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Bill supporting development of nuclear energy powers to pass in Kentucky Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to lay the foundation to attract nuclear energy projects to a state where coal has dominated and fueled the economy for generations.

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll said Kentucky should embrace a cross-section of sources — including coal, natural gas and renewable energy — to meet its energy needs, but stressed that his legislation would prepare the Bluegrass State for what he sees as the inevitable surge of nuclear energy.

“I believe that Kentucky needs to continue forward with an all-of-the-above approach,” he said. “However, I also firmly believe that nuclear is the future of this commonwealth. And it’s imperative that this commonwealth stay in the forefront and not get left behind.”

His measure passed the Senate on a 34-0 vote, with coalfield senators joining in support. The bill heads to the House next. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers. By the same tally, the Senate adopted a related resolution directing the state Public Service Commission to prepare for nuclear energy.

To develop that foundation, Senate Bill 198 would establish the Kentucky Nuclear Energy Development Authority. It would be attached to the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research and would be governed by an advisory board with members representing various stakeholder groups.

The authority would be a nonregulatory agency on issues related to nuclear energy and its development in Kentucky. It also would support development of a “nuclear energy ecosystem” meant to enhance the economy, protect the environment, support community voices and prepare the future workforce.

The bill would set in motion a site suitability study to identify the best potential locations for nuclear reactors and related facilities. The authority would set criteria for voluntary designations as a “nuclear-ready community.” Such a designation would signal to the nuclear industry that “these communities are open to nuclear –- whether it be a reactor, whether it be related industry,” Carroll said.

The accompanying resolution would require the Public Service Commission to review “every aspect of what they do to make sure that when that first licensure request comes, that they’re not scrambling for six months to a year trying to figure out how to handle that particular situation,” Carroll said.

The package of nuclear legislation sailed through the Senate with little discussion. It resulted from legislative action last year that created the Nuclear Energy Working Group.

Democratic Sen. Robin Webb on Monday pointed to her ties to coal and how times have changed. She described herself as “a former coal miner who never thought she’d be on a nuclear task force.” Webb also said the state needs to embrace a diversified energy portfolio for years to come.

Carroll has spent years advocating for an acceptance of nuclear energy, but said Monday that his legislation wasn’t meant to minimize other energy sources, including coal.

“I don’t want anyone to be misled or to think that this bill is in any way being critical of coal, natural gas, any of the renewables, any other source of energy that we utilize at this point,” he said.

Kentucky’s coal industry has declined drastically over the the last two decades, with the state producing about a quarter of the coal it mined 20 years ago.

But the state still generates about 68% of its electricity from coal, though that number has declined from about 90% historically as the power generating industry closed coal plants and switched to generators powered by cheaper natural gas.

Nuclear energy is new territory for Kentucky, but some of its neighbors like Illinois and Tennessee have had reactors for decades. Tennessee’s two nuclear reactors provided about 45% of the state’s electricity generation in 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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Lovan reported from Louisville, Kentucky.


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US Rep. Andy Kim sues over what he calls New Jersey’s ‘cynically manipulated’ ballot system

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s primary ballot design unconstitutionally favors candidates who have the support of political party leaders and should be scrapped, U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, who’s locked in a primary contest for U.S. Senate against the state’s first lady Tammy Murphy, said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit seeks to upend New Jersey’s unique primary ballot system in which candidates backed by political party leaders appear grouped together on the ballot, with challengers in separate columns, and takes aim at a system widely considered to be a crucial advantage in primary contests.

It comes as Kim and Murphy are facing off in a primary to succeed Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who faces federal corruption charges and hasn’t announced his plans on reelection. Murphy, whose spouse is Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, won the backing of county party leaders in the state’s biggest counties soon after she announced her candidacy. She has said she worked for those endorsements herself and didn’t seek her husband’s support.

Kim’s suit against county clerks who design the ballots seeks to implement the kind of ballot that much of the rest of the country uses, listing all candidates next to the office they’re seeking.

