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« Reply #3660 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:12 AM »

‘The pope ignored them’: Alleged abuse of deaf children on two continents points to Vatican failings

By Anthony Faiola , Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli
WA Post

LUJAN DE CUYO, Argentina — When investigators swept in and raided the religious Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf, they uncovered one of the worst cases yet among the global abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church: a place of silent torment where prosecutors say pedophiles preyed on the most isolated and submissive children.

The scope of the alleged abuse was vast. Charges are pending against 13 suspects; a 14th person pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, including rape, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case of the accused ringleader — an octogenarian Italian priest named Nicola Corradi — is set to go before a judge next month.

Corradi was spiritual director of the school and had a decades-long career spanning two continents. And so his arrest in late 2016 raised an immediate question: Did the Catholic Church have any sense that he could be a danger to children?

The answer, according to a Washington Post investigation that included a review of court and church documents, private letters, and dozens of interviews in Argentina and Italy, is that church officials up to and including Pope Francis were warned repeatedly and directly about a group of alleged predators that included Corradi.

Yet they took no apparent action against him.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute said, using sign language as her hands shook in rage. She and her 22-year-old brother, who requested anonymity to share their experiences as minors, are among at least 14 former students who say they were victims of abuse at the now-shuttered boarding school in the shadow of the Andes.

Vulnerable to the extreme, the deaf students tended to come from poor families that fervently believed in the sanctity of the church. Prosecutors say the children were fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language. One of the few hand gestures used by the priests, victims say, was an index figure to lips — a demand for silence.

“They were the perfect victims,” said Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case.

And yet they may not have been the first. Corradi, now 83 and under house arrest, is also under investigation for sexual crimes at a sister school in Argentina where he worked from 1970 to 1994. And alumni of a related school in Italy, where Corradi served earlier, identified him as being among a number of priests who carried out systematic abuse over five decades. The schools were all founded and staffed by priests from the Company of Mary for the Education of the Deaf, a small Catholic congregation that answers to the Vatican.

The Italian victims’ efforts to sound the alarm to church authorities began in 2008 and included mailing a list of accused priests to Francis in 2014 and physically handing him the list in 2015.

It was not the church, however, but Argentine law enforcement that cut off Corradi’s access to children when it shut down the Provolo school in Lujan. Argentine prosecutors say the church has not fully cooperated with their investigation.

'The church has not been victim-centered': Women speak about sex abuse in Catholic Church

Ahead of a Vatican summit on sex abuse, activists fighting to stop the phenomenon in the Roman Catholic Church spoke Feb. 19 in Rome. (Reuters)

As Francis prepares to host a historic bishops’ summit this week to address clerical sexual abuse, the lapses in the case — affecting the pope’s home country of Argentina and the home country of the Roman Catholic Church — illustrate the still-present failures of the church to fix a system that has allowed priests to continue to abuse children long after they were first accused.

Corradi’s lawyer declined multiple interview requests for this article and did not respond to emails seeking to speak with the priest. Attempts to reach Corradi through his family were unsuccessful. The Vatican declined to comment on a detailed list of questions.

But Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the abuse-tracking site BishopAccountability.org, said the Provolo case “is truly emblematic.”

“The church failed them abysmally. The pope ignored them, the police responded,” she said. “It’s a clear example of the tragedy that keeps playing out.”

Local church authorities are skeptical

As in Argentina, deaf students from the Provolo schools in Verona, Italy, kept their experiences of sexual abuse to themselves for years. But after they started opening up, they worked from bottom to top to inform the Catholic church, according to letters and other documents. They wrote to the local bishop in 2008. Soon after, they provided a list of accused priests and religious figures to the local diocese. By 2011, a list of names was with the Vatican. By 2015, a list was in the hands of the pope.

The rumblings started with Dario Laiti, a former student who came forward in 2006 after noticing a new children’s facility in the town and worrying that abuse might be happening there, as well.

“I was the first,” said Laiti, who for years had made excuses when his wife asked why he hadn’t wanted children.

Soon, more than a dozen other former students were telling their stories, using an improvised mix of sign language and limited speech. Their accounts ranged in time between the 1950s and 1980s. As adults, they had become woodcutters, delivery men, factory workers. Some were unemployed. Few had sustained relationships. One of their schoolmates had committed suicide.

One student, Alda Franchetto, said she had tried to confide in her parents years earlier — running away from the school as a 13-year-old in a burst of euphoria and explaining to them what was happening to her there. Her parents, she said, didn’t believe her and returned her to the institute.

“They said, ‘You need this to learn how to speak and write,’ ” Franchetto said.

By the time the adult former students started reporting their abuse, it was too late to press criminal charges. But it was not too late for accountability through the church. They wrote to the local bishop in 2008, informing him of their claims. Soon after, at the request of a journalist from the Italian news magazine L’Espresso, 15 former students took another step: writing sworn statements describing sodomization, forced masturbation and other forms of abuse. The statements named 24 priests and other faculty members, including Corradi. The student association said dozens of others had experienced abuse but did not want to come forward publicly.

The bishop, Giuseppe Zenti, was dismissive. In a news conference, he called the allegations “a hoax, a lie, and nothing more,” and he noted the association for former students was involved in a property dispute with the Provolo Institute. The former students filed defamation charges against Zenti and included their statements as part of the lawsuit — essentially handing the names of the accused priests to the diocese.

The case caught the notice of the Vatican, which in 2010 asked Zenti to look more deeply into the claims, according to church letters. The local diocese brought in a retired judge, Mario Sannite, to investigate.

“That’s how I found myself in the middle of this story,” Sannite said.

Sannite became the on-the-ground representative of the Holy See, asked to relay his findings — and his analysis — to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In December 2010 and January 2011, Sannite interviewed 17 former students from Provolo, with the help of a sign-language interpreter. He said the accounts were harrowing, and he later wrote that there was no reason to doubt the “majority” of the accusations. In the report sent to the Vatican, though, Sannite wrote that he had doubts about one former student, the only one who happened to name Corradi as an abuser — even though some of the others interviewed had overlapped with Corradi’s time at the school.

Gianni Bisoli, a then-62-year-old ski instructor, accused 30 religious figures and other Provolo faculty members of abusing him — a number far beyond the others. And his allegations were particularly explosive; one of those he accused was Giuseppe Carraro, the bishop of Verona in the 1960s and 1970s, who after his death was on the path to canonization.

“Bisoli’s statements were likely deemed quite dangerous,” said Paolo Tacchi Venturi, a lawyer who at the time was representing the victims.

With the help of a sign-language interpreter and Tacchi Venturi, Bisoli spoke with Sannite for 12 hours, over the course of three days, according to records. Others who were in the room told The Post that Bisoli described the abuse in detail.

In interviews with The Post, Bisoli recounted that he was abused by Corradi several times, including once when he had been corralled along with two other children into a bathroom reserved for priests. In that instance, Bisoli said, he was ordered against a wall by Corradi and two other religious figures. Bisoli remembered Corradi sodomizing him with his finger.

