Pesticide that sickened Wilmington family in Caribbean used in Puerto Rico too

By Amy Cherry 12:59pm, April 18, 2015 - Updated 3:04pm, April 18, 2015
Steve Esmond, the father of the family sickened in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Esmond is an administrator at Tatnall School/Courtesy the Tatnall School website
A pesticide that sickened a Wilmington family on one U.S. Caribbean island has been used elsewhere as well.



The toxic chemical, methyl bromide, that sickened head of Tatnall Middle SchoolStephen Esmond and his family at a luxury resort in the Virgin Islands, has also been used improperly at various locations Puerto Rico, according to a new Environmental Protection Agency report.

The report didn't say whether those locations were residences or resorts.

The pesticide used at the Sirenusa resort on St. John came from two licensed dealers in Puerto Rico, which caused the federal government to probe whether it's being used elsewhere. The Department of Justice is also investigating the pesticide's use.

Freelance environmental journalist Sandy Bauers said the chemical is banned in many countries with some exceptions.

"Mostly that is agricultural exceptions, I believe it's used on strawberries in California. In Puerto Rico, it's used to fumigate cargo coming into the country that might contain insects," she said

She said resorts in warmer climates may use it because they have most pests than tourists want to be around.

"There is more pressure among the tourists there; we go there, and we say, 'We don't want the pests, so we're putting pressure on these places to spray, I think, in a very subtle way," she said.

Methyl bromide was banned from indoor use in 1984.

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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.


Chicago, Philadelphia Cure Violence organizers visit Wilmington

By Tom Lehman 6:12pm, April 17, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
Members of Chicago's Cure Violence program and its offshoots from Philadelphia and Camden stopped by Wilmington on Friday for training and to meet with local violence interrupters and their supervisors.

Personnel with Wilmington's Cease Violence program sat in on instructional sessions and met with Mayor Dennis Williams, who emphasized the need to have people who are not law enforcement in their communities to break up potentially dangerous situations.

The city's program, which emulates Cure Violence, often uses former inmates to enter communities and neighborhoods and diffuse conflicts before they escalate or visit victims and their families following violent incidents. The mayor's administration brought it to Wilmington last year with the hope that interrupters could help reduce the frequency of shootings and homicides.

"They have issues that you can get through and talk to them because you can identify (with them)," Williams said.

Cease Violence cost the city $225,000 in the current budget and carries the same price tag in the budget proposed for the next fiscal year.

Quinzel Tomony, a supervisor with Ceasefire Philadelphia, said using violence interrupters has led to some progress in preventing tense situations from escalating into shootings or other criminal activity.

"All we want to do is come out to the two individuals who are beefing and squash it before the guns come out," he said.

Cease Violence members said the biggest challenge they've faced since the beginning their work last August has been earning trust from the community and staying visible.

Ronald Brown, a Cease Violence supervisor, recalled the initial skepticism from residents to their blue uniforms and hats emblazoned with group's name. He said trust was built by working with community groups, churches and even approaching people on the street.

That connection with residents led to one interrupter diffusing 18 situations that had the potential to become violent, Brown said.

"If you don't come around, people will think you're phony and coming around on an 'every-now-and-then' basis," he said.

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You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


Delaware lawmakers introduce online privacy bills package

By Shana O'Malley 4:52pm, April 17, 2015
VIDEO: AG Matt Denn talks Internet privacy
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and state lawmakers have unveiled a package of bills aimed at increasing Internet privacy.

Denn outlined a bill that will crackdown on how student data is collected and used by school services.

"This Student Data Privacy Act is driven by the very valid concern of parents and students about the disclosure, and, in some cases, the marketing of information about students that is collected as part of the increasing use of technology," explained Denn.

The bill detailed explicit limitations on who would be allowed access to the data, according to Denn.

"That limitation is basically limiting it to education personnel that are using it for their jobs, and parents," he said.

Another bill would prohibit employers from asking workers to share their social media information.

"This bill is designed to draw some basic privacy lines around the ability of employers to pry into employee's social media use that was meant to be private," Denn said.

Rep. Bryon Short (D-Highland Woods) is co-sponsoring the legislation.

"I view it as almost as though, if you we're to go and apply for a job and the employer says, you know, 'I want to go and wander through your house,'" Short said.

Denn added that law enforcement applicants and those in certain financial positions would be an exception to the law.

Lawmakers are also proposing the Delaware Online Privacy and Protection Act, which would crack down on certain advertising materials that are targeted to children.

