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Deadly superbugs pose greater threat than previously estimated

Drug-resistant germs and related infections sicken about 3 million people and kill about 48,000 every year in the U.S., according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means, on average, someone in the U.S. gets an antibiotic-resistant infection about every 10 seconds and someone dies about every 11 minutes.

The new estimates, released Wednesday, show that previous figures missed about half of the illnesses and deaths.

The long-awaited report establishes a new national baseline of infections and deaths from bacteria and fungi that have developed the ability to defeat drugs designed to kill them. Public health officials have increasingly warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the gravest public health threats of our time.

The new numbers, though still conservative, underscore the magnitude of the problem and will help prioritize resources to address the most pressing threats, infectious disease experts said. These germs spread through people, animals and the environment.

Five germs account for the most urgent threats. Three are long-recognized dangers: Clostridioides difficile (C. diff.), drug-resistant gonorrhea and Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), also known as "nightmare bacteria" because they pose a triple threat. They are resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics; they kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them; and the bacteria can transfer their antibiotic resistance to other related bacteria.

Two new ones were added: a deadly superbug yeast that has alarmed health officials around the world and a family of bacteria that has developed resistance to nearly all antibiotics.

Prevention efforts have reduced the number of deaths in hospitals by nearly 30% from 2012 to 2017, the CDC said. But the report cites two worrisome trends: the increasing numbers of resistant infections in the community and the growing ability of drug-resistant microbes to share their dangerous resistance genes with other kinds of bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance is particularly deadly for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, and for those with weak immune systems. But these hard-to-treat infections now threaten people undergoing common modern surgeries and therapies, such as knee replacements.

Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts University Medical Center, cares for many transplant patients who are vulnerable to these infections. "But we also see people from everyday life, who are young and otherwise healthy, who get a MRSA infection on their skin," she said, referring to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which the CDC lists as a serious threat.

Overuse of antibiotics is a likely reason for the dramatic rise in resistant infections, the report said.

One of three defendants is dismissed from trial over O'Neill immigration raid

LINCOLN — One defendant was dismissed from a complex trial Wednesday over an alleged conspiracy that led to one of the state’s largest immigration raids.

John Good, an Atkinson businessman, had been accused of money laundering and two charges related to harboring illegal immigrants in connection with a staffing agency established in O’Neill to provide undocumented workers to hog confinements, a tomato greenhouse, a potato packing facility and other farm-related businesses.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed the money laundering charge against Good, ruling that federal prosecutors had failed to provide evidence of that crime. The judge ordered a mistrial on the two other charges against Good, ruling that testimony against two other defendants had made it impossible for Good to receive a fair trial.

Good, who could be retried, then walked out of the federal courtroom. He and two other O’Neill-area residents have been the subject of an eight-day trial over charges that they helped Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado and his family earn millions by providing illegal workers and running an O’Neill restaurant.

“He’s really relieved about the money laundering charge,” said Good’s attorney, Dave Domina of Omaha. That, he said, was the most serious of the three charges Good faced.

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Domina added that his client has a “really, really strong case” against the other two charges, that he harbored illegal immigrants and conspired with Sanchez-Delgado to harbor them, if federal prosecutors decide to retry him.

Mike Norris, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, said Wednesday that it would be determined later whether Good will be retried.

Good and two others were among 130 people detained following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in August of 2018 that involved 400 law enforcement officers and touched operations as far away as Las Vegas and Minnesota.

The trio were the only three to contest charges against them, leading to a complicated trial, with three defendants being tried for essentially three separate conspiracies. Jurors have been constantly warned that testimony being presented about one of the conspiracies should not be considered in judging the guilt or innocence of those involved in the other conspiracies.

The trial for the two remaining defendants, John Glidden, a manager of hog confinements, and Mayra Jimenez, a secretary at a massive tomato greenhouse in O’Neill, is expected to conclude on Friday.

Sanchez-Delgado has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his role.

Glidden is accused of lining up illegal workers and providing housing for them. During the trial, he was heard on a wiretapped phone conversation discussing how one of the workers supplied by Sanchez-Delgado had just received his paperwork to become “legal.”

Jimenez, the tomato greenhouse secretary, is charged with knowingly obtaining illegal workers for that business. Sanchez-Delgado testified that she had asked him to set up a staffing agency as a “middleman” because of a labor shortage in the area. He testified that she was translating the request from another tomato plant worker.

Domina pointed out more that once during the trial that Good had nothing to do with providing or obtaining illegal workers. The defense attorney also said that there were no bank records showing that his client profited from helping Sanchez-Delgado.

