Protests Rage On in Kenya After President Is Re-Elected

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KISUMU, Kenya — The sun had barely risen, but protesters were already bracing for another wave of confrontations with the police in the city of Kisumu on Saturday after an election disputed by supporters of Kenya’s opposition party.

As the smell of tear gas and smoke from burning debris clung to the morning mist, residents began assessing the damage from the previous night’s protests after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a vote that many in this part of western Kenya believe was stolen, even though international observers concluded that it was fair and transparent.

In Nairobi, the capital, the opposition National Super Alliance Party claimed that the police were provoking violence and accused them of killing dozens of people nationwide, although party officials provided no evidence for their claims. Reports from news agencies put the death toll from violence overnight at 11.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent organization, said Saturday that 24 people had been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday’s vote, including 17 in Nairobi. A provincial commissioner in Kisumu, Wilson Njega, said that at least one person had been killed in the city.

Hundreds of residents of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, clashed overnight with the police, who, they said, cut off electricity to create confusion, sprayed live bullets into crowds, fired tear gas and blasted them with water cannons. The police, witnesses said, conducted house-to-house raids in parts of the city, and residents accused some officers of beating them with clubs and stealing money from them. The police in Kisumu declined to comment on the allegations.

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“If the police are coming to beat us, we are ready for war,” Calvin Otieng, a Kisumu resident, shouted, waving a plastic bottle filled with flammable liquid, his eyes bloodshot. He had not eaten for days, he said. Large groups of men talked loudly on a major road that was blocked with rocks, burning tires and overturned market stalls. Some shops had been set on fire, their corrugated walls, still smoking, collapsed in a metallic heap.

“We are angry and we want to demonstrate,” said another resident, Ken Wamungu, 30. “But the police are not protecting our right to protest.”

Around midnight on Friday, Mr. Kenyatta was declared the winner against Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old opposition leader. The announcement was made after a long and bitter contest that was roiled by allegations of vote rigging, fears of violence and the unresolved murder of a top election official just days before the vote.

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Riot police prepared to advance toward protesters amid burning barricades during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditBen Curtis/Associated Press

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Odinga roused supporters by warning that the election results would be manipulated. As ballots were being counted, he claimed that the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked — which he linked to the poll official’s death — to award Mr. Kenyatta a significant lead. Then, the opposition leader asserted that he had obtained secret information from the electoral body showing him to be the real winner.

So far, Mr. Odinga has not provided evidence supporting those allegations.

But tensions were ratcheted up when he refused to concede defeat, saying that the electoral commission had not properly addressed the opposition’s grievances before officially announcing the winner. He has urged his followers to remain calm, but he also said he did not “control the people.”

At the same time, top opposition officials have indicated that they are unwilling to resolve their concerns about election fraud in court, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do after the 2013 election. Election observers warned that such comments could be interpreted by the opposition’s supporters as a call to protest. Many did.

Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was televised, riots erupted in major cities across Kenya. They were mostly in poor areas that are generally neglected by the central government, and where residents suffer from high unemployment and rising living costs. Many cannot afford to buy ugali, a staple food, or pay school fees for their children. “We are hungry and angry,” said a Kisumu resident, Steve Odundo, 22.

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Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga ran from the police during clashes in the Kibera slum in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

So far, the death toll is lower than feared, given Kenya’s history of electoral violence.

In 2007, elections that were viewed as widely flawed touched off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. After elections in 2013, when voting systems were afflicted by widespread malfunctionsand there were again accusations of vote rigging, more than 300 people were killed. Mr. Odinga claimed that he was robbed of victory in both elections.

Many supporters of Mr. Odinga said they were angry that international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, did not appear to take the opposition’s claims seriously.

The protests have also put attention on response by the police. Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan authorities to exercise restraint.

They “should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Emergency workers tended to about 15 people who were said to have beaten by police officers during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, named after Mr. Odinga’s father, an independence hero, six people were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries.

David Okoth, 32, was shot in the neck. His brother, Martin, said the pair had been eating at home when they heard a commotion. When they stepped outside, he said, “we saw a police car coming close by, spraying bullets at us.” One of the bullets hit Mr. Okoth, he said.

Moses Oduor, 28, had traveled to Kisumu from Nairobi to vote in his ancestral home. When young men started rioting, police officials began raiding houses in parts of Kisumu, yanking people outside and beating them, he said.