“When the choices of primary voters, who by law are the sole judges to determine a party’s nominee for the general election, are cynically manipulated by the Defendants, the result is anathema to fair elections,” the lawsuit says.

The issue has increasingly become a flashpoint, particularly among progressives, who have advocated for abolishing the so-called county line system.

Murphy spokesperson Alexandra Altman criticized Kim and called the lawsuit a “hypocritical stunt” aimed at furthering his career.

“Andy Kim doesn’t have a problem with the county line system, he has a problem with the idea of losing county lines — as he is perfectly happy to participate in the process when he wins,” Altman said in a text message.

A message seeking comment was left with the organization that represents county clerks.


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Eagles’ Don Henley quizzed at lyrics trial about time a naked 16-year-old girl overdosed at his home

NEW YORK (AP) — Don Henley was confronted in a New York courtroom Monday about a seamy episode from his past: his 1980 arrest after authorities said they found drugs and a naked 16-year-old girl suffering from an overdose at the Eagles co-founder’s Los Angeles home.

Henley was testifying at an unrelated criminal trial, where three collectibles dealers are charged with conspiring to own and attempt to sell handwritten draft lyrics to “Hotel California” and other Eagles hits without the right to do so. The men have pleaded not guilty.

A prosecutor asked about the singer and drummer’s November 1980 arrest early on, apparently to get ahead of defense lawyers. They previously indicated that they planned to question the 76-year-old about his memory of the era and his lifestyle at the time.

The arrest was briefly reported on at the time, and it gained only a passing mention during the recent #MeToo movement, when many such incidents involving public figures were reexamined.

On Monday, Henley told the court that he called for a sex worker that night because he “wanted to escape the depression I was in” over the breakup of the superstar band.

“I wanted to forget about everything that was happening with the band, and I made a poor decision which I regret to this day. I’ve had to live with it for 44 years. I’m still living with it today, in this courtroom. Poor decision,” Henley testified in a raspy drawl.

As he did in a 1991 interview with GQ magazine, Henley testified that he didn’t know the girl’s age until after his arrest and that he went to bed with the girl, but never had sex with her.

“I don’t remember the anatomical details, but I know there was no sex,” said Henley, who said they’d done cocaine together and talked for many hours about his band’s breakup and her estrangement from her family.

He said he called firefighters, who checked the girl’s health, found her to be OK and left, with him promising to take care of her. The paramedics, who found her in the nude, called police, authorities said at the time.

Henley said Monday that she recovered and was preparing to leave with a friend she’d had him call, when police arrived hours later.

At the time, authorities said they found cocaine, quaaludes and marijuana at his Los Angeles home.

Henley pleaded no contest in 1981 to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was sentenced to probation and a $2,500 fine, and he requested a drug education program to get some possession charges dismissed.

Henley was asked about the incident on Monday before he gave the court his version of how handwritten pages from the development of the band’s blockbuster 1976 album made their way from his Southern California barn to New York auctions decades later.


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A New York City medical school goes tuition-free thanks to a $1 billion gift

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City medical school will be tuition-free for all students from now on thanks to a $1 billion donation from a former professor, the widow of a Wall Street investor.

Ruth Gottesman announced the gift and its purpose to students and faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Monday, bringing some in the audience to tears and others to their feet, cheering. Gottesman, 93, has been affiliated with the college for 55 years and is the chairperson of its board of trustees.

The gift is intended to attract a diverse pool of applicants who otherwise might not have the means to attend. It will also let students graduate without debt that can take decades to repay, college administrators said. Tuition at Einstein is $59,458 per year. The average medical school debt in the U.S. is $202,453, excluding undergraduate debt, according to the Education Data Initiative.

“Each year, well over 100 students enter Albert Einstein College of Medicine in their quest for degrees in medicine and science,” Gottesman said. “They leave as superbly trained scientists and compassionate and knowledgeable physicians, with the expertise to find new ways to prevent diseases and provide the finest health care.”

