The Daily Moth 12-20-17

December 21, 2017



Republicans Pass Tax Bill; 8 Americans Killed in Tour Bus Crash in Mexico; Disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law Passes Away at 86; Police Officer Dragged by Speeding Vehicle, Suspect Charged with Attempted Murder; Updates on Virginia Pit Bull Mauling Death; Deaf Malaysian Man Accused of Murdering Four People; Interview with Deaf Student Astronaut Julia Velasquez




Hello, welcome to the Daily Moth! It is Wednesday, December 20. Ready for news? 




This early morning Senate Republicans passed their $1.5 trillion tax bill. The House passed it earlier, but there were some small things in it that violated Senate rules, so they voted on it again and passed it. 


All in all, Republican lawmakers and President Trump have successfully achieved their goal of tax reform, showing they could work together in unity. Many had questioned them after they failed to repeal and replace Obamacare. But Republicans have answered that with a 7-week turnaround from bill introduction to it passing. 


President Trump hosted an event at the White House with Republican lawmakers to celebrate it. He will sign the bill, named the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” this week. 


Sen. Majority Leader McConnell said America is ready to take off after 8 straight years of slow growth and underperformance.


There was a lot of opposition, though. As Republicans debated the bill in Congress, there were protesters who shouted, “Kill the bill. Don’t kill us.” 


No Democrat lawmakers supported the bill. 


House Minority Leader Pelosi (D, Calif) said this is the worst bill to ever come on the floor of the House. Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) said this bill is unfair to the middle class and threatens Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 


But Republicans have consistently said those tax cuts will help the U.S. economy to rise with Americans seeing more money in their paychecks. 


An analysis by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation said every income group would get a tax cut next year, but over the next few years, people with lower incomes would see their taxes go up. By 2027, all who make less than $75,000 will have tax increases. 


Another analysis by the neutral Tax Policy Center estimated 80% of taxpayers would see a tax cut in 2018 with many low-income households seeing very little changes. But in 2027, those tax breaks will expire, so more than half of Americans will see tax increases. Republicans say Congress will extend those tax breaks. 


The biggest benefits fo this tax bill is businesses and corporations, as they will have their tax rate reduced to 21% from the current 35% tax, and pass-through businesses (those who have their personal income from their businesses) will have a 20% deduction in their taxes. 


The individual mandate for Obamacare will be repealed next year, which will cause 13 million more to be without insurance in 10 years and Obamacare rates to go up. 


This tax bill will not affect 2017 taxes, it goes into effect for 2018 taxes.




In Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, there was a terrible bus accident with 31 people on it, most of them tourists from two cruise ships that had departed from South Florida. 


At least 12 people died. 8 of them were Americans. 2 were from Sweden. At least 1 was from Canada. 


One of those who died was a girl under 18. 


More than 10 people were injured, including people from Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and Sweden. 


The bus was on its way to an ancient Mayan site in Chacchoben when somehow it lost control and flipped on its side. Pictures and video of the scene show the bus on its side, into trees off a narrow two-lane road.


Witnesses said they saw swerve marks on the road, that the bus was in bad shape, and that its front windshield was out — that people had fallen through it. 


The U.S. State Department confirmed that several U.S. citizens died and others were injured.


Most of the passengers came from two different Royal Caribbean Cruises who were on a 7-night cruise tour, departing Tuesday night. The cruise company had a contract with the tour bus. Terrible incident.




Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law, who is infamous for resigning from his role as the archbishop of Boston during the priest sexual abuse scandal in 2002, has died at age 86 in Rome, Italy. 


He went to Harvard, then studied in a seminary, was ordained in 1961 as a priest in Mississippi, was active in supporting civil rights and against segregation, advanced in his career, and became archbishop of Boston in 1984.


Law was accused of ignoring complaints that a priest under his diocese, John Geoghan, had sexually abused children (130 boys over 30 years) — and instead of informing police or discipling him — Law moved him to other parishes. 


After journalists exposed this in the Boston Globe newspaper, there were hundreds more people who said they were also molested in the Boston area. It had a huge impact — 25 priests were removed with many more investigated. 


This story was made into a movie “Spotlight.” 


Law himself was not accused of molestation, but is “responsible” for allowing accused priests to continue to have contact with children, for protecting the priests and the image of the church over the needs of the victims, possibly 1,000 children who were abused by 250 priests in the Boston area alone. 


But in 2004, he was appointed as the “high priest” of one of Rome’s churches by Pope John Paul II and still had powers as Cardinal. He’s been in Rome ever since, and now has passed away, and will have a funeral in the Vatican.




In Pembroke Pines, Florida — a police officer, Jon Cusack, was informed about a car parked with a person possibly overdosed inside. 


When he approached the car, the person inside of the car woke up and started to drive away at the same time the officer tried to open his door — dragging the officer for a half-mile at speeds up to 60 mph. It was all caught on tape on the officer’s body cam footage. Check this out. 


[Video clip]


The officer had let go and rolled off the side of the road, getting road rash injuries. His boots’ soles were completely burned off. He was helped by other officers and taken to the hospital and will recover. 