Mr. Oduor said he sustained broken ribs and a broken leg during a confrontation with police officers. The police also took his wallet, money and phone, he said. “But they threw my ID card back at me,” he said.

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An injured man in the Kibera slum of Nairobi on Saturday. CreditPatrick Meinhardt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jebel Ngere, a police official overseeing operations in Nyandala, a neighborhood in Kisumu, declined to comment on witnesses’ claims, but he said that many of the protesters were using the election as a pretext to loot. One local supermarket was vandalized, he said.

Protesters, armed with rocks, slingshots and machetes, were being pushed away from major roads and central parts of the city, which the police and soldiers were trying to secure, Mr. Ngere said.

But the protesters kept returning in waves, he said, taunting the police with rocks and other projectiles, before being forced to retreat again.

About 600 uniformed members of the security forces and plainclothes officers have been deployed in Kisumu, a number far greater than after previous elections, according to officials.

On one road in Nyandala, only soldiers and police officers were visible. Some were taking a break, reading newspapers. Others drank fizzy drinks at a shop, the only one open.

Suddenly, a rock was thrown at them from inside a maze of houses. Then another. Two police officials quickly took cover near some stalls and moved along the walls.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Mr. Ngere said. “But this time around, we have made proper arrangements.”

“Everything is prepared,” he said, in a somewhat ominous tone.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Trump Supports Bill That Would Cut Legal Immigration by Half

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WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced legislation on Wednesday that would cut legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

Arguing that the United States has taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long, Mr. Trump invited two Republican senators to the White House to put his weight behind their bill that would judge applicants for legal residency on the basis of education, language ability and job abilities that would benefit the country.

“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Mr. Trump said.

“This legislation,” he added, “will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would reduce overall legal immigration by 41 percent in its first year and by 50 percent by its 10th year, according to projections cited by its authors. The reductions would come almost entirely from those brought in through family ties. The number of immigrants granted legal residency on the basis of job skills, about 140,000, would remain roughly the same, though a much higher proportion of the reduced overall number.

The proposal revives an idea that was included in broader immigration legislation supported by President George W. Bush in 2007 but that failed in Congress. Republican supporters argued that it would modernize immigration policy that had not been updated significantly in half a century, but critics in both parties contended it would harm the economy by keeping out workers who filled low-wage jobs that Americans did not want.

Under the current system, most legal immigrants are admitted to the United States based on family ties. American citizens can sponsor spouses, parents and minor children for visas that are not subject to any numerical caps, while siblings and adult children get preferences for a limited number of visas available to them. Legal permanent residents holding green cards can also sponsor spouses and children.

In 2014, 64 percent of more than one million immigrants admitted with legal residency were immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members. Just 15 percent entered on the basis of employment-based preferences, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent research organization. But that does not mean that those who came in on family ties were necessarily low skilled or uneducated.

The projections cited by the sponsors said legal immigration would decrease to 637,960 after a year and to 539,958 after a decade.

The legislation would establish a system of skills points based on education, English speaking ability, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. But while it would still allow the spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents to come in, it would eliminate preference for other relatives, like siblings and adult children. The bill would create a renewable temporary visa for elderly parents who come for caretaking purposes.

The legislation would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 a year and eliminate a diversity visa lottery that the sponsors said does not promote diversity. The senators said their bill is meant to emulate “merit-based” systems in Canada and Australia.

“Our current system does not work,” Mr. Perdue said. “It keeps America from being competitive.”

Mr. Cotton rejected the notion that the current system was a symbol of American compassion. “It’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that,” he said.

But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, criticized the measure, noting that agriculture is his state’s No. 1 industry and tourism is No. 2. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant work force,” he said.

“Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers,” he added, “will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

Nicaragua: Canal Opponents Denounce Human Rights Violations

By Vladimir Vásquez  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Members of the Farmers’ Movement who are demanding the repeal of Law 840 (the canal concession) took their complaint against the Nicaraguan State to the OAS’s Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. They went to denounce the Nicaraguan government’s repression against their movement.

The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, represented by their legal advisor Gonzalo Carrion, and the Popul Na Foundation, represented by attorney Monica Lopez, accompanied the Rural Movement in the denunciation on Thursday.

The plaintiffs are asking the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to declare that the construction of an Inter-Oceanic Canal in Nicaragua represents a violation of human rights; and as a result, that they order the State to repeal the legislation approving its development.