Gottesman credited her late husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman for leaving her with the financial means to make such a donation. David Gottesman built the Wall Street investment house, First Manhattan, and was on the board of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. He died in 2022 at age 96.

“l feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause,” Ruth Gottesman said.

The gift is believed to be the largest made to any medical school in the country, according to Montefiore Einstein, the umbrella organization for Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System.

“I believe we can change healthcare history when we recognize that access is the path to excellence,” said Dr. Philip Ozuah, president and chief executive of Montefiore Einstein.

Gottesman joined Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center in 1968 and developed screening and treatments for learning problems. She started the first-of-its-kind Adult Literacy Program at the center in 1992, and in 1998 was named the founding director of the Emily Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities at CERC. She is clinical professor emerita of pediatrics at Einstein.

Through their foundation, the Gottesman Fund, the family has supported charities in Israel and within the U.S. Jewish community, especially through gifts to schools, universities and New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.

Einstein becomes the second tuition-free medical school in New York. In 2018, New York University School of Medicine announced that it would cover the tuition of all its students.


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Man who fatally shot 2 teens in a California movie theater is sentenced to life without parole

A man convicted of fatally shooting two teenagers at a Southern California movie theater during a 2021 showing of “The Forever Purge” was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Joseph Jimenez Jr., 23, was found guilty in December of two counts of first-degree murder, as well as a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a firearm causing death.

Prosecutors said he shot Rylee Goodrich, 18, and Anthony Barajas, 19, in the back of the head as they watched a late-night showing of the horror-action film at a theater in Corona, southeast of Los Angeles, on July 26, 2021. They were the only other people in the theater.

Goodrich died at the scene. Barajas, a budding social media star, died at a hospital.

Jimenez initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was ruled sane in December by Superior Court Judge Timothy J. Hollenhorst.

In a jailhouse interview with the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Jimenez said that he had been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia but that shortly before the shooting he had stopped taking his medication because he ran out of pills.

Jimenez told the newspaper that the only way he could save himself from the victims was to shoot them.


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Central US seeing wild weather, with heat wave then deep freeze

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – Some U.S. residents will be going from wearing Bermuda shorts to snow pants in less than 24 hours, forecasters said on Monday, as a heat wave in the central plains and South gives way to weather more typical for this time of year.

Temperatures on Monday in states like Nebraska and Iowa were seeing in the mid-70s Fahrenheit (low 20s Celsius), some 40 degrees F (22 degrees C) above averages for this time of year, while cities in the South, such as Dallas, Texas, sizzled in the mid-90s F (mid-30s C).

This week’s heat wave follows other unusual weather across the U.S. this winter – from “atmospheric river” rains in California that dumped a year’s worth of rain in a matter of hours, to historic low levels of ice cover atop the Great Lakes.

Forecasters said it was hard to pinpoint any single weather pattern to human-induced climate change, but extreme weather is becoming more frequent because of it. Scientists say the prevailing El Nino weather pattern is also contributing to the unusual weather.

Joe Wegman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said an unusual culprit is contributing to this week’s heat wave.

“Most of the eastern two-thirds of the country has had a relatively snow-less winter, so the ground is bare and dry,” Wegman said. “So we’re getting much warmer temperatures just due to solar radiation.”

That solar radiation is combining with warmer winds surging up from the Gulf of Mexico to push several locations to potential record high temperatures. Wegman said the heat wave will move quickly eastward across the U.S. and blow out to the Atlantic by Thursday.

Some spots seeing unusually warm weather on Monday will get slammed by a cold front on Tuesday, Wegman said. He pointed to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Monday’s high was to be 55 F, followed by Tuesday highs of 9 F with a wind chill of -20 F (-29 C).

