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Aaron Hernandez’s brain tissue showed severe memory damage

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Dr Ann McKee says she could not say for certain that the 27-year-old New En..

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  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • Dr Ann McKee says she could not say for certain that the 27-year-old New England Patriots star's CTE caused his criminal and suicidal behavior
  • But her analysis revealed his disease did severely damage crucial regions
  • Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in April while serving life in prison for murder
  • In September, Dr Ann McKee posthumously diagnosed him with CTE, a football-linked brain disease which causes dementia and aggression
  • On Thursday, she presented her findings in detail at Boston University
  • The university also released photos of Dr McKee analyzing Hernandez's brain, and a scan comparing his brain with that of a healthy 27-year-old

By Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com

Published: 14:22 EST, 9 November 2017 | Updated: 15:47 EST, 9 November 2017

Diagnosed: Aaron Hernandez killed himself at the age of 27 in April while serving life in prison for murder. The scientists who analyzed his brain have now confirmed it was the worst case of CTE they have ever seen

Diagnosed: Aaron Hernandez killed himself at the age of 27 in April while serving life in prison for murder. The scientists who analyzed his brain have now confirmed it was the worst case of CTE they have ever seen

The neuroscientist who analyzed Aaron Hernandez's brain has confirmed that he suffered the worst case ever seen in someone so young, with severe damage to regions that affect memory, impulse control and behavior.

The 27-year-old former New England Patriots player killed himself in April while serving life in prison for murder.

In September, Dr Ann McKee of the CTE Center at Boston University posthumously diagnosed Hernandez with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a football-linked disease that causes dementia and aggression.

On Thursday, Dr McKee formally presented her findings and confirmed that she had never encountered such extreme degradation in a young brain, pointing out areas of severe tissue damage and microbleeds likely caused by blows to the head.

Dr McKee says she could not say for certain that Hernandez's criminal and suicidal acts were a result of his severe case of CTE, nor whether other 27-year-old players could plausibly have the same pathology. But she says Hernandez suffered substantial damage to several important regions, including the frontal lobe.

His attorneys have sued the NFL and football helmet maker Riddell, accusing them of failing to warn Hernandez about the dangers of football.

'In any individual, we can't take the pathology and explain the behavior,' Dr Ann McKee said, speaking at the landmark event at Boston's annual CTE conference.

'But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE and CTE of this severity have difficulty with impulse control, decision making, inhibition or impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behavior.'

Worst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behaviorWorst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behavior

Worst case of CTE: These scans show how Aaron Hernandez's brain was so severely damaged compared to a healthy 27-year-old brain. He was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe. His scans reveal significant damage (circled) to regions that control memory, impulse control and behavior

Ann McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron HernandezAnn McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez

Ann McKee, Director of the BU CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Victor Alvarez MD, Neuropathologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, conduct the post-mortem study of the brain of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez

Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012

Hernandez (pictured in November 2011 during his first season) was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots in 2012

Dr McKee told the conference that the only other brains they have studied with this level of damage were at least 20 years older than Hernandez.

'In this age group, he's clearly at the severe end of the spectrum,' McKee said.

'There is a concern that we're seeing accelerated disease in young athletes. Whether or not that's because they're playing more aggressively or if they're starting at younger ages, we don't know. But we are seeing ravages of this disease, in this specific example, of a young person.'

Hernandez was diagnosed with stage three out of four, with four being the most severe.

His brain scans reveal huge clumps of tau protein in Hernandez's frontal lobes, and in the nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE.

These proteins, also seen in dementia, disrupts the normal functioning of the brain, triggering aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes.

Boston's ongoing investigation into football-linked brain injury is studying hundreds of former players' brains, including Aaron Hernandez, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Andre Waters – all of whom committed suicide and had CTE.

Seau and Duerson both shot themselves in the chest with the expressed intention of donating their brains to scientists to examine them for disease.

