ICE Illegally Held a U.S. Citizen in Detention Center for 1,273 Days

from September 9, 2017 at 01:51AM

Photo Credit: Danielfela / Shutterstock

What happens when ICE wrongly detains a U.S. citizen for almost three and a half years? Well, a whole lot of nothing. Take the case of Davino Watson, who was held in ICE detention facilities for 1,273 days faced with the improbable task of proving his American citizenship without access to a lawyer. According to two United States Court of Appeals judges, his detention was simply business as usual. 

It began in 2008. Finishing the Shock incarceration program, “a bootcamp-style lockup for non-violent and non-sexual offenders,” Watson was detained by ICE within “three seconds” of his release, he told Newsweek. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents allege he was in the country illegally. It was time for Watson’s deportation.

This grab-and-go style isn’t out of the ordinary. An aggressive program called “secure communities”—created by President George W. Bush, suspended by President Obama and then reinstated by President Trump—crosschecks fingerprints from local jurisdictions with the FBI to find if an individual has a criminal record or outstanding warrant, and then crosschecks with the Department of Homeland Security to find their immigration status. If an offender is undocumented, he is then scooped up by ICE for deportation following his release.

But unlike his undocumented counterparts, Watson has been a U.S. citizen since 2002. ICE had no legal authority to hold Watson, or any other U.S. citizen. Watson, born in Jamaica, became a citizen under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which allows children under the age of 18 to automatically join their parents in citizenship if they are lawful permanent residents. 

Watson told ICE agents in two interviews during his time in Shock sentence that ICE agent Erik Andren “never made a successful attempt to reach (his parents) at the phone number” and “ignored the notation on the Pre-Sentence Face Sheet that the plaintiff was claiming United States citizenship.” Andren also managed to mix up Watson’s parents’ names, substituting Hopeton Watson for Hopeton Livingston Watson and Claire Watson for Calrie Dale Watson. While it is unclear if the mixup was intentional, Livingston-Watson’s ex-spouse was a U.S. citizen, which should have led to further investigation.

The judge overseeing Watson’s case, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, noted “a reasonable person exercising even a modest amount of care would have recognized that these files did not—could not—belong to plaintiff’s father or stepmother.”

Yet according to the Daily Beast, Andren sent paperwork deeming Watson to be deportable before the parental files had even reached his desk.

The paperwork went to the next ICE officer, who “mindlessly” approved the incorrect conclusions, thus moving on to the next desk, where the cycle continued twice. 

Unable to afford a lawyer, Watson had no access to counsel—as most deportations are regarded as civil matters—until May 2011, when the case reached the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals and required the Board of Immigration Appeals hear his case. 

Though after 1,273 days Watson won his freedom, his series of unfortunate events did not end there. ICE released him 1,000 miles from his home with no money. And it took 450 days to terminate the removal proceedings, which hindered his ability to find a job.

Sadly, Watson’s story is “far from unusual,” says Chief Judge Katzmann. Thousands of Americans have faced detention or the threat of deportation—nearly 21,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been unlawfully detained in a four-year period. And only 14 percent of detainees are able to acquire legal counsel, despite the fact that immigrants with access to counsel are four times more likely to be released from detention than the lawyer-less, according to a study by the American Immigration Council

In the end, what little money Watson was initially owed in a court-ordered settlement—around $100,000 accounting for only 54 days of his detention—was taken away following an appeal by ICE. Judges Dennis Jacobs and Debra Livingston said, “Watson did not suffer cognizable damages.”

Nevertheless, dissenting Judge Katzmann felt there had been a miscarriage of justice and felt it important to identify “the ‘legal process’ to which Watson was subjected, moreover, is one in which the odds are stacked against him and similarly situated respondents.” 

“I would hope that nothing about Watson’s 1,273-day detention can be said to have been ‘an entirely common state of affairs.’ If it were, we should all be deeply troubled,” said Katzmann. “I am hopeful that one day soon no immigrant or citizen will be forced to go through a predicament like Watson’s without the assistance of counsel to help vindicate his cause.”

