Border Crossings: Ron Bultongez

Singer-songwriter Ron Bultongez is living the American Dream from growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo to being named the “Hometown Hero” of Plano, TX to becoming a Top 24 Finalist on American Idol 2018, where he left Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan in awe of his voice. Ron’s dreams have taken him far. His journey, depth, and spirit are evident in his smooth yet raspy vocals and his bluesy, soulful songwriting.

Puerto Rico Governor Chooses Possible Successor

Puerto Rico’s governor says he’s chosen former Congress representative Pedro Pierluisi as the U.S. territory’s secretary of state. That post would put Pierluisi in line to be governor when Rossello steps down this week – but he’s unlikely to be approved by legislators.

Ricardo Rossello made the announcement Wednesday via Twitter and said he would hold a special session on Thursday so legislators can vote on his nomination.

 
Rossello has said he’ll resign on Friday following massive protests in which Puerto Ricans demanded he step down.
 
Top legislators have already said they will reject Pierluisi’s nomination because he works for a law firm that represents the federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances and say that’s a conflict of interest.
 
Pierluisi represented Puerto Rico in Congress from 2009-2017.

 

Roadside Bomb Blast Kills Dozens in Afghanistan

Security officials in western Afghanistan say at least 34 people were killed and around 17 others injured after a passenger bus was hit by a roadside bomb on a highway between the cities of Herat and Kandahar.

A provincial official says the bomb tore through the bus, which was carrying mostly women and children. The injured were taken to Herat Regional Hospital for treatment.
 
No group has claimed responsibility. Taliban insurgents, however, operate in the region and frequently use roadside bombs to target government officials and security forces, even as peace talks involving U.S. officials and Taliban representatives are scheduled to resume.   

The two sides hope to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.  

The deadly violence Wednesday came a day after the United Nations reported that nearly 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019.

The U.N. Afghan mission noted in its report released Tuesday that more civilians were killed by government and NATO-led troops than by the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the first half of 2019.

 

Близько третини будинків Києва вже сортують і розділяють сміття – влада

Київ запроваджує роздільний збір сміття: у місті встановили 2,5 тисячі контейнерів для пластику, паперу і скла, повідомив заступник голови Київської міської держадміністрації Петро Пантелеєв. За його словами, близько 500 старих і непрацюючих контейнерів замінили «на нові й сучасні».

«Тобто близько третини будинків Києва вже сортують і розділяють сміття. І ми розширюватимемо цю мережу. Переконаний – кияни підтримають нас і сумлінно кидатимуть пластик до пластику, скло до скла, папір до паперу», – сказав Пантелеєв.

Він наголосив, що завдяки роздільному збору місто зможе реально зменшити кількість сміття, яке їде на захоронення на полігони. Європа фактично відмовилась від цього небезпечного методу утилізації, що негативно впливає на довкілля, додав чиновник.

За словами Пантелеєва, усі перевізники, які сьогодні працюють із міською владою, підтримали ідею впровадження роздільного збору.

Чиновник додав, що встановлені контейнери допоможуть щомісяця відправляти на переробку до трьох тисяч кубометрів пластику, скла й паперу.

 

Чорне море удвічі більш забруднене, ніж Середземне – ЄС

У Чорному морі міститься майже вдвічі більше сміття, ніж у Середземному, йдеться в повідомленні делегації Європейського союзу в Україні, оприлюдненому 30 липня.

На основі досліджень, проведених із 2017 року в прибережних водах Грузії, України, Росії й у відкритому морі, ЄС заявляє, що 83 відсотки морського сміття складає пластик: «а саме пляшки, обгортки від цукерок і пакети».

Великі річки України несуть до моря від шести до 50 одиниць сміття на годину.

Таким чином, у Чорному морі є 90,5 предметів сміття на квадратний кілометр. Для порівняння, у Середземному морі їх 50.

Крім того, у дослідженнях Чорного моря зазначено, що «концентрація деяких забруднюючих речовин перевищує порогове значення».

Деякі виявлені хімічні речовини небезпечні для морського життя і життя людини.

Серед них – бензо(а)пірен, «кілька пестицидів, інсектицидів, а також ртуть і антипірени в рибі», йдеться в повідомленні.

Чисельність популяції всіх видів дельфінів, які живуть у Чорному морі, є «відносно низькою», зазначають в ЄС. Найбільші групи дельфінів виявлені поблизу дельти Дунаю і біля острова Зміїний.

Зростає також кількість інвазивних видів, які можуть нашкодити морській екосистемі.

З позитивного ЄС відзначає поліпшення стану найбільшої в світі колонії червоних водоростей – філофорного поля Зернова – з «поганого» до «задовільний».

Крім того, під час досліджень у багатьох пробах по всьому Чорному морю виявили ознаки присутності європейського осетра, який вважався майже зниклим.

«Отримані результати досліджень повинні сприяти» покращенню «статусу Чорного моря …, а також глобальному розумінню поточних ризиків і загроз морській екосистемі», – заявив керівник проєкту ЄС Ярослав Слободник.

Проєкт ЄС із моніторингу Чорного моря триватиме до 2020 року і має бюджет в 1,6 мільйона євро.

Boston Gang Database Made Up Mostly of Young Black, Latino Men

Boston police are tracking nearly 5,000 people — almost all of them young black and Latino men — through a secretive gang database, newly released data from the department shows.

A summary provided by the department shows that 66% of those in its database are black, 24% are Latino and 2% are white. Black people comprise about 25% of all Boston residents, Latinos about 20% and white people more than 50%.