Meanwhile, scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes environmental research laboratory said ice cover on the lakes was at historic lows. Coverage ranged from 0% on Lake Erie to 10% on Lake Huron, according to the lab’s data.

Peak ice season for the Great Lakes happens in early March – so some recovery is still possible.

Ice is a vital part of the Great Lakes’ ecosystem. It provides a buffer against shoreline erosion due to the large waves common in winter, and protection for eggs laid by several fish species.

Ice cover on the Great Lakes has been decreasing by 5% per decade because of warmer weather, the laboratory said in a report last week, for a 25% reduction from 1973 to 2023.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado, and Jonathan Allen in New York City; editing by Donna Bryson and David Gregorio)


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DEA issues letter to e-commerce companies over illegal pill-making machines

(Reuters) – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a letter on Monday to e-commerce companies regarding the pill presses that are being used to make fentanyl pills.

The DEA has found pill presses, punches and other substances that can be used to make fake pills containing fentanyl are being offered for sale on various platforms.

In 2023, the DEA seized over 79 million fake pills containing fentanyl – a more than 33% increase from the year before.

The DEA’s laboratory testing currently indicates that seven out of ten pills contain a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl.

“E-commerce platforms cannot turn a blind eye to the fentanyl crisis and to the sale of pill presses on their platforms. They must do their part to protect the public, and when they do not, DEA will hold them accountable,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

Drug traffickers are using tableting and encapsulating machines – commonly referred to as pill presses – to press fentanyl into pills, and are imprinting marks and logos to make them look like legitimate prescription pills, the DEA said in the letter.

The pills contain fentanyl and other deadly drugs and are sold on social media, often to people who do not know that the pills are not real or that they contain deadly drugs, the federal agency said.

Last month, e-commerce platform eBay Inc agreed to pay $59 million and to enhance its compliance program to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in connection with thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines that were sold through its website.

As regulated entities under the CSA, e-commerce platforms are generally required to comply with recordkeeping, identification, and reporting requirements on the distribution, importation, and exportation of pill press machines.

(Reporting by Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)


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Barrage of gunfire as officers confront Houston megachurch shooter, released body cam footage shows

HOUSTON (AP) — Body camera footage released by Houston police on Monday showed off-duty police officers with weapons drawn as they confronted a woman who opened fire at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch earlier this month before she was gunned down.

The footage also showed blurred images of the shooter’s young son, who was brought to the church by his mother, and was injured in the gunfire. Officers could be heard urgently asking for medical help for the boy.

Houston police released footage from two of its officers who were working security at Lakewood Church as well as video from a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy. It showed officers crouching with handguns out amid the sounds of repeated, loud gunshots.

Footage from one body camera showed people chatting before suddenly jolting at the sound of the first gunshot. Confused, some began running and then rapid gunfire ensued. Bystanders could be seen taking cover in rooms and hallways as officers ran toward the sound of shots being fired.

Police say Genesse Moreno, 36, entered the church on Feb. 11 between Sunday services with her 7-year-old son and began firing an AR-style rifle. Moreno did not reach the main sanctuary and was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including Moreno’s young son. He was shot in the head and remains hospitalized.

Security camera video from Lakewood, also released Monday by police, showed Moreno arriving at the church in a white SUV and taking her son, Samuel, out of the back seat and walking toward the building. The woman was wearing a black shirt, striped pants, boots, and a loose-fitting tan-colored trench coat.

In the video footage, gunshots could be heard ringing throughout the church building as officers closed in on the source of the shooting.

“Put the weapon down, now,” an officer can be heard shouting before firing his weapon. Another officer cautioned, “she may have a bomb.”

Additional security video from the church, which didn’t have sound, showed the boy covering his ears after his mother walked off screen. She then came near him and he reached his arms out to her. She then walked off screen again. The boy appeared to be in a recessed doorway.

In the footage, Moreno could be heard saying, “you killed my son.” She later said, “Stand down, I have a bomb. I have a (expletive) bomb.” Gunfire could be heard as she talked.

