July 18, 2018

Migrants race to reach US before Trump takes over

Delhi/India/Politics/World by

A migrant rests on the train tracks in the community of Caborca in Sonora state, Mexico, on January 12, 2017. Hundreds of Central American and Mexican migrants attempt to cross the US border daily.(Photo | AFP)

MEXICO: Migrants trying to sneak into the United States from the parched Mexican desert have to contend with border guards’ drones overhead, poisonous snakes underfoot and human trafficking gangs at their backs.

But these challenges are nothing compared to their bigger fear: that someday soon, US President-elect Donald Trump will build a wall to keep them out altogether.

So before Trump takes office on Friday, they are racing against time, riding a freight train up to the border to look for a way across.

In the town of Caborca near the frontier, a group of Hondurans warm themselves by a fire of trash in the early morning cold.

One of them, Wilson, a 48-year-old builder, missed the birth of his daughter to make the journey. Getting to the United States before Trump takes control was more important.

“When I saw that man on the television saying how he hated migrants and was going to build a wall, I thought: ‘It’s now or never,” said Wilson, who would not give his last name.

“So we all spent Christmas and New Year traveling to try to get here in time. We want to beat him to it.”

Mexican authorities are arresting thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of undocumented migrants each month, according to government figures.

Governors of several northern states this week called for extra resources to deal with the surge.

Laura Ramirez, a local charity activist, has been serving more than 200 free lunches a day to migrants.

“There are more and more migrants coming,” she says.

– Walk like a cow –

In the border town of Sasabe, marks in the rust on the border fence appear to show a spot where migrants climbed over, says Sergio Flores, leader of a government migrant task force.

“They have been getting sophisticated” in their efforts to get across undetected, he says.

Nearby on the sand lies a bottle of water, painted black — a common trick to stop the plastic shining in the sun and catching the eye of border guards.

That is just part of the typical migrant survival kit, Flores says.

The migrants wear soft-soled slippers so as not to leave footprints in the sand, along with camouflage clothes and masks.

Some have even made soles for their shoes that make their footprints look like cows’ hooves.

Some put sanitary pads in their socks to cushion their feet on long walks.

In their rucksacks they carry anoraks, remedies for snake bites, alcohol for lighting fires, talcum powder for their feet and painkillers.

They buy their supplies in the shops on the town square in the local village of Altar — an area dubbed “Migrants’ Wal-Mart.”

– Coyotes and mules –

The migrants pay about $1,000 each to so-called “coyotes” — people traffickers — to bring them here from their native countries.

On arrival, some traffickers tell the migrants they must pay another $5,000 to get across the border.

“It’s big business,” Flores says.

Some who cannot pay the traffickers instead cross the border as drug “mules,” with 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of marijuana on their backs.

“You have to bring your own water, food and blanket,” says one such “mule,” a Honduran migrant who called himself El Guero.

“They don’t pay us. The payment is being allowed to cross.”

– Not welcome –

Trump sparked outrage during his election campaign when he branded immigrants from Mexico criminals and rapists.

The insult rankles with the migrants on the migrant trail.

“That racist man is panicking,” said El Guero. “Our only sin is being born in an impoverished country and not having enough money to pay the gangs.”

Just across the US border in the town of Arivaca, Arizona, locals mistrust the migrants.

“We cannot deny that they bring trouble,” says a waiter in the town, who asked not to be named.

“I just think they shouldn’t be here. This is not their home.”

Last week, in his first press conference since winning the election, Trump reiterated his campaign promise to build a wall along the border.

In Caborca, Wilson gazes towards the north, where he hopes soon to cross over to a better life.

“I trust God will soften Trump’s heart,” he says.

First of three more storms hits California as drought retreats

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Contractors survey a 72-inch sinkhole Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Orinda, Calif. The city council of Orinda declared a State of Emergency Tuesday night because of a large sinkhole caused by last week’s wet weather. Repairs will take at least four weeks, as the San Francisco Bay Area is being hit with a new series of rain storms.(Photo | AP)

LOS ANGELES: The worst area of drought in California has significantly narrowed to a small region northwest of Los Angeles that has stubbornly failed to benefit from Pacific storms that have drenched much of the state since the fall and were lining up again Wednesday.