The farmers consider that Law 840 violates their human rights because in order to construct the megaproject it arbitrarily intervenes in their lands.  According to the government, the project would give an important boost to the country’s economy.

Nothing is known about the actual state of the Canal Project, but the rural residents assert that while the Law remains on the books, the concessionaire, Chinese magnate Wang Jinig, could leave them stripped of their properties.

“We request that the Inter-American [Human Rights] Commission consider the entire community to be victims and offended parties, and that they declare all of those who are here and those who inhabit the Canal route as people whose human rights have been violated. This would then obligate the Nicaraguan State to restore the infringed rights as part of their international responsibility, and to immediately repeal Law 840,” stated Carrion during the press conference.

Anti-canal leader Francisca “Chica” Ramirez recalled that their struggle has been going on for over four years, ever since Law 840 was approved. During that time, the farmers have suffered police repression in around ten of the ninety marches they’ve held.

The most serious police actions left their scars on the people who were fighting to protect their properties. The loss of an eye and lifelong lesions are only some of the wounds inflicted by the Nicaraguan State, according to the complaint.

“In this country, we’ve been pleading for justice for four years, [asking] to be listened to, to please repeal the Law that is violating our rights. We’ve asked them to respect the human rights of all Nicaraguans, but it’s been just the opposite: the Nicaraguan State has responded to us by sending riot police to abuse us over, to repress us. Although we have a Constitution that gives us the right to freedom of movement, the Nicaraguan State has impeded us from exercising this right in 90 marches. [They tell us] not to march, not to protest. And we’ve always remained ready for the struggle, saying that we ask for justice. But today is a day when we put our hopes in the idea that, while we haven’t achieved justice, we’ll get there,” said Ramírez.

The process of requesting a ruling from the Commission is a long one. For example, in the case of Maria Luisa Acosta, the environmental activist who filed a complaint against the Nicaraguan State for the death of her husband, Francisco Garcia, it took two years before a resolution was emitted.

In that case, the Nicaraguan State was found at fault and ordered to repair the damages caused to Acosta through economic reparations for her and the Human Rights organizations that accompanied her.

In the view of Monica Lopez, the lawyer, the erosion of trust in the Nicaraguan judicial system is what obliged them to take other measures to demand the repeal of the Law.

“The Nicaraguan legal system has failed the people, has failed the farmers’ movement. We’ve gone to every one of these bodies to initiate the established institutional processes to guarantee the rights of these communities. The response that we’ve obtained is not only to close the doors of the corresponding institutional routes, but also to unleash repression and aggression,” she stated.

The plaintiffs will continue their struggle on a national level while their request is being processed in the Commission. On August 15, in the community of La Fonseca, they’ll hold March #91 against the Inter-oceanic Canal.

Edited for mb3-org.com

ICE chief wants to slap smuggling charges on leaders of sanctuary cities

In this Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles. Advocacy groups said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are rounding up people in large numbers around the country, with roundups in Southern California being especially heavy-handed, as part of stepped-up enforcement under President Donald Trump. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

By Stephen Dinan

The country’s top immigration enforcement officer says he is looking into charging sanctuary city leaders with violating federal anti-smuggling laws because he is fed up with local officials putting their communities and his officers at risk by releasing illegal immigrants from jail.

Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also told Americans to expect more work site enforcement targeting unscrupulous employers and more 287(g) agreements with willing police and sheriff’s departments that want to help get illegal immigrants off their streets. Eventually, he said, ICE will break the deportation records of 409,849 migrants set in 2012 under President Obama.

“I think 409,000 is a stretch this year, but if [the Justice Department] keeps going in the direction they’re going in, if we continue to expand our operational footprint, I think we’re going to get there,” he told The Washington Times. “Our interior arrests will go up. They’re going to top last year’s for sure.”

Mr. Homan is the spear tip of President Trump’s effort to step up immigration enforcement — perhaps the largest swing in attitude for any agency in government from the last administration to the current one.

Agents and officers have been unshackled from the limits imposed by Mr. Obama, whose rules restricted arrests to less than 20 percent of the estimated illegal immigrant population.

Now, most illegal immigrants are eligible for deportation, though Mr. Homan said serious criminals, recent border crossers and people who are actively defying deportation orders are still the agency’s priorities.

