Study reveals surprising link between DUI convictions and domestic violence involving guns

kali9/iStock(NEW YORK) —  Regulating firearm ownership for at-risk individuals, such as those with a prior felony or domestic violence convictions, is already written into federal law. Now, according to new research, there may be a reason to examine alcohol-related offenses as a precursor to partner violence, too.

Gun purchasers with prior convictions for driving under the influence were nearly three times more likely to be arrested in the future for domestic partner violence than gun purchasers who had no criminal history at the time of purchase, a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs found.

The study utilized data from nearly 80,000 people between the ages of 21 and 49, who purchased a legal handgun in California in 2001.

“It shows very, very clearly that prior criminal history predicts future criminal history,” Dr. Megan Ranney, professor at Brown University and chief research officer at the gun violence research group AFFIRM, told ABC News.

“People who have a tendency for risky behavior, continue to have a tendency for risky behavior,” said Ranney, who was not connected to the new study.

Predicting risky behavior with firearms is particularly important in the context of intimate partner violence, Ranney explained, since victims are five times more likely to die if an abuser has access to a gun. Even when women don’t die, guns are a persistent threat to their collective safety and well-being. Nearly 1 million women say they’ve been shot at by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, and 4.5 million who report being bullied or coerced with a gun.

The study potentially helps fill a gap in our knowledge about violence, according to lead author Hannah Sybil Laqueur. While researchers have documented the connection between guns and intimate partner violence, and alcohol and intimate partner violence, there’s been less attention paid to the nexus of the three factors together, Laqueur, who is also an assistant professor at UC Davis Health, said.

In California, new research may prove to be more than hypothetical.

A 2013 bill that passed in the state would have prohibited firearm sales for 10 years to people who had two or more DUI convictions during a three-year period. The governor vetoed the bill at the time, on the basis that there wasn’t enough evidence linking non-violent crimes committed without a firearm to violent firearm crimes. A similar proposal was floated this year, citing a smaller UC Davis study with older data, that didn’t specifically examine intimate partner violence.

If the bill is put forth again next year, there’s much more robust data for policymakers to pull from.

“Given evidence that people who consume alcohol are at increased risk of violence, and intimate partner violence in particular, regulating firearm access may afford an important public health opportunity to reduce the risk and severity of that violence 10-year prohibition on firearm sales,” the study authors wrote.

Loopholes that limit and hamstring background checks

While background checks are a popular policy, even among Republicans, 83% of whom support background checks for potential gun owners, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in early September, the evidence to support their effectiveness is moderate in some areas, and inconclusive in others.

The most glaring examples are recent mass shootings involving legal guns purchased by individuals who would have failed, or did fail, background checks and went on to kill. This summer in Odessa, Texas, for example, a gunman who was barred from buying a firearm because of his history of serious mental health problems and volatile behavior, was denied sale by a gun dealer, but went on to purchase an AR-15-style weapon privately, which he then used to shoot 32 people, killing seven of them.

In a review published in Health Affairs in conjunction with the domestic violence study Monday, Dr. Garen Wintemute set out to identify why background checks don’t seem to work at a population level.

One of the biggest problems is incomplete data, according to Wintemute, who directs the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center and has spent decades studying firearm violence.

For starters, except for federal agencies, a lot of the reporting on at-risk individuals — from courts, psychiatric facilities, etc. — is voluntary. Even when the information is available, not every state utilizes the state data they have to run checks. Some simply rely on federal data, meaning their examinations are less thorough.

Vague definitions of categories that would exclude someone from firearm ownership add a layer of subjectivity to the process, and even among those entities that are required to report, there’s a certain subset of sellers and buyers who don’t care about the rules.

A focus on DUIs, as shown in Ranney’s statistics, may provide less subjectivity.

In so-called Second Amendment sanctuaries, where officials have publicly stated that they won’t enforce state background check laws, enforcement could be especially patchy.

Then there’s the loophole of private gun sales, once limited to gun shows, but with the internet, the private, background check-free marketplace is effectively everywhere.

In the face of these weak spots, Wintemute thinks the rules should be tightened. Re-education campaigns might drive down accidental non-compliance, and sting operations could target sellers who knowingly break the rules. Federal support for state and local reporting needs to continue, or increase, with a goal of 100% reporting — and importantly — timely reporting, since the risk of violence is highest after a disqualifying event.

“Any reforms to policy and practice will merit rigorous evaluation,” Wintemute wrote in his review, stressing that making strides to plug those holes, could “substantially improve the checks’ effectiveness at the population level.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NASA’s Curiosity rover found a weirdly salty ‘ancient oasis’ on Mars

ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development (KED), Michael Northrop(NEW YORK) — NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered what it dubs an “ancient oasis” on the red planet, featuring some very unusual salts.

After sending Curiosity to explore the floor of the 100-meter-wide Gale Crater, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement Monday that millions of years ago, the floor of the crater might have been covered with shallow streams.

The rocks that Curiosity found were also filled with unique mineral salts. NASA said in a statement that researchers interpret this “as evidence of shallow briny ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying,” in Mars’ ancient history.

The layers of rocks and salt in the crater are the focal point of study for scientists who are trying to figure out how Mars’ climate went from a wet one to a freezing desert, according to NASA.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” William Rapin, of Caltech, the lead author of a study of their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience paper said in a statement.

“Understanding when and how the planet’s climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle: When and how long was Mars capable of supporting microbial life at the surface?” Rapin added.

Rapin and others were especially interested in the mysterious salts found in a section of the crater known as “Sutton Island,” which suggest the water concentrated into a brine. This is significant because normally dried-up lakes leave behind pure salt crystals. These salts, however, are a mineral salt, and are mixed with other sediments, “suggesting they crystallized in a wet environment — possibly just beneath evaporating shallow ponds filled with briny water,” according to the statement.

