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Chelsie Lacny

Venice Beach boardwalk crash kills one and injures 11 others

A suspect has been arrested and held on $1 million bail

The Venice Beach boardwalk in Southern California is normally a lively place for tourists and locals to eat, shop and explore. On Saturday, this simple enjoyment turned deadly.

A man driving a dark black sedan drove through the Venice Beach boardwalk, weaving around poles designed to block traffic and plowing into pedestrians. The act of violence killed one and injured 11 others. The car involved was found abandoned.

The woman killed was 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni. She was an Italian woman on her honeymoon.

One of the 11 others hospitalized after the Venice Beach boardwalk crash was in critical condition. Two were in serious condition, and the remaining 8 suffered minor injuries ranging from broken bones to soft tissue damage, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

According to witnesses, the driver intentionally sped up and aimed for people on the boardwalk. Bystanders were quick to assist the injured and police arrived just a few minutes after the incident. The incident itself and the bloody, destructive aftermath can be seen in videos that have surfaced showing the vehicle driving into the boardwalk, and the crowds of people rushing to help the injured.

The Los Angeles Police Department has arrested a man in connection with the crash. 38-year-old Nathan Campbell reportedly turned himself in to a Santa Monica police station, admitting that he was involved. He is being held on $1 million bail, and no information has been released regarding motives. It is not known whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

Powerball: A game of chance that could win you $400 million

Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully?

Powerball tickets will be flying off the shelves this week as the jackpot hovers around a cool $400 million after nobody scored the winning ticket after Saturday night’s drawing.

While there were no Powerball jackpot winners, there were seven winners between the two Match 5 prizes. There were two winners for the Match 5 Power Play worth $2 million: one from Florida and one from Texas. The five winners for the Match 5 worth $1 million came from California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Powerball ticket sales tend to skyrocket when the Powerball jackpot hits certain milestones, and the $400 million mark is definitely one of those milestones. Despite the increased number of ticket sales, the odds of winning the jackpot are still the same: 1 in around 175 million. With more tickets in circulation, however, the odds that there will be at least one jackpot-winning ticket out there somewhere increase substantially.

When purchasing Powerball tickets (or lottery tickets in general), some customers will follow certain superstitions. Some will cross state borders to buy their tickets in “lucky” states where there have been winning Powerball tickets sold before. The joke’s on them, though: the states that boast the most winners are typically the states that have been participating in the game the longest, such as Indiana. Other superstitions include purchasing tickets with “lucky” numbers, whether it be the random numbers from your fortune cookie or your loved ones birthdays.

Statistically, following superstitions doesn’t increase your chance of winning. According to the Powerball website, 70-80 percent of winning tickets are computer picks. It was a computer pick that won Gloria Mackenzie the highest single jackpot in history back in May, taking home a lump sum of approximately $278 million after taxes.

If you’re not going to play, don’t play. Nobody’s forcing you. But if you’ve got a couple dollars to spare and you’re feeling lucky, go for it. You could be just one lucky Powerball ticket away from $400 million. Minus taxes, of course.

The next Powerball drawing will be held on Wednesday, August 7.

Powerball jackpot hits $290 million

What would YOU do with $290 million?

The Powerball jackpot shot up to an estimated $290 million after Wednesday night’s drawing.

Nobody claimed the grand prize on Wednesday, but there were five winners of the $1 million Match 5, and two winners for the Match 5 Power Play. The five Match 5 winners came from California, Connecticut, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. The two Match 5 Power Play winners came from Oklahoma and Oregon.

The $2 million winners paid an extra $1 per ticket for the opportunity to increase their payoff; the $1 million winners did not pay the extra for this option, although I’ll bet they wish they had.

In total, there were more than a million winners from Wednesday’s Powerball drawing, with more than $17 million awarded in prizes.

The largest Powerball jackpot ever awarded to a single winner was awarded to a Florida woman in May, who took a lump sum of $371 million ($278 million after taxes).

The next Powerball drawing will be held on Saturday, August 3, and the odds of winning are 1 in 175,223,510. 

