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Puerto Rico governor announces independent probe into death toll after Hurricane Maria

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Puerto Rico’s governor said on Thursday he has tapped researchers at the George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., to lead an independent probe into his administration’s controversial tally of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria.

Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a statement it was “of great interest to the state to identify how many lives were lost” in Maria, announcing an investigation led by Carlos Santos-Burgoa, director of the Global Health Policy Program at GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

After Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico in September, decimating infrastructure and leaving the island’s 3.4 million residents without power, Rossello’s administration pegged the death toll at 64.

The governor faced criticism from funeral directors, families and media outlets who reported dozens – or in some cases hundreds – of deaths that were not counted as being caused by the storm.

In December, Rossello said he would launch an internal probe into the death toll, to be led by his public safety director, Hector Pesquera.

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It was unclear on Thursday why Rossello decided to switch gears and hand the investigation off to independent experts. A spokesman for the governor had no immediate comment on that decision.

The study “will seek to analyze all data available related to mortality, including death certificates, to determine how many more deaths than usual could be related to the hurricane,” according to a statement.

An initial report is slated to come out in a month, with a more detailed report likely to take about a year.

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Maria, Puerto Rico’s worst natural disaster in nine decades, came at a time when the island was already trudging through an unprecedented economic crisis. The island declared a form of bankruptcy last May, shouldering some $120 billion in combined bond and pension debt.

(Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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Ivanka bashed by CNN guest for jumping into Trump racist furor late and trying to make herself look good

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Appearing on CNN, the author of a piece in The Atlantic on Ivanka Trump's disappearing act whenever her father, President Donald Trump, does something offensive, said the first daughter likes to pick her spots when she can be "part of the show."

Speaking with CNN host Ana Cabrera, journalist Elaina Plott said Ivanka's influence on her father has been overstated since the beginning of his presidency and only she moves into the public eye when it benefits her.

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House GOP group wants to pressure Amazon into selling gay conversion therapy books written by long-debunked quack

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A key bloc of House Republicans is planning to put pressure on Amazon to once again start selling "gay conversion therapy" books that the website had previously removed for peddling a dangerous, pseudo-scientific procedure that has been linked to suicide and mental health problems.

Vice News reports that the Republican Study Group issued a handout to its members this week encouraging them to raise concerns about "Amazon censorship" of books written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the late clinical psychologist who has been credited with pioneering so-called gay conversion therapy techniques.

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American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept

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A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.

Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.

He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.

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