Controversial tool emerges in opioid fight: fentanyl test strips

Test strip helps prevent fentanyl overdoses
Test strip helps prevent fentanyl overdosesTest strip helps prevent fentanyl overdoses 01:50

(CNN)A controversial tool has emerged in the fight against opioid overdose deaths. It’s a strip that allows people who use street drugs such as cocaine and heroin to test whether their drugs are laced with fentanyl.

If the drugs test positive, they might choose not to use them or choose to use less of them.
According to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America and was linked to nearly 29% of all overdose deaths in 2016. The synthetic opioid is about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and produces a powerful high. It’s cheap and sometimes mixed into street drugs without the buyer even knowing. Given its potency, it can be deadly.
Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America, CDC confirms

Fentanyl test strip technology was originally developed by a Canadian biotech company BTNX to test urine samples for the presence of the drug, but the strips work basically the same way when they’re dipped in the residue of cooked heroin or when a little water is added to empty baggies of cocaine.
It works like a pregnancy test in reverse. One line on the strip suggests that the drugs are positive for fentanyl. Two lines is interpreted as a negative result.
In a study, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Brown University determined that the test strips worked to detect even low concentrations of fentanyl in street drugs.
“Our findings bring to the table evidence that can inform a public health approach to the fentanyl crisis. Smart strategies that reduce harm can save lives,” Susan Sherman, a co-author on the study, said in a news release.
According to the study, several programs in the United States that distribute clean syringes to people who use drugs have started to distribute fentanyl test strips, as well.
This is fentanyl: A visual guide
In Los Angeles County, emergency departments, first responders and other heath care workers have been advised to discuss the potential risks and benefits of the strips with patients who use street drugs.
The test strips aren’t 100% effective at eliminating the risk of overdose, since they don’t identify all forms of fentanyl and can produce false negatives. They also don’t let users know how much fentanyl the drugs contain.
Still, the researchers see an opportunity to halt the increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
“We are at a pivotal moment in the overdose epidemic, and we need to embrace the full range of interventions that can save lives,” Sherman said.
In a video, the Urban Survivor’s Union, an organization that advocates on behalf of drug users, offers instructions on how to use the strips and what to do if the results are positive.
“Let’s say you had some drugs you were going to inject. … If it tests positive, you have options,” the video explains. “One, you can shoot half back into another sterile syringe, which may not only be life-saving but also cost-effective. Or two, you may even choose not to do it.”
The concept of drug checking has jarred some.
The Trump administration’s assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for mental Health and substance use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, has expressed ardent opposition to the use of the fentanyl test strips.
In a blog post, Katz laid out several reasons. Among them is a concern that even if people who use drugs know that their drugs are laced with fentanyl, they will still use the drugs, despite the apparent danger. They might also use the strips to seek out drugs that contain fentanyl to achieve a stronger high.
“We can’t afford to create a false sense of security. … Let’s not rationalize putting tools in place to help them continue their lifestyle more ‘safely,’ ” McCance-Katz said.

California plans stricter gun laws in 2019

California is going to ban anyone under 21 from buying rifles, shotguns and semiautomatic weapons.

Virginia man Darwin Martinez Torres admits murder of teenage girl, Nabra Hassanen

Suspect Darwin Martinez TorresDarwin Martinez Torres has admitted rape and murder

A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a 17-year-old Muslim girl whom he attacked near a mosque during Ramadan.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 25, assaulted Nabra Hassanen on 18 June 2017 in Sterling, about 30 miles (48km) west of Washington DC.

Torres admitted all eight counts in a plea deal that will spare him the possibility of the death penalty.

Investigators said they found no evidence it was a hate crime.

Nabra and her friends were walking back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque after a pre-dawn, fast-food meal when Torres pulled over in what police described as a road rage incident.

The construction worker drove at the group, ramming his car into the curb.

He followed the group in his car as they ran into a parking lot before jumping out wielding a baseball bat. He attacked Nabra and pulled her into his car.

Police said they found Torres hours later, circling the area with blood stains in his vehicle.

He eventually confessed and led police to where he dumped her body in a pond in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Nabra died of blunt force trauma, according to a medical examiner.

Picture of the teenager who disappeared after incident in VirginiaFriends have released this picture of Nabra Hassanen

Nabra’s death sparked widespread concerns over the safety of Muslim Americans.

Her parents told US media they were certain Nabra was targeted because of her faith, but investigators said the incident was not a hate crime.

Across the country, hundreds joined vigils in her honour.

As Torres entered the packed court for a preliminary hearing last October, Nabra’s mother threw a shoe at the defendant, and her father lunged at him, shouting: “You killed my daughter!”

NBC News reported that Torres showed no reaction.

He will now be sentenced to life in prison.

His defence team had argued he is intellectually disabled with a low IQ.

Originally from El Salvador, US media report he is suspected of being in the country illegally.

Young Shero, Sandra Parks: Anti-gun student, 13, killed by stray bullet. Another USAmerican Child Shot Dead.

A picture of Sandra ParksSandra Parks, 13, was shot dead in her home in Milwaukee

“We are in a state of chaos. In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence…”

Two years ago, 11-year-old Milwaukee schoolgirl Sandra Parks wrote these words in an award-winning essay about the murders in her city.

On Monday night, aged 13, she was shot by a stray bullet fired into her home.

Her frantic family called 911, but Sandra died at the scene.

The girl’s mother, Bernice Parks, told police she had gone to bed early while her children watched TV. She woke to the sound of gunshots shortly before 20:00, and found her daughter bleeding on the floor.

