TBR News July 4, 2018

Jul 04 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. July 4, 2018:” TBR News

Attention: Editor

I have been a reader of your website and appreciate the various, intelligent points of view you express.

I am an employee of a federal agency that oversees control of agricultural products and have knowledge of a very serious medical situation that is certainly life-threatening for many Americans.

This is called “transmittable spongiform encephalopathies” or is better known as Mad Cow Disease.

This disease attacks the human brain and destroys it.

It is found in several domestic animals, most especially beef.

Mad Cow Disease was diagnosed in England and resulted in heavy quarantines and mass destruction of most of England’s cow population. There have been other small eruptions of this disease but swift action against infected animals and herds has apparently kept it under control. Tens of thousands of carcasses of slaughtered British cattle were shipped to Canada to be ground up and used for fertilizer.

Unfortunately, Mad Cow Disease is not under control.

It has broken out in Canada as most newspaper readers now know.

What most readers do not know is that it has spread into the United States, at least from Canada and probably from the Argentine.

What are the US regulatory agencies doing to protect the American people from this horrible and always fatal disease?

Nothing at all!

The CDC does not require this disease be reported to them by doctors or hospitals! The CDC is an arm of the U.S. government and does what it is told.

The American meat packing industry has privately lobbied official Washington to keep this whole sorry mess under wraps.

The reason? The loss of billions of dollars in sales of meat that is very possibly tainted.

Our current, business-oriented government is only too willing to assist those who contribute to their political campaigns.

When cows are slaughtered, meat is sent to processing companies and from there, goes out to the manufacturers of meat products and markets all over America.

Testing of beef products for this disease by official U.S. regulatory agencies is practically non-existent.

Parts of the slaughtered cow that are not sold over the counter as fresh meat, are sold to meat processing companies to be made into meat products such as hot dogs.

These parts consist of everything connected to the cow including eyes, brains, lungs and anything that can be ground up.

Some of these byproducts of the slaughtering process are ground up and used for high protein animal food. This feed is then used for chickens, cows and hogs and stands an excellent chance of being infected with Mad Cow Disease!

Are there any precautions the public can take to prevent infection?

There are.

Buy fresh meat from reputable markets such as the Safeway chain.

If you want ground beef, do not buy pre-made patties  made up outside the market by commercial firms but insist that the meat department grinds up a cut of beef you have selected.

Do not buy or eat any processed meat such as hot dogs or other sausages, pre-cooked hamburger patties or canned meat.

Do not eat any meat products served in any chain fast food outlet. Their meat is processed, has additives and note that cooking, even flame broiling, does not remove the disease!

These rules also apply to chicken and pork.

They also apply to some brands of dog and cat food.

These are practical, life-saving tips and are based on known and proven medical analysis.

Please encourage your readers to pass these life-saving tips along to their friends


The Table of Contents

  • Senate panel backs intelligence agencies on Russia-Trump conclusions
  • Is Bezos holding Seattle hostage? The cost of being Amazon’s home
  • Happy Fourth of July! The Story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reveals the Power of Good News About “Democratic Renewal”
  • Governor orders probe of abuse claims by immigrant children
  • Rebels discuss with Russia a deal to end fighting in southern Syria
  • Man-Made Drought Threatens to Ravage Iraq
  • US oil touches $75 amid fears Iran will block Middle East shipments
  • Probe into Facebook’s data breach broadens: Washington Post


Senate panel backs intelligence agencies on Russia-Trump conclusions

July 3, 2018

by Mark Hosenball


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday supports three U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Republican-led committee’s finding suggests the panel continues to conduct a bipartisan inquiry into the issue amid political rancor between Republicans and Democrats on allegations that Moscow interfered in the election.

“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the (Intelligence Community Assessment’s) findings were accurate and on point,” said committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat.

“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) and to help Donald Trump,” Warner said.

Separate from congressional inquiries, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Republican Trump’s election campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials.

Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which reported the intelligence agencies’ findings in January 2017, nor the Senate committee has concluded that Trump’s campaign or aides colluded with Russia.

The committee is still investigating any possible collusion, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, officials said.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, asked by reporters on Tuesday about the Senate panel’s report while traveling with Trump on Air Force One to West Virginia, said: “The president has been very clear and has said it many times that he feels the Russians meddled in the election.”

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, dominated by Republicans sympathetic to Trump, found no conclusive evidence proving collusion. But House panel Republicans, in a report on April 27, did say that Russia ran an information warfare campaign to disrupt the election

The Kremlin denies meddling and Trump denies collusion. On June 28, Trump said on Twitter that “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling on Our Election!”

The following day, however, he told reporters that he planned to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on July 16 in Helsinki.

According to public records and congressional officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee report is the latest of four election-related inquiries on which the panel’s Republicans and Democrats continue to cooperate.

Earlier, the committee held a public hearing and issued a report on the security of U.S. election systems, on which there was no partisan dissent.

Committee Democrats also are collaborating with Republicans on an inquiry that is likely to cite former President Barack Obama and his administration for moving too slowly to probe evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Committee Democrats and Republicans also are working together on an examination of the role social media played in influencing U.S. voters, and may hold hearings on that issue.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Jim Oliphant; editing by John Walcott and Grant McCool


Is Bezos holding Seattle hostage? The cost of being Amazon’s home

Amazon is looking for a home for its second headquarters. But in its current home, critics say rising house prices and growing inequality have damaged the city

July 4, 2018

by Chris McGreal in Seattle

The Guardian

However they see Amazon, for good or ill, residents of the fastest-growing city in the US largely agree on the price Seattle has paid to be the home of the megacorporation: surging rents, homelessness, traffic-clogged streets, overburdened public transport, an influx of young men in polo shirts and a creeping uniformity rubbing against the city’s counterculture.

