‘Beast from the East’ sends Arctic blast across Europe

The Arctic storm saw temperatures across Europe fall Monday and Tuesday to their lowest level this winter, and even brought a rare a snowstorm to Rome. (AP)
Updated 28 February 2018
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‘Beast from the East’ sends Arctic blast across Europe

PARIS: A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe on Tuesday, causing headaches for travelers and leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches.
The icy weather is in stark contrast to conditions in the Arctic itself, which is experiencing an “off-the-charts” heatwave this week, according to the European Geosciences Institute.
Meteorologists have documented temperatures above freezing in some parts of the Arctic, causing astonishment among many scientists. But to the south swathes of Europe were shivering under temperatures well below freezing, claiming at least 10 lives across the continent in a snap dubbed “the Beast from the East” by British tabloids.
At least five deaths were reported in Poland alone on Monday as the mercury dropped to minus 16 Celsius overnight in Warsaw.
That brought the number of Polish deaths from freezing to 53 since Nov. 1, and temperatures are expected to remain below minus 12 Celsius across the country Tuesday, with the cold accentuated by a biting wind.
In Lithuania, temperatures dropped to as low as minus 26 degrees Celsius overnight, and one suspected death of a man from freezing was reported in the capital Vilnius.
In Britain, authorities warned of five to 10 centimeters of snow on Tuesday and the likelihood of travel delays on roads, rail networks and at airports, while electricity and even mobile phone service may be cut in some areas.
On Monday, British Airways canceled more than 60 short-haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow airport.
Some of the iciest conditions were reported in Italy, where many schools and daycare centers were closed, to the consternation of parents already preparing for closures next week linked to this weekend’s general election.
Public anger was also growing over the disruptions to rail services across the country, as travelers learned that many track switches did not have defrosting equipment, meaning they had to be dug out by hand.
In Naples, the airport was closed early Tuesday and bus services in the city halted because of ice.
And a driver in Turin got a fright when a stalactite broke off from an overhead bridge and shattered his windshield — though he managed to keep control of his vehicle.
One of the coldest points overnight was at Glattalp in Switzerland, where the temperature fell to -38 Celsius — extreme even for the high-altitude area (1,850 meters), according to the ATS news agency.
In France, which has remained frigid but dry during the cold snap, forecasters warned of heavy snow across much of the country starting Wednesday — though spring-like temperatures would soon follow.
On Tuesday, residents of Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica woke up to some 15 centimeters of snow on the beach, something not seen since 1986.
At least three people have died during the cold snap in France.
Across the continent, authorities have been opening emergency shelters and increasing relief efforts for the homeless.
The mayor of Etterbeek in Belgium said those sleeping rough would be forcibly detained if they refused to go to shelters, citing the “major risk” from exposure to the cold.
In Berlin, rising fears for homeless people led officials to open an additional 100 beds, with the city’s shelters, now with a total of 1,200 beds, more than 90 percent full, RBB public radio reported.


California doctor accused of prescribing drugs in 5 deaths

This undated photo provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Office shows Stephen Scarpa, 25. Scarpa has been charged with murder in the death of an off-duty fire captain on a bicycle whom authorities say Scarpa struck and killed with his car. Authorities say Scarpa told investigators he was on drugs prescribed by Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, a Southern California doctor who was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 on charges of doling out drugs to patients he didn't examine and is alleged to have prescribed drugs to five people who died of overdoses, federal prosecutors said. (AP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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California doctor accused of prescribing drugs in 5 deaths

  • State officials were aware of improper prescribing practices years before that, according to records at the Osteopathic Medical Board

LOS ANGELES: A Southern California doctor was arrested Tuesday on charges of doling out drugs to patients he didn’t examine and is alleged to have prescribed drugs to five people who died of overdoses as well as an impaired driver who struck and killed a bicyclist, federal prosecutors said.
Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, faces charges of illegally distributing opioids and other narcotics to what authorities called “patients,” but who were addicts using the drugs or people selling them on the street. He prescribed some drugs after receiving text messages requesting specific quantities and doses, prosecutors said.
“This case clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna.
A phone call and email seeking comment from Pham’s lawyer, John Barton, were not immediately returned. Phone calls to Pham’s urgent care clinic in Irvine and a number listed for his home were not answered.
Pham’s record of prescribing large amounts of pills led a CVS pharmacy to stop accepting prescriptions from him more than five years ago when he couldn’t justify the number of pills patients were picking up, prosecutors said.
State officials were aware of improper prescribing practices years before that, according to records at the Osteopathic Medical Board.
Pham was reprimanded by the board in 2007 for excessive prescribing, prescribing without good faith examination, repeated negligent acts and prescribing to an addict, among other charges. Details of the record were not immediately available.
Between 2014 and 2017, Pham wrote prescriptions for five people who died from overdoses, prosecutors said. He’s not charged in those deaths, but those investigations are ongoing, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney.
One of the overdose deaths was a 21-year-old man, identified in the affidavit only by initials S.L.S. who fatally overdosed on a combination of heroin and two of the types of drugs Pham prescribed. The man’s mother referred to Pham as “Dr. Feelgood.”
In November, a driver who fatally struck an off-duty firefighter training on his bike for a triathlon told investigators he was on drugs prescribed by Pham, prosecutors said. Several prescription bottles with Pham’s name were found in the driver’s car.
Orange County prosecutors have charged Stephen Scarpa, 25, with murder in the death of Costa Mesa fire Capt. Mike Kreza.
The death came a few months after an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent was able to quickly score from Pham what is referred to as a “triple threat” or “holy trinity,” a combination of three types of narcotics, the affidavit said. Pham directed the agent to an Irvine pharmacy that filled many of his prescriptions.
The affidavit filed with the charges described many of Pham’s text messages, indicating in one case that he was having a sexual relationship with a patient. He was prescribing drugs to that woman and also to her 9-year-old daughter, according to the document by DEA Special Agent Lindsey Bellomy.
In another text exchange, Pham told someone he was concerned after learning that the gunman who killed 11 and wounded a responding officer who died from a fellow officer’s bullet during a shootout at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks last month had prescriptions Pham wrote for someone else.
The document does not provide any information on whether Ian Long, the shooter who took his own life after the Nov. 7 mass shooting, possessed any prescriptions written by Pham.
“I never saw Mr. Long before so I don’t know the implication of this information,” Pham wrote in the text message exchange, according to the affidavit.
The person Pham was texting responded by trying to reassure Pham he was in the clear if the prescriptions were not written to Long.
“If I give my meds to some crazy person its (sic) on me, not you, you have no control over what happened after a patient leaves your office,” the person replied.
The criminal complaint said Pham charged $100 to $150 a visit at his clinic and deposited $6.7 million into bank accounts between 2013 and September.
If convicted of the charges, Pham could face up to 40 years in prison, prosecutors said.