Incredible but Truth


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — It was clear from the bod­ies laid out in the park­ing lot of the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal here that it had as­sumed new du­ties: No longer a place that wel­comed new life, it was now a make­shift morgue.

Oth­er bod­ies lay in hall­ways and on the floor of the kitchen at Hi­lal Emi­rati Ma­ter­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal. In the walk-in cool­er, they were stacked three high, wait­ing for rel­a­tives to claim them for burial.

Sat­ur­day was the sec­ond day of heavy bom­bard­ment by Is­raeli forces on this city on Gaza’s bor­der with Egypt af­ter Is­rael’s an­nounce­ment that one of its of­fi­cers had been cap­tured by Pal­es­tin­ian mil­i­tants here dur­ing a clash.

But ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary an­nounced that the of­fi­cer, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Medics at a field hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip. More than 120 Palestinians were killed in Rafah alone on Friday and Saturday.

“It is just an ex­cuse,” said Dr. Ab­dul­lah She­hadeh,

di­rec­tor of the Abu Yousef al-Na­j­jar Hos­pi­tal, the city’s larg­est. “There is no rea­son for them to force the women and chil­dren of Gaza to pay the price for some­thing that hap­pened on the bat­tle­field.”

Af­ter two days of Is­raeli shelling and airstrikes, cen­tral Rafah ap­peared de­serted on Sat­ur­day, with shops closed and res­i­dents hid­ing in their homes. The pres­ence of Is­raeli forces east of the city had caused many to flee west, crowd­ing in with friends and rel­a­tives in neigh­bor­hoods by the Med­i­ter­ra­nean.

More than 120 Pales­tini­ans were killed in Rafah alone on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day — the dead­li­est two days in the city since the war be­gan 25 days ago. Those deaths, and hun­dreds of in­ju­ries, over­whelmed the city’s health care fa­cil­i­ties.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Is­raeli shells hit the cen­tral Na­j­jar hos­pi­tal on Fri­day af­ter­noon, Dr. She­hadeh said, lead­ing its em­ploy­ees and pa­tients to evac­u­ate.

To con­tinue re­ceiv­ing pa­tients, his staff mem­bers moved to the small­er Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, al­though it was ill equipped to han­dle the large num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing care.

Am­bu­lances screamed in­to the hos­pi­tal’s park­ing lot, where medics un­loaded cases on­to stretch­ers some­times bear­ing the blood of pre­vi­ous pa­tients. Since the hos­pi­tal had on­ly 12 beds, the staff mem­bers had lined up gur­neys out­side to han­dle the over­flow.

The city’s cen­tral hos­pi­tal had al­so housed its on­ly morgue, so its clo­sure cre­ated a new prob­lem as the ca­su­al­ties mount­ed: where to put the bod­ies.

At the Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, they were put on the floor of the den­tal ward un­der a poster pro­mot­ing den­tal hy­giene. In a back room lay the bod­ies of Sa­di­ah Abu Taha, 60, and her grand­son Rezeq Abu Taha, 1, who had been killed in an airstrike on their home near­by.

Few peo­ple ap­proached the main en­trance to the pink-and-white ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, in­stead head­ing around back, where there was a con­stant flow of bod­ies. Near­ly 60 had been left in the morgue of the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it closed, so am­bu­lance crews who had man­aged to reach the site brought back as many bod­ies as they could car­ry. Oth­er bod­ies came from new at­tacks or were re­cov­ered from dam­aged build­ings.

New ar­rivals were laid out in the park­ing lot or car­ried down a ramp to the kitchen, fea­tur­ing a large walk-in cool­er. Some were kept on the ground, and those not claimed right away were added to the pile in the cool­er.

Word had spread that the dead were at the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, so peo­ple who had lost rel­a­tives came to talk to the medics or look in the cool­er for their loved ones.

One short, sun­burned man point­ed to the body of a woman wear­ing pink sweat­pants and said she was his sis­ter Souad al-Tara­bin.

The medics pulled her out, laid her on a ta­ble and wrapped her in white cloth and plas­tic. Some teenagers helped the man car­ry her body up­stairs and lay it in the back of a yel­low taxi. A man in the front seat cra­dled a small bun­dle con­tain­ing the re­mains of the woman’s 4-year-old son, Anas.

Sit­ting near­by, As­ma Abu Ju­main wait­ed for the body of her moth­er-in-law, who she said had been killed the day be­fore and was in the morgue at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it was evac­u­ated.

“She is an old woman,” Ms. Abu Ju­main said. “She did noth­ing wrong.”

The move­ment of bod­ies made record-keep­ing im­pos­si­ble, al­though Arafat Ad­wan, a hos­pi­tal vol­un­teer, tried to jot down names in a small red note­book he kept in his pock­et.

He wor­ried that some bod­ies would re­main there for days, be­cause fam­ilies had been scat­tered and might not know that their rel­a­tives had been killed.

“There are peo­ple in here whose fam­ilies have no idea what hap­pened to them,” he said.

Oth­ers knew they had lost rel­a­tives but could not find them.

Mo­ham­med al-Ban­na said an airstrike the morn­ing be­fore had killed nine of his in-laws, in­clud­ing his wife’s fa­ther and four of her broth­ers.

“The ag­gres­sion here is cre­at­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of youth who want re­venge for all the crimes,” he said.

He had looked at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal the day be­fore, to no avail. Then, on Sat­ur­day, he re­ceived a mes­sage sent to lo­cal cell­phones telling those who had lost rel­a­tives to re­trieve them from the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal. He had come right away, but had not found them.

“I’ll keep wait­ing for their bod­ies to come in so we can

take them home and bury them,” he said.

Mr. Ban­na added that he had been too wor­ried to tell his wife what had hap­pened to her fam­ily and want­ed to break the news to her grad­u­ally. Ear­lier that day, she had told him that she was start­ing to wor­ry be­cause her fa­ther’s cell­phone had been switched off all day.

“I told her maybe he has no elec­tricity and his phone is dead,” Mr. Ban­na said.

