Charlie Gard’s parents say hospital denied their ‘final wish’ for dying son

Charlie Gard's parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard read a statement at the High Court after a hearing on their baby's future, in London. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – The parents of Charlie Gard, a terminally ill baby who a judge ordered should be sent to a hospice to die, said Britain’s top pediatric hospital had denied them their final wish to decide the arrangements for their son’s death.

After a harrowing legal battle that prompted a global debate over who has the moral right to decide the fate of a sick child, a judge on Thursday ordered that Charlie be moved to a hospice where the ventilator that keeps him alive will be turned off.

His parents had sought first to take him home but Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) said that was not possible due the ventilation Charlie needs, they then asked for several days in a hospice to bid farewell to their son.

But they were unable to find doctors to oversee such an extended period of time and so a judge ruled that Charlie be moved to a hospice to die.

“GOSH have denied us our final wish,” his mother, Connie Yates, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Despite us and our legal team working tirelessly to arrange this near impossible task, the judge has ordered against what we arranged and has agreed to what GOSH asked,” she said. “This subsequently gives us very little time with our son.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital, a pioneering pediatric center, said that it deeply regretted the breakdown in relations with Charlie’s parents, in a case that has involved months of legal wrangling and has even drawn comment from U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

“Most people won’t ever have to go through what we have been through, we’ve had no control over our son’s life and no control over our son’s death,” Charlie’s mother said.

“We just want some peace with our son, no hospital, no lawyers, no courts, no media, just quality time with Charlie away from everything, to say goodbye to him in the most loving way.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Parents of kidnapped U.S. journalist Tice renew plea for release

Debra Tice, the mother of American journalist Austin Tice, holds his picture with her husband Marc Tice during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The parents of a U.S. journalist kidnapped in Syria nearly five years ago issued a new plea for his release on Thursday.

Austin Tice, a freelance reporter and former U.S. Marine from Houston, Texas, was kidnapped in August 2012 aged 31 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The identity of his captors is not known, and there has been no claim of responsibility for his abduction. The family believe he is alive and still being held captive.

“We are willing to engage with any government, any group, any individual who can help us in this effort to secure Austin’s safe release,” his father Marc Tice said at a news conference in Beirut.

“When any journalist is silenced, we’re all blindfolded.”

His mother Debra Tice added: “Five years is a very long time for any parent to be missing their child … we desperately want him to come home.”

Nothing has been heard publicly about Tice since a video posted online weeks after he disappeared showed him in the custody of armed men.

U.S. officials and Tice’s parents do not think he is held by Islamic State, which typically announces its Western captives in propaganda videos and executed two U.S. journalists in 2014.

The Assad government says it does not know his whereabouts.

(Reporting by John Davison, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Fire engulfs London tower block, at least 12 dead, dozens injured

Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Kylie MacLellan and Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – A blaze engulfed a 24-story housing block in central London on Wednesday, trapping residents as they slept and killing at least 12 people in an inferno that the fire brigade said was unprecedented in its scale and speed.

More than 200 firefighters, backed up by 40 fire engines, fought for hours to try to control the blaze, London’s deadliest for a generation. The Grenfell Tower apartment block was home to about 600 people.

A local residents’ group said it had predicted such a catastrophe on their low-rent housing estate that overlooks affluent parts of the Kensington area of the capital, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there were questions to answer.

Prime Minister Theresa May promised there would be a proper investigation into the disaster, which delayed her talks on trying to secure a parliamentary deal to stay in power and launch talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Some residents screamed for help from behind upper-floor windows and others tried to throw children to safety as flames raced through the Grenfell block of about 120 apartments just before 1 a.m.

Firefighters said they had rescued 65 people – some in pyjamas – from the 43-year-old block.

“We could see a lot of children and parents screaming for ‘Help! Help! Help!’ and putting their hands on the window and asking to help them,” Amina Sharif told Reuters.

“We could do nothing and we could see the stuff on the side was falling off, collapsing. We were just standing screaming and they were screaming.”


Another witness, Saimar Lleshi, saw people tying together sheets to try to escape.

“I saw three people putting sheets together to climb down, but no one climbed down. I don’t know what happened to them. Even when the lights went off, people were waving with white shirts to be seen,” Lleshi said.

The fire sent up plumes of smoke that could be seen from miles away. The ambulance service said 68 people were being treated in hospital, with 18 in critical condition.

More than 16 hours after the fire started, crews were still trying to douse flames as they sought to reach the top floors.

But London police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters he did not believe further survivors would be found in the building.

