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Flint school children to be screened for effects of lead after agreement

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School children in Flint, Michigan, will receive screening and in-depth health assessments to measure the effects of lead-tainted drinking water on their ability to learn, under a more than $4 million legal agreement reached on Monday.

The agreement partially settled a federal lawsuit related to a water crisis in Flint that drew international attention and prompted dozens of other civil lawsuits and criminal charges against former government officials.

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Attorney Greg Little of the Education Law Center, one of the groups representing Flint students in the lawsuit, said in a statement that the deal was “a major milestone on the road to addressing the needs of children affected by the Flint water crisis.”

The Flint water crisis began when its public water source was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a cost-cutting move in April 2014. Polluted river water, which was used until the city switched back to Lake Huron in October 2015, caused lead to leach from pipes.

Lead-tainted water has been blamed for exposing thousands of children to long-term effects on their health.

Michigan had provided free bottled water in Flint, but officials said on Friday those deliveries would end because water quality in the city had improved.
A coalition of local and national groups sued the Michigan Department of Education and school districts in the Flint area in 2016, accusing them of failing to address the educational needs of children whose learning abilities were affected by exposure to lead.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several Flint children, but their attorneys are seeking a judge’s approval to represent all Flint students, said Kristin Totten, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs.

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The agreement settled the part of the lawsuit that accused education officials of not properly screening and evaluating children in Flint to determine if they needed special education services, according to legal papers.

Exposure to lead stunts childhood development and can lead to lifelong effects on health. Younger children absorb lead more easily and can suffer more ill effects than older children, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The program, beginning in September, will allow children to be screened for exposure to lead and to receive assessments on the effects of lead on their cognitive development, memory and learning.

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Results of the assessments will be sent to schools to better provide services to children who were affected by lead poisoning, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said in a statement.

The agreement in the lawsuit must go before a judge on Thursday for final approval.

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“We believe this path forward will benefit all students and provides needed support to our families,” Flint Community Schools, a school district that is one of the defendants in the case, said in a statement.
The lawsuit will continue in federal court in Michigan, where attorneys for the children are seeking more special education services and reforms to student discipline procedures, according to the ACLU of Michigan, which is also representing the students.

The director of Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, will oversee the program, according to the ACLU.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles

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Actor Geoffrey Rush wins ‘largest ever’ Australian defamation payout from Rupert Murdoch

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Sydney (AFP) - Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush won a record multimillion-dollar payout Thursday after an appeal by a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper against a defamation ruling was thrown out by an Australian court.The Oscar-winner will receive US$2 million for lost earnings and compensation after a court rejected an appeal seeking reduced costs and a retrial of the case.The decision -- against News Corp's Australian subsidiary Nationwide News -- is the latest twist in the ongoing legal battle between Rush and the Daily Telegraph, which accused him of inappropriate sexual behaviour toward female c... (more…)

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75 years ago: When atomic scientist Leo Szilard tried to halt dropping bombs over Japan

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As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention.  They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki).   Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date:  July 3.

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman's march to using the atomic bomb--still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity--against Japanese cities.

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‘Insane’: Park ranger shoots unarmed man through his heart and then handcuffs his dead body

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A ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park tased and then fatally shot a man during a New Mexico traffic stop and then handcuffed his lifeless body.

Charles "Gage" Lorentz was traveling March 21 from his work site in Pecos, Texas, to his family's home in southwest Colorado when he detoured at the national park to meet a friend, and that's where he encountered National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell, reported KOB-TV.

The ranger stopped the 25-year-old Lorentz for speeding on a dirt road near the park's Rattlesnake Springs area, and Mitchell's lapel video shows him ordering Lorentz to spread his feet and move closer to a railing.

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