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19 Sep

Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers is guarded by Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics.

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Cleveland Cavaliers’ five-time NBA All-Star player Kevin Love hit a wall two years ago in the middle of a game against the Atlanta Hawks.

His heart was racing, he couldn’t think, the room was spinning, he recalled in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.

“It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe,” Love wrote. He was taken to a hospital in the third quarter, but the doctors said he was fine.

That 2017 panic attack, as well as Love’s own public discussion of his struggles with anxiety and depression, helped prompt the NBA players’ association to sketch out a new framework last season to help professional basketball players struggling with the pressures of the game and mental health issues.

New rules

With the regular season opening on Oct. 22, the National Basketball Association adopted new rules last week at a mandatory health and wellness meeting for team owners in Chicago, setting formal requirements for all 30 teams, according to Jamila Wideman, NBA vice president of player development.

“I think this meeting itself represents an opportunity for teams to share out and gradually build a collection of best practice so that the rising tide of this all shifts,” Wideman said of the Sept. 12 meeting. “What we’re seeing is teams willing to embrace, sort of holistically, the question of how do we do better, how do we do more for everyone?”

The league adopted new rules that require teams to add at least one full-time licensed mental health professional — a psychologist or behavioral therapist — to their full-time staff. Teams will also be required, starting this season, to retain a licensed psychiatrist to assist when needed.

They’ll also have to have a “written action plan” in the event of mental health emergencies, and they must inform players and staff members how the team will ensure privacy and confidentiality of mental health matters.

Coming forward

The new rules come after recent disclosures by Love and other players about their mental health battles — before and during their NBA careers.

Love and retired Boston Celtics point guard Keyon Dooling wrote personal essays for The Players’ Tribune. Former Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who was recently traded to the San Antonio Spurs, discussed his own battle with depression last year with the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith.

Players’ struggles with mental health are not a recent phenomenon. In July, 2012 first-round draft pick Royce White told the New York Post he was blackballed from the league after disclosing his fear of flying and other anxiety issues seven years ago. He’s called on the NBA to put a better system in place.

‘Truly unhappy’

Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the NBA’s emphasis on mental health in February.

“What strikes me is that they’re truly unhappy,” Silver said of NBA players at the Sloan Conference in Boston. “A lot of these young men are genuinely unhappy.”

It’s those comments and stories that Wideman credits to furthering the conversation on the issue.

“I would point back to the way that many players have begun to tell their stories and I think that alone is a hand that is reaching out, and I think [what] we’re trying to do at the league is to embrace that,” said Wideman.

The new guidelines are the most significant steps the NBA has taken in mental health. The National Basketball Players Association in May 2018 announced its own mental health and wellness program headed by psychologist William D. Parham with Dooling serving as the program’s Player Wellness Counselor.

That program connects players with licensed mental health professionals in every city where there’s an NBA team. Those professionals are separate from the NBA and the players association. Other resources the player association provides include a players-only website with a focus on mental health that features up to 90 links about issues including depression and all kinds of phobias.

Short careers

“Our goal is to really make sure the players are well informed. Players really do understand the reality of the business of basketball,” Parham said in an interview.

“They do understand that the average career for ballers in the league is about four to five years. They understand the ups and downs of the journey as a professional athlete.”

Professional basketball players can face a gamut of potential mental health issues, he said. Some players are able to balance the demands of the game and intense scrutiny as a celebrity with their personal lives fairly well, while others can have some difficulty managing the tough travel schedules and pressure to perform along with demands at home. It can be overwhelming, he said.

Like many people struggling with mental health issues, some players are still trying to come to terms with their childhood trauma, referred to by Parham as “invisible tattoos” because of their unseen but significant effect on people.

Getting help

“Therapy is a proven way of getting to a better space,” he said, adding that giving players the tools and education to better understand their situation is also important. Helping players develop and appreciate the value of maintaining a healthy support system of family and friends is equally important. He also stresses that the quality of company a player keeps can make a big difference.