Sannite assessed that Bisoli was certainly a victim of abuse. But in the report he wrote, which was sent through Verona’s diocese to the Vatican, the former judge said it was implausible that Bisoli could have been abused by so many — that the institute he described was akin to an “infernal circle.” Sannite noted that some of Bisoli’s dates did not match, and some of the accused did not appear to be at the institute in the years Bisoli described. Sannite also offered another theory: that Bisoli “repackaged his overflowing allegations by drawing from the collection of his own experiences as a homosexual” adult.

In an interview at his home last month, Sannite read from the report, though he did not share a copy with The Post. When asked why a gay man might be less likely to accurately describe abuse, Sannite said, “It’s not as if I can say there are differences.” Then he asked why he was being asked such a question. Later, Sannite wrote in an email that he did not mean to draw a connection between Bisoli’s credibility and his sexuality.

Bisoli, in an interview, said it was “offensive” and a “provocation” that anybody’s sexuality in adulthood might figure into an assessment.

Following church guidelines, Zenti wrote a letter to accompany the report to the Vatican, according to the Diocese of Verona, which declined to share it with The Post. But Zenti remained skeptical about the claims and said in 2017 testimony — conducted as part of a separate lawsuit — that even a word like sodomization would be “hard to convey for a deaf-mute.” The bishop also reported hearing a theory that the Veronese victims were behind the claims in Argentina, as well, perhaps as a way to “gain possession of the nice properties of the institute in those places.”

Based on the investigation in Verona, the Vatican punished only one priest, Eligio Piccoli, who was ordered to a life of prayer and penance away from minors. Three other priests were given admonitions — essentially warnings that the Vatican was watching future behavior.

This photo from 1960 shows Nicola Corradi (left), lay brother Luigi Spinelli and student Maurizio Grotto at the Provolo Insitute’s summer camp in San Zeno di Montagna, Italy. Corradi and Spinelli were among the alleged abusers listed in a letter to Pope Francis. Grotto was recognized by the Vatican as a victim of abuse at the school. (Courtesy of the Associazione Sordi Provolo)

A church official in Verona said the allegations against Corradi were not looked at closely in large part because of the assessment about Bisoli. “We acted on the broad premise that Bisoli wasn’t deemed reliable,” Monsignor Giampietro Mazzoni said. “In this case, perhaps, making a mistake — since we didn’t know then what would later happen in Argentina.”

One of the other former students who Bisoli said was in the priests-only bathroom, Maurizio Grotto, has offered conflicting accounts of what happened. He told Sannite he was not abused by Corradi and said in an interview with The Post that he was. Another former Provolo student, Franchetto, said in an interview that she was molested by Corradi but had tried for years, “as a measure of self-defense,” to forget his face. She did not tell the Vatican investigator about her experiences. The president of the association representing the Italian victims, Giorgio Dalla Bernardina, said he knows of other Corradi victims who have been unwilling to speak publicly.

Lawyers involved in the case and experts on clerical abuse say the church failed to examine whether the pattern of abuse in Italy was playing out at the overseas Provolo locations where Italian priests had been sent. Some dioceses in the United States report abuse accusations to law enforcement no matter what — even if the accused priest is deceased or if the statute of limitations has expired — and suspend priests from ministry as accusations are being investigated. The Diocese of Verona said it did not contact law enforcement.

Tacchi Venturi, the lawyer who had represented the victims during the hearing, said the Vatican made one other error — a “logic contradiction” — by acknowledging that Bisoli was abused but not looking into who might have abused him.

“If you say he suffered abuses, and you believe he was a victim, and he says he was abused by people, then you hear them all,” Tacchi Venturi said, noting that the task was easier because only some of the accused were still alive. “You go on and interrogate all of them.”

Pope Francis asks the victims to pray for him

The Italian victims believed that if anybody could better handle abuse cases, it was Francis, who was selected as leader of the church in 2013 — two years after the Verona inquiry — and who announced the creation of a new commission on child protection. The former Provolo students wrote to Francis in late 2013, giving a broad timeline of their case. They said they didn’t hear anything back. In 2014, according to postal receipts, they tried again, with more direct language — mailing to the pontiff’s Vatican address a list of the 14 alleged abusers they felt had gone largely unpunished. They received no response from Francis or others in the Vatican.

So, in October 2015, 20 people from Verona — most of them victims of abuse — boarded a train to Rome. They had no certainty of meeting the pope, but they targeted a day the Vatican was recognizing people with disabilities. And indeed, after Francis held Mass at St. Peter’s Square, a Vatican official invited two of the people from Verona to a small event with the pontiff. Paola Lodi Rizzini and Giuseppe Consiglio took their place near the stage of Paul VI Audience Hall holding a letter — later reviewed by The Post — listing the same 14 names.

Consiglio, now 29, was the youngest of the victims from Verona. He’d attended school in the late 1990s, and he had come forward in 2012 — after the Vatican’s investigation. But he was upset with the Vatican’s response. He said he wanted the Vatican to “open its eyes” and “close the schools.” He told The Post that his own childhood had unraveled because of abuse. He said he was raped hundreds of times by a priest who was “rough” but careful not to get Consiglio’s blood on his cassock. Consiglio tried to jump out a school window when he was 12 but was stopped by a nun. He was treated with antipsychotics. Into his adulthood, he lived at home, with few friends. He was so terrified of being locked into rooms that he hoarded his family’s keys.

Then, inside the Vatican, he was eye to eye with Francis.

Lodi Rizzini recalls speaking first and telling the pontiff they were there representing a victims’ group from Verona.

“I said, ‘Giuseppe is a victim of sexual abuse, and he has a letter from all victims,’ ” Lodi Rizzini said.

Consiglio handed Francis the envelope. A Vatican photographer documented the moment.

The letter inside appealed to the pontiff by saying the church’s behavior in their case was “absolutely not aligned with the zero tolerance of Pope Francis.” It said the church had let priests and other religious figures who had abused them go on to live “normal lives.”

Then a paragraph listed 14 priests and lay brothers that the victims believed were still alive. The list included Consiglio’s own alleged abuser, a handful of figures who had not been punished in Italy and four said to be in Argentina — including Corradi.

Lodi Rizzini and Consiglio remember Francis receiving the letter and handing it off to a deputy without opening it. Photos show Francis blessing both Lodi Rizzini and Consiglio by touching them on the head. Both of them remember Francis, before walking away, saying, “Pray for me.”

People involved in the case say the former students’ plea did not appear to prompt the church to take a closer look at any of the named priests.

Four months later, in February 2016, a letter arrived in Verona from one of Francis’s close lieutenants, then-Bishop Angelo Becciu, who held a key position in the Secretariat of State. Becciu wrote that His Holiness “welcomed with lively participation what you wanted to confide in Him.”

“He wishes to remind you,” the letter continued, “of what the Holy See has done and keeps on doing with unwavering commitment on clerical sexual abuses, operating in support of the victims’ tragedies and to prevent the sad phenomenon.”

Law enforcement responds

In the early 1960s, the Provolo Institute in Verona dismissed one priest and another faculty member for “moral inadequacy,” church officials say. But there is no evidence, according to church records, that the Company of Mary knew of the allegations against Corradi when it transferred him from Italy to Argentina in 1970. Even if something had been known, “I doubt there would have been an explicit mention in the archive,” said Mazzoni, the chief judicial figure in the Diocese of Verona.