But the issue of Jeff Bezos’s balls is far from settled. “Have you seen the Bezos balls?” asked Dave Christie, a jewellery maker at a waterfront market who makes no secret of his personal dislike for the man who founded and still runs Amazon. “No one wanted them. They’ve disfigured downtown. Giant balls say everything about the man. Bezos is holding Seattle hostage.”

It’s not strictly true to say everyone is against the three huge plant-forested glass spheres at what Amazon calls its “campus” in the heart of the city. The Bezos balls, as the conservatories are popularly known, are modelled on the greenhouses at London’s Kew Gardens, feature walkways above fig trees, ferns and rhododendrons, and provide hot-desking for Amazon workers looking for a break from the neighbouring office tower.

“They are absolutely gorgeous. There was nothing in that area 10 years ago,” said Jen Reed, selling jerky from another market stall. “I don’t hate Amazon the way that a lot of people hate them. Seattle has changed a lot. My rent’s gone from $500 to $1,000, but outside of that Amazon have been beneficial. It’s give and take, and anyway we invited them here.”

But even those sympathetic to the biggest retailer in the US are questioning whether there has been more take than give. Amazon has long been accused of stretching the city’s transit and education systems, and its highly paid workers have driven up prices of goods and housing.

The resentful murmur recently became a roar after Amazon reacted to the city’s latest tax proposal, which would have charged large businesses an annual $275 per employee, by resorting to what critics call blackmail. In mid-June, less than a month after unanimously passing the tax, Seattle’s council abandoned it in the face of threats from the corporation. The tension has sharpened the debate about whether the city can retain its identity as one of the most progressive in the country, or is destined to be just another tech hub.

Ironically, given Amazon’s much-publicised “city sweepstakes”, in which municipalities in North America are competing to land the company’s second headquarters, Seattle did not reach a Faustian pact with Amazon to lure it in the first place. The city gave no tax breaks and passed no anti-union laws, although the fact that Washington state law bars income tax was certainly appealing. The council did encourage the firm’s massive growth, however, with accommodations on building regulations that helped drive $4bn in construction.

Amazon has remade Seattle in many ways beyond new buildings. The city’s population has surged by about 40% since the company was founded, and nearly 20,000 people a year are moving there, often drawn by the company and its orbit. The tech industry has brought higher-paying jobs, with its average salary about $100,000. But that is twice as much as half the workers in the city earn, and the latter’s spending power is dropping sharply, creating a clear economic divide between some of the city’s population and the new arrivals.

The better-paid have driven up house prices by 70% in five years, and rents with them, as they suck up the limited housing stock. The lower-paid are being forced out of the city, into smaller accommodation or on to the streets. The Seattle area now has the highest homeless population in the country after New York and Los Angeles, with more than 11,000 people without a permanent home, many living in tent camps under bridges, in parks and in cemeteries.

“It’s incredibly difficult to find housing in Seattle now,” said Nicole Keenan-Lai, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, a Seattle thinktank focused on low-income and minority communities. “Two years ago a study came out that said 35% of Seattle’s homeless population has some college or a college degree.”

John Burbank of the Economic Opportunity Institute said there is a a direct link between the surge in highly paid jobs and the numbers of people forced on to the street.

“There’s an incredible correlation between the increase in homelessness and the increase in the number of people who have incomes in excess of $250,000,” he said. “That has grown by almost 50% between 2011 and 2017. The population of homeless kids in the Seattle public schools has grown from 1,300 kids to 4,200.”

Amazon has sought to improve its standing with financial support for organisations such as Mary’s Place to build a new shelter for 200 homeless women and families.

It is a similar story as schools and public transportation grapple to keep up with the rapidly rising population and the demographic shift it is causing.

While use of public transport is falling in many major cities in the US, down more than 7% in Los Angeles in 2016 and 10% in Washington DC, it was up by 4% in Seattle. The city has redesigned bus routes and upgraded the South Lake Union Trolley, known locally by the unfortunate acronym of the Slut, to the Amazon campus in the area, but the system is struggling. The company has contributed towards some of the cost of the upgrades, including buying an additional streetcar and giving $700,000 toward running the bus service this year.

But still the flow of cars to the Amazon campus has led to long traffic jams to the interstate. The bus route to the same area, the No 8, is notorious as one of the most overcrowded and delayed in the city, prompting a derisory Twitter account with the slogan “You can’t say late without 8!”.

In other cities, rising salaries would be a boon to public coffers, but Seattle is burdened with one of the most regressive tax systems in the country.

With no income tax, the financing of public works falls more heavily on the less well off through sales and property taxes. “We have a tax system in which if you’re making less than $25,000, you’re paying about 18% of your income in state and local taxes. If you’re above $250,000 you’re paying about 4% of your income in state and local taxes,” said Burbank.

“As a result we’re leaving millions of dollars on the table that should be going into public investments in our state and in our city. We’re increasing taxes on the people who can least afford to pay taxes and we’re letting the affluent off the hook.”