Just 2.1 percent of the state is now deemed to be in “exceptional drought” — a far cry from a year earlier when that label applied to a vast region stretching from greater Los Angeles hundreds of miles up the state’s core to far northern counties.

The last remaining region still in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire category extends from northwestern Los Angeles County and southernmost Kern County westward across much of Ventura County to the south coast of Santa Barbara County.

While storm runoff has been spilling into reservoirs elsewhere in California, long-suffering Lake Cachuma on the Santa Ynez River 25 miles northwest of the city of Santa Barbara still embodies the drought that gripped the state for more than five years.

The reservoir, created by a dam built in the 1950s, was only at about 9 percent of capacity Wednesday, its barren banks rising well above a surface that is more than 100 feet below the spillway.

The problem remains essentially two-fold: Even with as much rain as Southern California has been getting lately, the heaviest precipitation has remained to the north and the ground is so dry that it continues to absorb rain without reaching the saturation point at which water remains on the surface and flows out of Lake Cachuma’s drainage area.

“With a drought that’s lasted as long as it has, the ground is like a big sponge and it can soak up a lot of water,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service office in Ventura County.

Rains in the last few weeks added minimal water to Lake Cachuma “but we did get inflow and that’s really good news,” said Tom Fayram, water resources deputy director for Santa Barbara County Public Works.

The new series of storms could drop 5 inches to 10 inches of rain in local mountains, which Fayram said would not be a drought buster but would further saturate the watershed.

“If that happens we’re predicting the most inflow into Cachuma that we’ve seen since 2011,” Fayram said. That, however, would only raise the lake a few feet.

Overall, California has seen a significant retreat from the once-statewide drought. About 58 percent of the state remains in moderate, severe, extreme or exceptional stages of drought.

Rain and wind in San Francisco heralded landfall Wednesday of the first of three more storms that forecasters said would spread through the entire state, bringing precipitation into early next week, with brief breaks between systems.

Dozens of flights were canceled at San Francisco International Airport and Muir Woods National Park in Marin County was closed for safety after several redwood trees were blown down. Near Lake Tahoe, Caltrans reported a 4-mile stretch of Highway 89 on either side of Emerald Bay remained closed, with some sections buried in up to 30 feet of snow.

In suburban San Francisco, Orinda city officials declared a local state of emergency to secure funds to fix a giant sinkhole that opened in a road during previous heavy rain.

Flood advisories and watches were posted on the far north coast. Winter storm warnings were issued up and down the length of the Sierra Nevada and for the mountain ranges of Southern California, where forecasters warned that mud and debris flows could occur if heavy rains fell on wildfire burn scars.

The National Weather Service office in San Diego warned that five-day rainfall totals will likely be substantial.

“A prolonged event of this nature has the potential to produce flows in local rivers not seen since 2010,” the weather service said.

Mexico youth shoots teacher, classmates, then kills himself

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A soldier and police stand guard outside at a private school in Monterrey, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2016. A 15-year-old student opened fire with a gun at the school, hitting a teacher and two other students in the head before killing himself.(Photo | AP)

MONTERREY: A 15-year-old student opened fire with a gun at a private school in this northern Mexico city Wednesday, hitting a teacher and two other students in the head before killing himself. Another student suffered lesser injuries in the shooting, which was captured on a video posted to social media.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Jaime Rodriguez said the shooter died at a hospital and the other three victims with head wounds were “fighting between life and death.” The boy wounded in the arm was out of danger.

A video, apparently from the school’s surveillance camera, shows a female teacher handing out materials and students seated at their desks when a boy opens fire with a pistol from a sitting position, hitting a boy sitting in front of him, who immediately slumps to the ground.

He next shoots the teacher, who was looking in another direction, and she falls to the ground. The boy rises from his seat and walks around, firing shots at his classmates, before turning the gun on himself.

His first shot apparently misses his head, and then he runs out of bullets. The shooter runs to his backpack, apparently to reload, as his classmates cower at their desks. He appears to say something to the surviving students, who begin to rush for the door, and then he shoots himself in the head and falls to the ground.

The crowded classroom was left with a jumble of overturned chairs, blood and fallen students.

State security spokesman Aldo Fasci said four of the injured, including the shooter himself, had bullet wounds to the head and were in extremely serious condition. He said the student shot the 24-year-old teacher, a 14-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy in the head, and a 15-year-old classmate in the arm. He then pointed the gun at classmates before shooting himself in the head.