He gives players mantras to recite to help remind them of what their goal is for the day so they can keep moving forward.

“One mantra I use and invite players to consider is: I’d much rather you have four quarters than 100 pennies. They both add up to a buck but the quarter is 25 times more valuable than a penny,” Parham said.

The league is hoping the new guidelines help players open up and destigmatize conversations around mental health.

Normalizing the issue

“Seeing more conversations, hearing more conversations is a sign of success that we’re normalizing the issue,” said Wideman, who’s also a lawyer and former player for the Women’s National Basketball Association. “The more that quite frankly we think of it in the same ways that we already think about physical health when those conversations become more integrated I think that’ll be another sign of success.”

Other leagues have also begun to adopt measures to help their players deal with mental health issues. In May, the NFL and its players’ union established a mental health and wellness committee as well as a joint pain management committee.

For basketball fans, Parham hopes the conversations around mental health issues and players will give them a better understanding and deeper respect of the athletes they cheer for on the court.

“What I really want the casual fan to see is that the phenomenal talent that they’re witnessing is exceptional on its own,” he said, “and if they knew the backstory of some of these players — the actual story — what they think and are seeing as phenomenal talent will become exponentially more phenomenal if they really understand what that particular player is dealing with as a human being.”

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12 Sep

Smashables are lighter in body but full in flavor,” Christy Frank, education development manager for Wine Australia and partner at Copake Wine Works tells Refinery29. If you’ve heard of ‘chillable reds’, smashables are the classic Australian twist on that concept
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04 Sep

Individuals who complete a mental health diversion court program cannot be charged under a state law prohibiting mentally ill individuals from owning or possessing firearms, the state Supreme Court ordered in a recent ruling. 

An opinion authored by a three-member panel composed of Justices Kristina Pickering, Mark Gibbons and James Hardesty last week reversed a lower court’s conviction of Ian Andre Hager, a Reno man convicted of violating a state law that prohibits individuals adjudicated as mentally ill or are found to be unlawfully using illegal drugs from possessing firearms.

The ruling by the court fleshes out the section of state law governing the groups of individuals in the state prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm and could potentially affect the number of gun sales rejected under Nevada’s prohibition on completing legal gun sales to anyone “adjudicated” as mentally ill.

The case revolves around Hager, who in 2013 was arrested and pled guilty to a charge of illegally carrying a concealed weapon in Humboldt County. Hager was referred to a mental health specialty court program in Washoe County, where a licensed professional diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “associated with traumatic family events.”

Hager successfully completed the program, which included random drug and alcohol tests, in May 2014, and he was able to successfully recover his seized firearms by August 2015. Police responded at least twice to disturbances at Hager’s residence in 2015 and again seized his firearms, but he was able to successfully petition to regain ownership after both incidents. 

His troubles began anew in February 2016, when Hager contacted a Reno Police Department detective to discuss a past investigation into the death of his older brother, who died in 2012. According to court records, Hager sent the detective a link to his Facebook page that showed a video of Hager “railing against the police for incompetence in attributing his brother’s death to an accidental overdose,” while displaying a “baggy of narcotics” and sniffing them to “dramatize how much methamphetamine a person can consume without overdosing.” Several firearms were visible in the background of the video.

Police raided Hager’s home and seized the firearms, finding a glass pipe and empty baggies, but no trace of a controlled substance. Hager told police the substance in the video was meth, but later told a jury that the substance was salt. He was convicted on six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, three related to controlled substances and three related to his past time in the mental health diversion program, but he appealed to the state Supreme Court in 2017.

In their order, the justices wrote that the section of state law in question required an individual to have been adjudicated as mentally ill or committed to a facility by a court; a voluntary diversion to a treatment program did not meet that higher threshold for taking away gun ownership rights.

“To be sure, mental health court is supervised by a judge, who has the discretion to assign or refuse to assign a defendant to the program,” the justices wrote in their 20-page order. “But participation in the program is voluntary; a defendant may not be diverted to mental health court absent consent.”