Menthol cigarettes reportedly worse than regular cigarettes

FDA reveals findings, seeks further research

Menthol cigarettes, according to a recent scientific review by the Food and Drug Administration, likely pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes. While the FDA did not propose an outright ban on menthol cigarettes, it is seeking public opinion and furthering its research before placing restrictions on the minty alternatives.

The research on menthol cigarettes showed that while menthol cigarettes are no more toxic than regular cigarettes, the menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties make the cigarettes appealing for young smokers. They are less harsh than regular cigarettes, which makes it easier to smoke more.

“Menthol smokers show greater signs of nicotine dependence and are less likely to successfully quit smoking,” the FDA said.

The health concerns with menthol cigarettes are especially important for young smokers and African American smokers, who smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates than other demographics.

This report comes as a follow-up to a 2009 law that allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products. That bill led to the banning of other flavors of tobacco, and opened up the door to study and discuss the banning of menthol cigarettes.  

In 2010, an FDA advisory panel released a report that said that menthol cigarettes make it easier to get hooked and more difficult to quit, and stated that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit the public health in the United States.”

While this panel clearly sees the health implications, it fails to explore the economic stipulations of banning menthol cigarettes, which currently make up about a quarter of cigarette sales in the United States.

“The evidence unequivocally shows that the result [of banning menthol cigarettes] would be a dramatically larger illegal cigarette market than currently exists,” a report by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco, maker of Newport, stated. “As a result, there also would be severe negative impacts on public health, including exposure of smokers to more harmful contraband cigarettes, increased access of youth to tobacco, increased criminal activity particularly in urban communities, reduced government revenues and loss of jobs.”

The discussion will continue for the next two months while the FDA seeks input from the health community, the tobacco industry and others regarding possible restrictions on menthol cigarettes.  

Six Flags: A History of Fatalities

Some of the nastiest deaths you’ll ever hear about

Six Flags theme parks are visited by millions of people every year. Accidents at the parks are not a common occurrence, and fatalities are even rarer. But they do happen. Unfortunately, a woman at Six Flags Over Texas lost her life last Friday after falling off a roller coaster. When thinking about this accident, one can’t help but be curious about some of the other accidents that have occurred at Six Flags locations over the years. I’ve compiled a list of a few of the most memorable Six Flags deaths that you won’t be likely to forget.

Six Flags Over Texas saw its first fatality in 1999. The Roaring Rapids water ride wouldn’t be too intense or life-threatening in normal circumstances, but this time one of the air bladders on the boat deflated and the boat capsized. The twelve passengers ended up underwater, and ten of them were taken to the hospital. 28-year-old Valeria Cartwright was not one of them. She drowned after being stuck underneath the overturned boat.

A man lost his life in 2002 after taking a stroll through the restricted area under the Batman: The Ride coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. A 56-year-old employee was struck in the head by a girl’s foot and killed, and the girl suffered injuries to her feet.

Fast-forward six years, to 2008, when another death occurred as a result of the Batman ride at Six Flags Over Georgia. This one is a little nastier: a teenager was decapitated after hopping the two fences to get into the restricted area underneath Batman. He was struck by the coaster while it was traveling at 50 mph. Why, you might ask, did Asia Leeshawn Ferguson decide to wander into the restricted area? To retrieve a hat he lost while riding the coaster.

In 2004 a man flew out of a coaster at Six Flags New England. The man, Stanley Mordarsky, was severely overweight and had cerebral palsy, but he was allowed to board the ride by himself. (There are no restrictions on disabled persons as long as they are able to board the ride on their own). On the last curve of the ride he flew out of his harness and flung through the air like a Frisbee, according to a witness. He hit a rail on his way to the ground and died as a result of his injuries.

An employee of Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey was killed on a test run in 1981. He fell from the Rolling Thunder coaster, but reports later say that he failed to make use of the safety features of the ride. He also may have been in an unauthorized riding position.

Three years after the deadly test run, a fire started in the Haunted Castle amusement facility at Six Flags Great Adventure. There was no sprinkler system or escape plan in place, and there were approximately 30 people inside the structure at the time. Eight teens died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lastly, while this isn’t a fatality, it is still worthy of being mentioned. In 2007, a 13-year-old girl was riding the Superman: Tower of Power ride. The ride lifts passengers 177 feet up, and then drops them in a free fall going up to 54 mph. At some point the ride malfunctioned, a cable snapped, and both the girl’s feet were chopped off by the loose cable.

