Constant fireworks frazzle nerves in U.S. city that never sleeps

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Complaints are skyrocketing about thundering fireworks exploding over otherwise quiet U.S. neighborhoods, fraying nerves already frazzled by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Even in the city that never sleeps, weary New Yorkers in the first half of June lodged a one-hundredfold increase in complaints compared to the year-ago period, of explosions that begin before sundown and rattle windows into the morning. The city’s 311 hotline received 2,492 fireworks complaints from June 1-16, up from just 25 in the same period in 2019.

The pyrotechnics occur almost nightly across the five boroughs of New York, once the U.S. epicenter of coronavirus infections, which recently achieved the nation’s lowest rate of virus spread.

“We have been terrorized by the fireworks for weeks now,” said Tanya Bonner, a government policy consultant in her 40s who lives in upper Manhattan, where Columbia University’s athletics complex had been converted into a COVID-19 field hospital.

“It is very bad up here. This area also has many essential workers – and they need rest.”

Bonner, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma and must leave her apartment windows open, said she can sleep only by turning her television volume “way up” even though “the fireworks happen so close to my window that it is impossible to drown it out.”

To get some shuteye, another upper Manhattan resident said she closes all windows and muffles the blasts by turning on a noisy air conditioner, a fan, a white noise machine and screwing in some tight-fitting earplugs.

“Fireworks are illegal in New York City,” New York Police Detective Sophia Mason responded in an email. But neighboring New Jersey legalized some fireworks in 2017.

From Jan. 1 through June 14, the New York Police Department has seized fireworks on 26 occasions, made eight arrests, issued 22 criminal court summonses, and responded to 2 fireworks-related injuries, Mason said.

In Massachusetts, which has the country’s strictest prohibitions against fireworks, police blamed a spike in complaints in Boston and other municipalities on a stretch of warmer weather after months of stay-at-home orders.

“It’s just been months now of young people being inside, being bored,” said Lieutenant Sean Murtha of the Worcester Police Department, roughly 47 miles (76 km) west of Boston.

“It’s been a stressful time for everybody, an oppressive time,” said Murtha, who noted recent reports of gunshots that turned out to be fireworks were double the five-year average, totaling 27 in May, the most recent data available.

In upstate New York, Syracuse residents said they were being pushed to the brink by the pyrotechnics and more than 530 have signed a petition demanding Mayor Ben Walsh “crack down on constant fireworks” that have been booming since May.

“These are not merely a nuisance, but extremely traumatic for service members with PTSD,” Scott Upham Jr., a Syracuse resident who started the petition, said on Change.org.

Others said the noise was particularly bothersome for people with autism and family pets and worried that the fireworks create a fire hazard.

Mayor Walsh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Additional reporting by Aleksandra Michalska; Editing by Richard Chang)

Unvaccinated children face public space ban in New York measles outbreak

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

(Reuters) – A New York suburb has banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces, such as schools and shopping malls, as it fights the state’s worst outbreak in decades of the potentially deadly disease.

Rockland County declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and said the ban would remain in place for 30 days or until unvaccinated children get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot.

The Rockland announcement follows measles outbreaks in California, Illinois, Texas and Washington and is part of a global resurgence of the viral infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk,” County Executive Ed Day said in a statement. “This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm.”

There have been 153 confirmed cases of measles in Rockland County, about 11 miles (18 km) north of Manhattan, mostly among children who have not been vaccinated.

The ban begins at midnight after which unvaccinated children will not be permitted in locations such as places of worship, schools and shopping malls. Outdoor spaces like playgrounds are excluded from the ban. People medically unable to get vaccinated are exempt.

The outbreak began when a traveler visited Israel and returned to a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County. There have also been at least 181 confirmed cases of measles in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens since October, mostly among Orthodox Jews, according to the city’s health department.

The New York and Washington outbreaks began after U.S. travelers picked up measles in foreign countries, where the disease was running rampant and brought it back to places where vaccination rates were too low by U.S. public health standards.

The disease has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated, citing reasons such as philosophical or religious beliefs, or concerns the MMR vaccine could cause autism, authorities said.

