Blog Posts by Jason Sickles, Yahoo

  • State Dept. rewards ‘Ebola plane’ company with multimillion dollar raise

    Deal worth up to $25 million also calls for private firm to educate the government on preparedness

    Phoenix Air lands near Atlanta on Aug. 5 with Nancy Writebol aboard in an isolation chamber. (AP/Todd Kirkland)Phoenix Air lands near Atlanta on Aug. 5 with Nancy Writebol aboard in an isolation chamber. (AP/Todd Kirkland)
    On an unusually cold morning in northwest Georgia last month, Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol pulled up to the private aviation company Phoenix Air with five dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

    Her mission: to meet and thank the people who accomplished her elaborate air medical rescue from West Africa last summer — a feat that helped save the aid worker’s life.

    “Their care and evacuation was an important part,” Writebol, 59, told Yahoo News. “It’s important to express gratitude. I’m just thankful for people who have been involved in the situation.”

    Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, touring the jet that rescued her from West Africa (Photo: Courtesy of the Writebol family)Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, touring the jet that rescued her from West Africa (Photo: Courtesy of the Writebol family)She is one of 25 people, who were either stricken with Ebola or exposed to the deadly virus, who Phoenix Air has transported — to the U.S. or other countries — at the State Department’s request since early August.

    Writebol showed her appreciation with sweets and hugs. The State Department, however, is rewarding the flight company’s heroics with a raise.

    The new deal worth $12.5 to $25 million begins Saturday and puts Phoenix Air on 24/7 standby for

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  • Cost of Colorado theater shooting case exceeds $5 million months before opening arguments

    Lawyer salaries and security top expenditures, records reveal

    Top attorneys in the State of Colorado v. James Holmes. (L-R) Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson, Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Daniel King and Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Tamara Brady. (Getty Images)Top attorneys in the State of Colorado v. James Holmes. (L-R) Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson, Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Daniel King and Public Defender Chief Trial Deputy Tamara Brady. (Getty Images)

    The criminal court case against Colorado theater gunman James Holmes has already absorbed at least $5.5 million in public monies, according to records obtained by Yahoo News.

    That’s $2 million more than the estimated average cost of a completed Colorado death penalty trial — and the contentious Holmes proceeding is still months away from opening arguments.

    “Keep adding it up, this isn't ending anytime soon,” said Justin Marceau, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who has studied the costs of capital murder trials.

    Holmes first appeared in court on July 23, 2012, three days after police say he assailed a packed suburban Denver movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 70, as they were watching a midnight showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

    In the two and a half years since that initial court appearance, primary personnel involved with the case — prosecutors, defense attorneys, the judge, court reporter, trial investigators and victims’

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  • Jury selection begins in long-awaited Colorado theater shooting case

    A clean-cut James Holmes appears in court

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. — An almost unrecognizable James Holmes appeared in court on Tuesday in the death penalty case in which he is accused of a murderous rampage at a Colorado movie theater.

    Holmes — who since his July 2012 arrest has sported wild orange hair and later, mutton-chop sideburns — is now clean-cut, and he appeared in civilian clothes during an introductory hearing before jury selection, which was to begin Tuesday afternoon.

    Several courtroom observers did a double take before they realized it was Holmes sitting at the defense table. His dark hair was neatly trimmed and was wearing pleated khaki pants, a striped button-down blue shirt, a charcoal sports jacket and tortoiseshell glasses. It was the first time Holmes has appeared in court in something other than a jail jumpsuit. He wore no cuffs on his wrists, but a hidden cable kept him tethered to the floor.

    No cameras were allowed in the courtroom, but a sketch artist was present. Those images are expected later.

    Before the

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  • In Darren Wilson's words: Grand jury testimony gives first look at officer's fear before Michael Brown shooting

    Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson at the hospital hours after the shooting of Michael Brown. (Click image for more photos.) Officer Darren Wilson at the hospital hours after the shooting of Michael Brown.CLAYTON, Mo. — Michael Brown had the “crazy” look of a “demon” as he barreled toward Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the final moments of his life.

    “He turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person,” Wilson told detectives the morning after he fatally shot the unarmed 18-year-old.

    This is a first look at Wilson’s account of what happened in the Aug. 9 shooting, detailed in more than 100 pages of testimony revealed Monday after a grand jury did not indict the officer in Brown’s death.

    Brown never put his hands up in surrender, the officer told grand jurors investigating the case.

    Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (Facebook)Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson (Facebook)But he did make a fist with his left hand — and reached under his shirt to his waistband with his right — while rushing at Wilson, according to the officer.

    “I shoot a series of shots,” Wilson said. “I don't know how many I shot; I just know I shot it.”

    But Brown kept coming, he said.

    “It looked like he was almost bulking up to run

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  • No indictment: Grand jury decides Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in Michael Brown shooting death

    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made plea for 'respect' and 'restraint' ahead of announcement

    FERGUSON, Mo. — Police Officer Darren Wilson — the suburban St. Louis patrolman who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in early August - will not face criminal charges in the controversial shooting death, a grand jury has decided.

    Wilson, who is white, became a national figure after he shot the black 18-year-old multiple times in broad daylight on a residential street. The grand jury deliberated for months and Ferguson was rocked by violent protests in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

    The decision was announced by prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch, who discussed the lengthy deliberation period of the grand jury citing consideration of differing witness reports as a one reason for the unusually long session.

