Blog

Toddlers family says she died after falling from open window in play area on cruise ship

54 0 09 Jul 2019

The grieving parents of an 18-month-old are looking for answers after their daughter fell to her death through an open window in a children’s play area on a cruise ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Chloe Rae Margaret Wiegand was with her grandfather on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Sunday when she fell from the ship’s 11th story, the family’s lawyer, Michael Winkleman, told NBC News.

The family was in a children’s play area that was enclosed with clear glass paneling, Winkleman said. Chloe’s grandfather placed her on a railing that he believed was behind glass to look outside, according to Winkleman.

Her family believes she fell while she was trying to bang on the glass the same way she does when she’s at the ice rink watching her brother’s hockey games.

“Essentially, her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there,” Winkleman said. “She goes to bang on the glass like she would have at one of those hockey rinks, and the next thing you know, she’s gone.”

Chloe WiegandCourtesy Wiegand Family

The toddler’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, and family are devastated and want to know why the area had an open window in the wall of glass paneling, Winkleman said.

“Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid’s area?” the attorney asked.

In a statement Monday, Royal Caribbean International said it was “deeply saddened” about the accident.

“We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need,” the statement said. “Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident.”

When asked about Winkleman’s comments regarding the open window, a spokesperson for the cruise line said Tuesday, “We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, PR, as they make inquiries after an incident aboard Freedom of the Seas on Sunday. We do not have further information to share at this point.”

Puerto Rico’s Secretary for Public Affairs Anthony O. Maceira Zayas confirmed Chloe’s death in a statement Sunday and said the island was investigating.

“Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety is working on the case with the seriousness and sensitivity it requires,” he said. “We pray God fills with strength this family who is living today a real tragedy.”

Chloe’s parents hope to take her body, which is with San Juan authorities, home to South Bend, Indiana, in the coming days.

In a statement Monday, the South Bend Police Department, where Alan Wiegand is an officer, asked the community to pray for the Wiegand family as they grieve and to respect their privacy.

South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg retweeted the police statement on Twitter on Monday evening and added, “We are saddened by the terrible accident that took the life of Officer Wiegand’s young daughter, and the city is holding this family in our hearts.”

Trump hits out at U.K.s Theresa May and Ambassador Darroch after leak

59 0 09 Jul 2019

LONDON — Secret messages revealing how Britain’s ambassador criticized President Donald Trump present an acute challenge to the so-called special relationship between Washington and London, former diplomats said Tuesday.

The leaked messages have caused a diplomatic standoff between Washington and London, with Trump saying that “we will no longer deal” with the ambassador, Kim Darroch, and even expanding his attack to target British Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump doubled down Tuesday, calling May “foolish” and the ambassador “wacky” and “very stupid.”

Trump’s broadsides were triggered by leaked memos by Darroch that revealed the envoy had called the president and his administration “inept,” “insecure” and “incompetent.”

Kim Darroch presents an award at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner pre-party at the British Embassy on April 27, 2018.Brian Stukes / Getty Images file

Even some of those sympathetic to the ambassador have said his job will be impossible if he is blocked by the White House — as Trump promised to do. This prompted warnings that allowing the United States to approve or refuse foreign ambassadors would set a dangerous precedent — not least in more authoritarian parts of the world.

“We should never allow any country to dictate who we send as ambassador,” said Charles Parton, who served as a British diplomat for almost four decades. “It would give enormous power to other countries, so you just can’t do it.”

“If we set this precedent, can you imagine how a country like China would respond?” added Parton, who served as an adviser to the British embassy in Beijing and is currently an adviser to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

The ambassador was uninvited from a dinner Trump hosted for the emir of Qatar on Monday night. On Tuesday, Ivanka Trump is due to meet Liam Fox, Britain’s international trade secretary. Whether Darroch attends could be telling in terms of how strictly the president’s edict will be enforced.

“Is he simply saying, ‘You’re not going to come to any dinners where I’m present’?” Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to the U.S., told the BBC on Tuesday. “Or is he going to send an edict out to the entire administration saying, ‘Nobody deal with the British ambassador’? We don’t know the answer to this.”

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary who is competing to replace the outgoing May and head the Conservative Party, warned Trump on Tuesday that if he succeeds, he will keep Darroch as ambassador.

