Beyond the county: Chipotle with another E. Coli outbreak, Jimmy Carter fights cancer
Jimmy Carter says he feels fine, keeps busy despite cancer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jimmy Carter resumed his role as Habitat for Humanity’s most prominent booster on Monday, donning a white hard hat and a worn leather belt stocked with his own tools to hammer and saw with other volunteers building a home in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We haven’t cut back on my schedule yet,” Carter told The Associated Press, seeming invigorated during an interview at the build site. “I know it’s going to come, particularly if my cancer progresses, but we don’t yet know what the result will be from the treatments.”
The former US president celebrated his 91st birthday in October, and is undergoing treatment on cancer found in his liver and brain. But he was sure-footed on the construction site as he moved from one task to another.
Carter arrived at the site ahead of schedule, removing a blue windbreaker and installing a hammer, measuring tape and thick pencil on his tool belt. Then he helped place pre-framed walls, hammered nails into place and sawed boards into smaller pieces, occasionally shouting questions or suggestions at the rest of the crew. His wife, Rosalynn Carter, 88, hammered brackets to secure the walls, pulling the nails from her own leather tool belt.
“Hard work,” she said with a soft laugh.
Carter and the Atlanta-based charity have been practically synonymous for more than 30 years. Carter’s presidential museum even has a pair of his work boots and a hammer on display. Since leaving the White House, the Carters have personally been involved with 3,943 projects in 14 countries for the group, which has helped five million people with home construction and repairs.
The couple has volunteered a week of their time each year since 1984 to “Carter work projects,” drawing thousands of volunteers. The streak seemed at risk in August when he revealed his illness, casting doubt on his ability to travel to a remote region of Nepal for this year’s planned build.
Ultimately, doctors approved the November trip, but it was cancelled due to concerns about civil unrest in the region and not his health, Carter said. He told the AP on Sunday that he had been looking forward to the Nepal build, describing plans for walls woven of bamboo with the anticipation of a builder starting a new project.
“Back in August … I didn’t know if I would be physically able or if the doctors would let me go to Nepal, but they finally approved my going, and I was very happy and excited about that,” Carter said. “To find out that we couldn’t go because of civil disorder in Nepal was just a very serious blow to me, and I presume to the other 2,500 people who were going to join us down there.”
So Carter traveled to Memphis instead, making quick work of raising the walls of a new home. By late morning, all the walls were framed and volunteers were placing wood planks around the exterior.
Arlicia Gilliams, a 25-year-old single mom, will soon move in with her 2-year-old daughter, Parisse, following a path her parents forged decades earlier when they moved with her into a Habitat home near the University of Memphis.
Gilliam put in the required 350 hours of “sweat equity,” volunteering on other Habitat projects, and her mortgage payments will help build other Habitat homes.
Carter said Monday that Gilliams had been working so hard, he only had time for one quick joke, suggesting to her that she could give the house back if she didn’t like it.
“No way!” Gilliams said, grinning as she described what it was like to raise a wall with the former president and first lady.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve been able to touch down on my land.”
Carter’s work ethic on these sites has become part of Habitat lore.
“While I’m working, I don’t want anybody to bother me,” he said on Sunday, smiling. “I don’t want other volunteers to be coming and taking photographs because they’re not working and I’m not working when they’re taking my photograph.”
Habitat’s CEO Jonathan Reckford said Carter’s jump-right-in attitude hasn’t changed since his cancer diagnosis.
“He, to me, looks great, sounds great,” Reckford said. “And he’s very focused. You can tell when he’s building; he’s working on getting the job done.”
Carter got a single dose of radiation, targeted at four tumors on his brain, in August, and four treatments since then of Keytruda, a newly approved drug that helps his immune system seek out cancer cells. He said he’ll keep receiving the drug, and that it’s still too early for doctors to determine the impact.
“I’ve reacted well to the treatments,” he said. “I haven’t been uncomfortable or ill after the treatments were over. So that part of it has been a relief to me and I think to the doctors. But the final result of how well the treatments are combating or controlling the cancer, we don’t know yet.”
Next August, volunteers plan to build 21 homes in a Memphis neighborhood. The organization also plans to complete other home repairs and landscaping, along with home repairs or modifications for low-income seniors living around the area.
As for Carter, his favorite moment remains handing the keys and a Bible to residents of the new home. They’re often moved to tears.
“As a matter of fact,” he said, “I get maybe a little more emotional the older I get.”
— Associated Press
E. coli in Northwest marks Chipotle’s 3rd outbreak this year
SEATTLE — Chipotle closed 43 of its Pacific Northwest locations after the chain’s third foodborne illness this year sickened about two dozen people — prompting renewed scrutiny of a company that touts its use of fresh ingredients and farm-sourcedfare.
Cases of the bacterial illness were traced to six of the casual Mexican food restaurants, but the company voluntarily closed down all of its locations in Washington and the Portland, Oregon, area as a precaution as an investigation continues.
Three people in the Portland area and 19 people in western Washington have gotten sick with E. coli as of Friday. Seventeen of them had eaten at a Chipotle restaurant during the past few weeks. Eight people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.