“The classes were going perfectly well, the student stands up from his desk and pulls out a gun,” Fasci said.

He noted that photographs of the shooting had been posted to social media and said the person responsible would be punished. He also appealed to the news media to avoid using the images, which show minors.

Fasci said the shooter had been under treatment for depression, but that the motive was under investigation.

The spokesman attributed it to “the situation that is happening everywhere. The children have access to the internet. This has happened in other countries.”

The website of the American School of the Northeast says it offers bilingual education for students from preschool through ninth grade.

Fasci said the boy brought the gun from home. It was unclear how he got the .22 caliber pistol into the school. Mexico had once had a program to checked book bags at school entrances, but in many places it has fallen into disuse.

“‘There was a reason why book bags were checked. I think we are going to have to start doing it again,” Fasci said.

Mexico had been largely spared the phenomenon of school shootings that has hit the United States. In one of the few previous incidents, a 13-year-old student shot a 12-year-old classmate in the head at a Mexico City middle school in 2004, seriously wounding her.

At the height of Mexico’s drug war between 2008 and 2011, schools in northern Mexico were more concerned about the possibility that stray bullets from drug gang gun battles outside schools might enter classrooms. Some schools conducted “duck and cover” drills to combat that possibility.

Capital to get respite from bone-chilling weather

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After experiencing bitter cold over the last few days, the Capital is all set to have some respite in the coming days. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials, the city will go back to “normal” weather conditions, starting Thursday.

“Both maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius in the next four to five days. The day temperature is expected to settle between 19 and 20 degrees Celsius while the minimum temperature is set to rise to 7 to 8 degrees Celsius,” said R Vishen, Scientist-In-Charge, Regional Meteorology Centre (RMC), IMD.

On Tuesday, the maximum temperature was recorded at 15.6 degrees Celsius while the minimum temperature settled at 4.6 degrees Celsius. In both instances, the temperature was three degrees below normal.

“The reason behind the rise in temperature is the coming of another Western Disturbance over north-western India. It will bring back normal winds,” Vishen said. The days will remain sunny but shallow to moderate fog is likely to occur across the National Capital Region (NCR), with heavy fog in isolated parts of the city.

The conditions will be similar in regions including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and north Rajasthan. Also, over the weekend, parts of Punjab and Haryana are likely to receive light spells of rain, which may touch the Capital as well.

Owing to these conditions, the cold westerly and northwesterly winds will not be able to reach the northern plains, resulting in an increase in temperature.

On Saturday, Delhi recorded the lowest minimum temperature of the season at 3.2 degrees Celsius, which was four degrees below the season’ average for Delhi-NCR.

Kathputli Colony development to begin by March-end: DDA

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Development work at the country’s largest artists’ ghetto, the Kathputli Colony, will begin from March-end, if the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials are to be believed.

Almost a month after the development agency was accused of carrying out forceful demolition at the puppet colony, for the first time, the DDA claimed that no force was used to vacate the slums and the protests at the location were politically motivated.

DDA’s assurance comes after being constantly accused by political leaders, including Delhi Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Satyendar Jain, of forcefully vacating the government land. Jain had extended his support to the Kathputli Colony residents, and even written a letter to Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, stating that residents were being “forced” to leave the area.

“The protests are a result of certain groups’ political agenda. We have been continuously carrying out a campaign and creating awareness about the relocation policy,” said Jai Prakash Agrawal, (Principal) Commissioner, DDA.

The colony was the first slum taken up for in-situ redevelopment by DDA in 2009, in collaboration with the private firm Raheja Developers. As per the plan, families will have to move to single-room temporary houses in a resettlement area in Anand Parbat, till the construction of their permanent houses in the Kathputli Colony is completed.

Agrawal said the DDA hopes to complete the work of vacating the land by March-end, and the construction will begin by May this year. “Currently, approximately 1,100 people have moved to the temporary transit camp and hopefully others will also vacate voluntarily. As soon as the families move out, builders will begin the construction and the houses will be ready within two years,” he said.

The residents of the colony include puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, storytellers, folk singers, dancers, and painters, among others.

Nearly 500 families had moved to make-shift homes in 2013, while rest of them refused to do so, saying the DDA should give them written assurances that every family would get a house, and also sought to know the time it would take to build their permanent houses.

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