He said the biggest impediment to expanding deportations is no longer ICE priority, but rather a huge backlog in the immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department. Migrants who in the past would have admitted their unauthorized status and accepted deportation are now fighting their cases.

“They can play the system for a long time,” he said.

That resistance extends well beyond the courtroom.

Migrants are increasingly refusing to open doors for his officers and, when they do, the encounters are turning violent, Mr. Homan said. Use-of-force instances are up about 150 percent, and assaults on ICE officers are up about 40 percent, he said.

Local officials are also pushing back, declaring themselves sanctuaries and enacting policies that block their law enforcement officers from cooperating with ICE.

The refusals range from declining to hold migrants beyond their regular release time to refusing all communication — even notifying ICE when a criminal deportable alien is about to be released into the community.

For Mr. Homan, who came up through the ranks of the Border Patrol and then ICE as a sworn law enforcement officer, that sort of resistance is enraging.

“Shame on people that want to put politics ahead of officer safety, community safety,” he said.

Sanctuaries say that cooperating with ICE frightens immigrants — both legal and illegal — and makes them less likely to report other crimes. They say that is a bigger threat to public safety than crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Solid data are tough to come by, though some police chiefs say they have been able to calculate drops in crime reporting among Hispanics since Mr. Trump took office, and they blame his get-tough approach to illegal immigration.

ICE is also facing headwinds in the courts. One judge this week halted efforts to deport Iraqi migrants who have been convicted of serious crimes and have been ordered deported, but who now say as Christians they fear for their lives if sent back to their home country.

The judge faulted the U.S. for not being able to guarantee that the deportees won’t end up in territory controlled by Islamic State terrorists, who routinely execute Christians.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week issued a ruling that law enforcement cannot hold migrants for pickup by ICE beyond their normal release times. That effectively forbids police from complying with detainer requests, which ask local authorities to hold targets for up to 48 hours.

Mr. Homan said one officer in a jail can process 10 people a day, but once someone is released, it takes a whole team of officers to track down and arrest the person in the community — where interaction is more dangerous for all sides.

That has helped fuel the spike in violent encounters that Mr. Homan highlighted in the interview.

“When we knock on doors, as any law enforcement officer will tell you, it’s risky, it’s dangerous. Compare that to arresting someone in the jail, when you know they don’t have weapons in the jail,” he said.

“It’s a matter of time before one of my officers is seriously hurt or doesn’t go home because someone made a political decision on the backs of my officers,” he said.

But he said he won’t be chased out of “sanctuaries” and pointedly raised a section of federal code — 8 U.S.C. 1324 — that outlaws attempts to “conceal, harbor or shield” illegal immigrants.

“I think these sanctuary cities need to make sure they’re on the right side of the law. They need to look at this. Because I am,” he said.

Asked whether that means he will recommend prosecutions, he said, “We’re looking at what options we have.”

The law carries a penalty of five years in prison in most cases, but penalties could rise to include life in prison or even death if someone is killed during the crime.

Mr. Homan said refusing to cooperate is counterproductive for sanctuary cities, whose goal is to protect illegal immigrants from deportation. He said if his agents have to knock on doors in the community, then thy are likely to encounter still more illegal immigrants to round up.

“If I arrest a bad guy in the jail, I arrest him. But if I go to his home or his place of employment and arrest the bad guy, and there’s five guys with him? They’re going to come too,” the chief said.

Indeed, those kinds of arrests have stirred anger among advocacy groups, which say “collateral” arrests are hurting immigrant communities.

Not all communities are resisting.

Mr. Homan said the number of police and sheriff’s departments signed up for the 287(g) program allowing them to help process illegal immigrants for deportation from their jails has already doubled under Mr. Trump and should triple by the end of the year.

He said he also has received inquiries from departments that want to restore 287(g) task forces, which would train state and local police to enforce immigration laws on the streets. Mr. Homan said he is studying that possibility.

Mr. Homan has become a target for immigrant rights groups — particularly after the ICE chief linked this weekend’s horrific deaths of 10 migrants at the hands of smugglers to sanctuary cities.

“Dishonest and disgusting,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “This country deserves an immigration debate that connects the dots between development and opportunity in home countries, safe and legal migration policies, and intelligent immigrant integration policies. What it doesn’t need are hard-liners shamelessly politicizing a tragedy.”

