‘Empire’ actor allegedly attacked


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FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)


FILE - In this March 6, 2018 file photo, actor-singer Jussie Smollett, from the Fox series, "Empire," poses for a portrait in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)


Police: No footage yet of alleged attack on ‘Empire’ actor

Wednesday, January 30

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of footage from downtown surveillance cameras but haven’t found footage yet of the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.

The department said in a news release late Tuesday that detectives reviewed footage from privately-owned cameras near where Smollett says he was attacked and will broaden their search by reviewing footage from traffic cameras and public bus cameras.

Smollett told police he was walking downtown near the Chicago River at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday when two masked men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, threw an “unknown substance” on him and put a rope around his neck.

The 36-year-old actor, who is black and gay and plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the Fox television show, took himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment.

“Empire” is shot in Chicago and is currently in production.

Lawmakers press for a full Russia probe report from Mueller

By MARY CLARE JALONICK

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 30

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers appear increasingly nervous that Congress and the public won’t see a full report when special counsel Robert Mueller is finished with his Russia probe, including what the investigation finds about President Donald Trump.

Republicans and Democrats say they support public disclosure of Mueller’s findings. But it’s unclear exactly what documentation will be produced at the end of the probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, and how much of that the Justice Department will allow people to see. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that the probe is “close to being completed,” the first official sign that Mueller’s investigation may be wrapping up.

Democrats have pressured Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, on the full release of Mueller’s final report. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained that there will have to be some sort of public resolution when the report is done — and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.

“This is the biggest issue facing our country, and the American people deserve to know Mueller’s findings and analysis without any filter,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel, said Tuesday.

The top three members of House Republican leadership — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — said on Tuesday that they would support the public release of a report produced from the Mueller investigation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would like any report to be “as fully open and transparent” as possible. And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was going to call Barr to ask him about the possibility that key information could be shielded from disclosure through Justice Department regulations and White House claims of executive privilege.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barr’s nomination next week, and Democrats have said they aren’t satisfied with his commitment that he would be as transparent as possible under Justice Department regulations. The nominee said at his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he envisions two reports, one that Mueller sends to him and another that he drafts for Congress.

Barr said he takes seriously the department regulations that say Mueller’s report should be confidential. Those regulations require only that the report explains the decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions, which could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.

“I don’t know what — at the end of the day, what will be releasable. I don’t know what Bob Mueller is writing,” Barr said at his hearing.

While Republicans agree with Democrats that a report should be released, it’s unclear how far they will go to ensure that outcome. On Monday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced legislation that would require Mueller to submit a report to lawmakers and the public at the end of the investigation. But both McConnell and Graham declined to say whether they would support the legislation.

McConnell would only say that he wanted the report to be transparent. Graham said he agrees “with the concept of transparency,” but stopped short of supporting the bill, saying he disagrees with taking discretion away from the attorney general.

Graham did say he would call Barr after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., questioned whether “indictment worthy” acts by Trump could be left out of Mueller’s report. Whitehouse pointed to a Justice Department opinion that the president can’t be indicted, along with the possibility that the White House could assert executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of damaging information.

Whitehouse called that scenario “a ginormous loophole” in Barr’s pledge of transparency.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said the legal team wants to review any report before it’s released. He’s also raised the prospect that defense lawyers could try to invoke executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of any confidential conversation the president has had with his aides.

Graham responded that Whitehouse’s question was “a good point, I hadn’t thought about that … I think that’s a good question to get an answer to.”

Barr said in written answers made public after the hearing that “if it turns out that any report contains material information that is privileged or confidential, I would not tolerate an effort to withhold such information for any improper purpose, such as to cover up wrongdoing.” He also said he would resign if he concluded that the president had claimed executive privilege to cover up evidence of a crime.

If a full report isn’t released, Democrats in the House have made it clear they will do whatever they can to get a hold of it. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has said he would subpoena the final report and invite — or even subpoena — Mueller to talk about it.

“The American people need the information here,” Nadler said earlier this month on CNN.

The Conversation

Cannabidiol: Rising star or popular fad?