Good had sold a home to Sanchez-Delgado, financing the purchase for him and then keeping his name on the deed (rather than Sanchez-Delgado’s), according to court testimony, which prosecutors claimed helped hide the illegal status of Sanchez-Delgado. Good also obtained a liquor license for an O’Neill restaurant run by Sanchez-Delgado, who, because he was in the country illegally, could not obtain one.

Domina had said his client performed “acts of kindness” for Sanchez-Delgado but didn’t know he and his wife were in the country illegally. The entire O’Neill community, Domina maintained, considered Sanchez-Delgado and his wife legal residents. Domina filed a motion for a mistrial, or a dismissal of charges, on Wednesday, maintaining the prosecutors had failed to show that Good was part of any conspiracy.

After Judge Gerrard ordered a mistrial for Good, attorneys for Glidden and Jimenez also moved for mistrials for their clients. But the judge rejected the requests.

Photos: Those charged in alleged illegal labor scheme in O'Neill

Man who kidnapped and killed Omaha woman, 'a beloved soul,' is sentenced to life in prison

Who knows what could have happened to Jeanna Wilcoxen.

The Omaha woman had been down and out in the fall of 2018 when she had the misfortune of running into parolee Jeremiah Connelly, the man who would befriend her, then rape and kill her.

At the time, Wilcoxen was just 22. She had a 4-year-old son and parents who cared for her. She also had a crippling methamphetamine addiction.

Jeanna Wilcoxen

She never had a chance for a second chance.

Into just his third month of parole, Connelly, 40, kidnapped, raped and killed Wilcoxen and dumped her body in a ravine near Fremont. Arrested a few days later after stealing a car, Connelly told Omaha police he didn’t know why they were worried about a “petty-ass auto theft when you should be worried about someone’s life.”

In short order, Connelly confessed to the crime. Wednesday, Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman sentenced Connelly to life in prison — and added two more years for evidence tampering.

“As an exclamation point,” Stratman said.

“Deputies,” the judge blurted, “get him out of here.”

Before she sent him off, Stratman noted all of Connelly’s twisted explanations for why he had befriended Wilcoxen. As he awaited trial, Connelly said he had set out to save Wilcoxen from an abusive relationship with an older man. He later said she had wanted to kill herself so he did the job for her.

Wednesday, given the chance to comment, he said nothing.

“You, Jeremiah Connelly, have no soul,” Stratman said, eyeballing him. “Jeanna Wilcoxen was a beloved soul who had a son and was working to become the mother she knew she could be.”

“You have forever prevented her from getting back to being a mom.”

Wilcoxen’s family did not attend Wednesday’s sentencing. Her father, William Way, attended Connelly’s first appearance in court last year and began trembling at the sight of Connelly. “I hate him,” Way uttered.

He then rushed out of the courthouse, never to return, as prosecutors described Connelly’s depraved acts:

After Wilcoxen refused his advances, Connelly lay in wait near Christie Heights Park.

She swung on the swings. He pounced. They wrestled in the sand beneath the swings as he taped her feet and hands and mouth. He then threw her over his shoulder and put her in the back of the van. He drove to near 50th and U Streets, where he wrapped her entire head in duct tape, raped her in the back of the van and strangled her.

He then drove to Fremont and dumped her body.

Stratman noted that Wilcoxen’s brother is raising her now-5-year-old son, Jace. Jace will never be able to feel the comfort of having his mom tuck him in at night, the judge said.

“Now, (Wilcoxen’s brother) has to raise him knowing that one day this little boy is going to have to learn the horrific way his mother died,” Stratman said.

And, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said, the needless way in which her killer was allowed to go free.

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While Wilcoxen never got a second chance, Connelly made the worst of his.

The Nebraska Parole Board had taken a chance on Connelly — paroling him in June 2018 despite the fact that he had not completed a violence reduction program the Parole Board had wanted him to take.

They released Connelly despite the fact that the Parole Board chairwoman had deemed him not a good candidate for parole. And they did so despite his previous crime: He tried to lure a female jogger into a car 15 years ago.

Within three months of his parole, Connelly had dropped out of mechanics courses and was roaming the streets, often sleeping under bridges.

In mid-September 2018, Connelly had spotted Wilcoxen at Christie Heights Park near 36th and Q Streets, where she used to go to swing on the swingsets while she waited for her laundry.

Wilcoxen told him she was living with an older man in a nearby apartment. Connelly told police that he had set out to save her from what he called an abusive situation. He made plans for them to live together. She declined. He killed her.

Kleine called Connelly the “ultimate predator,” the reason why life sentences exist.

Stratman called him depraved.

“Your twisted way of justifying your acts is nothing short of pathetic and terrifying at the same time,” Stratman said. “Thankfully for society, for this community, you will never be free again.”

