Data released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 58 percent of California is facing “exceptional drought,” the most severe condition on the center’s scale and the worst ever recorded in the state. “You keep bea…
J: I recently moved to the San Joaquin valley and it is becoming a problem of major proportions with the added fact that huge commercial farms are planting thousands of acres of orchards and installing $150,000 wells that are now causing many property owners wells to go dry which in turn is now costing $20,000 for a local small acreage owner to spend to try to locate more water. The capitalist never quit and the local governments are bought and paid for by the same industry depleting the water. What is the answer?
“Republicans insist they are not mounting a filibuster but merely demanding a delay in a vote until their demands have been satisfied.”—Someone get these people a copy of “Politics and the English Language.” Tell them Ayn Rand wrote it so they’ll read it. (via englishprof)
Despite the importance of the midterm elections this year, it seems like huge numbers of voters don’t plan on getting out and voting, and Democrats stand to possibly lose the Senate and to lose more seats in the House. That would be devastating for causes like raising the…
Speaking with Katie Couric on Yahoo Global News, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that five of her male counterparts on the court have “a blind spot” when it comes to women’s issues.
After noting that all three female justices were in the minority in the recent Hobby Lobby decision, Couric asked Ginsburg whether she “believed the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision.”
Following a long pause, Ginsburg said, “I would have to say, ‘No.’”
J: They understood my dear Ruth exactly what they were told to do and did it.
This won’t surprise anyone who’s been following Obamacare’s latest legal battle, but the case just got one step closer to the US Supreme Court. Again. The most recent legal challenge centers on…
This won’t surprise anyone who’s been following Obamacare’s latest legal battle, but the case just got one step closer to the US Supreme Court. Again.
The most recent legal challenge centers on the subsidies available to people newly insured on state insurance exchanges. The plaintiffs argue that, based on the plain text of the law, Congress only authorized subsidies for state-established exchanges and that subsidies shouldn’t be available in the 36 states with federal exchanges. The federal government vehemently disagrees.
The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case that was decided by the Fourth Circuit earlier this month, have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case, CNBC reports. The Fourth Circuit ruling went in favor of the government; the unanimous opinion said that subsidies should be available to residents of all states, based on their best reading of the law.
It’s not clear whether the high court will take up the case. Four justices have to agree to hear it, and they may wish to wait until Halbig, a related case, has fully played out.
Unlike King, the government lost in Halbig. There, the three-person panel of DC Circuit judges held that subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs health insurance exchanges. But the government plans to ask the entire DC Circuit — eleven judges in total — to review the decision “en banc”. Because the full DC Circuit skews liberal, observers expect that the Halbig decision will be reversed during en banc review. That probably won’t happen until early fall.
The King plaintiffs decided to skip an en banc petition.
By skipping an en banc petition, the King plaintiffs hope to get the Supreme Court to hear their case this term.
The justices may wish to wait until Halbig’s en banc review has been resolved before taking up one of the subsidy challenges. If they wait, that could push the timeline on a Supreme Court hearing back by a full year.
Alternatively, the Supreme Court could decide not to hear any of these challenges.
The Court will decide sometime this fall whether or not to hear King. If they do decide to hear the case, oral arguments would happen this winter and a final ruling would be expected sometime next spring.
The petition to the Supreme Court can be read here. For our complete coverage of these lawsuits, click here.
“They rape [the girls], then they cut their throats. Or if they don’t rape them [and kill them], they leave them pregnant. And if we try to rat them out or go to the police, they’ll kill us. They put us in plastic bags and leave us on the shore,” Carolina said.
McALLEN, TEXAS — We met Carolina while visiting a “welcome center” for recently-processed immigrants at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. She emerged from a sweltering relief tent that sheltered a handful of other fatigued travelers, most of whom, like her, had been released by Border Patrol just hours prior. She stood what couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, but her weary eyes hinted at her age. She looked tired, but then, she should: she reportedly had just finished a journey of more than a thousand miles, and still had more to go.