January 30, 2019

CBD, made from hemp, is being hyped as treatment for pain, nausea and a variety of maladies. But studies so far do not show benefit in humans.

Authors

Jenny Wilkerson, Assistant Professor of Pharmacodynamics, University of Florida

Lance McMahon, Professor and Chair of Pharmacodynamics, University of Florida

Disclosure statement: Jenny Wilkerson has received funding from the NIH. Lance McMahon receives funding from the NIH.

Partners: University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is becoming a household name. On many social media sites, people suggest “but have you tried CBD oil?” on posts pertaining to any health-related issue.

CBD, a minor constituent of marijuana, is widely touted as nature’s miracle by CBD enthusiasts. It does not get people high, unlike marijuana’s main constituent, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, given the recent surge in its popularity, you’d think the molecule is magic.

We are behavioral pharmacology scientists, and we study how drugs act on the body. Specifically, we have an interest in developing new drugs for the treatment of pain that possess lessened drug abuse potential, and therapeutic interventions for drug abuse. Although there is scientific interest in the use of CBD for both pain and drug addiction, as well as many other medical indications, there is a lot that we still do not know about CBD.

CBD and THC: How do they work?

Drugs affect the body by binding and acting at various protein molecules, usually on the surface of the cells in the body, called receptors. These receptors then send signals that can impact bodily functions.

Marijuana has an effect on the body because many animals have receptors termed “cannabinoid receptors.” There are two known cannabinoid receptors that are responsible for the effects of marijuana. Only one of them, the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), is responsible for the high from marijuana. These cannabinoid receptors are predominately found on nerve cells located throughout the body, including the brain.

CBD doesn’t get people high because CBD does not bind or act on CB1R. CBD also does not bind or act on the other cannabinoid receptor, the cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2R), predominately found on immune cells. In contrast, THC binds and activates both of these receptors.

Studies indicate that CBD does, however, act on several other types of receptors. These include the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, which can help regulate sleep, mood, anxiety and pain. CBD may also indirectly alter the body’s own cannabinoid receptor activity.

However, scientists do not yet understand the exact manner in which CBD acts on the body. Likewise, many health-related anecdotal claims pertaining to CBD are not founded on solid scientific evidence, and may be due to well-documented placebo effects.

There is strong evidence, however, that CBD has enduring health benefits in the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

Charlotte’s Web

It has been nearly six years since the story of the Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana broke into national and international media. This strain of marijuana was named after Charlotte Figi, who struggled with intractable pediatric epilepsy until she was given oil extracted from the strain, which contains a higher CBD-to-THC content.

Charlotte’s father saw an online video of a child from California with seizures who was being treated successfully with marijuana. As it turns out, the active compound that was helping Charlotte was not THC but CBD.

Based upon clinical evidence, GW Therapeutics developed and licensed its own CBD extract, a drug now called Epidiolex. Clinical trials with Epidiolex for the indications of Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome, two forms of pediatric epilepsy, were resoundingly positive.

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex for treatment of these two forms of epilepsy in children that have not responded to other treatments.

Meanwhile, as the clinical trials for Epidiolex were underway, a landmark study from Indiana University demonstrated a possible mechanism for CBD’s astounding effects on Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes. These two syndromes are associated with genetic mutations in two genes that are important in the regulation of sodium ions.

A specific understanding

Nerve cells regulate the way they send signals by how ions, or molecules with either an overall positive or negative electric charge, flow in and out of their cells. The most common ions that regulate nerve cell signaling are sodium, potassium, calcium and chloride. These ions move in and out of the cell via pores known as ion channels.

In many forms of epilepsy, however, the movement of ions is not properly controlled. This leads to aberrant firing of the brain’s nerve cells and seizure activity.

In both forms of the epilepsy for which CBD is effective, there are alterations in the channels that control the flow of sodium in and out of nerve cells, or what is called a “sodium channelopathy.”

The study from Indiana University found that CBD can directly inhibit the aberrant flow of sodium ions in nerve cells that have sodium channelopathies. Importantly, CBD does not seem to impact the flow of sodium in healthy nerve cells.