"Today, we have children and teens using social media sites and being bombarded with ads for alcohol, tobacco products, weapons and other things that are not appropriate--or even legal--for people that age," said Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth) speaker of the House.

The bill would also restrict online e-readers from sharing information about a customer's reading choices.

Lastly, lawmakers want to strengthen online confidentiality for victims of domestic violence or stalking by making it illegal to post the contact information of that person online.


Riverfront Westin recognized for green amenities

By Shana O'Malley 5:46am, April 18, 2015 - Updated 1:01pm, April 18, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Shana O'Malley reports
The Westin on the Wilmington Riverfront opened nearly a year ago and was recently certified by DNREC to become part of the state’s Green Lodging Program.

The Westin is the first new hotel in Wilmington in 30 years, and was built with green features in mind, according to manager Dan Zwirn.

Zwirn said some of the highlights include low flow faucets, LED lighting, and rooms that automatically control temperature.

"Once you check in, a signal goes to you guest room and then that turns on the HVAC in your rooms," he said. When you leave it goes down to an energy efficient level so the rooms aren't just heating or cooling all day when there's no one in the rooms."

In the kitchen, the hotel sources locally grown foods to save on transportation costs. They also compost food waste.

The hotel has a corporate-wide promotion called "Make a Green Choice," which allows guests to forgo daily cleaning services in their room, saving on things like water and cleaning supplies.

Guests who choose to be "green" receive hotel vouchers for things like food and beverages.

Don Long, Green Lodging planner for DNREC, said the state is seeing an increase in the demand for eco-friendly practices and have certified 25 other hotels in Delaware.

"I think there's a demand from the public wanting to support the environment and stay at places that also provide a service that shows that they do support the environment as well," he said.

The eco-friendly practices also save hotels money on things like trash collection and utilities.


Earth Day observed throughout the First State this weekend

By Andrew Sgroi 9:52am, April 18, 2015 - Updated 3:04pm, April 18, 2015
Courtesy: christinarivercleanup.org / Artwork: Elizabeth Schwartz
Friday in Georgetown, volunteers put rakes and spade shovels to work in order to restore the sandy trails on the grounds of the state-run Stockley Center.

Lisa Fredel, with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, told WDEL that their eco-conscious helpers aren't just responding to the unforgiving winter.

"It's part of a bigger project to expand the uses of the Stockley Center."

Fredel was referring to the November 2014 announcement of the plans to cultivate the 750 acres of land for purposes of healthier lifestyles.

Once the plans for the land are complete, Fredel noted that everyone shall stake a claim to the enjoyment of the trails.

"They're going to be accessible to people of all abilities," Fredel promised.

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Saturday brought an Earth Day Celebration to the DuPont Nature Center at the Mispillion Harbor Reserve near Slaughter Beach.

A program featuring aquatic wildlife from the Mispillion Harbor shoreline - such as horseshoe crabs and diamondback terrapins - was among the the hands-on activities the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) planned for marine-life enthusiasts.

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The 24th annual Christina River Watershed Cleanup, sponsored by DNREC, also brought volunteers Saturday to 12 sites throughout New Castle County. The scores of participants combed the banks of the Christina and its tributaries to fill trash bags with items ranging from tires and appliances to plastic and styrofoam.

Since its inception in 1992, more than 350 tons of refuse and abandonment has been collected in Churchmans Marsh, White Clay Creek State Park, the City of Wilmington, and elsewhere.

Earth Day is officially recognized on April 22.




GOP state Senator wants panel on government spending

By Frank Gerace 1:22pm, April 18, 2015 - Updated 3:04pm, April 18, 2015
A state Senate Republican introduced legislation to establish a 12-member committee whose job would be to find ways to eliminate wasteful state spending.

The bill, introduced by Colin Bonini of Dover, would set up the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) on Spending, which would be required to report its findings by June first.

Bonini cited figures from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation saying Delaware outspends most other states on a per-person basis.

He said Delaware brings in more revenue per person than most states, and since an existing DEFAC panel is looking into possibly increasing taxes, cutting spending should also be examined.

Bonini added this panel wouldn't duplicate what DEFAC's advisory council on revenue does, because that body, established by Governor Markell in January, is charged with finding new ways to bring in money.




Christine O'Donnell responds to FEC complaint

By Associated Press 1:06pm, April 18, 2015
Christine O'Donnell (WDEL/file)
Former U.S. Senate candidate and tea-party favorite Christine O'Donnell is rejecting Federal Election Commission allegations that she illegally used at least $20,000 in campaign contributions to pay rent and utility bills at a Delaware town house.