 

 

JERUSALEM — The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing that an of­fi­cer thought to have been cap­tured by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants dur­ing a dead­ly clash Fri­day morn­ing, which shat­tered a planned 72-hour cease-fire, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

The an­nounce­ment came just hours af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vowed to con­tin­ue Is­rael’s mil­i­tary cam­paign in the Gaza Strip as long as nec­es­sary to stop Hamas at­tacks, while sug­gest­ing a de-es­ca­la­tion of the ground war in Gaza may be near.

The case of the miss­ing sol­dier, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, be­came the lat­est flash point in the con­flict, prompt­ing a fierce Is­raeli bom­bard­ment and calls from lead­ers around the world for his re­lease. His dis­ap­pear­ance came af­ter Hamas mil­i­tants am­bushed Is­raeli sol­diers near the south­ern bor­der town of Rafah, at the start of what was sup­posed to have been a pause in the fight­ing.

As the death toll mount­ed Sat­ur­day to more than 1,650 Pales­tini­ans, many of them women and chil­dren, and im­ages of homes, mosques and schools smashed in­to rub­ble filled the me­dia, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der con­sid­er­able in­ter­na­tion­al pres­sure, from Wash­ing­ton and Eu­rope, to end the con­flict. The Unit­ed Na­tions warned of “an un­fold­ing health dis­as­ter” in Gaza with lit­tle elec­tric­i­ty, bad wa­ter and a lack of med­ical sup­plies.

At the same time, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure at home to de­liv­er on his promis­es to crush.

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Hamas, par­tic­u­lar­ly with 64 Is­raeli sol­diers dead. He in­sist­ed Sat­ur­day that Hamas had been se­vere­ly hurt and he warned that it would pay “an in­tol­er­a­ble price” if it con­tin­ues to fire rock­ets at Is­rael.

His for­mer deputy de­fense min­is­ter, Dan­ny Danon,who was fired by Mr. Ne­tanyahu for pub­lic crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment, said in a state­ment Sat­ur­day that “the cab­i­net is grave­ly mis­tak­en in its de­ci­sion to with­draw forces from Gaza. This is a step in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

But Mr. Ne­tanyahu, in a na­tion­al­ly tele­vised speech with his de­fense min­is­ter be­side him, in­sist­ed that Is­rael was achiev­ing its goals and could al­ter its tac­tics. “We promised to re­turn the qui­et to Is­rael’s cit­i­zens, and we will con­tin­ue to act un­til that aim is achieved,” Mr. Ne­tanyahu said. “We will take as much time as nec­es­sary, and will ex­ert as much force as need­ed.”

Is­rael was not end­ing its op­er­a­tion uni­lat­er­al­ly, he said, adding: “We will de­ploy in the places most con­ve­nient to us to re­duce fric­tion on I.D.F. sol­diers, be­cause we care about them.” There were Is­raeli tele­vi­sion re­ports on Sat­ur­day that some Is­rael De­fense Forces troops were pulling out of Gaza, and Is­rael in­formed Pales­tini­ans in Beit Lahiya and al-Ata­tra, in north­ern Gaza, that it was now safe to re­turn to their homes. Is­raeli of­fi­cials have said that the army’s ef­fort to de­stroy the elab­o­rate tun­nel sys­tem from Gaza in­to Is­rael would be fin­ished in the next day or two.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials sug­gest­ed that the army would leave built-up ar­eas and some forces would re­de­ploy in­side Gaza, clos­er to the bor­der fence, to re­spond to at­tacks if nec­es­sary. Oth­er units will re­turn to south­ern Is­rael.

Hamas, for its part, vowed to con­tin­ue fight­ing. Sa­mi Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told the news agency Maan that “a uni­lat­er­al with­draw­al or re­de­ploy­ment by Is­rael in the Strip will be an­swered by a fit­ting re­sponse by the Hamas mil­i­tary arm.” He said that “the forces of oc­cu­pa­tion must choose be­tween re­main­ing in Gaza and pay­ing the price or re­treat­ing and pay­ing the price or hold­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and pay­ing the price.”

Mr. Ne­tanyahu thanked the Unit­ed States, which along with the Unit­ed Na­tions ap­peared to sup­port Is­rael’s po­si­tion that Hamas’s ac­tions vi­o­lat­ed the cease-fire, and he asked for in­ter­na­tion­al help to re­build Gaza on the con­di­tion of its “de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion.” Is­rael ap­pears to be hop­ing that with the sup­port of Egypt and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas of the Pales­tin­ian Au­thor­i­ty can con­trol Gaza through a uni­ty gov­ern­ment agreed up­on with Hamas and take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for se­cu­ri­ty there and for the Rafah cross­ing to Egypt.

Mr. Ne­tanyahu re­peat­ed that his goal was to re­store “peace and calm” to Is­rael and that he in­tend­ed to do so by what­ev­er means — diplo­mat­i­cal­ly or mil­i­tar­i­ly. “All op­tions are on the ta­ble,” he said. But he in­di­cat­ed that Is­rael would not get caught up again in talk about a ne­go­ti­at­ed cease-fire with Hamas and Is­lam­ic Ji­had and would act in its own in­ter­ests, while seek­ing sup­port from Mr. Ab­bas and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for what Mr. Ne­tanyahu de­scribed vague­ly as “a new re­al­i­ty” in Gaza.

Is­rael has de­cid­ed not to send a del­e­ga­tion to cease-fire talks host­ed by Egypt, at least not now, Is­raeli of­fi­cials said. In Wash­ing­ton, Jen Psa­ki, a State De­part­ment

spokes­woman, said: “In the end, this par­tic­u­lar­ly bloody chap­ter will ul­ti­mate­ly re­quire a durable so­lu­tion so that all the fun­da­men­tal is­sues, in­clud­ing Is­rael’s se­cu­ri­ty, can be ne­go­ti­at­ed, and we will keep work­ing with Is­rael and oth­er part­ners to achieve that goal.” She said that Is­rael had a right to de­fend it­self.

Hours be­fore the mil­i­tary an­nounced that Lieu­tenant Goldin had died, his par­ents called on the prime min­is­ter and the army not to leave their son be­hind.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death re­mained cloudy. A mil­i­tary spokes­woman de­clined to say whether Lieu­tenant Goldin had been killed along with two com­rades by a sui­cide bomb one of the mil­i­tants ex­plod­ed, or lat­er by Is­rael’s as­sault on the area to hunt for him; she al­so re­fused to an­swer whether his re­mains had been re­cov­ered.