This is not how large numbers of people in Seattle think things should work. They argue that Amazon should contribute to upgrading a transport system that’s struggling under the influx it created, and improving schools that provide the educated workforce the company benefits from.

“It is sort of a bipolar relationship because we do have a progressive city in some respects, we have a progressive city council in some respects, and then we have an environment that embraces individual wealth,” said Burbank.

“I think Amazon’s attitude has to do with the difference between social liberties and economic equality. Bezos was helpful in the campaign for same-sex marriage, but he also put $100,000 in opposition to the [initiative on introducing an] income tax that we ran in our state in 2010.

“So if it has to do with personal freedom, that’s OK. But if it has to do with actually trying to create a shared quality of life which entails taxation of the affluent or higher taxation, that’s not OK. And so this is a really good city for him because we have a lot of personal freedom and we have no taxation. Of course chickens are going to come home to roost at some point.”

Bezos’s company has arguably done much to erode the liberal and progressive culture of the city that first attracted him. Unlike other locally based giant corporations such as Microsoft, Starbucks and Boeing, Amazon planted itself in the heart of the city, and the influx of well-paid tech workers has changed the feel of Seattle. Keenan-Lai sees it in the erosion of the identity of her old neighbourhood on the city’s Capitol Hill and the disappearance of older, quirky restaurants, driven out by newer, more polished places.

“I can’t begrudge people moving to try to find opportunity,” she said. “But I do hear a lot of people say ‘I don’t want those programmers coming to Seattle’. It does create a lot of tension. Amazon represents both innovation and progress, and also dystopian fears for a lot of folks.”

Reed, at the market stall, added: “It’s definitely weird when you go into a dive bar that used to have bike gangs and now everyone’s in a polo shirt.”

The city council has struggled to find a path that remains true to Seattle’s progressive values while keeping the source of much of its recent prosperity happy. In 2015 it became the first major US city to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Keenan-Lai said 100,000 people – then quarter of the working population of the city – benefited from the measure, but that its impact was swiftly eroded.

“The increase in the cost of housing has exceeded the increase in wages,” she said. “When we were advocating for $15 an hour the idea was that everyone who lived in Seattle could afford to live here. Our housing market just skyrocketed.”

Seattle, forced by the lack of an income tax to hunt for innovative means of raising revenue, has run into resistance from Amazon at every turn.

The friction peaked over the recent worker tax, which was expected to raise around $50m a year to help pay for affordable housing and services for people made homeless by escalating rents and property prices.

Amazon, however, in actions critics called blackmail, characterised it as a “jobs tax”, threatened to freeze construction in the city and backed a petition drive to put the issue to a popular vote in November.

The city’s chamber of commerce and other businesses threw their weight behind the ballot initiative. Popular support for the measure collapsed amid accusations that it would cost jobs and that the money would not be put to good use because the council lacks a coherent strategy to cope with the homeless crisis.

Under pressure from Amazon, the council broke, and only two of the city’s nine councillors voted to keep the tax. One of them, Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, accused the council of a “cowardly betrayal” and called Bezos “our enemy”.

Sawant, a driving force behind the $15 minimum wage, said it would be a mistake to expect Amazon to behave any differently. The company, she said, could easily afford the tax but opposed it for ideological reasons.

“It’s not a tax on jobs,” she said. “It is not a tax on employees. It’s a tax on big business. For the people who would actually be paying this, it is pocket change, and yet they are fighting fiercely against it. ‘Good corporate citizen’ is an oxymoron, because Jeff Bezos and the billionaire class have no incentive to do the right thing.”

Amazon has said that while it opposed the worker tax, it is “deeply committed to being part of the solution”, and points to its support of nonprofits in the city. The company declined to comment for this article.

Critics are not persuaded. Some see the company as attempting to shape a future in which Seattle’s residents are dependent on Amazon’s largesse through the funding of NGOs to deal with social issues, giving the company undue power at the expense of democratic institutions.

“Amazon is very much, ‘We want to save the world too, let’s do it together.’ And then as you get into the details, not so much,” said Keenan-Lai. “There is a lot of benefit we provide to Amazon but the city has had a really hard time extracting benefit from the company in return.”

Still, Keenan-Lai said the city’s history of progressive struggle is deep-rooted. “There’s been a long understanding that corporations can’t continue doing what they’re doing,” she said. “In Seattle, we’ve been fighting back for a long time.”


Happy Fourth of July! The Story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reveals the Power of Good News About “Democratic Renewal”

July 4, 2018

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

Today, the Fourth of July, is a good time to think about the First Amendment — and the possibility that journalism, at least as it’s traditionally produced by liberals and progressives, is often a barrier to the creation of a better country. There’s a better way to do it, and we can thank Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for pointing it out.

The left-of-center worldview is: People are mostly good and can be trusted to govern themselves, and what they do that’s bad is largely due to poorly designed institutions and malevolent individuals who take advantage of them. This has the benefit of being true and encouraging – yes, we can.

Now imagine you came to visit Earth from your home planet of Gliese 832c to finish your master’s thesis on “Journalism Produced by the Lefties.” Your space-brain would instantaneously ingest a year’s worth of the best American investigative reporting, which is to say, 1,000 lovingly detailed, beautifully designed dissections of human depravity. And you’d conclude that the conservative worldview — i.e., people are mostly awful — was the right one.