“These comments are disrespectful and wrong to our Prime Minister and my country,” Hunt tweeted at Trump, adding, “You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree but allies need to treat each other with respect as @theresa_may has always done with you.”

The fallout from this diplomatic standoff has short- and long-term implications.

The principal targets of Trump’s ire — the British prime minister and her ambassador — are both due to leave their jobs in a matter of weeks and months respectively. The race to replace May concludes at the end of this month, and Darroch was already set to depart at the end of this year.

Some believe that these changes, combined with the August break in Washington, could take the sting out of the situation. However there are many who think that while Darroch was merely doing his job by communicating his sincerely held opinion back to London, the leak will make his task near impossible.

Robin Renwick, who served as ambassador before Meyer, told the BBC in another interview that he believed the leaker had succeeded in undermining the envoy’s position.

“His position has become untenable,” he said, adding the ambassador will “have to be moved on.”

Britain has real reason to keep its transatlantic ally sweet. The country is set to leave the European Union in October and many within its government see the U.S. as a more vital ally than ever in terms of securing a post-Brexit trade deal.

Fox, the international trade secretary, has already vowed to apologize to Ivanka Trump during the meeting Tuesday, and the previous night, a U.K. government spokesman said the “unfortunate” leak does “not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship” with the U.S.

The official noises from London have suggested that Darroch will not be replaced. The government spokesman said the ambassador has the “full support” of the government, reiterating the same message given by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond days earlier.

Long term, one impact might be on the incoming British prime minister and whom they chose as their U.S. ambassador.

The polls suggest former London mayor Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favorite to become the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, and thus prime minister.

The president has praised Johnson, as well as Nigel Farage, the iconoclastic leader of the Brexit Party, who Trump has said “would do a great job” as ambassador to the U.S.

After Epstein fallout, Acostas critics warn of troubling lack of resources for trafficking victims

58 0 09 Jul 2019

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is under intense scrutiny for his role in cutting a lenient plea deal more than a decade ago for Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged this week with federal sex trafficking crimes.

But among some human trafficking lawyers and victims advocates, concern has been building for months about the embattled Cabinet secretary, who as the U.S. attorney in Florida secured the federal non-prosecution agreement against Epstein in 2008.

In interviews Tuesday, experts said the Acosta-era Labor Department — one of the federal agencies tasked with preventing human trafficking — has been far too slow to certify special visas for trafficking victims, potentially weakening protections for an already vulnerable population.

“I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that the new procedures will slow down the process exponentially,” said Martina Vandenberg, the president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

For the last 19 years, victims of what the government calls a “severe form of human trafficking” have been eligible to apply for what are known as T-visas, a temporary immigration benefit that allows them to remain in the United States for up to four years if they assist with a trafficking investigation or prosecution.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, or WHD, is one of the agencies that can certify whether a T-visa applicant is actually a trafficking victim. Under the Obama administration, the WHD usually completed this crucial step within weeks or a few months, said Julie Ann Dahlstrom, a professor at Boston University School of Law who represents trafficking victims.

But under the Trump administration, the process has effectively ground to a halt, experts said. The processing time for T-visa applications across the federal government lasts anywhere from 16 months to almost three years, according to data on the website of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that decides on applications.

“It’s very much a departure from past procedures, and it creates additional barriers for fearful people, especially immigrant workers, who need to be incentivized to report a crime,” said Dahlstrom, who said she has three T-visa cases pending — including one that has been effectively stalled since April 2018.

For victims of human trafficking, including undocumented laborers who are worried about deportation or being reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the consequences of the apparent federal slowdown are serious, Vandenberg said.

“We have to remember that time is of the essence for trafficking victims. They’re terrified to come forward in this environment, and then to learn that one of the agencies that has authority to certify T-visas is not being responsive — that’s extremely troubling,” she said.

“But it’s part and parcel of the way this administration has dismantled two decades’ worth of protections for trafficking victims,” she added.

President Donald Trump, for his part, has claimed his administration is committed to tackling what he described in February as the “scourge” of trafficking, saying in remarks in the White House Cabinet Room: “My administration has made the fight against human trafficking one of our highest priorities.”

But lawyers and advocates are frustrated by an administration — particularly the Labor Department under Acosta, who is facing growing calls for his resignation over his role in the Epstein case — that they believe has been needlessly sluggish on this issue.