As word spread on Sat­ur­day that Is­rael’s lead­ers were con­sid­er­ing pulling all ground forces from Gaza, Lieu­tenant Goldin’s fam­i­ly spoke to jour­nal­ists out­side their home in Kfar Sa­ba, a Tel Aviv sub­urb. “I de­mand that the state of Is­rael not leave Gaza un­til they bring my son back home,” said his moth­er, Hed­va. His sis­ter, Ayelet, 35, added, “If a cap­tive sol­dier is left in Gaza, it’s a de­feat.”

The fam­i­ly said they were con­vinced that Lieu­tenant Goldin was alive.

“I hope and be­lieve in hu­man kind­ness, that the world will do any­thing to bring Hadar with a smile back home,” his broth­er Che­mi, 32, said in an in­ter­view.

When his moth­er called him on Fri­day, Che­mi said, he

knew some­thing ter­ri­ble had hap­pened, but did not know whether it in­volved Lieu­tenant Goldin or his twin, Tzur, who was al­so fight­ing in Gaza. Che­mi said the twins, who at­tend­ed kinder­garten in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, did not talk much about their mil­i­tary ser­vice. In Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas said ear­ly Sat­ur­day that it was not hold­ing the Is­raeli of­fi­cer. The Qas­sam Brigades sug­gest­ed in a state­ment that the of­fi­cer might have been killed along with his cap­tors in an Is­raeli as­sault that fol­lowed a sui­cide-bomb at­tack by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants, who emerged from a tun­nel that Is­raeli troops were try­ing to de­stroy near Rafah.

“Un­til now, we have no idea about the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Is­raeli sol­dier,” the state­ment said. Say­ing the lead­er­ship had lost touch with its “troops de­ployed in the am­bush,” the state­ment added, “Our ac­count is that the sol­dier could have been kid­napped and killed to­geth­er with our fight­ers.”

The Is­raeli Army con­tin­ued to pound Rafah in its search for Lieu­tenant Goldin, strik­ing more than 200 tar­gets across Gaza in the 24 hours since the Rafah con­fronta­tion, in­clud­ing what it de­scribed as a “re­search and de­vel­op­ment” lab for weapons man­u­fac­tur­ing at the Is­lam­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, run by Hamas. Five mosques that the mil­i­tary said con­cealed weapons or Hamas out­posts were al­so hit, the Is­raelis said.

Around noon, a bar­rage of rock­ets flew in­to south­ern Is­rael.

The Gaza-based health min­istry, which had re­port­ed 70 peo­ple killed in Rafah on Fri­day, said the ca­su­al­ties had con­tin­ued there overnight, in­clud­ing sev­en mem­bers of one fam­i­ly who died when their home was bombed.

 

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem, and Jodi Rudoren from Kfar Saba, Israel. Fares Akram contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

A photo of a desperate young Palestinian boy, badly wounded and screaming for his father as he clutches at the shirt of a paramedic in a hospital, has captured the tragic and bloody tension of the Gazan conflict.

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Shirtless and with cuts to his face, torso, arms and legs, the child clings to the hospital worker who is attempting to lay him flat on a girdle.

The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, reports the photo, taken at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last Thursday, was captioned with the boy’s desperate cry: ‘I want my father, bring me my father’, according to Fairfax.

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The Palestinian paper claims the young boy was one of four siblings brought to the hospital wounded, two of them just three years old.

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It comes as grinning Israeli tank commanders were pictured flashing the victory signs as they blast their way through Gaza in the bloodiest day of the offensive so far – as one resident of the troubled region said: ‘The gate of hell has opened.’

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At least 65 people have been killed since this yesterday’s dawn strike on Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighbourhood – including the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas leader.

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Hamas says it has captured an Israeli soldier – a scenario that has proven to be fraught with difficulties for the country in the past – but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador has denied the claims.

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The neighbourhood has come under heavy tank fire as Israel widened its ground offensive against Hamas, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

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The dead and wounded – including dozens of women and children – have reportedly been left in streets, with ambulances unable to approach.

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Source: (July 21, 2014)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699772/This-desperate-little-boy-face-tragedy-Palestinian-toddler-clutches-shirt-hospital-worker-screaming-I-want-father-bring-father.html?ito=social-facebook

Politically speaking, Sarah Palin is crazy — but in an entertaining way. Speaker of the House John Boehner may look reasonable by comparison, but his supposed rationality is pretty dubious.

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Before I proceed to pick on these GOP icons, I want to acknowledge that I spend a lot of time blasting Republicans in my columns and cartoons. Many readers assume it’s because I’m a commie-pinko, America-hating liberal Democrat. Actually, my constant critique of today’s GOP has more to do with the fact that I grew up in a time and place where Republicans were often the smart, sane ones and quite a few Democrats were part of a regressive, corrupt old guard.

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Sarah Palin defines craziness for the Republican Party
Coming from a long-time-Republican family, I leaned toward the GOP in my sympathies and my votes well into my 20s. But those were the days when the word “Republican” was not synonymous with conservative and conservative was not synonymous with reactionary, anti-intellectual, gun-worshiping, gay-bashing, immigrant-fearing populism.

So, as a lapsed Republican, I am disappointed with the narrowness, rigidity and willful ignorance of those contemporary Republicans who claim the right to brand any Republican who disagrees with them a “Rino” (Republican in name only).

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Judged by the long history of the party, if anyone is an actual Rino, it’s Sarah Palin. She has recently confessed as much, revealing an inclination to leave the GOP behind because the party lacks zeal for her list of kooky causes. One cause, in particular, has failed to ignite the passions of party leaders: the impeachment of President Obama.

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Last week in a column on Breitbart.com, Palin declared, “Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’ “

She wrote that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored,” but failed to clarify what those crimes may be. One of the president’s worst sins, as Palin sees it, is that he has made many Americans “feel like strangers in their own country.” Setting aside the reality that sweeping demographic, cultural and economic changes are far more likely the cause of traditionalist alienation than anything the president has done, it should be noted that making some folks feel excluded is not an impeachable offense. Imagine how marginalized anti-war liberals felt when George W. Bush was president.