The hearts of self-consciously progressive writers everywhere will cry out against this. (I know mine does.) The whole reason we’re doing this is for the chance to righteously expose awful people doing terrible things, while also getting reimbursed for our copy of Microsoft Office.

But any honest look at the U.S. today suggests that there are limits to this as a life mission. Reporters have ripped the lid off Donald Trump so many times that it’s incredible America has any lids left. Never before has there been as much information available about corruption and idiocy and corrupt idiots at the highest levels of U.S. society. But nothing much seems to change.

So it may be time to consider whether this type of journalism is, at least when pursued by progressives to the exclusion of other approaches, an elaborate form of self-sabotage.

Consider what’s necessary for progressives to succeed. It’s great for the conservative worldview if all Americans ever hear is that people in general are dreadful and politicians in particular are tricksy vampires. But for the progressive worldview to have a fighting chance, we need to broadcast the exact opposite: that public life is full of individuals who are trustworthy and honorable, and even many of the vampires would be redeemable in a world with better incentives. Politics isn’t necessarily an open sewer. The idea of a common good seems like an illusory sham until the moment enough of us believe in it simultaneously.

I suspect this is why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has captured so many people’s imaginations. It’s not simply her personal story, energy, or preternatural Twitter skills. It’s that she and hundreds of other Americans with no special money or connections got together and decided that the progressive worldview remains alive, that maybe we were right after all. William Greider, national affairs correspondent at The Nation, wrote about the significance of this kind of assertion in his book, “Who Will Tell the People”: “My encounters as a reporter with ordinary citizens have led to optimism about the potential for democratic renewal. … Unexpected music can resonate from politics when people are pursuing questions larger than self. I have seen that ennobling effect in people many, many times — expressed by those who found themselves engaged in genuine acts of democratic expression, who claimed their right to help the larger destiny of their community, their nation. Power can accumulate in mysterious ways, if citizens believe they possess this right.”

So possibly, there’s a lesson here for journalism. Readers were thrilled to learn from progressive outlets, including The Intercept, about Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. Yes, the president of the United States is a dumber, oranger version of Richard Nixon, and most members of Congress are Uriah Heep with extra unctuousness. But there are thousands of elected offices across America, with dozens if not hundreds of candidates that deserve the same recognition Ocasio-Cortez is now receiving. There is Theranos, but there is also AeroFarms, a company that grows greens in a vertical farm in a former steel warehouse in Newark, New Jersey. There are rapacious corporations whose DNA requires them to destroy the biosphere, but there also attempts across the country to invent new forms of organized commerce with different incentives. There are hideous ideas gaining ground, but also little-known wonderful ones. If we can avoid destroying ourselves, there are rational reasons to believe our future is bright.

This doesn’t mean we need mindless optimism or to abandon exposés. But progressives are not serious if we don’t understand that, while despair works for conservatives, we need some hope about human potential.

You don’t have to take it from me, though — take it from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence promulgated 242 years ago today. Decades later, at the end of his life, he wrote a letter to Henry Lee IV delineating the two types of political worldviews:

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties. 1. those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2dly those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them cherish and consider them as the most honest & safe, altho’ not the most wise depository of the public interests. in every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. call them therefore liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats or by whatever name you please; they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. the last appellation of artistocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.

Why was Jefferson saying all this? To explain why he was willing to subscribe to Lee’s new newspaper, which would support the “democrats” worldview.

(However, like any sensible person, Jefferson did emphasize – “I have sometimes subscribed for the 1st year [of newspapers] on the condition of being discontinued at the end of it, without further warning” – that he didn’t want his subscription to auto-renew.)


Governor orders probe of abuse claims by immigrant children

June 21, 2018

by Michael Biesecker, Jake Pearson and Garance Burke


WASHINGTON (AP) — Virginia’s governor ordered state officials Thursday to investigate abuse claims by children at an immigration detention facility who said they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the probe in a tweet hours after The Associated Press reported the allegations. They were included in a federal civil rights lawsuit with a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino youths held for months or years at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center. The AP report also cited an adult who saw bruises and broken bones the children said were caused by guards

Northam, a Democrat, said the allegations were disturbing and directed the state’s secretary of public safety and homeland security and the Department of Juvenile Justice to report back to him “to ensure the safety of every child being held there.”

Children as young as 14 said the guards there stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.

“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move. … They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”

In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility independently told The Associated Press this week that she saw kids there with serious injuries. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the children’s cases.

In court filings, lawyers for the detention facility have denied all the allegations of physical abuse. The incidents described in the lawsuit occurred from 2015 to 2018, during both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Many of the children were sent there after U.S. immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as justification for his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Trump said Wednesday that “our Border Patrol agents and our ICE agents have done one great job” cracking down on MS-13 gang members. “We’re throwing them out by the thousands,” he said.

But a top manager at the Shenandoah center said during a recent congressional hearing that the children did not appear to be gang members and were suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries — problems the detention facility is ill-equipped to treat.

“The youth were being screened as gang-involved individuals. And then when they came into our care, and they were assessed by our clinical and case management staff … they weren’t necessarily identified as gang-involved individuals,” said Kelsey Wong, a program director at the facility. She testified April 26 before a Senate subcommittee reviewing the treatment of immigrant children apprehended by the Homeland Security Department.

