EarthLink – News

EarthLink – News

EarthLink – News

President-elect says Guatemala can’t do migrant deal with US
By SONIA PEREZ D. | 12:27 EDT
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan immigration agreement signed with the Trump administration won’t work because the Central American nation does not have the resources, the country’s new president-elect says.
Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative who was chosen overwhelmingly by voters in a weekend runoff election, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that Guatemala is too poor to tend to its own people, let alone those from other countries.
The agreement signed in July by the outgoing administration of President Jimmy Morales would require migrants from other countries who cross into Guatemala to apply for asylum here rather than in the U.S.
“In order to be a safe country, one has to be certified as such by an international body, and I do not think Guatemala fulfills the requirements to be a third safe country. That definition doesn’t fit us,” said Giammattei, a 63-year-old doctor.
“If we do not have the capacity for our own people, just imagine other people.”
Guatemalans make up one of the largest groups emigrating from Central America because of poverty, unemployment and crime. Critics say it is hard to see how the country could offer a safe haven to migrants from other nations.
The agreement signed by the current Morales government is aimed at reducing the number of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration pressured Guatemala to sign the deal by threatening to punish Guatemala with taxes.
Giammattei, who takes office Jan. 14, said that annexes to the agreement are still being negotiated with the United States and that he would ask Morales to include members of his transition team in those talks.
The president-elect also noted that the agreement would have to be ratified by the congresses of both nations to go into force. There has been widespread criticism of the deal in Guatemala.
Giammattei pledged to recognize the importance of Guatemalan migrants living in the United States by creating a Washington-based Cabinet-level position to attend to migrant affairs.
“It is about time we had a government that cared for the people,” he said. “It is these people (migrants) who are supporting us” with the remittance money they send back to relatives in Guatemala, he added.
“I do not think physical walls, or walls of weapons, can stop migration,” Giammattei said. “I think what can stop migration are walls of opportunities.”
On another matter, the incoming leader distanced himself from Morales’ unpopular decision to not renew the mandate of the U.N.-sponsored anti-corruption commission that has played a key role in sending high-ranking politicians, including ex-presidents, to jail. But Giammattei also indicated he wouldn’t work to bring back the commission, known as CICIG.
“The mandate has been terminated; the United Nations accepted that,” he said.
He said he has no legal capacity or any other authority to ask Morales to renew the commission. “The CICIG is disappearing and history will judge whether Morales’ decision was right or not,” he said.