This list is not an extensive one; there are plenty more accidents that have occurred over the years, all attributed to different factors. Now, before you freak out, nobody is telling you to avoid Six Flags or stay off roller coasters for the rest of your life. You’re not likely to get decapitated or fall off a coaster at any point in your life, but there are the unlucky few who die as a result of a theme park ride. Theme park rides can be fun, and millions of people would recount their visits to Six Flags theme parks with fondness. But the combination between heavy machinery and human error can sometimes be deadly.

Johnny Manziel pleads guilty to misdemeanor

Learns lesson: don’t give fake ID to police

Heisman-Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel pleaded guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failing to identify himself to a police officer when he was arrested last year in College Station, Texas. The two remaining charges against him, possession of a fake ID and disorderly conduct, were both dismissed.

Johnny Manziel will pay a maximum fine of $2,000, spend two days in jail and pay $232 in court costs. He won’t face any prison time because he was jailed by College Station police after his arrest.

“He took responsibility for his actions that night and is ready to put what happened that night behind him,” said Manziel’s attorney, Cam Reynolds.

Manziel was arrested in the early hours of June 29, 2012, after being involved in a fight. He was with his friend, who pointed at a black man and made a racial slur. Manziel’s friend and the man began fighting, and when Manziel tried to intervene he got involved in the fight as well.

The police arrived and, when asked to produce identification, Manziel gave the police officer an ID that displayed a 1990 birth date. Police checked his wallet and discovered another fake as well as his real license, showing his actual birthday to be in 1992.

This arrest threatened to end Johnny Manziel’s 2012 college football season before it began. He was suspended by Texas A&M for what was originally supposed to be the entire year, but the coach appealed the decision and he was reinstated during fall camp. Luckily for him, too, because he went on to become the first ever freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy.

This is all great news for Johnny Manziel, because his fine and jail time aren’t nearly what they could be if the other charges hadn’t been dropped. Plus, he still has the Heisman Trophy. Let’s just hope that this is a lesson for all college students: think twice before you hand over the wrong ID to the cops.

Kyle Massey: "I do not have cancer"

Calls internet hoax “classless” and “insensitive”

Okay, Twitter, calm down: Kyle Massey has released a statement saying that he does not have cancer.

Insert sigh of relief here.

Over the weekend reports of Dancing With the Stars runner-up and That’s So Raven co-star Kyle Massey’s disease sprouted up around the internet. Massey squashed these rumors as soon as he could, calling them “insensitive” and “classless.”

“Overnight it was trending on Twitter that I am dying of cancer,” Massey told Entertainment Tonight. “I want to say it first, ‘I do not have cancer,’ and I don’t know where this inconsiderate and insensitive rumor originated from.”

Massey, 21, was particularly shocked by the rumors because of his close connection to people who currently have or recently died from the disease. “Cancer is a disease that is very personal to me and my family,” he said. “I have two uncles and a very dear friend who passed away in the last two years from cancer, and my granddad currently has prostate cancer, and my grandmother is currently in a nursing home because of Alzheimer’s disease. So, making light of any illnesses that a person has no control over getting is not something to joke about or make light of!”

He goes on to say that he will put forth every ounce of effort he can to figure out who started the hoax, especially in light of the other real tragedies that made headlines this past weekend.

The tragedies that Massey was likely referring to are both the Trayvon Martin murder trial, in which George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering the 17-year-old boy, and the death of 31-year-old Glee star Cory Monteith in his hotel room. Kyle Massey’s cancer would be just one more thing to add to the bad news pile, but fortunately the rumors are just that: rumors.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned here, and at the risk of undermining my own credibility I have to say it: don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Killeen police shooting leaves two men dead, one wounded

Another call for gun control?

An early-morning shootout between police and a man armed with an AK-47 in Killeen, Texas Sunday leaves one police officer dead and another wounded. The suspect was also killed during the events of the night.

Members of the Killeen SWAT team, the officers were attempting to negotiate with the man who had barricaded himself in his apartment. The police were responding to a 911 call placed earlier, when the suspect had been threatening people with a gun at the apartment complex pool.