In early May, Cheryl Stanton, the current head of the department’s Wage and Hour Division, imposed a seven-week moratorium on certifications for all new T-visas and U-visas, a separate special category. The development was first reported by Bloomberg Law.

In a statement to NBC News, a Labor Department spokesperson said in part: “As part of Administrator Cheryl Stanton’s due diligence as the head of a large government agency, she thought it was prudent to understand the authorities delegated from the administrator to others in the agency,” including T- and U-visa certifications.

The moratorium has been reversed, and last Monday the Labor Department released new guidelines that advocates believe have added unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, including a policy that says department investigators cannot certify a T-visa until an outside law enforcement agency does its own probe.

“It’s unnecessary because the [Labor Department] has the ability to investigate these things,” said Erika Gonzalez, a senior attorney at the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, or CAST. “Under this administration, we apparently no longer give survivors the benefit of the doubt.”

If approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a T-visa recipient can apply for permanent residency after three years, according to the USCIS website.

The best products for oily skin, according to dermatologists

74 0 09 Jul 2019

If your skin looks as shiny as a disco ball come lunchtime, then congratulations: You have oily skin. Now, don’t get us wrong, some oil is good.

“When the oil on the skin is the right amount, it protects our skin from external toxic elements,” says Yoram Harth, MD, a dermatologist and medical director of MDacne. “That said, having too much of it makes our skin shiny, can clog our skin pores and causes acne breakouts.”

So what causes oily skin in the first place? Common culprits include genetics, a humid environment, hormonal changes, medications that affect your hormones and sugary and fatty foods, says Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a Kansas City dermatologist and editor of DermBoard.org.

The good news is, it is possible to get oily skin under control, and it starts with finding the right skincare products. “In order to balance the oiliness of their skin, people with oily skin need to look for products that will remove excess oil from their skin without over-drying,” Harth says.

A skincare routine that will control oil production

Products should be non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t clog pores, and oil-free, says Melanie Palm, MD, a dermatologist in San Diego. Look for labels that have active ingredients that help your oil glands function more normally, like sulfur, retinol and salicylic acid, suggests Palm. “Lighter formulations are likely to be tolerated better,” she adds. “These include serums, gels or lotions rather than creams or ointments.”

When it comes to cleansing, being gentle is key. So is keeping exfoliating to a minimum (once or twice a week tops), says Lisa Pruett, MD, a dermatologist in Carrollton, Texas. That’s because over-cleansing and scrubbing too harshly can lead to increased oil production, Pruett explains. Using a clay mask twice a week will help control excess oil, adds Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Moisturizing daily is important (no matter how counter-intuitive that sounds if you have oily skin), and so is wearing sunscreen, says Pruett.

Ready to upgrade your skin care routine? Below, dermatologists share their favorite skincare products to help those with oily skin keep their complexion clear and shine-free.

The best skincare products for oily skin

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Kenneth Mark, MD, a dermatologist and Moh’s skin cancer surgeon in New York City, likes this facial cleanser, which contains 2 percent salicylic acid to unclog pores and prevent future blackheads. The oil-free formula deeply cleanses without over-stripping skin, so your face will never feel tight or dry.

Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser

This cleanser is a favorite of Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, because it’s non-comedogenic and utilizes salicylic acid to treat existing breakouts and fight new ones. This cleanser also contains soy to help even out the look of your skin tone.

SkinMedica BHA/AHA Wash

“This cleanser has a great combination of glycolic and salicylic acids that can help to remove excess oil,” says Palm. Jojoba oil ensures skin will feel soft and smooth post-cleansing.

Cetaphil Pro-Oil Removing Foam Wash

This drugstore cleanser is a go-to of Shari Spalding, DO, a dermatologist in Florham Park, New Jersey. The non-comedogenic formula lightly foams to remove excess oil without over-stripping skin.

Clarisonic MIA

Plam suggests using this sonic cleansing brush once a day to make cleansing more effective. The brush is gentle enough that even sensitive skin types can use it, yet powerful enough that it removes makeup. It’s also waterproof, so you can use it in the shower.

AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner

Toning can help get rid of any excess oil that wasn’t removed from cleansing. “This toner includes witch hazel to remove excess sebum as well as glycolic acid to chemically exfoliate the surface of the skin and aloe vera to soothe and hydrate with its anti-inflammatory and humectant properties,” says King.