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The Latest: 6 officers shot by gunman released from hospital
Wed, August 14, 2019 10:45 EDT
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Latest on several police officers shot in Philadelphia (all times local):
10:45 p.m.
Police say all six officers wounded by gunfire from a man who has barricaded himself inside a north Philadelphia building have been released from the hospital.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says “it’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today.”
Ross says the situation that began about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday has “gone from a hostage situation to a barricade.”
Sgt. Eric Gripp said the suspect was “still armed and inside” the house. But Ross said police had been able to speak to him and were still trying to get him to surrender. He said the man’s attorney was apparently on the line as well.
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9:45 p.m.
Police say two officers who were in a building with a gunman barricaded inside a northern Philadelphia home have been “safely evacuated” by a police SWAT team.
Sgt. Eric Gripp said shortly after 9:30 p.m. that the suspect was “still armed and inside” the house. There was no immediate word on how the officers were freed. Earlier, six officers were struck by gunfire but were in stable condition and others were injured responding to the scene.
Commissioner Richard Ross said officers were serving a narcotics warrant at the home and had already entered when gunfire erupted. Ross said the gunman fired multiple rounds and officers returned fire. He said many “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets.”
Ross said officers had been calling the gunman and trying to communicate with him with a bullhorn, but he had not responded.
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8:30 p.m.
Police say an hourslong standoff with a gunman barricaded inside a northern Philadelphia home is continuing into the night as the shooter ignores officers.
Commissioner Richard Ross said during a Wednesday night news conference the “very volatile” situation is still unfolding.
Six officers were struck. All are in stable condition. Ross said other officers were injured responding to the scene.
Ross said officers were serving a narcotics warrant at the home and had already entered when gunfire erupted. Ross said the gunman fired multiple rounds and officers returned fire. He said many “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets.”
Two officers remained inside the home, but Ross says he believes they are OK.
Ross said officers have been calling the gunman and he has picked up but did not speak to them.
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7:25 p.m.
A Philadelphia Police sergeant said officers are attempting to communicate with a shooter that has fired at police, wounding at least six officers.
Sgt. Eric Gripp tweeted Wednesday evening that police are “imploring him to surrender and avoid further injuries.”
The shooting situation remained active at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Authorities say police were serving a warrant in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood before gunfire started around 4:30 p.m. At least six officers have been shot and none of their injuries are considered life-threatening. The officers were taken to hospitals.
A heavy police presence remains in the neighborhood.
Officials said President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have been briefed on the shooting and are monitoring the situation.
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6:40 p.m.
A Philadelphia Police sergeant says six police officers have been shot and the suspect is still firing at police.
Sgt. Eric Gripp also tweeted Wednesday that additional officers are receiving treatment for injuries that aren’t from gunshots.
Gripp is asking that people continue to stay out of the city’s Nicetown neighborhood.
He also said officers were serving a warrant to a home in the northern Philadelphia neighborhood before shots were fired.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports two officers were trapped inside the house when the shooting first started.
Dozens of police officers on foot are lining streets blocks away, some in cars and some on horses.
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting in Philadelphia and continues to monitor the situation.
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6:10 p.m.
A Philadelphia Police sergeant says five police officers have been shot in what’s still an active shooting situation in the city.
Sgt. Eric Gripp tweeted Wednesday shortly before 6 p.m. that all of the injuries are considered non-life threatening.
He also said that the suspect is still firing and warned people to stay out of the Nicetown neighborhood.
The officers have been taken to area hospitals. Temple University Hospital referred questions on the conditions of police officers to police.
A massive police presence remains with dozens of police cars and officers, many of them with their guns drawn.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says numerous agents are responding to the scene to assist Philadelphia police.
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5:45 p.m.
Authorities say several Philadelphia police officers have been shot in an “active and ongoing” shooting situation in the city.
Sgt. Eric Gripp tweeted there was at least one suspect firing at police officers Wednesday afternoon.
A police spokesman confirmed the shooting in the Nicetown section of the city.
Temple University tweeted that it has locked down its Health Sciences Center Campus.
Video shows a massive police presence with dozens of police cars and officers, many of them with guns drawn.
One officer appeared injured and was taken away in a police car. Video also showed two other officers carrying a man and putting them in the back of a car.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says numerous agents are responding to the scene to assist Philadelphia police.
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5:30 p.m.
Authorities say several Philadelphia police officers have been injured in an “active and ongoing” shooting situation in the city.
Sgt. Eric Gripp tweeted there was at least one suspect firing at police officers Wednesday afternoon.
A police spokesman confirmed the shooting in the Nicetown section of the city but offered no other information.
Video shows a massive police presence in a neighborhood with dozens of police cars and officers, many of them with their guns drawn.
One officer appeared injured and was taken away in a police car. Video also showed two other officers carrying a man and putting them in the back of a police car.
It’s unknown if any police officers have been shot.
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5:15 p.m.
Officials say at least one gunman is shooting at police officers in Philadelphia.
A police spokesman confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a gunman was actively shooting at officers in the Nicetown section of the city. The spokesman who was reached on the public affairs phone number offered no other information.
Sgt. Eric Gripp tweeted said there was at least one suspect firing at police officers.
Video shows a massive police presence in a neighborhood with dozens of police cars and officers, many of them with their guns drawn.
One officer appeared injured and was taken away in a police car. Video also showed two other officers carrying a man and putting them in the back of a police car.
It’s unknown if any police officers have been shot.