Although CBD has marked effects on these sodium channelopathies, this does not mean that CBD will produce meaningful benefits to other forms of epilepsy.

Other forms of epilepsy are linked to regulation problems related to the flow of potassium ions in cells. This type of pediatric epilepsy is resistant to all known therapeutics, including CBD.

A potential pain therapeutic?

There are also claims that CBD can be used to address pain. And indeed, mounting evidence in pre-clinical laboratory studies show that CBD may be of use for the treatment and prevention of neuropathic pain, or an amplified response that may be due to nerve cell damage. In a mouse model of this type of pain, CBD injections prevented and reversed the development of one hallmark sign of neuropathic pain, called mechanical allodynia. This is the sensation of pain due to a non-noxious stimulus, such as the feeling of clothing on an area of skin that has a sunburn. A new study from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, shows that oral administration of CBD produces these same effects in rats with a similar type of pain.

In both of these studies, the scientists discovered that these effects are likely due to actions at serotonin receptors. A study from scientists at the University of Kentucky suggested that CBD applied to the skin, or transdermal CBD, may reduce inflammation in a rat model of arthritis.

However, additional studies from the laboratory at Temple University show that CBD does not work for all types of pain when tested in animals.

An important caveat to these findings is that not all compounds that produce effects in rodent pain studies will work in humans. Further, most of these studies examined the effects of injected CBD. So far, there is little evidence showing therapeutic effects of either edible or transmucosal, the administration of a drug across a mucous membrane, CBD for pain. There is only limited evidence for the use of transdermal CBD. Thus, until more scientific studies are conducted, the hype that CBD can successfully treat various forms of pain in humans is premature.

CBD: Beyond the laboratory

Still curious about all the hype? Before running to the local supermarket health food isle to purchase CBD to conduct your own at-home trial, there are a few more points to consider.

Most CBD products sold in grocery stores are touted as “hemp-derived.” That is, they come from a cannabis plant that has a purportedly extremely low amount of THC. Typically, hemp-derived products are made from the stalks and roots of the plant. This is in contrast to marijuana, which can contain varying amounts of THC and comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant. Recently, hemp-derived products were removed from the Controlled Substances Act.

However, it remains unclear if hemp-derived CBD works in the same exact manner as marijuana-derived CBD. Further, the FDA does not approve of CBD products as dietary supplements, or the marketing of any health-related claims. Also, the agency prohibits the addition of either THC or CBD to food products sold in interstate commerce for human or animal consumption.

As long as there are no associated medical claims, the FDA allows the use of hemp oil and seeds in cosmetics. However, the usefulness of hemp products in cosmetics also remains to be determined.

Further, as many of the items on the supermarket shelf are not approved by the FDA, there is limited oversight into their production, and the amount of CBD, if any, that these products contain are often mislabeled or misleading. Thus, it is too soon to say if CBD is truly a rising star, or merely a fad that will burn out and fall to Earth.

FBI finds no specific motive in Vegas attack that killed 58

By KEN RITTER and MICHAEL BALSAMO

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 30

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The high-stakes gambler responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history sought notoriety in the attack but left his specific motive a mystery, the FBI said Tuesday as it concluded the investigation of the 2017 massacre that killed 58 country music fans.

While the agency found no “single or clear motivating factor” to explain why Stephen Paddock opened fire from his suite in a high-rise casino hotel, Paddock may have been seeking to follow in his father’s criminal footsteps, the FBI said.

“It wasn’t about MGM, Mandalay Bay or a specific casino or venue,” Aaron Rouse, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas office, told The Associated Press. “It was all about doing the maximum amount of damage and him obtaining some form of infamy.”

Paddock’s physical and mental health was declining. The 64-year-old’s wealth had diminished, and he struggled with aging, federal agents said. The findings were contained in a long-awaited report compiled by the FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit, a group of experts who spent months examining several factors that might have led to the rampage.

“This report comes as close to understanding the why as we’re ever going to get,” Rouse said.

Paddock, who acted alone, fatally shot himself as police closed in. Almost 900 people were hurt during the Oct. 1, 2017, attack on an outdoor concert.

