wednesday thanked the more than 350 people who helped search for the girl and said that their hearts were broken.
“Nóra is at the heart of our family. She is the truest, most precious girl and we love her infinitely. The cruelty of her being taken away is unbearable,” the family said in a brief statement issued by the Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity that helps families of Britons in crisis overseas.