In Argentina, Corradi initially taught at a Provolo Institute for the Deaf in La Plata, a provincial city an hour’s drive from the belle époque buildings of Buenos Aires. Following the disclosures of widespread abuse in Lujan de Cuyo in 2016, La Plata authorities launched an investigation that has uncovered allegations of sexual abuse and mistreatment, dating back to the 1980s, against at least five men who worked at the school, including Corradi and another Italian cleric.

The other Italian — Elisio Pirmati — was also named by Verona students in the letters sent to the pope. Maria Corfield, the prosecutor in the La Plata case, said Pirmati has returned to Italy and is living in retirement at the Verona Provolo — which is no longer active as an institute for the deaf but rents space to another school. Efforts by The Post to contact him were unsuccessful.

Thus far, Corradi has been accused of sexual abuse by two alumni of the school in La Plata. Prosecutors received a report of another alleged Corradi victim who killed himself as an adult. While in total 10 alleged victims from the La Plata school have come forward, Corfield said she has spoken to other apparent victims who have resisted getting involved.

“They say they have families now and don't want to explain,” she said.

Lisandro Borelli, now 40, entered the La Plata Provolo as a student in 1989 after becoming clinically deaf due to severe beatings from his parents. In an interview, he recalled Corradi placing him on his knee and fondling his genitals during lessons when the priest would also insert fingers into his mouth to try to teach him how to pronounce words.

Once, he said, he was punished at the school by being locked in a cage for two days without food. In a separate incident, he said he was thrown down a staircase in an act of intimidation after catching a priest at the school raping his roommate.

“When we found out this started in Italy, we were surprised,” Borelli said in sign language. “Now I think about it and say, was this happening at other Provolo institutes?”

In 1994, Corradi’s religious congregation sent him to set up a new Provolo Institute in western Argentina. The school — a sprawling brick compound surrounded by high walls that served as both a boarding and day school for dozens of deaf children — opened in 1998, with Corradi as spiritual director.

In the fluorescent-lit halls lined with polished tiles, Corradi first lured one boy to his room when he was around 7 years old, according to the alleged victim, who today is a shy and delicate 22-year-old. In an interview with The Post, the man recalled his confusion as Corradi undressed him, followed by the searing pain of rape. Afterward, Corradi gave him a toy — a small blue pickup truck. “I couldn't look him in the eye,” the man said, using sign language. “It scared me. It disgusted me.”

He said he was raped regularly for the next five years. He recalled that during the ordeals, he would stare at a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus not far from Corradi’s bed. He said he could see Corradi speaking words he could not hear or understand.

The school did not teach sign language — instead embracing a methodology that sought to teach deaf children to read and speak like the hearing. That system, prosecutors say, was also ideal for hiding abuse. Abused pupils say they learned sign language in secret from older students, but even that was of little help.

The 22-year-old man and his sister — the 24-year-old who wanted Francis to come to Argentina and see what happened there, and who said she was raped as a child by another Provolo employee — came from a poor family whose parents had limited knowledge of sign language.

“We didn’t want to go to school, but our parents were convinced it was the best for us,” said the sister. “So we were mistreated at home. We were hit because our parents just thought we didn’t want to go to school.”

Prosecutors say that as spiritual director of the school, Corradi not only took part in abuses, but facilitated access to children for other sexual predators working at the school.

Prosecutors and victims allege that under Corradi’s direction, a Japanese nun, Kosaka Kumiko, would groom the most docile children. She would touch them, and have them touch themselves and each other. Kumiko has maintained her innocence in court.

Also among the alleged abusers in Lujan is a deaf and mentally challenged man, now in his 40s, who prosecutors say had been abandoned as a child at the Provolo Institute in La Plata. They say the man told other victims he had been abused by Corradi there. And when Corradi made him a gardener at the new Provolo school in Lujan, the man is alleged to have begun to abuse other children.

The worst cases of abuse documented by prosecutors at Lujan occurred between 2004 and 2009. During those years, Francis served as Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, a diocese some 700 miles southeast of Lujan de Cuyo, and would not have been accountable for actions at the school. However, the allegations in Argentina of abuse and corruption of minors stretch beyond when the church was warned and well after the Italian victims sought to alert Francis directly in 2013. The most recent incident involving Corradi is alleged to have involved the distribution of pornography to children in 2013. Other suspects also allegedly touched students inappropriately in 2015 and 2016.

The church’s inaction allowed the alleged abusers to remain in daily contact with children — until a distraught former student went to Argentine authorities.

The rail-thin 27-year-old, who, like other victims, spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she had been raped by an Argentine priest who served under Corradi. In an interview, she said that for years she considered killing herself — even writing a suicide note to her parents before standing on a bluff by a river and weighing whether to jump.

“I felt like water, as if I was nothing,” she said in sign language in her lawyer’s office in Mendoza, Argentina. “I wanted to kill myself, but I had to keep living with it, every year.”

A friend, she said, convinced her that what she and other victims really needed was justice. So, in November 2016, she walked into a state center for people with disabilities and requested a sign-language interpreter. They would later go together to the state parliament, where, on Nov. 24, 2016, they met with a state senator who sounded the alarm.

Rapidly acting on her testimony, prosecutors raided the school two days later — finding pornography and letters that implicated one of Corradi’s associates, Father Horacio Corbacho, a 58-year-old Argentine priest. In court filings, one sexually suggestive letter, apparently written by someone familiar with the abuse, asks Corbacho “how much more silence can you ask of a deaf mute?”

Jorge Bordon, Corradi’s 62-year-old driver, last year pleaded guilty to 11 counts of abuse. His confession effectively implicated some of the other defendants, though Corbacho, Kumiko and others have denied the accusations. Corradi — under house arrest at an undisclosed location in Argentina and facing six counts of aggravated abuse — has yet to enter a plea.

The Rev. Alberto Germán Bochatey, a bishop appointed by the pope to oversee the Provolo schools in the aftermath of the scandal, said Corradi believes himself to be innocent.

“He feels destroyed,” said Bochatey, who last met with Corradi two months ago. “He built that school.”

After Argentine authorities shut down the Lujan school in November 2016, the Vatican appointed two priests to conduct an internal investigation that is still ongoing. Prosecutors say church officials in Argentina have declined their request to share the findings.

Bochatey, who is not involved in the investigation, denied a lack of church cooperation. He said he received a request for the report and replied in a letter to prosecutors that it needed to be submitted directly to the Vatican. He said he did not forward the request. Stroppiana, the prosecutor, said he has no recollection of receiving a response from Bochatey or any other church authorities.

Bochatey blamed prosecutors and victims’ lawyers for overstating the scope of the allegations. He suggested Freemasons — members of a fraternal order known for secret rituals and community service that the Catholic Church has long viewed as antagonists — were somehow behind the accusations, although he acknowledged the church had no “proof.”

“We think the Masonic order was behind it,” he said. “We cannot understand why [the accusations] are so direct and intense. They try to build a big case that [it was a] house of horrors, 40 or 50 cases, but there are little more than 10.”