The gunman was inspired in part by his father’s reputation as a bank robber who was once on the FBI’s most wanted list, the report said. In many ways, he was similar to other active shooters the FBI has studied — motivated by a complex merging of development issues, stress and interpersonal relationships.

His “decision to murder people while they were being entertained was consistent with his personality,” the report said.

The gunman was not directed or inspired by any group and was not seeking to further any agenda. He did not leave a manifesto or suicide note, and federal agents believe he had planned to fatally shoot himself after the attack, according to the report.

Kimberly King, who along with her husband was hurt at the concert, said Paddock was “just a sick person.” She doesn’t care why he carried out the attack.

“How did he get the chance to do it? That’s what upsets me the most,” the Las Vegas woman said. “How could this have happened and how could we have let this happen?”

Paddock was a retired postal service worker, accountant and real estate investor who owned rental properties and homes in Reno and in a retirement community more than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. He also held a private pilot’s license and liked to gamble tens of thousands of dollars at a time playing video poker.

His younger brother, Eric Paddock, called him the “king of micro-aggression” — narcissistic, detail-oriented and maybe bored enough with life to plan an attack that would make him famous. His ex-wife told investigators that he grew up with a single mom in a financially unstable home and he felt a need to be self-reliant.

Police characterized him as a loner with no religious or political affiliations who began stockpiling weapons about a year before the attack. He spent more than $1.5 million in the two years before the shooting and distanced himself from his girlfriend and family.

He sent his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, to visit her family in the Philippines two weeks before the attack and wired her $150,000 while she was there. Danley, a former casino worker in Reno, returned to the U.S. after the shooting and told authorities that Paddock had complained that he was sick and that doctors told him he had a “chemical imbalance” and could not cure him.

Danley, who is Catholic, told investigators that Paddock often told her, “Your God doesn’t love me.”

A Reno car salesman told police that in the months before the shooting Paddock told him he was depressed and had relationship troubles. Paddock’s doctor offered him antidepressants, but told investigators that Paddock would only accept a prescription for anxiety medication.

Paddock’s gambling habits made him a sought-after casino patron. Mandalay Bay employees readily let him use a service elevator to take multiple suitcases to the $590-per-night suite he had been provided for free. Authorities said he asked for the room, which had a commanding view of the Strip and the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert grounds across the street.

The night of the massacre, Paddock used assault-style rifles to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into the crowd of 22,000 music fans. Most of the rifles were fitted with rapid-fire “bump stock” devices and high-capacity magazines. Some had bipod braces and scopes. Authorities said Paddock’s guns had been legally purchased.

Las Vegas police closed their investigation last August, and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo declared the police work complete after hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of investigative work. Lombardo vowed never to speak Paddock’s name again in public. A Las Vegas police spokesman declined to comment on the FBI’s report.

A separate report made public in August involving the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that communications were snarled during and after the shooting. It said police, fire and medical responders were overwhelmed by 911 calls, false reports of other shootings at Las Vegas casinos and the number of victims.

Hotel security video and police body camera recordings made public in a public-records lawsuit filed by media organizations including the AP showed police using explosives to blast through the door of the 32nd-floor hotel suite where Paddock was found dead.

He left behind nothing that offered an explanation.

“He acted alone. He committed a heinous act. He died by his own hand,” Rouse said. “If he wanted to leave a message, he would have left a message. Bottom line is he didn’t want people to know.”

Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

FILE – In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122227401-cc6d84cbe01d48f28d5ee48328f77a09.jpgFILE – In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

FILE – In this March 6, 2018 file photo, actor-singer Jussie Smollett, from the Fox series, "Empire," poses for a portrait in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122227401-6c380e2fe33d4b05a414cc985118432d.jpgFILE – In this March 6, 2018 file photo, actor-singer Jussie Smollett, from the Fox series, "Empire," poses for a portrait in New York. Chicago police have opened a hate crime investigation after a man the department identified as a 36-year-old cast member of the television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Police wouldn’t release the actor’s name, but a statement from the Fox studio and network on which “Empire” airs identified him Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, as Jussie Smollett. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)
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