Most children held in the Shenandoah facility who were the focus of the abuse lawsuit were caught crossing the border illegally alone. They were not the children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration’s recent policy and are now in the government’s care. But the facility operates under the same program run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. It was not immediately clear whether any separated children have been sent to Shenandoah Valley since the Trump administration in April announced its “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrant families, after the lawsuit was filed.

It also was not immediately clear when federal authorities first learned of the abuse claims and whether any action was taken. Spokespeople for the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.

Robert Carey, who served as director of Refugee Resettlement under the Obama administration, said Tuesday he only heard about the complaints at the Shenandoah center after he left office in January 2017. Had he known, Carey said, he “would have been all over that trying to figure out what needed to be done, including termination of contracts.”

Following AP’s report about the abuse accusations, Virginia’s two Democratic senators said Thursday they would seek to investigate conditions inside the Shenandoah facility.

In a tweet, Sen. Tim Kaine said: “Deeply troubled by this report. We need answers on what happened at this facility, and my staff and I are going to demand them.”

Sen. Mark Warner said at a public forum on immigration issues that he will seek to visit the detention center.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican whose home district includes the Shenandoah facility, said he was unaware of any complaints prior to the AP’s report. An architect of the current effort by GOP conservatives to pass tougher restrictions on legal immigration, Goodlatte called the abuse allegations “alarming” and said they “certainly merit a thorough investigation to uncover the truth.”

The Shenandoah lockup is one of only three juvenile detention facilities in the United States with federal contracts to provide “secure placement” for children who had problems at less-restrictive housing. The Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility in California has faced litigation over immigrant children mischaracterized as gang members.  In Alexandria, Virginia, a multi-jurisdiction commission overseeing the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center has said it will end its federal contract to house young immigration detainees when it expires in September.

The Shenandoah detention center was built by a coalition of seven nearby towns and counties to lock up local kids charged with serious crimes. Since 2007, about half the 58 beds are occupied by male and female immigrants between the ages of 12 and 17 facing deportation proceedings or awaiting rulings on asylum claims. Though incarcerated in a facility similar to a prison, the children detained on administrative immigration charges have not yet been convicted of any crime.

Virginia ranks among the worst states in the nation for wait times in federal immigration courts, with an average of 806 days before a ruling. Nationally, only about half of juveniles facing deportation are represented by a lawyer, according to Justice Department data.

On average, 92 immigrant children each year cycle through Shenandoah, most of them from Mexico and Central America.

Wong said many of the 30 or so children housed there on any given day have mental health needs that would be better served in a residential treatment unit. But such facilities are often unwilling to accept children with significant behavioral issues, she said.

Wong and other managers at the Shenandoah center, including Executive Director Timothy J. Smith, did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment this week.

Financial statements reviewed by AP shows the local government commission that operates the center received nearly $4.2 million in federal funds last year to house the immigrant children — enough to cover about two-thirds of the total operating expenses.

The lawsuit filed against Shenandoah alleges that young Latino immigrants held there “are subjected to unconstitutional conditions that shock the conscience, including violence by staff, abusive and excessive use of seclusion and restraints, and the denial of necessary mental health care.”

The complaint filed by the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs recounts the story of an unnamed 17-year-old Mexican citizen apprehended at the southern border. The teen fled an abusive father and violence fueled by drug cartels to seek asylum in the United States in 2015.

After stops at facilities in Texas and New York, he was transferred to Shenandoah in April 2016 and diagnosed during an initial screening by a psychologist with three mental disorders, including depression. Besides weekly sessions speaking with a counselor, the lawsuit alleges the teen has received no further mental health treatment, such as medications that might help regulate his moods and behavior.

The lawsuit recounts multiple alleged violent incidents between Latino children and staff at the Shenandoah center. It describes the guards as mostly white, non-Spanish speakers who are undertrained in dealing with individuals with mental illness. The suit alleges staff members routinely taunt the Latino youths with racially charged epithets, including “wetback,” ″onion head” and “pendejo,” which roughly translates to dumbass in Spanish.

A 16-year-old boy who said he had lived in Texas with his mother since he was an infant ended up at Shenandoah in September after a police officer pulled over a car he was riding in and asked for ID, which he couldn’t provide. As one of the few Latino kids who is fluent in English, the teen would translate for other detainees the taunts and names the staff members were calling them. He said that angered the guards, resulting in his losing such modest privileges as attending art classes.

“If you are behaving bad, resisting the staff when they try to remove you from the program, they will take everything in your room away — your mattress, blanket, everything,” he said. “They will also take your clothes. Then they will leave you locked in there for a while. This has happened to me, and I know it has happened to other kids, too.”

The immigrant detainees said they were largely segregated from the mostly white juveniles being held on criminal charges, but they could see that the other housing units had amenities that included plush chairs and video gaming consoles not available in the Spartan pods housing the Latinos.

In their sworn statements, the teens reported spending the bulk of their days locked alone in their cells, with a few hours set aside for classroom instruction, recreation and meals. Some said they had never been allowed outdoors, while the U.S.-born children were afforded a spacious recreation yard.

The Latino children reported being fed sparse and often cold meals that left them hungry, though meals of American fast food were occasionally provided. Records show Shenandoah receives nearly $82,000 a year from the Agriculture Department to feed the immigration detainees.

The lawsuit said the poor conditions, frequent physical searches and verbal abuse by staff often escalated into confrontations, as the frustrated children acted out. The staff regularly responded “by physically assaulting the youth, applying an excessive amount of force that goes far beyond what is needed to establish or regain control.”

