Did You Know
BALTIMORE, Maryland: At age 17, Joseph Sakran was shot in the throat after a high school football game - a life-threatening injury that set him on the path to becoming a doctor.
Now a trauma surgeon who fights to save shooting victims on the operating table, Sakran says gun violence in America is a health crisis that medical professionals can and should help address.
He has become the public face of a campaign to unite doctors, nurses and others who treat gun violence victims in an effort to reduce it, pushing back against the National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby's assertion that the issue is none of their concern.
"When you look at firearm-related violence ... there's no question that it is a public health crisis that we are facing in this country," Sakran said at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he is director of emergency general surgery.
The 41-year-old doctor said that firearms deaths should be approached like other major threats to health, such as smoking and obesity.
"It falls under the injury prevention piece that we as clinicians and as scientists really consider as ... part of our responsibility," he said.
For Sakran - who said he has talked with "hundreds if not thousands" of gun owners, finding that "we actually have a lot more in common than we have that divides us" - the issue is not banning firearms.
"In the '60s and '70s, when people were dying from motor vehicle crashes, we didn't get rid of cars. We figured out, 'How do we make cars safer?'"
"THIS IS OUR LANE"
As someone who both survived a gunshot wound and treats them, Sakran was "a little bit incensed" when the NRA took aim at the involvement of doctors in the debate over gun violence.
Firearms killed nearly 40,000 people in the US in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And despite the scale of the problem, efforts to address it legislatively have long been largely deadlocked at the federal level.
"Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane," the NRA tweeted in November, calling out a particular medical journal for publishing what it deemed to be too many articles backing gun control.
"I think there was a significant amount of outrage from the medical community - and not just non-gun owners but also gun owners - for a group to say that we are not part of the solution," Sakran said.
He started the @ThisIsOurLane account on Twitter, which currently has over 28,000 followers.
Sakran is one of the leaders of a campaign of the same name and has argued on social media, in print and on television that medical professionals are in fact "in their lane" when discussing gun violence.
This Is Our Lane has several aims: communicating about firearms violence, research, educating medical professionals about how to discuss issues such as safe gun storage with patients, and pushing for "common-sense legislation to be passed," he said.
And while it came about as a response to the NRA's message, This Is Our Lane is ultimately "not about us versus them," Sakran said.
"This is really about ... working together to engage as Americans and ensure that we're making communities safer."
"ON THE FRONT LINE"
Sakran's journey to becoming a doctor began in 1994, when he was spending time with friends after the first football game of the high school season in Burke, Virginia.
A fight broke out and Sakran saw a flash as someone opened fire, striking him in the neck and another person in the shoulder.
"I noticed very quickly that I must have been hit because I had a lot of blood all over me," he said.
He made it to the street curb and sat down, but was drenched in so much blood that it was difficult to determine where he had been shot.
When his friends tried to lay him down, he started to choke.
Sakran was brought to an area hospital, where a piece of vein was taken out of his leg to patch up his carotid artery.
He was hospitalized for weeks, required multiple operations and still bears scars on his neck from the surgery that saved him.
"That moment really inspired me, inspired me to go into medicine, it inspired me to become a trauma surgeon," Sakran said.
He eventually returned to that same hospital as an emergency room technician and later as a medical student and a surgical resident, training with the same people who saved his life.
For Sakran, medical professionals have a unique perspective on gun violence from treating and caring for its victims and their families, one they can bring into the discussion.
"We're on the front line of taking care of the patients that are being injured and brought into our trauma centers," he said. "We see them in their most vulnerable and difficult times."
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump laid out a White House feast fit for a government shutdown on Monday: Silver platters heaped high with McDonald's quarter pounders and the red-and-white burger wrappers of Wendy's.
White House chefs normally would serve much fancier fare underneath the stern gaze of the portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the State Dining Room.
But they are furloughed, staying home without paychecks as Trump fights with Congress over funding the federal government.
The White House said Trump himself sprang for what he pronounced to be "great American food" for the visiting Clemson Tigers, winners of the US college football championship.
"We have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many, many french fries, all of our favourite foods," Trump told reporters, as one White House worker still on the job lit tapered candles.
"I want to see what’s here when we leave, because I don’t think it’s going to be much," Trump said, before the players, dressed in dapper suits, flooded the room and piled their plates high.