Glytone Acne Treatment Mask

Palm likes this face mask because it draws out impurities and controls oil, thanks to the 6.4 percent sulfur in the formula. This oil-free mask also minimizes the appearance of pores.

Clinique Acne Solutions Oil-Control Cleansing Mask

Spalding likes this clay-based mask for oily skin. Formulated with salicylic acid in addition to clay, this mask works in five minutes to deeply clean and unclog pores without irritation.

AcneFree Kaolin Clay Detox Mask, $7.99

“This can be used as either a mask or a cleanser,” says King, “and either way, the kaolin clay absorbs oils and reduces shine.” It also features a mild amount of salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and remove excess oil and vitamin E for antioxidant protection.

Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer

This non-comedogenic and oil-free moisturizer is a great pick for oily skin, says Spalding. It has a matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about looking shiny, and it contains SPF 30 for that much-needed sun protection.

Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

One of the most beloved sunscreens of dermatologists, Pruett notes that it can double as a moisturizer. Palm likes this one because it’s non-comedogenic and free of heavy ingredients. “The zinc oxide and niacinamide in the formula are anti-inflammatory and do not promote oil production,” says Palm.

Olay Sun spf 35 + Shine Control

If you have oily skin, chances are you’ve skipped sunscreen at some point because it can make your skin even shinier. Susan Bard, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, says this one is great for people with oily skin or those who get shiny when they use sunscreen. It’s formulated with tapioca starch to absorb excess oil.

OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel

“This is a product that photographers and makeup artists have used for years to combat oily skin on set,” Pruett notes. “The product absorbs facial oils, acting like a leave-on blotting paper throughout the day.”

MORE TIPS FROM DERMATOLOGISTS

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cori Coco Gauff planned what to say to Venus Williams; but she never thought she would win the match

44 0 09 Jul 2019

Breakout American teenage tennis phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff planned ahead of time what she was going to say to her childhood idol Venus Williams after playing her at Wimbledon.

But the 15-year-old tennis star hadn’t expected to deliver her prepared remarks as the winner of the match.

“The night before, I kind of planned out what I was going to say, but I didn’t think I would be on the the winning end, to be honest,” Gauff said on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday about the moments following her stunning first-round Wimbledon win against Williams.

“I know I say I always have belief in myself, but you know, you can see in my reaction after the match, I was so shocked, and that was definitely a really good moment,” she said.

Competing against her role model made her “excited” rather than nervous, Gauff said. She assumed she would be playing one of the Williams sisters, but it didn’t fully hit her that she was playing Venus until she saw the lineup on the Wimbledon app, she said.

Much about Gauff’s meteoric rise in the world of tennis at Wimbledon is shocking to her. The 15-year-old earned a wildcard spot at the tournament, and made it to the fourth round before Simona Halep, the world’s No. 7-ranked women’s singles player, defeated her 6-3, 6-3 on Monday.

Cori Gauff reacts after defeating Venus Williams at Wimbledon in London on July 1, 2019.Tim Ireland / AP file

“I woke up and I’m still living a dream. Walking on the street, people are asking for pictures so that’s just really crazy,” Gauff said.

“I don’t think I’ll ever believe it to be honest,” she said.

Between playing Williams and Halep, Gauff upset Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia and Polona Hercog of Slovenia.

In her match against Hercog, Gauff made a stunning comeback, winning 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 after facing two match points.

“I was just telling myself to go for my shots, like it’s either now or never. I always believe in myself even when the score line doesn’t say so,” Gauff said. “I really fought my way through that match, I mean Polona was playing amazing, and I was just staying in there.”

Her Wimbledon run grabbed the attention of celebrities like Jaden Smith, Tina Knowles and Snoop Dogg, who took to tweeting at her. Gauff said of her fans, “each and every one has been special,” but she is especially enamored with one — former first lady Michelle Obama.

“I looked up to her so long, having her in the White House, and seeing a black woman in the White House was definitely special to me as a little girl,” Gauff said.

But the tennis star isn’t the only one getting social media attention. Her parents have become celebrities in their own right for their enthusiastic cheering and emotional reactions from the stands.

“It’s kind of weird cause my mom, she’s never really like that,” Gauff said. “We were talking about it last night, like, ‘What possessed you to even do that — it looks so funny.'”

