Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Migrant children warehoused in horrific conditions


Elora Mukherjee, a lawyer who met with children in a Border Patrol facility in Texas, describes how the Trump administration left children "dirty, hungry, sick" and "scared" there. She explains that some children she saw couldn't play because "they were trying to conserve their energy to stay alive."
Mukherjee, who visited the facility in Clint, just outside El Paso, said that children were "locked up in horrific cells where there's an open toilet in the middle of the room" where they ate and slept.
"There was nobody taking care of these children... they were not being bathed on a regular basis," Prof Warren Binford of Williamette University in Oregon said.
"Several hundred of the children had been kept in a warehouse that was recently erected on the facility grounds."
"The cells are overcrowded... there's a lice infestation there, there is an influenza outbreak. Children are being locked up in isolation with no adult supervision, who are very, very ill and they're just lying on the ground on mats."
 Mukherjee said, "They were wearing the same dirty clothing they crossed the border with."
"It is degrading and inhumane and shouldn't be happening in America."

In a statement, the border authority acknowledged that the Clint facility was not suited to the task.
"US Customs and Border Protection leverages our limited resources to provide the best care possible to those in our custody, especially children," it said.
"As our leadership have noted numerous times, our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations, and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis."
The agency said it had moved children to more suitable facilities as soon as space was available.
On Monday, Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar, who had been deeply critical of the reported conditions, said she had been told that only 30 children remained in the Clint facility.
The New York Times reports 100 children were transported back to the facility after it made changes to alleviate its overcrowding. They had been held there for weeks.

On Tuesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed through a $4.5bn bill in emergency aid for the border, but the issue has divided liberals. One lawmakers, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said: "I will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics."
Others, like Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey, said her fellow Democrats should not allow anger at President Donald Trump "to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money".

The most powerful elected Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, met her rank-and-file members on Monday to discuss changes to the bill ahead of a Tuesday vote.
Democratic leaders said they would add language to the bill to ensure higher standards of medical care and nutrition for migrants in US custody. They also want to set a three-month limit for any unaccompanied child migrant to spend at a shelter. Some Democrats are opposed to the $155m in the bill that would go to the US Marshals Service, a law enforcement agency that detains migrants who illegally re-enter the country after deportation.

The White House has already threatened to veto the bill, saying it "does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis and... it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the Administration's border enforcement efforts".
Related image
I made it all happen and I'm proud to own it

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The families who weren't meant to survive


A group of Holocaust survivors and their families gather in Prague’s Old Town Square to recreate a photo that was taken in 1945, when the survivors had just been liberated from Nazi concentration camps.

The survivors were part of a group of children flown to the UK to start new lives after World War Two. Unlike the Kindertransport - which rescued thousands of children in the early years of the war - this group had been though the concentration camps and survived against all odds.

BBC reporter Hannah Gelbart, a granddaughter of one of the survivors, tells the story of the orphaned children who had everything taken from them, and re-built their lives together.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Debate over whether US child migrant detainees are entitled to soap, toothbrushes and beds - Really?

Migrants are gathered inside the fence of a makeshift detention center in El Paso, Texas on Wed. March 27, 2019
A Trump administration lawyer has disputed in court whether detained migrant children are entitled to toothbrushes and soap. The Department of Justice argued the government was adhering to a landmark ruling requiring migrants to be kept in "safe and sanitary" facilities. The attorney pointed out the law did not mention soap.
But a panel of judges in California questioned the rationale, saying the children were sleeping on concrete. In July 2017, US District Judge Dolly Gee found the Trump administration had breached the 1997 Flores agreement by not providing migrant children with appropriate food or hygienic supplies, housing them in cold facilities without beds.
The agreement states that immigrant children cannot be held for more than 20 days and must be provided with food, water, emergency medical care and toilets. But Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian argued on Tuesday that the federal government had not violated Flores
Three boys lie on thin green mattresses on the floor covered in foil blankets
This image from the US Customs and Border Protection shows the foil blankets given to children
See the source image

See the source image

Ms Fabian maintained in a Ninth Circuit court in San Francisco that the government had fulfilled the Flores agreement because it did not specifically list items such as soap or toothbrushes.
"One has to assume it was left that way and not enumerated by the parties because either the parties couldn't reach agreement on how to enumerate that or it was left to the agencies to determine," she said.
"These are the challenges of interpreting a very old agreement."
Ms Fabian argued that children in shorter-term immigration detention did not require soap or toothbrushes.