In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. Though no forbidden items were found, the teenager was transferred to “Alpha Pod,” described in the lawsuit as a unit within the facility designated for children who engage in bad behavior.

The lawsuit said Latino children were frequently punished by being restrained for hours in chairs, with handcuffs and cloth shackles on their legs. Often, the lawsuit alleged, the children were beaten by staff while bound.

As a result of such “malicious and sadistic applications of force,” the immigrant youths have “sustained significant injuries, both physical and psychological,” the lawsuit said.

After an altercation during which the lawsuit alleged the Mexican teenager bit a staff member during a beating, he was restrained in handcuffs and shackles for 10 days, resulting in bruises and cuts. Other teens interviewed as part of the court case also reported being punished for minor infractions with stints in solitary confinement, during which some of the children said they were left nude and shivering in cold concrete cells.

Academic studies of prison inmates kept in solitary confinement have found they often experience high anxiety that can cause panic attacks, paranoia and disordered thinking that may trigger angry outbursts. For those with mental health issues, the effects can be exacerbated, often worsening the very behaviors the staff is attempting to discourage.

A Guatemalan youth sent to the center when he was 14 years old said he was often locked in his tiny cell for up to 23 hours a day. After resisting the guards, he said he was also restrained for long periods.

“When they couldn’t get one of the kids to calm down, the guards would put us in a chair — a safety chair, I don’t know what they call it — but they would just put us in there all day,” the teen said in a sworn statement. “This happened to me, and I saw it happen to others, too. It was excessive.”

A 15-year-old boy from Mexico held at Shenandoah for nine months also recounted being restrained with a bag over his head.

“They handcuffed me and put a white bag of some kind over my head,” he said, according to his sworn statement. “They took off all of my clothes and put me into a restraint chair, where they attached my hands and feet to the chair. They also put a strap across my chest. They left me naked and attached to that chair for two and a half days, including at night.”

After being subjected to such treatment, the 17-year-old Mexican youth said he tried to kill himself in August, only to be punished with further isolation. On other occasions, he said, he has responded to feelings of desperation and hopelessness by cutting his wrists with a piece of glass and banging his head against the wall or floor.

“One time I cut myself after I had gotten into a fight with staff,” the teen recounted. “I filled the room with blood. This happened on a Friday, but it wasn’t until Monday that they gave me a bandage or medicine for the pain.”

The lawsuit alleges other immigrant youths held at Shenandoah have also engaged in cutting and other self-harming behaviors, including ingesting shampoo and attempting to choke themselves.

A hearing in the case is set for July 3 before a federal judge in the Western District of Virginia.

Lawyers on both sides in the lawsuit either did not respond to messages or declined to comment, citing strict confidentiality requirements in the case involving children.

The child development specialist who previously worked with teens at Shenandoah told AP that many there developed severe psychological problems after experiencing abuse from guards.

“The majority of the kids we worked with when we went to visit them were emotionally and verbally abused. I had a kid whose foot was broken by a guard,” she said. “They would get put in isolation for months for things like picking up a pencil when a guard had said not to move. Some of them started hearing voices that were telling them to hurt people or hurt themselves, and I knew when they had gotten to Shenandoah they were not having any violent thoughts.”

She said she never witnessed staff abuse teens first-hand, but that teens would complain to her of injuries from being tackled by guards and reveal bruises. The specialist encouraged them to file a formal complaint.

Though lawyers for Shenandoah responded with court filings denying all wrongdoing, information contained in a separate 2016 lawsuit appears to support some of the information contained in the recent abuse complaints.

In a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Shenandoah center, a former staff member said he worked in a unit called “Alpha Pod” where immigrant minors were held, “including those with psychological and mental issues and those who tend to fight more frequently.”

The guard, Trenton Farris, who denied claims that he punched two children, sued the justice center alleging he was wrongly targeted for firing because he is black. Farris said most staff members at the facility are white, and that two white staff members involved in the incident over which he was fired went unpunished.

Lawyers for the center denied the former guard’s claims, and the case was settled in January.

Pearson reported from New York and Burke reported from San Francisco.


Rebels discuss with Russia a deal to end fighting in southern Syria

July 3, 2018

by Suleiman Al-Khalidi


AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebel negotiators began a new round of talks with Russian officers on Tuesday over a peace deal in southern Syria under which they would hand over weapons and allow Russian military police to enter rebel-held towns, a rebel spokesman said.

Accompanied by a major Russian aerial bombing campaign that has led to some of the fastest mass displacements of the war, Syrian pro-government forces have marched swiftly into insurgent territory in Deraa province over the past two weeks.

Spokesman Ibrahim al Jabawi said the rebels had carried to the negotiating table their “response to a list of Russian demands” that include the handing over of weapons and settling the status of rebels in a deal that ends the fighting.

“Today they are carrying their response to the terms presented by the Russian officers,” Jabawi said.

The Russian demands, handed to rebels in a meeting in a town in southern Syria on Saturday, had prompted a walkout by the rebels, who said the terms amounted to a humiliating surrender. The opposition team was then persuaded by Jordan to go back to the negotiating table, diplomatic sources said.

Jordan has been working behind the scenes to spare more bloodshed and destruction to a region whose future stability is crucial to the kingdom’s own security.

