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Cook County Sheriff’s office in Chicago deals with mental health crisis one Zoom call at a time

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Cook County Sheriff’s office in Chicago deals with mental health crisis one Zoom call at a time

CHICAGO — The sergeant had so little use for the tablet that she did not bother to grab it from the seat of her squad car when she ran into the house where a suicidal man was screaming and slamming his head against the floor.

But when she saw the man might harm himself, his family or her officers with knives he was threatening to use, she sent an officer to retrieve the tablet. She turned it on, handed it to the man and told him to talk to the woman whose face appeared on the screen. And then she watched as the man immediately calmed down.

“When I saw how this tool pacified him, I was like, holy smokes, this is incredible,” said Cook County Sheriff’s Police Sgt. Bonnie Busching.

The scene marked the first time the department took the idea of the Zoom call that has become so common during the COVID-19 pandemic and inserted it into one of the most dangerous things a police officer can do: answer a domestic disturbance call.

Law enforcement agencies are struggling nationwide with increasing violent crime as calls mount for changing how police interact with citizens, especially those with mental health issues. Police are still most often the first called to the scene, and the sheriff’s department’s Treatment Response Team is a novel approach to managing such calls.

Started two years ago, the effort was designed to help the sheriff’s department’s 300-member police force deal with a skyrocketing number of drug overdose calls during a national opioid crisis.

Then, as the pandemic left more people isolated in their homes, either unable to connect to services or unwilling to step outside and risk getting sick, the department was faced with an explosion of 911 calls linked to threats of suicide and other mental health crises.

The sheriff, who made national headlines for putting in place programs at his jail dealing with the growing number of inmates with mental health problems, now saw the same kind of issues playing out for his officers on the street.

“We were being asked more and more to be the first responders for mental health cases and they were being asked to do things they don’t have training for or minimal training for,” said Tom Dart, whose department is the second largest sheriff’s office in the nation and patrols unincorporated parts of Cook County and many of its smaller communities. It has seen the number of 911 calls involving mental health issues increase by nearly 60% this year.

There are other programs around the country, but most involved mental health professionals riding around with police officers or in ambulances, Dart said. That’s fine for smaller communities but wasn’t practical for Cook County, where getting from one end to the other — without traffic — takes well more than an hour.

“How many ambulances would we have to buy and how many would we have to hire to man them all?” Dart asked
Enter the tablets.

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Deshaun Watson to the Broncos? One oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance.

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Deshaun Watson to the Broncos? One oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance.

Could the Broncos be getting a new quarterback again?

With a week left before the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline, one oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance at landing embattled Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast.

After publicly promising to crack down, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press that it was “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity” that saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store.

But Facebook’s crackdown seems to have had a limited effect. Even today, a quick search for “khadima,” or “maids” in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images. That’s even as the Philippines government has a team of workers that do nothing but scour Facebook posts each day to try and protect desperate job seekers from criminal gangs and unscrupulous recruiters using the site.

While the Mideast remains a crucial source of work for women in Asia and Africa hoping to provide for their families back home, Facebook acknowledged some countries across the region have “especially egregious” human rights issues when it comes to laborers’ protection.

“In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent,” one Facebook document read. “In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable.”

The report added: “We also found recruitment agencies dismissing more serious crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, rather than helping domestic workers.”

In a statement to the AP, Facebook said it took the problem seriously, despite the continued spread of ads exploiting foreign workers in the Mideast.

“We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms,” Facebook said. “We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”

This story, along with others published Monday, is based on disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.

Taken as a whole, the trove of documents show that Facebook’s daunting size and user base around the world — a key factor in its rapid ascent and near trillion-dollar valuation — also proves to be its greatest weakness in trying to police illicit activity, such as the sale of drugs, and suspected human rights and labor abuses on its site.

Activists say Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, has both an obligation and likely the means to fully crack down on the abuses their services facilitate as it earns tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue.

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HelloFresh, EveryPlate and more now part of extended onion recall

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You may need to toss your onions as salmonella outbreak has been linked to the vegetable

If you haven’t already thrown out your onions, you should check your vegetables again.

The Food and Drug Administration has extended the onion recall, caused by a salmonella outbreak, to several more brands. The salmonella outbreak was first reported last week and initially only included fresh whole red, white or yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource.

The recall now includes onions from HelloFresh, EveryPlate, Potandon Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms.

HelloFresh said in a statement on Saturday they recommended disposing of onions received during the specified time period

“HelloFresh has been informed by one of its ingredient suppliers that it is conducting a voluntary recall of its onions due to the potential presence of salmonella bacteria,” the company said. “Please discard all onions received from July 7, 2021, through Sept. 8, 2021.”

The CDC is still working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to the outbreak.

Officials said recently both individuals and businesses should check onions and if it is unknown where they are from, throw them away. It is also recommended to wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with these onions.

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