Concern has been growing about the ever-increasing number of children and families — including tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors — crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as they flee violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The humanitarian situation has sparked a range of passionate responses across the country, triggering anti-immigrant protests sponsored by various Tea Party groups and calls for compassion from pro-immigrant advocacy organizations and people of faith. The federal government, for its part, is currently engaged in a heated debate over how to deal with the issue; President Barack Obama is seeking $3.7 billion in emergency funds from Congress to help address the surge, but a rival plan unveiled by House Republicans on July 29 asks for a significantly reduced amount — $659 million. Still others in the Obama administration are discussing the possibility of granting Hondurans — and eventually Guatemalans and Salvadorans — formal refugee status, so people can be evacuated directly to the U.S. without having to make the treacherous northward journey.
But too often lost among the drama of Washington political battles are the stories of the actual people crossing the border — men, women, and especially young children who have risked everything to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. People like Carolina.
Speaking through a translator and using exaggerated hand gestures to emphasize her points, Carolina told ThinkProgress how she came to the U.S. from the La Unión municipality of El Salvador, a coastal region nestled next to the eastern border with Honduras. Her 14-year-old daughter, who we will not name for privacy reasons, stood beside her as she talked, and she mentioned another 5-year-old girl, who she said was “over there somewhere, playing,” that also accompanied them on the journey. It was not immediately clear whether or not the second girl was her own daughter, but Carolina referred to her as part of their family unit. We cannot verify the details of her story, only that the families who come to Sacred Heart Church are reportedly bused there after being processed by Border Patrol, and that stories like Carolina’s are all too typical among those at the welcome center.
Why they left
Carolina was quick to explain that she left El Salvador because of a common concern among those fleeing Central America: gang violence.
“The crime, the gangs, it’s terrible, especially with little girls like her,” she said, pointing to her daughter. “I left because of fear, because of threats — threats to mothers, saying that if you don’t go along with [gang members] they’ll take your daughters from you.”
CREDIT: JACK JENKINS
These kinds of horror stories are increasingly the norm among those crossing the U.S. border. In 2012, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala had a higher homicide rate for civilians than Iraq during the height of the Iraq War, a disturbing trend that is almost entirely attributable to an explosion of gang activity in the region. Two of the largest street gangs — MS18 and MS13 — have founded chapters in cities throughout the “northern triangle,” using increasingly brutal tactics to terrorize local populations as they battle for power and turf. In addition to beating or killing young men who refuse to join their ranks, they are known to use rape as a weapon, pushing sexual violence to all-time highs in El Salvador. They regularly force young women to be their “girlfriends,” subjecting them to frequent rape at the hands of one — or often, multiple — gang members.
Carolina said she had seen the tragic impact of such violence firsthand.
“Usually once they take [the girls] they cut their throats,” she said. “They rape them, then they cut their throats. Or if they don’t rape them [and kill them], they leave them pregnant. And if we try to rat them out or go to the police, they’ll kill us. They put us in plastic bags and leave us on the shore.”
“And they leave them pregnant, little girls of her age,” she said, her voice rising. “She’s fourteen.”
Carolina said the journey — with her 14- and 5-year-olds in tow — took 12 days total; nine from El Salvador to Mexico, three from Mexico to the U.S. border. She told us that travel through Mexico was quicker because they rode buses, but hunger remained a constant issue throughout the trip.
“[There were] long days, some days going 12 hours without stopping,” she said. “We had to put up with a lot of hunger. Lack of food. Because on foot, we’d start around 11 at night and we’d go sometimes until 10 in the morning. The whole way we would have to put up with hunger, because they didn’t sell any food on the buses.”
In addition to starvation and exhaustion, Carolina said their travels were also fraught with dangers. She detailed one especially harrowing incident on the Guatemala-Mexico border.
