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Cancer claims 4-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey

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Cancer claims 4-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Lance Mackey, one of mushing’s most colorful and accomplished champions who also suffered from health and drug issues, has died.

The four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner died Wednesday from cancer, his father and kennel announced on Facebook. He was 52.

Officials with the world’s most famous sled dog race said Iditarod Nation was in mourning.

“Lance embodied the spirit of the race, the tenacity of an Alaskan musher, displayed the ultimate show of perseverance and was loved by his fans,” officials said in a statement.

The son of 1978 Iditarod champion Dick Mackey and brother of 1983 champion Rick Mackey, Lance Mackey overcame throat cancer in 2001 to win an unprecedented four straight Iditarod championships, from 2007 through 2010.

It wasn’t just the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race across Alaska where he excelled. During his Iditarod run, twice he also won the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Canada and Alaska with only two weeks’ rest between races.

But after the string of wins, he was beset by personal problems, health scares and drug issues that prevented him from ever again reaching the top of the sport.

The treatment for his throat cancer cost him his saliva glands and ultimately disintegrated his teeth.

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He was then diagnosed with Raynaud’s syndrome, which limits circulation to the hands and feet and is exacerbated by the cold weather that every musher must contend with in the wilds of Alaska.

In the 2015 race, he couldn’t manipulate his fingers to do simple tasks, like putting booties on his dogs’ paws to protect them from the snow, ice and cold. His brother and fellow competitor Jason Mackey agreed to stay with him at the back of the pack to help him care for the dogs.

It was a life-changing blow for Lance Mackey, who knew no other lifestyle.

“I love this sport,” he told an Iditarod TV crew during that race while choking back tears. “I can’t do it no more.”

Documentary filmmaker Greg Kohs spent two weeks with Mackey during the 2013 Iditarod, filming “The Great Alone.” He was waiting in the tiny, remote village of Takotna for Mackey to arrive, and he was encouraged to go there because village residents make amazing pies to serve the mushers as they come through the race checkpoint.

“I realized Lance Mackey was a lot like a piece of pie. Once you got a taste of his story and personality, you wanted to share it with others,” he said in a statement issued after learning of Mackey’s death.

“And like a homemade pie, the tin is often dinged up, and the crust might not look perfect, but inside is a delicious recipe richened by time, wisdom and soul,” Kohs wrote.

Whether he won or lost, or when talking about problems, Mackey was always transparent.

“That honesty is what allowed him to be fearless,” five-time champion Dallas Seavey told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He didn’t have to see himself in a different light than he actually was.”

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Seavey said Mackey gave it everything, racing to the limit.

“If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and that was fine by him,” Seavey said. “It made him a heck of a competitor.”

Another musher, four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, said Mackey was a fabulous competitor.

“He will be missed and always remembered as a great dog man,” King said.

After his string of first place finishes, Mackey dropped back in the standings, finishing a career-worst 43rd in 2015. The next year he scratched and didn’t race the Iditarod again until 2019, when he placed 26th.

In the 2020 race, his last, he carried his mother’s ashes in his sled to the finish line in Nome to honor her, but he was later disqualified after testing positive for methamphetamine. He entered rehab on the East Coast.

Before the Iditarod began drug testing in 2010, Mackey also acknowledged using marijuana on the trail.

Months after the 2020 race finished, his partner Jenne Smith died in an all-terrain vehicle accident. They had two children.

Last month, he told the Iditarod website that an examination after a car accident discovered more cancer, and he thought treatment had taken care of it. “But came up with some other issues that aren’t gone and seem to have moved rapidly and left me in the position I’m in at the moment,” he said, noting he was on oxygen and had lost 30 pounds.

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When asked if he was fearful, Mackey responded: “I’m not fearing nothing. You know, it is what it is, but I’m not any different than the rest of the people on the planet. When it’s my bus stop, I’ll get off.”

He also used the opportunity to apologize to his fans for his past problems.

“I’m still, like never before, embarrassed and ashamed and disappointed,” he said following his disqualification.

He said he knew he had lost fans and wasn’t looking to change their opinion of him.

“I am truly sorry for the many embarrassing moments, but I’m also grateful for the support that I also received from a lot of the same people,” he said.

DeeDee Jonrowe, a retired musher who had known Lance since he was a junior musher, went through cancer treatments about the same time as Mackey.

“I admire him for what he fought through, but I’m really sad for the fact he wasn’t able to survive the dysfunction of it all,” she said, noting the loss of mother, partner and the substance abuse, which didn’t help the cancer treatments.

“He’s a legend,” Jonrowe said. “But I don’t think he would want anybody to follow his lifestyle footsteps. He would wish that they would learn from the stumbles that he made.”

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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