According to Slate, Watson may continue the case with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Jennie Neufeld is a junior writing fellow at AlterNet. She has previously worked for the Observer, the Wild and Nylon Magazine. Follow her on twitter @jennieneufeld

Read more at: Alternet

Experts Say the Use of Private Email by Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Isn’t Legal

from September 15, 2017 at 04:22PM

The 45th President and His Administration

President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission came under fire earlier this month when a lawsuit and media reports revealed that the commissioners were using private emails to conduct public business. Commission co-chair Kris Kobach confirmed this week that most of them continue to do so.

Experts say the commission’s email practices do not appear to comport with federal law. “The statute here is clear,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Essentially, Baron said, the commissioners have three options: 1. They can use a government email address; 2. They can use a private email address but copy every message to a government account; or 3. They can use a private email address and forward each message to a government account within 20 days. According to Baron, those are the requirements of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which the commission must comply with under its charter.

“All written communications between or among its members involving commission business are permanent records destined to be preserved at the National Archives,” said Baron. “Without specific guidance, commission members may not realize that their email communications about commission business constitute White House records.”

ProPublica reviewed dozens of emails to and from members of the commission as well as written directives on records retention. The commissioners appear to have been given no instructions to use government email or copy or forward messages to a government account.

Commissioner Matthew Dunlap, the secretary of state for Maine, confirmed that he’d received no such directives. “That’s news to me,” he said, when read the PRA provision governing emails. “I think it would be a little cleaner if I had a email account.”

Dunlap’s account is disputed by Andrew Kossack, the executive director of the commission. Kossack said attorneys from the Government Services Administration provided training on the PRA before the commission’s first meeting on July 19. Kossack provided a copy of the PowerPoint presentation. However, the word “email” appears in only a single slide — with no mention of anything relating to the use of government email.

Notably, the commission did not receive any training in records retention until the July 19 meeting, even though the commission was formed in May and had been actively engaged in commission business.

Indeed, the commission had kicked into high gear on June 28, when it sent a letter to all 50 secretaries of state requesting publicly available voter rolls. The response was swift and negative, and commissioners began receiving a wave of messages from election officials and the public.

Despite this, the commissioners were offered no instructions then on how to preserve communications. Baron said such messages would presumptively be considered presidential records, and “the obligation to preserve such records would have arisen on day one.”

In a statement, Kossack denied there is an obligation to provide commissioners with government email addresses. He maintained that the commission is required only to “preserve emails and other records related to work on commission matters, regardless of the forum on which the records are created or sent, which the commission and its members are doing.”

After the commission’s most recent meeting, on Tuesday, Kobach confirmed that he plans to continue to use his personal gmail account to conduct commission business. Using his Kansas secretary of state email address, he said, would be a “waste of state resources” as he’s acting as a private citizen on the commission and not in his role as secretary of state.

Dunlap has interpreted the requirements differently. He’s trying to ensure his state email account is used so that emails can be made available to constituents under Maine state law. Even this is a struggle, he said, asserting that commissioners continue to email him at his personal account despite multiple requests that they send email to his government account.

“I really don’t understand why they keep using my personal Gmail account instead of my official state email. But I’m saving everything!” Dunlap wrote to himself on August 7, when he forwarded a communication from the commission to his government address. He has, it appears, continued to immediately forward all emails sent to his personal address by the commission to his state address.

At ProPublica’s request, Dunlap shared every email he has received or sent relating to the commission. The majority went to personal email accounts.

At their recent meeting in New Hampshire, Kossack provided commissioners printed instructions on how to retain their own emails related to a lawsuit filed against the commission by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Dunlap said these instructions are the only written set of instructions on records retention he recalls receiving. (The instructions leave records retention entirely to the discretion of each member of the commission, which Dunlap said concerns him.)

Past commissions with similar missions were not allowed such wide discretion. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, formed by the Obama administration in March 2013, provided ethics and records retention training days after commissioners were nominated. Each commissioner was provided with a federal email address that automatically archived all messages. PCEA documents show extensive, specific instructions on records retention and compliance with FACA.