“[We went up] to the border with Mexico. At that point we stopped at the river to cross the water. The water was up to here,” she said, motioning with her hands at her waist. “They put down some little boats, and we rowed them with our hands.”
“Then we were running scared, scared because we could hear gunfire in the distance. One little girl ran out in front, with the rest of us all behind her, all scared. We thought they were going to shoot us from above,” — she waved her hand over her head, mimicking the spin of a helicopter blade — “so we ran out and hid ourselves in the forest. We jumped out of the boats so quickly because we thought the helicopter was going to shoot and maybe even kill us. But the little five-year-old ran ahead of us, [leading us] into the forest.”
The possible route of Carolina and her two young companions. NOTE: This projected path is an approximation based solely on their point of origin and final destination.
Some people who make the journey north enlist the help of so-called “coyotes,” or people paid to guide children and families up through Mexico to the U.S. border. These men can quicken the trip, but at a price: a 2013 report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lists the average cost of a coyote as somewhere between $5,000-$7,000, or roughly twice the average annual income for a Salvadoran.
(Carolina couldn’t afford a coyote. She couldn’t even afford to bring everyone with her. “I did leave my 12-year-old son in El Salvador … with his father,” she said. “It’s because the money I had…It wasn’t enough to bring him all the way from Mexico to here – we ran out. It’s incredible how much you spend from there to here in Mexico. We spent like 500 dollars!” )
In addition to guidance, travelers who hire coyotes are looking for some modicum of protection from Mexican kidnappers and gangs. These groups — especially Mexico’s infamous Los Zetas drug cartel —are known for extorting, killing, or raping Central American women they capture, and sometimes selling them to sex trafficking rings. But being able to afford a coyote isn’t always a luxury. Many of those who flee from Central America also report that coyotes will sometimes rape the girls they escort, spurring some women to preemptively take contraceptives — often in the form of injections — during their travels as a means of protection.
Carolina said neither she nor her girls had taken contraception, but understood the fear of those who do.
They do say that when the girls, the young girls, come by those means, that’s when they get raped.
“It depends on when you come, ” she said. “There are many that do say that they are raped. But we weren’t as afraid of being raped, [because] we came alone. But sometimes when they come with coyotes…”
“They do say that when the girls, the young girls, come by those means, that’s when they get raped.”
Given all these potential dangers, our translator expressed shock that Carolina and her daughters had made the trek by themselves. Carolina shrugged; they had made do by relying on the kindness of strangers, or, as she put it, “Asking, asking, asking.”
What kept Carolina and her girls going in the midst of such hardship? Perhaps it was courage? Raw determination? Maybe religious faith? “The fear,” she said. “The fear of being in El Salvador. The fear. We had to have the courage to come to do this.”
When Carolina and her two young companions finally arrived in Texas, they were quickly apprehended by Border Patrol agents. They were then sent to one of the multiple processing centers along the border, where she and her daughters spent four days in detention with other immigrants. She said her experience with Border Patrol was “more or less good,” although she noted that the food was “really nasty.”
“We slept on the floor,” she said. “It was freezing! And they took all our clothes — everything. The extra clothes we brought. They only left us with the shirts we were wearing. We brought sweaters, caps, but they took everything. We couldn’t change clothes.”
She also corroborated reports of notorious overcrowding at the Border Patrol’s makeshift shelters, where the raw influx of desperate children and families is putting increased strain on federal resources.
“When we got there, there were about 30 [people], but when we left today there were 80,” she said. “It was full! Full! We didn’t fit!”
Carolina’s moment of reflection was powerful, but brief. She and her girls had to catch a bus later that evening, which she said would take them north to stay with a family member before their required court hearing. Someday soon, a judge will decide whether to grant them family asylum as refugees or deport them back to gang-ridden El Salvador. In the meantime, Carolina said she wanted to stay focused on practical matters — although her words seemed tinged with the guilt of leaving behind her son.
I don’t even want to remember the journey.
