Escobares, Texas: Life in the poorest city in the US

In the tiny city of Escobares, Texas, 62% of residents live below the poverty line.

That’s the highest rate of any US city with more than 1,000 people, according to the 2016 US Census Bureau survey.

Directly on the US-Mexico border, the city struggles with crime and unemployment.

But local officials say they’re trying hard to lift Escobares out of the cycle of poverty.

Video produced by: Cecilia Barria and Mohamed Madi

 

 

Good Samaritan picks up hotel tab for 70 homeless in Chicago

Good Samaritan picks up hotel tab for 70 homeless in Chicago

Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan before sunrise, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

A good Samaritan offered to pay for hotel rooms for 70 homeless people in Chicago who were camped out in tents amid the bitter cold that blanketed Chicago.

The offer came after the Chicago Fire Department on Wednesday confiscated nearly 100 propane tanks given the group to keep them warm as temperatures sank to negative 22 (negative 20 Celsius). The department acted after one of the donated tanks exploded.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Jacqueline Rachev said city officials told the organization about their actions at the camp. The Salvation Army was about to move the people to a warming center when the city called again and informed them of the gesture.

Rachev was not sure of the identity of the good Samaritan and only knew the hotel was on the city’s South Side.

Mitt Romney: Trump’s actions have caused worldwide dismay

Romney criticised a number of Trump's actions in December [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]
Romney criticised a number of Trump’s actions in December [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and incoming US senator from Utah, sharply criticised President Donald Trump and said the US leader had caused dismay around the world.

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post late on Tuesday, Romney criticised a number of Trump’s actions in December.

“The appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down,” he wrote.

He added that “Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world.”

Romney suggested that “on balance, (Trump’s) conduct over the past two years … is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

Trump hit back in an early morning tweet on Wednesday, saying, “Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast!”

Trump questioned whether Romney will be “a Flake”, referring to outgoing Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who was a frequent critic of Trump.

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Chris Sheridan
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“Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful,” Trump said. “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

Romney-Trump relationship

Romney’s op-ed came as he and other politicians take up their seats in the new Congress. It is unclear whether Trump will face a serious challenge in 2020 in securing the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Last February, Trump endorsed Romney’s run for a Senate seat in Utah.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney excoriated Trump as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers”. Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Despite Romney’s prior criticism, after Trump won the presidency in November 2016, he briefly considered tapping Romney as secretary of state.

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Chris Sheridan
by Chris Sheridan

In the op-ed on Tuesday, Romney said he “will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions”.

Romney has strongly defended press freedom and challenged Trump’s repeated attacks on some news outlets as an “enemy of the people”.

“The media is essential to our Republic, to our freedom, to the cause of freedom abroad, and to our national security. It is very much our friend,” Romney wrote in an essay in November.

Maine: Lawrence High School students make blankets for hospice patients, and the Good Shepherd Food Bank gets $33,000.

Students in Lawrence High School’s JMG program will make more than 35 blankets to be donated to hospice patients in the Waterville area

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This holiday season, Mainers in hospice care will be receiving a gift, but it will be coming from someone they have never met.

The students in the Lawrence High School’s “Jobs for Maine’s Graduates” program, also known as JMG, are making blankets that will be donated to hospice patients in the Waterville area.

“I think this project is great. I think it gives people in the home comfort and just a little something extra for the holidays,” said Rilee Bessey, a junior at Lawrence High School.

Student plan to make more than 35 blankets to be donated. They are also making holiday cards to be distributed to the patients.

“My students are always looking for ways to give back. They really care about others and doing more things in our community to help those in need,” said JMG specialist at Lawrence High School Katherine Wood.

The students in Wood’s JMG class have worked more than 500 hours doing community service in 2018.

“Understand that not everybody has what you may have,” said Lawrence High School junior Bryson Dostie. “Everybody needs to get a little bit of something around the holidays,” Dostie added.

JMG is program across Maine in 131 schools. The organization’s students worked more than 30,000 hours this year doing community service projects.

And…

Maine’s largest hunger relief organization receives final installment of $100,000 promise!
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The Good Shepherd Food Bank received a check for $33,000 from the Maine Credit Union League to complete a three-year contribution to the food bank

The largest hunger relief origination in Maine now has in its hands, the final part of a $100,000 promise of support.