Large scientific studies have demonstrated that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Officials say the measles outbreaks offer a lesson about the importance of maintaining a minimum 95 percent “herd” level of immunization against dangerous, preventable diseases such as measles. Rates as low as 60 percent were found in parts of New York where measles spread, State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in February.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Bill Berkrot)

Video shows man with hands up before Florida police shooting

y Zachary Fagenson

NORTH MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) – An employee of a group home who was shot by police in North Miami, Florida, said he was more worried about his autistic patient than himself before he felt the sting of a bullet in his leg.

Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey told WSVN-TV in Miami on Wednesday that he was trying to calm the man, who had run away from the home on Monday when police showed up. Kinsey was on his back with his hands up and open to comply with the commands of the officers, who according to a police statement were responding to a 911 call about an armed man threatening suicide.

“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking,” Kinsey said in an interview from his hospital bed on Wednesday. “Wow, was I wrong.”

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday the Justice Department was gathering information about the incident, the latest in a series of controversial shootings of black men by police in the United States.

Kinsey said he told police he was unarmed and there was no need for guns. He told WSVN-TV he kept his hands up throughout the incident and that he asked the officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?”

“He said, ‘I don’t know,'” Kinsey said.

The officer, who has not been named, is on administrative leave per standard procedure, the department said.

Cellphone video showing Kinsey with his hands high before police opened fire emerged online on Wednesday, sparking new outrage. The shooting itself was not recorded.

In the video, Kinsey can be heard talking to both his patient and police while prone in the street.

“All he has is a toy trunk in his hands … I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” Kinsey yells. He also urges his patient, who is sitting nearby, to lie down and be still.

The autistic man tells him to “shut up” and does not comply.

Videos in the past year of such shootings or their aftermath in cities including North Charleston, South Carolina; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota have spurred protests over use of force against minorities by police. The Baton Rouge and St. Paul incidents were followed by attacks that killed eight police officers.

Police in North Miami have offered few details about the latest incident. Police Chief Gary Eugene told reporters on Thursday he had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to lead the investigation.

Eugene said officers responded to the scene with the threat of a gun in mind but no gun was recovered.

“There are many questions about what happened on Monday night,” the chief said. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Colleen Jenkins and Michelle Gershberg; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott)

Autistic Child Found Alive After Four Days In Forest

An 11-year-old autistic child was found alive after four nights alone in an Australian forest.

Police Commander Rick Nugent said a police helicopter spotted Luke Shambrook about two miles from his family’s campsite in Fraser National Park in Victoria.

“I just out of the corner of my eye caught a little flash of something,” Sergeant Brad Pascoe of the police Air Wing said. “It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make me get the guys to turn the aircraft around and have a further look.  As we got closer and were able to have a better look at him, we saw that it was a person on the ground and we were able to train the camera in and confirm that it was actually Luke.”

“All of us in the crew are parents ourselves and we can only imagine what the parents of Luke have been going through. It’s just such a reward for everybody’s efforts.”

Luke was unable to communicate with his rescuers, a common thing for children who have autism.  However, he did drink water and ate an offered bread roll.  Because of Luke’s limited communication ability, police say it’s likely they will never know all the boy faced during this ordeal.

Nugent told reporters the boy was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration but that overall is well.   Temperatures in the region fell to 48 degrees in the evening.

“[Luke is] one courageous, strong, determined young man”, Nugent said. “Four days, four nights in this terrain, it really is a miracle that he’s alive and well.”

Study Links Autism To Vaccines Using Aborted Fetus Cells

A new study shows vaccines that come from human fetal cell lines can contribute to autism.

The study uses data from the U.S., U.K., Denmark and Australia.  It was complied by the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute.

“Not only are the human fetal contaminated vaccines associated with autistic disorder throughout the world, but also with epidemic childhood leukemia and lymphomas,” said Dr. Theresa Deisher of SCPI.

The study showed that in most cases, the amount of fetal DNA in the vaccines was significantly above the levels considered safe.  No more than 10ng should be in a dose, yet in some cases the levels were as high at 2000ng per dose.

“There are a large number of publications about the presence of HERV (human endogenous retrovirus – the only re-activatable endogenous retrovirus) and its association with childhood lymphoma,” noted Dr Deisher. “The MMR II and chickenpox vaccines and indeed all vaccines that were propagated or manufactured using the fetal cell line WI-38 are contaminated with this retrovirus. And both parents and physicians have a right to know this!”

The report comes on the heels of a CDC report that was withheld showing an increase among African American boys and autism when vaccinated prior to 36 months.