Mr. Homan, who led the investigation into an even worse 2003 incident in which 19 migrants died in a trailer in Victoria, Texas, said the solution is to enforce the laws and persuade people not to make the dangerous journey in the first place.

His agency has even begun arresting parents who pay smugglers to bring their children on the dangerous journey to the U.S. Mr. Homan said it was too early to talk about numbers for that operation.

But he challenged his critics to see what he sees.

“People who don’t think we should enforce immigration law — I wish they’d hang out with me for a week,” Mr. Homan said. “I wish they were with me in Phoenix, Arizona — people held hostage. A guy with duct tape all over his body, with a hole poked out in his mouth where he breathed through a straw for days, until they paid his fee. They weren’t with me on the trail in the Border Patrol where we found dead aliens abandoned by smugglers. They weren’t with me standing in the back of that traffic trailer with a 5-year-old boy who suffocated in his father’s arms.”

Edited for mb3-org.com

Here’s What That Vote on Single-Payer Health Care Really Meant

The Senate voted down a stunt proposal to create single-payer health care on Thursday in a move that revealed where the Democratic Party may be headed. As part of the legislative process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, senators from both parties were free to force their colleagues to vote on various health care measures.…

via Here’s What That Vote on Single-Payer Health Care Really Meant — TIME

Modern-Day Eugenics? Prisoners Sterilized for Shorter Sentences

A Tennessee judge says he wants to give inmates a chance “not to be burdened with children.”

By Kali Holloway / AlterNet

A Tennessee county has greenlit a modern-day eugenics program under the guise of offering prisoners a better future. Judge Sam Benningfield of White County issued an order in May that reduces jail sentences for inmates who agree to undergo birth control procedures. For male inmates, a credit of just 30 days is offered in exchange for vasectomies, which are permanent. Women who sign up for the program receive a Nexplanon implant, which is effective for up to four years. ABC 15 reports that 32 women and 38 men have enrolled in the program.

“I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children,” Judge Benningfield told local outlet NewsChannel5. “This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves.”

The program is described as “voluntary,” though it stretches the definition of that term, basically putting inmates in the position of bartering their fertility for sentencing reductions. Considering that prison sentences are often the collateral damage of life issues from poverty to addiction to crime, it seems callous to ask already vulnerable people to forego a basic human right to shave time off their sentences. The ACLU argues that pretending the program gives prisoners real options is deceptive and perhaps unconstitutional.

“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” Tennessee ACLU head Hedy Weinberg wrote in a statement. “Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it.”

There’s also the matter of the program’s resemblance to the eugenics programs that populate American history. The Equal Justice Institute notes that“sterilization programs in the United States date back to the 1920s, when many states authorized forced sterilization of thousands of ‘undesirable citizens’—people with disabilities, prisoners and racial minorities—on the theory that, as the Supreme Court put it in upholding Virginia’s forced sterilization law in 1927, ‘three generations of imbeciles are enough.’”

In recent years, groups like Project Prevention have paid drug-addicted women as little as $300 to be sterilized. (One ad advises potential enrollees, “Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit.”) NPR points to a previous Tennessee state effort that penalized pregnant women who used drugs under a “fetal assault” law. The legislation was abandoned after officials realized that women avoided prenatal care so they wouldn’t face jail time.

Judge Benningfield told NewsChannel5 that he launched the program with input from the Tennessee Department of Health, though the agency has distanced itself from the effort in news coverage.

“Neither the Tennessee Department of Health nor the White County Health Department was involved in developing any policy to offer sentence reductions to those convicted of crimes in exchange for their receiving family planning services,” Shelly Walker, the agency spokesperson, told the Washington Post. “We do not support any policy that could compel incarcerated individuals to seek any particular health services from us or from other providers.”

Judge Benningfield seems surprised by the outrage his program has been met with.

“It seemed to me almost a no-brainer,” he told NewsChannel5. “Offer these women a chance to think about what they’re doing and try to rehabilitate their life.”

Child With HIV Has Been in Remission For Nearly 9 Years Without Drugs

HIV researchers announced on Monday that a nine-year-old child from South Africa has been living with HIV in remission for almost nine years—without continuing the use of HIV drugs. Researchers say this is the third case of prolonged HIV remission after early treatment. The study adds to new but growing evidence that early treatment of…

via Child With HIV Has Been in Remission For Nearly 9 Years Without Drugs — TIME