About a dozen more people were being tested for E. coli on Monday in Washington state and health officials were aggressively searching for more cases, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases for the Washington State Department of Health.
Lindquist does not expect the number of sick people to increase dramatically, and he said they are not positive yet that the outbreak is limited to people who ate at Chipotle restaurants over the past few weeks.
Those sickened in the E. coli outbreak range in age from 11 to 61. Lindquist did not have any detailed information about their medical conditions.
Chipotle has faced other recent foodborne outbreaks. A salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes sickened dozens of people in Minnesota beginning in August, according to state health officials. In California, health workers said norovirus sickened nearly 100 customers and employees at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley in mid-August.
“Having three problems in a couple of months means that Chipotle is not paying attention to food safety like it should,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety lawyer who built his national reputation with the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Seattle Jack in the Box restaurants.
The common denominator in most food-borne illness outbreaks is poor food safety, Marler said.
People should not assume a company that focuses on local and fresh ingredients — like Chipotle — is going to be immune from food safety issues, he said.
“People shouldn’t have a false sense of security that local means safer,” Marler said.
Health officials believe the contamination at Chipotle is related to a fresh food product such as lettuce or other produce.
The outbreak probably will not be traced to one sick individual or one instance of cross-contamination of food because the cases are connected with various restaurants, said Marisa D’Angeli, medical epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health.
The company is not planning to close any other restaurants in other states because there is no evidence of a link to other locations, company spokesman Chris Arnold said.
Only six restaurants in Washington and Oregon have been connected to the outbreak.
“We closed 43 in those states out of an abundance of caution,” Arnold said.
Reopening the shuttered locations will depend on the investigation, he said.
Adam Adamson of New York marketing consulting firm BrandSimple said the outbreak in Washington state is likely to hurt the brand far beyond the closed stores.
“Many consumers will feel, ‘Why risk it?,’ until they find out how it happened,” Adamson said. “Consumers have lots of choices.”
Although the shutdown restaurants represent just 2 percent of the company’s 1,931 locations, each restaurant brings in about $2.5 million in revenue a year on average, according to Chipotle.
Chipotle’s stock fell as much as 5 percent early Monday, but recovered slightly, falling 2.5 percent to close at $624.
The decision to close down immediately will help the brand in the long-term, said Laura Ries, president of Atlanta marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries. “They went above and beyond what they needed to do,” she said.
Customers tend to return to eating foods that caused illnesses as soon as they are assured it’s safe, said Darren Seifer, a food analyst at market research firm NPD Group.
Chipotle’s stock fell as much as 5 percent early Monday, but recovered slightly, and was down about 3 percent by Monday afternoon.
Outside a closed Chipotle near the University of Washington in Seattle, Trey Reche stopped by to read the signs on the door.
“I think Chipotle has too much of a strong fan base to go completely under by this,” said Reche, who last ate at Chipotle a few weeks ago. “It might be a huge wakeup call for them to rethink how they’re getting their food.”
— Associated Press
California settles debt collection suit with JPMorgan Chase
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One of the nation’s largest banks is agreeing to pay $100 million to settle a California lawsuit alleging it used illegal methods to collect debts from more than 125,000 credit card holders.
Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Monday that JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $50 million to customers, including about $10 million to customers in California.
The company will also pay $50 million in state penalties.
It is agreeing to change practices that the state says violated California law and led the company to file thousands of debt collection lawsuits between 2008 and 2011.
They include collecting incorrect amounts, selling bad credit card debt, and running what Harris’ office calls a debt collection mill that “robo-signed” court documents.
JPMorgan Chase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Associated Press
Agencies warn Los Angeles homeless about El Nino flood risk
LOS ANGELES — Homeless people living in Southern California’s storm drains and riverbeds are being warned to find other shelter before the expected arrival of significant rains spawned by the warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean known as El Nino.
The Los Angeles Times reports (http://lat.ms/1NkYXVk ) that officials are trying to persuade river dwellers to move to safety. If those efforts fail, authorities say, they will try to forcibly remove them if flooding is imminent.
Signs have been posted warning people to keep out of flood channels during the rainy season. In Los Angeles County, a task force is working to protect people in homeless encampments along waterways.
Encampments residents, such as 74-year-old Bill “Tattoo” LeBlanc, say they aren’t afraid of flooding and that they plan to stay put.
— Associated Press
9th Circuit rejects bid to halt Reno-Sparks bypass road
RENO, Nev. — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected the latest attempt by a group of Nevada citizens to halt construction of a major bypass being built on the edge of Reno.
The appellate court in San Francisco issued a three-paragraph ruling denying a request for a preliminary injunction ordering suspension of work on the $290 million “Southeast Connector.”
A lawyer for the Upper Southeast Communities Coalition argued before the 9th Circuit last month that the final phase of the six-lane road connecting south Reno to east Sparks could increase flood danger in nearby neighborhoods, harm sensitive wetlands and spread mercury contamination from historic mining.
