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Shanann Watts’ girls may have been dead when she got home, husband’s charges show

Shanann Watts’ father sobbed in a Colorado courtroom Tuesday as a judge recited the charges against his son-in-law -- charges that indicate detectives believe Chris Watts may have killed his children before his pregnant wife returned home from a business trip. 

Chris Watts, 33, of Frederick, was charged Monday with nine felony charges: five counts of first-degree murder, including two for killing a child under the age of 12 while the defendant was in a position of trust, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. He is being held without bail in the Weld County Jail. 

The defendant faces a potential death penalty on the murder charges. 

In a confession to police, Chris Watts alleged that he strangled Shanann Watts, 34, after seeing her do the same to their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Disbelieving investigators charged him with all three murders, as well as with the death of the couple’s unborn child.  

>> Related story: Colorado father charged with killing pregnant wife, 2 daughters, says wife killed children

Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant with a son they planned to name Niko, friends and family have said. A Change.org petition started by friends demands that Colorado adopt a new law, named “Niko’s Law,” to make the killing of an unborn baby like the Watts’ son first-degree murder.

As Chris Watts sat stone-faced throughout Tuesday’s proceedings, which were streamed live by CBS Denver, Judge Marcello Kopcow advised Watts of the updated charges levied against him. Watts had been in custody since Wednesday on suspicion of murder and tampering with evidence. 

Chris Watts told 9News in Denver in an interview the day before his arrest that he had nothing to do with the deaths of his family. 

“Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said in the TV interview. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here.”

The charges Kopcow read in court state that Chris Watts caused the death of his wife on Aug. 13, the day she and her daughters were reported missing by a friend. The charges related to Bella and Celeste, however, state that he caused their deaths “between and including Aug. 12, 2018, and Aug. 13, 2018.”

Shanann Watts was out of town until early Aug. 13. 

An arrest affidavit released Monday states that the friend who reported Shanann and the girls missing, Nickole Utoft Atkinson, dropped Shanann off at the Watts’ home just before 2 a.m. that day. The two women had been on a business trip to Arizona for Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products. 

“Nicole (sic) stated Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant and was not feeling well during the trip,” the affidavit states

Atkinson became concerned later that morning because Shanann Watts missed a 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment and was not answering phone calls or texts. She went to the couple’s home at 2825 Saratoga Trail to check on her. 

Read the charges against Chris Watts below.

“(Nickole) went to Shanann’s residence and discovered her car in the garage with car seats positioned inside of it,” the affidavit says. “(She) attempted to enter the front door, but a latch prevented it from opening more than three inches.”

Atkinson called Chris Watts at work and asked him to return home to check on his wife, the court document reads. She was afraid that Shanann Watts, who reportedly had lupus, had passed out or was suffering some other medical emergency. 

Atkinson also called police, who arrived before Chris Watts did. Once Chris Watts arrived and allowed officers into the house, they found Shanann Watts’ personal belongings -- her cellphone, purse, wallet and medication -- inside. 

They also found a pair of women’s shoes kicked off by the front door and a suitcase, apparently from her Arizona trip, at the bottom of the stairs, the affidavit states

Chris Watts initially told investigators that around 4 a.m. that day, he told his wife he wanted a separation. He said it was an emotional conversation, with both of them upset and crying, but that it was not argumentative. 

Chris Watts told detectives that when he left for work just before 5:30 a.m., Shanann Watts told him she and the girls would be going to a friend’s home later in the day. He said that he backed his work truck up into the driveway to load some tools into it before leaving. 

Read the warrantless arrrest affidavit in the Chris Watts case below.

The truck’s movements were captured by a neighbor’s security camera, the affidavit says

During the investigation into the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her daughters, investigators learned that Chris Watts was having an affair with a female co-worker at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. -- an affair that he denied in previous interviews. 

Chris Watts was taken into custody Wednesday night, at which time Anadarko fired him. In a subsequent police interview Thursday, after being allowed to speak to his father, Chris Watts admitted strangling Shanann Watts the morning of Aug. 13, the affidavit states

“Chris stated after he told Shanann he wanted a separation, he walked downstairs for a moment and then returned to his bedroom to speak with Shanann again,” the affidavit states. “While in the bedroom, via baby monitor located on Shanann’s nightstand, he observed Bella ‘sprawled’ out on her bed and blue and Shanann actively strangling Celeste.

“Chris said he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death.”

Chris Watts told detectives that, when he backed his truck into the driveway, it was his wife and daughters’ bodies he loaded into the back seat, the affidavit states. He said he drove the bodies to an Anadarko work site just north of Roggan, an unincorporated area of Weld County about 40 miles from the family’s home in Frederick. 

A Google Maps search using the coordinates of the site, which are included in the affidavit, shows a desolate area in which a dirt road leads to a couple of large oil tanks. 

Chris Watts told investigators buried Shanann in a shallow grave near the tanks and dumped his daughters’ bodies inside the tanks. 