He added, “I spoke with many parents who said their kids were happy. They didn’t want their school to close.” He continued, “I think something happened, but not the way they’re trying to show.”

He defended the school’s approach to teaching the deaf, saying the point was for them to read and speak. Perhaps some teachers had been too strict, he said.

“Maybe sometimes a teacher did wrong,” he said.

The church, he said, has not only been forced to close the school in Lujan but also sell the land it sits on.

“We’re paying expensively for our mistake,” he said.

Harlan and Pitrelli reported from Verona, Italy. Rachelle Krygier in Caracas, Venezuela, and Natalio Cosoy, in Buenos Aires, contributed to this report. 

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« Reply #3661 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:30 AM »

Venezuela crisis threatens disease epidemic across continent - experts

Collapse of Venezuela’s healthcare system could fuel spread of malaria and other diseases across region

Sarah Boseley Health editor and Emma Graham-Harrison in Tumeremo
22 Feb 2019 23.30 GMT

Experts have warned of an epidemic of diseases such as malaria and dengue on an unprecedented scale in Latin America following the collapse of the healthcare system in Venezuela.

Continent-wide public health gains of the last 18 years could be undone if Venezuela does not accept help to control the spreading outbreaks of malaria, Zika, dengue and other illnesses that are afflicting its people, experts have warned in a report published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Venezuela was once a regional leader in malaria control, but as healthcare has collapsed there has been a mass departure of trained medics, the report says, creating a public emergency “of hemispheric concern”.

“These diseases have already extended into neighbouring Brazil and Colombia, and with increasing air travel and human migration, most of the Latin American and Caribbean region (as well as some US cities hosting the Venezuelan diaspora, including Miami and Houston) is at heightened risk for disease re-emergence,” says the paper.

The lead author, Dr Martin Llewellyn, based at the University of Glasgow, has called for global action. “The re-emergence of diseases such as malaria in Venezuela has set in place an epidemic of unprecedented proportions, not only in the country but across the whole region,” he said.

“Based on the data we have collected we would urge national, regional and global authorities to take immediate action to address these worsening epidemics and prevent their expansion beyond Venezuelan borders.”

He said that the figures were probably an underestimate because the Venezuelan government had shut down the institution responsible for collecting data for the World Health Organization.

“Venezuelan clinicians involved in this study have also been threatened with jail, while laboratories have been robbed by militias, hard drives removed from computers, microscopes and other medical equipment smashed,” he said.

Malaria cases, in a country certified to have eradicated the disease in 1961, rose by 359% between 2010-15, from 29,736 to 136,402. They surged 71% from 2016-17, to 411,586, because of a decline in mosquito control and a shortage of antimalarial drugs.

The epidemic has been supercharged by the rise of illegal mining in the jungle near the southern border with Brazil, where reservoirs of the disease survived despite its official elimination nationwide.

Venezuelans had flocked to the area in recent years to dig and pan for gold in wildcat mines, as the economy collapsed and hyperinflation eroded salaries for professionals and workers.

Stagnant water in pits and unsanitary camps provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, and malaria was soon endemic at many of the mines. Some miners and their families have endured dozens of bouts of the disease.

One woman working near the town of Tumeremo said her four-year-old had already had 13 bouts of malaria. After the last one, doctors warned her: “You have to choose – your daughter or the mine.” She moved to a different pit, but the family cannot afford to leave the area.

The transitory nature of mining work means the area’s problems have gradually affected vast swathes of the country, as infected workers took the disease home with their gold, reintroducing malaria to areas where it had been eradicated.

“I’ve never been to the mines,” said David Guevara, a 39-year-old builder queuing for malaria treatment in the industrial port of Ciudad Guyana, nearly 125 miles (200km) from the nearest mining camps.

It is his second episode of the disease. “There are no controls [on malaria] now,” he said. “And it’s the children who are paying for this.”

There was rarely any malaria in the city before 2015, but now the government clinic where he is seeking medical help is always busy.

“It’s an epidemic here now. It’s a lie that you have to go to the mines to get it,” said Marina Gutierrez, a 25-year-old who has had eight bouts of malaria over the last year and was at the clinic to seek help for her daughter. “She had only just finished treatment two weeks ago. She got rid of it and then it came back.”

Geraldine Flores blames a serious case of malaria for her son’s premature birth. She went into labour with Yelbi Josue after she came down with the disease when she was seven months’ pregnant and working at the mines.

Chagas disease, one of the leading causes of heart failure in Latin America, may be resurgent, says the review. Dengue has risen more than fivefold between 2010-16. Six increasingly large epidemics were recorded between 2007 -16, compared with four in the previous 16 years.

Chikungunya and Zika outbreaks have epidemic potential, say the authors. There were an estimated 2 million suspected chikungunya cases in 2014, more than 12 times the official estimate.

“We call on the members of the Organisation of American States and other international political bodies to apply more pressure to the Venezuelan government to accept the humanitarian assistance offered by the international community in order to strengthen the buckling health system.

“Without such efforts, the public health gains achieved over the past 18 years could soon be reversed,” said Llewellyn.

Additional reporting by Clavel Rangel

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« Reply #3662 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:33 AM »

Millions of forest-dwelling indigenous people in India to be evicted

Critics say ‘disastrous’ supreme court ruling is ‘mass eviction in name of conservation’

Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi
Fri 22 Feb 2019 09.46 GMT

Millions will be evicted in India after the supreme court ruled that indigenous people illegally living on forest land should move.

Campaigners for the rights of tribal and forest-dwelling people have called the court’s decision on Wednesday “an unprecedented disaster,” and “the biggest mass eviction in the name of conservation, ever”.

The ruling came in response to petitions filed by various wildlife conservation groups, which wanted the court to declare the 2006 Forest Rights Act invalid. The act gives forest dwelling people the right to their ancestral lands, including those in specially “protected” areas that contain sanctuaries and wildlife parks to conserve wild life. The groups told the court that “tribal” people in 17 states had encroached illegally on these protected areas, jeopardising efforts to protect wildlife and forests.

The conservation groups said state governments should see if families could prove their claim under the act and, if they could, they should be allowed to live and work on the land. If they failed to prove their claim, they should be evicted by the state government.

The supreme court has ordered the 17 state governments – where claims were considered by special committees – to act on about 1.1m claims now rejected as bogus and evict the families. Depending on the size of the families, more than 1m claims could translate to about 5-7 million people being evicted by 27 July.

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said: “This judgment is a death sentence for millions of tribal people in India, land theft on an epic scale and a monumental injustice. It will lead to wholesale misery, impoverishment, disease and death, an urgent humanitarian crisis, and it will do nothing to save the forests which these tribespeople have protected for generations.”

Groups campaigning for the tribal people – among the poorest, most neglected and marginalised of India’s communities – say that many of them would not have understood the need to produce the relevant documents proving their right to the land to the assessing committees.

That claim has been rejected by wildlife groups who said that, given that millions of claims were filed on this issue (of which about 1.2m were accepted), there was widespread grassroots awareness of the need to stake their claim and how to do it.

