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Without researchers or funds, Puerto Rico universities grapple with future after Hurricane Maria

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Seven months after Hurricane Maria tore through this island, some of the equipment in neuroscience researcher Manuel Diaz Rios’ lab still is being repaired and replaced.

But more noticeably, Diaz is missing something else – his two Ph.D. students. After the storm, they decided to complete their studies and thesis projects at universities on the mainland.

“At the end of the day, the insurance will get my money back for the antibodies and my reagents and my drugs,” Diaz said. “But they won’t get my students back. They won’t get those two very talented students back.”

Puerto Rico has lost more than 135,000 people to the mainland since Maria, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. Moreover, the researchers projected that as many as 470,000 Puerto Ricans – 14 percent of the population – could leave the island from 2017 through 2019.

Pregnant and Addicted

Opioid deaths in Arizona nearly doubled over the past ten years. The number of babies born exposed to opioids grew more than twice as fast.

Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

At the urging of Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona lawmakers approved sweeping new regulations of opioids designed to curb the state’s sprawling opioid epidemic, which has seen overdose deaths nearly double in the past decade.

In 2016, the last complete year for which data is available, 790 Arizonans died of an opioid overdose.

But the drugs’ spread has been several times more dramatic for a small and vulnerable population that has few options for treatment: pregnant mothers and newborns. However, there is a chance that new funding tied to the reforms might be directed to help them.

Colorado mother struggles to bring her son’s body home from Syria

“Jack” Shirley of Arvada was killed fighting the Islamic State with Kurdish forces in Syria

The Denver Post

Day after day, Susan Shirley sits at the round, wooden table in her Arvada kitchen, her blue eyes intensely scanning e-mails or Facebook messages on her laptop and then, eventually, wandering past the window into the yard where her son once played.

She refocuses on the spiral notebook before her and logs another entry in a minute-by-minute to-do list of grief: 10:30: …request info costs embalming etc….

The notes go on for pages, chronicling a mother’s complex quest to bring home her son, 24-year-old Levi Jonathan “Jack” Shirley, who was killed on a Syrian battlefield while fighting the Islamic State.

Frustrated that his eyesight rendered him unfit for the U.S. Marines, Jack joined the war on terror, against the wishes of his government, by volunteering with the People’s Protection Unit, a Kurdish group clashing with the Islamic State in northern Syria. Amid the tangled geopolitical alliances of the Middle East, the YPG — shorthand for Jack’s unit — falls under a political wing believed to have ties to yet another group the U.S. has classified as a terrorist organization.