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this is awful
August 16, 2019

A bad situation just keeps getting worse.

Several families of migrant children are filing lawsuits claiming the U.S. government failed to protect their children from sexual, physical and emotional abuse in federally funded foster homes.

Some migrant children who were separated from their families at the border were placed in foster care while officials determined how to proceed with asylum claims or placed the adults in detention centers that were sometimes far away from the foster homes. At least 38 lawsuits say that children were harmed while in government custody, reports The Associated Press.

The Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy led to thousands of family separations at the border, and several nonprofit groups and U.S. law firms are working with migrants who want to sue the government over alleged wrongdoing that resulted. The Office of Refugee Resettlement opted to place some children in foster programs, but new allegations raise questions about how well some foster care facilities are vetted, says AP. "How is it possible that my son was suffering these things?" said the father of one boy who says he was repeatedly sexually molested in a foster home after being separated at the border at age 7.

The government hasn't settled any of these claims, and the Department of Justice didn't comment on AP's story outlining the allegations. "We may never know the extent to which children suffered particular abuses in foster homes," said Michelle Lapointe, a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Parents of migrant children who were in government custody describe lasting emotional trauma and say their children remain fearful when recalling their time in foster care. "It's the tip of the iceberg," said Erik Walsh, an attorney at Arnold & Porter, which has represented some families in suing the government.

A Health and Human Services spokesman said "We treat the children in our care with dignity and respect." Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

June 24, 2019

Four people have been found dead along the Rio Grande Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said Sunday.

Two of the people found were infants, one was a toddler, and one was a 20-year-old woman, Guera continued in a Sunday tweet. They all appear to be undocumented immigrants, an FBI official told NPR.

Right now, it looks as if the four people died of dehydration and heat overexposure, and foul play is not currently suspected, the FBI said. Still, the agency will be continuing an investigation into the deaths, with a spokesperson calling it "an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often." The bodies were found close to where a section of President Trump's proposed border wall is being built, seeing as the Rio Grande is the most heavily trafficked area of the border, Customs and Border Protection told The Associated Press.

The news comes as reports reveal that migrant children are living in unsanitary, overcrowded detention facilities along the border. A recent lawsuit alleged that more than 300 children in a Clint, Texas facility — some as young as 2 1/2 years old — were living in conditions that "could be compared to torture facilities," a local physician who visited the facility said in a report. All but 30 of those children have since been taken out of the facility, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told The Associated Press on Monday. The children were reportedly moved to a tent detention center, a Homeland Security official told NBC News. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 22, 2018

You probably haven't heard about one of the worst American oil spills ever. That's because the company responsible has reportedly kept the ongoing spill secret for years, and has no apparent plans to stop it.

After a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan sunk one of Taylor Energy's oil platforms in 2004, anywhere from 300 to 700 barrels of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico every day, The Washington Post reported Sunday. Millions of gallons and 14 years later, and the leak looks like it'll surpass BP's Deepwater Horizon spill to become the largest in American history.

This ongoing spill likely would have flown under the radar if it weren't for Deepwater Horizon — the 2010 environmental disaster that happened just a few miles from this one. Taylor Energy reportedly hid the spill for six years until a watchdog group investigating BP's spill found it. And even after a Justice Department analysis revealed the spill was bigger than initial Coast Guard estimates, Taylor Energy has maintained that there is "no evidence to prove any of the wells are leaking," the Post writes.

Taylor Energy's leak makes up just a slice of the 330,000 gallons that gush into Louisiana's waters every year, according to the state's oil spill coordinator's office. Yet even as Gulf leaks continue, the Trump administration has approved further offshore drilling with little federal regulation, the Post says. Many of the proposed rigs are in the Atlantic, where hurricanes are far more frequent, especially as climate change warms ocean waters.

Taylor Energy has declined to comment on the apparent spill, which you can read about more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 30, 2018

The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday grew by Sunday to 832 people, with hundreds of additional injuries. Rescuers have struggled to reach remote areas as communication services remain down.

Dozens of people are thought to still be trapped inside two hotels and a mall that collapsed in the city of Palu. "We are trying our best," said rescue chief Muhammad Syaugi. "Time is so important here to save people. Heavy equipment is on the way."

