Record number of undocumented immigrants flooded the southern border in May

113 0 05 Jun 2019

Border Patrol officers encountered more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants at the southwest border in May, the largest monthly total in 13 years, officials said Wednesday.

More than 132,000 were stopped while crossing the border illegally; the rest presented themselves at legal ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

May marked the third month in a row that more than 100,000 immigrants were taken into custody at the border amid a surge of migrants heading north in large groups from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

More than 19,000 immigrants are currently in CBP custody. Nearly 1,000 border patrol officers have been moved from northern ports of entry, airports, sea ports and elsewhere along the southwest border to assist border agents in areas experiencing the highest influx of migrants.

“We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger: The system is broken,” said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders.

Of the 132,000 who were caught entering the country illegally, more than 84,000 were traveling as a family unit, 36,000 were single adults and 11,000 were unaccompanied children.

Rich Schapiro contributed.

Maryland couple dies of respiratory failure in the Dominican Republic after Pennsylvania woman dies at same resort

122 0 05 Jun 2019

A Pennsylvania woman died at the same Dominican Republic resort where a Maryland couple died of respiratory failure five days later, according to officials and the woman’s family.

Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, arrived with her husband at the Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana on May 25 to celebrate their wedding anniversary, her brother-in-law, Jay McDonald, told NBC News.

After she and her husband checked into their room and she had a drink from the minibar, Schaup-Werner “abruptly experienced acute physical distress, and collapsed,” McDonald said. The efforts of her husband and emergency medical technicians to resuscitate her were unsuccessful, and she died.

On that same day, a couple from Prince George’s County, Maryland — Nathaniel Edward Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day — checked into the same hotel.

Holmes, 63, and Day, 49, were due to leave May 30 but didn’t check out on time, the hotel said in a statement.

“After missing their scheduled checkout time on May 30 and following our established protocols, the staff entered the room and found both bodies unresponsive,” the hotel statement said. “There were no signs of violence.”

Police said the couple both died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.

Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day.via Facebook

The hotel said it is cooperating with local authorities’ investigation into the couple’s deaths, the statement said.

McDonald said his sister-in-law’s cause of death was also respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.

He said he had asked the U.S. Department of State to appeal to local authorities to investigate her death.

On Wednesday, Dominican National Police said in a statement that Schaup-Werner’s body was sent for an autopsy, and body fluids were sent for toxicological and histopathological studies. Police are waiting for the results of the autopsy, the statement said.

Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts have not issued a comment on Schaup-Werner’s death.

The State Department confirmed all three deaths in a statement Tuesday but said it was not aware of any connection between the deaths of the couple and Schaup-Werner’s.

News of the three deaths comes days after a Delaware woman shared on Facebook that she had been brutally beaten at a different resort in the Dominican Republic, the Majestic Elegance Punta Cana, while vacationing in January. She said her attacker was wearing a uniform with the resort’s logo. The resort said it was investigating.

When it comes to cholesterol, is chicken as bad as red meat?

97 0 05 Jun 2019

Those who eschew steak in favor of chicken because they think it’s healthier may be able to put lean beef back on the menu.

That’s because new research, published Tuesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is raising questions about poultry and cholesterol.

The small study found that consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming an equal amount of plant protein. The findings held even when diets contained high levels of saturated fat, which increased blood cholesterol to the same extent as all three protein sources.

The key takeaway from the study, nutritionists say, is to watch out for saturated fat, no matter the protein source. And when it comes to poultry versus red meat, “it’s easier to get higher amounts of saturated fat from some cuts of red meat,” said Elizabeth Kitchin, assistant professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who wasn’t involved with the research.

Still, it was unexpected that poultry had the effect on cholesterol levels that it did.

“I was surprised that the effect of white meat on cholesterol levels was identical to the effects of red meat,” said Dr. Ronald Krauss, study author and director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

In the study, 113 adults were randomly assigned to one of three diets for one month: rich in lean cuts of beef, lean cuts of chicken or turkey, or plant proteins. After each month, the participants’ diet was changed, so that each participant ended up trying all three diets. However, half of the participants’ diets, regardless of protein source, were high in saturated fat; the other half ate a low-saturated fat diet.