Circuit Judge William Fletcher questioned the government's reasoning.
"Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you've got an aluminium foil blanket?"
He added that it was "inconceivable" that the government would describe those conditions as "safe and sanitary".
Fellow Judge A Wallace Tashima remarked: "It's within everybody's common understanding that if you don't have a toothbrush, you don't have soap, you don't have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary [conditions]."
Ms Fabian agreed "there's fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary" conditions, but said the Flores agreement was "vague".
The hearing comes on the heels of a bitter debate sparked by Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called US-Mexico border migrant detention centres "concentration camps".
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram on Monday: "The fact that concentrations camps are now an institutionalized practice in the Home of the Free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it."
The New York Democrat emphasized that she was not comparing them to Nazi death camps.
Twitter post by @AOC: DHS ripped 1000s of children from their parents & put them in cages w inhumane conditions.They call their cells “dog pounds” & “freezers.”I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are.If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps - not the nomenclature.

She likened them instead to US Japanese internment camps during World War Two.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez was supported by actor George Takei, who was sent to such a camp with his

'Acting Director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Mark Morgan criticized this characterization of the centres as "completely inappropriate", "reckless" and "flat out wrong".'

'Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming also lashed out at Ms Ocasio-Cortez, saying the comparison was demeaning to Holocaust victims.'
'Ms Ocasio-Cortez fired back by asking: "What do YOU call building mass camps of people being detained without a trial?"'

Thousands of Central American migrants have been seeking asylum in the US, fleeing extreme poverty and insecurity. US immigration authorities made a total of 396,579 apprehensions on the south-western border in 2018, and 303,916 the year before. Border Patrol stations have become overcrowded and temporary shelters have been created in states such as Texas.  This month, the US reached an agreement with Mexico to help stem the flow of migrants by deploying Mexican National Guard troops to border regions.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Three Russians, one Ukrainian will face murder charges over downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

Russia, has claimed it did not have a role in the death of 298 people on the flight
Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, accused of downing of flight MH17,

Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine which killed 298 people, in a trial to start in the Netherlands next March, an investigation team said on Wednesday.
The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia, however, as the Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and is not expected to hand anyone over.
“These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians,” said Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.
“Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane.”
Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said in a letter to parliament the Netherlands had taken unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Moscow for failing to fully comply with legal requests or providing incorrect information.
Crash site
The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction named the four suspects as Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin,
and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. It said international arrest warrants for the four had been issued.
Girkin, 48, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, is believed to live in Moscow where he makes regular public appearances. He is a commentator on Russian and foreign affairs via his own website and YouTube channel.
“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Girkin told Reuters on Wednesday without elaborating.
Ukrainian authorities said they would try to detain Kharchenko, the suspect believed to be on their territory.
MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014, over territory held by pro-
Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone on board was killed.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests.” There were 10 Britons on the flight.

Russian missile
Most of those on board were Dutch. The joint investigation team formed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.
Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said Moscow was not to blame and there are other explanations for what happened.
The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.
Asked if she expected the suspects to attend the trial, Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce was on the plane, said: “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t care. I just want the truth, and this is the truth.”
Moscow has said it does not trust the investigation.

