Archive for  April 2019

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Most of the allegations center on Shiloh Residential Treatment Center, in Manvel, Texas. But lawyers in the Flores case, who have access to the medical records of their clients, say the problem is widespread.

“It’s not specific to Shiloh,” Holly Cooper, one of the lawyers representing children in the Flores agreement litigation, said of the drugging allegations. The attorneys have seen the use of psychotropic medications at all facilities where the federal government holds unaccompanied minors but noted that the only cases of forced injections they documented occurred at Shiloh.

One child, identified in court records as Julio Z., said staff at Shiloh thew him to the floor and forced him to take medication. He said he witnessed staff pry another child’s mouth open to force him to swallow a pill. When Julio Z. attempted to refuse the medication, he said the doctor ignored him.

“They told me that if I did not take the medicine I could not leave,” Julio Z. said, according to the court records. “That the only way I could get out of Shiloh was if I took the pills.”

“Sometimes they give me forced injections,” another child, identified as Rosa L., said. “One or two staff hold my arms, and the nurse gives me an injection.”

The medications often come with severe side effects. Julio Z. reported gaining 45 pounds in a matter of two months. A mother of a child identified in court records as Isabella M. said the medications were so powerful that her daughter repeatedly fell because she couldn’t walk.

Shiloh Residential Treatment Center declined to comment on the allegations, referring HuffPost to ORR. The agency did not immediately respond to calls or emails requesting comment.

ORR typically releases unaccompanied minors to a sponsor after taking charge of them ― usually a parent or relative. But at any given time in recent years, more than 200 of the children remain in federal custody either because ORR could not locate a sponsor or because the agency chooses to put the children into secured facilities or residential treatment centers.

Children might wind up in residential treatment centers because of either behavioral issues or mental health problems. Some of them suffer from severe trauma or psychiatric disorders requiring medical attention, including problems like post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychotropics may, in fact, be valid responses to those problems, the lawyers in the Flores case wrote in the memo.

But the lawyers also contend that issuing such powerful medications without parental consent violates Texas state law, the terms of the Flores agreement and “common decency.” And the conditions of detention likely exacerbate the mental health problems that migrant children suffer from, according to University of Texas Dean of Social Work, Luis Zayas, who has interviewed dozens of children at family detention centers. 

He doubted that most kids would need medication but added that it might be warranted after a thorough psychological and pediatric assessment ― and ideally in consultation with the parents. But he noted that both prisons and residential treatment centers have historically used psychotropics to control people’s behavior.

“It is truly a sad situation that our government and the agencies that they contract with to take these children have resorted to this,” Zayas told HuffPost.

Zayas identified the seven pills named in the court filings ― Clonazepam, Duloxetine, Guanfacine, Geodon, Olanzapine, Latuda and Divalproex ― as medications used to control depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia and seizures. The injected medications were not identified in court records.

Lorilei Williams, an attorney who worked with more than a dozen children locked up at Shiloh, said her clients routinely received medication without parental consent and often without the children themselves knowing why. The children she worked with often appeared subdued and suffered “immense weight gain in a very short period of time,” she said.

“I suspected they were being medicated to make them more subdued and more controlled,” Williams told HuffPost, though she noted she could not prove an ulterior motive. “It wasn’t something that was really part of my job ― to look at the medications and whether they should be on them, because as an attorney, I have no background on that.”

Instead, she focused on securing the children’s release.

But ORR’s system for letting children out of residential treatment centers or secured facilities is often opaque, according to several lawyers who’ve represented unaccompanied minors in federal custody.

Williams submitted an affidavit to the judge presiding over the Flores lawsuit, which documented one incident involving a 9-year-old Salvadoran child that Border Patrol apprehended in 2011. Two weeks later, ORR sent the child to Shiloh.

The boy suffered from PTSD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. His psychiatric problems stemmed partly from a horrifically troubled youth ― he was sexually abused in El Salvador as a young child, then abandoned by his extended family and left living on the streets for a year before he came to the United States.