“I’ve seen so many videos of people retweeting her,” she said. “I don’t know if she likes it or not, but I’m definitely loving it.”

It was Gauff’s parents who told her to, “Just go out and see how good you can be,” when she began playing at Wimbledon.

And Gauff has plans for that advice as she looks ahead to her tennis career. “My ultimate goal is to be the greatest,” she said.

Aziz Ansari addresses sexual misconduct allegation in Netflix special: I just felt terrible

42 0 09 Jul 2019

Comedian Aziz Ansari is opening up about the sexual misconduct allegation made against him last year in his new Netflix special that landed Tuesday, telling the audience at the top of the show that he continues to grapple with so many emotions.

“There’s times I felt scared. There’s times I felt humiliated. There’s times I felt embarrassed,” the 36-year-old says in his stand-up show, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now.” “And ultimately, I just felt terrible. That this person felt this way.”

The allegation was published anonymously in early 2018 by the website babe.net and quoted a 23-year-old Brooklyn, New York, woman using a pseudonym who described a date with Ansari a few months earlier. She said he had acted aggressively and pressured her during a sexual encounter.

In a statement to NBC News at the time, Ansari described it as “completely consensual.” He added that she did later text him to say she felt uncomfortable, and that while he was surprised, he “took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”

The allegation against Ansari came as other stories of sexual misconduct and abuse began to entangle celebrities and high-profile and powerful men, leading to a #MeToo reckoning that also unraveled some of their careers. But the fallout from Ansari’s case drew debate over the varying degrees and nuances over sexual misconduct, as well as how such stories are reported to the public.

Without going into detail about what happened, Ansari said during his special that he hopes the experience has made him a better person.

“I always think about a conversation I’ve had with one of my friends where he was like, ‘You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I’ve ever been on,'” Ansari said.

Aziz Ansari on Nov. 1, 2017 in Chicago.Timothy Hiatt / Getty Images file

Ansari had won a Golden Globe in the week before the allegation came out for his starring role in the Netflix series, “Master of None.” But in the months after, he stayed out of the spotlight before beginning an international comedy tour, “Road to Nowhere,” last summer.

He begins his special, which was taped in Brooklyn in May and directed by Spike Jonze, by bringing up how someone had mistaken him for another comedian who has a Netflix show, Hasan Minhaj.

“He immediately realized his mistake, he was trying to buy it back. He’s like, ‘Oh, no, no, Aziz right?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s me’ … ‘And, uh, you had that whole thing last year, sexual misconduct?’ ‘No, no, no, no, no, no! That was Hasan,'” Ansari said to laughter.

Ansari also tackles issues about cultural appropriation, his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s battle, and his relationship with his girlfriend.

“All we really have is the moment we’re in,” he added, “and the people we’re with.”

Sarah Twarog contributed.

Pelosi calls on Labor Secretary Acosta to resign over Epstein deal

44 0 09 Jul 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign because of his role as then-U.S. attorney in securing a plea deal that was criticized as lenient with politically connected sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than 10 years ago.

“.@SecretaryAcosta must step down,” Pelosi tweeted Monday night, the latest Democrat to demand he quit. “As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet.”

Acosta served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time. His office reached a non-prosecution deal in 2008 with Epstein, a rich financier, to halt a federal sex abuse investigation involving dozens of teenage girls in return for him pleading guilty to state charges that allowed him to dodge more serious charges by federal authorities and a potential life sentence.

Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, which required him to register as a sex offender and serve about a year in jail, most of it in work release.

Acosta’s office said he is not considering stepping down. The White House has not responded to requests for comment.

Acosta has previously defended the Epstein deal, telling a House Appropriations subcommittee in April that Epstein had to go to jail as part of the agreement.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and other Democrats also have said Acosta must go.

This week, Epstein was arrested and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking girls as young as 14. The 2008 agreement with Acosta’s office did not protect Epstein from being prosecuted for alleged crimes in parts of the country other than South Florida.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, he faces up to 45 years in prison.

In February, a federal judge ruled that the Florida prosecutors led by Acosta had violated federal law by failing to notify the accusers of the agreement.

But the Justice Department filed court papers last month that contend Epstein’s plea deal cannot be legally challenged because he has complied with its terms. The accusers have until Monday to respond to the federal filing.

Earlier this year, then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration was “looking into” Acosta’s role in the 2008 agreement.