“Russia was unable to take part in the investigation despite expressing an interest right from the start and trying to join it,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The investigation team said Girkin was a former FSB security service colonel who served as minister of defence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in the summer of 2014.
It said Dubinsky was head of the military intelligence agency of DNR, while Pulatov was head of a second department of the DNR military intelligence agency. Kharchenko was head of a reconnaissance battalion for the second department, it said.
Prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Kushners received millions in funds from real estate holdings and book deal while working as aides to president

The front of the house
Ivanka Trump's house
The lobby
The house exterior

The historic Puck Building in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan, owned by the Kushner family, generated as much as $6m in rent. A former warehouse-turned-luxury-apartment building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn brought in more than $350,000 in rent.
Former and current tenants in the building filed a lawsuit against Kushner Companies, alleging it used noisy, dusty construction to make living conditions unbearable in an effort to push them out so their apartments could be sold. The company has said the suit is without merit.

Cadre has also drawn conflict-of-interest questions. It launched a fund to take advantage of large tax breaks by investing in downtrodden areas. It has also  received $90m in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since Mr. Kushner entered the White House. The disclosures were released by the White House and filed with the US Office of Government Ethics.

Last month John Kelly, the president’s former chief of staff, said the President’s family was an “influence” that frequently needed to be “dealt with”. Mr Kelly said in an interview with Bloomberg Television's, The David Rubenstein Show, that he had been forced to remove some “very disruptive” officials “to staff a president the way I think a president should be staffed”.
He also said he was taken aback by the “intense personal ambition” some staffers displayed. He was referring to some staffers in high positions, including the Kushners.

It seems the Kushners have taken advantage of their connection to the office of the presidency to line their own pockets. Does anyone see something wrong with that? Does anyone see something wrong with the fact that they hold such important positions at the White House without any training or diplomatic experience or without going through the usual procedures and vetting for security clearance?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Why are sick and dying 9/11 heroes begging Congress for money?

A US congressional panel has voted to extend the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a day after comedian Jon Stewart assailed lawmakers for their inaction. Stewart appeared on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, calling it "shameful" that many lawmakers did not attend to hear testimony from first responders.  The comedian testified in support of the bill, which extends medical funding for 9/11 first responders.
The measure now moves to the US House of Representatives for a full vote. The Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) covers medical costs of first responders, volunteers and survivors who were injured or sickened at Ground Zero following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack.
"They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity," he told the House Judiciary Committee of the first responders. "Eighteen years later, do yours."
Though it was supposed to be funded until 2020, those administering it say a recent spike in claims has left the fund in danger of running out.
"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time," Stewart said on Tuesday.

Up to 80,000 people - including firemen, police officers, emergency workers, contractors and cleaning staff - are believed to have rushed to the aid of victims in the aftermath of 9/11.
In doing so, many exposed themselves to toxic debris in the air, including asbestos, lead, and pulverized concrete, which causes silicosis.  They join an estimated 400,000 people believed to have been exposed to toxic contaminants, or suffered injury or trauma in Manhattan that day, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of September 2018, 2,000 deaths were attributed to 9/11 related illnesses. By the end of last year, many estimate that more people will have died from toxic exposures than were actually killed in the attack.

Luis Alvarez, a former New York Police Department detective said at Tuesday's hearing that he had survived 68 rounds of chemotherapy to fight 9/11-related cancer.
"This fund is not a ticket to paradise," he said. "It is there to provide for our families when we can't."
The VCF was initially created in 2001, immediately following the attacks. This original VCF distributed over $7bn to families of more than 2,880 people who died and for 2,680 injured.
In 2006, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York co-sponsored a bill that eventually became the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which effectively re-activated the VCF.
The act passed despite efforts from Congressional Republicans to block it. In December 2010, in the midst of political turmoil over the Zadroga Act, Stewart dedicated an entire episode of his Comedy Central show to the fund. Some credit him with its eventual approval after then President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2011. Though it was initially authorized to accept claims until October 2016, the fund's deadline was later extended until December 2020.

A total of $7.38bn was appropriated for this second iteration of the VCF.  As of 31 May, 2019, it has awarded more than $5bn to nearly 22,500 individuals who have suffered as a result of 9/11, including the families of 850 people who have died.
On Tuesday, Rupa Bhattacharyya, who administers the fund, testified to Congress that it will soon run out of money. Mr Bhattacharyya said the VCF received a record number of new claims received in 2018, and is already on track to surpass that number this year. The spike in claims has left the VCF at risk of a massive funding shortfall. As a result, future payouts to 9/11 victims and their families may be cut by as much as 70%.