Despite the fact that his parents, who lived a few hours away in Dallas, had wanted to take custody of him, ORR refused to release him without explaining why. After a year and a half detained at Shiloh, the agency suddenly released him, again without explanation.

Lawyers like Williams who want to challenge ORR’s opaque determinations have little recourse because their legal work is funded by ORR itself, which isrequired by federal law to provide legal services to the children in its custody. The agency disburses money to the Vera Institute, which in turn subcontracts with a network of roughly three dozen legal providers.

But three attorneys, including Williams, submitted affidavits to the court saying legal aid groups discouraged them from filing habeas challenges against ORR to win release for their clients. The groups allegedly feared it could jeopardize the funding they needed to represent children. “There was always this looming threat that if you did too much against ORR you would lose your funding, and you wouldn’t have access to the children at all,” Williams said.

Shiloh Residential Treatment Center has come under fire in the past for allegations of serious misconduct, including forcible medication and unwarranted use of physical restraints ― a problem that Williams said children housed there also complained of. In 2011, state regulators shut down another residential treatment center that businessman and Shiloh President Clay Dean Hill owned after a child died while restrained in a closet, according to a 2014 investigation by the Houston Chronicle.

Two other children died in centers established by Hill after they were restrained, according to a Reveal investigation. The report found that ORR-contracted shelters had serious records of wrongdoing ― including sexual and physical abuse. However, over the last four years, they continued to receive a total of $1.5 billion to house child migrants.

The Chronicle piece also described the forced injections of psychotropic drugs, echoing the allegations in the Flores lawsuit. ORR had exempted Shiloh from its normal requirement to document when they administer emergency medicine, including injections, according to the Chronicle. ORR did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request asking if the exemption remains in effect.

After the article, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) called on the state of Texas to shut down Shiloh. “At a minimum, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should terminate immediately the contract awarded to Shiloh Treatment Center to provide shelter and treatment to unaccompanied children apprehended by the Border Patrol,” .  

But the for-profit shelter has continued to function and still houses child migrants. Shiloh had 20 unaccompanied minors in its care as of May, .

Staff working on the behalf of the Office of Refugee Resettlement are routinely drugging detained child migrants with psychotropics without their parents’ consent, according to legal filings.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly insisted that the family separation policy they implemented over the last six weeks is humane. But the ongoing lawsuit over the Flores agreement, a 1997 settlement that partly governs the detention of child migrants that the White House hopes to overturn, alleges a litany of wrongdoings at the ORR-contracted facilities.

The drugging allegations are among the most disturbing. One child cited in the lawsuit reported taking up to nine pills in the morning and another seven in the evening, without knowing what the medication was.

“ORR routinely administers children psychotropic drugs without lawful authorization,” a memo filed in the lawsuit on April 16 reads. “When youth object to taking such medications, ORR compels them. ORR neither requires nor asks for a parent’s consent before medicating a child, nor does it seek lawful authority to consent in parents’ stead. Instead, ORR or facility staff sign ‘consent’ forms anointing themselves with ‘authority’ to administer psychotropic drugs to confined children.”

Trump Says White House Is No Place for Lying Lowlife from Reality Show

Photograph by Carlo Allegri / Reuters

BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (The Borowitz Report)—Blasting his former colleague Omarosa Manigault, Donald J. Trump said on Monday that “the White House is no place for a lying lowlife from a reality show.”

“People were impressed by Omarosa because they saw her on a TV show,” Trump told reporters from his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. “Well, I’ve got news for you: being on a reality show does not qualify you to work in the government.”

Explaining why he considered her a “lowlife,” Trump said, “She’s rude, abrasive, and offensive. Having someone like that in the White House is an embarrassment to our country.”

But worst of all, Trump said, was Omarosa’s lying, which he called “constant.”

“She can’t go a day without lying, and what’s more, she’s narcissistic and paranoid,” he said. “A psycho like that shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Situation Room.”