When the police arrived the suspect reportedly fired one shot, and then showed signs of surrender. He put the gun down and starting to walk out of his apartment with his hands in the air. However, he never made it out of his apartment. When the police tried to arrest him he picked the gun back up and opened fire, hitting two police officers before other members of the SWAT team could return fire.

The suspect was killed, and the two officers who were hit were taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition. One officer was pronounced dead from the gunshot wounds shortly after, and the other was later transferred to another hospital, where he underwent surgery for the gunshot wound in his leg.

While the names of the suspect and police officers involved have not been released, police Chief Dennis Baldwin issued a statement. “Early this morning, this community experienced the loss of one of Killeen’s finest,” he said. “The days ahead will be challenging, but for now, we are mourning the loss of a great officer. Our hearts and prayers go out to the officer’s family during this difficult time.”

This is only the second time a Killeen law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty, the last instance occurring nearly a century ago when a City Marshal was shot while trying to intervene in a shootout between a father and son.

Randy Travis undergoes brain surgery, remains in critical condition

54-year-old singer suffered a stroke as a result of congestive heart failure

Country singer Randy Travis remains in critical condition after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery to relieve pressure on his brain on Wednesday evening.

Randy Travis, 54, has been in the hospital since Sunday night. Symptoms he attributed to a cold turned out to be “a presumptive cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure,” a doctor said.

He was taken to Baylor Medical Center in McKinney, Texas, on Sunday night and was later transferred to The Baylor Health Care System in Texas. Prior to his transfer, a pump was inserted into his heart to assist with increasing blood flow.

“We determined together in a joint decision that a higher level of specialized care was appropriate, and therefore we transferred him to The Heart Hospital,” Dr. Michael Mack said.

On Wednesday, doctors released a statement saying that his condition had “stabilized and he has shown signs of improvement.” However, the stroke came as a “complication for his congestive heart failure,” and Travis underwent brain surgery on Wednesday evening.

Travis’ heart failure was triggered by an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus. Cardiomyopathy causes enlargement of the heart muscle, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and transport it to the rest of the body. It can also lead to heart failure. Treatments vary but include medication, surgically implanted devices, or heart surgery, according to Mayo Clinic’s website.

Support for Randy Travis comes from fans and fellow country singers alike. Rodney Atkins, Thompson Square, Scotty McCreery, Carrie Underwood, and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum have all shown their support through Twitter.

The Grammy Award-winning country singer’s best-known songs include, “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “Three Wooden Crosses” and “Diggin’ Up Bones.”

“We will have updates as they become available,” Travis’ publicist, Kirt Webster, said. “His family and friends here with him at the hospital request your prayers and support.”

In the meantime, you can send your prayers and support for Randy Travis through Twitter using hashtag PrayforRandy.

Project Runway billboard too racy for Los Angeles passersby

Maybe the people should decide that for themselves

A Project Runway billboard featuring judge and host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn dressed as queen and king and being worshipped by nude models will not be displayed in Los Angeles.

In today’s world, it’s hard to believe a little bit of butt and side boob will hurt anybody, but the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety decided that the city has the authority to ban signage that shows “obscene matters.” The sexy photo was originally set to run on billboards, bus shelters, magazines, posters and websites.

One would think that something deemed too scandalous for a city like Los Angeles would be too scandalous for the public eye everywhere, but that’s obviously not the case. While the city of Los Angeles will instead get an alternate version of the Project Runway billboard, featuring scantily dressed models in underwear, other cities, such as New York, will continue to run the original nude photo.

Everyone knows that sex sells, and this ad could be just the sort of publicity the Emmy-nominated reality show is looking for to begin its 12th season. The scandal of the ad, along with the incorporation of more fan interaction during the new season, is also likely to boost its viewership and keep it from following the path of other hit reality shows gone bad (American Idol, anyone?) The billboard incident has done little to impact fans of the show or its stars. Heidi Klum made light of the ad, tweeting, “Designers! We need clothing for these people! Fast!”

The full photo can be viewed on Heidi Klum’s Twitter account, and the only question I have to ask is this: Is this photo too racy for public consumption? And will you be watching the Season 12 premiere of Project Runway on July 18?