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As Florence battered the Carolinas this past week, dozens of heartwarming animal-rescue stories made national headlines ― dogs sprung from flooding homes, pets packed into a school bus, cats plucked directly from the water.
But millions of animals would not be so lucky.
An estimated 5,500 pigs and 3.4 million chickens and turkeys in North Carolina have died as a result of the storm, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Aerial photos of the state from earlier this week showed multiple industrial barns almost completely submerged in water.
Estimates on how many farm animals have died were based on field assessments by emergency workers and veterinarians directly after the storm, Reuters reports.
Those numbers are “preliminary” and “likely to change,” NCDACS spokeswoman Heather Overton told HuffPost.
She said the estimates include animal deaths from direct storm damage, like wind or collapsing buildings, or from drowning.
She added there were also farms currently cut off from necessities like animal feed, and that the agriculture department was working on getting supplies to these farms. Earlier this week, poultry producer Sanderson Farms noted that multiple farms were unreachable because of floodwater and in dire need of food for the birds.
The estimated 5,000 pigs and 3.4 million birds believed dead are out of a total of about 9 million pigs and 819 million chickens and turkeys across the state, Overton said.
Most of those animals were, of course, ultimately bound to be slaughtered. But some animal advocates saw the livestock death toll as reflective of an industrial farming system largely unconcerned with the welfare of individual animals.
“Animals exploited for food are treated like unfeeling commodities rather than individuals with a will to live, and they are commonly caged and confined in warehouses, making it impossible for them to escape when disasters strike,” Susie Coston, national shelter director for farm animal protection group Farm Sanctuary, told HuffPost in a statement.
And the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement that while emergency preparations for farms has improved over the years, “it is clear that disaster planning for animals held in large numbers is far from where it needs to be for the lives affected, both human and animal.”
Florence’s impact on North Carolina’s numerous hog farms poses risks to human health as well, thanks to so-called lagoons that contain pig feces, urine and whatever else drops below the slatted floors of industrial barns and gets pumped into large man-made holes in the ground.
Severe rain or rising floodwaters can cause the lagoon contents to overflow. And festering pig waste mixing with floodwater can be a health hazard, especially for people with weaker immune systems.
“If you have a child or someone elderly or on a steroid inhaler or on chemotherapy, they may be more fragile,” H. Kim Lyerly, Duke University pathology and immunology professor, told The News Observer.
And as The New York Times notes, lagoon leakages can cause major environmental hazards when untreated waste contributes to algal blooms that kill marine life.
According to Wednesday data from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, 21 lagoons had overflowed and 17 had surface water “surrounding and flowing into” the lagoon. An additional five lagoons had structural damage, while 36 were in a state where overflowing was considered likely.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
So far this month, discharges from custody have been running at a rate of around 0.6 to 0.7 percent per day, less than half the 1.5 percent shown in reports obtained by Yahoo News from early April and from late July. Meanwhile the intake of unaccompanied immigrant children into ORR facilities has remained relatively steady, with average daily referrals from Customs and Border Protection in the range of 100 to 200.
“This is not a story about a historically large surge in arrivals,” said Mark Greenberg, a former official with HHS’s Administration for Children and Families. “The story is fundamentally about a significant slowdown in children being released from care.”
Greenberg, now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, worked at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which includes ORR, from 2009 to 2017, serving as acting assistant secretary during the last three years of the Obama administration. He said that even during the major surges of 2014 and 2016, the goal was to keep the average daily discharge rate at 3 percent. “Most typically, the discharge rate was somewhere in the 2s, with significant concern if it fell below 2,” he said. “It was certainly not below 1.”
In his letter notifying Sen. Murray of the transfer of funds, Azar stated that, based on the current growth pattern and what he described as “an increased length of time needed to safely release unaccompanied alien children to sponsors, HHS is preparing for the trend of high capacity to continue.”
The majority of children housed in such facilities come to the U.S. on their own from the northern triangle countries of Central America — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — often fleeing gang violence. However, during the months that border officials were separating families under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, children who’d actually entered the country with a parent were being reclassified as “unaccompanied” and referred to ORR, in a chaotic process that left children stranded, in some cases while their parents were being deported. The subsequent effort to reunite those children, which has required the diversion of staff from ORR and elsewhere throughout the Administration for Children and Families, has likely contributed to the slowdown in discharges.
