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HeadlinesSeptember 12, 2019

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U.S. Denies Protected Status to Bahamians as 2,500 Listed as Missing

Sep 12, 2019

In the Bahamas, authorities have published a list of 2,500 people who went missing after Hurricane Dorian ravaged the island nation in early September as a Category 5 storm. The official death toll stands at 50, but Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned Wednesday the number is likely to soar. Compounding the Bahamas’ misery is a massive oil spill that’s begun to spread into the ocean off the southern coast of Grand Bahama island after Hurricane Dorian blew the lids off six giant crude oil tanks.

This comes as multiple news outlets reported the Trump administration has decided not to grant temporary protected status to Bahamians, which would allow them to work and live in the U.S. until it’s safe for them to return home. In response, the National Immigration Law Center tweeted, “For the Trump admin to deny TPS to those seeking shelter is yet another example of their sheer cruelty.”

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported a 12-year-old Bahamian girl whose home was destroyed by the hurricane was separated from her family by U.S. authorities after arriving in South Florida. The girl, Kaytora Paul, had arrived with her godmother at an airport in West Palm Beach and was taken into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and moved to a facility for unaccompanied immigrant children in Miami-Dade County.

Supreme Court Allows Trump’s Asylum Ban to Take Effect

Sep 12, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration’s ban on most migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to take effect while legal challenges against it proceed. Wednesday’s order overturns a federal appeals court’s injunction against Trump’s policy, which bars migrants from seeking asylum in the United States unless they’ve first applied for refugee status in the countries they passed through on their way to the U.S. Two Justices — Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — dissented, with Sotomayor writing, “Although this Nation has long kept its doors open to refugees—and although the stakes for asylum seekers could not be higher—the Government implemented its rule without first providing the public notice and inviting the public input generally required by law.”

“I Don’t Want to Die”: Honduran Teen with Cystic Fibrosis Says Deportation Would Kill Him

Sep 12, 2019

On Capitol Hill, two young immigrants testified Wednesday that the Trump administration’s move to deport noncitizens with medical conditions is a virtual death sentence. The pair told the House Oversight Committee they were abruptly ordered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this month to leave the U.S. within 33 days, even though they’ve lived in the U.S. for years under a program that defers deportations for immigrants who would otherwise not have access to life-saving treatment. This is Massachusetts Democratic Representative Ayanna Pressley.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “The occupant of this White House and his xenophobic administration cannot reach any new lows. They go even lower, deciding to give seriously ill children and their families 33 days to leave the country or risk being deported.”

Testifying Wednesday was 24-year-old Maria Isabel Bueso, who has a rare genetic disorder known as MPS. Bueso was brought to the U.S. from Guatemala at the age of 7 to seek treatment. She told lawmakers that her participation in a clinical trial in California saved her life and led to the first and only treatment for the disease. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, who has cystic fibrosis, testified that his life was saved at the age of 12 when his parents brought him from Honduras for treatment in Boston.

Jonathan Sanchez: “The day our lawyers told us that the medical deferred action program was canceled, I started crying and telling my mom, 'I don't want to die. I don’t want to die.’ If I go back to Honduras, I will die.”

The Trump administration’s medical deportation order this month came without any advance notice or public announcement. After it sparked a backlash from immigrant rights groups, medical professionals and Democratic lawmakers, officials partially backtracked and said they would “reopen previously pending cases for consideration.” However, it’s unclear what the longer-term fate of the program will be.

37-Year-Old Mexican Man Dies in ICE Custody, the 8th Such Death This Fiscal Year

Sep 12, 2019

In Illinois, a 37-year-old Mexican man became the eighth immigrant during this fiscal year to die after being jailed by U.S. immigration officials. That’s according to BuzzFeed News, which reports the unnamed man died in a local hospital after he was jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on September 3 at the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Woodstock, Illinois.

Reporters Barred from Secretive Immigration Tent Courts on Southern Border

Sep 12, 2019

At the U.S. southern border, the first immigration court hearings of Trump’s so-called Remain in Mexico program began Wednesday in large tents in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas. The program has forced more than 42,000 people who sought asylum at the border to wait in Mexico until their court dates. Judges in the tent courts conducted hearings via video teleconference, and lawyers reported multiple technical glitches. Immigration courts are usually open to the public, but officials denied access to reporters and residents who were there to observe. Meanwhile, many asylum seekers waiting in Mexico say they face kidnapping and extortion as the government there has failed to provide promised humanitarian aid.

Sacklers Would Remain Billionaires & Admit No Wrongdoing Under Tentative Opioid Settlement

Sep 12, 2019

Purdue Pharma has reached a tentative proposed settlement with a number of state, local and tribal governments over the company’s role in fueling the U.S. opioid crisis. Under emerging details of the settlement, the Sackler family, which owns Purdue, would personally pay $3 billion in cash plus another $1.5 billion after the pending sale of a subsidiary company is completed. Purdue would then declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy and dissolve, before reforming to continue selling pharmaceuticals including the opioid OxyContin. Profits would be used to pay plaintiffs. Some prosecutors have vowed to oppose the deal. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement, “This apparent settlement is a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family’s destruction and greed. It allows the Sackler family to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing.”

Trump Says FDA Will Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

Sep 12, 2019

President Trump says the Food and Drug Administration is poised to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office meeting Wednesday morning with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

President Donald Trump: “We can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected. And I’m hearing it, and that’s how the first lady got involved. And she’s got a son, together, that is a beautiful young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it. She’s seen it. We’re both reading it. A lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping.”