The arrival of thousands of uprooted Syrians among the tens of thousands near Jordan’s border has created new security challenges and a humanitarian nightmare for the authorities.


Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi plans talks on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov about how to implement the broad terms of a settlement in southern Syria after rebels surrender their arms, a diplomatic source said.

In New York, Sweden’s U.N. mission said Sweden and Kuwait had requested the U.N. Security Council be briefed on Thursday on the “deteriorating humanitarian situation in South West Syria.”

“Time to discuss possible steps to improve it,” the Swedish U.N. mission posted on Twitter.

The opposition negotiators have returned to the table with an expanded 12-strong delegation that will now also tackle the fate of rebel factions in the Quneitra province further west near the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Jabawi said.

Previously they were negotiating for Deraa province to the east.

“A new expanded negotiating committee that represents all the south has been formed to reach an agreement to spare innocent lives and ensure the safety of civilians and fighters,” said a statement by the central operations room in the south, representing the key rebel factions in that region.


The new team will seek to overcome opposition rifts over the Russian demands, after some negotiators said they wanted to continue the fighting and accused some rebel commanders of treason by cutting separate deals with the Russian military.

Rebels and residents say a string of rebel towns have reached their own surrender arrangements that have allowed Russian military police to enter and patrol their towns.

They hope unifying their ranks will improve their bargaining stance and get guarantees of a bigger role by Russian military police in their towns to keep at bay Syrian security forces and foreign Shi’ite militias they say are fighting with the army.

In the major rebel stronghold of Busra al Sham, a powerful military commander who was a negotiator broke ranks with his team and began handing over weapons before reaching a deal.

The opposition will also seek Jordan’s support in getting amnesties for thousands of former army defectors who prefer to stay in the area while offering safe passage for those who do not want to make peace with the authorities.

Many Syrians who rose against President Bashar al Assad’s rule will find it difficult to accept state authority after years of war and would always have fear of retribution.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Mark Heinrich/William Maclean


Man-Made Drought Threatens to Ravage Iraq

July 2, 2018

Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

“I once rescued a friend from drowning when he was swept away by the force of the current as we were swimming in the Diyala river,” says Qasim Sabti, a painter and gallery owner in Baghdad.

“That was 50 years ago,” he recalls. “I went back there recently and the water in the Diyala is so shallow today that a man could walk across it with his dog.”

The rivers of Iraq, above all the Tigris and Euphrates, are drying up. The country is becoming more arid, and desertification is eating into the limited amount of agricultural land.

Dams built upriver in Turkey, Syria and Iran since the 1970s have reduced the flow of water that reaches Iraq by as much as half and the situation is about to get worse.

“On 1 July, Turkey will start filling the Ilisu dam on the Tigris and this will cause another decline in the inflows to our country of about 50 per cent,” Hassan Janabi, minister of water resources, told The Independent.

He says that Iraq used to get 30 billion cubic metres of water a year from the Euphrates, but now “we are happy if we get 16 billion cubic metres”.

As Iraq begins to recover from 40 years of wars and emergences, its existence is being threatened by the rapidly falling water levels in the two great rivers on which its people depend.

It was on their banks that the first cities were established cities 8,000 years ago and where the flood stories of Gilgamesh and the Bible were first told.

Such floods are now a thing of the past – the last was in 1988 – and each year the amount of water taken by Iraq’s neighbours has been rising.

This pattern started in the 1970s when Turkey and Syria built dams on the Euphrates for hydroelectric power and vast irrigation works. It is the latter which choke off the water supply to Iraq.

The same thing happened a little later to the Tigris, whose major tributaries are being dammed by Iran.

Iraqi protests have been ineffectual because Saddam Hussein and successor government in Baghdad were preoccupied by wars and crises that appeared more important at the time.

By now it is getting too late to reverse the disastrous impact on Iraq of this massive loss of water.

“This summer is going to be tough,” says Mr Janabi, a water resources engineer by training who was in charge of restoring the marshes in southern Iraq after 2003.

Some smaller rivers like the Karun and Kark that used to flow out of Iran into Iraq, have simply disappeared after the Iranians diverted them. He says: “We used to get five billion cubic metres annually from the Karkhah, and now we get zero.”

Iraq was once self-sufficient in food, but now imports 70 per cent of its needs. Locally grown watermelons and tomatoes are for sale beside the road or in the markets, but most of what Iraqis eat comes from Iran or Turkey or is purchased by the government on the world market.

This amount is set to increase this year because the filling of the Ilisu dam in Turkey is forcing the Iraqi government to restrict the growing of rice and wheat by farmers in order to conserve water used for irrigation.

This man-made drought is only the latest blow to hit Iraqi farmers.

​Imad Naja, a returned colonel in the Iraqi air force, inherited his small family farm near Awad al-Hussein village outside Taji, north of Baghdad, 15 years ago where he at first grew wheat and other crops as well as taking up bee-keeping and fish farming. He produced half a ton of honey a year and dug a fish pond close to his house.

“I feel sad that I put so much work into my farm and look at it now,” he says, explaining that three-quarters of his land is no longer cultivated because it cannot be irrigated. He grows alfalfa for sale as animal feed in the remainder but his beehives lie discarded in one corner of his garden and there are no fish in the pond.

He says: “I get some water from a well that we drilled ourselves, but it is salty.”

He makes more money from hiring out a football pitch he has built behind a high-wire fence than he does from agriculture.