At a nearby community center used to house some of those rescued, tensions were rising as occupants waited for news.

“The fire, which was unprecedented in its scale and speed, will be subject to a full fire investigation,” said Steve Apter from the London Fire Brigade. “Any lessons learnt from this will be borne out not just across London, across the UK – and lessons learnt globally.”

The emergency services said it was too early to say what had caused the inferno, which left the block a charred, smoking shell. Some residents said no alarm had sounded. Others said they had warned repeatedly about fire safety in the block.

The building had recently undergone an 8.7 million pound ($11.08 million) exterior refurbishment, which included new external cladding and windows.

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” Rydon, the firm behind the refurbishment work, said in a statement.


Residents who escaped told how they woke up to the smell of burning and rushed to leave through smoke-filled corridors and stairwells.

There were reports that some leapt out of windows. Other witnesses spoke of children including a baby being thrown to safety from high windows.

Tamara, one witness, told the BBC: “There’s people, like, throwing their kids out, ‘Just save my children, just save my children!'”.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said sprinkler systems should be installed in such blocks and he called on the government to make a statement in parliament.

Fire Minister Nick Hurd said local authorities and fire services across the country would assess tower blocks undergoing similar renovation work to provide reassurance.

“In due course when the scene is secure, when it is possible to identify the cause of this fire, there will be proper investigation and if there are any lessons to be learned, they will be and action will be taken,” May said.

Khan, the London mayor, said there needed to be answers after some residents said they had been advised they should stay in their flats in the event of a fire.

“What we can’t have is a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or, if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained,” Khan said.

Resident Michael Paramasivan told BBC radio he had spoken to a woman who lived on the 21st floor: “She has got six kids. She left with all six of them. When she got downstairs, there was only four of them with her. She is now breaking her heart.”

(Additional reporting by Lina Saigol, David Milliken, Costas Pitas, Kate Holton, Neil Hall, Elisabeth O’Leary, Alistair Smout, Megan Revell and Oli Rahman; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Supreme Court invalidates gender inequality in citizenship law

FILE PHOTO - The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, U.S. April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a gender distinction in U.S. immigration law that treats mothers and fathers differently when determining a child’s citizenship, calling such inequality “stunningly anachronistic.”

The high court, in a 8-0 ruling authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found that a provision in federal law that defines how people born overseas can be eligible for U.S. citizenship violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

The ruling, however, may not help the man who brought the case, New York resident Luis Morales-Santana, who was seeking to avoid deportation to the Dominican Republic after being convicted of several offenses.

The law requires that unwed fathers who are American citizens spend at least five years living in the United States – a 2012 amendment reduced it from 10 years – before they can confer citizenship to a child born abroad, out of wedlock and to a partner who is not a U.S. citizen.

For unwed U.S. mothers in the same situation, the requirement was only one year.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that until Congress revises the law, both women and men will be covered by the five-year requirement.

Ginsburg, known for her work on gender equality before she became a jurist, wrote for the court that in light of the Supreme Court’s various rulings regarding the equal protection guarantee since 1971, having separate “duration-of-residence requirements for unwed mothers and fathers who have accepted parental responsibility is stunningly anachronistic.”

The arguments made in defense of the law by former President Barack Obama’s administration before he left office in January “cannot withstand inspection under a Constitution that requires the government to respect the equal dignity and stature of its male and female citizens,” Ginsburg wrote.

Morales-Santana’s deceased father was an American citizen, while his mother was not. His father failed to meet the law’s five-year requirements by 20 days.

His lawyer, Stephen Broome, said he is reviewing how the ruling affects his client.

Morales-Santana, 54, was born in the Dominican Republican and has lived legally in the United States since 1975. He was convicted of several criminal offenses in 1995, including two counts of robbery and four counts of attempted murder. The U.S. government has sought to deport him since 2000.

The high court split 4-4 on the same issue in 2011.

In July 2015, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York sided with Morales-Santana and struck down the law at issue, saying it applied “impermissible stereotyping” in imposing a tougher burden on fathers. The U.S. Justice Department sought to defend the law and asked the high court to take the case.

The case is one of several with immigration-related themes that are before the justices at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is pursing efforts to strengthen immigration enforcement.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

For families of radicalizing U.S. youth, a help line

Program coordinator David Phillippi (L) and Executive Director Myrian Nadri with "Parents For Peace", a support group founded by parents whose children were involved in extremist violence and which is starting a telephone helpline for people who fear their loved ones are being recruited into extremist organizations, speak to Reuters in Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S., March 23, 2017. Picture taken March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Melvin Bledsoe felt helpless as he watched his son transform – becoming distant, converting to Islam and changing his name from Carlos Bledsoe to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad.

