Day: July 7, 2019

Acting homeland security secretary defends border conditions

WASHINGTON — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is defending conditions at U.S. Border Patrol stations following reports of unsanitary conditions.

McAleenan says there is an “extraordinary challenging situation” at the border, but told ABC’s “This Week” that reports of inadequate food and water and unclean cells at a station in Clint, Texas, are unsubstantiated.

McAleenan said Sunday that DHS has 350 children in custody — down from June 1 when it had 2,500. He says Congress provided extra money for beds and soft-sided facilities.

A government watchdog office last week reported severe overcrowding in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, a busy corridor for illegal crossings. The report said children at three facilities had no access to showers and that some young children had been jammed in centres for more than two weeks.

The Associated Press

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Brazilians mourn death of bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilians – most of them at least – on Sunday mourned the loss of João Gilberto, one of the fathers of bossa nova music, which gained worldwide popularity in the 1960s.

Gilberto died from natural causes a day earlier at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was 88.

The front page of O Globo, one of the country’s leading dailies, read, “The last flicker of the old flame,” quoting lyrics from one of Gilberto’s songs. Fellow artist Caetano Veloso tweeted that “Gilberto was the greatest artist my soul ever encountered,”

But far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was under fire for what many called a lacklustre response to the iconic artist’s death.

Bolsonaro told reporters that Gilberto was “a known person. Condolences to the family, OK?”

Left-leaning former President Dilma Rousseff wrote in a statement on her website that Gilberto was, “an icon and symbol of a modern, loving, Brazil, full on swing and charm. He’s the face of the nation of bossa nova and samba, a symbol of the uniqueness of our people.”

With a dig at Bolsonaro, she added, “It’s a shame that this genius has left us the exact moment when Brazil is going through an institutional eclipse, dragging us all into an era of darkness shame in the eyes of the rest of the world.”

Gilberto’s lawyer, Gustavo Carvalho Miranda, told reporters that the artist died peacefully, with his wife by his side. He said Gilberto’s son, João Marcelo, will not be able to come to Brazil because he is renewing his visa in the United States and can’t leave the country. Gilberto’s daughter, Bebel, who is also a singer, was expected to arrive in Brazil on Sunday.

Gilberto’s funeral was to be held Monday afternoon at the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater.

The Associated Press

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Five things to know about Canadian immigration detention centres

TORONTO — The treatment of migrants has recently been thrust into the spotlight as accounts emerge of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in American border detention facilities. Here’s a look at how Canada deals with immigration detainees.

Immigration holding centres, sometimes jails

The Canada Border Services Agency can detain foreign nationals and permanent residents under certain conditions — including if they pose security risks or are unlikely to appear for immigration proceedings — but must first consider all reasonable alternatives. The CBSA says the physical and mental health and well-being of detainees are key considerations.

A person may be detained at a CBSA immigration holding centre in Toronto, Laval, Que., or Vancouver. In other regions, people may be held in provincial jails.

The Toronto centre can hold up to 195 detainees, while the Laval one can house up to 109. The CBSA says both provide separate accommodation for men, women and families, have outdoor recreational areas, provide daily meals, access to games, televisions and telephones, visitation areas and medical services.

The Vancouver centre is at the city’s airport and can hold up to 24 detainees for up to 48 hours. Men and women are held separately while children may be housed with their mothers. The facility has common rooms, access to games, televisions and telephones.

The CBSA says everyone in its holding centres get three meals and two snacks per day, and special dietary needs, such as food allergies or specialized diets, are catered to.

The agency says it relies on provincial correctional facilities to hold higher-risk detainees such as those with a violent criminal background, lower-risk detainees in areas that don’t have an immigration holding centre, and those detained for more than 48 hours in the Vancouver area. It says it tries to minimize interaction between immigration and criminal detainees.

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Thousands held

The CBSA says there were 6,609 people detained in holding centres in 2017-18, up from 4,248 a year earlier. There were 1,831 detainees held in jails last year, compared to 971 in 2016-17.

Stephanie Silverman, who is with migrant advocacy group Thinking Forward Network, says detainees have their cases reviewed at certain intervals — the first within 48 hours of detention, again after seven days, and then every 30 days until their detention is resolved.

“It can only really be resolved through release into the community, usually on conditions, or through deportation,” says Silverman, noting there’s no limit on how long a person can be held.

“It could be 48 hours before you get out, it could be three months, or it could be five years.”

In 2017-18, the CBSA reported 3.8 per cent of detainees were held for more than 99 days, while 47.2 per cent were held for 24 hours or less. The rest were held somewhere between 25-48 hours and 40-99 days.

The CBSA estimates it costs approximately $320 per day to detain someone.

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Limited amenities

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, says those in immigration holding centres are afforded an adequate amount of food and water but have limited amenities.

“They’re not allowed to have internet access which makes it very difficult for them to communicate with family members or others that may be able to help them get the documents that they need,” she says, adding that detainees also have restricted access to phone calls.

The CBSA says it provides on-site access to NGOs and legal counsel at holding centres where possible, and notes that a detainee can ask to speak to a CBSA officer at any time, or ask to see legal counsel or an NGO rep.