“Chris was presented an aerial photograph of the tank battery area and identified three separate locations in which he placed the bodies,” the affidavit reads.

Prior to Watts’ alleged confession, investigators did a drone search of the site and spotted a bedsheet in a field near the tank battery, the document says. The sheet matched the pattern of pillow cases and a top sheet discovered stuffed into a trash can in Watts’ kitchen earlier Thursday. 

Shanann Watts’ body was found that afternoon, buried in a shallow grave near the oil tanks. Bella and Celeste were found inside the tanks, which were almost completely full of crude oil. 

The girls’ bodies had been submerged in oil for four days, according to court documents filed by Chris Watts’ defense lawyer. The attorney, James Merson, sought to have defense experts at the autopsies of the victims, and to have DNA swabs done on the necks of the children, an apparent bid to prove that Shanann Watts killed her daughters. 

Kopcow on Friday denied the motion to have defense experts present at the autopsies, but granted the request to for DNA swabs of Bella and Celeste’s necks. He denied the defense’s request that their expert take the swabs, however. 

“Furthermore, defendant’s request to order prosecution to collect evidence in the manner described by defense expert is denied,” the order reads. “This court cannot order the prosecution and/or coroner how to conduct their investigation.”

Kopcow said there was no indication that prosecutors or the coroner would destroy evidence, improperly collect it or fail to collect it. 

The disappearance and killings of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts have captured national attention, and inspired gut-wrenching emotion from those who knew them. Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, tearfully spoke publicly Monday ahead of the news conference at which Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke announced the charges against Chris Watts. 

“We would like to thank everyone in the Frederick Police Department and all the agencies involved for working so hard to find my daughter, granddaughters and Niko,” Rzucek said. “Thank you, everyone, for coming out to the candlelight vigil and saying all your prayers. They are greatly appreciated.

“Keep the prayers coming for our family.”

Rzucek has also been active on his Facebook page, posting photos of Bella and Celeste smiling and playing together. In one post, he uploaded the song “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

“Dear Bella and Celeste and Nico,” Rzucek wrote. “Pop Pop loves you. God bless you.”

He also posted several photos of Shanann Watts. 

“Dad loves you,” he wrote on one. On another, he wrote, “We got you, baby.”

Family friends who let Chris Watts stay in their home after his wife and daughters went missing expressed shock over the accusations against him -- and apologized for taking him in and defending him against swirling rumors. 

“Had we had any inclination that we thought he was involved at all, no way would I have let him in my house with my wife and kid,” Nick Thayer told 9News Thursday, the day Watts confessed and the bodies were found. 

“They were family,” his wife, Amanda Thayer, told the news station. “They spent Thanksgivings with us and Fourth of Julys and all the holidays. It’s just unreal.”

The couple, who also took in the Watts family’s dog, Deeter, until Shanann’s family could pick him up, is now left figuring out how to tell their 5-year-old daughter that her playmates are dead. They are also struggling to understand the crime themselves, 9News reported. 

“I’m so sorry. We didn’t know. We thought we were doing the right thing,’ Nick Thayer said. “It’s all we can do is say we’re sorry that we defended him on social media. We really had no idea that he was capable of doing something like we’ve.... I hate it. I hate all of this.”

Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says he paid Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal at Trump's direction

President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight charges, including multiple counts of tax evasion and a campaign finance charge stemming from so-called “hush money” payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.

>> Read more trending news

Cohen, 51, entered a plea deal Tuesday with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Update 6:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: "There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen," Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement after Cohen entered his plea Tuesday.

"It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time," Giuliani said.

Cohen said in court Tuesday that he coordinated with Trump to pay hush money to Daniels and McDougal, who both claim they had affairs with Trump years before he was elected. Cohen did not name Daniels, McDougal or Trump in court.

Update 6:10 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC that he and his client have been “vindicated” after Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including tax evasion and a campaign-finance violation.

>> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Read the documents from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea

"A lot of this stems from her courage,” Avenatti said. “We're going to get to the bottom now in connection to the civil case as to what the president knew, and what he knew about it, and when he knew and what he did about it."

Daniels claims that she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006, more than a decade before he became president. She is suing Trump and Cohen, seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen said in federal court in New York that he paid Daniels, who was not named, $130,000 in exchange for the nondisclosure agreement to influence the election. The payment was made at the direction of Trump, who also was not named, Cohen said.

Update 5:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said after Cohen entered his guilty plea Tuesday that he submitted false invoices to the Trump’s company to obtain reimbursement for unlawful campaign contributions made in the form of payments to Daniels and McDougal.

In his plea, Cohen did not name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an "unnamed candidate." But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and McDougal.

Cohen said in federal court in New York on Tuesday that he made the payments  in coordination with Trump to influence the election. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

The other charges Cohen pleaded guilty to involve bank fraud and income tax evasion.

As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.

Khuzami said Tuesday that Cohen’s “lies and dishonesty” were particularly egregious because of his profession.