Epstein’s political connections include President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton.

In 2002, Trump told New York magazine that he’d known Epstein “for fifteen years,” calling him a “terrific guy.”

“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Asked about Acosta in February, Trump said he didn’t “know too much about” the plea agreement, adding that Acosta has “done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago.”

In a statement on Monday, Clinton, who flew on one of Epstein’s planes several times, according to flight records reviewed by NBC News, denied knowing anything of the crimes Epstein pleaded guilty to years ago and the ones which he was charged with this week.

Hallie Jackson contributed.

Billionaire business magnate former presidential candidate Ross Perot dead at 89

36 0 09 Jul 2019

Billionaire business magnate Ross Perot, who twice ran as an independent candidate for president, is dead after a battle with leukemia.

He was 89.

The self-made billionaire died at his home in Dallas Tuesday “surrounded by his devoted family,” his family said in a statement.

“In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action,” the family’s statement said. “A true American patriot and a man of rare vision, principle and deep compassion, he touched the lives of countless people through his unwavering support of the military and veterans and through his charitable endeavors.”

“Ross Perot will be deeply missed by all who loved him. He lived a long and honorable life,” the statement said.

Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949.

He is survived by his wife, Margot; his sister, Bette Perot; son Ross Jr.; daughter Nancy; daughter Suzanne; daughter Carolyn; daughter Katherine; their spouses, grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

Federal judges weigh fate of Obamacare as Trump tries to gut the law

43 0 09 Jul 2019

WASHINGTON — A panel of federal judges in New Orleans takes up the future of Obamacare on Tuesday, hearing from states that say it’s unconstitutional and from Justice Department lawyers directed by President Donald Trump to oppose the entire law, too.

The Affordable Care Act is nothing more than “a naked command to buy an insurance product the government deems suitable,” according to Texas and 17 other red states that filed a lawsuit seeking to get Obamacare struck down.

The U.S. House of Representatives and a group of states led by Democrats are defending the law. They say the ACA “transformed the nation’s health care system,” giving more than 20 million Americans access to affordable coverage.

At the heart of the controversy is the individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance or face a tax penalty. The Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012, ruling that while the mandate would be unconstitutional by itself, the law as a whole was a legitimate exercise of the power of Congress to impose taxes.

Republicans controlling Congress struck back in 2017, dropping the tax penalty to zero, prompting Texas and the other red states to sue. Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in their favor, concluding that because there no longer was a tax, the law could not be saved as a use of the taxing power.

He further said that because the ACA was a web of interlocking provisions, the entire law must fall, including provisions requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions and to allow children to be covered by their parents’ plans until age 26.

O’Connor put his ruling on hold while supporters of the law took the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Three judges from that court will hear Tuesday’s argument.

The Justice Department at first said it agreed with only part of O’Connor’s ruling. The judge should have left some parts of the law in effect, the government said initially, including provisions expanding Medicaid to cover millions of America’s poorest, creating health insurance marketplaces, and providing subsidies for low- and moderate-income people.

But in late March, Trump ordered the government to fully embrace the judge’s decision. “Upon further consideration,” the Justice Department said in its legal brief in the appeals court, “the position of the United States is that the balance of the ACA … must be struck down.”

The court will consider three main issues. Defenders of Obamacare say that by setting the tax at zero, Congress effectively did away with the mandate, so there’s no longer any constitutional issue. The law “no longer compels any individual to maintain health care coverage — or to take any other action,” the blue states said in their court brief. At most, it’s now simply “an encouragement to buy health insurance.”

Second, the appeals court must decide whether O’Connor was right that the entire law must be struck down or whether parts of it can still be salvaged. Leading the case for the opponents, Texas said Congress repeatedly said in passing Obamacare that the mandate was “essential” and that the rest of the law would collapse without it. The blue states and the House say if Congress meant for the entire law to be scrapped, it would have said so when it set the tax penalty at zero in 2017.

Finally, the appeals court must sort out whether the case is moot now that the Justice Department, which initially defended at least part of the law, has switched sides and joined with the red states in supporting the lower court decision that struck it down. The two groups of states each say the others have no legal standing to be in court.

If the appeals court rules by December, the case could be heard by the Supreme Court during its next term that begins in the fall.