Rapin has suggested that Sutton Island may have resembled the saline lakes in South America’s Altiplano back home on Earth.

“During drier periods, the Altiplano lakes become shallower, and some can dry out completely,” Rapin said. “The fact that they’re vegetation-free even makes them look a little like Mars.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 07 Oct 2019

Iranian social media influencer arrested for ‘encouraging youths to corruption’

Sahar Tabar/Instagram(NEW YORK) — Iranian social media influencer, Sahar Tabar, who is known for going through many plastic surgeries, was arrested by Tehran’s Court of Guidance for “blasphemy” and “encouraging youths to corruption.”

Tehran’s Court of Guidance arrested Tabar after receiving several reports from people complaining about her Instagram posts in which she wears “disgusting and abnormal makeups,” the conservative Tasnim News Agency reported on Saturday.

Tabar, who said she has gone through at least 50 surgeries, has been described as “zombie Angelina Julie,” however, she has denied any personal intention to look like the famous Hollywood star, she said in an interview with Russia’s Sputnik.

Scrolling through her Instagram page, with more than 17K followers, she has not posted any advertisements and very rarely left captions on her posts, unless using the word “pure” for a few of her photos.

While beauty surgeries in Iran have been prevalent in the past few years, according to the Guardian, Tabar has become an icon of such plastic surgeries and an Instagram star due to her drastically changing appearance.

Her other accusations mentioned in Tasnim’s report are “spreading violence,” “insulting Islamic hijab,” and “collecting money from illegitimate ways.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 07 Oct 2019

‘They abandoned us’: Commanding general of US-allied Kurdish forces rails against US plans to pull back from Syria

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to pull back U.S. forces in Syria ahead of a possible Turkish assault on U.S. partners on the ground in the war-torn country’s northeast has sparked a fierce backlash.

The move has been condemned by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with U.S. officials ringing the alarm that it could empower the Islamic State and force the Kurdish forces that served as the foot soldiers for the U.S. and its coalition against ISIS to turn now to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his backers, Russia and Iran.

“They abandoned us,” Gen. Mazloum Ebdi, the commanding general of the Syrian Democratic Forces, told ABC News about Trump’s decision through an interpreter.

The SDF are a majority Kurdish force that bore the brunt of the fighting against the terror group.

Some U.S. officials tried to downplay the decision, saying it was a small group of U.S. troops and the president only intended to get them out of harm’s way, not change U.S. policy. But a senior U.S. official told ABC News it could overturn years of effort to defeat ISIS.

“Everyone in the military from the youngest Green Beret in Syria to the secretary of defense is opposed to withdrawing our forces,” the senior official said. “I don’t think anyone advised this.”

In a statement late Sunday, the White House said Turkey would soon invade northern Syria and attack the Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists. The U.S. has armed and backed these forces, but has long considered their affiliated group in Turkey a terrorist organization. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch this assault for months now, the presence of U.S. forces working with the SDF had prevented that.

After his call with Erdogan on Sunday, however, the White House announced those troops would move out. Instead, while they “will not support or be involved in the operation,” they also “will no longer be in the immediate area,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced.

That was interpreted as a green light for Turkey to move forward with its offensive. Ebdi told ABC News that the U.S. “abandoned us in the middle of struggle against ISIS” and warned a Turkish offensive is going to lead to ethnic cleansing and change the demographic in the area. This is what the Turks are looking to do, he added.

A senior State Department official said on Monday that the U.S. was firmly opposed to any military operation and downplayed the decision as a “very simple, clear-cut tactical decision.”

“We do not support this (Turkish) operation in any way, shape or form — everybody from the president on down,” the official told reporters during a briefing Monday.

They said the move affected two “very small” attachments of U.S. troops, about two dozen in total. That number could be much higher, however, as Ebdi said it was about 150 American troops in total. The U.S. is also not withdrawing those forces from Syria, just pulling them back for now.

“At the moment, there is no decision to withdraw the rest of the U.S. forces from northeast Syria. We’re reviewing the situation based upon the military situation,” the official added.

They have also sent a warning shot to Turkey about an assault by blocking them from using the airspace over northeastern Syria, according to the official.

But the U.S. will not use military force to stop an assault, the official said, even after senior U.S. officials have said they want to make sure the Turks don’t “slaughter” the Kurds.

“It’s important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC News in January.

Ebdi said Monday that the decision has “hurt the credibility” of the U.S., adding, “When you broke or hurt the credibility or the confidence, it’s not an easy thing to recover it.”

The senior U.S. official told ABC News, “We should have stood with our partners as they have stood with us.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 07 Oct 2019

3 infants die from bacteria at Pennsylvania hospital

RyanJLane/iStock(DANVILLE, Pa.) —  Eight premature infants were infected with a waterborne bacteria while in a neonatal intensive care unit. Three of the infants have died.

The babies were in the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” the medical center will temporarily direct mothers who are delivering prematurely — before 32 weeks gestation — to other area facilities, the center reported.

The infants had contracted a pseudomonas infection caused by pseudomonas bacteria. This waterborne bacteria is one of the most common hospital-acquired infections and causes severe symptoms in those with compromised immune systems.

The center found no evidence of the bacteria throughout the hospital, said Dr. Mark Shelley, director of infection prevention at Geisinger.

Instead, hospital officials believe that the bacteria was limited to the intensive care unit.

“It’s really too soon to say exactly where the organism is coming from,” Shelley said. He said that the center has done extra cleaning, put filters on taps and changed its medical center processes. The facility is also working closely with the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to eliminate the bacteria and prevent additional cases.

The hospital is dedicated to finding out why the infections occurred and not letting it happen again, Shelly said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.