After each month, the researchers measured the participants’ levels of LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol.

“Keeping all else constant — even the level of animal fat — the levels were higher on both sources of meat compared to the nonmeat diet,” Krauss told NBC News.

Researchers said that the findings may not affect most people who aren’t at high risk for heart disease. When participants’ diets were low in saturated fat, the rise in LDL was minimal regardless of whether they ate chicken or lean red meat. But for the person actively trying to bring down high levels of LDL cholesterol, researchers said, it may be worth cutting back on both red and white meats, and relying more on plant proteins.

Red meat is a source of high-quality protein, zinc, iron and vitamin B12, but most nutritionists agree that it is best to choose a lean cut in a modest portion for optimal health benefits. The positives of having red or white meat can be canceled out if too much saturated fat, from any source, is included in one’s diet.

Previous evidence shows that fatty red meat is a prime source of artery-clogging saturated fat, a factor associated with heart disease. And two studies published last year showed that people who eat red meat — but not vegetarians or people who eat only white meat such as chicken — have higher levels in the blood of a chemical called TMAO, which has been linked to higher heart disease risk.

The researchers cautioned against demonizing any food based on one study. “People often get the impression that if something raises cholesterol, it should be eliminated,” Krauss said. “I don’t want people to get too focused on an all or nothing approach.”

Indeed, the American Heart Association recommends a combination of poultry, fish, vegetable proteins and lean red meat for a heart-healthy diet.

“For many people a varied approach including any or all of these foods within the context of high fruit, vegetable and whole grain, nuts/seeds/legume intake along with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils can serve as a healthy eating pattern with plenty of variety,” Dr. Linda Van Horn, a volunteer nutrition expert with the AHA, told NBC News.

Other outside experts also pointed out that diet is just one factor when it comes to overall heart disease risk.

“This study focused on just saturated fat,” Kitchin told NBC News. “There are a lot of other risk factors for heart disease, like extra body weight and inactivity, that are big players in heart disease.”


Jeff Bezos reportedly set to buy three New York apartments for roughly $80M

113 0 05 Jun 2019

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is preparing to purchase three apartments in New York City on Tuesday in a deal valued at roughly $80 million, three people familiar with the transaction told The Wall Street Journal.

Bezos is reportedly close to scooping up a penthouse and two units directly beneath it at Manhattan’s 212 Fifth Avenue, the people told the Journal.

If the three units were combined, the Journal reported, the home would encompass 12 bedrooms and more than 17,000 square feet.

The purchase would come nearly four months after Amazon backed out of plans to open a new headquarters in New York City, blaming state and local politicians who had “opposed our presence and will not work with us.”

The retail giant had announced last fall it would build a campus in Long Island City for some 25,000 employees, supported by $3 billion in state and city incentives to the company.

The real estate deal also comes amid the tech mogul’s high-profile divorce from his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. The two were married in 1993 and have four children.

Amazon did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Sotheby’s International Realty, the firm marketing the listing, did not immediately respond to emails and voicemails.

Bezos, 55, already owns homes in Beverly Hills, Washington, D.C., West Texas and Medina, Washington, according to a Wall Street Journal report published in January.

Pride #50: Audre Lorde — Activist and author

103 0 05 Jun 2019

As the first black student at Hunter High School, a public school for gifted girls, Audre Lorde sought to publish her poem “Spring” in the school’s literary journal, but it was ultimately rejected for being inappropriate.

Audre LordeJack Mitchell / Getty Images

Instead, the self-described “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior” published the work in “Seventeen” magazine in 1951.

And so began Lorde’s career as an activist-author, one who never shied away from difficult subjects, but instead, embraced them in all their complexity. Lorde was a critic of second-wave feminism, helmed by white, middle-class women, and wrote that gender oppression was not inseparable from other oppressive systems like racism, classism and homophobia. She has made lasting contributions in the fields of feminist theory, critical race studies and queer theory through her pedagogy and writing.

“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t,” Lorde once said.

Born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants, Lorde earned degrees at Hunter College and Columbia University and worked as a librarian in New York public schools throughout the 1960s. In 1962, she married attorney Edwin Rollins, a white gay man, and had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan, with him. The pair divorced in 1970, and two years later, Lorde met her long-term partner, Frances Clayton.