The driver, Thomas Cabrera, didn’t stop when the officer let go. He led a car chase with speeds over 100 mph and used heroin while driving, and was finally stopped and arrested, all of it filmed by local news. 


He is now charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.


Police Chase from CBS Miami:




Here are updates with the Virginia woman, Bethany Stephens, who police say died after she was mauled by her two pet pit bulls:


The Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew did another press conference on Monday in which he said there were many rumors and misinformation on whether the dogs actually did this or not. 


He shared more details to try and convince doubters that the dogs did this. He said he held back details from last week’s press conference because it was gruesome, but because of the controversy, he asked Bethany’s family for permission to share more details. 


— Bethany took the dogs from her father’s home on Wednesday afternoon. A neighbor said she heard screams around 4 pm, but didn’t report it. Bethany didn’t come back home that night — her father thought she was with her three friends. The next day (Thursday), the three friends showed up at the father’s door and said they couldn’t reach Bethany. So they went into the woods and that’s when they found her. 


— The sheriff said when he and four other officers went to the scene on Thursday evening and saw the woman’s body and the two dogs guarding it, they discussed on how to catch the dogs. During this, they saw one of the dogs walking to the body and eating the woman’s rib cage. 


— The dogs were able to be captured when a friend of Bethany came to see the dogs. Both of the dogs have been euthanized with Bethany’s family’s permission. The sheriff said their bodies are frozen to preserve evidence. One of the dogs had blood on its neck and collar. One of the dogs’ excrement had fibers in it. The dogs will have toxicology tests. 


— The sheriff said Bethany’s body was seriously injured, that her body was so damaged that there was “nowhere” to compare the bite marks with the dogs’ mouths. Bethany’s cellphone was broken in half with bite marks on it. 


— The sheriff said there was no evidence of a larger animal in the area, such as a bear, wolf, or coyote. Bethany’s injuries also matched with bites by a dog (smaller teeth marks, no holes in her skull that would have come from a bigger animal. 


— The sheriff said Bethany’s body didn’t show signs of domestic violence (bleeding inside of the throat that would have been caused by choking, no broken bones, no signs of sexual assault). The medical examiner said Bethany was on her period when she died and had a tampon. 


— The sheriff said he had stated wrong facts last week — that the dogs were bred for fighting (he said he got this information from Bethanys’ friend) — and that they weighed 125 pounds each, which was an overestimation. 


— The sheriff said they got tips that Bethany had received threats from a person before her death and investigated it, but that the locations and timelines of the person who threatened her didn’t match with the scene, but that they were still following up and doing forensic tests. 


— Local news reporters were shown images of the scene that was not shown to the public. The images showed Bethany’s clothes completely ripped off and wearing only one boot. 


— Another officer explained a possible reason why the dogs became aggressive: he said the dogs, while they were raised as indoor animals by Bethany for most of their lives, was moved to Bethany’s father’s home at outdoor kennel and apparently neglected in the cold weather. 


He said Bethany would come to visit around 5 times a week to care for them — that the father didn’t care for them because it was not his responsibility, which might have caused the dogs to become distant from Bethany. 


— But a friend of Bethany say the dogs would never attack Bethany and doubts the officers’ explantations. She thinks Bethany had walked the dogs, put them back in the kennel, and then something happened to her in the woods, causing the dogs to force themselves out and protect her body. 


— The sheriff said Bethany’s family have accepted that the dogs killed her — that they are devastated, worn out, and wants to remain private. 


This is the third death related to a pit bull breed in this month. Other than Bethany: 


On December 11, a 77-year old woman in Illinois was killed by a pet pit bull in her backyard. A witness saw the dog attacking the woman, called police, and when police arrived, the dog was aggressive to them and the officers shot and killed the dog. The woman was dead on the scene. 


On December 7, a 24-year old woman was killed by five pit bulls that were owned by her neighbor in Alabama. 


On December 8, a 4-year old boy was attacked by his aunt’s five pet pit bulls, but was quickly stopped by boy’s father. The boy was taken to the hospital and is recovering from severe facial injuries. 


Although those are terrible news and gives pit bulls a very bad name, there is one positive news story about a pit bull: in Kansas, police has the state’s first K-9 dog that is a pit bull. He helped police with a marijuana bust on Monday. 


But because of the perceived dangers of pit bulls, there are various cities in the U.S. that has a pit bull ban, which is a controversial issue with those who love pit bulls, saying they feel as if cities are “discriminating” against the pit bull breed. This is something that will be constantly debated. 


If I see updates about the Bethany situation, I’ll share it. The various news links are below.






Texas: —-


K-9 Pit Bull:




Yesterday I posted a news video about a deaf man from Malaysia that was charged with murdering four people — some of the information was wrong, so I’m doing this news video again with the correct information. 


The deaf man’s name is Kang Chang Heng (38). He is accused of murdering an elderly couple (ages 73 and 68) and their two young grandsons (ages 10 and 3) last week, then setting their home on fire. One grandson (age 12) survived by hiding and then escaping. The three grandsons are CODAs. 


The elderly couple were parents of three Deaf children, who are now adults (two men and one woman). The deaf daughter was the girlfriend of Kang. 


