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‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ donations for ALS top $41 million

With everyone from former President George W. Bush to Justin Bieber and Shakira posting online videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice over their heads in the name of charity, the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge” continues to dominate social media and has now raised more than $41.8 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Donations to the ALS Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for the disease, have surged since the challenge started trending in late July. The group said Thursday morning that it had received $41.8 million in donations since July 29.That’s more than double the $19.4 million in total contributions the association received during the year that ended Jan. 31, 2013, according to a filing with the IRS.

About 30,000 Americans now have ALS, which attacks nerve cells and ultimately leads to total paralysis, though the mind remains sharp. Life expectancy is typically two to five years from the time of diagnosis. The exact cause is not understood and there is no cure or treatment that stops or reverses the disease. The flood of donations will be transformative for finding treatments and a cure for ALS as well as for providing support to people with the disease, said Carrie Munk, a spokeswoman for the ALS Association. The group now supports 98 global research projects and recently announced $3.5 million in financing for 21 others.

In addition, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised awareness of the disease, which the ALS Association said only half of Americans were aware of about a month ago

“While the monetary contributions are so absolutely incredible, and we’ll be able to really make a considerable difference in moving the mission of the ALS Association forward, the real fortunate part of the Ice Bucket Challenge is the amount of awareness it has raised for the ALS cause in general,” Munk said. “It puts us in a whole different ballgame to find treatments and cures for this disease.”

The ALS Association said that it had received many celebrity contributions but would not disclose the donors’ names for confidentiality reasons.

—Emily Steel, The New York Times

Death of Connecticut toddler left in car is ruled a homicide

The death of a 15-month-old boy who was left alone for hours in a hot car in Connecticut last month has been ruled a homicide, the Connecticut state medical examiner’s office said on Thursday.

After a six-week investigation, officials at the medical examiner’s office determined that the boy, Benjamin Seitz, of Ridgefield, had died of hyperthermia because of environmental exposure.

In the early evening of July 7, the police in Ridgefield received a report about Benjamin’s death from the staff of Danbury Hospital, where the boy’s father, Kyle Seitz, had taken him after finding him left alone in his vehicle on a day when the temperature reached 88 degrees. Seitz, the police said at the time, was supposed to have dropped his son off at a day care center, but, instead drove to work at a Ridgefield computer technology company and left the boy in the car for “an extended period of time.”

Stephen Sedensky III, the state’s attorney in Danbury, said the investigation into Benjamin’s death was continuing and declined to comment on whether any charges would be made.

Earlier this summer, Seitz and his wife, Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, set up a memorial blog and website for Benjamin, which seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars on hot days. On her blog, Rogers-Seitz wrote that she would not discuss “any theories of causation or responsibility” for what she called “these tragic events.”

—Alan Feuer, The New York Times

Eurozone economic expansion slows to crawl, survey shows

PARIS — The eurozone economy is still expanding, but only feebly, according to a private sector report released Thursday that provided further confirmation that the region’s fragile expansion was only slightly better than outright stagnation.

The report, based on a survey of purchasing managers this month by Markit Economics, a data analysis company, showed that output barely rose in services and manufacturing.

Markit said its composite output index slipped to a reading of 52.8 in August, from 53.8 in July. It was the 14th consecutive month that the figure exceeded 50, a level that signals expansion, but it was also the weakest showing this year. Markit said the pace was consistent with growth in the eurozone’s gross domestic product of just 0.3 percent.

The economy in the 18-country currency bloc was already running out of gas in the second quarter, according to a report last week from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. That report showed that the eurozone economy did not grow at all in the second quarter from the first three months of the year, as Germany and Italy contracted and France was stagnant.

The area’s economy “remains too weak to encourage companies to take on staff in sufficiently large numbers to have a meaningful impact on unemployment,” Rob Dobson, an economist at Markit, wrote of the latest figures. “August saw job creation slow to near-stagnation.”

Nearly six years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the eurozone has still not been able to break with the legacies of the global financial crisis. With the economy being held back by the weight of more than 18 million unemployed people and with credit contracting, the European Central Bank has come under pressure to address a growing threat of deflation.

The central bank in June cut its benchmark interest rate target to just 0.15 percent, and announced other measures, including negative rates on deposits held by financial institutions at the bank.

But with recognition growing that monetary policy can do only so much, there have also been growing calls, including from Italy and France, for more leeway to use fiscal policy to restore demand, in contradiction of EU rules on government spending.

—David Jolly, The New York Times