Lorde and Clayton lived together on Staten Island and were together for 21 years. Some of Lorde’s most notable works written during this time were “Coal” (1976), “The Black Unicorn” (1978), “The Cancer Journals” (1980) and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” (1982).

In “Zami,” Lorde writes about frequenting Pony Stable Inn and the Bagatelle, two lesbian bars in Greenwich Village.

“It was hard enough to be Black, to be Black and female, to be Black, female, and gay. To be Black, female, gay, and out of the closet in a white environment, even to the extent of dancing in the Bagatelle, was considered by many Black lesbians to be simply suicidal,” wrote Lorde in the collection of essays and poetry.

Lorde was also a professor of English at John Jay College and Hunter College, where she held the prestigious post of Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature. In 1980, Lorde, along with fellow writer Barbara Smith, founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which published work by and about women of color, including Lorde’s book “I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities” (1986).

Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978 and promptly underwent a mastectomy and wrote “The Cancer Journals.” In 1984, however, the poet was diagnosed with liver cancer.

From 1991 until her death, she was the New York State Poet Laureate.

Lorde died of liver cancer at the age of 58 in 1992, in St. Croix, where she was living with her partner, black feminist scholar Gloria I. Joseph. In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gamba Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.”

The Audre Lorde Project, founded in 1994, is a Brooklyn-based organization for LGBTQ people of color that focuses on community organizing and is a testament to Lorde’s long-standing legacy.


Trump admin gave green light to nuclear permits for Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

88 0 05 Jun 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration approved the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia twice after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to information shared with members of Congress.

Citing records provided by the Department of Energy, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Tuesday that the Trump administration had given the green light to U.S. energy firms to export technology and know-how to Saudi Arabia on Oct. 18, 2018 — only 16 days after Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The administration then approved another transfer on Feb. 18.

Congressional staffers from both parties told NBC News that Kaine’s account was accurate. An Energy Department official confirmed the timing of the two approvals.

Kaine is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which had requested details on seven transfers of nuclear expertise to Saudi Arabia, including the timing of the approvals in each case.

“It has taken the Trump Administration more than two months to answer a simple question — when did you approve transfers of nuclear expertise from American companies to Saudi Arabia? And the answer is shocking,” Kaine said in a statement.

Khashoggi was a U.S. legal resident living in Virginia, which Kaine represents, and the columnist’s killing sparked outrage around the world and prompted demands in Congress for the administration to punish Riyadh over the case.

Kaine said the approvals represented a “disturbing pattern of behavior” by the Trump administration that he said included bypassing Congress to push through an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, keeping up its support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen, overlooking the detention of women’s rights activists and failing to comply with a law that requires the administration to reach a determination about the Saudi government’s role in the killing of Khashoggi.

“President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want, over bipartisan Congressional objection, harms American national security interests and is one of many steps the administration is taking that is fueling a dangerous escalation of tension in the region,” Kaine said.

Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and a former senior U.S. official who oversaw arms control issues, said the Trump administration has clearly been in violation of the Atomic Energy Act, which requires the president to keep lawmakers informed about nuclear cooperation negotiations.

“We’ve had people in the administration who have negotiated with the Saudis without informing Congress,” he said. Kaine’s statement indicates that “Congress is finally getting woke on this subject. “

The Trump administration’s reluctance to pressure Saudi Arabia or publicly criticize the kingdom over a range of issues — including the Khashoggi case — has prompted pushback from lawmakers from both parties. But the administration has defended its dealings with Riyadh, saying the country remains a vital ally in the Middle East against Iran.

Saudi Arabia plans to build nuclear power plants with help from U.S. companies, but so far it has refused to agree to safeguards to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons, including a prohibition on uranium enrichment and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrats Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Kaine have introduced a bill demanding the government allow Congress to review all transfers of nuclear technology and expertise in advance.

Separately, the Government Accountability Office is reviewing the Trump administration’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia, as well as any negotiation by the executive branch since December 2009, regarding a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Rubio and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., requested the review in March.