Pronouncing himself pleased that Omarosa was no longer in his Administration, Trump concluded his scorching remarks by saying, “The sooner we can rid the White House of reality-show con artists, the better off the country will be.”


How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Jim Gaffigan Edition

The actor and comedian Jim Gaffigan, who stars in the movie “You Can Choose Your Family,” tries his hand at The New Yorker’s cartoon-caption contest.

Satire from The Borowitz Report

According to his projections, Republicans are running for prison “especially well” in districts where the G.O.P. member of Congress was an early supporter of Donald J. Trump.

Letter from Trump’s Washington

The two fantasy story lines in the President’s unreality show.

Cultural Comment

In her memoir, “Unhinged,” the former Trump protégée’s product is not simply insider information but the idea that she may have outmaneuvered Trump.

Netflix is absolutely smashing it lately, with the interactive Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch and Sandra Bullock movie Bird Box and if you’re already all up to date with those and want something you can binge-watch then you might want to give You a go.

Because the new series is picking up rave reviews from viewers and is already tipped for a second season.

The show is being called the ‘creepiest ever’ by fans on social media, who also note that it’s the creepy element which keeps you watching:

You on Netflix…creepiest show I’ve seen in a long while.

– Paul Maguire (@Paulmag95)

Started watching You on Netflix last night and it’s the creepiest show I’ve watched in awhile. Pretty good so far, has a little bit of a Dexter vibe to it, but has me hooked :eyes:

– △⃒⃘ (@ItsPaoloni)

YOU on Netflix is by far the creepiest and weirdest show on there.Weirdly enough, it makes you want to keep watching til it’s over.

– Sheeta Verma (@sheetaverma)

The show “you” on Netflix is literally the best show and creepiest show all in one.

– Madxson (@madisoncramer31)

And You already has a higher rating Rotten Tomatoes than other seriously creepy show Dexter – season one of You has a whopping 89 percent whereas Dexter is rated at 77 percent. Its also got an impressive 8.1 on IMDB.

If you’ve not seen it yet, the show is about Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley) who meets aspiring writer Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) – for Joe, it’s ‘love at first sight’ and he quickly becomes obsessed with Beck, stalking her online and in real-life. He then goes to some pretty extreme measure to make sure that he gets into her life.

The show is based on the book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes – and fans will be pleased to know that the book has a sequel, Hidden Bodies, so a second season might be in order.

The first season ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving viewers with a lot of unanswered questions, so surely this can’t be the end?

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

A CNN/SSRS poll of Florida’s Senate and gubernatorial races released Sunday had some good news for Democrats that CNN says “could be an outlier” or “an indicator of renewed Democratic enthusiasm.” In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, opened up a 12-point lead among likely voters over former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), 54 percent to 42 percent. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has a smaller 5-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott (R), 50 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error.

The Democrats, especially Gillum, are being buoyed by lopsided advantages among women, younger voters, and non-white voters. The Republicans have a wide lead on the issue of the economy and the Democrats dominate on the issue of health care. Gillum and Scott are seen getting a boost from their responses to Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

As CNN political analyst Mark Preston notes in the video below, the races are likely tighter than this poll suggests — according to the RealClearPolitics average, Gillum leads DeSantis by 3.7 percentage points, thanks largely to the boost from this CNN poll, and Nelson leads Scott by 1.3 points. FiveThirtyEight rates the Gillum-DeSantis race a “likely Democratic” pickup. Several reputable polls have registered greater Democratic enthusiasm.

SRSS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 16-20 on landlines and cellphones, contacting 1,012 adults, including 872 registered voters and 759 likely voters. The margin of error for registered voters is ±3.9 percentage points and for likely voters, ±4.2 points. “The Democratic advantages in the poll were similar across multiple versions of a likely voter model, including those driven more by interest in the campaign and those which placed stronger emphasis on past voting behavior,” CNN notes.