But that’s not the only reason. Months before the family separation crisis came to a head, unaccompanied minors were already spending extended periods of time in ORR facilities, which are intended to house children temporarily until a parent or suitable adult sponsor can be identified.
In March, Yahoo News reported that a new policy requiring ORR Director Scott Lloyd to personally approve the release of certain children resulted in many remaining in custody longer, even after a proper sponsor had been approved. Lawyers representing the children and immigration advocates said they were being falsely suspected of gang affiliations. More and more aged out of custody and were transferred to adult detention facilities on their 18th birthdays. In response to a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union, a New York federal judge in June determined that Lloyd had violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act by enacting the policy almost immediately upon being sworn in as director, “with no record demonstrating the need for change,” and ordered him to halt it.
At the same time, parents and other potential adult sponsors who might have taken the children in were being frightened away by the environment of heightened enforcement under Trump. More than 400 people were arrested by ICE last summer in an operation targeting parents of unaccompanied immigrant kids. A rumor spread about an agreement among ORR, ICE and CBP that would require ORR to inform ICE with the names, fingerprints and other personal details of not only proposed sponsors but all adults in the household. Even before the policy was implemented in June, the prospect was deterring potential sponsors from coming forward.
“As soon as the announcement was made that they were going to do this, it had an immediate chilling effect,” said Jennifer Podkul, policy director at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which provides pro bono legal services to immigrant children.
“We started seeing kids linger in care longer before it officially went into effect,” said Podkul, noting that KIND also received calls from the Honduran Embassy asking whether it should advise Honduran citizens in the U.S. against coming forward to sponsor a child.
Matthew Albence, the executive associate director for enforcement and removal operations at ICE, validated these fears during a hearing about family detention before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, stating that under the policy ICE has apprehended 41 prospective sponsors so far.
Greenberg explained that the process of releasing unaccompanied minors into the care of adult sponsors has always involved a bit of a balancing act.
“There are lots of tradeoffs and judgments involved in that process,” he said. “On the one hand, [it’s] important to be sure that children are being released in safe and appropriate settings. On the other hand, there’s a strong interest in children being released to the least restrictive environment quickly, so long as it is safe to do.”
Greenberg said the agency was prompted to review and strengthen its vetting policies after a number of teenagers who’d come in the surge of 2014 were mistakenly released to traffickers in Ohio who claimed to be family friends. After that, he said, the agency expanded home studies and background checks for all prospective sponsors as well as backup care providers, checking for histories of child abuse and neglect.
Greenberg said that during his time at ORR, routine fingerprinting for parents seeking to regain custody of their children was not required, since ORR “very rarely received any information from fingerprinting that they didn’t otherwise get from public records checks for criminal history.” And it was “clear that fingerprinting was a significant deterrent for parents coming forward.”
“The more you create a situation where children are more likely to go to distant relatives or nonrelatives, the more dangerous it is for children,” said Abigail Trillin, a staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Legal Services for Children. “We’re starting to see undocumented folks not going to come forward, therefore children either stay in detention or go to more distant people who might happen to be documented,” she said, a “situation that is at best challenging and at worst dangerous for children.”
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President Donald Trump wondered on Twitter Friday morning why Christine Blasey Ford didn’t go to local law enforcement after Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly forced himself on her back in high school.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
In a series of tweets, the president attacked Kavanaugh’s accuser by claiming she should have done what a lot of sexual assault victims don’t do: Call the police and, for some reason, the FBI.
The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Trump asked a similar question last night at a rally in Vegas: “Why didn’t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?” The answer is on the federal government’s own websites. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, points victims to their local authorities via 911 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. The FBI isn’t the right agency to call.
The whole premise of Trump’s morning tirade against someone who says she was sexually assaulted fails under the misguided belief that all sexual assault victims call the police. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people who are raped or sexually assaulted don’t go to police at all.
And the president’s attack on Blasey Friday is an example of why many victims don’t share their stories. Blasey’s closest friends have said she was hesitant to come forward with her story because she feared a swath of attacks, and she’s getting exactly that. Pundits like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson have piled on, blaming all sexual assault victims who don’t go to law enforcement.
Blasey, a Palo Alto University psychology professor, told The Washington Post that she was scared Kavanaugh “might inadvertently kill” her when he forced himself on her and groped her while they were high school students in the 1980s.
This story has been updated with more details.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.