“(He) decided he was above the law and for that he’s going to pay a very serious price,” Khuzami said.

Update 5:10 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: At a hearing Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York, Cohen said he made payments to Daniels and McDougal on behalf of Trump, who was not named, “to influence the election,” according to The Associated Press.

Daniels said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. She signed a non-disclosure agreement shortly before voters went to the polls for the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000 from Cohen.

McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007. The rights to McDougal’s story were bought in August 2016 by American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer, The Wall Street Journal reported, but her story was never published.

 Update 4:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Cohen admitted in court Tuesday to working at Trump’s discretion to silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007, according to The New York Daily News.

He also told the court that he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election “with and at the direction of the same candidate (Trump),” the newspaper reported. The money went to Daniels in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure agreement that barred her from talking about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006, a decade before he was elected to office.

A judge set Cohen’s bond at $500,000, according to Reuters. He is expected to appear in court for sentencing on Dec. 12.

Update 4:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: The charges Cohen pleaded guilty to Tuesday include five counts of tax evasion, according to The New York Daily News.

Update 3:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: An unidentified source told The Washington Post that Cohen's plea deal came Tuesday after prosecutors "claimed he risked more than dozen years in prison."

Unidentified sources told Fox News that Cohen’s plea included three to five years of jail time.

Update 3:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: It was not immediately clear whether Cohen agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation surrounding Trump as part of the agreement, The Washington Post reported.

Cohen surrendered Tuesday afternoon to FBI officials, according to the newspaper.

Original report: Two unidentified people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that Cohen’s attorneys were in negotiations with prosecutors earlier Tuesday.

Cohen has been under investigation for possible fraud related to his businesses, the AP reported. Officials with the FBI raided his hotel room, home and office in April, seizing his computer, his phone and hundreds of thousands of records, The Washington Post reported.

>> FBI sought records related to Trump 'Access Hollywood' tape in Cohen raid: reports

Authorities sought details on Cohen’s efforts to stave off negative publicity about Trump, CBS News and The New York Times reported. Among other things, authorities sought information on the release of an infamous tape in which the president could be heard on a hot mic making derogatory comments about women and payments Cohen made to a pair of women who claim they had sexual relationships with Trump, The New York Times reported.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007.

Officials also sought details on the role that the publisher of The National Enquirer played in keeping the women’s stories from going public, according to The Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Suspect in death of Mollie Tibbetts being held on federal immigration detainer

Update 5:31 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Police said that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who is in the country illegally, has been charged with murder in the death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts.

>> Read more trending news

A charge of 1st degree murder has been filed against the 24-year-old. If convicted, the charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Investigators said they used surveillance video in tracking down Rivera. Video showed Tibbetts jogging in a rural area near her hometown of Brooklyn as well as Rivera’s car.

Police had searched the area but noted her body was found in a field, covered with corn stalks.

Original report:

Authorities found the body of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished last month after going for a run in Brooklyn, Iowa, according to multiple reports.

Greg Willey of Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa confirmed to The Associated Press that investigators found a body Tuesday morning believed to be that of Tibbetts, 20. Willey told the AP one of Tibbetts’ close family friends told him about the discovery.

Fox News and CBS News also reported Tibbetts' body was found Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

>> Mollie Tibbetts search: New video surfaces, Iowa man says he saw her jogging

Aug. 21: In a statement released Tuesday morning, officials with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation confirmed that authorities have found a body in rural Poweshiek County.

“Investigators are working to confirm the identity,” the statement said.

Authorities are expected to provide additional information at a news conference scheduled for 4 p.m. local time Tuesday.

“There will be no further information related from law enforcement until the press conference,” according to officials with the Iowa DCI.

Tibbetts, 20, was last seen July 18 in Brooklyn, a town with a population of about 1,400 in central Iowa. Investigators said she was last seen on a routine jog through the streets of the city. It’s unclear whether she returned to the home where she was dog-sitting for her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s brother, who have said they were both out of town.

The college sophomore was reported missing the next day, after she didn’t show up for her job at a local day care. 

A massive search was launched after her disappearance. Authorities received thousands of tips.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Drake surprises 11-year-old fan with visit to children’s hospital

An 11-year-old girl who is in a Chicago hospital awaiting a heart transplant was surprised by Drake after asking the rapper to pay her a visit for her birthday.

WLS reported that Sofia Sanchez recorded a video for the “In My Feelings” challenge and invited Drake to visit her.

>> Read more trending news 

“I just had surgery three weeks ago. The surgery was to help my heart pump,” Sofia said in her video message. “I love your music and I was hoping that you could come and cheer me up for my birthday.”

Although he missed Sofia’s 11th birthday on Saturday, Drake saw the video and visited Sofia at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago on Monday while he was in town for “Drake & Migos: Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour.”

Lurie Children’s Hospital caught the surprise visit on camera.