The racial disparity is “stark and troublesome,” said Adriana Lafaille, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which, along with other civil rights groups, sued the department in state court in November to shed light into who is listed on the database and how the information is used.

Central American youths are being wrongly listed as active gang members “based on nothing more than the clothing they are seen in and the classmates they are seen with,” and that’s led some to be deported, the organizations say in their lawsuit, citing the cases of three Central American youths facing deportation based largely on their status on the gang database.

”This has consequences,” Lafaille said. “People are being deported back to the countries that they fled, in many cases, to escape gangs.”

Boston police haven’t provided comment after multiple requests, but Commissioner William Gross has previously defended the database as a tool in combating MS-13 and other gangs.

One 24-year-old native of El Salvador nearly deported last year over his alleged gang involvement said he was a victim of harassment and bullying by Bloods members as a youth and was never an MS-13 member, as police claim.

The man spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he fears retribution from gang members.

He said he never knew he’d made the list while in high school until he was picked up years later in a 2017 immigration sweep.

The gang database listed him as a “verified” member of MS-13 because he was seen associating with known MS-13 members, had feuded with members of the rival Bloods street gang, and was even charged with assault and battery following a fight at school, according to records provided by his lawyer, Alex Mooradian.

Mooradian said he noted in immigration court that the man, who was granted special immigrant juvenile status in 2014, reported at least one altercation with Bloods members to police and cooperated with the investigation. Witnesses also testified about the man’s good character and work ethic as a longtime dishwasher at a restaurant.

”Bottom line, this was a person by all metrics who was doing everything right,” said Mooradian. “He had legal status. He went to school. He worked full time. He called police when he was in trouble. And it still landed him in jail.”

Boston is merely the latest city to run into opposition with a gang database. An advocacy group filed a lawsuit this month in Providence, Rhode Island, arguing the city’s database violates constitutional rights. Portland, Oregon, discontinued its database in 2017 after it was revealed more than 80% of people listed on it were minorities.

In Chicago, police this year proposed changes after an audit found their database’s roughly 134,000 entries were riddled with outdated and unverified information. Mayor Lori Lightfoot also cut off U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement access ahead of planned immigration raids this month.

California’s Department of Justice has been issuing annual reports on the state’s database since a 2017 law began requiring it. And in New York City, records requests and lawsuits have prompted the department to disclose more information about its database.

In Boston, where Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh has proposed strengthening the city’s sanctuary policy, the ACLU suggests specifically banning police from contributing to any database to which ICE has access, or at least requiring police to provide annual reports on the database. Walsh’s office deferred questions about the gang database to police.

Like others, Boston’s gang database follows a points-based system. A person who accrues at least six points is classified as a “gang associate.” Ten or more points means they’re considered a full-fledged gang member.

The points range from having a known gang tattoo (eight points) to wearing gang paraphernalia (four points) or interacting with a known gang member or associate (two points per interaction).

The summary provided by Boston police provides a snapshot of the database as of January.

Of the 4,728 people listed at the time, a little more than half were considered “active” gang associates, meaning they had contact with or participated in some form of gang activity in the past five years. The rest were classified as “inactive,” the summary states.

Men account for more than 90% of the suspected gang members, and people between ages 25 and 40 comprise nearly 75% of the listing.

The department last week provided the summary along with the department’s policy for placing people on the database after the AP filed a records request in June.

The ACLU was also provided the same documents in response to its lawsuit as well as a trove of other related policy memos and heavily redacted reports for each of the 4,728 people listed on the database as of January, according to documents provided by the ACLU and first reported Friday by WBUR.

The ACLU has asked the city for less-redacted reports, Lafaille said. It’s also still waiting for information about how often ICE accesses the database and how police gather gang intelligence in schools.

”After all this time, we still don’t have an understanding about who can access this information and how it’s shared,” she said. “That’s something the public has a right to know.”

California Governor Signs Bill on Presidential Tax Returns

California’s Democratic governor signed a law Tuesday requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the state’s primary ballot, a move aimed squarely at Republican President Donald Trump.

But even if the law withstands a likely legal challenge, Trump could avoid the requirements by choosing not to compete in California’s primary. With no credible GOP challenger at this point, he likely won’t need California’s delegates to win the Republican nomination.

”As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in his veto message to the state Legislature. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

New York has passed a law giving congressional committees access to Trump’s state tax returns. But efforts to pry loose his tax returns have floundered in other states. California’s first attempt to do so failed in 2017 when then-Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, vetoed the law, raising questions about its constitutionality and where it would lead next.

”Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?” he wrote in his veto message. “Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

While the law is aimed at Trump, it would apply to all presidential contenders and candidates for governor.

The major Democratic 2020 contenders have already released tax returns for roughly the past decade. Trump has bucked decades of precedent by refusing to release his. Tax returns show income, charitable giving and business dealings, all of which Democratic state lawmakers say voters are entitled to know about.

Candidates will be required to submit tax returns for the most recent five years to California’s Secretary of State at least 98 days before the primary. They will then be posed online for the public to view, with certain personal information redacted.

California is holding next year’s primary on March 3, known as Super Tuesday because the high number of state’s with nominating contests that day.

Democratic Sen. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg said it would be “inconsistent” with past practice for Trump to forego the primary ballot and “ignore the most popular and vote-rich state in the nation.”

McGuire said his bill only applies to the primary election because the state Legislature does not control general election ballot access per the state Constitution.