Police said there appears to be some kind of financial dispute between Kang and the elderly couple. 


On Tuesday Kang appeared in court and was charged with murdering the elderly man, but there was no interpreter there, so the court postponed the case to January 25 so there can be an interpreter assigned. It is expected that Kang will face murder charges for the other victims.


Kang worked in a furniture factory and was arrested on Friday. His girlfriend / the daughter of the elderly couple is not a suspect, cleared of any wrongdoing. 


Police first thought it was arson, but they saw evidence that the four victims had knife wounds, changing the case to a murder — adding that they saw evidence that the fire was set intentionally. 


I was in touch with several Deaf people in Malaysia who knew the family. One told me that the two grandsons who died were from the deaf sons of the elderly couple. 


If Kang is convicted, he will get a mandatory death penalty by hanging. 


This has made a huge impact on the Deaf community in Malaysia and is huge news there. Very sad to see this happen to the four people.




Here is an interview with Deaf woman Julia Velasquez, who was on Fox’s “Xploration Outer Space” TV show on Saturday as a Student Astronaut.


Alex: Hello Julia!


Julia: Hello Alex! 


Alex: Congratulations on being selected to be on the Xploration show. The area you were in Hawaii looked really isolated and desolate. What was it like to be there?  


Julia: Thank you! Yes, it’s a beautiful place. When we left town to head up the mountain, I noticed the terrain changing colors, from green to brown to red to gray to black, all from an old volcano that erupted in times past. We had to use a 4x4 to go through the lava fields. It was a lot of fun to travel up the mountain, up to 8,200 feet. When I got out of the SUV and looked around, I immediately understood why they chose this place. There was absolutely no sign of animals, or plants, or birds, or bugs — nothing. No people or cars. It was desolate, just as if I was on Mars.


Alex: You met with several people who were doing research, as a part of a NASA team? What was it like to interact with them? 


Julia: Yes, that was my favorite part. I love connecting with people who share similar passions and interests. The two people I met, Brian and Laura, had just finished their 8-month isolation stay, so I was excited to ask them questions.  I was curious about how they felt to be separated from their family and friends for a prolonged period of time, and what it was like to live in a 1,200 square foot area with 6 other people. I wanted to know how they shared resources such as food and water, and what it was like to go on EVA (Extravehicular Activity) explorations in protective gear as if they were astronauts on Mars. I really loved listening to their stories.  I also had the opportunity to ask questions on the possibilities of there being a Deaf astronaut in the future, and they were completely supportive of the idea. So I’m thrilled to have their support!  I look forward to possibly working with them one day. Fingers crossed!


Alex: You stated several times in the show that Deaf people can bring unique perspectives and skills in space exploration because of our language, ASL. How did the crew react to those ideas? 


Julia: Yes, to be honest, before I went on the trip, I had the mindset to explain to them the benefits of ASL,Deaf culture, our language. But when I arrived, I was pleased to see that Brian and Laura already knew ASL. They had been practicing ASL for the last 8 months. Laura had taken ASL courses for three years and wanted to use ASL during the HI-SEAS mission. Laura and Brian had agreed to practice signing for EVA missions since radio isn’t always reliable. Radio signals will often disconnect so they wanted to be prepared with different modes of communication, including ASL. So they already understood and knew the benefits of sign language, wow!  We had discussions on using sign language for future missions, to Mars — this is important because there are communication delays, of up to 40 minutes.  In reality, 40 minutes is a long time to wait, and a lot can happen in that time frame so research has started to focus on the use of video-based communications in long duration spaceflight missions.  There is a ton of potential for the use of sign language during future space missions, which means there is a future for Deaf astronauts!


Alex: At the end of the show, it was announced you are changing your major to aerospace to pursue your dream of going up into space. How can you accomplish this dream? 


Julia: Yes, the whole experience has been life-changing. This is my passion; this is what I love doing. I’ve been doing some research on different aerospace graduate programs and have sent in applications.  I’m waiting on them with fingers crossed!  I hope to research on the use of communications in spaceflight— like I stated earlier — radio is “old school” — current research is now shifting to video communication or text-based or AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) applications — and those might include sign language or sensory feedback. So I see a lot of potential and I look forward to bringing my Deaf perspective to future research. I’m really excited! 


Alex: Want to add anything? 


Julia: I encourage all of you Deaf, DeafBlind, Deaf Disabled, hard of hearing, late-deafened youths and students who are passionate to learn more about space and science research but don’t know where to start or how to go forward — to contact your teachers at school, or your family, because there are many different programs out there related to science research, robotics, satellite design, building rockets — there are many opportunities to go deep into this field. I also encourage you to go to Deaf Space Camp, which is hosted every summer, so you can get an idea of what it is like to be an astronaut. The future is yours, grab every opportunity you can!  Maybe one day you’ll be astronauts!


Alex: Thank you for your time! Bye! 


Julia: Thank you. Bye! 



Alex: Wow, Julia has big dreams. Hope she will achieve them by going into space someday in the future. 




That is all for today. See you tomorrow and stay with the light!

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