An MMR vaccination, immunizing against measles, mumps and rubella, is seen in the Health and Prevention Centre in Lyon, France.

BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

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An MMR vaccination, immunizing against measles, mumps and rubella, is seen in the Health and Prevention Centre in Lyon, France.

There’s strong new evidence that a common childhood vaccine is safe.

A large study released Monday finds no evidence that the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella increases the risk of autism. The study of children born in Denmark is one of the largest ever of the MMR vaccine.

“The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism,” the authors write in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “We believe our results offer reassurance and provide reliable data.”

The study’s first author, epidemiologist Anders Hviid of the Staten Serum Institute in Copenhagen, added in an email: “MMR does not cause autism.”

In the study, researchers analyzed data collected from all children born in Denmark to Danish-born mothers between 1999 and 2010.

Among the 657,461 children included in the analysis, 6,517 were diagnosed with autism over the next decade. But there was no overall increased risk for the developmental disorder among those who received the MMR vaccine when compared with those who had not gotten the vaccine, the researchers found.

The researchers also found no increased risk among subgroups of children who might be unusually susceptible to autism, such as those with a brother or sister with the disorder.

The researchers noted that the study is a follow-up to a similar, large study they conducted in 2002 that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study involved 537,000 Danish children.

“The idea that vaccines cause autism is still around despite our original and other well-conducted studies,” Hviid wrote in an email. “Parents still encounter these claims on social media, by politicians, by celebrities, etc.”

“We felt that it was time to revisit the link in a larger cohort with more follow-up which also allowed for more comprehensive analyses of different claims such as the idea that MMR causes autism in susceptible children,” he added.

Other researchers agree the study provides powerful new evidence supporting the safety of the vaccine.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Saad Omer and Dr. Inci Yildirim of Emory University write that studies like this can help doctors refute unfounded claims and fears.

“Physicians should do what they do best. They should follow the emerging evidence – including that in vaccine communication science – and use it in their interactions with their patients and as public health advocates,” Omer wrote in an email.

Hviid hopes the findings will reassure parents.

“Parents should not avoid vaccinating their children for fear of autism,” Hviid wrote.

Take a look at this amazing video of 9 months in the womb within minutes!

In December 2017, rumors that a new Facebook algorithm was restricting the number of friends whose content appears in users’ newsfeeds hit the social media network:

😬I was wondering why my news feed felt so different lately… Just found out, Facebook has another new algorithm. 🙄 It seems like I only see the same small handful of my friends on my newsfeed anymore (whom I love)… so I’m doing a simple check, with your help! 🙌🏽💖

Can everybody do me a quick favor, pretty please?? 🙏🏼

If you’re seeing this, leave me a comment – just a quick “Hey” or your favorite emoji would be great. The more interaction you have with people, the more friends will show up on your feed.

Otherwise Facebook CHOOSES who you see.

The following post is circulating among my friends on Facebook. Is it true?

** 🌈Important ** Once you comment, you are welcome to turn OFF notifications for this post so you don’t see all the comments after you.

❤️Thank You!! I really appreciate it because I want to see as many of you as possible, and know what’s going on in all my friend’s lives! ✨🤸🏻‍♂️🎉

Feel free to copy and paste to your own wall so you can have more interaction as well!

Excited to see more about YOUR life again 😍

Although the content and claim were largely the same, another version of this rumor that spread a month later held that the algorithm specifically pared down the content in a user’s newsfeed to posts from either 25 or 26 friends:

My friends are littering my Facebook feed with this… true or false?:

“How to avoid hearing from the same 26 FB friends and nobody else:
Newsfeed recently shows only posts from the same few people, about 25, repeatedly the same, because Facebook has a new algorithm.

Their system chooses the people to read Your post. However, I would like to choose for myself: if you read this message leave me a quick comment, a “hi”, a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my News Feed. I MISS YOU!

Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts and bypass the system. That’s why we don’t see all posts from our friends.