The bill that passed the judiciary committee on Wednesday aims to make the VCF permanent and grant additional funding to the bill. A specific amount has not yet been allocated.
"There is no other choice", said New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, a sponsor of the bill. "This bill is about fulfilling our promise to 'Never Forget.' And we won't stop fighting until we guarantee that this program will be there for anyone and everyone who needs it."

How to live to be a hundred

Whenever someone turns 100, it’s customary to ask them the secret of their longevity. Here are some of their answers: Drinking spiked espresso every day. Better sex through constant divorce. Cigars. Drinking three beers and a shot of whiskey every day.
This is obviously all terrible advice, so we dug up some hard science on how you can actually expect to live to your 100th birthday.
Rule number one: Be lucky
Yeah, sorry, you can’t really affect this, but it is kind of a big factor. Any centenarian alive today had to not be killed in World War II, not be killed in a mining disaster, not be hit by a car and not die of a whole galaxy of 20th century diseases, including measles, smallpox, polio, diphtheria and AIDS.
For every 100-year-old Canadian alive today, thousands upon thousands of their colleagues didn’t make it, and it wasn’t always their fault. Also, some people are just genetically better at living. When Keith Richards inevitably hits 100, that’s blind luck.
Rule number two: Be rich
Being super rich didn’t stop the reaper from taking Paul Allen at age 65, but there is a pretty clear correlation between wealth and longevity. Money means you have clean water, safe transportation, stable housing and easy access to good medical care.
Basically, the richer your country, the more likely you are to reach 100. But there’s some weird exceptions to this: South Africa and Thailand, for instance, both boast really high numbers of centenarians despite having lower per-capita income than Mexico.
Rule number three: Don’t be fat
Here are some pictures of people celebrating their 100th birthday. They come from all races, religions and backgrounds, but they share one thing in common; they’re all pretty thin. The Japanese island of Okinawa is famous for its ridiculously high rate of centenarians, and it’s generally suspected to be because they have a fantastic diet. They eat small portions, lower calorie food and a whole whack of vegetables and fish.
Rule number four: Have an active social life
The famed Georgia Centenarian Study tracked down a bunch of centenarians in the U.S. state of Georgia and then tried to figure out how they had all gotten so old. Some of the factors that kept reappearing were extraversion, a full social schedule and a higher likelihood of engaging in volunteer work. Basically, people are being kept alive by bingo and church bake sales. It’s a similar deal in Sardinia, a region of Italy with an uncharacteristically high number of centenarians. Most elderly Sardinians still live with family, and they’re able to keep plugged in to the vibrant social life of their village. Socialize at least six hours a day, and you’ll be on your way to 100.
Rule number five: Have a reason to live
At a certain point, some people just get bored of life. For instance, here’s a quote from conservative author William F. Buckley at the age of 80: “I’m tired of life. I’m utterly prepared to stop living on.” Unsurprisingly, he was dead two years later.
Among centenarians, one constant is that they’re often super active well into their 90s. Britain’s Bill Frankland was still a working doctor at age 105. American Mabel Sawhill started a catering company at age 70 and was still running it at 102. You may also have noticed that the British royal family seems to live forever: These are people who never run out of stuff to do. In Okinawa, this concept even has a name: Ikigai, which roughly translates to “reason for being.”
Last tip: If all else fails to make you a centenarian, you can also just … lie.
The oldest person in history is generally recognized to be France’s Jeanne Calment, who officially died at 122 years old. But lately, compelling evidence has emerged that she actually died at a more conventional age of 99. The best theory is that she assumed her dead mother’s identity in the 1930s in order to dodge the French estate tax, and then one thing just kind of led to another and she had to live out the lie.
Good luck friends and remember to keep your sense of humor, don't hang on to old regrets, live one day at a time and find joy in simple things like a beautiful spring day or a sunset or a smile on a beloved child.