“She said, ‘Momma, I’m shot. Call the police,'” Ms Parks told TV station WITI. “I looked at her. She didn’t cry. She wasn’t hollering. She was just so peaceful… She didn’t deserve to leave this world like that.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett described the situation as “insanity”, telling reporters: “Tragically, her death was caused by someone who just decided they were going to shoot bullets into her house, and she’s dead. A 13-year-old, on Thanksgiving week, on a school night, in her bedroom, and she died.”

Mr Barrett speculated that the shooter may have wanted to “settle a score, express anger, try to scare someone”, saying on Tuesday: “All we know is that a 13-year-old died last night in her bedroom.”

Midwestern paper the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that one suspect, Isaac D. Barnes, has been charged with homicide and a second man, Untrell Oden, faces two counts for allegedly helping to safeguard two guns.

Isaac Barnes and Untrell Oden in pictures supplied by Milwaukee County JailIsaac Barnes (L) and Untrell Oden have been charged in connection with the shooting

Mr Barnes’ ex-girlfriend reportedly flagged his possible involvement to a police officer at the scene. She said he had approached her parked car on a nearby street carrying an assault-style rifle and wearing a mask.

She said he swore at her and told her “you lucky the kids are in the car. I was gonna fan you down.”

Police found Mr Barnes in a nearby home, hiding in a closet.

Milwaukee’s murder rate has been falling since a spike between 2014 and 2015, but the city still ranks among America’s most deadly, FBI figures show.

‘She was everything this world is not’

Sandra was a student at Keefe Avenue School, and her essay – which she called “Our Truth” – had won third place in the Milwaukee Public Schools’ yearly Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest.

She spoke to Wisconsin Public Radio in January 2017, saying she yearned to “stop all the violence and… negativity that’s going on”.

“All you hear about is somebody dying and somebody getting shot. People do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson was just killed,” she said.

Ms Parks told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel her daughter was “everything this world is not”.

“My baby was not violent. My baby did not like violence,” she said. “Everybody she knew, everybody that came past, she made them happy.”

Milwaukee Public Schools said Sandra is the seventh child at a district school to be murdered in 2018.

At a vigil outside her home on Tuesday night, her grieving mother acknowledged that grim toll.

“I understand that there was a lot of kids that passed away recently and I wouldn’t say that my baby was better than the rest,” she said.

“But God, Jesus, Lord have mercy…

“Lord have mercy knows, she was a star that was trying to get out, but she didn’t know how.”

Thanksgiving Day violence

  • In Alabama on Thursday, one person was killed and two injured following a shooting at mall on the evening prior to Black Friday shopping. Police said a fight between two people, believed to be adults, led to an exchange of gunfire.
  • In Indiana, three people were killed and two injured in a Thursday night shooting at a private home. Police responded to a call at the home around 10:25pm local time. Two men and one woman were killed and two men were injured and are in critical condition.
  • In Florida, police shot and wounded an unarmed teenage boy while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Authorities say the 15-year-old was shot in the lower torso during a struggle with four police officers. The boy is reported to be in a stable condition.
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More on gun violence

Markel Scott was about to graduate – then he became another Baltimore crime statistic

Trump allegedly looking into ways that he could pardon HIMSELF for his evil deeds.

Donald Trump boards Air Force OneThe US president says he has “complete power” to issue pardons

A lawyer for Donald Trump says the US president’s legal team is not looking at ways he could pardon himself.

“I don’t know where this came from. There is nothing to pardon,” Jay Sekulow said.

On Saturday, Mr Trump said he had “complete power” to issue pardons, following reports he had asked advisers about the scope of his authority.

Criminal and congressional inquiries are underway into alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

Russia: US Congress reach deal on fresh sanctions, part of which limits Comrade Trumps ability to meddle with it.

Leaders of both parties in the US Congress have agreed on legislation that allows fresh sanctions to punish Russia for alleged election meddling.

The new legislation would also sharply limit President Donald Trump’s ability to lift any sanctions against Russia.

He has previously said he needs diplomatic leeway with the Kremlin.

Mr Trump’s time in office has been dogged by claims that Russia tried to influence last year’s US election.

Moscow denies any wrongdoing but several US investigations are looking into whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials.

Correspondents say the bipartisan agreement indicates determination in Congress to maintain a firm line against Russia, whatever Mr Trump’s view.

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ExxonMobil Fined $2M for Russia Sanctions Breach Under CEO Tillerson, now your Secretary of State

HEADLINEJUL 21, 2017

Tillerson exxon

The U.S. Treasury Department has fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russia three years ago, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson served as the oil company’s CEO. The Treasury said ExxonMobil showed “reckless disregard” for U.S. law in 2014 when it signed contracts with Russian oil magnate Igor Sechin to develop offshore reserves in the Arctic. The move violated sanctions placed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula. Tillerson said at the time his company opposed Russia sanctions, calling them “ineffective.” At the State Department Thursday, spokesperson Heather Nauert was asked whether Tillerson had changed his views on Russian sanctions.

Heather Nauert: “This all predates his time here at the Department of State.”

Matthew Lee: “I understand that.”

Heather Nauert: “And so, I’m going to refrain from giving any comment on that at this time.”

Matthew Lee: “I understand this predates his time as secretary of state, but now he is in a position in which he is part of the team that is supposed to enforce sanctions, not violate them or allow others to violate them, so I think it’s relevant to know what he thinks about this decision today.”

Heather Nauert: “I think—I will say this. The secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities.”

Secretary of State Tillerson is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship decoration in 2013. The Treasury Department’s $2 million fine against ExxonMobil was the maximum amount allowed by law. It represents just over two hours’ profit for the oil giant.

Let’s have a big hand for all of my fellow Amerikans who voted for Comrade Trump.  Stupid is as stupid does, and evil is what evil does.

God have mercy on your souls.

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