Census Figures Show Economic Gap Narrows with Citizenship

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that citizenship appears to narrow the economic gap between the foreign-born and native-born in the United States.

The 2018 figures released Monday offer a view of immigrants’ education, wealth, and the jobs they work in. They also look at differences between naturalized immigrants and those who aren’t citizens.
 
Their release come as the U.S. is engaged in one of the fiercest debates in decades about the role of immigration.
 
Stopping the flow of immigrants into the U.S. has been a priority of the Trump administration, which has proposed denying green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid and fought to put a citizenship question on the decennial Census questionnaire.
 
Monday’s figures show naturalized immigrants had a slightly smaller median income than the native-born.

 

US Scraps West Bank Conference over Palestinian Protests

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday was forced to postpone a conference it organized in the West Bank city of Ramallah after Palestinian officials and factions called for a boycott and threatened to organize protests.  
 
The Palestinians cut all ties with the U.S. after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, and view the Trump administration as unfairly biased following a series of actions seen as hostile to their aspirations for an independent state.

The embassy had organized a conference this week to bring together alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs, including dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to attend. The territory has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The Palestinian leadership viewed the conference as an attempt to circumvent its boycott of the U.S. administration.

“We are aware of recent statements regarding a planned event for alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs,” the U.S. Embassy said. “In order to avoid the Palestinian participants being put in a difficult situation, we have decided to postpone the event for now.”
 
It said this and other events “are designed to create opportunities for exchange and dialogue between Americans and Palestinians at the grassroots level.”

“This event in particular is intended to give alumni of all ages and backgrounds from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza an opportunity to network with each other and to engage in leadership and capacity building activities,” it said.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. The Trump administration is at work on a long-awaited peace plan, but has not endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict. The Palestinians have already dismissed the plan, saying it is certain to be slanted toward Israel.
 
Representatives of several Palestinian factions held a press conference Monday at the hotel where the meeting was to have taken place.

Spokesman Isam Baker told The Associated Press that the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group, had reached out to the hotel management and the invitees asking them to boycott the meeting.

“Most of the invitees and the hotel administration agreed with us that the invitation has political implications and it is not innocent,” he said.
“The U.S. administration, which has cut off all aid to our people, shut down our office in Washington and placed huge pressure on our leadership to accept a pro-Israel political plan will not do any good for our people” he said. “Therefore, we are boycotting any activities it organizes.”

The U.S. cut more than $200 million in development aid to the Palestinians last year, gutting several long-running programs .

A statement released Sunday by the “national and Islamic forces of the Ramallah governorate” said they were determined to thwart the conference, calling it an attempt to “break the will of the Palestinian people.” It said they planned to organize a “mass popular event to prevent this activity by all available means,” calling for a sit-in and marches.

The youth wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party also called for a boycott. It vowed to “exercise all forms of legal and popular pressure to express rejection of this conference being held on occupied Palestinian land.” It also called for an “apology” from the hotel.

UN Bans Sending Baby Elephants from Wild to Zoos and Circuses

Delegates at a U.N. wildlife conference in Geneva voted Sunday to ban the practice of taking baby elephants from their natural habitat and placing them in zoos and circuses.

Forty-six countries at the UN Convention ion International Trade in Endangered Species voted to outlaw the practice, white 18 voted against it, including the United States. Nineteen abstained.

The ban proclaims entertainment venues to be “unacceptable and inappropriate destinations” for elephants.

“This decision will save countless elephants from being ripped away from their families in the wild and forces to spend their lifetimes imprisoned in substandard conditions at zoos,” the Humane Society International said Sunday. “The capture of baby elephants is horribly cruel and traumatic to both the mothers, their calves and the herds that are left behind.”

Sunday’s decision specifically targets Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

CITES says Zimbabwe has sent more than 100 baby elephants to China since 2012, traumatizing the animals who it says are beaten, kicked, and treated cruelly by their handlers. Several have died.

 

 

US Talks Secretly to Venezuela Socialist Boss

The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as members of President Nicolas Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, a senior administration official has told The Associated Press.
 
Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration, said the official. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place.
 
The AP is withholding the intermediary’s name and details of the encounter with Cabello out of concern the person could suffer reprisals. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks, which are still preliminary.
 

Cabello is a major power broker inside Venezuela, who has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand as Maduro’s grip on power has weakened. But he’s also been accused by U.S. officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator.
 
The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.
 
Similar contacts exist with other top Venezuelan insiders, the official said, and the U.S. is in a listening mode to hear what it would take for them to betray Maduro and support a transition plan.
 
Cabello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
 
But an aide said the U.S. has been increasingly knocking on his door, desperately looking to establish contact. The aide rejected the notion Cabello was somehow betraying Maduro, saying that Cabello would only meet with Americans with the president’s permission and if it contributes to lifting sanctions he blames for crippling the oil-dependent economy. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss political affairs publicly.
 

A person familiar with the July encounter said Cabello appeared savvy and arrived to the meeting with the U.S.-backed envoy well prepared, with a clear understanding of Venezuela’s political problems. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
 
As Venezuela’s crisis grinds on, a predictable pattern has emerged where Juan Guaido, who the U.S. and dozens of other countries recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader, has been unable to woo the military and take power but Maduro lacks enough strength to apprehend his rival or rescue the collapsed economy amid ever-tightening U.S. sanctions. This month, the U.S. slapped a new round of sanctions that seizes all of the Maduro government’s assets in the U.S. and threatens to punish companies from third countries that continue to do business with him.
 