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ICE raids raise question: What about the employers?
By NOMAAN MERCHANT 10:24 EDT
HOUSTON (AP) — The images of children crying after their parents were arrested in a massive immigration raid in Mississippi revived a longstanding complaint: Unauthorized workers are jailed or deported, while the managers and business owners who profit from their labor often go unprosecuted.
Under President Donald Trump, the number of business owners and managers who face criminal charges for employing unauthorized workers has stayed almost the same, even as almost every other enforcement measure has surged.
Last week’s raids at seven chicken-processing plants were the largest worksite operation conducted under the Trump administration. The operation led to 680 arrests of people in the U.S. illegally, with expected criminal charges to follow for some. But no plant owners or top managers were immediately charged, following the pattern of other recent sweeps.
Lawyers and experts agree that investigating managers takes longer and is far more difficult than arresting workers. A key hurdle that predates the Trump administration is that federal law makes it a crime to “knowingly” hire workers who are in the U.S. illegally.
“The ‘knowingly’ term has proved to be a huge defense for employers,” said Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. “The employer says, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know they were unauthorized.'”
In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Matthew Albence said that anyone found to have broken the law in the Mississippi case would be held accountable, including “the employers who profit off their crimes.” Warrants unsealed after the Mississippi arrests allege that managers at two processing plants participated in fraud.
After Trump took office, then-Acting Director Thomas Homan declared that ICE would try to increase all worksite enforcement actions by 400%.
ICE succeeded almost across the board in just one government fiscal year. According to statistics the agency released in December, it quadrupled the number of investigations it opened and audits of paperwork submitted by employees to get hired. And it made 2,304 arrests in worksite cases, seven times as many as the previous year.
The major exception was for managers. ICE arrested just 72 managers in the 2018 fiscal year, compared with 71 the year before. And 49 managers were convicted of crimes, down from 55 the previous year.
Congress first created criminal penalties for employers in 1986. According to researchers at Syracuse University, prosecutions under the law banning employers from knowingly employing unauthorized workers have rarely exceeded 15 a year since then. Between April 2018 and this March, just 11 people were prosecuted in seven cases.
Employers can also be charged with other crimes. The former owner of a meat-processing plant raided in Tennessee last year was sentenced in July to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, wire fraud and employing unauthorized workers. Investigations are still ongoing following several major Trump administration raids.
Companies and business owners are also better equipped to fight charges than workers who were already earning low wages and now face detention and deportation.
Those workers are sometimes victims of labor-trafficking schemes. They can be critical witnesses to prove businesses knew about their lack of legal status, except they may fear coming forward. Some opponents of the administration blame its immigration crackdown for deterring people from contacting law enforcement.
And while both Republicans and Democrats have previously supported enforcement of workplace immigration laws as a way to protect U.S. citizen workers, many businesses are having trouble finding workers due to low unemployment nationally. They quietly rely on unauthorized labor to stay productive, making prosecutions politically unpopular, Chishti said.
Trump himself has been accused of employing unauthorized workers at his hotels, golf courses and other businesses.
“On paper, there is a lot of enforcement of law, but in reality, people are constantly abusing the law,” Chishti said.
Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued that ramping up penalties for employing unauthorized workers was counterproductive. Instead, he said, the U.S. should better enforce workplace safety standards and prevent wage theft, reducing the incentive for unscrupulous businesses to hire unauthorized workers.
“When you make immigrant workers afraid of the federal government, then you are protecting employers who exploit,” Saenz said.
A common outcome in workplace cases is a settlement where the offending company pays a fine and agrees to adopt measures like checking every new hire in the federal E-Verify program, which examines personal information submitted to an employer in government records for any potential fraud.
ICE in August 2018 raided a trailer company in Sumner, Texas. Nearly 160 people were arrested at the company, Load Trail LLC.
Load Trail had reached a settlement with ICE just four years earlier. A new criminal investigation is now ongoing, and lawyers for Load Trail say they are close to reaching another settlement. The company said it had relied on staffing companies to provide workers and confirm their legal status.
In April, another raid targeted CVE Technology Group , which repairs and refurbishes cellphones, leading to 284 arrests. That investigation is also ongoing.
Both companies say their business has fallen and they have had trouble hiring replacement workers. Rick Gump, a lawyer for CVE, said the company lost several major contracts after the raid, causing a roughly 75% decline in business.
“The likelihood is a lot of the business that was here in the U.S. has been sent overseas,” he said.