Boehner apparently knows that trying to lead an impeachment effort is a fool’s errand. He dismissed Palin’s impeachment manifesto with two words: “I disagree.”

Instead, he and the House GOP leadership are taking the president to federal court, saying he has overstepped the limits of his constitutional role. This might seem a saner course of action if not for the political loopiness of the premise on which they are basing their lawsuit. After fighting against Obama’s Affordable Care Act for most of the president’s time in office, after taking countless votes to repeal the act and after running in 2010 and 2012 on a platform demanding repeal of the law, the Republicans now want to force the administration to put the law into full effect.

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Obama has delayed implementation of the employer mandate provision of the ACA twice since 2013. Now, penalties that will punish employers for not providing healthcare coverage to their employees will not kick in until 2016. Boehner contends Obama has usurped the powers of Congress by fiddling with the deadlines.

It is an interesting legal question that a court will decide somewhere down the line, but no one is naïve enough to believe that constitutional clarity is truly Boehner’s goal. Republicans hate the mandate as much as they hate the whole healthcare law. The lawsuit is merely a milder version of the impeachment campaign; another gambit in the ceaseless effort to block the Democratic president at every possible turn.

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This juvenile partisan towel fight has consumed most of the efforts of Republicans for way too long. Immediate action is needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money by the end of August. By the end of September, a long list of other bills must be passed to avert another government shutdown. Plus, there’s the debate about renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the bill to address the latest border crisis. But all that necessary work may not get done because the House majority is too fixated on undoing the last two presidential elections.

For her part, Palin mocks Boehner’s little ploy. “You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight and there’s no room for lawyers on our front lines,” she said, boldly mixing her metaphors on Fox News.

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These aren’t real Republicans. This is a clown troop.

 

* Text by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2014 

A minor actress from Texas was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison for sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the head of his gun-control group.

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Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, was also ordered to pay $367,000 restitution as part of a plea bargain for pleading guilty in December to one count of developing, producing, possessing and transferring a biological agent for use as a weapon. She bought the materials — castor bean seeds and lye — online.

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The FBI arrested her in June 2013 after she was indicted by a federal grand jury. She gave bith the next month while in jail.

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Richardson mailed three letters in May 2013 from her home in New Boston, near Texarkana, and then drove to a Shreveport, La., police station to implicate her estranged husband, who had filed for divorce. She told the FBI she did not think the letters would be opened because of security measures.

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“What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president,” read the letter to Obama. “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.”

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A former Dallas beauty queen, she had bit parts in TV series and film, including The Vampire DiariesThe Walking DeadFranklin & BashAll My Children and The Blind Side.

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Richardson apologized Wednesday before being sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” she said. “I’m not a bad person. I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”

“I do love my country, and I respect my president,” she added.

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Schneider said Richardson’s actions “put many lives in danger and threatened public officials at the highest level of government. The defendant claims that she did not intend to harm anyone, but certainly her actions could have had grave consequences.”

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Ricin is a biological toxin that can be fatal if inhaled or swallowed. There is no antidote or cure.

 

* Text by USAToday, July 16, 2014

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!. (CTsT)

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More than 90 world leaders were present at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, which had its fair share of faux pas. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, and the Obama, Cameron, Schmidt were booed after being caught taking a ‘selfie’ at the service. Then there was the fake sign-language interpreter!

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Yes, Thamsanqa Jantjie, the Mandela memorial interpreter was fake. He was not using any recognizable sign language. Writing on Limping Chicken, a deaf news blog, Professor Graham Turner, Chair of Translation & Interpreting Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh pointed out that:

He didn’t use South African Sign Language. In fact, he didn’t use any language. What he produced there was 100% authentic gibberish.Lost 

Thamsanqa Jantjie has claimed to have suffered from a schizophrenic episode that made him see angels and hear voices.

And then allegations surfaced that the ‘interpreter’ who stood a few meters away from world’s leaders faced a murder charge in 2003.

The South African government has apologised for any offense caused by the sign-language interpreter.

Blogging on Thought Leader, South Africa writer Sarah Bitten pointed out that the fake interpreter showed the world that in South Africa you do not have to have any ability whatsoever to get a job:

In South Africa, the signing man told the world, you don’t actually have to know what you are doing in order to get a job. You don’t have to have any ability whatsoever, as long as it looks, to most, as though you can go through the motions — whether you are a teacher, a police officer, a bureaucrat, a government official or (as some have suggested) a state president.

There are those who see through you and complain, but they are ignored. Ours is not a culture of accountability. So one gig leads to the next. You’ve done it before so you get to do it again, because everyone in a position of power agrees that the emperor’s new threads are stylish. You stand there and tell us that the appearance of something becomes more important than the substance of it.

Many people wonder what he was saying. Several interpreters have emerged online to interpret him. YouTube user This is Genius posted humorous video below to show what the fake interpreter actually said:

Professor Graham listed 10 lessons from the fake interpreter saga.

1. Using a sign language fluently is not something one can do just by waving one’s hands around. Sign languages are grammatically-structured, rule-governed systems like all other natural human languages. You can’t produce meaningful signing off the cuff and – equally importantly – you can’t understand it spontaneously just by looking.

2. If you can’t sign, but require interpreting, you need reliable processes to help you identify effective provision. Interpreting isn’t a game: it should be run on a professional basis. This time, we saw a spectacular insult to the world’s Deaf people: but no-one died. Worldwide, every day, the result of inadequate interpreting leads to poor schooling, imprisonment, unemployment and health disparities. This must stop.

3. Without proper training, screening and regulation, people can and will take advantage. Even in countries like the UK, where sign language interpreting has become increasingly professionalised since the 1980s, smooth operators (who can talk the talk but not sign the sign) are legion. If you can’t sign, they may appear wholly plausible and be wholly bogus. Don’t guess and you won’t be fooled.

 

On Twitter, shocked users used the hashtag #fakeinterpreter to share their reactions to the revelation:

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* Global Voices, December 15, 2013

South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.

Mr Mandela led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.

He had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital.

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Announcing the news on South African national TV, President Jacob Zuma said Mr Mandela was at peace.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Mr Zuma said.

“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”

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Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela – who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba – had died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT). He said he would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.

Nelson Mandela on Day After Release

Crowds have gathered outside the house where Mr Mandela died, some flying South African flags and wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mr Mandela once led.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.

