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King County teen is first in state diagnosed with severe lung disease related to vaping

A King County teenager is the first person in Washington state to be diagnosed with a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes, Public Health — Seattle & King County reported Wednesday.

The announcement comes as President Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration plans to ban non-tobacco-flavored vaping products as concerns intensify about their health risks and growing use among teenagers. Vaping products that deliver nicotine often feature sweet and fruity flavors as well as conventional tobacco flavors.

Nationally, there have been reports of at least six deaths and more than 450 cases in 33 states of severe lung illnesses, believed to be linked to a variety of vaping devices and products, including those that contain nicotine, THC and CBD. The outbreak’s cause is unknown.

State health investigators are looking into other possible cases, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s health officer.

“We are actively looking at other incidents of illness that may or may not be connected to this outbreak,” she said. “We will only be reporting cases that meet the (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s) probable or confirmed case definition.”

The King County teen was hospitalized for five days in August for fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the health agency, and is now recovering. He reported using e-cigarette products for three years.

The teenager reported vaping nicotine with propylene glycol and saffron, according to health officials. The agency said its investigation is continuing, and officials are trying to learn the type of vaping device used, where the products were obtained or if other substances were used.

“E-cigarettes and vaping are not safe. Everyone should be aware of the risk for severe lung disease and avoid using e-cigarettes and vaping at this time until the cause of this outbreak is known,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “Youth, young adults and pregnant women should never use e-cigarettes or vape.”

The 2018 state Healthy Youth Survey found 22 percent of high school seniors in Yakima County reported using vaping products in the past 30 days.

Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked the state Department of Health for policy options to stem the tide of underage vaping, including a possible ban on selling flavored oils for e-cigarettes.

“We aren’t waiting for the federal government and (are) moving ahead with the governor’s request,” Lofy said. “As part of this, we are looking at what can be done through statute changes or executive order.”

The Liquor and Cannabis Board doesn’t know how many of the state’s 93 cannabis dispensaries sell vaping products.

DOH is asking health care providers across the state to report any patient cases that might be related to this investigation, Lofy said. At the same time, state and county investigators are poring over data from hospitals to see if any admitted patients are showing signs of the illness.

E-cigarettes and vaping aren’t new, and it is not yet known why lung disease connected to such devices is showing up now. Duchin speculates that acute lung problems may have been showing up without being recognized.

“What we are seeing now is probably a combination of things. We know that e-cigarettes and vape devices contain potential toxins and there are no long-term safety studies on e-liquids,” Duchin said. “I also believe that something has changed recently in the states that are reporting cases, either in the way users are using products or the availability of specific products that have a higher risk.”

Public Health makes these recommendations:

  • Youth, young adults, pregnant women, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not use e-cigarettes. The surgeon general’s Know the Risks website has additional information for youth.
  • Do not buy vaping products off the street and do not use these products while the investigation continues.
  • Promptly seek medical attention if you use
  • e-cigarette products and are coughing, have shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea or fatigue.
  • Anyone trying to quit tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should talk with a doctor about evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you need help quitting, contact your doctor or a support quit line.
  • Young people can contact the quit line, or access resources at or the Truth Initiative.
  • If you are concerned about harmful effects from e-cigarette products, call the Washington state Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

The announcement of the King County teen’s illness also comes the same day as doctors in Oregon said a death there in July could have been related to vaping.

The person who died in Portland had been vaping marijuana oils. The two doctors who treated the person said their patient appeared to be getting better right up until they died.

Oregon health investigators said the patient had bought THC oil from a couple of different dispensaries, but they have yet to find the product. Health officials in Oregon are investigating another case, and another patient has recovered, the Oregonian newspaper reported.

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Full STEAM ahead at Wide Hollow
Wide Hollow transforms into STEAM elementary, focusing on creative science and tech
 Janelle Retka  / 

Wide Hollow Elementary School in West Valley has a new name and focus.

It is now Wide Hollow STEAM — a school focused on incorporating science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics into core lessons.

Concepts like computer coding are not new to the school, with Lego coding programs in use three years ago. But now the STEAM opportunities for students have expanded.

The school transformed its computer lab into a STEAM lab. The spacious lab features an assortment of art supplies, age appropriate robots to code commands into, five collaborative audiovisual microscope stations that project visuals onto large monitors, a 3D printer, podcasting stations, a video production station and a die-cutting station.

Students also have programs like Makey Makey, an invention kit that allows a user to connect everyday things to computer programs, allowing possibilities like making stairs act like piano keys.

The lab was funded in part by a $10,000 grant from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said Rick Ferguson, the principal of Wide Hollow. The goal is to connect these tools and tasks to state standards for students.

Statewide emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math lessons has ramped up in recent years in response to a skills gap in Washington between graduates and market demands. As a result, STEM degree and certificate completions in the state have increased in recent years, according to OSPI. But a quickly growing workforce demand is still outpacing that supply.