As expected, tests subsequently showed that both men and Waters, who were all over the age of 40, had CTE. Hernandez, however, was in his mid-20s – with a far more severe pathology.

A close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to itA close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to it

A close-up look at Hernandez's brain and the severe damage to it

Pieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University labPieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University lab

Pieces of Aaron Hernandez's brain in the Boston University lab

This is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTEThis is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE

This is Hernandez's brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE

Dr McKee cautioned that she has not received many brains of players so young who played to such a high level as Aaron Hernandez, who started playing before the age of eight and was regarded as one of the NFL's top tight ends.

The tests showed Hernandez had early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane which is essential to control behavior.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head.

Over time, these hard impacts result in confusion, depression, dementia, explosiveness, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

Researchers are still unclear on how CTE affects behavior, but a growing swell of studies is offering some answers.

  • CTE sufferers have clumps of tau protein built up in the frontal lobe, which controls emotional expression and judgment (similar to dementia)
  • This interrupts normal functioning and blood flow in the brain, disrupting and killing nerve cells
  • By stage 3 – i.e. Hernandez's stage – the tau deposits expand from the frontal lobe (at the top) to the temporal lobe (on the sides). This affects the amygdala and the hippocampus, which controls emotion and memory

The disgraced star had a $41 million NFL contract when he was arrested at his home in June 2013 and charged with the murder of a semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

Lloyd was the boyfriend of Hernandez's fiancee's sister. He was found dead in an industrial park on June 17, 2013, riddled with bullets. Surveillance footage showed Hernandez at the scene an hour before, then arriving at home minutes after gunshots were fired.

In April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

While in prison, Hernandez was charged with another killing – a double murder committed by a drive-by shooting. But in April this year, he was acquitted of both charges.

The next day, he took his own life.

His family has since filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots on behalf of Hernandez's four-year-old daughter Avielle, claiming the club and the league knew about the connections between football and CTE long before Hernandez was drafted.

From golden boy to convict: The tragic story of Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez was born into a sports dynasty, and he was a star.

Growing up in Bristol, Connecticut, he excelled in football, basketball, and sprint running.

But his idyllic childhood took a turn at the age of 16 in 2006 when his father, a coach who was his inspiration and best friend, died during a routine hernia surgery.

Hernandez left high school in January 2007 to join the University of Florida Gators.

Within months, he was involved in a fight, sucker-punching a restaurant manager. The police report said he ruptured the man's eardrum.

He was also suspended for marijuana.

And in his sophomore year, he was named in a police report about a club shooting, naming him as one of a few Gator players which triggered the argument.

But despite his run-ins with the law, he was incredibly skilled.

Hernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contractHernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contract

Hernandez smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans in December 10, 2012, shortly after landing his $40 million contract

It meant he was able to skip his senior year to go pro in 2010.

He was expected to be the first pick. Ultimately, he was left until the fourth pick, selected by the Patriots. It has since emerged that Hernandez had written a personal letter to the team asking them to draft him – a factor which was likely significant.

And they weren't disappointed. In 2012, he landed a $40 million contract for his third season.

But he didn't see that season through.

In June 2013, Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister.

Lloyd was a semi-pro football player. He was found dead in a park on June 17, 2013, with bullet wounds.

Indicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, MassachusettsIndicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts

Indicted: Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts

On June 28, Hernandez was detained, with an arrest warrant that said he was seen with Lloyd at 2.30am on the day of his murder. Gunshots were heard at around 3.25am, and at 3.29am, surveillance footage showed Hernandez arriving home in his car, which was five minutes from the crime scene.

In April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

While in prison, Hernandez was charged with another killing – a double murder committed by a drive-by shooting. But in April this year, he was acquitted of both charges.

The next day, he took his own life, and penned three suicide notes, including one to his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins.

They were discovered in the cell were Aaron Hernandez hanged himself, leading investigators to officially declare his death a suicide.

The notes were discovered next to a Bible opened to John 3:16, the same verse that Hernandez had written across his forehead in marker.

That verse reads: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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