Some versions even claimed, inaccurately, that we had verified the purported new Facebook algorithm exists:

The truth is that no one seems to know exactly how Facebook’s algorithms work. Slate described the manner in which the social media network determines the order of content in any feed as “surprisingly inelegant, maddeningly mercurial, and stubbornly opaque.”

The rumors followed on the heels of an 11 January 2018 Facebook blog post that addressed changes to the service related to changes in the content mixture that users could expect to see in their newsfeeds:

Today we use signals like how many people react to, comment on or share posts to determine how high they appear in News Feed.

With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to — whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.

We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values.

However, these changes were described as affecting content generated by businesses and publishers, not individual friends and family members, and the only disclosures made about those changes were that they were intended to increase (not limit) interactions with friends and family:

But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other … Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other.

We contacted Facebook to ask whether the claim of limiting personal interactions had merit, and a representative told us that the rumor held no water (which is in keeping with our own observations). As with other viral posts aiming to “trick” Facebook’s algorithm, this rumor is both misguided and ineffective.

His photo shows just how hard it is for men to change diapers in public restrooms

A discussion has been going on for some time about the need for changing tables in men’s public restrooms. And while my husband tells me it’s gotten better in recent years, there are still so many public places that only have tables in women’s rooms, making the process either very difficult (and disgusting) for fathers or left falling on the mom’s shoulders every time a diaper needs changing (assuming there’s a mom in the picture). So, when a dad posted a pic of how he has to change diapers, it had all parents nodding their heads in unified frustration.

“This is a serious post!!!” dad-of-three Donte Palmer wrote on Instagram. “What’s the deal with not having changing tables in men’s bathroom as if we don’t exist!! #FLM #fatherslivesmatter clearly we do this often because look how comfortable my son is. It’s routine to him!!!!” The photo he shared shows Palmer balancing, ninja style, against the wall while his son is stretched out on his knees, looking pretty chill about the whole process (because he’s used to it).

This is a serious post!!! What’s the deal with not having changing tables in men’s bathroom as if we don’t exist!! #FLM #fatherslivesmatter clearly we do this often because look how comfortable my son is. It’s routine to him!!!! Let’s fix this problem! I Kaepernick drop a knee to this issue! @theshaderoom let’s show the innovation of fathers!

A post shared by Donte Palmer (@3boys_1goal) on

He copied The Shade Room, a trending news website, which in turn shared Palmer’s photo, sparking discussion and shared stories of other dads’ frustration at the issue. “Let’s fix this problem! I Kaepernick drop a knee to this issue! @theshaderoom let’s show the innovation of fathers!” he wrote.

Palmer tells Scary Mommy that the photo is a typical situation he runs into when he’s out in public with his three boys, ages 12, seven, and one. “Honestly, I’ve been in enough places that didn’t have them so now I don’t even bother to look,” he said. On this occasion, they were at a Texas Roadhouse for lunch when his youngest son, Liam, need a change. So, he and his oldest son, Isaiah (who took the photo) went to the bathroom to tag-team the diaper changing process.

Oldest son training for middle school football and me… well you guessed it! I am training to change my next diaper! 🤦🏽‍♂️🤷🏾‍♂️ #5amWorkout #DedicatedSon

A post shared by Donte Palmer (@3boys_1goal) on

Palmer said that for a long time, fathers have been looked at as “being absent in our children’s lives. Taking care of children has been a job deemed necessary for women. At times society complains about the presence of fathers not being involved but in all actuality there are a ton of fathers willing to step up to the plate.”

And Palmer has a good point. Why should it be on the mom to always be responsible for changing a baby? Not only are there single fathers and gay couples who don’t have the option, as capable of taking care of their kid’s needs as a woman. Period. The fact that in most places they must do so on the ground or while squatting, balanced against a wall is ridiculous.

Kudos to Palmer for continuing to bring the topic into public conversation and reminding business owners that #fatherslivesmatter, too.