Asked to name his own favorite fast food -- as he stood smiling behind the gargantuan spread -- Trump demurred, insisting: "I like them all."
"If it's American, I like it. It's all American stuff."
About a quarter of the federal government has been shut down for the past 24 days after Trump dug in on a campaign pledge to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, demanding US$5.7 billion from Congress for the project. Democrats have rejected his demand.
Trump told the players afterward that he did not want to postpone the event until after the shutdown - which is already the longest in history - ended.
"The reason we did this is because of the shutdown," he said. "We want to make sure that everything is right, so we sent out, we got this."
MELBOURNE: A woman was injured after an overhead traffic sign crashed onto a freeway in Melbourne, Australia last Tuesday (Jan 8), crushing her car, according to Australian media reports.
The metal sign measuring 5m by 4m was part welded and bolted to an overhead structure when it fell during evening peak hour traffic.
She was taken to hospital where she was said to be in a "stable condition".
"It felt like a roller door had slammed shut in front of me," Ms Lettieri told reporters.
"I've gone to swerve, but as I swerved, it just felt like the sign was actually falling on the car. And it just kept bouncing, and I felt like it was pushing me to the right."
Authorities launched an investigation following the incident, but deemed the freeway safe.
VicRoads, the road and traffic authority in the state of Victoria, brought in an independent reviewer to get to the bottom of the incident, reported ABC News.
"It's too early to talk about the detailed findings of that investigation, there's a lot of work that needs to be done," said VicRoads deputy chief executive Robyn Seymour when asked about the seeming appearance of rust at the bottom of the sign, according to reporters.
"At this point we don't know what's caused it. We really need to have metal specialists looking at the sign, as well as our engineers.
"We really need to, and we want to, get to the bottom of what went wrong in this situation so that we can ensure that it doesn't happen again."
As a precaution following the incident, a second sign on the gantry at the centre of the incident has been taken down for an inspection, said reporters.
"They have taken down one other sign on that cantilever," Victoria's Acting Premier, Tim Pallas, said, as quoted by reporters.
"Because people, with a fair degree of reason, would be concerned about signage on that section of freeway, the major road projects authority has overnight inspected all the signs and have satisfied themselves that those signs are in good order."
Seymour also assured that similar-sized signs and gantries around the state were being audited. So far, no issues were uncovered in the first six audits carried out, said reporters.
WASHINGTON: The US military has removed some equipment from Syria, a defense official confirmed Thursday (Jan 10), following a report that the drawdown ordered by President Donald Trump is now underway.
"I can confirm the movement of equipment from Syria," the official told reporters. "For security reasons, I am not going to provide further details at this time."
Trump's shock announcement on Dec 19 that he was withdrawing all 2,000 American troops from the conflict-wracked Middle Eastern country concerned allies and prompted the resignation of his then defense chief Jim Mattis.
Since then, however, administration officials appear to have walked back considerably and the current envisaged timetable is unclear.
The removal of the equipment in recent days was first reported by CNN, which quoted an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation as saying it signaled the beginning of US withdrawal from the Middle Eastern country.
The official quoted by reporters would not describe exactly what the cargo was or how it was being transported.
They also did not say what part of Syria it came from, though it is expected the drawdown would begin in the country's north.
The CNN report added that officials it had previously spoken to said the Pentagon wants to signal to the president it is working towards his goals following his withdrawal decision last month.
Though the removal of troops is not on the cards immediately, withdrawing equipment is a means of showing progress towards this goal, it added.
On Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton set out stringent conditions for the proposed withdrawal, saying the defense of allies must first be assured.
"We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again," Bolton said when meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Speaking in Egypt Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the troop pullout from Syria would go ahead as he urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.
SYDNEY: A woman and a child were bitten by a shark in the popular Whitsunday Islands near Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Thursday (Jan 10) in the latest of a string of such attacks, reports and officials said.
The Queensland state ambulance service said the pair were rushed to hospital with leg and foot wounds from the attack along a beach on Hamilton Island, but the injuries were not life-threatening.
Local media said the victims were a woman and young child playing in the shallow waters of the island's Catseye Beach.
It was the latest in a series of shark attacks in waters around the Whitsunday islands, which had been considered safe for swimming.
One man died of his injuries from an attack in November, and a 12-year-old girl lost a leg after another mauling in September.