The Baptist father of two wishes there was someone who could have offered him guidance before the 22-year-old attacked a U.S. Army recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, killing a soldier and wounding another in 2009.

“I didn’t have any help. I didn’t have no one to turn to, no one to lean on but my other family members,” Bledsoe, 61, who runs a tour company in his native Memphis, Tennessee, recalled in a recent phone interview.

Bledsoe, hoping to give parents in similar situations and fearful of calling the police more options than he had, founded the nonprofit Parents for Peace and launched what it bills as the first citizen-run U.S. telephone help line to counter the ideologies that lead to violent extremism.

The help line, which quietly began tests of operations in December but only now is making itself known widely, is aimed at filling a void in the United States and perhaps avert violence by offering parents and others a way to better communicate with loved ones flirting with extremism, according to people who study it.

“It could be a powerful thing. People don’t have anywhere to go if they have a concern about their kids and they don’t want to go to law enforcement,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

Another group, called Life After Hate and based in Chicago, offers assistance to people personally involved in white supremacist organizations who are looking to break away. And some Muslim leaders across the country offer counseling to those tempted to turn to violence.

The Parents for Peace help line – +1-844-49-PEACE (+1-844-487-3223) – models itself on suicide help lines and other groups addressing such issues, and is open not only to those dealing with militant Islamist ideologies but also white supremacist and other radicalizations.

The United States has seen dozens of extremist attacks since the Little Rock incident, from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre carried out by militant Islamists, to the 2015 mass shooting at a historically black Charleston, South Carolina, church by a white man who wanted to start a race war.


Although very different ideologies motivated the attackers, many followed similar paths to violence, immersing themselves in angry online communities.

“Former neo-Nazis and former jihadists report similar things,” said Myriam Nadri, a therapist of French-Moroccan heritage with an office in Boston who is the group’s executive director. “They talk about experiences with humiliation, they talk about extreme rage and anger.”

Calls to the help line are answered by two staffers, who work out of a tiny office in Boston. They begin calls by taking time to hear out callers’ concerns.

The counselors then advise callers on techniques to persuade their loved ones to open up about their activities, in order to counter the secrecy that militant and criminal groups usually urge on their members.

So far, the line has received just a couple of calls, but Nadri said she expects the volume to pick up as the group does more to publicize its existence.

In some cases, callers may be put in contact with Bledsoe or other members of his group who have lost loved ones to extremism. Bledsoe’s son survived his attack and is serving a life sentence, while other members of Parents for Peace have seen relatives killed.

Their number includes Carole Mansfield of Burton, Michigan, whose granddaughter, Nicole, traveled to Syria to join its civil war and died in the fighting in 2013.

“I’m battling cancer and I just hope and pray that I can live long enough to help at least one family save their loved one,” Mansfield said in a recent phone interview. “That’s the mission that I have in my life.”

The help line makes clear that callers who fear an attack is imminent should call authorities. The group otherwise has avoided working directly with law enforcement, and has not sought any funding from the U.S. government’s “countering violent extremism” program.

That Justice Department program, established during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, aimed to address the factors that drive some to violence by providing grants and other resources to community groups to develop prevention efforts.

Obama’s successor, Republican President Donald Trump, now wants the program to focus solely on Islamist militancy, rather than also addressing white supremacist groups. That move has drawn criticism from Democrats in Congress.

The proposed policy shift makes Parents for Peace’s neutrality all the more important, Bledsoe said.

“It should be about any extremist,” he said. “Parents for Peace is willing to talk to anyone who feels there is a threat.”

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Five ways to hard-wire children for a lifetime of giving

Children receive toys at a refugee shelter run by German charity organisation Arbeiter Samariter Bund ASB in Berlin, Germany,

By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK(Reuters) – (The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

As any parent knows, most children seem to be wired for one thing: Getting, getting, getting.

Then there are kids like Kai Martin.

The 9-year-old Arizonan is counting down to the holidays with a special kind of Advent calendar: Every day in December he is putting a food item in a box, which will be delivered to a local shelter at Christmas.

Some of that generous nature comes from Kai himself. But he is also being hard-wired for giving by his mom, Shannon Bodnar. Just as her own parents inspired her to give – taking her along on trips to give holiday toys to families in need, when she was just 7 – she is now coding the philanthropic instinct into her own child’s brain.