For wildlife protection groups, the issue is of India’s forests being relentlessly eroded by humans encroaching on animal habitats. There have been innumerable cases of villagers illegally living on protected forests meant exclusively for animals.

Debi Goenka, the head of the Conservation Action Trust, said that human rights activists and other groups who opposed the court order seemed to think that India could live without its forests.

He said: “What they don’t realise is that, barring two, all of India’s rivers are forest-dependent. Satellite imagery has shown tribal encroachments into protected forests. Can a country survive without forests? If they think India can survive without forests and without water, so be it.”

The issue is expected to become more heated in the coming weeks. Wildlife groups insist that all the court has done is tell state governments to recover forest land from people who made bogus claims which, after due process, were rejected. Those with genuine claims will be given title deeds to the land.

On the other side of the debate are politicians such as the Communist party leader, Brinda Karat, who has written to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, in protest against the court’s decision. She said: “It will be highly unjust to … traditional forest dwellers if an ordinance is not passed immediately to protect them from eviction … It will be a virtual declaration of war.”

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« Reply #3663 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:35 AM »

‘Lives are hanging on the line’: Kenya delays landmark ruling on gay rights

Decision prompts anger as high court asks for more time to consider evidence

Jason Burke in Nairobi
Fri 22 Feb 2019 08.23 GMT

Judges in Kenya have postponed a long-awaited landmark ruling that could have led to sex between men or between women decriminalised.

The attempt by LGBT campaigners to have colonial era legislation struck out has been closely watched by activists across Africa.

But Justice John Mativo said on Friday that the high court needed more time to consider the evidence. The judgment will now be given in late May.

The delay prompted anger and disappointment among campaigners who gathered to hear the decision in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

“I just wish the excuse was better. People’s lives are hanging on the line. Justice has been delayed, but it has not yet been denied,” said Yvonne Oduor, a campaigner.

Lawyers representing gay and lesbian associations have argued laws punishing “unnatural” acts with sentences of up to 14 years in prison contravene Kenya’s progressive constitution. There has been opposition from church groups who claimed homosexuality was a “perversion” and “unAfrican”.

LGBT people face systematic harassment and discrimination in a number of African countries, in many of which gay acts are illegal.

“Decriminalisation is just one percent of the struggle. Society is really homophobic. Being legal is not enough. We have to be safe too,” said Marylise Biubwa, a social justice activist.

Frank Mugisha, a campaigner for gay rights in Uganda, said before the ruling that a positive result would encourage other countries to follow Kenya’s path. Angola recently decriminalised homosexual sex and courts in Botswana will decide on the issue next month.

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« Reply #3664 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:37 AM »

North Korea appeals for food aid as regime cuts rations due to drought and sanctions

Nation facing 1.4 million ton shortfall as UN estimates that around half of the population is in need of extra supplies

Staff and agencies
Fri 22 Feb 2019 01.34 GMT

North Korea has issued an international appeal for help to combat food shortages after drought and floods led to a poor harvest, worsening the impact of UN sanctions.

Pyongyang has told the United Nations that it is facing a shortfall of 1.4 million tons in food production this year, including crops of rice, wheat, potato and soybean.

The UN estimates that 10.3 million people – almost half of North Korea’s population – are in need of food due to a sharp drop in crop production. It estimates that 40% of people in the country are undernourished.

“The government has requested assistance from international humanitarian organizations present in the country to address the impact of the food security situation,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

UN agencies are holding talks with Pyongyang “to take early action in order to address humanitarian needs,” he said.

In a memo to the UN, the communist regime called on international organisations “to urgently respond to addressing the food situation”.

It said food production last year was 4.951m tons, 503,000 tons down on 2017. The UN confirmed these figures as official government data provided at the end of January.

North Korea said it would import 200,000 tons of food and produce about 400,000 tons of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap and from January would cut daily rations to 300g (10.5 ounces) per person from 550g.

The release of the undated two-page memo by the North Korean mission to the UN comes ahead of a second summit next week between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Washington has been demanding that North Korea give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States, while the communist regime has been seeking a lifting of punishing sanctions, a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean war and security guarantees.

The 15-member UN security council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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Here are 7 things to know about CNN’s claim that Mueller’s report is coming soon

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - COMMENTARY
22 Feb 2019 at 15:42 ET                   

Building upon rumors and other vague reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation may soon be coming to some sort of a close, CNN published a story Wednesday afternoon claiming that the Justice Department is preparing to receive a report from the former FBI director as early as next week.

Given the complexities of the case, the special counsel regulations, shake-ups in the Justice Department, and lack of clarity around reporting from anonymous sources, it was not initially clear what this story means. Some saw it as clear evidence that newly appointed Attorney General William Barr was working to shut down the investigation, while others argued that it reflected trends that have been clear in Mueller’s work for months. It’s also not clear if Mueller’s report means new charges could be coming or what would happen to pending cases.

But there is a lot we do know. Here are seven things to keep in mind to help make sense of this news:

1. Whatever happens next week or with Mueller, investigations of President Donald Trump are certain to continue.

Even if Mueller concluded that Trump was completely cleared of wrongdoing regarding the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and any efforts to obstruct this probe — the two prongs of the case believed to touch on the president — much more of Trump’s past is under scrutiny.

Mueller’s efforts, it seems, have led to at least two other investigations that directly implicate Trump. At this point, the public knows most about the case of Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes as charged by the Southern District of New York — crimes that he alleged he carried out on Trump’s orders. There is also the ongoing investigation out of SDNY of Trump’s inaugural committee, about which less is known but which may involve allegations of money laundering and foreign influence peddling.

Other investigative matters may have also spun off from Mueller’s probe to other parts of the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors from D.C., for example, are already known to be working alongside Mueller’s team on some cases. And on completely separate tracks, the New York attorney general and oversight committees in the House of Representatives are known to be pursuing multiple investigations of Trump and those around him.

2. The regulations are clear about what the “Mueller report” is and isn’t.

If Mueller does issue a “report,” it’s not entirely clear what this means in common parlance. But according to the special counsel regulations, he is required to draft a confidential report on his decisions about why he chose to prosecute — and perhaps most importantly, not to prosecute — certain people for certain crimes. For instance, if Mueller concluded that there was substantial evidence to charge Trump himself with crimes, but decided not to because DOJ policy says he can’t indict a sitting president, this decision would presumably be recorded in this report.

But that report is not public. It goes to the attorney general who then makes the decision about what to do with. It likely would contain classified material and other information, such as grand jury testimony, which cannot be made public. The attorney general may then decide to make part of the report public, share it with Congress, or lock it away in a filing cabinet.

Also of note is that, since Barr has only just joined the Justice Department, he may not have yet been cleared by ethics officials to oversee Mueller. That may mean that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who first appointed Mueller, may still be in charge of the investigation.

3. Mueller is preparing to submit a sentencing filing on Paul Manafort soon — and it could be explosive.

Some, like reporter Marcy Wheeler, have suggested that Mueller’s report may come in the form of court filings. And one major court filing coming up is Mueller’s sentencing memo regarding Paul Manafort.