The agency also says it has on-site medical, nursing, psychological and psychiatric care within CBSA-run facilities. Those with special needs are dealt with on a case-by-case, it says.

Detainees held in jails are subject to the same rules as inmates. If a jail goes into lockdown, detainees have to deal with the situation and it can be difficult for family and others to visit them, Dench says.

“We’re talking about people here who have not been accused of any crime, and yet they are treated according to rules that are invented and problematic in themselves for people who are accused or convicted of a crime,” she says. “(It’s) completely unfair.”

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Parents decide if families stay together

Canadian law states that the best interests of the child must be observed in immigration holding centres. The CBSA says children are detained only as a last resort.

In 2017-18, the CBSA says there were 151 minors detained. Of those, 144 were accompanied by their parent or guardian, and seven were unaccompanied.

In theory, parents largely decide whether or not their child remains with them in detention, but Hanna Gros, an immigration and refugee lawyer, says the situation can be a “catch-22.”

“This is really a false choice,” she said. “When you’re new to a country, you don’t necessarily know anybody here, you don’t have family friends, contacts or community support. You have people here who are left with really horrifying choices to make in these situations.”

If a child has Canadian citizenship and their parents are considered non-citizens when detained, the children themselves are not considered detainees if their parents keep their kids with them, Gros says.

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Leaving can be hard

For a migrant to be deported to another country, both countries have to agree to the person leaving one state and coming to another, says Silverman.

“Deportation is a two-way agreement between states, and not so much contingent on the individual,” she says. “There has to be an admission or an entrance of some sort into a another state.” 

If neither the state nor the person leaving the country can verify the detainee’s identity, the person has to prove it from inside a detention centre, which can be hard, Silverman says.

For immigrants with a criminal record, the process can be even more difficult.

Certain states don’t issue travel documents for nationals who have been convicted of crimes in another country, which could also lengthen the detention process, Silverman says.

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Emerald Bensadoun, The Canadian Press

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Wife of arrested Chinese ex-Interpol president sues agency

PARIS — The wife of former Interpol President Meng Hongwei is suing the international police agency, accusing Interpol of failing to protect him from arrest in China and failing to protect his family.

Meng’s wife Grace Meng said her lawyers filed a legal complaint in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. She says Interpol “breached its obligations owed to my family” and “is complicit in the internationally wrongful acts of its member country, China.”

Interpol said Sunday it strongly disputes the allegations.

The court did not comment.

Meng Hongwei was arrested in September amid a campaign against corruption and political disloyalty led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. A Chinese court said he confessed to accepting more than $2 million in bribes. His wife calls the case politically driven.

The Associated Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Months of aftershocks could follow big California earthquake

RIDGECREST, Calif. (AP) — Officials in Southern California expressed relief Saturday that damage and injuries weren’t worse after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years, while voicing concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy’s largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centred 11 miles (18 kilometres) from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier. It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first.”

Newsom estimated more than $100 million in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

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AP Sources: Jeffrey Epstein arrested in NY on sex charges

NEW YORK (AP) — Wealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested Saturday in New York on sex-trafficking charges involving allegations that date to the 2000s, according to law enforcement officials.

Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain’s Prince Andrew, and President Donald Trump, was taken into federal custody, according to two officials.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pending case.

Epstein is expected to appear Monday in Manhattan federal court. A message was sent to his attorney seeking comment.

Epstein’s arrest was first reported by The Daily Beast.

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21 hurt in shopping plaza blast: Gas lines found ruptured

PLANTATION, Fla. (AP) — A vacant pizza restaurant exploded Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza, injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast flung debris widely along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses and cars were damaged. Though firefighters found ruptured gas lines afterward, authorities said it was too early to determine a cause.

“We thought it was thunder at first, and then we felt the building shake and things started falling. I looked outside and it was almost like the world was ending,” said Alex Carver, a worker at a deli across the street from the explosion. “It was nuts, man. It was crazy.”

The explosion hurled large pieces of concrete up to 50 yards (45 metres) away and sent pieces of metal scattering as far as 100 yards (90 metres) across the street. Carver said two of his co-workers’ cars were destroyed.

At least 21 people were injured though none of the injuries was life-threatening, Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan said.

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Biden says he was wrong in comments about segregationists

SUMTER, S.C. (AP) — Former Vice-President Joe Biden on Saturday apologized for recent comments about working with segregationist senators in his early days in the U.S. Senate, saying he understands now his remarks could have been offensive to some.

“Was I wrong a few weeks ago?” Biden asked a mostly black audience of several hundred in Sumter during the first day of a weekend visit to South Carolina. “Yes, I was. I regret it, and I’m sorry for any of the pain of misconception that caused anybody.”

Biden’s comments came as he and rival presidential candidate Kamala Harris were set to circle each other while campaigning Sunday in South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote in next year’s primary and a crucial proving ground for candidates seeking support of black Democrats. Biden defended his record on racial issues and reminded voters of his ties to former President Barack Obama, whose popularity in South Carolina remains high.