Richard Painter, who served as the George W. Bush administration’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, expressed shock that the current commission is being allowed to rely on personal email accounts (which are to be forwarded to Kossack at their discretion). “This is just sloppy,” he said, adding that waiting more than two months to offer ethics training was just another sign that the Trump administration “doesn’t take ethics training seriously.”

One footnote: Among the emails provided by Dunlap was a message from Carter Page, a former policy adviser to the Trump campaign who has reportedly attracted the attention of investigators probing the Russia imbroglio. Page sent an email on July 5 to three accounts associated with Kobach and cc’d Dunlap, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson. In it, he implored the commission to investigate “the Obama administration’s misuse of federal resources of the Intelligence Community in their unjustified attacks on myself and other volunteers who peacefully supported [Trump’s] campaign as private citizens.”

“The work of your commission offers an essential opportunity to take further steps toward helping to further restore the integrity of the American democracy following their abuses of last year,” he wrote.

There is no evidence this email was forwarded to a federal email account. Page, Kossack and Kobach did not respond to requests for comment about the email.

Read more at: ProPublica: Articles and Investigations

Jared Kushner’s Data Operation Increasingly Suspected of Aiding 2016 Russian Propaganda Attack

from September 16, 2017 at 12:28AM

Ultra-conservative billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer may have contributed to Kushner’s scheme.

The news regarding Russia’s use of social media platforms to push propaganda and inject false narratives in the U.S. conversation around the 2016 election is now a documented fact but it has been an open question as to how Russia’s so-called “troll farms” knew how to target their ad buys.

According to a Friday report in Vanity Fair by Chris Smith, investigators increasingly suspect that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner helped guide Russian operatives to their targets.

“Mapping the full Russian propaganda effort is important,” said Smith. “Yet investigators in the House, Senate, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office are equally focused on a more explosive question: did any Americans help target the memes and fake news to crucial swing districts and wavering voter demographics?”

One of Smith’s sources close to the investigations quipped, “By Americans, you mean, like, the Trump campaign?”

Rachel Maddow raised the possibility last week that Kushner and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica may have been providing Russian intelligence operatives with up-to-the-instant polling data and micro-targeting data for ad buys.

“There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” said the MSNBC host.

It’s unclear where Cambridge Analytica entered the picture, Smith noted, but the company is heavily funded by billionaire Republican power donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the shadowy team who have poured millions into ultra-conservative causes and media organizations.

The Mercers are credited with helping turn the Trump campaign around in the eleventh hour by bringing in media mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway and now-ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon.

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has said in the past, “I think the Russians had help” from inside the U.S. in its efforts. “I’ve always wondered if Cambridge Analytica was part of that.”

“No evidence has emerged to link Kushner, Cambridge Analytica, or Manafort to the Russian election-meddling enterprise; all have denied colluding with foreign agents,” Smith said. “Yet analysts scoff at the notion that the Russians figured out how to target African-Americans and women in decisive precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan all by themselves.”

“Could they have hired a warehouse full of people in Moscow and had them read Nate Silver’s blog every morning and determine what messages to post to what demographics? Sure, theoretically that’s possible,” said former defense official under the Obama administration Mike Carpenter. “But that’s not how they do this. And it’s not surprising that it took Facebook this long to figure out the ad buys. The Russians are excellent at covering their tracks. They’ll subcontract people in Macedonia or Albania or Cyprus and pay them via the dark Web. They always use locals to craft the campaign appropriately. My only question about 2016 is who exactly was helping them here.”

Read more at: Alternet

Trump Lied About Voter Fraud—Now He Wants to Steal People’s Votes

from September 15, 2017 at 02:17AM

When Trump claimed that millions "voted illegally" in 2016, it laid the groundwork for a voter commission that looks set to restrict rights to minorities.

Of the hundreds of whoppers that President Trump has told since his election, an early one remains the most toxic. In days following his electoral college victory, Trump claimed that he would have also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump later refined this claim, insisting that three to five million undocumented voters threw the popular election for Clinton.

By way of proof, the president waved at an outlandish story: that golfer Bernhard Langer – a German citizen, barred from voting in the in the US – had had his path to the voting booth clogged by men and women, who by skin color and accent were obviously fraudulent voters.

