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After 43 years in isolation, US man to be freed

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Washington: A US judge has ordered release of a man who has spent 43 years in solitary confinement for a crime he denied committing.

US District Judge James J. Brady on Monday ruled that Albert Woodfox, 68, should be released from prison and should not face a third trial due to “exceptional circumstances”, including his age and poor health and the court’s “lack of confidence in the state to provide a fair third trial”, CNN reported.

Woodfox is the last imprisoned member of the “Angola 3”, a group of prisoners who were accused in the 1972 killing of guard Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Woodfox, who was originally imprisoned on an armed robbery conviction, has said that he had tried to point out injustices at the prison and was targeted and wrongfully accused because of his activism.

Robert King, another one of the “Angola 3”, was freed after his conviction in the killing of a fellow inmate was overturned in 2001.

The second member of the group, Herman Wallace was released in 2013 after a judge vacated his murder conviction and sentence. He was suffering from terminal liver cancer and died just days later after his release.

A federal appeals court overturned Woodfox’s conviction last year.

However, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is seeking an emergency stay to block the judge’s decision, and said “make sure this murderer stays in prison and remains fully accountable for his actions”.

Amnesty International praised the decision as a big step toward justice. (IANS)

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Rate of autism in US reduced in the past three years

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Rate of autism in US reduced in the past three yearsRate of autism in US reduced in the past three years
FILE - Colleen Jankovich works with her 11-year-old autistic son, Matthew, in Omaha, Nebraska, May 23, 2014. VOA

Miami, Jan 2, 2018: After more than a decade of steady increase in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

The findings were based on a nationwide study in which more than 30,000 parents reported whether their children had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“The estimated ASD prevalence was 2.41 percent among US children and adolescents in 2014-2016, with no statistically significant increase over the three years,” said the research letter by experts at the University of Iowa, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The first observation of a plateau was made by a separate group in 2012, when the rate flattened out to 1.46 percent, according to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Federal health authorities say that means about one in 68 children in the United States have the neurodevelopmental disability, whose causes remain poorly understood.

The ADDM had documented a “continuous increase from 0.67 percent in 2000 to 1.47 percent in 2010.”

The 2.4 percent rate described in the JAMA report translates to one in 47 children, but researchers cautioned that the discrepancy may be explained by “differences in study design and participant characteristics.”

The JAMA report, based on the annual National Health Interview Survey, did not delve into “underlying causes for the findings and cannot make conclusions about their medical significance.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted a plateau in the autism rate in 2016, but said it was “too soon to know whether ASD prevalence in the United States might be starting to stabilize.” (VOA)

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