    Ahead of Monday's announcement, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made a plea for peace.

    "Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint," he said.



    Meanwhile, officials in Clayton stepped up

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  • Grand jury reaches decision on Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson; will be announced at 8p.m. CT

    Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. (Getty/Facebook)Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. (Getty/Facebook)
    CLAYTON, Mo. — A St. Louis County grand jury has finally reached a decision on whether to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., several media outlets reported Monday.

    The panel’s ruling is expected to be revealed during a press conference at the courthouse in Clayton later today.

    Anxiety over the decision has kept the St. Louis region on edge, as the public waits to see whether the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer will result in an indictment.

    The grand jury convened Aug. 20 to hear evidence and testimony. The 12-member group was asked to decide if there was probable cause to charge Wilson with a crime and what that charge should be. Options range from second-degree involuntary manslaughter to second-degree murder. Wilson, 28, could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

    Protesters march in the streets Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Canada)Protesters march in the streets Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Canada)

    But the panel may find that probable cause does not exist and dismiss the state’s case, without charging Wilson.

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  • Nurse Amber Vinson free of Ebola virus, family says

    More than 100 Texans still being monitored for symptoms

    Amber Vinson is helped on to an air ambulance in Dallas last week. (Reuters/KXAS-TV) Amber Vinson is helped on to an air ambulance in Dallas last week. (Reuters/KXAS-TV)

    DALLAS — Barely a week after being diagnosed with Ebola, Texas nurse Amber Vinson is free of the deadly virus, her family said on Wednesday night.

    “We are overjoyed to announce that, as of [Tuesday] evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body,” read a statement from a family spokesperson.

    Nurse Amber Vinson sitting at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. (AP Canada)Nurse Amber Vinson sitting at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. (AP Canada)

    Debra Berry, the nurse's mother, is in Dallas under a self-imposed quarantine, because she had recently spent time with Vinson. But Berry spoke with her daughter by phone on Wednesday night, according to the statement.

    “Amber and our family are ecstatic to receive this latest report on her condition,” Berry said in the statement. “We all know that further treatment will be necessary as Amber continues to regain strength, but these latest developments have truly answered prayers and bring our family one step closer to reuniting with her at home.”

    Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesperson, told Yahoo News late Wednesday

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  • Dallas hospital exec on Ebola crisis: 'We are deeply sorry'

    Doctor will tell Congress that mistakes were made, lessons learned

    Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. (AP/LM Otero)Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. (AP/LM Otero)

    DALLAS — A top official at the Texas hospital where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died and two nurses contracted the deadly virus is apologizing to Congress for his facility’s “mistakes” in handling the highly contagious disease.

    A transcript of testimony by Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer of the hospital’s parent chain Texas Health Resources, is expected to be presented at noon Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

    Thomas Eric Duncan in 2011 (Courtesy photo)Thomas Eric Duncan in 2011 (Courtesy photo)“Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes,” Varga’s testimony reads. “We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry.”

    Because he cannot attend the hearing, Varga’s remarks were posted on a federal government website on Wednesday.

    Texas Health is a faith-based, nonprofit organization consisting of 25 acute-care and short-stay hospitals. Varga, who was paid $500,000 in

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  • Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan's story of love and loss

    Pastor says couple 'built a castle of dreams in their hearts together'

    A prayer vigil and memorial was held for Thomas Eric Duncan at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. (Getty Images)A prayer vigil and memorial was held for Thomas Eric Duncan at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. (Getty Images)

    DALLAS — Love, not Ebola, drove Thomas Eric Duncan from his native Liberia.

    Duncan — whose diagnosis and death has unleashed alarm about Ebola in the U.S. — was accused of lying on his travel forms to flee his diseased-ravaged country. Some faulted him for flying to Texas just days after assisting an ill neighbor in Monrovia, Liberia.

    Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan in 2011. (AP Canada)Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan in 2011. (AP Canada)The 42-year-old Duncan, who went by the name Eric,  likely contracted the disease from the neighbor, but friends in Dallas say he didn’t know the pregnant woman had Ebola. He believed she had miscarried, and he was just trying to help her family get her to a hospital.

    “The doctors took blood samples from her and told her she could go,” Saymendy Lloyd, a family friend, told the Dallas Morning News. “If he had known she had Ebola … he would not have put the love of his life in a situation like this.”

    Duncan, travelling on a visa, made his first trip to the U.S. to reunite with his estranged son and the teen's mother, Louise Troh, who had been his

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  • U.S. officials issue rules for burying Ebola patients

    Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan dies from Ebola virus in Dallas; health officials face new challenge in handling body that could stay contagious for days

    Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan died Wednesday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. (Reuters/Mike Stone)Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan died Wednesday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. (Reuters/Mike Stone)

    DALLAS – The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died from the disease Wednesday and now Dallas health officials are facing a situation they have not before experienced: how to handle a body that could remain highly contagious for several days.

    Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, had been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian since Sept. 28. His death comes four days after his condition was downgraded from serious to critical.

    Duncan had been on a ventilator for several days and was receiving kidney dialysis. Last weekend he started receiving an experimental drug called brincidofovir. It was not immediately clear what would happen to his body.

    “It’s been discussed, but there’s been no conclusion,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, told Yahoo News on Monday.

    In early August, medical missionary Kent Brantly became the first U.S. patient to be treated for Ebola after he contracted the disease in West Africa and was transported

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