The FDA’s decision to ban flavored e-cigarettes comes after a sixth person died in the U.S. from a mysterious lung disease tied to vaping.

U.N. Investigators Say U.S.-Led Forces Committed War Crimes in Syria

Sep 12, 2019

In Syria, Turkish officials are calling for an immediate ceasefire in the northwestern province of Idlib, warning that a Syrian and Russian assault on the country’s last major opposition-held enclave could create a catastrophe rivaling all others in the nearly eight-year conflict. Turkey’s call came as U.N. investigators said that U.S.-led forces may have carried out war crimes in Syria. In a report released Wednesday, the investigation found that during a U.S.-led assault on ISIS, “international coalition forces failed to employ the necessary precautions to discriminate adequately between military objectives and civilians.” The U.N. also found Russian and Syrian forces may have committed war crimes by intentionally targeting civilian sites, including hospitals and clinics, schools, farmland and markets.

Skyrocketing Violence Continues Ahead of Colombian Elections

Sep 12, 2019

In Colombia, another candidate in the municipal elections has been killed. Hernando Orley García Vásquez, who was running for mayor of a town in the region of Antioquia, was shot 13 times over the weekend. He died as he was transported to Medellín for treatment. This comes just weeks after mayoral candidate Karina García was brutally murdered along with at least four others while campaigning in the Cauca region. The skyrocketing violence triggered Colombia’s human rights ombudsman to warn earlier this week that more than half the country is at risk of violence related to the upcoming local elections. Also in Colombia, human rights activist Yunier Moreno was shot to death in his home in the rural region of Caquetá Sunday. Two other indigenous women activists were also killed in recent days in the region of Cauca.

NC House Republicans Ram Through Veto Override with Democrats Absent During 9/11 Memorials

Sep 12, 2019

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina voted Wednesday to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, in a surprise vote that was rammed through with barely half of state representatives present. Democrats say they were tricked by their Republican colleagues, who promised there would be no votes during Wednesday morning’s session of North Carolina’s House of Representatives in order to allow lawmakers to attend 9/11 memorial services. As the vote was called, one of the few remaining Democrats on the floor, state Representative Deb Butler, led a protest.

Rep. Deb Butler: “You shall not do this to democracy in North Carolina, Mr. Speaker! How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker? I will not yield! I will not yield, Mr. Speaker!”

State Representative Butler refused to yield the floor for several minutes — even as Republicans ordered her microphone cut off and as uniformed police entered the House chamber. The measure ultimately passed on a vote of 55 to 9, with 56 lawmakers absent. Last June, Governor Cooper vetoed North Carolina’s budget, saying its Republican authors sought to underpay teachers while rejecting federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid program. In a statement condemning Wednesday’s surprise vote, Cooper accused Republicans of exploiting the 9/11 anniversary for political purposes.

Gov. Roy Cooper: “On a day when tragedy united our country, we should be standing together despite party. But instead, Republicans pulled their most deceptive stunt yet.”

Republicans hoping to override the governor’s veto still need a supermajority in the state Senate. The Republican state representative who called the motion for Wednesday morning’s vote, Jason Saine, defended his actions, saying, “As a former firefighter and an American, I am appalled that anyone in our country would stop going about their normal business on this day. When we stop being a beacon of freedom, hope and democracy, then the terrorists win.”

Families of Boeing Crash Victims Mark 6-Month Anniversary of Ethiopian Airlines Disaster

Sep 12, 2019

In Washington, D.C., families of passengers who died in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 marked the six-month anniversary of the disaster by demanding the FAA deny Boeing a recertification of its 737 MAX airliner. All 157 people aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight were killed after the plane’s software put it into a dive that the pilots were unable to recover from. The disaster followed another crash of a Boeing 737 MAX plane less than five months earlier, which killed all 189 people aboard a Lion Air flight off the coast of Indonesia. Clariss Moore, whose 24-year-old daughter Danielle was killed in the Ethiopian crash, joined a protest Tuesday outside the Transportation Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Clariss Moore: “I got robbed. We all got robbed, because this is preventable accident. It is not an accident. They should have grounded the plane after the first crash. Instead, knowing it has flaws, yet they let it fly, and took away one of the most important persons in our lives.”

The vigil was organized in part by Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed in the crash. Samya’s great-uncle is Ralph Nader; her grandmother is UC Berkeley anthropologist Laura Nader.

Famed Mexican Artist Francisco Toledo Dies in Oaxaca at 79

Sep 12, 2019

In Mexico, renowned artist and activist Francisco Toledo died last Thursday at his home in Oaxaca City. He was 79 years old. Toledo’s artwork and activism drew global attention to the indigenous traditions of his home state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico — one of the poorest regions of the country. Toledo, who was widely known as “El Maestro,” “The Teacher,” was a painter, photographer, sculptor and ceramist who tirelessly defended the authentic Oaxacan indigenous traditions. His father was a Zapotec shoemaker. In 2002, when McDonald’s announced plans to build a fast-food restaurant in the nearly 500-year-old town square in the heart of Oaxaca City, Toledo threatened to protest naked at the site. Instead, he led a protest with hundreds of people chanting “Tamales, yes! Hamburgers, no!” as Toledo gave out free tamales.

Friend and filmmaker David Riker mourned the loss of Toledo. In a statement, he said, “In an age when celebrity has become an end in itself, Toledo offered a radical alternative of what an artist can be. Immensely successful, he never enriched himself. Instead he donated everything he had to create free and open spaces throughout the city — art centers, libraries, and museums.”

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