Kaine had demanded details about the timing of the transfers for months. But after the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. James E. Risch, R-Idaho, vowed to personally intervene on the issue at an open hearing last month, the Energy Department provided the information.

Owen Hayes contributed.

Apples big power play comes in a small privacy feature

112 0 04 Jun 2019

On a day in which Apple announced a wide variety of new products — including a $999 monitor stand — it was a small software feature that helped set the company apart from its competitors while also touching on one of the thorniest issues in the technology industry.

Apple on Monday launched its own version of the now-common “single sign-on” (SSO) buttons seen around the internet and most often associated with Google and Facebook. These SSO buttons make it easy for users to quickly sign into new websites with their profiles from those services, but that convenience can come at a cost of security and privacy.

Apple’s SSO is designed to counter those issues, even creating new email addresses for each website as needed so a user’s personal email address isn’t exposed. The feature was met with broadly positive sentiment from privacy advocates.

“Especially excited for Apple’s new private sign-in service,” Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of the internet privacy company DuckDuckGo, tweeted. “It helps plug a huge privacy hole in an elegant way.”

John Edwards, New Zealand’s privacy commissioner also tweeted support for the SSO: “I’d sign in with Apple!”

But in the fine print, Apple added a wrinkle — the SSO feature will be mandatory for any developer operating in the App Store who uses third-party sign-ins, alongside Google’s or Facebook’s or any other sign-on system.

Such a requirement forces any app developer looking to use what has now become a common tool to include Apple, which is the kind of heavy-handed rule that forces the SSO in front of consumers but immediately opens questions of whether Apple is abusing its market power.

That market power is the subject of growing scrutiny by politicians and government regulators. The House Judiciary Committee announced on Monday, just hours after Apple’s announcement, that it would be launching a bipartisan investigation into how tech companies use their market power.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who has voiced concern about the power of tech companies as well as the data economy in general, said in an email that privacy considerations could outweigh competition concerns with regard to the Apple SSO.

“I worry about anything that’s going to lock people into one platform’s ecosystem over others. But that’s what Facebook and Google already do to users of their own app sign-in systems, and those companies use that control to spy on their users,” Hawley said. “Apple’s new system looks like it gives consumers a real choice to keep more information private. I hope it works out that way.”

This trade-off — between aggressive rules that can benefit consumers but that also allow Apple to elbow out competitors — comes as Apple tries to rein in the data ecosystem it helped jump-start. The company also announced some smaller privacy tweaks on Monday, including a way for users to share their locations with apps a single time only, as well as new rules on the use of tracking tools in kid-focused apps.

Apple has also worked to make consumer privacy part of its brand. In January, Apple literally loomed over the influential Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a massive advertisement that proclaimed: “What happens on your phone, stays on your phone.” In March, Apple released TV ads proclaiming “privacy matters.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also made privacy a recurring topic in his public appearances. He told CBS News on Monday that the company is “moving privacy protections forward,” adding that he sees an embrace of privacy as benefitting users as well as freedom of expression and democracy.

“You can imagine an environment where everyone begins to think there’s no privacy,” Cook said. “And if there’s no privacy, your freedom of expression just plummets.”

But with mounting scrutiny from politicians and regulators over how tech companies exercise their market power, Apple has to navigate between pushing consumer-friendly privacy features and ruling its digital world like a dictator.

Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports, the consumer advocacy organization, said that Apple has done more than most companies to improve privacy practices and that he sees the upside of its SSO outweighing the competition downsides.

He noted that since many apps can make money from user data, making the SSO mandatory might be the only way to make sure developers include it.

“I don’t see this as leveraging their platform to extract more rent,” said Brookman, who previously worked as the policy director for technology research and investigation at the Federal Trade Commission, the government regulator tasked with antitrust oversight.

And with Apple’s privacy push coming amid the broader consumer awakening about how many companies that offer free services collect and monetize their personal data, the trade-off could be tilted in Apple’s favor.

“I can’t see how Apple can make anything mandatory across the web,” tweeted veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg. “But the ad tech industry is a toxic spill that has polluted the entire web and app business. It is the cause of the rampant surveillance online. It should be exterminated.”