Talks sponsored by Norway between the opposition and government have been slow-going and were suspended this month by Maduro, who accused Guaido of celebrating the U.S.’ “brutal blockade.” Neither Cabello, the Venezuelan military or U.S. government are a party to those talks.
 
To break the stalemate, some conspirators are looking to the U.S. to devise a plan to protect government insiders who turn against Maduro from future prosecution. The U.S. has repeatedly said it would offer top socialists relief from sanctions if they take “concrete and meaningful actions” to end Maduro’s rule. In May, it quickly lifted sanctions against Maduro’s former spy chief, Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, after he defected during a failed military uprising.
 

As head of the constitutional assembly, Cabello has the power to remove Maduro, a position that could come in handy in any negotiated transition. But to date he’s run the institution, which the U.S. considers illegitimate, as a rubber-stamping foil to the opposition-controlled congress, showing no signs of possible deception.  
 
It’s not clear who initiated the contact with Cabello. But the U.S. official said Cabello was talking behind the back of the embattled socialist despite his almost daily displays of loyalty and frequent harangues against President Donald Trump.
 
An opposition politician briefed on the outreach said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol are among those in indirect contact with the Americans, underscoring the degree to which Maduro is surrounded by conspirators even after an opposition-led military uprising in April was easily quashed. The politician spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks. The AP was unable to verify the opposition politician’s account.
 
Cabello, 56, has long been seen as a rival to Maduro, someone who has more pragmatic economic views and is less ideologically aligned with communist Cuba. He sat to the right of Hugo Chavez when the late socialist designated Maduro, to his left, to be his successor in his last public appearance before dying of cancer in 2013.
 
By all accounts Cabello was not among the high-placed officials who were in on a plot to remove Maduro in April, when Guaido and his mentor Leopoldo Lopez appeared on a bridge in eastern Caracas surrounded by a small contingent of armed troops. Since the uprising’s failure, the retired army lieutenant has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand, with the appointment of a cousin to head the army and the placement of another ally atop the feared SEBIN intelligence police.
 
He also remains popular with the Chavista base, having crisscrossed the country the past five years with a much-watched program on state TV that is a vehicle for pounding the opposition and U.S.
 
“A fraternal salute, brother President,” Cabello said in the most-recent program, where Maduro called in as a special guest. “We have no secrets, no lies here. Every time we do something we will inform the people, so that with a clear conscience they can take informed decisions and fix positions.”
 
The U.S. has tried to negotiate with Cabello before. In 2015, Thomas Shannon, who was then counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry, met with Cabello in Haiti to pave the way for legislative elections that the opposition won by a landslide.
 
But until now, the Trump administration has shown deep scorn for Cabello, hitting him with sanctions last year for allegedly organizing drug shipments and running a major graft network that embezzled state funds and invested the stolen proceeds in Florida real estate. The U.S. also believes he discussed a plot to kill Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has called him “Venezuela’s Pablo Escobar.”
 
“Cabello is one of the worst of the worst inside of Venezuela,” said Fernando Cutz, a former senior national security adviser on Latin America to both President Barack Obama and Trump. “If the strategy is to try to negotiate with the mafia boss, he’s your guy. But that’s a strategy that carries some heavy risks.”

Intelligent Threat-Sensing Building on Horizon

Back-to-back mass shootings in the U.S. have re-ignited passionate debates about gun control in America. But there are other efforts underway to protect people from gun violence– like the creation of an intelligent building designed to handle an active shooter situation. Engineers and computer scientists at the University of Southern California are using virtual reality to help them design buildings that can protect its occupants.  Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles. But first a warning this story contains graphic video that some viewers may find disturbing.

Suicide Bombing of Wedding Party in Kabul Killed 63

Authorities in Afghanistan say the death toll has risen to more than 63 and injured to 183 in the overnight suicide bombing at a packed wedding hall in the capital, Kabul.

The victims were mostly members of the minority Shi’ite Hazara community. 

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed the casualty toll in a statement issued early Sunday, saying women and children were among the victims.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the carnage, one of the worst attacks against Afghan civilians in recent years.

The Taliban denied its involvement and condemned the bombing. A spokesman for the insurgent group said “such barbaric deliberate attacks against civilians including women and children are forbidden and unjustifiable.”

Afghan police men stand guard outside the wedding hall after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug.18, 2019.

Almost all recent bombings in the city, particularly against the Hazara community, have been claimed by Islamic State’s Afghan branch, known as Khorasan Province. 

Rahimi in a statement he issued shortly after the attack said the blast occurred just before midnight on Saturday and police and ambulances quickly reached the site to transport victims to Kabul hospitals.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in Afghanistan, where more than 1,500 were killed or wounded in July alone, according to the United Nations.

The latest Afghan violence comes as peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have come close to reaching an agreement to end the 18-year-old war.  

New York City Subway Scare Suspect Taken Into Police Custody

New York City police say they’ve apprehended a man suspected of placing two devices that looked like pressure cookers in a subway station.
 
Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea tweeted Saturday morning that a man seen holding one of the rice cookers in surveillance video was taken into custody.
 
The discovery of the cookers Friday led to an evacuation and roiled the morning commute.
 
Police said cameras near the World Trade Center captured a man with a cart putting cookers in two locations in the subway station.
 
A third cooker of the same type was later discovered 2 miles (3 kilometers) away on a sidewalk.
 
Authorities determined they were not explosives. Pressure cookers can be turned into bombs.
 
Police say they didn’t have details on the man’s apprehension. No charges have been announced.