Of course, we don’t know what it will say until it’s made public. But it’s possible Mueller may use this filing to make public a good deal of substantial and important information that was not previously known. This could end up serving as a something like a public “report” — one that the attorney general would likely be unable to block. However, it may be highly redacted.

4. People familiar with Mueller don’t believe he’d let the investigation be prematurely thwarted.

Much of the initial reaction to CNN’s report reflected fears that Trump’s new attorney general was inappropriately bringing the investigation to a close. Many people familiar with Mueller and the Justice Department, however, doubted this hypothesis.

“Everyone caterwauling over Barr immediately ‘ending’ Mueller probe: Remember Mueller’s team has had months to prepare to be ousted/fired/shutdown,” said Garrett Graff, who wrote a book about Mueller’s time leading the FBI. “Idea that they’d be caught by surprise, without recourse, is absurd. If Mueller is wrapping up, he means to.”

Matthew Miller, a former DOJ spokesperson, concurred.

“Agree 100%,” he said on Twitter. “Though we of course need to verify everything, if Mueller is ending now, it’s almost certainly his decision.”

5. If Mueller were being silenced, there could be leaks and resignations.

Fears about Mueller being obstructed internally are also misplaced because there would likely be significant signs of dissension were this to happen. Officials could resign from the department in protest. Information about the investigation could begin leaking. Mueller himself could hold a press conference to discuss any untoward efforts to shut him up — a move that would be guaranteed to hold the nation’s attention.

6. There are still many threads in the investigation that don’t appear to have concluded.

However, there is reason to have some doubts about the news. There are significant threads in the Mueller probe that have yet to be satisfactorily resolved.

For example, though Mueller has charged Roger Stone, he has yet to charge Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi. This is surprising because Corsi released what he said was a plea deal, which he rejected, that had been offered by Mueller. It seems unlikely that Mueller would have offered him a plea deal if he were not prepared to charge Corsi.

There are also to legal battles that Mueller has yet to resolve. One is a mysterious sealed case involving the subpoena of a foreign state-owned company; the other is a grand jury subpoena for another associate of Roger Stone. It’s not clear why Mueller would be wrapping up his investigation without finishing these fights, given that he must have thought they were important in the first place.

There are also myriad other reports and indications of criminal behavior that haven’t yet shown up in any public filings from Mueller. It’s possible none of these threads produced any prosecutable evidence. Of course, it’s also possible that Mueller has indictments on some of those matters, or others unknown to the public, under seal, and they may soon be revealed as part of his “report.”

Another possible explanation of these hanging threads, suggested by the CNN report, is that Mueller may have handed off even more aspects of the investigation to other parts of the DOJ than we know. He could be doing this for a variety of reasons, and we may never find out what they are until charges are brought by other prosecutors, if they ever are.

7. We’ve heard similar predictions before.

One final note of caution: We’ve heard claims that Mueller’s wrapping up before, and they’ve proven wrong in the past. Sometimes this idea was put out by Trump’s own attorneys, but reporters have also made the claim as well.

For instance, in June 2018, the Washington Post published a story indicating that Mueller would “write up his findings” about the obstruction of justice investigation into Trump by the end of the summer. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

However, this report did include one suggestion that provides a potential explanation for CNN’s report. It indicated that there would be at least two Mueller “reports” — one on obstruction of justice and another on Russia-related matters. It’s far from certain this prediction was accurate, but if it was, it’s possible the “Mueller report” that is coming down the pike is only one of these possible reports. That could help explain why significant threads in the case remain unresolved.


GOP’s latest defense of Trump quickly falls apart as his obstruction of justice becomes even more obvious

Heather Digby Parton, Salon - COMMENTARY
22 Feb 2019 at 12:44 ET                   

I wrote about former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe’s new book “Threat” last week after CBS News first teased its big interview with McCabe that aired last Sunday. At the time it seemed as if the big news coming from the book was a rehash of last fall’s story about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggesting that he wear a wire into the Oval Office and about the supposed talk within the Department of Justice about invoking the 25th Amendment to declare President Trump unable to fulfill his duties.

When asked about it by CBS News’ Scott Pelley in the interview, McCabe confirmed that it happened, which made Trump have a nuclear Twitter meltdown and caused the right-wing media to start screeching about “Deep State coups” and suggesting that McCabe should immediately be arrested and that he and former FBI director James Comey should be waterboarded to spill everything they know. Presumably by CIA director Gina Haspel and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Because that’s their specialty.

As it turns out, that wasn’t in McCabe’s book at all. He answered the question when asked but told Anderson Cooper on CNN Tuesday night that he didn’t put it in the book because that episode hadn’t been revealed when he wrote it and he thought it would be a huge distraction if he did. He was right. An anecdote that wasn’t in his book has received far more attention than it should.

The big revelation in the book is that after Trump fired Comey, which everyone knew was because of the Russia investigation, McCabe opened a counter-intelligence investigation and an obstruction of justice investigation into the president of the United States, because of his suspicious behavior during the campaign and in the White House. And — surprise — it turns out that McCabe and Rosenstein briefed the Gang of Eight, which includes the leadership of both parties in congress and the chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. At the time, the eight were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

McCabe notes that Nunes had “stepped back” from his role on the Intelligence Committee by that time, after having being exposed conspiring with the White House and lying to the media in his silly “midnight ride” and was not expected to show up. But he came anyway, and neither Rosenstein nor McCabe had the authority to ask him to leave, so he heard the whole thing. When asked by Anderson Cooper whether he believed Nunes would rush to tell the White House everything, McCabe said he always assumed someone would tell the White House about the investigations.

In his book, McCabe writes:

    After reminding the committee of how this investigation began, I told them of additional steps we had taken. No one interrupted. No one pushed back. The mood in the room was sober. Schumer had been nodding his head and looking at me very directly throughout the brief. On McConnell’s side of the table, I sensed a great deal of resignation.

Rosenstein then took over the meeting and told the assembled officials that he was appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s apparent ties to Russia.

What this means is that these members of Congress have known from the beginning that the DOJ and the FBI had opened these two investigations because of the president’s suspicious behavior, and that they formed the basis for the Special Counsel’s investigation. If McCabe is right, and one of the little birdies in the meeting whispered in the president’s ear, he knew it right away too.

According to McCabe, Rosenstein was enlisted by the White House counsel to write the memo laying out the reasons for firing Comey and told him Trump had repeatedly asked him to “include Russia” (which he refused to do). What the president specifically meant by that isn’t spelled out but we know that the original letter firing Comey was cooked up during a long rainy weekend at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with senior adviser Stephen Miller, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The letter they produced was so inflammatory that then-White House counsel Don McGahn nixed it. We don’t know how much of that original memo (described by those who read it as a “screed”) was focused on Russia, but Robert Mueller does. He has a copy of it.

What we do know is that in the letter Trump wrote firing Comey, he clumsily “included Russia”:

    While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

And then came this, just a month after the Comey firing and the Mueller appointment:

    I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017

As you can see, that was yet another lie. Trump had planned to fire Comey. He even admitted it on TV. And we know that his crack team of political advisers, led by Kushner, had assured him that it would be a big political winner.