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His fellow campaigner against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was “not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.”

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BBC correspondents say Mr Mandela’s body will be moved to a mortuary in the capital, Pretoria, and the funeral is likely to take place next Saturday.

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‘Bid him farewell’

Mr Zuma said in his statement that “what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.

“Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”

Tributes have come in from around the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration”.

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“Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways.”

US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man.

“He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages,” he said, adding that Mr Mandela “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.

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Mr Obama, the first black president of the United States, said he was one of the millions who drew inspiration from Mr Mandela’s life. He has ordered that the White House flag be flown at half-mast.

FW de Klerk, who as South Africa’s last white president ordered Mr Mandela’s release, called him a “unifier” and said he had “a remarkable lack of bitterness”.

He told the BBC Mr Mandela’s greatest legacy “is that we are basically at peace with each other notwithstanding our great diversity, that we will be taking hands once again now around his death and around our common sadness and mourning”.

The Elders – a group of global leaders set up by Mr Mandela to pursue peace and human rights – said they “join millions of people around the world who were inspired by his courage and touched by his compassion”.

The group’s chair, Kofi Annan, said the world had lost “a clear moral compass”.

“While I mourn the loss of one of Africa’s most distinguished leaders, Madiba’s legacy beckons us to follow his example to strive for human rights, reconciliation and justice for all.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said “a great light has gone out in the world”.

Earlier this year, Mr Mandela spent nearly three months in hospital with a recurring lung infection.

He was moved to his home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg in September, where he continued to receive intensive care.

Robben Island

Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student.

He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid. Initially he campaigned peacefully but in the 1960s the ANC began to advocate violence, and Mr Mandela was made the commander of its armed wing.

He was arrested for sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, serving most of his sentence on Robben Island.

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It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, but he and other ANC leaders were able to smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid movement.

He was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation – a process completed by the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

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Mr Mandela, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 jointly with Mr de Klerk, was elected South Africa’s first black president. He served a single term, stepping down in 1999.

After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.

He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.

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* Text by BBC, December 5, 2013

 Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.

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Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.

The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

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At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

On Thursday, crowds gathered outside restaurants in cities including Boston, Lakewood, Calif., Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., where protesters walked into a Burger King but didn’t stop customers from getting their food.

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In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald’s. A few employees said they weren’t working but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald’s maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it’s hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

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“I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I’m relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I’m a single parent,” Waters said.

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In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

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Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes.

Later in the day, about 50 protesters rallied outside a Wendy’s in Brooklyn. Channon Wetstone, a 44-year-old attorney ended up going to a nearby Burger King because of the protests.

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She said that fast-food employees work very hard. When asked if she’d be willing to pay more for food so they could earn more, she said it would depend on what she was ordering.

“I would say 50 cents, 75 cents more,” Wetstone said.

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The push for higher pay in fast food faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on being able to offer low-cost meals and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked.

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Fast-food workers have also historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry’s high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has helped put their wages in the spotlight.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, is coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets. The firm says its clients are the coalitions in each city, such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. Those groups were established with the help of the SEIU, which is also listed on Berlin Rosen’s website as a client.

Fast Food Protest

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most protesters were union workers and that “relatively few” restaurant employees have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a “campaign engineered by national labor groups.”

McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said in statements that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training and the ability to advance. Burger King reissued its statement on past protests, saying its restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans.

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In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned fast-food and retail workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty” in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.

Fast Food Strike

Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

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AP  |  By By CANDICE CHOI and SAM HANANELPosted: 12/05/2013

AP Writer Mike Householder contributed from Detroit, AP videographer Johnny Clark contributed from Atlanta and AP Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed from New York, AP Writer Mitch Weiss from Charlotte, N.C.

Not too long ago, I woke up, grabbed my iPhone and popped onto Facebook to see what I had missed since falling asleep. What can I say other than I play on social media like it’s my job. Normally my news feed is full of baby photos, food, and travel shots and the occasional questionable joke. On this particular morning, I was faced with a photo of a food stamp with a note to “those on welfare” who “don’t work” and “milk the system.” The post was calling for “accountability.” I just shook my head in disappointment.

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While most political comments don’t hit me very hard (we all have a right to our opinion), I have a difficult time with those that group any set of people into a section and blame and berate them. It’s especially disturbing when those I know make these kinds of statements and then look me in the eye and say it to me as though I am above some kind of fray. Quite frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, there are people who abuse all kinds of systems, regardless of their tax bracket, but too often I hear people equate poverty with laziness or worse, criminal behavior, and it’s heart-wrenching for me on a deeply personal level.

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I have made no secret that I come from way down. I grew up in various cockroach-infested apartments with a violent, drug-addicted ex-felon father and a mother who did me both a favor and a great disservice by leaving. The only person I had to watch over me and make sure that I had food, water, and ice for my wounds was my beloved, hardworking and retired grandfather who supported me with a $500 monthly budget that was paid to him via pension and social security.

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That included rent money.

When we lost our home (thanks to my father skipping bail) we moved into our fishing trailer and ate Pork and Beans nearly every weeknight for dinner. On weekends, we lived lakeside and ate the fish we caught. Finally, after we had to spend one third of our income on my eyeglasses, we went to sign up for food stamps, and stood in line for our boxed block of “government cheese.” For a former foreman and a little girl who was already made fun of for a number of reasons and who was particularly sensitive to her grandfather’s feelings, it was humiliating.

GERMANY, BERLIN, - ARCHE is a German Christian child and juvenilia registered association in ab problem district of East-Berlin, Berlin-Hellersdorf, It is considered as representative project in the fight against child poverty, O,p,s, Children during 5

I hated seeing my proud and dignified hero standing in line for handouts. This was a man who prided himself on being self-sufficient and instilled a sense of duty and independence in me from day one. We were not drug addicts living the high life-we were just poor.

“You will be educated and life will be better for you when you get older, Brenda Lynn,” he promised. He was going to fight like hell to see that it happened. “You just need to go to college and you’ll never have to go through this again.” But I was five years old. We had a few years, hospital trips, pairs of shoes, and meals to worry about.