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Stones fell from Notre Dame’s ceiling after July heat wave
By ANGELA CHARLTON | 01:03 EDT
PARIS (AP) — Several stones fell from the vaulted ceiling of fire-ravaged Notre Dame after last month’s European heat wave, a French official said Wednesday, urging renewed stabilization efforts to prevent further damage to the iconic Paris cathedral.
The Culture Ministry official said the stones crumbled after temperatures reached a record 42.6 Celsius (108.7 Fahrenheit) in Paris in late July. The official said heat quickly dried out the mortar that was holding the ceiling stones in place.
The damage is “not serious” but the 12th-century cathedral remains at risk of further damage — and possible collapse, the official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.
The vaulted ceiling is particularly fragile, after the April fire destroyed the massive lead-and-wood roof that kept the cathedral’s overall structure stable. The ceiling vaults are also among the many features that make Notre Dame a treasure of world heritage and testament to medieval ingenuity.
The chief architect of France’s historic monuments warned last month about the danger from exceptional heat to the water-logged masonry.
After three months of painstaking work to clear out hazardous debris and shore up the building, regional French authorities suspended all activity inside the cathedral last month over concerns about lead contamination.
Currently only a few select security officials and experts are allowed on the site, notably to monitor activity such as the falling stones, the ministry said.
The official urged resumed work as soon as possible to secure and clean up the cathedral to prepare it for a costly, yearslong reconstruction.
But the risk of lead poisoning also remains.
Activists and residents accuse authorities of underestimating the danger after hundreds of tons of lead melted in the fire, spewing toxic dust into the Paris air.
Authorities have launched three main lead prevention operations: cleaning up neighborhood schools, de-toxifying surrounding streets, and setting up a stricter new decontamination zone for experts working inside the cathedral.
That zone is expected to be ready next week, and is aimed at ensuring that workers inside the cathedral don’t track lead-based pollution outside the work zone.

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Epstein accuser sues as questions swirl about his death
By MICHAEL R. SISAK, MICHAEL BALSAMO and JIM MUSTIAN 06:38 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — Jail guards on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates every half-hour as required, according to a person familiar with the investigation into the financier’s death.
Surveillance video shows guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday. Federal investigators are looking into whether guards were sleeping on the job.
In the days since the financier’s death, a picture has emerged of the Metropolitan Correctional Institution in New York as a chronically understaffed jail, with guards working overtime and other employees pressed into service as correctional officers.
Meanwhile, the fight over Epstein’s estate began taking shape, with a woman filing a lawsuit Wednesday claiming he raped her when she was a teenager in 2002.
Jennifer Araoz sued Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed members of his staff — the first of many lawsuits expected to be filed by Epstein’s accusers as a new state law went into effect Wednesday that opens up a one-year window for victims of long-ago sex crimes against children to take legal action.
“Today is my first step toward reclaiming my power Jeffrey Epstein and his enablers stole from me,” Araoz said. The AP names alleged victims of sexual offenses only if they consent to being identified, as Araoz has done.
The lawsuit accuses Maxwell of helping Epstein recruit teenage girls and providing “organizational support to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.”
Maxwell’s publicist and lawyers did not respond to emails seeking comment. Maxwell, the socialite daughter of the late British publishing baron Robert Maxwell, previously denied wrongdoing, saying any allegations she was involved in arranging sex for Epstein were “abhorrent and entirely untrue.”
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether any Epstein associates will face charges.
Epstein, 66, is believed to have killed himself early Saturday while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The cause of the death has not been announced, but a person familiar with operations at the lockup said Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck.
His death prompted the Justice Department to place two guards on leave and remove the jail’s warden pending the outcome of investigations by the FBI and the department’s inspector general. Falsifying log entries can be a federal crime.
In her lawsuit and in interviews, Araoz said she was a 14-year-old freshman at a performing arts high school near Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2001 when she was approached on the sidewalk by an unidentified woman in her 20s who invited her to meet the financier.
Epstein began by giving her gifts and encouragement during her visits, then started asking for massages, groping her and having her take her clothes off, she said. Araoz said she stopped seeing Epstein in 2002 after he raped her at his townhouse when she was 15.
Araoz’s lawyers said the young woman had no personal contact with Maxwell but is suing her because she had been described in other court cases as having helped Epstein recruit underage girls for sex.
The jail has long been used to house some of the world’s most notorious criminals, including mobsters, drug lords and terrorists.
A person familiar with the jail’s operations told the AP that a guard in Epstein’s unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he lacked authorization to publicly discuss jail operations.
Last month, Epstein had been put on suicide watch, with 24-hour monitoring and daily psychiatric evaluations, after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck. But he was taken off suicide watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit, for inmates requiring close supervision.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who in charge of the criminal case against Epstein, asked the jail’s warden for answers about that episode, saying in a letter Monday that it had “never been definitively explained.”
The warden replied that an internal investigation was completed but that he couldn’t provide information because the findings were being incorporated into investigations into Epstein’s death.
The series of letters, made public Wednesday, began with the warden writing Berman to inform him that Epstein had died. The judge wrote in his response that Epstein’s death “is a tragedy to everyone involved in his case.”
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Balsamo reported from Washington. Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed.

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