The FEC filed a complaint in January over payments at the Greenville town house that served as O'Donnell's headquarters in the 2010 Senate campaign. Authorities say O'Donnell lived upstairs in the town house for at least 10 months, which she denies.

But O'Donnell does argue that FEC regulations allow using campaign money to lease headquarters space and do not prohibit the campaign from subleasing part of the space to a candidate as a residence.

O'Donnell stunned the political establishment by defeating longtime congressman and former governor Mike Castle in the 2010 GOP primary.


Markell salutes volunteerism in his weekly address

By Mark Fowser 1:26pm, April 18, 2015
Gov. Markell volunteers with cabinet member DHSS Sec. Rita Landraf. (Photo/YouTube screenshot)
Delaware's annual Week of Service brings volunteers out in force, delivering meals to senior citizens, cleaning up parks and other public places, and helping neighbors.

In his weekly address, broadcast on WDEL, Governor Markell said such efforts help to build stronger communities, and there's no need to stop now.

"It's a chance for each of us to recommit to doing what we can, and the options are limitless," said Markell. "My staff and members of the cabinet have joined Carla and me in renovating a Boys and Girls club, participating in a Habitat for Humanity home building project, and this year, cleaning up Killen’s Pond State Park in Felton, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary."

Markell encourages Delawareans to visit Volunteer Delawareto look into ways to serve your community.

Check out video of Gov. Markell's weekly address:




Georgetown businessman promotes 'right to work' zones in GOP address

By Mark Fowser 1:26pm, April 18, 2015
Opie Lawson delivers this week's Delaware GOP Adress. (Photo/YouTube screenshot)
A Georgetown businessman gets behind a measure in the General Assembly that supporters say would grow Delaware's manufacturing sector.

Opie Lawson delivered this week's Delaware Republican Party address, broadcast on WDEL.

Lawson lost his job at the DuPont nylon plant in Seaford in 2001 and now operates First State Flag in Georgetown.

He said a right-to-work zone bill would do a lot more to add jobs.

"By offering unique incentives to manufacturers, it would turn some of our state’s shuttered or under-utilized facilities – like the Seaford plant where I once worked – into vibrant manufacturing plants once again."

Check out video of the Republican Party's Address:




New Jersey grapples with how, whether to regulate Uber, Lyft

By Associated Press 1:07pm, April 18, 2015
Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft could be driven out of New Jersey if a bill lawmakers are considering becomes law.

That's at least what the transportation network companies faced with potential new regulations say. Lawmakers and other supporters of the legislation argue the bill promotes public safety and levels the playing field.

Lawmakers across the country are beginning to turn their attention to regulating such online ride-booking firms. Already eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws addressing them. Four other states await action on measures from their governors.

In New Jersey, lawmakers and other observers are optimistic it will continue to weave its way through the Democrat-led Legislature.

Christie typically does not comment on bills before they reach his desk.


BMW recalling 91,800 Mini Coopers to fix air bag problem

By Associated Press 1:10pm, April 18, 2015
BMW is recalling 91,800 Mini Coopers to fix a defect that may prevent the air bag on the front passenger side of the cars from deploying in a crash.

The problem affects the 2005 to 2008 models of the Mini Cooper and Cooper S. BMW says the air bag may not work properly because of a flam that might prevent the vehicles' mat detection system from sensing a passenger sitting in the front seat.

BMW told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has been notified of one minor injury linked to the defect.

To repair the problem, BMW will replace the detection mat in the affected models for free. The recall will begin May 1.

Vehicle owners can get further information at 1-888-327-4236 or click here.


The globe's record heat keeps on broiling into this year

By Associated Press 1:16pm, April 18, 2015
There's been no break from the globe's record heat - the first three months of 2015 have set new high temperature marks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last month's average temperature of 56.4 degrees (13.6 degrees Celsius) was the hottest March on record, averaging 1.5 degrees above the average for the 20th century. It broke a record set in 2010.

For the first three months of 2015, the globe was 55.6 degrees (13.1 degrees Celsius), breaking the record set in 2002.

Records go back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden said 2015 probably will break 2014's hottest year mark if conditions persist. She blames a combination of El Nino, a blob of record hot water in the Northeast Pacific Ocean and human-caused climate change.


Opt-out movement accelerates amid Common Core testing

By Associated Press 1:16pm, April 18, 2015
Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance.

This opt-out movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.

Resistance could be costly: If fewer than 95 percent of a district's students participate in tests aligned with Common Core standards, federal money could be withheld, although the U.S. Department of Education said that hasn't happened.


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