Ferguson said the lab was developed in response to this changing landscape to engage and prepare students from a younger age. But incorporating art and creativity into the process was key.

“For kids in general, you’ve got kids that are right brained and left brained,” said Ferguson, referring to creatively or artistically inclined students, versus analytically inclined students. “If you’re not reaching those kids that are right brained that are more artistic, then you’re only getting a certain portion of your kids.”

The lab is available to classrooms six periods throughout each day. Teachers are beginning to sign up for slots, and some classes are even working together across grades, with older students helping younger kids learn STEAM concepts, said Ferguson. That helps teachers with less proficiency in the topics gain confidence through teacher collaboration.

The lab in action

On the morning of Sept. 11, Emily Sutliff’s kindergarten students filed into the lab to explore STEAM concepts. They broke into four teams to work together to visually retell the story “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

The picture book flips from one animal to another: from a brown bear to a red bird, and finally a goldfish. On a laminated chart, students created a path to connect a brown bear on one end of the chart to a goldfish on the other end, following the book’s order. They took pictures of each animal and set them in a square adjacent to the animal prior until all nine animals in the story were accounted for.

Then they took cutout arrows to replicate the path. Then, with a Bee Bot, or a robot with arrow buttons on its surface to code where it should move, the students input the same arrow directions, testing whether the bot would start on the brown bear’s square and meander across the chart until it ended on the goldfish’s square.

“He did it!” 5-year-old Dylan Bucio Valencia exclaimed, after several trials and errors.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!” his teammate Victoria Betancourt exclaimed.

At another table, students had already finished their task and were trying new commands for their Bee Bot.

“We coded it,” said Jackson Saucier, a 5-year-old who learned to code in the lab last week. “You press the arrows (to indicate) what direction you want the Bee Bot to go.”

If the robot doesn’t respond how the user intended, he explained, the coding was wrong and the bot needed to be “debugged,” or reset before a new code was input.

“I like playing with Bee Bots. It’s my favorite,” teammate Kennedy Van Tighem said, as the bot cruised across the table. Coding, she said, was “kind of fun.”

Blending lessons

In some Wide Hollow classrooms, teachers use blended learning, incorporating STEAM concepts into core course topics.

While reading, young students can also be counting or learning colors, for example, Sutliff said.

“It doesn’t have to be daunting. “It doesn’t have to be, ‘oh my gosh, I have to find time to incorporate more technology,’” she said. Already, her students have begun learning to code robots to move, and they see the process as a fun activity. “It’s fun, they’re engaged and they get to have these next 21st century skills at a young age.”

By getting them comfortable with technology and scientific processes like analysis and collaboration, she said her classroom is giving young students the foundation to be successful across a variety of topics.

Sutliff learned some of these blended learning skills as a fellow at Educational Service District 105, an agency that provides support to regional school districts.

Computational thinking

Larry Davison, ESD 105’s teaching and learning coordinator, said the training he provides is focused on K-5 education. It aims to help kids view themselves as capable product generators, rather than just consumers.

The training, launched last year, guides teachers through abstraction, pattern identification, algorithms and decomposition — the four pillars of computational thinking.

Something as simple as the steps classrooms take to prepare to leave the room, by putting away supplies, picking up coats and backpacks and getting in line, are examples of algorithms.

Even without a command of coding or certain devices, teachers can pass along these ways of thinking about problems, Davison said.

The training is geared toward younger grades to help reduce equity divides between boys and girls, for example, who by high school might think that jobs are not intended for them because they are in male-dominant industries, he said.

While West Valley teachers have been a large majority of the training participants so far, he said, schools throughout the county including those in the Lower Valley have expressed interest going into this school year.

What’s next

Moving forward, Ferguson said he hopes to see more Wide Hollow classrooms follow a blended learning teaching model.

He also hopes to have students programming drones while still in elementary school and running a student greenhouse, using technology tools like student-programmed timed watering devices. The STEAM school is forming relationships with local companies in related industries, and he hopes to lead field trips to companies the students might one day choose to work for.

“It’s where our students are going. Our main emphasis really is this is a way for students to … communicate, collaborate, solve complex problems … and then be creative,” Ferguson said.

“Those are skills that are needed in any job, because we really don’t know,” he added. “A lot of the jobs these kids are going into don’t exist currently. But those four things, the four C’s, they’re going to need those skills.”

Supreme Court allows broad enforcement of asylum limits

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is allowing nationwide enforcement of a new Trump administration rule that prevents most Central American immigrants from seeking asylum in the United States.

The justices’ order late Wednesday temporarily undoes a lower-court ruling that had blocked the new asylum policy in some states along the southern border. The policy is meant to deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without seeking protection there.

Most people crossing the southern border are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty. They are largely ineligible under the new rule, as are asylum-seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who arrive regularly at the southern border.

The shift reverses decades of U.S. policy. The administration has said that it wants to close the gap between an initial asylum screening that most people pass and a final decision on asylum that most people do not win.

“BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!” President Donald Trump tweeted.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the high-court’s order. “Once again, the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend long-standing practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” Sotomayor wrote.

The legal challenge to the new policy has a brief but somewhat convoluted history. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco blocked the new policy from taking effect in late July. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed Tigar’s order so that it applied only in Arizona and California, states that are within the 9th Circuit.

That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum-seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Tigar issued a new order on Monday that reimposed a nationwide hold on asylum policy. The 9th Circuit again narrowed his order on Tuesday.

The high-court action allows the administration to impose the new policy everywhere while the court case against it continues.

It’s not clear how quickly the policy will be rolled out, and how exactly it fits in with the other efforts by the administration to restrict border crossings and tighten asylum rules.

For example, thousands of people are waiting on lists at border crossings in Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S. And more than 30,000 people have been turned back to Mexico to wait out their asylum claims.

Asylum-seekers must pass an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview, a hurdle that a vast majority clear. Under the new policy, they would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one country they traveled through and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense.

Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing immigrant advocacy groups in the case, said: “This is just a temporary step, and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”

Justice Department spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said the agency was “pleased that the Supreme Court intervened in this case,” adding, “This action will assist the administration in its objectives to bring order to the crisis at the southern border, close loopholes in our immigration system, and discourage frivolous claims.”

Former Navy SEAL team leader recalls combat missions, role in death of Osama bin Laden
 Tammy Ayer  / 

Rob O’Neill and his fellow SEAL Team Six members didn’t kill Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, for the reward or the glory, he said on Sept. 11.

They did it, he stressed during his Yakima Town Hall presentation at The Capitol Theatre, for the single mother who took her child to day care the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, went to work in New York City’s Twin Towers and died in the attacks by bin Laden’s Islamist terrorist group, al-Qaida.

The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 killed 2,977 people and injured more than 6,000 that day. More have died in the years since and countless others continue to suffer the impact. In mentioning that nameless woman and all the others whose day began with no hint of the horror to come, O’Neill acknowledged the somber anniversary.

“It’s a very solemn day,” he said.

As for conspiracy theorists who say the attacks were an inside job? “It happened. It’s real. Think about (the victims) when people say it’s an inside job,” O’Neill said in comments before his talk.

His introduction by Jan Mendenhall, Town Hall board president, gave the usual packed house a hint of the memorable verbal and visual ride to come. O’Neill kicked off the 2019-20 speaker series.

“His mantra is, ‘Never quit,’” Mendenhall said of the former SEAL Team Six leader with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

A contributor to Fox News, O’Neill wrote “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.” He deployed more than a dozen times and held combat leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions in four different theaters of war.

O’Neill wanted to join the Marines but ended up in the Navy, he said. The native of Butte, Mont., didn’t even know how to swim, but learning was only the start of the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training. “Eighty-five percent of the people who try out do not complete this course,” he said.

“We get to run 6 miles a day just to eat,” he added of the eight months of days filled with more running, thousands of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and heart-stopping training drills.

Clad in jeans, a casual blazer over an oxford shirt and sneakers, O’Neill talked rapidly as he walked around the stage, gesturing before stark photos of exhausted trainees. He recalled an exercise where they had to tie five different kinds of knots underwater while holding their breath, noting that lessons learned there apply to civilian life as well.

“Never quit and you’ll be fine,” he said. “Panic will not help. Stay calm.”

Photos of SEALs in training gave way to video of SEALs parachuting in utter darkness as O’Neill recalled participating in the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips, whose ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009. O’Neill was the lead jumper for Phillips’ rescue.

Amid his rapid speech, O’Neill sprinkled his talk with occasional expletives, which he cheerfully admitted.

Recalling the emotional aftermath of a lengthy aborted effort to catch a terrorist who was making explosives killing American soldiers overseas, O’Neill said he heard “words I can’t say up here, and I’ve dropped a few f-bombs” as the audience laughed.

In all of the incredibly stressful situations O’Neill recalled, communication was key to success, he said. He supported his team and they supported him.

“Why we were successful, one of the reasons was we were good to each other,” O’Neill said. “Nobody wants to work for a d---.”

O’Neill, 43, has learned to relax, to a point. He golfs in his spare time and enjoys attending sporting events.

And though he says terrorists of one kind or another will continue to target innocent people, he applauded those in the military and civilians who strive to protect them. Most people are “really good people,” O’Neill said.

“We’re all here on this planet together,” he said. “I was raised Catholic. Some of the most generous people I’ve met are Muslims.”

He offered plenty of advice learned from his time as a SEAL — own your mistakes and learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. Never look back. Don’t start an argument you can’t win. Get over it. Micromanagement is counterproductive. Don’t rest on your laurels.

And even some warm-and-fuzzy advice, along with a hint at his dim view of social media.

“Start your day off with a smile. Give someone a hug. Don’t check your Twitter until noon,” O’Neill said.