Notable crime news of 2019

Trump call with envoy may further tie president to pressure on Ukraine; GOP unmoved by 'star witness'

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top American diplomat revealed new evidence Wednesday of President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate political rivals.

The testimony came as House investigators launched public impeachment hearings for just the fourth time in the nation's history.

WilliamTaylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said for the first time that Trump was overheard asking another ambassador about "the investigations" he had urged Ukraine's leader to conduct one day earlier. Taylor said he learned of Trump's phone call with the ambassador only in recent days.

It was all part of what Taylor called the "irregular channel" — a shadow foreign policy orchestrated by the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, outside traditional oversight — that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles.

Republicans retorted that the Democrats still have no more than second and third-hand knowledge of allegations that Trump held up millions of dollars in military aid for the Eastern European nation facing Russian aggression in return for Ukrainian investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

'OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS GOING ON' Midlands lawmakers say they were too busy to catch much of the hearing.

The hearing, the first on television for the nation to see, provided hours of partisan backand-forth but so far no singular moment etched in the public consciousness as grounds for removing the 45th president from office. Trump, who was meeting at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he was "too busy" to watch.

The long day of testimony unfolded partly the way Democrats leading the inquiry wanted: in the somber tones of two career foreign service officers who described confusion both within the U.S. government and in Ukraine about what Trump wanted from Kyiv. Taylor testified alongside George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

Taylor said a member of his staff recently told him that he overheard Trump's phone call with another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump's July 25 phone call with the new leader of Ukraine that sparked the impeachment investigation. The staffer explained that Sondland had called the president and that Trump could be heard asking about "the investigations." Sondland told the president that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.

Trump, when asked later Wednesday about Taylor's testimony about the July 26 Trump-Sondland phone call, said: "I know nothing about that — first time I've heard it."

Democrats said Trump was engaged in "bribery" and "extortion" in an effort to use foreign policy for personal political gain. Republicans said nothing really happened — the military aid Trump withheld from Ukraine while he pushed for the investigations was ultimately released.

GOP lawmakers demanded anew that they hear in closed session from the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's leader led to the inquiry. Democrats said the person's identity must be protected but also agreed to consider the request.

Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in — or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out. The country has been here only three times before, but the proceedings were landing on a jaded and weary public, with little certainty they would change minds.

A vote to impeach could come before year-end in the Democratic House. Even if approved, however, conviction in the Republican Senate is considered highly unlikely.

At the start of Wednesday's session, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, outlined the question at the core of the impeachment inquiry — whether the president abused his office for political gain. "The matter is as simple and as terrible as that," said Schiff of California.

Wednesday's witnesses defied White House instructions not to appear. Both Taylor and Kent received subpoenas. Both also had told their stories before. They are among a dozen current and former officials who testified behind closed doors.

Wednesday signaled the start of at least two weeks of public hearings. Next up will be former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May on Trump's orders. She will testify Friday.

A key Trump ally on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats' "star witness" and said he'd "seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this."

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said Trump had a "perfectly good reason" for wanting to investigate the role of Democrats in 2016 election interference, alluding to a false theory that blames Ukraine, and not Russia, for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Nunes accused the Democratic majority of conducting a "scorched earth" effort to take down the president after the special counsel's Russia investigation into the 2016 election failed to spark impeachment proceedings.

"We're supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out new allegations?" said Nunes.

Both Taylor and Kent delivered history lessons about Ukraine, a young and hopeful democracy, situated next to Russia but reaching out to the West.

Asked about a text message released earlier in the probe in which Taylor called it "crazy" to withhold the security aid to a foreign ally, he said, "It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy."

Kent, in his opening remarks, directly contradicted a core complaint against Joe Biden being raised by allies of the White House, saying he never heard any U.S. official try to shield a Ukrainian company from investigations.

The Constitution sets a dramatic but vague bar for impeachment, and there's no consensus yet that Trump's actions at the heart of the inquiry meet the threshold of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Unimpeachably cute therapy dogs visit Hill

WASHINGTON — Tensions were high on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Therapy dogs were there to help.

Not to help William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, or George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, the first witnesses in the first open hearing of the impeachment inquiry, though they could surely have used it.

Instead, teams of therapy pooches were camped out in House and Senate office buildings, offering their services to stressed-out Hill staffers. The dogs are all registered by the therapy animal organization Pet Partners, which sponsored the event along with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

Officially, the dogs' presence had nothing to do with impeachment. The animals' mission is to "offer congressional staff a break from the stress of wrapping up an exceptionally busy year," organizers said in a statement. "Who better to bring comfort and relief to the hard-working folks on Capitol Hill than a furry group of loving, intuitive and bipartisan Pet Partners therapy animals?"— The Washington Post