Drake and Sofia sang his song “God’s Plan,” took selfies and traded autographs.

Sofia’s mother, Natalie Sanchez, told the Daily Herald the song has been a source of inspiration for her daughter, who is in the hospital for seven weeks while she waits for a new heart. Sofia has cardiomyopathy, which makes it hard for the heart to pump blood to the body and can lead to heart failure.

“That actually has been a big influence for her. She would say, ‘God has a plan for me, too,’ just like his song,” Sanchez said. “She loved how he was giving back to the community. She just thinks he's a great guy.”

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

According to an Instagram post from Drake, the two also talked about Justin Bieber, owls and basketball. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a spokesperson for the hospital said the two also bonded over the rapper’s two dogs.

At the end of the visit, Sofia was gifted a hat with the logo for “Scorpion,” his latest album.

Coconut oil is ‘pure poison,’ according to Harvard professor

Do you often use coconut oil when cooking? Beware, because the ingredient could be harmful to your health, according to a new report.

>>Related: The sudden collapse of coconut oil, 2015's favorite superfood

Karin Michels, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, recently delivered a German-language lecture titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors.”

>> Read more trending news 

During the 50-minute talk, she debunked several myths that the popular product, which has been hailed as a superfood, helps with weight loss and brain function.

In fact, she said, “Coconut oil is pure poison,” according to a translation by Business Insider. “It is one of the worst foods you can eat.”

She said it is more dangerous for our hearts than lard because it is almost entirely made up of saturated fatty acids, which may block our arteries. Plus, there is no known study showing the health benefits of coconut oil.

This isn’t the first time coconut oil has been touted as unhealthy. 

In 2017, the American Heart Association conducted a study that found that 82 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat, which is known to raise “bad” cholesterol levels and lead to blockages and plaque buildup that can cause strokes and heart attacks.

“Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD (cardiovascular disease), and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the AHA wrote.

The organization recommends people consume no more than 6 percent of saturated fat as part of their total caloric intake each day.

Health experts believe rapeseed and flaxseed oil, which contain lots of unsaturated fatty acids; and soybean, sunflower and corn oil, which are made up of polyunsaturated fats, are good alternatives. 

>>Related: Coconut oil isn’t actually good for you, the American Heart Association says

Paul Manafort guilty on 8 charges in bank fraud, conspiracy trial; mistrial declared on 10 counts

A Virginia jury has found Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, guilty on eight charges, but could not reach a consensus on 10 other counts in Manafort’s bank fraud and conspiracy trial, according to The Associated Press.

>> Read more trending news  

The judge in the case declared a mistrial on those 10 counts.

The jury found Manafort guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two charges of bank fraud and a charge of hiding foreign bank accounts, according to multiple news outlets.

Trump, saying he felt bad for Manafort,  weighed in on the verdict calling it a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace.”

He also said Manafort’s conviction “has nothing to do with Russian collusion,” the AP reported.

There’s no sentencing date, yet, but Manafort is facing 80 years in prison on the 8 guilty counts, CNN reported.

Prosecutors have until the end of August to make a decision on the 10 counts that jurors could not reach a decision on which resulted in the mistrial.

Manafort was charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, as well as filing false income tax forms and failing to file foreign bank account reports. 

Jurors deliberated for five days before returning a partial verdict Tuesday.

>> Related: Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?

They heard 11 days of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including Manafort’s longtime business partner and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, according to Reuters.

Earlier Tuesday, jurors has asked how to handle the case if they were unable to come to consensus on one of the 18 charges. Judge T.S. Ellis ordered them to continue deliberating but added that he might accept a partial verdict, if no consensus could be reached.

Prosecutors said Manafort hid at least $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014 by disguising the money he earned advising politicians in Ukraine as loans and hiding it in foreign banks. Then, after his money in Ukraine dried up, they allege he defrauded banks by lying about his income on loan applications and concealing other financial information, such as mortgages.

The cash supported Manafort’s extravagant lifestyle, prosecutors said, funding real estate purchases in New York and Virginia and the purchase of luxury items, including a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich skin, Reuters reported.

The defense tried to pin the blame for Manafort’s financial mistakes on Gates, who was indicted alongside Manafort in October. Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of making false statements and conspiring against the United States and agreed to work with prosecutors.

Manafort’s attorneys did not call any witnesses to testify in his defense. He did not take the stand.

>> Related: Mueller investigation: DOJ OK’d probe into alleged collusion between Manafort, Russians

Manafort’s trial was the first prompted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, although the case didn’t touch on allegations of interference. It was during the special counsel’s investigation that Mueller’s legal team said it discovered that Manafort had hidden millions of dollars that he had received in exchange for work he did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort is expected to face a second trial on additional charges in September.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Opioid crisis creating drop in life expectancy among young adults in U.S.

The United States is among 14 high-income countries with declining life expectancy rates, according to new research recently published in the British Medical Journal.