The donation comes from the Maine Credit Union League who promised in 2016 to provide the food bank with $100,000. Today the MCUL presented a check for $33,000 at the George J. Mitchell Elementary School in Waterville. The Good Shepherd Food Bank donates goods to the school’s food pantry.

At an assembly Wednesday morning, students in the school shared essays in front of their classmates about what the school’s food pantry means to them.

“To hear from students who are seeing it in their classmates and some of them likely experiencing themselves, I think that really hits home,” said Ethan Minton, the Good Shepherd Major Gift Officer.

The George J. Mitchell school food pantry has received more 60,000 meals worth of food from Good Shepherd since 2013.

“It helps highlight how much of a community effort this is and how aware people are of the hunger problem in the state of Maine and what people can do to help alleviate that problem,” said Tim Brooks, the Vice President of Corporate Marketing for the Maine Credit Union League.

The MCUL’s Campaign for Ending Hunger has raised over $8 million since starting the program in 1990.  In 2017, the credit union raised $740,000 for the cause.

US Senate passes sweeping criminal justice reform bill!

Prisoners in an overcrowded California correctional facilityPrisoners in an overcrowded California correctional facility

The US Senate has passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill seeking to address concerns that the US locks up too many of its citizens.

The First Step Act, which has been championed by US President Donald Trump, passed by a vote of 87-12.

The bipartisan measure found unlikely support from hardline conservatives and progressive liberals alike.

The US leads the world in number of jailed citizens. Around 2.2m Americans were in jail in 2016, figures show.

The bill, which is expected to be debated in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, would only affect federal prisoners accounting for about 10% of the total US prison population.

Moments after the vote passed, President Trump tweeted: “America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes.”

What does the law actually do?

The bill would overhaul the US justice system by giving more discretion to judges during sentencing, and by strengthening prisoner rehabilitation efforts.

Among the sentencing guidelines being revised is one reducing the “three strikes” penalty for drug felons from life in prison to 25 years.

The “three strikes” policy – introduced during the Clinton presidency – mandated strict penalties for those convicted of three serious crimes.

How police line-ups jail the innocent

The First Step Act also limits the disparity in sentencing guidelines between powder and crack cocaine, which could affect up to 2,600 prisoners, according to the Marshall Project.

It allows for more criminals to serve their sentences in halfway houses or under home confinement, and requires offenders to be jailed within 500 miles (800km) of their families.

The exterior of a prison in IllinoisThe exterior of a prison in Illinois

It bans shackling pregnant prisoners and mandates that tampons and sanitary napkins be available to women.

It reduces the mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes, and authorises $375m (£297m) in federal spending for job training and educational programmes for prisoners.

New Jersey Democratic Cory Booker hailed the legislation as “one small step [that] will affect thousands and thousands of lives”.

How did it get this far?

All 49 Democrats in the Senate voted in favour of the bill, with several mentioning that prisons are disproportionally filled with minority groups.

Twelve conservative law-and-order Republican senators voted against the bill.

Many of the supporters of the First Step Act had also rallied behind the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which was supported by former President Barack Obama.

That bill looked set for passage before Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it, and refused to put it to a vote in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Earlier this year, White House adviser Jared Kushner began working with Republicans to draft a bill that Mr Trump could sign into law.

With Mr Trump’s endorsement, the Republican group was able to shore up enough support to bring the bill to a vote.

“This is the biggest thing,” said Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley after the vote was held.

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So Congress actually did something?

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher

The first two years of the Donald Trump presidency have been defined in part by high-profile partisan battles in Congress – over healthcare, immigration, tax reform and presidential nominees. Beneath the surface, however, there’s been a somewhat surprising undercurrent of bipartisan co-operation.

Democrats and Republicans have come together to pass legislation to address the opioid addiction crisis, modernise the Federal Aviation Administration, provide additional resources for veterans and fund vast swaths of the federal government using traditional appropriations processes.

In the last few weeks alone, Congress enacted – and the president signed – a law to provide research and treatment for sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorderthat predominantly affects African-Americans. It unanimously passed a $60m bill to prevent maternal mortality.

This criminal justice reform bill could represent the highest-profile accomplishment yet.