“He has always been a philanthropic kid,” said Bodnar, a technology marketer in Chandler, Arizona. “I am excited to see what kind of charitable adult he will become.”

Fostering children’s charitable impulses helps boost their wellness and self-esteem by showing them they can make a difference in someone’s life, according to Carol Weisman, author of “Raising Charitable Children.” It also helps them develop leadership skills, which are likely to serve them well in their personal and professional lives, Weisman said.

Researchers say that by making philanthropy a habit early in life, while the brain is still developing, we can establish neural pathways that persist into adulthood.

“The path to doing this is to help them have experiences of generosity that they internalize as lasting changes in their brains,” said Dr. Rick Hanson, a psychologist and author of the book “Hardwiring Happiness.”

That means thinking about it, talking about it and repeating it, so that a generous instinct becomes second nature. Like a finicky plant, it needs the right conditions to thrive.

That is where parents come in: Kids whose parents discuss giving with them are 20 percent more likely to give themselves, according to one study by the University of Indiana’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Parents certainly seem to be doing our part: 87 percent of kids report that their parents encouraged them to give away toys or clothes, according to the 2016 Parents, Kids & Money survey by Baltimore-based money managers T. Rowe Price. And 69 percent were encouraged to give cash to charity, as well.

But, as any parent also knows, getting kids to do as they are told is akin to pushing a recalcitrant donkey. Here is some advice to successfully plant seeds of philanthropic behavior:

1. Use the holidays as a teachable moment.

The end of the year is when families do much of their annual giving. “Tell kids how much money you have to give away, and then discuss what causes are important to you as a family,” said Weisman. “If the children are very small, maybe even use Monopoly money.”

2. Make sure they see family giving.

These days, much of your charity may be done through credit-card donations or automatic withdrawals, which your kids might not witness. Rectify that by involving them in the process and having them click on that donation button themselves, advises Weisman.

3. Make a mindfulness practice out of it.

If your child gives a buck to a homeless person and then immediately forgets about it, you probably have not fostered any long-lasting habit. So have your child think not only about what good that dollar will do, but how the act of giving made them feel. “Neurologically, this simple practice – taking only half a dozen seconds or longer – will increase the encoding of generosity,” said Hanson.

4. Start with giving time.

Obviously young children do not have much money of their own, so begin cultivating the charitable impulse by having children give of their time.

Shannon Bodnar sits down every year and talks with son Kai about which causes they feel strongly about, so they can start allocating their volunteer time. “Then you can start talking about giving money as well – such as fundraising or donating a portion of their allowance,” Bodnar said.

5. Go beyond the holidays.

While Bodnar may have provided the initial spark for giving, Kai has taken it to bonfire levels – and not just at Christmas time, either.

His birthday is in the spring, and he has refused gifts for the last four years, instead asking people to donate to the local leukemia and lymphoma society. Using the charitable fundraising site Crowdrise, he has amassed a total of $6,700.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Andrew Hay)

Cuba Eliminates Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Cuba is the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child.  The country is also the first to eliminate the transfer of syphilis.

WHO officials say that the discovery means an end to the AIDS epidemic is possible and they expect more nations to seek to reach the status where transmission is eliminated in their country.

“Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a Tuesday press release. “This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation.”

The WHO defines elimination as reduction to a level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.  In 2013, only two babies were born in Cuba with HIV and only five with syphilis.

The WHO says that without treatment, a woman has up to a 45% risk of transmitting the virus to her child.  The WHO is currently undergoing a worldwide program to eliminate transmission but are struggling to meet their goal of only 40,000 infections in 2015.  The last reported total was 240,000 in 2013, a decrease of 160,000 from 2009.

Britain’s Lower House Approves Three Parent Babies

Great Britain is now the first country in the world to approve genetically modified children with DNA from three parents.

The vote in the House of Commons was 328 in favor and 128 against the process that scientists say would stop genetic diseases from being passed from a mother to the child.  The pro-genetic modification crowd said it was a “light at the end of a dark tunnel” for many families.

The bill now moves to the House of Lords for approval.  If the House of Lords approve the measure the first genetically modified babies could be born in 2016.  Estimates say 150 modified babies could be born each year.

Prime Minister David Cameron tried to quell criticism of the process.

“We’re not playing god here, we’re just making sure that two parents who want a healthy baby can have one,” the PM said.

Critics were quick to point out no one can know the future of this process.

“This will be passed down generations, the implications of this simply cannot be predicted,” MP Fiona Bruce said.  “But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the gene is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorize today go ahead, there will be no going back for society.”