A new SSO won’t single-handedly destroy the digital advertising and app industries, but it adds to a growing list of moves by Apple, as well as other privacy-centric tech companies, that are beginning to gain traction with consumers. Taken together, those changes now offer consumers more options and more information regarding how they are tracked on the internet.

And if a few of those changes are dictated rather than coerced, that is a trade-off some are willing to make, considering how reluctant many consumers have been to insist on privacy measures on their own.

“Maybe Apple has a point that the only way to actually get uptake of this is to make it mandatory,” Brookman said.

Alabama church will screen Arthur episode with same-sex wedding

95 0 04 Jun 2019

Shortly after Alabama Public Television announced it would not air an episode of PBS’ animated children’s program “Arthur” because it featured a same-sex wedding, a Methodist church in the state announced it would host a screening of the shunned show.

Birmingham’s First United Methodist Church — in collaboration with local initiatives Sidewalk Film Festival and SHOUT LGBTQ Festival — will hold the screening of the “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” episode June 15. Sparkling apple juice and wedding cake will be served to celebrate the animated wedding.

“First Church’s mission is to be an open place for all and for many years we have been advocates for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons not only in the life of the Church, but in all of society,” the church’s senior pastor, Rev. Stephanie Arnold, told NBC News via email. “We have seen the good that can come from sharing our space with our partners who seek to elevate conversations about justice in our community.”

“Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” aired nationally May 13, and though it received overwhelmingly glowing reviews, not everyone approved of the episode.

“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not,” Mike McKenzie, director of programming at Alabama Public Television, told NBC News in an earlier statement. “Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode.”

This is not the first time the “Arthur” series has featured a gay character, nor is it the first time Alabama Public Television has avoided airing a show due to its LGBTQ content. In a 2005 episode of the “Arthur” spinoff program, “Postcards From Buster,” Arthur’s best friend visits Vermont to learn about maple sugar. On his trip, he meets several children with lesbian mothers and comments, “Boy, that’s a lot of moms!” The Alabama broadcaster pulled this episode from its distribution.

Rachel Morgan, creative director of both the Sidewalk Film Festival and the SHOUT LGBTQ festival, told NBC News she was “shocked” by Alabama Public Television’s decision not to air “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.”

“I was questioning whether it was real,” Morgan said. “It was crazy to me — even in Alabama — that we weren’t going to play a cartoon.”

Upon hearing the news, she decided to organize a screening of the episode. First Church immediately seemed the most natural place for the event to take place since she had partnered with the church for screenings before.

“I’m used to thinking through the whole process in terms of figuring out where the best place to put a film may be,” Monroe said. “Marriages happen in churches all the time, so the venue made complete sense.”

More than 100 people have RSVP’d to the church’s screening, with more than 550 others expressing interest in the event, as of Tuesday morning.

Monroe said she’s been surprised by the attention the screening has received.

“We thought we were just going to show a cartoon, have a small store-bought wedding cake, but there’s been so many wonderful folks that have offered to help out,” she said. “Which is great, because now we need a bigger cake.”


Apple is nixing iTunes. The fans — and the haters — bid farewell.

87 0 04 Jun 2019

When music critic Leor Galil was in college in the early 2000s, he spent countless hours curating his sprawling iTunes library — burning CDs from his hard drive, downloading MP3 files from the internet, endlessly sorting through his personal digital record store.

“It was my whole world back then,” said Galil, who writes for the Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly.

That’s why Apple’s decision to kill off iTunes after 18 years as a staple on Mac and PC desktops around the world felt to Galil like the end of an era. And as the tech behemoth announced plans to split iTunes into three standalone apps — Music, TV, Podcasts — the software’s legacy was coming into focus.

iTunes, launched to much fanfare in 2001, helped turn the computer company into a big-league player in the traditional entertainment industry, anchoring the digital music marketplace of the aughts.

The program’s music store, brimming with hit singles and back-catalog rarities, eventually widened to include movies and television shows from leading Hollywood studios. The store evolved into a one-stop shop for consumers who were just starting to grow accustomed to buying media online that had no physical manifestation.

“iTunes made a major contribution to the music industry,” said Nolan Gasser, a composer and former chief musicologist at Pandora, a popular internet radio service that — much like Spotify — eventually took over some of the cultural real estate that Apple once monopolized.