At first, the voter fraud fantasy seemed like no more than a display of the touchiness and extravagant narcissism that led Trump, in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary, to insist that his inaugural crowds were larger than Obama’s.

In fact, the lie concealed a much more ambitious and insidious political agenda. In May, with the creation of the “Presidential Advisory Committee on Voter Integrity,” Trump bootstrapped the myth of voter fraud into an institutional reality. The goal: to use the allegation of fraud to tighten voting procedures that will suppress the votes of minorities, groups that generally vote Democratic.

Vice-President Pence, who nominally chairs the 10-person committee, sought early on to assure the public that the group was convened with no preconceived views or agenda. He might as well have said: “Yes, we’ve created a dedicated, tax-payer funded committee to look into Bigfoot’s existence, but I want to emphasize that we remain open to evidence that Bigfoot may not exist.”

Alas, Bigfoot is alive and well on the committee. Recently we learned that in the run-up to the panel’s creation, a member of the Heritage Foundation, presumably Hans von Spakovsky, a well-known voter fraud alarmist, wrote an email responding to the “very disturbing” news that the commission might be “bipartisan and include democrats (sic).” Even appointing “mainstream Republican officials and/or academics,” the email warned, would run the risk of turning the committee into “an abject failure.”

The concern was duly noted. The de facto head of the committee is its vice-chair, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a true believer who has shown a Trumpian disregard of fact in his crusade against a widespread and persistent problem the very existence of which remains entirely fanciful.

On 7 September, Kobach, a regular contributor to Breitbart, wrote a headline-grabbing piece for the alt-right website alleging that the results of the senatorial and presidential election in New Hampshire were “likely changed through voter fraud”.

Noting that it “has long been reported, anecdotally, that out-of-staters … [in New Hampshire’s presidential and senatorial races] cast fraudulent votes,” Kobach delivered a bombshell: “Now there’s proof.”

According to Kobach, evidence conclusively showed that thousands of people with out-of-state driver’s licenses – persons who “never were bona fide residents” –poured into the Granite state, swinging the election in the favor of the democratic senatorial candidate Maggie Hassan and Hillary Clinton.

“If the presidential contest had been closer,” Kobach noted, apocalyptically, “then this voter fraud might have had extraordinary consequences.”

The charge was sensational, incendiary, and bogus. On Tuesday, at the committee’s second meeting, dramatically staged in New Hampshire, the scene of the alleged malfeasance, Kobach was forced to eat crow.

New Hampshire’s long-serving secretary of state, Bill Gardner, a Democrat, dutifully explained that New Hampshire law permits domiciled out-of-staters, such as college students, to vote; Kobach’s thousands of “fraudulent” votes had, in fact, been properly cast.

Lacking the president’s panache for denying facts even when they stare him in the face, Kobach swiftly switched gears, launching an attack on the wisdom of the New Hampshire law.

That Kobach continues to head the committee in the wake of such recklessness is hardly a surprise, given the bad faith that chartered the group and animates its activities. But what makes the effort truly outrageous is not simply that it bootstraps a lie into an institutional reality, or that it marks an attempt to deny the franchise, the most foundational act of participation in a democratic polity, to millions of eligible voters.

What is truly heinous is that Kobach & co are prepared to pursue a partisan end by cynically undermining confidence in the integrity of our electoral process, the sine qua non for the peaceful transition of power.

This is not to deny that our electoral system faces genuine threats. We have seen our vulnerability to hacking and external tampering by foreign adversaries. In parliamentary elections held on 9/11, Norway wisely tightened its security procedures to prevent electoral tampering, mandating that ballots be counted manually at least once in addition to being scanned by computer.

But instead of focusing on such wise and necessary steps to safeguard our electoral system and to protect our confidence in its results, the president’s commission insists on pursuing a bogeyman of its own making.


Read more at: Alternet

WaPo: Manafort Offered Russian Bigwig ‘Private Briefings’ On Campaign

from September 20, 2017 at 02:43PM

Paul Manafort offered a Kremlin-linked Russian billionaire private briefings on the Trump campaign while serving as its chairman, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Manafort emailed an overseas intermediary requesting that his message be passed along to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with whom Manafort had previously done business.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in an email dated July 7, 2016, according to the report.

Post reporters were read part of the email, which Politico reported was sent from his presidential campaign account. It was one of tens of thousands of documents that congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team have received as part of their ongoing probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

There is no evidence in the documents to show that Deripaska either received the email or took any briefings from Manafort, according to the newspaper. Representatives for both Deripaska’s company and Manafort denied that there was anything inappropriate about the communications.

Manafort spokesperson Jason Maloni told the Post that no briefings occurred and characterized the email as simply an offer for a “routine” briefing on the state of the campaign.

Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Deripaska’s company, Rusal, told the Post that its requests for comment “veer into manufactured questions so grossly false and insinuating that I am concerned even responding to these fake connotations provides them the patina of reality.”

Per the Post’s report, the documents turned over to investigators include a number of email exchanges related to Deripaska, some of which focus on money Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients, that appear deliberately vague and that refer to the aluminum magnate only by his initials.

Manafort has reportedly been informed by federal prosecutors that they plan to indict him for possible tax and financial crimes.

Read more at: All TPM News

Trump Praises Erdogan, Ignores Question On Beaten Peaceful Protesters

from September 21, 2017 at 01:32PM

President Donald Trump lavished praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the United Nations Thursday. A day earlier, the White House denied Erdogan’s claim that Trump had apologized for the May incident in Washington when several of the Turkish leader’s guards beat peaceful protesters.

It’s a great honor and privilege, because he’s become a friend of mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey,” Trump said during a photo-op with Erdogan. “He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly, and frankly he’s getting very high marks. And he’s also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship.”

Trump added: “As countries, I think we’re right now as close as we have ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship. So, president, thank you very much, it’s a great honor to have you to the United States.”

A reporter shouted a question about “violence against peaceful protesters,” seemingly a reference to several of Erdogan’s guards and others who viciously beat peaceful protesters during Erdogan’s U.S. visit earlier in the year. Fifteen Turkish security officials and four others were subsequently indicted in connection to the beatings outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in DC. None of the Turkish guards have been arrested.

Trump dodged the question.

“We’ll be discussing many issues,” he said. “Many issues.” The reporters were shuffled out of the room.

Erdogan claimed in an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff Tuesday that Trump had apologized to him about the incident and “told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”

National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton told Yahoo News that the topic “was discussed” in Trump and Erdogan’s call, but that “there was no apology.”

Erdogan has come under international scrutiny for his harsh crackdown on dissent in Turkey following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. On Wednesday, Edorgan commented on the scores of journalists currently jailed in his country: “Most of them are terrorists,” he said. “Everyone else seems to think they’re journalists just because they say so.”

Read more at: All TPM News

Why scrapping DACA could cost the US billions

from September 4, 2017 at 01:39PM

President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement Tuesday on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

According to news reports, the president has decided to end the Obama-era program. 

Since its creation in 2012, 800,000 immigrants who were illegally brought to the US as children have received temporary deportation relief, as well as permits to work in the US.

Scrapping the program would not only have devastating psychological effects on current DACA recipients and their families, but the potential to negatively affect the US economy, according to various studies.

“We estimate that the cost [to] the government in terms of reduced tax revenues would be $60 billion in the next decade,” said Ike Brannon of the CATO Institute, who co-published “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Repealing DACA” in January. “The broader economic cost of shifting these kids into less productive jobs would be about $280 billion in the next 10 years.”

Brannon’s estimates are conservative when compared to similar studies about what ending the program could mean for the country. 

According to research by the Center for American Progress, ending DACA would result in a loss of more than $460 billion from the national gross domestic product over a decade.

“We’re going to take kids who would otherwise be college graduates and doing very productive jobs five or 10 years from now, and we’re going to shove them into the illegal economy where they’re not going to be paying taxes,” Brannon said. “And we can all say, ‘Well, they’ll all leave the country.’ But for the most part, it’s very difficult for us to track these people down. So, in general, we’re going to be taking a lot less tax revenue because of this.”

Listen to the full interview with Ike Brannon by clicking the “play” button above. 

Read more at: Latest from The World and the GlobalPost

Hundreds of Mexico City buildings may now be uninhabitable

from September 23, 2017 at 06:01AM

Jessica Cruz slept in a crowded Mexico City gym this week, flanked by exercise equipment, a baby carriage, a large pile of stuffed animals and a small bag of diapers for her baby boy.

The workout room, laden with blue foam mats, was far from comfortable. But for Cruz, it was way better than returning to her fourth-floor apartment, just a 10-minute walk away, in Cuauhtémoc — one of the city’s districts hit the hardest by Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

“When you go up the steps there, it feels like you’re walking on Jell-O,” Cruz said, adding that her kitchen roof also cracked this week. She and her family tried to sleep in the apartment following the quake but the thought of aftershocks made it too stressful. So on Wednesday they headed to the gym at the local public sports center.

“It’s best to stay here until someone tells us it’s safe to go back home,” she said.

An estimated 40 buildings collapsed in Mexico City in Tuesday’s earthquake, the country’s deadliest in 30 years, with the official death toll, as of Friday, climbing close to 300. Dozens of buildings have been evacuated for fears they could succumb to aftershocks. The total number of evacuees was not immediately available.

In parts of this megacity, shops and restaurants have opened and businesses have begun to operate again. But throughout the capital, soldiers and volunteer crews still work frantically around toppled buildings to find survivors. Volunteers can also be seen collecting food to send to other areas of central Mexico that were badly hit by the quake.

For the moment, evacuees in the capital city are staying with relatives, at charity shelters or at one of the 42 shelters set up by the Mexico City government. But if their homes have to be knocked down in the coming days due to structural damage, those residents will need greater, longer-term support.

“This is just the start of the nightmare,” says Teodoro Gutiérrez, a social development official with the Cuauhtémoc district.

Gutiérrez is overseeing a shelter where about 80 earthquake survivors are staying. During a visit to the shelter on Thursday, droves of volunteers approached the building with canned goods, water, toilet paper and other basics. A high school choir volunteered to sing for the kids staying at the shelter, and a clown entertained the group for free.

“The solidarity of Mexico City residents has been abundant, and we are very grateful,” Gutiérrez said. “But we need this to last for several months.”

He estimated it could take six or seven months to resettle displaced victims.

Gutiérrez explained that Mexico City’s government will have to help earthquake victims get food, housing and jobs until they can get back on their feet. And that will become harder to do if more homes are knocked down.

The official said engineers are inspecting 160 buildings in his district of Cuauhtémoc alone, to see whether they should be repaired or demolished. The city has 16 districts in all, and destruction occurred in many areas of the city.

“We have plenty of food here now,” Gutiérrez said. “But we need to prepare for the following weeks, because this problem will not be solved in a few days.”

Alberto López, the director of local engineering consulting firm APL Consultores, estimates that the earthquake damaged 3,000 buildings in Mexico City.

The damage level varies drastically from building to building, going from broken windows to badly cracked pillars that make the structures uninhabitable.

López’s team of 15 engineers has been doing free inspections around the city since the quake. So far, they have visited more than 250 buildings after residents sent them WhatsApp messages with photos of damage; their assessments have led to 15 building evacuations.

“Those buildings will be demolished in a controlled manner,” López explained. “The important thing for us is to not repeat what happened in the 1985 earthquake” — Mexico’s deadliest on record — when people returned to their homes and died when buildings fell during an aftershock.

Tania Miranda, a musician, is currently staying with her mother as her building awaits an official inspection from Mexico’s Civil Protection Agency.

She said chunks of cement tiles fell off her building’s façade during the quake, but volunteer inspectors have told her and her neighbors that there is no structural damage.

Miranda and her neighbors nevertheless decided to evacuate their building until they get official word that it’s safe to live in. In the meantime, they have been sitting outside in shifts, to stop looters from getting into the apartments.

“We’ve had suspicious people dressed as volunteer workers, trying to get in the building, claiming that they want to help us get our things out,” Miranda said.

Miranda said she is worried about aftershocks. As of Friday at 6:30 a.m., Mexico’s National Seismological Service had recorded 39 aftershocks since Tuesday, though none registered above a magnitude of 4.0.

Miranda wants life to get back to normal as soon as possible, and for her building to be functional once again. “It is a bit scary to go back,” she said. “But at this point, I also just want to be home.”

Read more at: Latest from The World and the GlobalPost

While the Russian government looks away, AIDS spreads quickly

from August 30, 2017 at 12:21PM

At an AIDS clinic in a trendy part of Moscow, bucking taboos about HIV and AIDS is an everyday part of the job.

Dozens of young men and women with HIV gathered recently to celebrate the anniversary of the clinic that tries to set itself apart from all the others: It gives people a place to speak openly about their health conditions and receive psychological help and medical consultations. Dr. Yelena Orlova-Morozova, one of Moscow’s leading HIV doctors for the region’s state clinic, helped found this new nongovernmental organization, called AIDS.Center. The period in the name is intentional — meant to signify a difference from other clinics around Russia that are often simply called AIDS Centers.

AIDS.Center has only been open a year, which speaks to Russia’s slow response to its worsening HIV crisis. AIDS has plagued Russians for decades, but stigma around the disease has been heightened by a government that prefers to pretend it doesn’t exist, activists say. Orlova-Morozova opened AIDS.Center as a way to fight the disease.

“Ignorance and poor state policy cause the epidemic’s growth,” she says, her eyes serious behind black frames. “I don’t think we’d be able to control the developing epidemic anytime soon, as people do not want to be educated about AIDS.”

The words on the wall above the doctor’s head convey the key issue in Russia’s failing struggle against AIDS: “Ignorance = Fear.” Russia’s AIDS experts have been left frustrated by the central government’s inaction. 

By some estimates, only about 1 percent of people in Russia have HIV, which is far less than, say, South Africa, which has the highest rate in the world at almost 18 percent of the adult population. The growth in infections in Russia concerns many, however. More than 14,500 Russians have died from HIV in the first six months of 2017, up 13.6 percent from last year, according to Vadim Pokrovskiy, head of the Russian Federal AIDS Center.

“To get infected, one needs to use drugs and change partners; the older the person is, the higher the risk is,” Pokrovskiy says. Additional funding for HIV therapy would change the situation, the top specialist says, but the government is unwilling to admit there’s a problem. 

For example, although Russia’s HIV infections increased by at least 100,000 new cases in the past year, the amount of medicine provided by the state remained the same.

Also, the Kremlin proposed doubling the budget for all state AIDS clinics in 2015, but that hasn’t happened yet.

“Nobody has seen that promise come true,” says Alexander Pronin, head of the Moscow regional AIDS Center.

Pronin’s clinic treated more than 40,000 patients last year, including at least 500 children.

Back at the AIDS.Center, the community gathers several times a week for consultations and lectures. On one recent night, the lecture centers on international practices in dealing with HIV. Later, the guests help move chairs and put out snacks and wine. “This place makes me happy,” Orlova-Morozova says, observing the people in the room.

More wine is poured into plastic cups. Two men sitting on large futons speak fondly of a friend who they recently lost to AIDS.

Orlova-Morozova sees dozens of patients every day. When she started at the state clinic in 2008, there were far fewer HIV cases in Moscow, she said. 

These days, HIV-positive patients, mostly in their 30s and 40s, wait outside her door.

Many are women. 

“Russia has a different situation with AIDS from the European Union and United States, where the majority of people living with HIV are [men who have sex with men],” Orlova-Morozova says. In Russia, the majority of people are infected through IV injections — or 50-60 percent — with heterosexual sex accounting for most of the balance — about 40 percent. 

“Some women struggle to accept the diagnosis and refuse to have therapy — we call them HIV dissidents; we also have three to five cases every year of pregnant women who believe that the medicine we prescribe them will harm the baby,” she says.

And there are other problems. Many HIV doctors in Russia fail to surround their patients with warmth and attention. 

Natalia, a 46-year-old teacher who didn’t want her last name used for privacy reasons, was diagnosed with HIV in 2014 at the Center of AIDS Prophylactics in Nizhny Novgorod, a city of 1.2 million people. 

On the day Natalia took the test, she experienced the most “cruel” treatment from her doctor. “A middle-aged doctor told me my verdict: ‘You are ill with a deadly disease, which will eventually kill you,’ she told me in icy cold voice,” Natalia recalls. 

“Then she asked me to sign a paper that would allow that center to tell my family about the cause of my death. ‘Most probably, you are going to die from tuberculosis,'” she recalls. “I could not even breathe. When I walked out of that room, I was in shock.”

That day, Natalia made a firm decision not to return to that particular clinic.

In January, Natalia was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and had surgery but still didn’t receive any HIV treatment. In a recent interview, Natalia insisted that HIV did not threaten her life.  

“I either have a very light form that does not require a treatment or I was misdiagnosed with HIV,” Natalia says. “Otherwise, my oncologist would have insisted on the therapy.”

This is a classic example of an HIV dissident, according to Orlova-Morozova.

“Natalia’s doctor should have told her that UNAIDS came to a conclusion that all HIV-positive patients should receive therapy,” she adds. “No matter what stage of the disease they have.”

Local reporters have given Nizhny Novgorod a nickname: Russia’s drug addiction capital. The local HIV-positive population increased from 81 last year to 184 this year. “The biggest problem is that most addicts [who] live with HIV — they would never go for a test at the AIDS Center,” says Anton Krasovsky. Krasovsky, a Moscow journalist and director of the AIDS Center foundation, was diagnosed with HIV in 2011.

Krasovksy blames Russian authorities for not waging a bigger war on AIDS: “Nobody has paid enough attention to drug users, nobody tried to put the end to police controlling drug business.”

“Back during Boris Yeltsin’s time, when the economy was in crisis, they decided that it was easier to imprison drug addicts … or better just ignore them,” Krasovsky adds. “Some top doctors, who were affiliated with police, decided they did not need any drug-replacement therapy.”

Orlova-Morozova, Krasovsky and other experts struggling to deal with Russia’s HIV problem are convinced the real number of people living with HIV in Russia is much higher than the official 1 percent statistic. In April, President Vladimir Putin announced that, officially, there were 600,000 drug addicts in the country, but that unofficial data suggested there were actually 7.5 million drug addicts in Russia.  

Despite that candor, SPID, the Russian abbreviation for AIDS, was never mentioned. “Russian authorities are divided more or less 50-50 in those who believe that it is necessary to be open and speak about the issue of AIDS epidemics and those who insist that this issue should be ignored, at least in public speeches,” says Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser. “That is why so far the federal approach to the epidemic is pale and … failing.”

Anna Nemtsova reported from Russia with the support of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. She is a Moscow-based contributor for The Fuller Project.

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Videos Show Erdogan Supporters Beating Protesters At NYC Speech

from September 21, 2017 at 03:26PM

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to attack protesters who interrupted a speech Erdogan gave Thursday in New York City.

According to footage and reporting by Voice of America and other outlets, multiple individuals protesting Erdogan during an event organized by the Turkish-American National Steering Committee were dragged out of the event by security guards. Videos showed the protesters being kicked and punched in the head by audience members as they were escorted out of the venue.

A Turkish journalists’ Periscope feed showed a protester standing up and yelling at Erdogan before being escorted out by security. Voice of America reported that three protesters total were attacked by Erdogan supporters.

BuzzFeed reported that Erdogan asked the crowd, following the disruptions: “Don’t let three to five impertinent people, three to five hall terrorists ruin our lovely gathering.”

Soon afterwards, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump, who lavished praise on Turkey’s leader, despite global condemnation of Erdogan’s heavy-handed crackdown on dissent in his country in the wake of a failed coup in July 2016.

Asked about a May incident in which Turkish security guards beat peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., Trump said Thursday: “We’ll be discussing many issues.”

 “We have a great friendship,” Trump said of Erdogan.

Read more at: All TPM News