Later, Trump would repeatedly insist that he wasn’t under investigation at all, despite the fact that it was obvious to everyone he was.

Looking back on that meeting, which laid out all the predicates for what turned into the Mueller investigation, shines a very different light on how this scandal has unfolded. And now we have the explosive New York Times piece published on Tuesday called “Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him,” which shows that not only did the president know very well that he was personally being investigated, he has been methodically trying to sabotage his own Justice Department for the better part of the last two years.

Trump’s most recent intrusion was trying to get his acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, to order the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York to “unrecuse” himself from all those investigations into Trumpworld, a concept that never even existed until Donald Trump came along.

He just can’t stop obstructing justice. But then why would he? His new attorney general, William Barr, agrees with that Republican icon of corruption Richard Nixon, that “if the president does it, it’s not illegal.” Barr has told Trump he is perfectly free to interfere with investigations, order them up, protect his friends and punish his enemies. So I wouldn’t expect any of it to stop unless Congress finally steps up to do its duty.

The country is probably dizzy by now trying to keep up with the cascading news stories about the various investigations and rumors surrounding Trump’s presidency. It’s overwhelming. But it always comes back to one simple, common-sense observation: no innocent person could possibly act this guilty.


Trump already colluded ‘in plain sight’ — and his new attorney general can’t protect him from Mueller: conservative columnist

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
22 Feb 2019 at 19:10 ET                   

Whether it’s true or not, multiple reports now suggest that some form of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “report” will soon be released, and the U.S. political commentariat is bracing for the news.

Of course, no one seems to know for sure when any key documents from Mueller will be made public or when he will officially close up shop. But conservative writer Jennifer Rubin, a long-time critic of President Donald Trump, argued Thursday that whenever Congress receives Mueller’s conclusions, the pressure will then be left to Congress to decided how to proceed. She has little doubt that Mueller will decline to indict Trump, so if criminal charges are warranted, impeachment will be the only option.

“The immediate consequences for the president will be political,” she wrote in a new Washington Post op-ed. “Once Mueller is done, the host of other investigations will continue while the focus moves to Congress. Congress and the voters get the last say as to when and under what conditions Trump’s presidency will end.”

Like everyone else, Rubin doesn’t know what Mueller will ultimately conclude. And she notes that every step along the way, the special counsel has demonstrated that he is ahead of the game, revealing new explosive findings that haven’t previously been known.

Speculating about what might be in the report, she wrote:

    The only “collusion” by Trump we can definitively identify occurred in plain sight — his public request for the Russians to go find Hillary Clinton’s emails. WikiLeaks would later oblige, releasing the first emails within hours of the “Access Hollywood” tape’s release. (Trump’s efforts to pursue the Moscow Trump Tower deal despite Trump’s public denials provide a possible motivefor Trump to cover up his Russian connections, but do not on their face appear to be illegal.)

    More likely to be included in Mueller’s report is a catalogue of Trump’s efforts to disrupt and interfere with investigations into his and his campaign’s Russia contacts. Trump’s role in concocting phony cover stories (regarding the reason for firing James Comey as FBI director, to explain the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting), his offers to pardon witnesses, his efforts to influence the Manafort jury by publicly disparaging prosecutors, his attempts to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself, his attempt to persuade Comey to go easy on Flynn, and any potentially misleading written answers by Trump to Mueller’s written questions could be laid out so as to bring us to the inescapable conclusion that Trump obstructed justice.

It should be noted that Mueller has already provided a provocative detail about Trump’s call for the Russians to get Clinton’s emails. An indictment of the GRU officers involved in the hacking said that the Russians actively tried to access Clinton’s personal files the same day Trump explicitly made that public proclamation. There are also indications from the indictment of Roger Stone that the Trump ally may have had a role in ushering the release of the hacked emails on the day the “Access Hollywood” tape was released.

And for those who fear that the reported coming demise of special counsel’s office means newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr is prematurely silencing Mueller, Rubin is deeply skeptical.

“I am less concerned than many that Barr, who is a respected lawyer and owes Trump no particular loyalty, will bury the report, especially if Mueller has obtained approval from the chief judge to release grand jury materials to Congress,” she wrote. “Perpetuating rumors and speculation about what is in or not in the special counsel’s report serves no one’s interest.”


Trump’s ‘national emergency’ border wall cash grab flounders — a huge chunk of the money has already been spent: report

Raw Story

According to a new report in RollCall, some of the money President Trump wants to shuffle around from other federal programs to build his wall has already been spent, and is likely to be unavailable from the sources the Trump administration has previously identified.

Despite the ‘national emergency,’ Trump will still have to seek approval from both parties for some of the money, the report notes, effectively rendering a full one-third of the funds unavailable, RollCall’s John Donnelly writes.

As a result, it may be difficult for the president to circumvent Congress, who could still stop a large part of Trump’s ’emergency’ border wall funds from being spent.

“A reprogramming request must be approved by both Republicans and Democrats on the four authorizing and appropriating panels that oversee the Pentagon,” the new report notes. “Such approval in this case is all but certain to fail. All it would take is one chairman or ranking member to say no.”

Donnelly’s story quotes Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, who said he would turn down any request to reprogram military money to pay for a border wall.

“I am adamantly opposed to the use of any funds provided by Congress to the Department of Defense for the unauthorized construction of a wall on the Southwest border,” Visclosky said. “I and the other members of the House Appropriations Committee will carefully examine each element of the President’s proposal and the serious jurisdictional and Constitutional concerns that it raises.”

Even some Republicans have said they are opposed to raiding military construction budgets to pay for Trump’s wall. Just this week, a GOP Congressman from Texas stated at a town hall that he is opposed of taking money away from previously earmarked military construction projects to build any border barrier.


Trump, Stephen Miller, and the ‘national sovereignty’ lie

Trump: 'If you don't have a wall system, we're not going to have a country'

By Greg Sargent
Opinion writer
February 22 2019
WA Post

We spend so much time chasing the small lies down rabbit holes that we often lose sight of the much bigger lies that undergird them. In this regard, one of the most monstrous lies we regularly hear from President Trump and his allies is the notion that our national sovereignty is under severe threat.

During Chris Wallace’s much-discussed cross-examination of Stephen Miller last weekend, Trump’s senior adviser pulled off a move of supreme rhetorical sleaze. In defending Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build his wall, Miller slipped this in with almost no time remaining for Wallace to correct him:

    This is a deep intellectual problem that is plaguing this city which is that we’ve had thousands of Americans die year after year after year because of threats crossing our southern border. … If the president can’t defend this country, then he cannot fulfill this constitutional oath of office.

Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has a new piece that dismantles this absurdity from every different angle. It’s entirely baseless. There isn’t any national comprehensive data set on people killed by undocumented immigrants, but as Kessler shows, if you extrapolate out using other data sets, the claim is not even close to credible.

What’s more, studies show that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans and that illegal immigration does not lead to increased crime or violence. And even if you give very generous treatment to the slippery rhetorical trick Miller uses — note that Miller refers to deaths at the hands of vaguely defined “threats” — and include deaths from drugs, this doesn’t support Miller’s argument, either, because Trump’s wall wouldn’t stop the flow of drugs, most of which come through official ports of entry.