“We’ll see if we can work,” she said. “And we’ll see if we can get our other child back in El Salvador [to come here]. And the girls are going to study.”
When asked whether she would take the journey again, she closed her eyes tightly, pausing for a moment before speaking.
“I don’t even want to remember the journey,” she said sullenly, shaking her head. “When we crossed the border, we were all so afraid, we heard gunshots, and you imagine you’re going to die. It was so awful I don’t want to remember it.”
As we closed the interview, we asked one last question — indirectly — to Carolina’s daughter who stood nearby: what do you want to be when you grow up?
“A teacher,” she said, grinning bashfully and staring at her feet, just like any 14-year-old would.
Few could doubt that this young woman — who has reportedly traveled thousands of miles, endured unspeakable hardships, and learned so many life lessons at such as young age — would have much to teach American students.
But only if she is allowed stay.
Initial translation for this conversation was provided on-site by a volunteer from Sacred Heart Church. Later translation and transcription of the recorded conversation was provided by Tanya Arditi and Alfredo Garcia Mora.
WHY ARE SOME ADULTS SO IGNORANT WHEN IT COMES TO ASPECTS SUCH AS MENTAL ILLNESS LIKE YOU DON’T TELL SOMEONE WITH CANCER TO DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT THEIR BODY IS KILLING ITSELF YOU DON’T TELL SOMEONE WITH ALZHEIMER’S TO QUIT FORGETTING THINGS SO WHY WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WITH ANXIETY THAT THEY ARE “JUST SCARED” AND TO “DEAL WITH IT” IT’S THE SAME THING IT’S AN ILLNESS I DON’T UNDERSTAND I JUST DON’T
J: I learned a long time ago reaching adulthood did not mean a scraggly assed oldie was an actual adult.
Renisha McBride’s brain was ‘pulpified’ by the shotgun blast that killed her. An assistant Wayne County medical examiner, the prosecution’s final witness in the trial of Theodore Wafer, testified W…
Renisha McBride’s brain was ‘pulpified’ by the shotgun blast that killed her.
An assistant Wayne County medical examiner, the prosecution’s final witness in the trial of Theodore Wafer, testified Wednesday the 19-year-old McBride was shot in the face from less than three feet away early Nov. 2.
Jurors saw photos of McBride’s body during Dr. Kilak Kesha’s testimony but the images could not be seen by observers in the courtroom, including members of the teen’s family.
McBride crashed her Ford Taurus on Brammell near Majestic in Detroit several hours before she was found dead on Wafer’s front porch in Dearborn Heights. She was drunk at the time of the crash – Kilak said her blood-alcohol level was .218 when her blood was taken during an autopsy. He added the level would have been higher at the time of the crash.
A person with a blood-alcohol level of .08 is considered legally drunk in Michigan.
The defense’s first witness was Dr. Werner Spitz, a former Wayne County medical examiner who said he believed McBride suffered a concussion after striking the windshield of her car with her head. Earlier testimony from a Michigan State Police investigator indicated McBride might not have been wearing a seatbelt when she crashed and could have been propelled into the windshield.
Witnesses who encountered McBride moments after the crash said she appeared to be disoriented.
Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony use of a firearm. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge.
Dearborn Heights police Detective Sgt. Stephen Gurka was back on the stand Wednesday morning when the trial resumed.
Under cross examination, he said he did not believe anything more could have been done during his investigation of Wafer’s house. He said he did not feel the need to seek fingerprint evidence because he did not believe he was investigating an attempted home invasion.
Like two other witnesses, he also testified Wafer told him he fired the gun accidentally.
During opening remarks, the defense said Wafer was in fear of his life when he fired the fatal shot. His attorney further claimed Wafer could not find his cellphone before the shooting and reacted after hearing pounding on his side and front doors.
It is not known if the defense will call Wafer to testify.
The trial is currently in process.
J: It is my sincere hope the alley rat is sentenced to life.