Articles Posted in Uncategorized

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Nearly 75% of all firefighter deaths in 2016 were cancer-related.

So says data from Firefighter Cancer Support Network, an organization whose aim is to bring comfort, support, and resources to families of firefighters who have received a cancer diagnosis. Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn called the number of firefighter cancer deaths in his city an “epidemic”  in a 2017 interview with NBC News’ Tom Costello.

In his NBC interview, Boston Fire Commissioner Finn recalls a 2002 explosion at a power plant. 200 city firefighters responded to a fire that left them covered with chemicals pouring from the ceiling. A quarter of those who responded have since been diagnosed with a cardiac issue or cancer.

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Sterigenics International, Inc., a manufacturing plant in Willowbrook that sterilizes medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and foods and spices, has been the subject of recent scrutiny by both the public and the U.S. and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A report compiled by a division of the Department of Health & Human Services revealed in August that the sterilization process used by Sterigenics was emitting high levels of the cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide (EtO), polluting the surrounding community and causing elevated risks of cancer for residents in neighboring areas.

According to the EPA, the cancers associated with excess EtO exposure include:

  • Breast cancer
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“It is the story of how cracks and flaws not just at Somerville Hospital, but throughout our health care system — communication errors, overburdened staffs, lack of fail-safes — can snowball into someone’s unimaginable death.”

-Pete DeMarco describing his wife, Laura Levis’ death to the Boston Globe

A Romantic Partner and Uber Can Find You, But 911 Can’t

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This month, two unrelated Detroit funeral homes have been raided after tipsters revealed that the bodies and cremated remains of fetuses and infants have been improperly stored there, some as long as 3 years.

The idea of abusing bereaved families’ trust and the immoral treatment of the deceased in order to make money is not new. In 2009, it was discovered that Burr Oak cemetery right here in Alsip had been digging up bodies and headstones and reselling the plots to the loved ones of the newly deceased. What followed were heartbreaking searches for the bodies of loved ones who had been moved from their final resting place and demands for answers why. Levin & Perconti successfully represented several clients in lawsuits against the cemetery. What the investigation by the police and the FBI revealed was greed, pure and simple. The cemetery’s owners thought bereft loved ones wouldn’t realize years later that their family member had been moved, allowing them to reuse plots and reap the profits.

Sadly, what is happening in Detroit feels eerily similar.

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“If you don’t have enough staff to take care of the kids, that’s negligence.”

-Casa Guadalupe employee speaking to ProPublica for Records Reveal “Lax” Supervision, Sexual Activity at Chicago-Area Shelters Housing Immigrant Children

Following on the heels of news that an HIV-positive employee at a youth immigrant shelter in Mesa, Arizona has been charged with 11 counts of sexual misconduct against minors, comes a report of similar offenses within Chicago-area facilities.

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The FDA is often criticized for the amount of time it takes to test and approve a drug, a required step before a medication is able to be marketed and sold to the public. But behind the scenes, more and more pharmaceuticals are being quickly approved, bypassing the traditionally-required clinical trials that ensure a drug’s safety while providing the benefits they claim.

The Drug Approval Process

According to FDA.gov, the standard drug approval process is 3 phases:

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If you have a car with a keyless ignition, odds are you’ve started to leave your car before you realized you still had the engine running. Maybe you’ve even stepped out and closed the door. Or even worse, maybe you’ve gone in your house with the car parked in the garage and only after second guessing yourself, gone out to find you did leave the car on. It’s surprisingly easy to do given that car engines are quieter than ever, we’re busier than ever, and many cars are not outfitted with alerts to notify us that the car is still on.

Suburban Chicago Couple Dies After Car Left Running in Garage

A New York Times investigation found that while no agency or group tracks the number of deaths or injuries related to carbon monoxide poisoning from cars with keyless ignitions, at least 28 people have died after leaving their car on in their own garage. The known number of those injured is at least 45. The Times tells multiple stories of victims both living and deceased, including that of a 75 year old man who died after leaving his car on overnight. Another couple managed to escape their home after waking up sick and disoriented, only to find the level of carbon monoxide was 80 times higher than tolerable for the human body.

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In early June, a Brooklyn judge ruled that Uber users couldn’t be expected to navigate to the terms & conditions section of the app to locate legal language that binds them to using arbitration to solve disputes with the company. The ruling came about in response to a Brooklyn woman’s attempt to sue the rideshare giant for failing to pick her up when she requested a wheelchair-accessible car. The woman, Elizabeth Ramos, is disabled and has relied on a wheelchair for most of her life. In the summer of 2016, she attempted to secure a ride through Uber in a wheelchair-capable car on multiple occasions, only to be told there were no cars available. With the hope of making Uber as user-friendly for the disabled as for the able-bodied, she decided to sue the company. It was only through attempting to sue that she realized she had unknowingly agreed to arbitration. Users who order a ride through Uber are automatically bound to the Terms & Conditions just by using the service.

Arbitration is a process in which disputes are handled outside the courtroom with an arbitrator (a negotiator) chosen by the group accused of wrongdoing. The meetings are held behind closed doors, so the public has no idea that a dispute has been brought forth. Companies favor arbitration agreements because they are more favorable to the company and eliminate the potential for high jury verdicts. They also help keep unsavory details of abuse, neglect, and discrimination out of the public eye, allowing the company to retain tighter control of their public image.

Ruling Could Pave the Way for Other Lawsuits

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On May 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that employees who have signed an arbitration agreement with a class action lawsuit waiver cannot band together to sue their employer for unfair wages or working conditions. A 2011 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Federal Arbitration Act legally upheld that companies could bypass class actions by enforcing individual arbitration.

The majority of non-union employees have signed an employment contract that forces them into arbitration, some without even knowing it. The number of American workers bound by an employment arbitration agreement continues to rise, going from 2% just 16 years ago to 54% today. Arbitration agreements are notorious for being embedded in pages upon pages of new hire paperwork. Even when the legal language used to explain arbitration agreements and class action waivers is recognized by an employee, most feel forced to sign it for fear of losing their job.

The ruling upholding the use of arbitration agreements and class action bans in employment agreements has many worried that the law will extend to cases of discrimination and harassment. The major concern is that these disputes are handled secretly, with an arbitrator chosen by the company themselves. The process is known to heavily favor the corporation accused of wrongdoing, with the outcome rarely yielding the same results as a legal settlement or trial by jury.

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In the first part of 2017, more than 4,460 cases of sex trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. That’s just the number willing to come forward. Experts estimate that thousands of other victims are silenced, either out of fear of their perpetrator(s) or because of guilt. While many of us may feel far removed from the sex trafficking industry, states that are home to major cities such as Chicago are considered hubs for these activities, due in large part to a person’s ability to be anonymous, as well as our proximity to O’Hare International Airport, the 6th busiest in the world and the 3rd busiest in the country. Last year, Illinois ranked 10th on a list of states with the most reported human trafficking cases and had 100 reports within just the first half of the year.

Federal Law Now Makes Social Media Sites Pay Victim

Social media has given both traffickers and those seeking illegal sex an easy way of finding and targeting victims. With new legislation passed that allows victims to sue businesses that had any part in a case of a sex trafficking, the country is hopeful that the number of those brought into the human trafficking trade will dwindle.