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My grandfather had a moral fiber as thick as wool. He was a God-fearing man who treated everyone with dignity and respect, volunteered to help others, worked odd jobs to make money for us, and taught me to also treat everyone with dignity and respect, reminding me that “we are all equal, and we all put our pants on one leg at a time.” He may not personally have agreed with your way of life, but he’d certainly vote for your right to live as you saw fit as long as it did not hurt anyone else.

He tipped his hat to women on the street. He firmly shook the hands of men. He opened doors. He gave what he had to help others, and he kept his word. He pressed and polished our cheap clothes and shoes to make us look as nice as possible. He didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He paid his taxes-on time.

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My grandfather wanted what all good, decent and loving fathers want for their daughters–the best, safest and most dignified life. While he’d have to save up for a few months to buy me a new dress at Sears in order to see the bright surprise flash across my face, I believe we were rich. Very few children enjoyed the conversation, love, companionship and connection we had. Having a hamburger and slice of pie once a week was our “big date” when we could afford it, and believe me when I tell you that there is still no better “date” for me today.

I was raised to believe in hard work, the value of education, human interaction, honoring your word, equality and making your own way in this world and helping others. When he passed away, everything beautiful in my world went with him.

I was bounced from home-to-home and turned to the system only once when I was cold and needed somewhere to sleep over Thanksgiving. I walked into Juvenile Hall and asked to stay there. Those two days were enough time for me to realize that I needed to stay under the radar.
God knows it would have been easier to have food stamps to offer someone to take me in or medical insurance, but I had to make due without both. On the occasion that I needed to go to the doctor, I went to Planned Parenthood. Not to exercise my right to choose, but for breast exams and free medical attention in a facility that treated me like a human being.
When I tried to work at 14, I was told I was not old enough to get a full time job. So, I worked under the table when I could and accepted food, clothes and shelter from those who felt sorry for me. Equally humiliating.

When it was time to go to college, I had the grades and essays to get in, but I was under 24 and that meant that I needed a parental signature. I was on my own and never a ward of the court, a painful purgatory for someone who ached to just get to the starting line like everyone else.

Thanks to President Clinton, an amendment was made, making it possible for kids who had been on their own and who had stayed out of the system (i.e., bounced from home-to-home or on the streets) to prove they were alone and apply for loans on their own and go to school. With that, a scholarship and loans, I attended American University, excelled where I could and Interned at The White House.

In the time since childhood and now, I have made an incredible family of friends who are on both sides of the political fence. Some of my friends feel very strongly about helping others whereas others feel we should all be responsible only for helping ourselves. Some of my friends are gay and have been humiliated, put down, abused, shut out and treated as second-class citizens by family members and strangers alike solely because they love the “wrong” gender. I have friends who have started rehabilitation programs and others who have benefited from them. I have friends who go to church every week and others who have never stepped foot into one. I personally believe in God and God said that we should steer clear of judging others unless we want to be judged ourselves. I believe God judges deception, bigotry, cruelty and those who live their lives in ways that bring pain to others.

You may not believe this. We don’t have to agree. But I will still show you respect, not only because that’s how I was raised, but because it feels right on a deep and human level.

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I am writing this because I want to say that I was one of those “welfare” people so many people callously group into the “lazy” section of the room. While I am now often told by these same people that I am one of the hardest working people they know, the reality is that there is no way I would be where I am today without the help I received in my past. Some tell me, “Yeah, but you are an exception.”

No, I am not.

I am just one of the many people born under difficult circumstances who wanted to do better and needed a little help getting onto my feet. Now that I am on them, I do my best not to forget what it felt like when I was not. If anything, my past has benefited me in that it has served as a strong warning not to play the “we” VS “them” game as one day you might be the “them”.

 

*Text by  Brenda Della Casa, Nov.2013

Rep. Trey Radel, a Florida Republican elected in 2012, will be in court Wednesday on charges that he possessed cocaine.

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Radel, 37, was charged with misdemeanor possession of cocaine in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday.

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He faces a maximum of 180 days in jail, as well as a fine of up to $1,000. Several sources with direct knowledge say it was the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration who were involved in the charges.

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Radel has missed all four votes in the House this week.

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Radel, in a statement released by his office, made no mention of resigning from the House. He said he struggles “with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts. Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

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The U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined to comment on Radel’s arrest and case.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed DEA official, said Radel allegedly bought cocaine from a dealer in the Dupont Circle area who had been previously arrested as part of a federal probe. “Later that night, federal authorities went to his apartment and informed him that he would be facing criminal charges related to his purchase of cocaine,” the AP said.

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The Florida Republican, who holds a district on the western coast of Florida that includes the tony Marco Island, is a former journalist, TV anchor and radio talk-show host. He never held elective office before winning his House seat last November. His district was vacated by former Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who ran for the Senate.

In the statement, Radel said he realizes “the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions.”

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The arrest, he said, has a “positive side.”

“It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling,” he said. “I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”

Text by John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman (Politico), 11/19/2013

Detained border-crossers may find themselves sent to the infamous hieleras, or ‘freezers.’
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The moment Border Patrol agents swooped in on Claudia and her husband, Marvin, as they tried to sneak across the Rio Grande, the 31-year-old mother of two almost felt relief.

It had been an arduous 18-day journey from their native of El Salvador, which they had fled for fear of their lives at the hands—and machetes—of a vicious gang, she said in a recent interview.

But she soon faced a new, unexpected ordeal as she quickly was separated from her husband and locked away with her preteen son and infant girl in cold cells with an ominous name.

“Then they took us,” Claudia said, “to the famous hieleras.”

Las hieleras, or “the freezers,” is how immigrants and some Border Patrol agents refer to the chilly holding cells at many stations along the U.S.-Mexico border. The facilities are used to house recently captured border crossers until they can be transferred to a long-term Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, returned to their native country or released until their immigration hearing.

According to interviews and court documents, many immigrants have been held for days in rooms kept at temperatures so low that men, women and children have developed illnesses associated with the cold, lack of sleep, overcrowding, and inadequate food, water and toilet facilities.

These complaints are backed up by anonymous surveys of recent migrants. A 2011 report (PDF) from the advocacy group No More Deaths, for example, found that about 7,000 of nearly 13,000 immigrants interviewed reported inhumane conditions in Border Patrol cells—with about 3,000 of them saying they suffered extreme cold.