A bigger absurdity

But what deserves more attention here is the much bigger underlying absurdity Miller’s claim is designed to push: the idea that we’re losing control of our country.

Miller claims that without the wall, Trump “can’t defend" our borders. Elsewhere in the Fox News interview, Miller broadens the claim: “You cannot conceive of a nation without a strong, secure border. It is fundamental and essential to the idea of sovereignty and national survival to have control over who enters and doesn’t enter the country.”

This is an assertion that Trump himself makes constantly — he regularly employs some variation of the formulation that “a country without borders isn’t a country” — yet it almost never gets examined in its own right.

It’s actually two lies in one. Let’s take the idea that we don’t have control over our borders. This is not true by any reasonable metric — illegal border crossings are near historic lows, while the number of Border Patrol agents has expanded to an extraordinary degree, and terrorists breaching the border is a nonexistent problem. This is all well documented. What needs to be pointed out more often is that these things blow up the second, bigger lie — that we don’t have a country or national sovereignty.

Indeed, a report from Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security found in 2017 that the southern border is “more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before.” That, too, renders the bigger lie even more absurd.

What about the big spike in asylum-seeking families? That is a very real problem. But it is not a problem of allegedly nonexistent borders, since these people are largely turning themselves in to seek asylum. Trump and Miller argue that many of these people are slipping into the interior while awaiting hearings, and have sought changes to the law to, for instance, make it easier to detain families together indefinitely. This is a worthy debate to have. The response is that such measures are deeply inhumane and that the better answer to the problem — which Trump absurdly hypes to begin with — is to invest more in streamlining and reorganizing the ways in which asylum seekers are processed.

But regardless of which side of that debate you take, there’s just no credible way to argue that this problem poses a serious threat to our national sovereignty, unless the real claim being made here is that any illegal infiltration of the country, no matter how minor in the larger scheme of things, represents a serious threat to it.

In truth, for Trump and Miller, the real goal is to dramatically downsize the numbers of asylum seekers in the country whether they are here legally or not. That’s why they keep trying to place limits on the ways asylum seekers can apply. (Notably, they are also busily slashing refugee flows at every chance they get.)

There’s one other pernicious argument here that must be addressed. Miller’s suggestion that there is a “deep intellectual problem in this city” is a variation of the claim that on illegal immigration, political elites are out of touch. As Trump recently put it:

    No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls, and gates, and guards.

But this demagoguery about elites coddling undocumented immigrants, too, is at its core a lie. Large majorities of Americans support giving them a path to legalization. They simply do not see the general presence of undocumented immigrants in this country as the threat to America that Trump and Miller keep hyping.

Trump and Miller really do view the levels of overall immigrants here — legally or not — as a threat to our national sovereignty. As Jacob Levy notes, the view that sovereignty is synonymous with restricting immigration to keep the nation and “its people” homogeneous is a hallmark of Trump’s type of demagogic, xenophobic populism.

But this Trump/Miller conception of national sovereignty fundamentally misstates what the term really means. If it connotes the ability for the nation to govern itself — that is, to control who gets in and who gets out — then if majorities legitimately got their elected representatives to let in immigrants or to let more remain here legally, they wouldn’t constitute a threat to our sovereignty, either. And on this question, political majorities are aligned against Trump and Miller, and with the Democratic political class, which supports current levels of legal immigration and wants to give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.


Why there is no end in sight for Trump’s legal troubles — regardless of what Mueller does

Matthew Chapman, Alternet
22 Feb 2019 at 12:18 ET                   

With special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe reportedly delivering a report to Attorney General William Barr as soon as next week, President Donald Trump may feel that if the report fails to implicate him directly in any specific wrongdoing, he will finally be out of the woods.

But as former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night, that is far from the case.

For one thing, Katyal said, while the report may be a final summation, signifying the end of the investigation under special counsel regulations, which is what the media seems to assume, that is not necessarily what it is. “There’s also a separate provision in the regulations for ‘urgent action reports,’ and it’s certainly possible that all this is is Mueller saying he’s providing some sort of report but not a final report. It doesn’t say he’s concluding the investigation on his own or anything like that.”

For another thing, if it is indeed the final report, Barr would then have to write his own report and deliver it to Congress, “and it’s contemplated in the regulations that that report should be public, if the public administration of justice so requires. So two different reports.”

“But most importantly, these are only about Mueller and his investigation, which is a very limited one, into Russia counterintelligence and then obstruction of justice, the firing of [FBI Director James] Comey,” Katyal added. “It doesn’t have to do with the Southern District investigation, the Trump Foundation, the other things Congress is looking into and the like. So that’s all separate.” And worse still, if the investigation only makes a brief summary public, that could actually be “counterproductive” to the president, because “it won’t resolve anything.”

If Trump believes the end of the Mueller investigation will be the end of his legal problems, Katyal said, he’s in for a big surprise. The investigation, he said, is like “the internet,” and when Trump focuses all his anger on the Mueller probe, “he’s like a 1950s hacker cutting a phone line … this is a much bigger, much more metastasized investigation.”

Watch below:

    Former Acting Solicitor General @neal_katyal says Pres. Trump seems not to fully understand the number of legal threats he faces outside the Mueller probe:

    "He's like a 1950s hacker cutting a phone line. This is a much bigger much more metastasized investigation." pic.twitter.com/ML4aTQtCWV

    — Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 21, 2019

Katyal is right. There are numerous investigations unfolding into Trump and the GOP that have nothing to do with Mueller, from the Southern District of New York’s probe into the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen paying off women, to the District of Columbia prosecutors investigating admitted Russian agent Maria Butina’s infiltration of the NRA, to the New York State Attorney General’s and Tax Office’s probe of the Trump Foundation, to the criminal investigation of Trump’s inaugural fund, to the lawsuitalleging Trump violated the Emoluments Clause when foreign diplomats stayed at his hotel, to the endless string of investigations in Congress into his finances, his actions in office, and his Cabinet members.

Even if Mueller goes away, Trump’s problems have no end in sight.


Trump ridiculed by Canadian premier over disastrous tariff debacle: ‘He’s hurting the U.S. more than Canada’

Raw Story

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier slammed American President Donald Trump’s trade policy with its northern neighbor during a speech in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

HuffPost Canada reported that Doug Ford — the province’s leader and brother to the controversial, drug-using Toronto mayor Rob Ford — ridiculed Trump’s tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel.

“To be very frank, it’s hurting the U.S. more than it’s even hurting Canada,” Ford said at the event organized by the Canadian American Business Council. “For every job that they think they’re creating (with the tariffs), they’re losing 16 jobs.”

The Ontario premier noted that beyond the harm it causes the United States, the tariffs also hurt Canada as well.

“When we ship a part, some parts go back and forth across the border eight times,” Ford said. “And every time they go across they’re getting dinged.”

Ford added that he intends to raise the issue with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer when they meet in Washington this week.

“We’re just provincial,” he said, “(but) for 19 states, their largest trading partner is Ontario.”

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