“We have to remember it came along when it was easier to steal music than it was to buy it online,” Gasser said, referring to the heyday of legally dubious file-sharing programs like Napster. “Apple made the medium commerce-friendly. It made it easy to purchase individual songs. It gave people tremendous access.”

iTunes did not lack for critics, however. In recent years, it had become a laughingstock among tech journalists and design buffs, who ragged on the software for its increasingly crowded, clunky interface and apparent irrelevance in the age of cloud-based storage and on-demand streaming.

But the program’s defenders — from obsessive audiophiles who cherished their customized libraries to entertainment executives who resented the underground world of music piracy — nonetheless found continued value in the tool.

The files in an iTunes library still give some consumers a sense of ownership and security at a time when most media companies are pivoting to streaming, offloading reams of data to cloud-based storage systems.

“We treat corporations like they’re librarians, but they’re not. It’s great to have a library of MP3s that you can control,” Galil, the music critic, said.

iTunes’s store also gave consumers an aboveboard way to download music, wrenching millions away from the clutches of Napster and peer-to-peer programs like Limewire — and conditioning consumers to start paying for certain digital content, from hip-hop albums to action movie rentals.

“Consumers don’t want to be treated like criminals and artists don’t want their valuable work stolen,” Jobs said in the company’s announcement in 2003. “The iTunes Music Store offers a groundbreaking solution for both.”

In the years to come, though, Apple clearly sees the financial upside in abandoning individual sales in favor of subscription-based streaming, according to David Arditi, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington, who studies the intersection of music, culture and technology.

“They’re putting their eggs in the basket of Apple Music,” Arditi said, referring to Apple’s $10-a-month streaming music service. “We’ve seen that the average consumer spends around 45 dollars a year on recorded music. But a company like Apple sees that and figures they’re better off charging 10 dollars a month, or 120 dollars a year.”

In that sense, iTunes fell victim to the same cultural trends and financial forces that helped Netflix vanquish DVDs and Blu-rays: Why curate your media library when an algorithm can do that for you?

Texas couple vacationing in Fiji dies from unknown illness

99 0 04 Jun 2019

A Texas couple vacationing in Fiji died from an unknown illness, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Monday.

Michelle and David Paul, from Fort Worth, arrived in Fiji around May 22 after dropping off their 2-year-old son, Ayden, with Michelle’s parents, her father, Marc Calanog, told NBC News.

Some time after they arrived, Michelle called her father, Marc Calanog, to tell him she and her husband were experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, and their hands were numb. They went to a clinic and then to a hospital, where they were treated and then released. Calanog said David was given IV bags to treat his symptoms, but Michelle was not.

Then, Calanog learned that his son-in-law was in critical condition and was supposed to be transferred to a hospital in Australia, “but he never made it.”

On May 25, the day before the couple was supposed to leave Fiji to return home, Michelle’s family received a call that she had died, her sister-in-law, Tracey Calanog, told NBC News.

Michelle and David died within days of each other despite medical care, Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. The ministry said public health measures were put in place but did not specify what those were.

The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it is monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the deaths.

The U.S. Embassy in Fiji said in a statement Tuesday that it had been working with the Fiji government, police, and health officials for more than a week to determine how the couple died.

Tracey Calanog said both Michelle, an athlete who swam competitively in college, and David, an Air Force veteran, were in good health before leaving for Fiji.

“Nobody’s telling me what was the cause of the death. And that’s very hard for me,” Michelle’s father said.

He said the couple had been anticipating the trip for a while and were excited when they left. He didn’t worry about their safety because they traveled often and had the proper immunizations, as far as he knew.

Calanog said, based on Facebook pictures, he could tell “it was a good trip.”

“It just ended up the wrong way. But it was a good trip before that,” Calanog said.

He said he has been telling friends that “‘our emotion is controlled because we believe my daughter and son-in-law is in a better place than us. They’re ahead of schedule than me.'”

In reality, though, he doesn’t feel so in control. “But I keep telling my wife we got to stay strong. Because we have a new job. Ayden. We have to take care of Ayden,” Calanog said.

In addition to their 2-year-old son, David had three other children from previous relationships, his sister-in-law said.