The court instead wrote that in the absence of the Legislature defining what “adjudicated as mentally ill” should entail, it would interpret the law to require a judicial decision-maker and deliberative proceeding with “some form of due process.” The justices wrote that the process for voluntarily enrolling in a mental health diversion court, which only requires the appearance of mental illness or intellectual disabilities, did not reach that higher standard.

“…As Hager’s paperwork and the trial testimony established, Hager’s assignment to Washoe County’s mental health court was documented not by an order, decree, or findings signed by a judge, but rather by an ‘acceptance letter’ signed by a specialty courts officer,” the order stated.

The court also noted that the law did not require a person enrolled in a mental health diversion program to have their records and names transmitted to the state system for background checks on firearm purchases, and instead requires criminal history records to be sealed if a person successfully completes the program. A person formally adjudicated as mentally ill by a judge would have their information transmitted to the background check database and would be unable to purchase a gun.

Nevada routinely rejects around 1,800 background checks every year from several classes of prohibited individuals, including fugitives from justice, individuals under a court-ordered restraining order, people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or who have been convicted of a felony with a sentence exceeding one year. In the last four years, around 60 to 70 people were annually stopped from buying a gun in the state because they had previously been adjudicated as mentally ill. 

But those numbers are likely to increase after 2019, when a law approved by Democratic legislators and signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to expand gun background checks to private gun sales and transfers. Background checks are currently only required for guns purchased by a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Although the court order reversed three of the criminal counts against Hager, it ordered a new trial on the other three accounts of possession of a weapon as an “addict” or “unlawful user” of controlled substances.

The court found that evidence by the state was “enough” to show that Hager either maintained a prior addiction to methamphetamine or was using the drug while owning firearms, but the order found that an instruction provided to the jury defining an “unlawful user” as any person who used a controlled substance was too broad.

Though the court declined to rule on whether a single incident of drug use was enough to establish a person as an “unlawful user” and thus prohibited from owning firearms, it did say that the jury instruction as written was overly vague and that a new trial was necessary.

“Because doubt exists as to whether a correctly instructed jury would have convicted Hager, it is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the misstatement of law in the instruction was harmless.”


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03 Sep

The move to rescind environmental rules governing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, brings to 84 the total number of environmental rules that the Trump administration has worked to repeal. Officials at the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies have called the regulations burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other businesses.

Half of those environmental rollback attempts, like the new methane reversal, will undercut efforts by previous administrations to reduce emissions and fight climate change. Many of these efforts have been challenged in the courts; whether the administration will succeed in achieving all of its goals is far from certain. Here are some of the most significant climate-related reversals:

One critical effort by the Trump administration was its announcement in 2017 that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The process of withdrawing cannot be completed until 2020, but the move sent a strong signal to the world that Mr. Trump, who has scoffed at climate science, would be taking action at many levels of government to reverse climate policies created during the Obama administration.

Thursday’s decision to remove restrictions on methane leaks from oil and gas wells is only one administration effort on behalf of fossil fuel producers. Burning natural gas produces half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does, but methane, the chief component of natural gas, has a powerful effect on climate change. Though it does not persist in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does, it has 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide during 20 years in the atmosphere. The Obama administration had passed many rules to reduce methane leaks. An early effort by the E.P.A. under the former administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse Obama-era rules on leaks from new oil and gas wells was declared illegal by the courts in 2017.

Transportation is the United States’ biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel efficiency standards were a signature Obama administration proposal for reducing those emissions, as well as other air pollution created by vehicles. Earlier this month, the Trump administration proposed freezing antipollution and fuel-efficiency standards for cars. The proposal puts the administration on a collision course with California, which sets its own stringent tailpipe standards — and even with automakers, who wish to avoid the complexity of dealing with two car markets with different emissions standards.

The Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by regulating carbon dioxide from existing fossil-fuel-powered electricity plants, was a big target for Mr. Trump, who campaigned in coal country on a promise to revive the ailing industry. He called for the E.P.A. to dismantle the Clean Power Plan in 2017. The planned substitute, unveiled in June as the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, is the administration’s most sweeping plan to extend the lives of coal-burning plants and shore up the mining industry — an industry more threatened by economic change than regulation.

In December 2017, President Trump embarked on the biggest land protection rollback in United States history when he squeezed two national monuments in Utah by some two million acres. The move shrank Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante by about half. The two monuments had received protection in the Obama and Clinton administrations. Subsequent reporting on the Bears Ears decision showed that it was guided by hopes for oil drilling.

Similarly, the Trump administration is rushing to clear the way for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Trump administration has said it will allow offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all coastal waters of the United States, including the California coast, the Arctic and the Eastern Seaboard, as part of its “energy dominance” agenda. The decision reversed an Obama administration ban. It also repealed offshore drilling safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill. The administration delayed the release of its formal proposal, however, after a federal judge decision declared the initial executive order about the plan unlawful.

The fossil fuel industry and other businesses have long bristled at the Endangered Species Act, which can restrict their ability to mine, drill and conduct other activity where threatened flora and fauna can be found. Earlier this month, the administration said it would change the act in ways that will make it harder to protect wildlife from climate change and other threats. The changes would make it easier to remove species from the endangered list, would allow a protection decision to be influenced by economic assessments, and make it more difficult to factor in effects of climate change that may be decades away. Even before that, however, the Interior Department opened nine million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled bird beloved for its elaborate mating dance.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.


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02 Sep

A judge has given doctors permission to perform a caesarean section on a woman with mental health problems if she becomes agitated during labour and loses the capacity to make decisions about how her baby should be born.

The woman has been deemed to have the mental capacity to make decisions and has told doctors that a caesarean section is “the last thing she would agree to”, Mr Justice Hayden heard.

But lawyers representing hospital officials responsible for her care said the woman was heavily pregnant and could go into labour at any time. They said she had depression and a history of experiencing psychotic episodes.

Lawyers said she might become agitated and lose the mental capacity to make decisions during labour. If that happened, they said, doctors would have to act quickly and needed to know that they could legally perform a caesarean section without the woman’s agreement if necessary.

The judge analysed the case at a hearing in the court of protection, where issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered. He said the case was exceptional and the order he had been asked to make was “draconian”.

He said issues relating to whether doctors should override the wishes of people if they lose the capacity to make decisions were rarely considered. But he said the interests of the woman were paramount and doctors must be able to do what was needed to preserve her life and the life of her child.

He concluded it would be in the woman’s best interests to allow doctors to deliver the baby by caesarean section against her will if such a move was necessary. The woman, who is in her 30s and being cared for in London, could not be identified in media reports of the case, the judge said.

Officials at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, who have responsibility for the woman’s obstetric care, and those at South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, who have responsibility for her psychiatric care, had asked the judge to make a ruling.

Bridget Dolan QC, who led the legal team representing the two NHS trusts, said the woman had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder.

“Whilst the view currently is that [her] impairment or disturbance in the functioning of her mind or brain – ie bipolar affective disorder – does not impair her capacity to consent to obstetric treatment, her consultant psychiatrist is of the opinion that there is a substantial risk of her condition worsening close to or during labour, to the point where capacity is impaired,” she said.

“Anticipatory orders and/or declarations are therefore sought to enable the lawful provision of such care and treatment as is clinically indicated, including emergency caesarean section, to [her] and her unborn child to ensure their health and safety and to minimise the risk of any significant and long-lasting harm.”

The woman was not represented by lawyers at the hearing. The judge, who also hears cases in the family division of the high court, said the urgency of the situation meant the application had been made at short notice and there had not been enough time for the woman to instruct lawyers or for lawyers to be instructed on her behalf.

The barrister Parishil Patel QC appeared at the hearing without instructions to guard her interests. He acted as an amicus, or “friend of the court”.

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