A federal judge in Sacramento earlier refused to grant a similar injunction based on the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
The three-judge appellate panel upheld that ruling Monday, saying it has the authority to reverse the district court “only where it relied on an erroneous legal premise or abused its discretion.”
It noted that the rejection of the request for an injunction does not necessarily mean the critics would not prevail if they were to continue to argue the case on its merits in district court.
The Regional Transportation Commission touts the connector as a necessary tool to alleviate congestion where Interstate 80 intersects I-580 and U.S. Highway 395 east of downtown Reno.
The citizens group argued the Army Corps of Engineers and the commission failed to sufficiently analyze the potential harm of the project in the environmental reviews they conducted under NEPA.
Coalition lawyer Winter King said after Monday’s ruling the group was “considering its options going forward.”
“We are obviously disappointed with the 9th Circuit’s ruling and continue to believe the Corps violated federal law in approving the Southeast Connector project,” King said.
Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon confirmed that work on the project continued as scheduled, the Reno Gazette-Journal first reported on Monday.
“Yet another court has affirmed the merits and sound environmental science behind the Southeast Connector,” said Jardon, chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Commission.
The project first was proposed in the 1950s. The federal agency and the transportation commission maintain they obtained all the necessary permits for the second phase of the project that’s been underway since June and is scheduled to be completed in December 2017.
Coalition lawyers argue that no environmental impact statement was prepared despite the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “repeatedly raised concerns about the project’s potential mercury impacts on nearby aquatic systems.”
— Associated Press
Federal jury to settle bitter battle between sweeteners
Big Sugar and Big Corn face off in court this week in a bitter, multibillion-dollar battle over sweeteners.
The jury in the trial starting Tuesday in Los Angeles will take up one of the most vexing debates in nutrition: What’s the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Sugar processors are seeking as much as $2 billion in a false-advertising suit.
Sugar says it lost money when corn refiners tried to rebrand high fructose corn syrup product as “corn sugar” and claimed it was the same as cane sugar.
The corn refiners are countersuing for $530 million.
— Associated Press
Tech tycoon spearheads pot legalization bid in California
SAN FRANCISCO — The push to put California among the states where marijuana can be sold to and legally used by adults for recreation took a major step forward on Monday as ballot language backed by Napster co-founder Sean Parker, other wealthy entrepreneurs who support pot legalization and leading advocacy groups was filed with the state.
The proposed legalization initiative is one of more than a dozen that has been submitted in California for the November 2016 election. Because of the deep pockets, political connections and professional credibility of its supporters, however, observers think the so-called Adult Use of Marijuana Act is the vehicle with the greatest chance of success.
“We believe this effort has the support and resources to mount a successful campaign for responsible adult-use,” California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Nate Bradley, whose organization is endorsing the measure, said. “This is the one to watch. This is the one.”
The measure would allow adults 21 and over to buy an ounce of marijuana and marijuana-infused products at licensed retail outlets and also to grow up to six pot plants for personal recreational use. Both the new recreational market and the state’s existing medical marijuana industry would be regulated through the California Department of Consumer Affairs and authorize the state to impose the same 15 percent excise tax on both medical and recreational marijuana.
Four people who worked on the initiative independently told The Associated Press that the drafting process and early work to enlist sponsors and build a campaign team was spearheaded by Parker, the billionaire technology investor who upended the music business as a teenager by co-founding the file sharing site Napster and served as Facebook’s first president.
Those people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Parker’s involvement or to name the other wealthy entrepreneurs expected to fund the effort until an official campaign committee starts raising money and becomes subject to state disclosure laws.
But Parker himself issued a statement on Monday afternoon expressing optimism about the initiative without acknowledging his role in getting it drafted.
“I’ve been following this issue with great interest for some time. It’s very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure,” he said.
Other potential donors who have expressed interest in bankrolling the work to qualify the measure for the ballot and to mount a multi-million dollar election campaign include a political action committee founded by the family of the late Progressive Insurance executive Peter Lewis; some members of the Chicago family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain; and Justin Hartfield, chief executive of online marijuana directory WeedMaps, the sources said.
Lewis, who died almost two years ago, gave $218,505 in 2010 to support what became an unsuccessful attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in California. Parker gave $100,000.
The Parker-backed initiative also has lined up support from the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, two leading marijuana reform advocacy groups that led the earlier campaigns to pass pot legalization measures in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
“This is the most incredibly broad coalition that could have been brought together, everything from the drug policy reform movement to the environmental movement to the industry actors to the medical field, as well as the lineup of all of the most likely funders for something like this,” said Lynne Lyman, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The fledgling campaign recruited Dr. Donald Lyman, the former head of state health department division responsible for discouraging tobacco use, and former California Fish and Game Commission President Michael Sutton as the measure’s official proponents — the individuals whose names will appear in voter guides as the sponsors.
While it has attracted the most support so far and stands poised to amass the most funding, the new measure may not be the only one seeking to legalize recreational pot use California voters may face next year.
The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, a group that spent months soliciting ideas for what a California measure should look like at meetings throughout the state, submitted its own initiative on Oct. 2 with the backing of the president of the California NAACP.
— Associated Press
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