>> Read more trending news 

The research features findings from two separate observational studies, one pointing to the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S. as a key contributor to recent declines, and another suggesting the declines in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom transcend the opioid epidemic among diverse populations.

Only four countries included in the first study of 18 high-income nations — Australia, Japan, Denmark and Norway — showed increasing rates for both men and women in 2015. 

>> Related: What’s killing America’s teens? Inside CDC’s new mortality report

The other 14, including Australia, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States all saw declines between 2014 and 2015.

According to the latest figures from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy for men and women in the U.S. in 2016 was 76.1 and 81.1 years.

“This is the first time in recent decades that these many high income countries simultaneously experienced declines in life expectancy for both men and women, and the size of these declines were larger than in the past,” Science Daily reported.

>> Related: Major depression diagnoses in US up 33 percent since 2013, study finds

Furthermore, according to the researchers, deaths in the U.S. were concentrated among younger adults in their 20s and 30s, whereas declines in overall life expectancy outside the U.S. focused on people 65 and older.

“The USA now has the lowest life expectancy levels among high income developed countries, and Americans fare poorly across a broad set of ages, health conditions, and causes of death compared with their counterparts in these countries,” according to the study.

This concentrated decline among a younger cohort is strongly related to the “ongoing, large scale drug overdose epidemic stemming from misuse of prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl,” researchers wrote, noting that compared to other countries, the U.S. actually performs relatively well at older ages.

>> Related: Opioids now kill more Americans than guns or breast cancer, CDC says

Since 2000, the opioid epidemic has claimed more than 300,000 lives and every day, 115 Americans die from prescription opioids and illicit opioids, according to the CDC.

The number of overdose deaths involving opioids in 2016 was five times higher than in 1999.

The second study featured in the journal, based on 1996-2016 death rate data for people aged 25-64 years, suggested “the opioid epidemic is the tip of an iceberg,” study author Steven Woolf said in a statement.

>> Related: Doctors and the opioid crisis: An AJC National Investigation

“No single factor, such as opioids, explains this phenomenon” of dramatic declines in mortality rates across multiple racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. and U.K., researchers wrote.

Woolf and his colleagues acknowledged that drug overdoses, suicides and alcoholism are the leading cause of added deaths, but heart disease, influenza, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, mental disorders and “deaths of despair” signal “a systemic cause” of worsening health conditions in America.

>> Related: People are using their pets to get opioids, FDA warns

While their findings revealed overall death rates were higher among men, fatal drug overdoses and suicides were greater among women, adding to previous research about health care disadvantages among women.

And, according to social gerontology expert Holly Nelson-Becker, who was not involved in either study, countries which increasing environmental threats may be more susceptible to influenza and respiratory problems, she told CNN.

“The fact that modern healthcare systems in the most advanced high-income countries were unable to cope with this unexpected challenge, resulting in the first reductions in longevity for decades, is striking and might signal more profound problems,” Domantas Jasilionis, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

>> Related: Meth, ‘the Devil’s drug,’ is back and killing more people than ever

Jasilionis believes the declines in the U.K. and U.S. are perpetuated by social inequality, poverty and declining health care quality.

“More effort must be made to convince international and national agencies to invest in robust register based systems that allow timely and accurate monitoring of changes in longevity,” he added.

>> Related: Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

Because both studies were observational in nature, the authors note that they could not establish cause and effect.

3-year-old, 1-year-old survive two days alone in wreckage after crash kills mother

A 3-year-old boy and his 1-year-old little brother defied the odds, surviving a car crash for almost two days alone after the wreck killed their mother.

The crash happened either Friday or Saturday in Camden, Arkansas, in the southern part of the state, KATV reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The older boy was found wandering alone on a road Monday morning, and the Ouachita County Sheriff Office posted his photo online, hoping to identify him, The Associated Press reported.

Deputies then went back to where they found him and discovered a car in a deep ravine, not visible from the road. Not far away, they found the body of the mother. She had been ejected from the vehicle. 

Officials believe the boy walked 300 yards from the site before he was found, KATV reported.

When they got to the car, deputies said they found the boy’s 1-year-old brother awake and alert, still in his car seat, the AP reported.

Investigators think the 3-year-old was able to climb out of the wrecked car.

The children’s survival amazed rescue crews because the temperatures over the weekend were well into the 90s.

“Today is anything but short of a miracle,” Detective Nathan Greeley told KATV. “The 3-year-old and 1-year-old being able to survive in the elements ... it’s nothing short of a miracle, God’s blessing, that these children were able to survive this accident.”

The 1-year-old was taken to a children’s hospital for treatment for dehydration, but officials said his condition is not life-threatening, the AP reported.

12-year-old Detroit girl burns nearly 50 percent of her body in ‘fire challenge’

The family of a 12-year-old girl is warning others against attempting a dangerous new trend among teens online, called the fire challenge.

In the fire challenge, people douse themselves in flammable liquids and set themselves on fire.