While initial reports estimated the tsunami at 10 feet tall, updated estimates say waves were up to twice that large. The death toll is expected to continue to rise. Bonnie Kristian

June 20, 2018

Some migrant children separated from their parents at the border are barely children at all. They're babies.

Infants as young as 3 months old have ended up in Michigan after their parents are detained far away, the Detroit Free Press reports. They arrive on planes in the middle of the night, often with no idea where they're headed, and are placed in foster homes, says a foster care supervisor.

That's a far cry from the account of a Homeland Security official, who told BuzzFeed News on Friday that "we do not separate babies from adults." Yet the next day, an 8-month-old and an 11-year-old arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after weeks away from their parents, per the Free Press. They're among 50 immigrant children — average age: 8 years old — who have landed in Michigan instead of "tender age" detention facilities near the border.

Michigan foster parents are used to taking in unaccompanied migrant children. But the migrants are usually old enough to cross the border alone and know how to find their families already here, New York Times immigration reporter Miriam Jordan said on The Daily podcast Wednesday.

Children arriving in Michigan today are only getting younger, the foster care supervisor told the Free Press. They now come to the U.S. with family, but are torn away when their parents are detained, and they may go a month without even reaching their parents on the phone. Read more at the Detroit Free Press. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 18, 2018

A Cuban commercial plane carrying 110 people crashed shortly after taking off Friday, killing nearly everyone aboard, Cuban state media reports. The jet, a Boeing 737 being operated by Cuba's Cubana de Aviación airline, reportedly crashed a few minutes after noon local time, Cuban newspaper Granma reported.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said only three people survived, and they were seriously injured. Four people were initially transported to the hospital, Reuters reported, but one later died. The plane's passengers included five children, alongside nine crew members; all were reportedly foreigners, though their nationalities have not been released.

Video from the scene shows thick black smoke rising in the air, while "the crushed fuselage of the plane, seemingly ripped in pieces, lay in thick vegetation as firefighters doused it with hoses," The New York Times reports. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Kimberly Alters

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

May 18, 2018

A gunman opened fire Friday morning at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, killing at least 10 people and injuring 10 more, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The fatalities include students and adult staff of Santa Fe High School, roughly 30 miles outside of Houston.

The suspected shooter, identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been arrested. Abbott said that Pagourtzis was armed with a shotgun as well as a .38-caliber revolver, both of which are believed to legally belong to his father. A second 18-year-old suspect, thought to be a possible accomplice, has been detained for questioning, and there is another potential person of interest.

The attack occurred just before 8 a.m. local time, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. A student named Paige Curry told a local TV station that she "heard really loud booms" but didn't realize what was happening until she heard students screaming. "It's been happening everywhere," Curry said, per NPR. "I always felt like eventually it would happen here."

The Santa Fe Independent School District said that "possible explosive devices" had been found at and near the school; authorities are sweeping the area to disarm them. Abbott said that "various types of explosive devices" had been found, both in "a home and in a vehicle." CNN reported that the explosives included pipe bombs and pressure cookers.

A motive has not been identified, though Abbott said that the suspect had expressed a desire to commit the shooting, as well as commit suicide, in journals.

President Trump said in remarks Friday that "everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe," while Abbott implored every parent to "hold your child close tonight." "We have two goals going forward," Abbott said: to investigate and prosecute the crime in full, and to "do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It's time, in Texas, that we take action." Kimberly Alters

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

March 12, 2018

Police in Austin, Texas, are investigating three package explosions this month that they believe to be related. Officials said they have identified "similarities" between the incidents, two of which were fatal.

A Monday morning explosion that killed a teenage boy and caused a woman life-threatening injuries was followed just hours later by a second blast, which left a 75-year-old woman in critical condition. On March 2, a man was killed when he picked up a package that exploded.

In a press conference, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Monday that investigators are treating all three incidents as connected, retroactively upgrading the first incident to be a homicide rather than a suspicious death. The death of the 17-year-old is also being treated as a murder. All of the explosions occurred when residents found packages outside their homes, which Manley says were not delivered by the postal service or companies like UPS or FedEx.

"The evidence makes us believe these incidents are related," he said.

While investigators have not yet determined a motive, officials are looking into the possibility that the blasts were hate crimes, Manley explained. CBS News reports that the victims in the first two incidents were African-American, while the victim in the latest explosion was Hispanic. Summer Meza

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