Images of the child, seen wearing orange pants and a yellow shirt, were blurred after he was wounded in the shooting. Paramedics were summoned by multiple officers, who requested help after seeing the young boy laying face-up on the carpeted hallway.

“We have a kid that’s down, about three bullets to his head” one officer reported over his radio.

Houston police have not said who fired the shots that wounded the boy.

Later, an officer reported over the radio, “Shooter is down. Looks like she’s got something strapped to her chest.” Another officer requested the bomb squad. Although a blue backpack could be seen near her side as she was down, authorities later said no explosives were found.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the footage “may be unsettling to members of the community.”

“While we know there are unanswered questions, this is still an active investigation,” Finner said. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to thoroughly examine all aspects of this incident.”

Police have told reporters that investigators were still trying to determine Moreno’s motive and learn more about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used.

In posts on Facebook from last week, Walli Carranza, the boy’s grandmother, said that her grandson, Samuel, was breathing well on his own after doctors had removed a breathing tube. Carranza said Samuel has had six surgeries.

“Will he be able to have any semblance of a normal life? I have no idea,” Carranza wrote in a post on Saturday.

On Sunday, Carranza said Samuel had looked up at her and smiled.


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A smuggling arrest is made, 2 years after family froze to death on the Canadian border

A man accused of recruiting the driver in a human smuggling operation has been arrested, more than two years after a family of four from India froze to death trying to enter the U.S. from Canada, authorities said.

Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel, 28, was arrested Wednesday in Chicago on human smuggling charges stemming from a warrant issued in September.

Patel allegedly hired Steve Shand of Deltona, Florida, to drive migrants from the Canadian border to the Chicago area. Shand, who allegedly told authorities Patel paid him a total of $25,000 to make five such trips in December 2021 and January 2022, has pleaded not guilty to human smuggling charges and awaits trial on March 25.

Patel’s attorney, Michael Leonard, said Monday that so far he’s been told very little about the allegations.

“Based upon the fact that, at this point, we have been provided with nothing more than accusations in the form of a Criminal Complaint that recites hearsay statements, we are not in a position to legitimately evaluate the Government’s allegations,” Leonard said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Shand was at the wheel of a 15-passenger van stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol in North Dakota, just south of the Canadian border, on Jan. 19, 2022. Authorities spotted five other people in the snow nearby. All Indian nationals, they told officers they’d been walking for more than 11 hours in frigid blizzard conditions, a complaint in Shand’s case said.

One of the men was carrying a backpack that had supplies for a small child in it, and told officers it belonged to a family who had become separated from the group overnight. Canadian Mounties began a search and found three bodies together — a man, a woman and a young child — just 33 feet (10 meters) from the border near Emerson, Manitoba, which is on the Red River that separates North Dakota from Minnesota. A second child was found a short distance away. All apparently died from exposure.

The migrant with the backpack told authorities he had paid the equivalent of $87,000 in U.S. money to an organization in India to set up the move, according to a federal complaint from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Federal prosecutors believe Harshkumar Patel who organized the smuggling operation. The victims were identified as Jagdish and Vaishaliben Patel and their children, 11-year-old Vihangi and 3-year-old Dharmik.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the family was related to Harshkumar Patel, a common name in India.

Federal authorities believe Patel himself entered the U.S. illegally in 2018 after he had been refused a U.S. visa at least five times, the complaint said. Shand told investigators that Patel operates a gambling business in Orange City, Florida, and that he knew him because he gambled there and operated a taxi business that took people there.

The complaint cited cellphone records indicating hundreds of communications between Shand and Patel to work out logistics for illegal trafficking. One text message from Shand to Patel on Jan. 19, 2022, stated, “Make sure everyone is dressed for blizzard conditions please.”