>> Read more trending news 

Timiyah Landers, 12, attempted the challenge with her friends last week and is now in a local hospital with second- and third-degree burns covering nearly 50 percent of her body, her mom, Brandi Owens, told WXYZ.

According to Inside Edition, things went terribly wrong for Landers after the fire fanned out across her body with lightning speed, while her friends watched in horror. 

Owens believes her daughter’s body spray may have caused the fast-moving fire. 

“She had taken a shower and rubbed herself down with ... spray and lotion [beforehand] and that stuff is flammable as well and caused for the fire to spread all over,” she told Inside Edition.

Owens told The Washington Post her fiance, Marquell Sholar, tried to help put out the flames by grabbing Landers and putting her in the bathtub. 

While he poured cold water over the teen, Owens told The Washington Post, she grabbed at her daughter’s clothing with her bare hands, ripping them off.

“It was like a reflex, I didn’t even feel the fire,” Owens said. “I was just saving my daughter.”

Owens told WXYZ her daughter and her friends found out about the fire challenge from social media and YouTube.

“They need to delete this mess,” Owens said. “It should be censored. That’s nothing that a kid should come across. I could have lost my baby, by the grace of God she’s alive. If I wasn’t home, I would have walked in to my baby dead.”

Landers is expected to be in the hospital for several months and will have to undergo several surgical procedures, including skin grafts. 

She is on a ventilator and requires a feeding tube while she recovers, her mother told Inside Edition

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her family with her care. 

Plane carrying rapper Post Malone lands safely after blowing 2 tires

A Gulfstream IV jet plane that blew two tires during takeoff at a small New Jersey airport made an emergency landing at Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York Tuesday afternoon, WLNY reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The Gulfstream Aerospace GLF-4 luxury jet, carrying 16 passengers, left Teterboro Airport around 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed, according to People.

One of the passengers was rapper Post Malone, who took home an MTV Video Music Award for song of the year for his song “rockstar” featuring 21 Savage. He also closed out the show with a performance with Aerosmith and 21.

Post Malone thanked those who prayed for him and explicitly expressed surprise at the number of people who were less positive on Twitter.

The plane diverted from landing at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in Massachusetts after needing to burn off more fuel.

The Associated Press reported that the pilot circled the airport for about 30 minutes before the jet was diverted.

The jet was initially headed to London Luton Airport in Luton, England.

Olive Garden’s ‘Never-Ending Pasta Pass’ is back, with an annual option

Olive Garden announced Tuesday that its Never-Ending Pasta Pass will go on sale this Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, along with a new option that allows fans to access the deal for a year.

23,000 eight-week passes for unlimited pasta will be sold this year, in addition to 1,000 annual pasta passes, which give customers 52 weeks of never-ending pasta bowls, according to the Olive Garden.

>> Read more trending news

“We have the most passionate fans who look forward to Pasta Pass and Never Ending Pasta Bowl throughout the year, and they’ve made it clear that eight weeks just isn’t long enough,” said Jennifer Arguello, executive vice president of marketing for Olive Garden. “So we listened, and we’re excited to give our guests more of what they’ve been asking for -- an Annual Pasta Pass that extends our Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion year-round.”

The Never-Ending Pasta Pass will sell for $100 and the Annual Pasta Pass will retail for $300, Fox News reported.

Both deals are expected to sell out quickly. 

In 2017, all 22,000 pasta passes reportedly sold out in a single second.

According to Olive Garden, it sold out “2,280 times faster than the iPhoneX and 60 times faster than Beyonce and Jay-Z tickets.”

To snag the deal, visit www.PastaPass.com on Aug. 23. The passes will go on sale at 2 p.m. EDT.

Man accused of assault after throwing biscuit 'really hard' at ex-girlfriend

A man was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, after he was accused of throwing a biscuit at his ex-girlfriend's face.

WKRN reported that the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Jeffrey Tomerlin, 45, saw his ex-girlfirend in a car with her new boyfriend.

>> Read more trending news 

Tomerlin allegedly walked up to the car and threw the biscuit “really hard,” injuring the woman, police said. He also charged at the car, punching the hood, and threatening to kill the couple. He also yelled racial slurs, according to a WKRN report.

Police said during Tomerlin’s arrest, he repeatedly banged his head inside the police cruiser. He was taken to a local hospital to be examined before he was charged with public intoxication, vandalism and assault, and booked into the Metro jail.

Tomerlin was jailed on $3,100 bond.

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte returns this month

It’s official: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte will return for the season on Aug. 28, the company confirmed Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news 

This year marks the 15th birthday of the beloved autumn drink, made with real pumpkin.

Usually the Pumpkin Spice Latte is released after Labor Day, so this year’s release is slightly early.

According to Starbucks, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL, is the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time.

The drink began in a research development lab, where tasters sampled pumpkin pie with espresso to find the exact taste.

The PSL was almost named the Fall Harvest Latte, the company disclosed.