The former vice-president and the California senator probably will be pressed on their tense debate exchange over race and federally mandated school busing. Though the issue is not at the forefront of the 2020 primary, it could resonate in a state with a complicated history with race and segregation.

Without naming Harris, Biden on Saturday referenced what he characterized as expected attacks from other campaigns eager to take him on.

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Seized North Korean ship sought for American student’s death

NEW YORK (AP) — The parents of Otto Warmbier have filed a claim for a seized North Korean cargo ship in a bid to collect a multimillion-dollar judgment in the American college student’s death.

Attorneys for the Warmbiers said in a court filing Wednesday they have a right to the assets after North Korea failed to respond to their wrongful death claim.

The Warmbiers say their son was tortured after being convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster and imprisoned for months.

He died days after being returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in 2017. A U.S. judge has ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in the Warmbiers’ wrongful death suit.

North Korea has denied mistreating Warmbier.

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Iran poised to raise its uranium enrichment amid tensions

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran appears poised to raise its enrichment of uranium and break another limit from its faltering 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Sunday marks the end of a deadline set by President Hassan Rouhani for Europe to find a way for Iran to get around American sanctions.

State TV reports officials are scheduled to hold a news conference Sunday to discuss their plans.

This comes a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal.

America since has imposed sanctions blocking Iranian crude oil from being sold on the world market. The U.S. also sanctioned top officials in the Islamic Republic, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Man arrested in Oregon in death of original Mouseketeer

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Authorities in Oregon have arrested a man in the death of an original member of Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Daniel James Burda, 36, was taken into custody Friday on suspicion of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, abuse of a corpse, criminal mistreatment and identity theft in the death of Dennis Day, Oregon State Police said.

Burda was being held in Jackson County Jail, where records show he had been booked on June 26 for violating probation on a previous robbery charge.

It was unclear if he has an attorney.

Oregon State Police Captain Timothy R. Fox said Burda did jobs around the house for Day and his husband. Police declined to provide more details about Burda’s connection to Day, though neighbours say Burda had lived with the elderly couple at their home in southern Oregon.

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Mystery of NSA leak lingers as stolen document case winds up

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents descended on the suburban Maryland house with the flash and bang of a stun grenade, blocked off the street and spent hours questioning the homeowner about a theft of government documents that prosecutors would later describe as “breathtaking” in its scale.

The suspect, Harold Martin, was a contractor for the National Security Agency. His arrest followed news of a devastating disclosure of government hacking tools by a mysterious internet group calling itself the Shadow Brokers . It seemed to some that the United States might have found another Edward Snowden, who also had been a contractor for the agency.

“You’re a bad man. There’s no way around that,” one law enforcement official conducting the raid told Martin, court papers say. “You’re a bad man.”

Later this month, about three years after that raid, the case against Martin is scheduled to be resolved in Baltimore’s federal court. But the identity of the Shadow Brokers, and whoever was responsible for a leak with extraordinary national security implications, will remain a public mystery even as the case concludes.

Authorities have established that Martin walked off with thousands of pages of secret documents over a two-decade career in national security, most recently with the NSA, whose headquarters is about 15 miles from his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wilful retention of national defence information and faces a nine-year prison sentence under a plea deal.

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Nominee to lead FAA faces questions about tenure at Delta

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into whether Delta Air Lines violated FAA rules about promoting safety at a time when President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the agency was in charge of Delta’s flight operations.

The FAA investigation grew out of allegations by a Delta pilot that the airline retaliated against her for raising safety concerns. The Associated Press obtained a copy of an FAA letter sent to the pilot’s attorney detailing the investigation. The FAA declined to comment on the probe.

Trump’s nominee, Stephen Dickson, is under growing criticism from Senate Democrats over his initial failure to disclose his involvement in the case of the whistle-blowing pilot, who was grounded a few weeks after she raised safety issues to Dickson and other Delta executives.

Dickson authorized grounding the pilot for a psychiatric evaluation. Outside doctors later cleared her, and she has since returned to flying at Delta.

Dickson testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in May, and the committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday. The FAA has been without a permanent administrator since January 2018.

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Thousands of motorcyclists ride in honour of 7 bikers killed

LACONIA, N.H. (AP) — Thousands of motorcyclists, waved on by bystanders with American flags, rode through New Hampshire on Saturday to the site where seven bikers were killed in a collision with a truck last month.

More than 3,000 bikers, some from as far away as California and Florida, participated in the 90-mile (145-kilometre) tribute trip from Laconia to the sombre crash site in Randolph, where a memorial of flags and a colour guard stood. A memorial service was held in a field just beyond the crash site.

“This is what happens when good people die,” said Manny Ribeiro, president of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, to which the victims of the crash belonged. He didn’t attend the ride, saying it was “too soon” for him to be at the crash site but said the event and turnout was “just amazing.”

The Jarheads is a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses. On Saturday, the crowd of bikers said a prayer and sang the Marines’ Hymn before heading out from Laconia, according to organizers.

The seven bikers were killed last month when a pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer crashed into the group. The pickup driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and remains behind bars.

The Associated Press

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