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DHS Directs FEMA To Help With Migrant Children Amid Record Backlogs



  • The Biden administration has deployed FEMA to help shelter and transfer migrant children at the southern border as record numbers of unaccompanied minors continue to enter the country.
  • As of Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol was holding more than 4,200 children in detention centers, jail cells, and other crowded holding facilities usually meant for adults, according to government records reviewed by reporters.
  • The surge of young migrants has quickly become a politicized flashpoint in the early days of the Biden administration.
  • Republicans claimed Biden’s efforts to rollback Trump-era policies are responsible for the surge, but Democrats have said the crisis is simply a result of Trump’s failed actions on immigration. 

FEMA to Aid With Migrant Crisis

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Saturday that it was deploying the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is known for responding to natural disasters, to help “receive, shelter, and transfer” unaccompanied migrant children at the southwest border.

The move is part of a 90-day effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to process the rapidly growing amount of children and teens trying to enter the country in record numbers after he rolled back several immigration policies imposed by former President Donald Trump.

Biden has maintained the Trump-era rule enacted last March that allows the U.S. to expel almost all migrants on the grounds of preventing further spread of COVID-19. However, he has also issued narrow carve-outs for children and asylum seekers who would otherwise be sent to Mexico while awaiting their trials.

The result has been a massive influx of child and teen migrants that the federal government does not have the capacity to accommodate. According to recent reports, about 8,500 teens and children are living in shelters run by Health and Human Services (HHS) — the department tasked with eventually placing them with sponsors.

However, because the agency has been unable to quickly add the capacity it needs to hold the overwhelming number of child-migrants, thousands of kids have instead been packed into detention centers, jail cells, and other holding facilities meant for adults that pose large COVID risks and are unsafe for minors.

Record Influx of Children Migrants

As of Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol was holding more than 4,200 unaccompanied children in those short-term facilities, according to government records reviewed by several outlets.

Nearly 3,000 of the children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody had been held longer than 72 hours — the timeframe for which agency is legally required to transfer most unaccompanied minnows to the HHS agency tasked with resettlement.

The unprecedented surge represents a recent upward trend. The number of children in CBP custody increased by 31% increase from early last week, and the number of kids held longer than 72 hours has more than doubled in the same time.

Unsurprisingly, the situation has quickly become a highly politicized one for Biden in the first weeks and months of his presidency. Republicans have blamed the influx of migrant children on Biden’s policies, with many arguing that he has incentivized parents to risk their children’s safety to send them to the U.S. with the aim of joining them later. 

Many Democrats, however, have argued that Biden just inherited the border crisis from Trump, and that the flow of migrants to the border is the result of failed policies under the last administration. 

Still, other more progressive Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have condemned the Biden administration for reopening facilities to hold migrant children, arguing it just allows them to hold more minors, rather than focus on resettling them.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (NPR)


Inmates Sue Jail for Giving Them Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19 Without Consent



Four detainees who filed the suit allege that the jail’s doctor gave them “incredibly high doses” of the anti-parasite in a “cocktail of drugs” that he said were “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”

Washington County Detention Center Lawsuit

Four inmates at an Arkansas jail have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were unknowingly given the anti-parasite drug ivermectin without their consent by the detention center’s doctor after contracting COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless other medical experts have said that ivermectin — commonly used for livestock — can be dangerous and should not be used to treat the coronavirus.

According to the lawsuit, after testing positive for COVID in August, the four men at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) were given a “cocktail of drugs” twice a day by the facility’s doctor, Robert Karas.

The inmates claim that Dr. Karas did not tell them that he was giving them ivermectin, but instead said the drugs consisted of “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”

The complaint also alleges that the detainees were given “incredibly high doses” of the drug, causing some to experience “vision issues, diarrhea, bloody stools, and/or stomach cramps.”

Use on Other Inmates

The four plaintiffs were far from the only people to whom Karas gave ivermectin.

According to the lawsuit, the doctor began using the drug to treat COVID starting in November of 2020. In August, the Washington County sheriff confirmed at a local finance and budget committee meeting that the doctor had been prescribing the drug to inmates, prompting the Arkansas Medical Board to launch an investigation.

In response, Karas informed a Medical Board investigator in a letter from his attorney that 254 inmates at the facility had been treated with ivermectin.

In the letter, he confirmed that whether or not detainees were given information about ivermectin was dependent on who administered it, but paramedics were not required to discuss the drug with them.

He also admitted that after the practice got media coverage, he “adopted a more robust informed consent form to assuage any concern that any detainees were being misled or coerced into taking the medications, even though they weren’t.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the suit on behalf of the inmates, also claimed in a statement that after questions were raised about the practice, the jail attempted to make detainees sign forms saying that they retroactively agreed to the treatments. 

The WCDC has not issued a public response to the lawsuits, but Dr. Karas appeared to address the situation in a Facebook post where he defended his actions.

“Guess we made the news again this week; still with best record in the world at the jail with the same protocols,” he wrote. “Inmates aren’t dumb and I suspect in the future other inmates around the country will be suiing their facilities requesting same treatment we’re using at WCDC-including the Ivermectin.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (NBC News)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan



The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”

Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.



In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.

New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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