Since then, Starbucks expanded its pumpkin spice offerings to include Ready-to-Drink Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Spice Flavored Ground Coffee, Pumpkin Spice Caffe Latte K-Cup Pods, Iced Espresso Classics Pumpkin Spice Latte and VIA Instant Pumpkin Spice Latte. 

This year, customers can also try Pumpkin Spice Cookie Straws and Pumpkin Spice Flavored Ground Coffee K-Cup Pods.

For those who aren’t crazy for the PSL but still want some of the taste, Starbucks customers can request to add a drizzle of pumpkin sauce to any regular drink.

Colorado father charged with killing pregnant wife, two daughters, says wife killed children

A Colorado father accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two young children appeared in court Tuesday to hear the charges against him.

>> Read more trending news 

Chris Watts, 33, faces five counts of murder, one for his wife and two for each of his daughters, as they were victims younger than 12, according to KCNC-TV. Prosecutors also charged him with one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, KUSA reported.

>> Related: Shanann Watts ‘beat all the odds’ to have her children, brother says

Shanann Watts, 34, and her daughters were reported missing on Aug. 13.

Update 12:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Dressed in an orange jumpsuit with his hands and ankles in cuffs, Chris Watts appeared in court Tuesday morning.

Shanann Watts' father, Frank Rzucek Sr., shook visibly Tuesday as District Judge Marcelo Kopcow read the formal charges against Christopher Watts.

Shanann's brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., rubbed his father's shoulders and glared unflinchingly at his brother-in-law. A bailiff stood between them.

Chris Watts has been denied bond.

Original report: Shanann Watts, who was pregnant, was found in a shallow grave Thursday. Her daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, were found hidden inside oil tanks on property owned by the Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Chris Watts worked for the oil and gas exploration company, according to officials.

>> Related: Bodies of 2 missing Colorado girls recovered as father appears in court

Chris Watts, who reportedly confessed to the murders, was jailed without bail. He was expected in court Tuesday to hear the charges against him. 

According to an affidavit released Monday, Chris Watts claimed Shanann Watts strangled their children and that he flew into a rage afterward and strangled her, KCNC-TV reported, then he removed the bodies of all three from the home, taking them to the property where he worked.

>> Related: Colorado man who pleaded for return of missing wife, daughters arrested in deaths

Investigators believe the children were killed sometime between Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. Shanann Watts was out of town on a business trip until around 2 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 13.

Investigators also said they discovered Chris Watts was having an affair with a co-worker, which KCNC-TV reported he denied in earlier interviews.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Miami Hurricanes to wear uniforms, gear made from ocean waste

The University of Miami is helping out the environment in an unusual way.

The Miami Hurricanes will be the first college football team to wear uniforms made from ocean waste.

It won’t be their main uniform, but the team’s alternate uniforms, cleats and gloves will be made by Parley for the Oceans, USA Today reported

The uniforms will be a special edition Adidas x Parley A1 uniform made of 70% ECONYL yarn. The yarn is made from fishing nets and other nylon waste recovered from marine environments.

>> Read more trending news 

The cleats, Adizero 7.0 Freak x Parley cleats and gloves will also be made from ocean garbage, USA Today reported

The shoes are being touted as the first eco-conscious footwear worn in an NCAA football game.

The jersey will still be the traditional orange but will have nods as “an ode to the cause to end plastic pollution of the oceans.”

The team will suit up in the alternate uniforms for the 2018 AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Hurricanes take on Louisiana State University for the classic on Sept. 2. 

FDA: Recall of heart, blood pressure medication grows due to cancer concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week expanded the list of medications under recall because of a chemical impurity that could put patients at risk of getting cancer.

>> Read more trending news

Officials with the FDA announced Friday that Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited is voluntarily recalling 14 lots of its valsartan/amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide tablets after trace amounts of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) were found in one of the drug’s active ingredients. Authorities last month recalled some drugs containing valsartan, a medication used to treat heart failure and blood pressure that’s often a component of generic medicines, because they contained NDMA.

>> See the list of Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited tablets under recall

The chemical has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in animal studies, according to the FDA. However, the studies used higher levels of NDMA than those found in the recalled valsartan, officials said.

>> FDA expands recall of heart, blood pressure medication due to cancer risk

Valsartan was previously recalled in 22 other countries, according to CNN. The current recall is centered around valsartan manufactured in Linhai, China, FDA officials said.

>> FDA recalls common heart drug over cancer concerns

Authorities believe the impurities were caused by a change in the way the drug was manufactured. Officials said in an update last week that the FDA is working with drug manufacturers “to ensure future valsartan active pharmaceutical ingredients are not at risk of NDMA formation.”

Authorities continue to investigate.

Prisoners to strike nationwide, protesting ‘modern-day slavery’

Prison inmates across the United States are expected to begin a two-week strike, set to start Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.

The strike is intended to end low-wage prison work, which protest leaders call “modern-day slavery.”