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West Virginia medical professionals condemn bill that prohibits care to at-risk transgender youth

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Nearly 400 medical professionals in West Virginia have signed onto a letter condemning a bill advancing in the state House of Delegates that would bar transgender youth at risk for suicide from accessing medical interventions like hormone therapy.

Advanced to the full chamber by a House committee on Friday, the proposal would completely ban minors’ access to hormone therapy and puberty blockers, removing a narrow exemption passed by lawmakers last year that allows kids at risk for self-harm and suicide to receive care.

Signers of the letter published Monday by the state’s only LGBTQ advocacy organization, Fairness West Virginia, include doctors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and medical students.

“As clinicians, we want to be able to provide best practices in care and follow the guidelines of our ethical principles,” West Virginia Psychological Association President Dr. Chava Urecki said in a Monday interview. “The important thing is ‘Do No Harm,’ so we as a society and a discipline do need to protect the most vulnerable by allowing gender-affirming care and giving them the services that they deserve and need.”

She said clients in the state have told providers that the proposal makes them feel “unsafe, unsupported and violates their right to privacy,” adding that she fears it will lead to an increase in hospitalizations.

“It can be really scary when patients don’t necessarily feel like their voices are being heard, that their rights matter,” Urecki said.

Fairness West Virginia Communications Director Jack Jarvis said the organization planned to present the letter to delegates at the state Capitol in Charleston on Tuesday, the day before the bill is scheduled to be up for a vote.

The swell of support the letter has received from medical professionals in the 72 hours since the bill was approved by the House Health and Human Resources Committee is telling, he said.

“Frankly, I’ve never seen this level of support come together so quickly,” Jarvis said. “Healthcare providers all across our state realize just how dangerous this bill is — they understand the stakes.”

Up to 2% of adolescents in the United States identify as transgender, and in any given year a third of them may attempt suicide, the letter states. Research shows that transgender youth who access gender-affirming hormone therapy have 73% lower odds of considering suicide, it says.

“In many cases, this care can be life-saving,” the letter reads.

At least 23 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states face lawsuits. Lawmakers in West Virginia and other states advancing bans on transgender health care for youth and young adults often characterize gender-affirming treatments as medically unproven, potentially dangerous and a symptom of “woke” culture.

Every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association, supports gender-affirming care for youths.

After the bill passed the committee on Friday, Lead Sponsor Republican Del. Geoff Foster said the law would be better, “more clear and concise” without the exemption, saying what will help reduce suicide rates is treatment for depression.

He may not believe in people receiving hormone therapy or puberty blockers, he said, but those 18 and older can make their own decisions, not kids.

Fairness West Virginia Gender Policy Manager Isabella Cortez, who is transgender, said it doesn’t feel that way to her: “They don’t want trans people to exist, kids or adults. Their goal is to get rid of us entirely.”

Jarvis said that last year’s bill has already forced dozens of families with the resources to move out of state to leave West Virginia. He said he knows others who have been denied access because the exemption in existing law is already so narrow. The 2023 law requires parental consent and a diagnosis of severe gender dysphoria from two medical professionals, both of whom must provide written testimony that medical interventions are necessary to prevent or limit possible or actual self-harm.

It’s unclear what the chances of passage are for the bill. The House of Delegates passed a similar measure last year, but it was significantly altered by Republican Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, a physician who expressed concern about the high suicide rate for transgender youth.

Takubo, a physician, cited more than a dozen peer-reviewed studies showing a decrease in rates of suicide ideation and attempts among youth with severe gender dysphoria who had access to medication therapy.

Gender dysphoria is defined by medical professionals as severe psychological distress experienced by those whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth.

Urecki, who is based in Charleston, said she’s proud of the hundreds of medical professionals who have put their names down in support of transgender youth in West Virginia.

“It’s really telling that these health professionals from all different disciplines are all standing up and saying that gender-affirming care is essential for our patients, she said. “Whether you live in West Virginia or not, these are rights that need to be protected.”


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