The treatment of migrants in these facilities has been muted in the roiling debate in Congress over expanding the Border Patrol and overhauling the nation’s immigration system. But for thousands of men and women, the facilities have provided a harsh official greeting after what they thought would be the hardest part of their journey, crossing the border.

Since their experience, Marvin and Claudia have filed administrative complaints against the Border Patrol, which can result in agents facing disciplinary action. The couple’s baby still has a persistent cough, Claudia said.

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“It’s that they make you feel like you’re worthless,” she said. “They make you feel like you’ve committed a horrible crime.”

Apprehended immigrants are staying longer in short-term detention because ICE facilities are too crowded to accept new detainees, and there are not enough Border Patrol agents in some stations to process immigrants in a timely manner.

A few lawmakers have taken an interest in the problem. In June, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., added an amendment to the immigration overhaul package, calling for limits on the number of people held in a cell, adequate climate control, potable water, hygiene items and access to medical care, among other stipulations.

It ultimately was stripped from the Senate version, but Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., has included similar stipulations in a bill she proposed in September, called the Protect Family Values at the Border Act. It is currently in committee.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection first approved, then declined, to give The Center for Investigative Reporting a tour of one of the Border Patrol stations in question, citing unspecified pending litigation.

Luis Megid, a reporter with CIR partner Univision, was allowed in. He said the cells looked as immigrants have described, but cleaner—concrete cells, aluminum toilets, doors with glass windows. He was not allowed into a holding cell with detainees to judge the temperature. Border Patrol agent Daniel Tirado told Megid that agents are supposed to provide blankets upon request.

Christopher Cabrera, a local vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents the agency’s 21,000 agents, said that when a tour or special investigative inspection is scheduled, the station typically brings in a cleaning crew ahead of time.

It’s clear the stations are overcrowded. Border Patrol agent Juan Ayala said he recently made 732 bologna sandwiches for a single lunch at the Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas. It took him almost five hours, he said. He loaded the sandwiches and juices into a shopping cart and delivered them to the 732 adult immigrant detainees in the station that day.

The station, Cabrera and Ayala said, was built to hold between 200 and 250 people at any one time.

Out of everything, former detained immigrants said it was the cold that was the worst. Several border crossers who have contacted attorneys and immigrant rights groups agreed to speak to CIR about conditions in the facilities, but on condition of anonymity to protect their pending asylum cases.

Adonys, 15, who came from Honduras in July to join his mother, said the Border Patrol apprehended him crossing the border near McAllen, in a group of 28 men, women and children. Agents put him in a van and took him to their station to process him.

He said the agents made him take off all his layers except for a T-shirt and made him remove his belt and shoelaces.

“I bent over to untie my shoelaces, and I felt an agent pouring cold water on me,” said Adonys, who has filed an asylum request. “He was laughing.”

Five other agents stood by, saying nothing, Adonys said.

They then moved him to a cold cell, wet shirt and all.

“I asked for something to cover myself with, and he said, ‘No, you’re just going to be in there like that,’ ” Adonys said. “It was very, very cold. It was unbearable. We couldn’t stand it.”

Sofía, a 25-year-old woman who has applied for asylum and also requested anonymity, was held for two weeks. She said it was so cold in one cell that she could see her breath.

“It’s so cold, you’re trembling,” she said. “Your lips split.”

Few complain, but problems appear widespread

Despite the conditions in the detention rooms, legal complaints about short-term detention are few. Generally, lawyers and immigrants alike are more concerned with the immediate issue of how to stay in the United States, attorneys said.

Earlier this year, Americans for Immigrant Justice, based in Florida, filed tort claims on behalf of seven women and one man detained in las hieleras in the spring. Like Claudia and Marvin, these people were held in stations in South Texas. The problem, however, stretches along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to lawyers and activists.

“I don’t see how it could be any more widespread,” said James Duff Lyall, a border litigation attorney for the ACLU in Arizona.

Lawyers for detained immigrants raise concerns that migrants are placed in these cold rooms for punitive reasons. Immigration detention is intended, however, to ensure that people seeking asylum or fighting deportation appear in court. It is not because they have been convicted of a crime.

International and North American human rights standards are stricter for this type of detention than for criminal lockups because no one has been convicted of anything.

Immigration detention is held to a Fifth Amendment standard, said Lyall of the ACLU. The Fifth Amendment prohibits conditions that amount to punishment without due process of the law, including freedom from risk of harm and the right to adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

Further potentially violating immigrants’ right to due process, according to Lyall, is the denial of access to an attorney and to their consulate, as well as coercing detainees to sign voluntary removal orders.

While many of these standards are laid out in internal Customs and Border Protection policies and procedures, the agency is not subject to regular inspections to ensure compliance.

The agency’s policy dictates that “whenever possible,” detainees should not be held in short-term detention for more than 12 hours. At 24 hours, agents need to file a report to the station’s patrol agent in charge if a detainee hasn’t been transferred yet. At 72 hours, the chief of the sector should get a report.

For human rights attorneys, the conditions in las hieleras likely violate international standards. Michele Garnett McKenzie, advocacy director at The Advocates for Human Rights, said that if the temperature is turned down for humiliation or to degrade the detainees, that would be evidence of a more serious kind of violation.

“There’s a point where [the temperature] is deliberately turned down to harass people and make them unable to sleep,” McKenzie said, “and that’s where the allegation is here.”

Journey from El Salvador to a holding cell

For Claudia and her family, the cold holding cells were a shock.

They had left San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital city, in a hurry. They stuffed some clothes, diapers and cash in two small backpacks, got on a bus and went north. Marvin had gotten his paycheck from his bus-driving job the day before, and Claudia had a bit of cash from helping an aunt sell food on the street.

The couple had just gotten word that their family had been “denounced”—marked for death—by MS-13, the gang that ran their neighborhood. Marvin saw gang members torturing Claudia’s brother-in-law, who had a rival gang tattoo on his chest. The family was able to lay low for a while, but once the threat came, they fled.

For 18 days, the family rode crowded, broken-down buses to Cancun, Mexico, and then on to the town of Reynosa, bordering South Texas. The baby developed a cold. The parents didn’t have the money to pay coyotes controlled by a cartel to smuggle them across the river. As a result, the cartel held them in a house for eight days until a family member in Canada wired the money.