Thousands of inmates are employed by prisons across the U.S., doing jobs from kitchen labor and cleaning to tutoring and firefighting. 

The average pay for workers in state prisons is 20 cents an hour, according to the Marshall Project.

>> Read more trending news 

Deirdre Wilson, a former inmate who served as a firefighter in the Puerta La Cruz fire in California, told Newsweek that prison volunteer firefighting was a “cruel joke” after it was revealed that firefighters typically make about $75,000 per year plus benefits, while inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation make about $2 per day, and $1 extra when fighting an active fire.

“You're not really volunteering,” Wilson told Newsweek. “The system evolved out of a system of slavery where we commodify human bodies and function off their labor.”

Amani Sawari told Vox the 19-day strike would show how much the U.S. economy relies on prison labor to operate.

Sawari said private companies that benefit from prison labor include Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret.

“Prisoners want to be valued as contributors to our society,” Sawari said. 

During the strike, inmates plan to stop reporting for their assigned jobs, end commissary spending in prisons and refuse to eat during a hunger strike, according to Newsweek.

This comes after seven inmates were killed and over a dozen others were hurt in a prison riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina.

>>Related: Territory, contraband likely provoked prison riot that killed 7, injured 17 others

The event is led by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a network of prisoner-rights advocates.

It is supported by Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a prisoner-led trade group.

According to the IWOC website, the prisoners involved in the strike are demanding an increase in prisoner wages to state minimums and an opportunity for inmates serving life sentences to appear before a parole board. 

Prisoners in at least 17 states are planning to join the protests, including those incarcerated in Seattle, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn, New York.

The prisoner strike is expected to continue until Sept. 9.

Gin taster wanted: Company will hire you to travel the world, drink with friends

Do you have a real thirst for adventure, and well, booze?

A bar group in London is looking for some parched patrons to travel the world sipping gin to stock a new bar that’s scheduled to open in the fall.

The owners of Mr. Fogg’s is looking to stock its new Society of Exploration bar, the Evening Standard reported.

And what better way than with an “Around the World in 80 Days” tour?

The winning taste tester will take a friend and make stops in cities like Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York and Lisbon to taste gin and collect botanicals.

>> Read more trending news 

They will follow the route Phileas Fogg took in Jules Verne’s book, “Around the World in 80 Days.” 

The winners will be given an atlas, journal, luggage tags and hip flask for their their journey, the Evening Standard reported.

They will then document their trip with social media posts, taking photos and posting videos. They also need a valid passport and must like gin. 

Click here for your chance to travel the world, but you have to act quickly. The deadline is Monday. 

30-lb shelter cat ‘Meatloaf’ adopted by veteran in Iowa to help with PTSD

A shelter cat who became internet-famous for his physique has found a new home with an Iraq veteran living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

>> Read more trending news

Meatloaf, a 30-pound cat, was put up for adoption by King’s Harvest Animal Shelter in Davenport, Iowa, after his older owners weren’t able to take care of him, according to the Des Moines Register.

The 11-year-old cat was fed human food, which contributed to his size, shelter officials told the Register.

Fans of Meatloaf flooded the shelter with calls wanting to check him out and photos of the cat were shared thousands of times online. However, Meatloaf is “cranky” and needs immediate help with diet and exercise, so he was slow to be adopted, KWQC reported.

Steve Gusman, an Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD, was looking for a therapy cat and read KWQC’s story about Meatloaf, the outlet reported.

“Steve got attached to the (KWQC) news story and decided to go find out about Meatloaf in-person,” said Mary Armstrong, Gusman’s fiancee.

The two got along famously.

“They got along perfectly well,” Armstrong said.

Gusman told KWQC that he needed a cat who wasn’t too high strung or hyperactive, so Meatloaf is the perfect fit.

Gusman took Meatloaf home on Monday. 

Mom warns of dangers of allowing children to nap in car seats

It’s been three years, but the parents of a 17-month-old little girl are still warning parents and caregivers how dangerous it can be to allow children to nap in car seats.

Mia Smith died after her babysitter put her into her car seat for a nap. Mia never woke up, WFAA reported.

Her official cause of death was listed as positional asphyxia. It’s a condition when a person’s airway is restricted by how they’re positioned, WFAA reported.

>> Read more trending news 

“There’s nothing about the car seat that’s designed to sleep. Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down,” Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital, told WFAA

The straps can also strangle a baby or their heads can flop down, preventing them from being able to breathe.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 31 children died while sleeping in car seats over the four-year study period. The study also found that 16 other children died while sleeping in other devices like a stroller or bouncer.

Mia’s mother, Lisa Smith, warns parents and caregivers by sharing her family’s story as often as she can.

“I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables,” Lisa Smith told WFAA. “I literally walk up to people and I say, ‘You know, I had a daughter who was 17-and-a-half months who passed away and I just want you to be really careful.’”

“She was our first born, our only child, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” she said. “But other families don’t deserve this to happen to them either.” 

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