“My sense is that part of why the appeals court scheduled the oral argument for July was to be able to get the case decided in time for next term,” said Prof. Steve Vladeck, an expert on federal courts at the University of Texas School of Law.

A victory for Obamacare’s opponents could turn out to be a mixed blessing for the Republicans.

“It has the potential to backfire on them, because it would put health care front and center on the agenda for the 2020 election,” Mark Murray, senior political editor at NBC News, said. “Going back to the last election cycle, Democrats have the big advantage when it comes to health care.”

Historian unearths evidence of one of Americas earliest gay rights activists

45 0 08 Jul 2019

In May 1933, the Nazi-sympathizing German Student Union entered Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Research in Berlin.

Hirschfeld’s expansive library of sexual and gender studies was confiscated and later burned in the streets of the German capital, one of many book burnings in Nazi Germany that would decimate the records of this pioneering institute.

Some of the Institute’s records were of the countless sexual and gender minorities who passed through its doors between 1919 and 1933, and even earlier, when Hirschfeld ran the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the institute’s predecessor and world’s first LGBTQ rights organization.

“The Nazis tried to destroy information about that group by burning the books and magazines and photographs that were in that amazing institute,” independent historian Jonathan Ned Katz, founder of OutHistory.org, said.

Pastor Carl SchlegelOrganisirt

However, despite the Nazi’s best efforts and thanks to Katz’ research, the name of one of the earliest activists for gay rights in America has been revealed: Rev. Karl Schlegel, a German who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century. (He was also known as Carl or Charles while living in America.)

Based on newly unearthed records that have been uploaded to OutHistory’s website, it appears Schlegel both harbored same-sex attractions and advocated on behalf of homosexuals, bisexuals and asexuals over 100 years ago.

Born in Germany in 1863, Schlegel immigrated to the United States in 1878 at age 15 and later preached as a minister. According to OutHistory.org, an August 1903 edition of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee’s journal said that Schlegel visited the committee “numerous” times and “aims at an association of his Uranian fellow ministers as well as the founding of a subcommittee in New York.”

“Uranian” is an English translation of the early German word for homosexual: urning.

“Schlegel apparently considered other homosexual Protestant ministers good candidates for his U.S. emancipation organizing,” Katz wrote.

Between September and November of 1903, during a trip to Germany, Schlegel was arrested for an alleged sexual offense and later released. “Hopefully this unpleasant incident will be without further fateful consequences for him professionally,” the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee’s journal wrote at the time.

In 1905, after being dismissed from his position at the First German Reformed Protestant Congregation in New York City, Schlegel relocated to New Orleans. The Times-Picayune announced his first sermon on March 27, 1905.

But less than a year later, in December 1906, the New Orleans Presbyterian Church was investigating Schlegel for unnamed “rumors.”

The church elders met and charged Schlegel with multiple counts of disseminating and defending “the naturalness and lawfulness of Sodomy, otherwise called ‘Homosexuality’ or ‘Uranism,’” according to Presbyterian Church records from that time. Schlegel pleaded not guilty, and the Presbyterian Church proceeded to trial. Entered into evidence was a German language copy of the Yearbook for Sexual Intermediate Types, the annual publication of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. The panel found Schlegel guilty.

Church records quote him as saying on Jan. 29, 1907: “Let the same laws for all the intermediate stages of sexual life: the homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, be legal as they are now in existence for the heterosexuals, that is, they should be under punishment: First, if they use compulsion. Second, if they are found to offend publicly. Third, if they use or misuse children, are dangerous and corrupting and will lead only to evil.”

The church judges responded by calling his views “evil and only evil” and finding him “totally disqualified for the office of the Christian ministry” and “do prohibit him from exercising any of the functions thereof.” By January 1907, Schlegel was jobless thanks to his LGBTQ activism.

Schlegel returned to New York, and by 1912, the New York Herald wrote that he had become a “spiritualist,” a religious movement that communicates with spirit popular at the time.

Schlegel died July 25, 1922, in New York City. He is buried at grave number 18004 at the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

“I aspire to picnic there and say hello to the Rev. Schlegel and thank him for his early emancipation activities,” Katz told NBC News.

Katz said he hopes that this is “just the beginning” of learning about Schlegel’s life, and he encouraged members of the public with more relevant information to contact OutHistory.org.

FOLLOW NBC OUT ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM