3 days ago ·
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Comments Off on Christchurch Mosque Shootings
At least 49 people were killed and 48 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019. The attack occurred around lunchtime when the mosques were full of worshipers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling 87 page manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded. Police also neutralized two improvised explosive devices attached to one vehicle near the mosque.
The suspected shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, live-streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away. In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque. The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away. Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.
Tarrant has been charged with murder and two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown. None of the men in custody have a criminal history. Tarrant is an Australian-born former personal trainer who is believed to have been radicalized during his travels abroad. According to the Independent, Tarrant met with right-wing extremists while taking a trip to Europe in 2017, and also traveled to Pakistan and North Korea. Authorities have said that Tarrant had become obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by radical Islamists in Europe in 2016 and 2017.
According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance. The manifesto expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed. Tarrant describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and refers to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack. He repeatedly mentions revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.
Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an “act of extreme and unprecedented violence” and said “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack. Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought “anything like this” could happen in New Zealand, saying “everyone is shocked”. Many other politicians and world leaders have condemned the attacks and world leaders attribute the attack to rising Islamophobia.
Prime Minister Ardern announced: “Our gun laws will change, now is the time… People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.” Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns but later said the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was “one of the issues” the government would consider.
1 week ago ·
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Comments Off on FDA Finds Asbestos In Makeup From Claire’s and Justice
The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that makeup products from two popular brands of cosmetics contain the carcinogenic substance asbestos. FDA tests of three powdered makeup products from Claire’s, and one from the brand Justice, tested positive for asbestos, which can cause cancer. Both retailers market their products to young girls and teens.
Asbestos is believed to cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer affecting the lining of the chest and abdomen, and is linked to an increased risk of other forms of cancer and lung disease. The FDA released a safety alert about the products and called for more expansive authority to regulate cosmetics, saying the law about its role has not been updated since it first entered into force in 1938. Americans spend some $60 billion a year on cosmetics, though the industry is largely unregulated.
“The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers,” it said, adding that total responsibility for the safety of these products now rests with the companies that make them. “To be clear, there are currently no legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer marketing products to American consumers to test their products for safety,” the FDA said. Because of the lack of regulation, the agency says that in this case, it did not have the authority to force Claire’s to pull the potentially dangerous products off store shelves. The F.D.A. called on the industry to be more forthcoming about its safety procedures, especially in relation to how it sources and tests talc. The agency said it had used the most sensitive methods available to test 34 cosmetic products from four talc suppliers in 2010 and found no traces of asbestos.
The FDA said the Justice product, a shimmer powder, had already been recalled from the market in 2017. Claire’s says that “out of an abundance of caution,” it has removed the three products — eye shadows, compact powder and contour powder — from stores and is also removing any remaining talc based cosmetic products (talc sometimes contains asbestos). Claire’s disputes the test results, saying they “show significant errors” and claims its “products are safe.” The retailer says the tests “have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos.”
Independent testers dispute Claire’s claim that these products are safe. Consumer advocacy group, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, released results last March that said its testing showed that the same three Claire’s products contained asbestos. After the U.S. PIRG report, the Dutch government said they also found asbestos in two of Claire’s products.
Regulators are trying to keep a closer eye on companies after the New York Times and Reuters reported late last year that Johnson & Johnson had known for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its popular baby powder and other talc-based body powders, but tried to keep negative information from reaching the public. The company received subpoenas for more information last month from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.
2 weeks ago ·
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Comments Off on Boulder Police Draw Gun On Man Cleaning His Yard
Police in Boulder, Colorado, have launched an internal affairs investigation after video surfaced showing a police officer drawing a pistol on a black man who was picking up trash outside his own home on March 1st. The police officer, who called other officers to the scene, is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.
According to the police department, an officer observed a man sitting in a partially enclosed patio area behind a “private property” sign and asked if the man was allowed to be there. The man said he lived and worked at the building and produced an identification card but the officer continued to question the man. The unidentified man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence.
The 16 minute video shows the officer approaching the man, who was using a trash picker and bucket to clean up his yard. The officer is shown talking with the man and has his hand on his hip, near his gun. As the video continues, several other officers arrive at the scene as the man is shouting “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash. I hope that camera is on.” The man’s roommate, who is filming, is shouting “He’s picking up trash, and you have your hand on your gun? He lives here, go home!” The officer repeatedly tells the man to drop his weapon and both the man and his roommate respond that he does not have a weapon.
The man is shouting that he lives there, on private property and is picking up trash outside his dorm. He refuses to sit down and tells police to get off his property before asking if they are going to shoot him, tase him or beat him up for picking up trash outside his own home. The man holds the trash picker in the air saying “you’re calling this a weapon?” and the officer responds that it can be used as a weapon. The man argues that it is not ok for them to harass him with their hands on their guns for picking up trash in his front yard and repeatedly tells them to leave. His roommate who is filming comments that one of the officers is holding a shotgun.
A total of eight officers responded, including a supervisor and it was later confirmed by police that the object the man was holding was used to pick up trash. Boulder police released a statement saying “Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the release said. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.” In a police report, the officer claimed the man was uncooperative and “unwilling to put down a blunt object”—even though the man and his roommate repeatedly identified the object as a trash picker. The officer who drew his weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.
The video has gone viral and sparked outrage throughout the community. During a city council meeting, Police Chief Greg Testa told the crowd: “All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated… in contrast to what was stated in the video that is on social media, body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out, and it was pointed at the ground.”
2 weeks ago ·
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Comments Off on Report Accuses Saudi Government of Helping Nationals Flee Before Criminal Proceedings
The State Department has said it will not intervene in the case of a Saudi man accused of killing a 15-year-old American student in a hit-and-run in Portland, Oregon. Twenty year old Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah is believed to have fled the United States back to Saudi Arabia, with the help of Saudi officials, who reportedly helped him obtain a fake passport in order to fly him out of the U.S. An Oregonian reporter has revealed there are several similar cases of Saudi nationals accused of crimes that are suspected of receiving assistance fleeing the US by Saudi officials.
In October 2018, reporter Shane Dixon Kavanaugh received a tip from federal law enforcement about the case involving Abdulrahman Noorah, the Saudi national accused in the fatal hit and run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland, Oregon. Noorah had lived in Portland since 2014 on a student visa living off an $1,800 monthly stipend paid for by the Saudi government. In August 2016, he was driving with a suspended license when he struck Fallon Smart as she tried to cross at 43rd Avenue in Portland. Witnesses told police the driver was speeding and did not attempt to stop. Noorah was arrested the next day and charged with manslaughter, felony hit and run and reckless driving.
Noorah was considered a high flight risk and likely would have remained in custody had the Saudi government not paid the $100,000 bond set on his $1 million bail. He was put on house arrest and ordered to wear a GPS monitoring system. According to Kavanaugh’s report, on June 10th, Noorah received permission from his release supervisor, Deputy Kari Kolberg, to study at the community college’s Southeast 82nd Avenue campus. That afternoon a GMC Yukon XL arrived outside the host home where he had been living and picked him up. GPS data from Noorah’s monitor bracelet shows he never went to the campus but instead traveled east along Southeast Division Street until the SUV arrived at Portland Sand & Gravel on 106th Avenue.
It is believed that his GPS monitoring device was removed on this day but his release supervisor didn’t discover he was missing until two days later on June 12th. Investigators later discovered a bag packed at the home. After the U.S. launched an international manhunt for Noorah, the Saudi government reached out to the Department of Homeland Security in July and told officials Noorah returned to Saudi Arabia on June 17th, five days after the SUV at picked him up. Federal law enforcement believes that the Saudi government helped Noorah escape prosecution and return to Saudi Arabia by getting him a fake passport and flying him out of the country on a private plane.
While investigating this case, Kavanaugh uncovered four similar cases in Oregon and more cases in other states, where young Saudi students were accused of serious crimes, from rape to possession of child photography. Many of them were bailed out by the Saudi government and all of them have since disappeared. After Kavanaugh’s report started receiving national attention the Saudi government released the following statement “The notion that the Saudi government actively helps citizens evade justice after they have been implicated in legal wrongdoing in the U.S. is not true,” said the statement issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. “Contrary to some media reports, Saudi diplomatic missions in the United States do not issue travel documents to citizens engaged in legal proceedings.”
3 weeks ago ·
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Comments Off on Patriots Owner’s Arrest Spotlights Sex Trafficking Investigation
The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was charged with two counts of soliciting sex during a wide ranging sting operation investigating prostitution and human trafficking at day spas in South Florida. The charges against Mr. Kraft, 77, in Jupiter, Fla., came after the police used video surveillance to observe activity inside several day spas and massage parlors. Prosecutors say they have video evidence of Kraft engaging in the criminal acts. While Mr. Kraft lives in Massachusetts, he has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years. Kraft is accused of patronizing a spa in Jupiter called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall on two occasions.
All of the sexual encounters that have resulted in charges were videotaped as part of the prostitution investigation. Investigators had been conducting surveillance of massage parlors in the area for 6 months and have charged nearly 200 people, though only a fraction have been arrested so far. The police said that the massage parlors and spas had been used for prostitution and that many of the women involved were considered to be victims. Many of the women involved in the case came to the U.S. from China on temporary visas, and some reportedly had sex with 1,000 men a year. The investigation involved several law enforcement agencies and resulted in raids and arrests connected to nearly a dozen businesses in the region. At least one person was charged with human trafficking while others, including several women, are accused of racketeering and money laundering. More than two dozen customers, men ranging in age from their 30s to at least one in his 80s, have been arrested.
Acting on a tip, the police began their investigation of Orchids of Asia by searching online reviews for the business, several of which used a slang term for a sex act that was available to male customers. After conducting 24-hour video surveillance in November, the police noticed that only male clients had entered. A Florida Department of Health investigator inspected the business on behalf of the police and noticed several indications that women were living there, including beds, dressers with personal items and a refrigerator containing food and condiments.
One day in January, the police stopped men leaving the spa and the men told police officers that they had taken part in sex acts during their visits. Using that information, the police obtained a search warrant allowing them to monitor and record conduct inside the spa on video. At 11:30pm on January 17th, the police entered the Orchids of Asia massage parlor under the pretense of investigating the report of a suspicious package. They evacuated the parlor and set up surveillance cameras to capture what went on inside. For five days, starting on Jan. 18, the police monitored the video, and they said they had observed more than 20 men receiving manual or oral stimulation during massage sessions. Police say they did not observe sexual intercourse in any of the instances.
It is extremely difficult for law enforcement to takedown the rings that operate these types of parlors and even more difficult to prove human trafficking charges because of workers’ reluctance to testify, cultural barriers and an international business structure that makes identifying the masterminds next to impossible. In the last several years, law enforcement has started to view the women in these situations as victims and have cracked down on arresting johns in an effort to eliminate the demand. In many cases, they refer these women to social services after a parlor is raided. Many of the women who are working in these establishments are recruited from rural parts of China with promises of legal employment in the US. Some are fleeing domestic abuse, have little education or their families are heavily in debt. Agencies in China charge them thousands in travel fees to the US and they agree to work off the debt, eventually being forced into the sex trade with little to no other options for housing or income once in the US.
3 weeks ago ·
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Comments Off on ISIS Bride Hoda Muthana Barred Re-Entry To US
The US Government has said that Hoda Muthana, a 24 year old Alabama woman who fled to Syria in 2014 to join ISIS fighters will not be allowed to return to the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Muthana is not a U.S. citizen, but her attorneys insist she does hold U.S. citizenship and was born in Hackensack, New Jersey. She is now in a refugee camp in Syria with her 18-month-old son.
In 2014, Muthana, then a 20-year-old student, apparently left Alabama after first registering for classes and then withdrawing and getting a refund check. She lied to her parents saying she was traveling to Georgia for a university event. She went to Turkey instead and was then smuggled into Syria to join the Islamic State at the height of the Caliphate. She reportedly served as a recruiter and urged attacks on the West.
Muthana briefly made headlines again after her takfiri husband of 87 days was allegedly killed during an airstrike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force on March 17, 2015. Now, years later, with the militant group she belonged to driven out of Syria, she is hoping to return to the United States. Along with 12 other Americans, mostly women and children, Muthana is being held by U.S. Kurdish allies in Syria. She claims she regrets her decision to join the group and is ready to face the consequences of her act -including jail time. She said during a recent interview “I hope they excuse me because of how young and ignorant I was. Now I’m changed. Now I’m a mother and I have none of the ideology and hopefully everyone will see it when I come back. I hope America doesn’t think I’m a threat to them and I hope they can accept me.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unprecedented statement declaring that Muthana was not a U.S. citizen with no legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States has been controversial. Muthana, was in fact, born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1994 which does make her a U.S. citizen via birthright. Some believe she is not a U.S. citizen because her father was a Yemeni diplomat in the U.S. on official business. The US Constitution grants citizenship to everyone born in the country – with the exception of children of diplomats, as they are not under US jurisdiction.
Muthana’s father has filed an emergency lawsuit asking a federal court to affirm that his daughter is a US citizen and to let her return along with her toddler son. In the lawsuit, Muthana’s father said he was asked by Yemen to surrender his diplomatic identity card on June 2, 1994, as the Arab country descended into one of its civil wars. Hoda Muthana was born in New Jersey on Oct 28 of that year and the family later settled in Hoover, Alabama. The State Department initially questioned her right to citizenship when her father sought a passport for her as a child because US records showed he had been a diplomat until February 1995, the lawsuit said. The State Department accepted a letter from the US mission to the UN that affirmed that he had ended his position before his daughter’s birth, and granted her a passport. The lawsuit said that Hoda Muthana was also entitled to citizenship due to her mother, as she became a US permanent resident, anticipating the loss of diplomatic status, in July 1994.
4 weeks ago ·
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Comments Off on Five Dead In Aurora, IL Shooting
In Aurora, Illinois, 45-year-old Gary Martin, used a Smith & Wesson handgun, in a 90 minute workplace shooting spree. Martin killed five of his coworkers and wounded six others, including five police officers before being killed by police gun fire. Martin had worked at the water valve manufacturer Henry Pratt Co. for 15 years and opened fire on his coworkers during a meeting, after learning of his termination.
Police said Martin, 45, likely brought his handgun to work because he knew he was being fired from his job. Three of the victims were killed inside the meeting room and two others were killed nearby. The victims were identified as Clayton Parks, a human resources manager who began working at Henry Pratt in November; Trevor Wehner, 21, a human resources intern on his first day with the company; Russell Beyer, a union chairman who worked at Henry Pratt for more than 20 years; Vicente Juarez, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator who had been with the company since 2006 and Josh Pinkard, a plant manager who had worked with the company for 13 years in Alabama before transferring to Aurora last year.
A sixth employee and five Aurora police officers were also shot and expected to survive. Responding officers arrived at the shooting scene four minutes after the first 911 calls were placed. Martin shot and wounded five officers during initial exchanges of gunfire. He then retreated into the 29,000 square foot building, where police found him roughly 90 minutes later. He again fired at officers and was fatally shot.
The five officers shot include a 39-year-old man with 13 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 25 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 24 years of service, a 53-year-old man with 30 years of service and a 24-year-old man with almost four years of service. A sixth officer, a 23-year-old man with two years on the job, was treated a knee injury sustained during the incident.
In 1995, Martin was convicted of felony aggravated assault in Mississippi and served less than two years in prison for a violent assault against a former girlfriend that included hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife. Martin had previously been arrested by Aurora police officers on six different occasions, including for domestic violence and traffic incidents. His last arrest in Aurora was for violating an order of protection in 2008. Martin was not legally allowed to possess a gun in Illinois because of his prior felony conviction in Mississippi.
However, in 2014, he successfully applied for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and bought a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun. When Martin tried to procure a concealed carry license that same year, the Mississippi conviction came up during a background check. Martin was denied a concealed carry license, his FOID card was revoked and he was notified to forfeit his firearm to local law enforcement. Authorities never confiscated his gun. His most recent arrest was in 2017 in Oswego, Ill., for disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.
City officials in Aurora have started a GoFundMe account to help families who lost loved ones in the tragic shooting. https://www.gofundme.com/f/aurora-strong-community-fund The GoFundMe has a goal of raising $50,000 to “relieve the extreme financial burdens families are experiencing during this difficult time,” according to the city.
1 month ago ·
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Comments Off on Investigation Reveals 20 Years of Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Church
An investigation led by Robert Downen, a Houston Chronicle reporter, reveals 20 years of sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Church (SBC). The joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News- includes over 700 victims, including many children—some as young as 3 years old. With about 15 million members, the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the country and the shocking report has prompted calls for investigations into the church and their role in covering up and enabling the abuse.
Three hundred eighty Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have been accused of rape, abuse and various forms of sexual misconduct. Around 220 of those have been convicted of sex crimes or were given plea deals. Of those 220, 90 remain in prison and 100 are registered sex offenders. The report also found that members of the church pressured some women to get abortions after becoming pregnant as a result of assault, or threatened to shun them from the church.
The investigation comes as other religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, face accusations of widespread sexual abuse of its members, especially children, over decades. The investigation of the SBC began because of Debbie Vasquez, who was 14 years old when she was first molested by the pastor of her church and at 18 she became pregnant with the pastor’s child. In 2008, she and others started asking SBC leadership to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers but the church’s leaders resisted such reforms. As a result, Lise Olsen, deputy investigations editor at the Chronicle, says the newspaper created its own database of abusers.
Olsen says it was easier for the abuse to stay a secret because of the church’s culture which does not allow women in leadership positions or condone same-sex relationships. She says many of the victims are either young women who are told it’s a sin to have sex before marriage, even if you’re forced to by your pastor or they’re young men who are being forced into homosexual acts with pastors and other leaders, and then are stigmatized. These “purity teachings” leave victims feeling un-empowered to come forward, with some victims losing their faith and even becoming suicidal.
Abusers in religious organizations often don’t just groom victims, they groom communities, preparing them to rise up and protect them. Those who speak out about sexual abuse in authoritarian religious communities are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them with accusations seeking attention or of trying to bring down a godly man. They may be told they’re selfish — indulging in their own pain when they should be paying attention to the pain they are causing others, including the people who will turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in.
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, who was elected last June, responded to the newspapers’ investigation with a series of tweets: “The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil.”
“There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists. As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to ‘do better’ and expect that to be enough. “It’s time for pervasive change, God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).”
1 month ago ·
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Comments Off on Measles Outbreak In Pacific Northwest
As the measles outbreak continues into 2019, the World Health Organization has said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat. More than 270 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the highly contagious and sometimes deadly pathogen since last fall with 100 of those cases being confirmed since the start of 2019. Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year and the virus had been eliminated in the US by the year 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine but as the Anti-Vax movement has grown, the disease has resurfaced in the US.
Many are blaming policy failure and calling for a re-examination of laws that allow people to opt out of the vaccines on behalf of their children. Every state allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients. While all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations.
Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines. Eighteen states grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs. Mississippi, California, and West Virginia have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions. Right now, in 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up on vaccination records.
In Washington State, where at least 55 cases were confirmed since the start of 2019, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws. Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.
In Oregon, where the Portland area has experienced a recent outbreak, the percentage of children unvaccinated for measles varies widely from school to school. Most schools are at or near the 93% threshold protection levels that epidemiologists say keep the virus at bay. Still, at some Portland schools, 10 to 20 percent or more of their students are unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons. Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country. At least seven schools in the Portland area have measles vaccination rates below 80 percent, lower than some developing countries like Guatemala. The rate of unvaccinated children is even higher in specialty and private schools with some having a low rate of only 40% of students vaccinated. Oregon lawmakers are working on legislation that would eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.
1 month ago ·
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Comments Off on Conditions At Brooklyn Detention Center Spark Protests
Protesters in New York City rallied throughout the weekend at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where more than 1,600 prisoners were forced to endure freezing temperatures during last week’s polar vortex, with no heat, no light and no hot water. For several days, crowds gathered outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to protest reports of freezing and dark conditions inside the jail after it partially lost power nearly a week ago.
Staff members and current and former prisoners at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center testified at a hearing that the heat at the federal detention facility started to fail as early as mid-January. The hearing came following reports that quickly spread over social media that over 1,600 prisoners were being held without heat, hot meals or electricity, including during last week’s polar vortex. Many inmates had been on lockdown in cells without electricity or heat during days of bitter cold temperatures.
After the hearing, Judge Analisa Torres visited the MDC herself to inspect conditions at the jail. After more than a week without heat and power, conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn showed signs of improvement. Emergency generators were on and heat had been restored to parts of the federal jail, but public officials and lawyers who toured the facility on Sunday February 3rd, told reporters that many cells still did not have heat and some inmates were going without their medication.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said after touring several floors on Sunday, “It is very apparent that there is a massive failure of caring here, a massive failure of proper supervision, a massive failure of planning.” Nadler said there was heat in several parts of the building, but many cells remained frigid. He said the warden told him 600 blankets from the city had been distributed. But council member Lander, who was also on the tour, said he didn’t see any blankets in any of the cells they visited. It was later revealed that the blankets were never distributed to the inmates.
Nadler said he spoke with the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, who seemed to be acting with more urgency after the protests began. The NYCLU is calling on the Bureau of Prisons to allow family and legal visits immediately. Executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement “The confrontation between the Bureau of Prisons and family members of inmates at MDC highlights the desperate need to address the dangerous, inhumane and unlawful conditions inside the facility,” “This has gone on for far too long.
The Department of Justice has said it would work with the Bureau of Prisons to prevent future issues. “The electrical power at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility at MDC Brooklyn was restored at approximately 6:30 pm this evening. With the heat and hot water operational, and the restoration of electrical power, the facility can now begin to return to regular operations. In the coming days, the Department will work with the Bureau of Prisons to examine what happened and ensure the facility has the power, heat and backup systems in place to prevent the problem from reoccurring.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also calling for a full investigation into what is happening at the facility. Cuomo wrote in a statement “I am calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately investigate the circumstances at the Metropolitan Detention Center. New York State stands ready to provide any support necessary to keep the heat, hot water and electricity running at the Center and augment the investigation into those responsible for this mess.”