Iraq has a complex network of irrigation channels built over the last century to carry water from the Tigris and Euphrates.

One such channel, named 43, runs close to Mr Naja’s house and, on the day we visited, was full of muddy water that comes from the Tigris. Mr Naja says this may look good, but he is only getting the water for two days each fortnight, which is not enough to cultivate all his land.

“I could manage if I got water for seven days out of 14 but not less,” he says.

As with everything else in Iraq, security or the lack of it plays a central role in the villages around Taji. This is a Sunni area which used to be a stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq and later of Isis. Mr Naja had been the local leader of al-Sahwah, the paramilitary Sunni movements allied to the US against al-Qaeda a dozen years ago. As Isis advanced south after capturing Mosul in 2014, Taji was heavily fought over, with checkpoints blocking the roads and making travel dangerous.

Mr Naja looks relaxed about his own security, but he has moved his wife and five sons and daughters to Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, not only for their safety but because he wants his children to go to good schools not available locally.

A problem is that Irbil used to be two hours’ drive from Taji, but clashes between Kurdish and government forces last year cut the main road and Mr Naja has to make a long diversion so the trip now takes six hours. Nevertheless, he is planning to restock his fish pond.

Can anything be done by Iraq to cope with Iraq’s chronic shortage of water? The government does not have enough political leverage in Turkey and Iran to get a greater share of the water which previously flowed into Iraq. Mr Janabi shows a report on how to successfully manage water in Iraq over the next 20 years. It is a hefty volume, but he said that it is merely the introduction to a complete study of the water crisis that weighs 35 kilos. This apparently explains how Iraq’s water problems could be alleviated, though at a cost of $184bn (£140bn) that the government does not have.

Iraqis are all too aware that the failing supply of water is changing the very appearance of their country. Mr Sabti has just opened an art exhibition in Baghdad in which 90 landscape paintings by Iraqi artists show pastoral views of rivers, lakes, marshes, palm groves, crops and vegetation. “We need to preserve the memory of these places before the Tigris and Euphrates dry up,” he explains. “Some of them will disappear next year because there will be no water.”


US oil touches $75 amid fears Iran will block Middle East shipments

July 4, 2018


West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the US benchmark, has surged to $75 per barrel for the first time since the oil crisis of 2014.

The movement came after Iran reportedly threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Middle East Gulf if Washington pressed ahead with sanctions against Iran. On Wednesday, the WTI slipped to $74.59 per barrel, still one of the highest marks in over three years.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “It has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported.” New US sanctions against Tehran are on the way as the largest three producers in the world – Russia, Saudi Arabia and America – are increasing output.

Rouhani’s comments were ambiguous, but in the past years Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route in the Middle East as retaliation against Washington-imposed sanctions.

“Just the threat to (the Strait of) Hormuz would add uncertainty and warrant a certain risk premium,” Carsten Fritsch, senior commodities analyst at Commerzbank, told Reuters.

Traders are also expecting a decline in US stockpiles, which is a signal for oil prices to grow. According to Bloomberg estimates, American inventories declined by 5 million barrels last week, including a 2 million cut in Cushing, Oklahoma, which accounts for up to 10 percent of the total US crude inventory.

The market “is anticipating a very bullish number,” Bob Yawger, director of futures at Mizuho Securities USA told Bloomberg. “All eyes will be on that Cushing number.”



Russia, 125057, Moscow, Leningrad Avenue 75-416, Tel./[fax]  ++7 499-158-6251, E -mail: ihc-mir@mail.ru  (E-mail address is protected from spam.)


From the end of 1991, until the beginning of 1992, $35 billion US dollars cash resources of the USA were ‘unofficially’ sent into Russia , through the American Department of State in diplomatic pouches, for the specific purpose of bribing certain Russian government officials and were given  personally to B. N. Yeltsin and added to these U.S. “unofficial” funds, there were also large cash donations by the American CIA in the sums of $5 million US by the  Central Intelligence Agency, for the purpose of furthering the complete disintegration of the USSR. The CIA person responsible for the distribution of these cash bribes to B.N. Yeltsin, was the CIA officer Bruce Alexander, aka James D. Federman, 2725 Connecticut Ave.20008. For their legalization through the Central Bank, according to the recommendation of the advisers of the USA and Israel, (in particular one Rapoport,) under the guise of the so-called “Chechen Order,” these American dollars were laundered into the Russian economy, and subsequently they were acquired and immediately used by Russian professional criminal associations, mostly Russian Jews,  for the purchase of gold, diamonds, oil, and other assets, which were then removed from Russia and sent abroad. The activity of this organized international criminal association led to extraordinary inflation at the beginning of the 90’s in Russia, and also the creation of a huge financial debt on the part of Russia to the IMF (International Monetary Fund).


Probe into Facebook’s data breach broadens: Washington Post

July 2, 2018


(Reuters) – A federal investigation into Facebook Inc’s data breach with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the inquiries.

The investigation involves three agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Washington Post report said.

“We are cooperating with officials in the U.S., UK and beyond. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged to continue our assistance as their work continues,” a Facebook representative told Reuters.

The emphasis has been on what Facebook has reported publicly about its sharing of information with Cambridge Analytica, whether those representations square with the underlying facts and whether Facebook made sufficiently complete and timely disclosures to the public and investors about the matter, the Washington Post report said.

Regulators and authorities in several countries have increased scrutiny of Facebook after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel

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