New Trump asylum rule into effect
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A new level of despair spread among tens of thousands of migrants waiting on the Mexican border to seek refuge in the U.S. as the Trump administration began enforcing radical new restrictions Thursday on who qualifies for asylum.
“The United States is the only option,” Dunea Romero, a 31-year-old Honduran, lamented with tears in her eyes at a border crossing in Tijuana. She said she packed a bag and fled her homeland with her two boys, ages 7 and 11, after learning that her ex-husband, a powerful gang leader, was going to have her killed.
The new U.S. policy would effectively deny asylum to nearly all migrants arriving at the southern border who aren’t from Mexico. It would disallow anyone who passes through another country without first seeking and failing to obtain asylum there.
The rule will fall most heavily on Central Americans, mainly Hondurans and Guatemalans, because they account for most people arrested or stopped at the border.
But it also represents an enormous setback for other asylum seekers around the world, including large numbers of Africans, Haitians and Cubans who try to enter the United States by way of the Mexican border.
Opioid talks show challenge
For months, the judge overseeing national litigation over the opioids crisis urged all sides to reach a settlement that could end thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments.
But the chaotic developments this week in the case against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma underscore how difficult that goal is. By Thursday, half of the nation’s state attorneys general said they would reject a tentative deal crafted by the other half, and many criticized the terms as grossly insufficient.
Purdue and the Sackler family that owns it “will never be able to undo all the damage they have done,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said in a statement, “but at the very least, they must face real, significant, personal accountability for their lies and for the pain and heartbreak they have caused.”
Herring and other attorneys general opposed to the terms say the amount of money involved will be far less than the $10 billion to $12 billion promised by Purdue and the Sacklers. They want the family to pay more from their vast fortune, much of which has been shifted overseas , and say the current settlement terms allow the relatives to walk away without acknowledging their role in a crisis that has killed 400,000 Americans over the past two decades.
“This epidemic has affected everybody in our state,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, another Democrat, said Thursday in a statement. “Irrespective of Purdue’s actions or evasions, we will continue to pursue justice on behalf of those harmed by the Sacklers’ greed, callousness and fraud.”
What bankruptcy means for Sacklers
Purdue Pharma could be heading for bankruptcy but the extent to which it would affect the Sackler family fortunes remains unclear.
The company, which makes OxyContin and other drugs, this week reached a tentative agreement with thousands of local governments and more than 20 states over its role in the opioid crisis that has contributed to the death of thousands of Americans.
As part of that deal, the company would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Sacklers would lose control of the business and the family could pay up to $4.5 billion. But some states are refusing to sign on, saying it doesn’t do enough to hold the Sacklers and their company accountable.
NTSB: Entire crew was asleep
LOS ANGELES — All six crewmembers were asleep aboard a scuba diving boat off the Southern California coast when a fire broke out in the middle of the night, killing 34 people who were trapped in a bunkroom below the main deck, federal investigators announced Thursday.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report that said five crew members were sleeping in their quarters behind the wheelhouse on the second deck and another below deck when the fire broke out. All but one survived the inferno.
The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.
Boats like the Conception, which caught fire around 3 a.m. on Sept. 2 and sank, are required to have a crewmember keep watch at night. Federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly fire off the coast of Santa Barbara and could bring charges under a statute known as seaman’s manslaughter.
The law predates the Civil War and was enacted to punish negligent captains, engineers and pilots for deadly steamboat accidents that killed thousands.
Native women: Rapes ignored
NOME, Alaska — There’s not much that scares Susie. As an Alaska Native woman, she thrives amid sub-zero winters in her village near the Arctic Circle, and camps with her family each summer at the Bering Sea, catching, drying and smoking salmon to put away for winter.
But Susie is afraid to return to Nome. The man who raped her, she says, is still there.
“Just scares me, and I’m scared to see him, and thinking what he might do,” she says. “But I’m not scared in the village, or any other villages, because I know he won’t come.
“But Nome is like ... I don’t really like to overnight in Nome.”
He is a free man — no charges were filed against him. Susie reported to Nome police that she had been assaulted and went with the investigating officer to the hospital, where a forensic nurse was prepared to perform a sexual assault exam.
Trump visiting city of Baltimore
BALTIMORE — President Donald Trump on Thursday is making his first visit to Baltimore since describing it nearly two months ago as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
Trump won’t be inspecting conditions in the city, though. Instead, he’ll be speaking to congressional Republicans attending an annual retreat in a hotel on the city’s waterfront. Protesters have gathered nearby. But inside, the president will find a friendly audience of legislators whose political futures are closely tied to how well he performs in next year’s election.
Police blocked off a wide perimeter around the hotel. But a few blocks away, demonstrators inflated a giant rat carrying a cell phone and adorned with yellow hair and a red tie to make clear their mocking intentions. Protesters waved signs with messages like “Trump and the GOP are the real rats,” and “Welcome rat king.”
The White House said the president has no plans to explore Baltimore beyond his speech, which was to focus on his accomplishments during his first two-plus years in office and priorities for the year ahead.
Trump in July laced into the city in a series of tweets critical of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents the majority-black 7th Congressional District in Baltimore and also chairs the House oversight panel conducting numerous investigations of the administration’s policies and work.
Bahamas tackles massive cleanup
HIGH ROCK, Bahamas — Pastor Jeremiah Saunders stood in the golden afternoon sun and barely blinked as he debated what to pick out from the ruins of the church he built 22 years ago in the seaside village of High Rock on the eastern end of Grand Bahama island.
A black-and-blue necktie floated in a pool of water. Nearby, a ruptured set of drums lay toppled on its side. Bone-white sea shells were nestled in tufts of grass, flung there by the surging floodwaters that had carried Saunders for 200 yards until he managed to grab hold of a large pine tree branch, where he spent two days after Hurricane Dorian crashed ashore.
“I spoke to the water: ‘Peace, be still.’ It never listened,” he said with a wide smile. But then he grew serious as he focused on the daunting cleanup facing the tens of thousands who live on Grand Bahama and Abaco, the two northern islands that were devastated by the Category 5 storm.
It will be a slow process that some are tackling in very small steps. Saunders picked out two hammers, five screwdrivers and three treasured Bibles.
In contrast, 67-year-old Mary Glinton in the nearby fishing village of McLean’s Town wasted no time getting rid of all her ruined possessions. She created three piles of clothes stiffened by mud and set them on fire. A once-white lace curtain, a muddied pink wind-breaker and a pair of black pants all went into the flames. She most lamented that all her church clothes were ruined.
Universe might be 2B years younger
WASHINGTON — The universe is looking younger every day, it seems.
New calculations suggest the universe could be a couple billion years younger than scientists now estimate, and even younger than suggested by two other calculations published this year that trimmed hundreds of millions of years from the age of the cosmos.
The huge swings in scientists’ estimates — even this new calculation could be off by billions of years — reflect different approaches to the tricky problem of figuring the universe’s real age.
“We have large uncertainty for how the stars are moving in the galaxy,” said Inh Jee, of the Max Plank Institute in Germany, lead author of the study in Thursday’s journal Science .
Scientists estimate the age of the universe by using the movement of stars to measure how fast it is expanding. If the universe is expanding faster, that means it got to its current size more quickly, and therefore must be relatively younger.