With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives next year, Congress and the president will have no choice but to seek bipartisan solutions if they want to enact any significant legislation. That may be a challenge, given that even as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders heralded the reform bill as a “historic win”, she couldn’t resist taking a shot across the political aisle.

“Imagine how much more we can accomplish in the years ahead if – like on criminal justice – Democrats spend more time working with GOP to build America up and less time tearing the President down,” she tweeted.

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US life expectancy DROPS as drug and suicide deaths rise in the land of liberty!

On average, the US population can expect to live around 78 years – nearly a decade less than the world’s highest life expectancy rate.

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Life expectancy in the US has dropped once again, thanks in part to rising suicide and drug overdose rates, according to new government reports.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found nearly 70,000 more Americans died in 2017 than 2016, with rising rates of death among 25- to 44-year-olds.

Thursday’s reports revealed synthetic opioid-related overdose death rates rose by 45% on average, nationwide.

The suicide rate is also the highest it has been in decades.

Americans can expect to live just over 78 years and six months on average – a 0.1 year drop from 2016, according to the report released on Thursday.

“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a statement.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

The top 10 leading causes of death – including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and suicide – were the same as in 2016, accounting for the majority of deaths.

Only cancer death rates decreased by 2.1%, while the rates for most other causes increased.

US women continue to outlive men, and the death rate did decrease among 45- to 54-year-olds.

Between 2016 and 2017, mortality rates also decreased for black women, and there was no significant change in rates for black men and Hispanic Americans.

Life expectancy in the US began dropping in 2015.

Monaco and Japan currently have the longest life expectancies in the world at 89 and 85 years. The UK’s life expectancy is around 80 years.

The deadly truth of new drugs cocktail

Drug death rate up 16% per year

As the US grapples with an opioid crisis, overdoses claim more and more lives, the CDC report found. The age-adjusted death rate has gone up 16% per year since 2014.

Drug overdose deaths accounted for 70,237 deaths last year – nearly 10% higher than in 2016 – with a significantly higher rate of death among men, compared to women.

The death rate from overdoses caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 45% in one year.

West Virginia saw the highest overdose death rate in 2017 at 58 per 100,000 people; Ohio, Pennsylvania and the US capital also topped the list.

Emma and Toni’s father took his own life, now they want to help more men speak out.

Steady increase in suicide

The CDC found suicide became the second leading cause of death for 10- to 34-year-olds in 2016, with rates increasing 33% between 1999 and 2017, according to the report.

Urban-area suicide rates were 16% higher in 2017 than 1999, and rural-area suicides increased by 53% over the same time period.

Dr Jerry Reed of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention told the BBC that suicide is not always just a mental health challenge.

“Economic conditions or livelihood opportunities in decline could lead people to positions where they’re at risk. We need to intervene in both mental and public health cases,” Dr Reed says.

Presentational grey line

Where to get help

From Canada or US: If you’re in an emergency, please call 911

You can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741

Young people in need of help can call Kids Help Phone on 1-800-668-6868

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123

For support and more information on emotional distress, click here.

U.S. Border Patrol Fires Tear Gas at Families Seeking Asylum!

H1 border patrol tear gas

In Tijuana, Mexico, U.S. border patrol officers fired tear gas Sunday into a crowd of desperate Central American asylum seekers as they tried to push their way through the heavily militarized border with the United States. Among those attacked were mothers and small children, who were left gagging and screaming as tear gas spread. Mexican federal police officers in riot gear moved in and arrested dozens of the migrants; Mexico’s government says they’ll be deported to Central America. The group had broken away from a peaceful protest of thousands of migrants demanding entry to the U.S. where they hoped to win asylum. The migrants are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and mass unemployment. This is 37-year-old Honduran asylum seeker Saúl Hernández.

Saúl Hernández: “My message to the United States president is not to scare people, because he’s showing Mexico that he has the military power. He’s also frightening Mexico. Please remove your troops.”

In response, the Trump administration temporarily closed the San Ysidro border crossing, one of the busiest ports of entry in the world, with more than 90,000 people crossing each day. Meanwhile, the administration of Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador denied it had made any deal with the Trump administration to force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their U.S. asylum claims are processed. The denial contradicts tweets by President Trump and a report in the Washington Post on Saturday.

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