Australia has one of the world's highest incidences of shark attacks, but fatalities remain rare.
There were 20 "unprovoked" shark attacks off the vast continent's coast in 2018, though only one was fatal, according to data compiled by the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Hamilton island grabbed global headlines in 2009 when 34,000 people entered a competition to land the "Best Job in the World" - a six-month stint as "caretaker" of the idyllic destination.
BEIJING: US and Chinese negotiators extended trade war talks into a third day on Wednesday (Jan 9), with President Donald Trump boasting that discussions to resolve the dispute were going "very well".
An American delegation has been in Beijing since Monday for the first sit-down talks since Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a three-month truce on Dec 1.
Asian markets rose on increasing optimism that the two sides would be able to hammer out a deal ahead of a March deadline and avert further import tariff hikes.
"Talks with China are going very well!" Trump tweeted after the second day of negotiations on Tuesday.
The US delegation, led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, was supposed to end its visit on Tuesday.
But a US government official told reporters on condition of anonymity that "the trade talks have continued today (Wednesday)", without providing more information.
Washington has been clamouring for an end to the alleged forced transfer - and even theft - of American technology, as well as steep government subsidies for Chinese companies.
The Trump administration also wants Beijing to buy more American goods to narrow a yawning trade gap and allow foreign players better access to the Chinese market.
Neither Chinese nor US officials have given any details about the discussions.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross signalled in a CNBC interview on Monday that there was a "very good chance" of reaching an agreement.
China's economy was more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade war, he said, noting that Beijing exports more goods to the United States than the other way around.
"I think a deal is very possible and I've heard some very encouraging words," Apple chief executive Tim Cook told reporters.
"I don't speak for them obviously," Cook said in reference to the Trump administration. "I do talk with them and I give them my ideas and thoughts."
The US smartphone maker has felt the pinch of the bruising trade spat, and warned that 2018 revenues would miss its forecast - in large part due to a slump in iPhone sales in China.
The temporary ceasefire came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than US$300 billion of each other's goods.
Without a resolution, punitive US duty rates on US$200 billion in Chinese goods are due to rise to 25 per cent from 10 per cent on Mar 2.
The current trade round coincided with an unannounced visit from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for talks with Xi in Beijing ahead of a possible second meeting between Kim and Trump.
China - Pyongyang's sole diplomatic ally and main source of trade - said it would not use Kim's visit as a bargaining chip in the US trade talks.
CHICAGO: A fire on board an American Airlines flight was caused by an overheated e-cigarette shortly after the plane landed in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Friday (Jan 4) night, US media reported.
USA TODAY cited airline spokesman Ross Feinstein as saying on Monday that the small fire was put out by flight attendants who are trained to fight high-energy battery fires.
American Airlines also released a statement to Newsweek, which said that none of the 138 passengers and six crew members on board was injured in the incident.
"Shortly after landing in Chicago on Flight 168 from Las Vegas, a passenger’s e-cigarette experienced what is called a thermal runaway event, which resulted in a small fire on board,” it said.
“Our flight attendants quickly extinguished the fire and the plane taxied to the gate.”
The statement added: "We are thankful for our flight attendants who quickly put their training to use to keep our passengers safe."
The US Transportation Security Administration allows e-cigarettes and other vaping devices on board flights, but prohibits them in checked luggage.
In July last year, an Air China flight had to make an emergency descent after oxygen levels plummeted in the cabin when the co-pilot turned off a ventilation system to conceal his e-cigarette smoke.
Chinese authorities later cut the airline's 737 flights and revoked the flying licences of the cockpit crew involved in the incident. Air China was also fined 50,000 yuan (US$7,500).
WARSAW: Polish prosecutors probing the deaths of five teenage girls in an "escape room" said on Sunday (Jan 6) they had charged an owner of the facility with deliberately creating a fire hazard that led to the blaze.
The five girls, all aged 15 according to Polish media, died and one man was seriously injured on Friday when a fire broke out in an escape room where they were celebrating a birthday in the northern Polish city of Koszalin.
Escape rooms, popular around the world, offer a live-action experience in which players are locked in a room and given one hour to solve a series of clues and riddles to get out.