They were caught not long after crossing the river.

Once inside the Border Patrol detention facility, Claudia was given a heat-reflective “space” blanket—which she likened to a potato chip bag—to keep her and the baby warm. Her son was separated into a cell with other teens, no one would tell her where her husband was, and the baby was coughing. The small cell was packed.

Miles away, at another Border Patrol station, Marvin was in a similar cold, crowded cell. There was barely room to crouch, let alone lie down and sleep.

Even if the agents did turn off the overhead lights, which they never did, and even if they didn’t make a ruckus every time someone closed their eyes, which they always did, there were no mattresses. Just the cold, hard concrete floor, directly underneath large ceiling vents blowing cold air, according to Marvin.

In both cells, the toilet was in plain sight. In Claudia’s cell, a security camera pointed at it, and she could see the agents watching the screens in the control room whenever a woman got desperate enough to use the toilet. In Marvin’s cell, the area around the toilet was covered with dried spit laced with blood.

There were no showers, no soap, no toothbrushes.

Claudia got two sandwiches a day—bologna on white bread. The water was muddy-tasting, so she was afraid to drink it, even though she was breastfeeding. Her son got a few frozen mini-burritos and punch.

The baby coughed more.

After they were taken to the hospital, a doctor scribbled a prescription while a nurse allowed Claudia to bathe the baby and dress her in clean clothes. Then the agents took them back to the cell. They did not fill the prescription, she said.

They lived like this for six days, until one day, the agents told Claudia and her two children they could go. With no friends or family, Claudia and the kids found help at La Posada Providencia, an immigrants’ shelter in San Benito, Texas, where the program director, Sister Zita Telkamp, contacted the pro bono legal organization ProBAR to help find Marvin. The lawyer, Meredith Linsky, found him at an ICE facility.

In total, Claudia and her children spent 144 hours, or six days, in short-term detention, transferred among three different stations. Marvin spent 120 hours split between two Border Patrol locations.

The baby is still sick, and Claudia has nightmares about the Border Patrol coming back. The family’s plan, according to Marvin: “Continue struggling on so they don’t return us.”

 

Text by Rachael Bale, The Center for Investigative Reporting, November 19th 2013

Reporter Andrew Becker contributed to this report. This story was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee.

Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

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A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

Social distance makes it all the easier to focus on small differences between groups and to put a negative spin on the ways of others and a positive spin on our own.

Freud called this “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theme repeated by Vamik D. Volkan, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who was born in Cyprus to Turkish parents. Dr. Volkan remembers hearing as a small boy awful things about the hated Greek Cypriots — who, he points out, actually share many similarities with Turkish Cypriots. Yet for decades their modest-size island has been politically divided, which exacerbates the problem by letting prejudicial myths flourish.

In contrast, extensive interpersonal contact counteracts biases by letting people from hostile groups get to know one another as individuals and even friends. Thomas F. Pettigrew, a research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed more than 500 studies on intergroup contact. Mr. Pettigrew, who was born in Virginia in 1931 and lived there until going to Harvard for graduate school, told me in an e-mail that it was the “the rampant racism in the Virginia of my childhood” that led him to study prejudice.

In his research, he found that even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized “others” were “just like me.” Whether such friendly social contact would overcome the divide between those with more and less social and economic power was not studied, but I suspect it would help.

Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.

 

* Text By  Daniel Goleman (NYT, Oct. 5, 2013)

Starting Friday, fines for texting, emailing and using handheld phones while driving will get more expensive in New York State. Fines for using mobile devices will increase to up to $150 for a first offense, plus a mandatory $80 surcharge for moving violations, and go up to $400 (plus the $80) for a third. A violation also costs a whopping 5 driver’s license points. In addition, teen and probationary drivers — arguably those most prone to violating existing laws — will face 60-day license suspensions.

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That’s one expensive text message, and it puts your license in jeopardy.

But if that’s what it takes to deter device-dependent drivers from this obviously dangerous behavior, then so be it. Laws against handheld mobile phone use and texting have been on the books for years in New York, but we all know how widely those laws are flouted. In fact, despite drivers’ nearly universal disapproval of texting and emailing while driving, more than one in four of us admitted sending a text message or email while driving in the previous month, according to a survey conducted by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety last year.

Texting behind the wheel is extraordinarily dangerous, research has shown. That’s because it engages the driver visually, manually and cognitively, creating a trifecta of deadly distractions. Studies show that on average, a texting driver takes his or her eyes off the road for about five seconds to read or send a text message, more than doubling a driver’s risk of a crash. At highway speeds, that’s long enough to cover the length of a football field. Yet drivers continue to do it. While increased penalties may be a painful lesson for some, a bigger stick is clearly needed to change widespread behaviors.

Over the past two decades, New York’s combination of stronger laws and enforcement led the nation in successful efforts to persuade drivers to wear seat belts and not drive while drunk. As a result, we helped establish a national model for other states, saving thousands of lives. Today, widespread texting and phone use while driving threaten the hard-earned reductions in motor vehicle crashes — a leading cause of preventable death and injury in the United States.

In fact, from 2005 to 2011, there has been about a 143 percent increase in mobile phone-related crashes in the state. In that same period, there’s been an approximately 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes. We can’t let the progress we made saving lives erode.

Teenage drivers — the “digital generation” — are especially prone to distracted driving. Surveys indicate that on average, they talk on their mobile phones an hour each day and send 80 texts per day. Many have handheld devices with Internet capabilities. Ninety-four percent of them report keeping their mobile phones on while driving. Those are troubling statistics, given that car crashes remain the No. 1 cause of death and injury for that generation. Hopefully the state’s new laws will send a powerful message to our young and inexperienced drivers that texting and driving will not be tolerated in New York State.

Now that the new penalties are going into effect, state and local police departments have pledged to vigorously enforce these laws this summer, with checkpoints and undercover vehicles to catch distracted drivers. Some violators may be taken by surprise by the steep fines and points, but I say bring them on. One look around will tell you that many drivers won’t drop their devices without them.
By JOHN A. CORLETT, NewsDay,  July 24, 2013

John A. Corlett is legislative committee chair of AAA New York State, based in Garden City.

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