The 28-year-old suspect was charged with "deliberately creating the danger of a fire in the escape room and with unintentionally causing the death of people in a fire," said Ryszard Gasiorowski, a spokesman for Koszalin district prosecutor, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.
Identifying the suspect only as Milosz S. for legal reasons, Gasiorowski said he had neglected to ensure escape routes that could have allowed the girls to flee when the blaze broke out.
Lawyers for the defendant told Polish media that he was "devastated" by the deaths and had extended condolences to the girls' families but that he had also denied any negligence or wrongdoing.
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed earlier on Sunday to close escape rooms that fail to meet safety standards after firefighters inspected nearly 200 such facilities across Poland over the weekend.
National fire commander Leszek Suski said that more than 100 were found to be unsafe and 13 facilities were immediately shut down.
Morawiecki also announced a review of more than 1,000 escape rooms or related facilities in Poland to determine whether new regulations are needed.
WASHINGTON: The new US House Democratic majority on Thursday (Jan 3) approved two measures that would end a two-week partial government shutdown, but an impasse remains as the Bills provide no money for President Donald Trump's border wall.
Trump has threatened a veto of the legislation that would fund homeland security operations until Feb 8 and several other agencies through September because they do not provide any money for a wall that Trump has demanded by constructed on the US border with Mexico.
The Republican-run Senate has said it may not even vote on the legislation.
The new House speaker, veteran Democrat Nancy Pelosi, stood firm shortly before the vote saying no funding for a border wall would be made available.
CHICAGO: Patricia Gallagher Marchant was first abused by a priest who befriended her family when she was seven or eight years old.
More than five decades later, the 61-year-old stood Wednesday (Jan 2) in front of a throng of news cameras outside the downtown Chicago headquarters of the Catholic archdiocese in this sprawling American city, and demanded the church listen to survivors.
"They've counted on our silence," Marchant said. "The horror of what happened to each of us needs to be out and spoken."
Marchant was joined by leaders of two survivors' advocacy groups who sent an open letter to Pope Francis asking to be a part of a historic gathering that the Catholic leader called for in February at the Vatican, to discuss the ongoing crisis roiling the church.
At issue was the very credibility of the pope's conference, they claimed, and whether survivors would have faith in its outcome.
"What we want is for this summit to be able to be taken seriously and to result in real, meaningful reform," said Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
A TROUBLED HISTORY
The demands came just as US bishops gathered at a Chicago-area seminary for a prayer summit in advance of the Vatican meeting.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops was tight-lipped about the gathering, saying only that it would consist of seven days of silent prayer and reflection.
Two of the attendees were targeted by the activists in downtown Chicago for their key roles in the upcoming Vatican event: Cardinal Blase Cupich, the leader of the Chicago archdiocese, and US bishops leader Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
Both were blamed for alleged cover-ups of clergy abuse under their watch.
"We're asking the pope to do something very simple: put individuals to lead your summit that have not covered up for child sex crimes," said Peter Isely, a self-identified survivor and spokesman for the group Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA).
"Then, survivors and the rest of the world might have a glimmer of hope."
Survivors' advocates have long accused church officials of slow-walking abuse investigations and failing to disclose all allegations.
Marchant said her abuser was allowed to remain a priest for almost two decades after she first reported him.
"The church has a history of minimizing and denying the undeniable pain and horror of being sexually abused by a priest," said Marchant, who is now a therapist helping other clergy abuse survivors.
'NO DOUBT' MORE TO DO
The new demands came two weeks after the top prosecutor in the Midwestern state of Illinois, where Chicago is located, revealed hundreds of previously undisclosed allegations of clergy abuse.
In a scathing report, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said church officials mishandled investigations and failed to inform law enforcement of all accusations.
More than 500 additional accused clergy were uncovered by state investigators within months of looking into dioceses' records, according to Madigan, far more than the 185 names previously disclosed.
Cardinal Cupich acknowledged that more reforms were needed.
"There can be no doubt about the constant need to strengthen our culture of healing, protection, and accountability," he said in December statement.
The scale of the apparent cover-up in Illinois eclipsed the findings of a grand jury in Pennsylvania, which in August alleged more than 300 suspected predator priests and more than 1,000 victims had been concealed for decades.
In announcing the February meeting to discuss the abuse crisis, Pope Francis urged bishops to "reach out and visit with victims of sexual abuse... to learn first hand the suffering that they have endured."