(UNITED NATIONS) — Reports suggest more than 100,000 people in Syria have been detained, abducted or gone missing during the eight-year conflict, with the government mainly responsible, the U.N. political chief said Wednesday.
Rosemary DiCarlo urged all parties to heed the Security Council's call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained and to provide information to families about their loved ones as required by international law.
She told the council that the U.N. can't verify the figure of more than 100,000 because it has been unable to gain access to places of detention and detainees in Syria. She said its information comes from accounts corroborated by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria authorized by the U.N. Human Rights Council and human rights organizations since the conflict started in 2011.
DiCarlo also reiterated U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call for the Syria conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court, saying accountability for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law "is central to achieving and maintaining durable peace in Syria."
DiCarlo spoke at an open meeting following the Security Council's unanimous approval in June of its first-ever resolution focused on the many thousands of people missing in conflicts around the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was mandated by the 1949 Geneva Conventions to address and oversee the issue of missing persons in conflicts, said it registered over 45,000 missing cases in countries around the world in 2018 alone.
The council meeting, initially requested by the United States, offered a rare opportunity for the U.N.'s most powerful body to hear directly from families of the detained.
Dr. Hala Al Ghawi and Amina Khoulani, who both campaign for freedom and justice for Syrian detainees, criticized the council for its failure to end the war and urged its deeply divided members to adopt a new resolution to pressure all warring parties to reveal the names and whereabouts of all those detained — and release all those arbitrarily detained.
Al Ghawi said she left Syria at the end of 2011 after her husband was detained and held in a cell "so tiny that he didn't have space to sit down." He was released but she said her brother, father-in-law and some cousins remain missing.
Al Ghawi said many medical colleagues were also detained by the Syrian government for helping wounded protesters, and "some of them were killed under torture while in detention."
"As families, we have suffered enough and I'm here today to urge you to act," she said.
Khoulani, whose three brothers were taken by the Syrian government eight years ago, said they all died in detention and she herself was imprisoned for six months, "arrested by the Air Force Intelligence Branch for my peaceful activism." Her husband was detained in a military prison for 2 1/2 years, and "we were both lucky to survive, but many others weren't as lucky."
Khoulani said that while the majority of the missing were detained by the Syrian government, armed opposition and extremist groups like the Islamic State group "are also guilty of detention and disappearance."
"The United Nations Security Council has utterly failed Syrian detainees and their families," she said. "It's your responsibility to protect Syrians from a system that kills, tortures, and illegally detains its own citizens, in systematic violation of international law."
The council's deep divisions were clearly evident when Syria's closest council ally, Russia, spoke.
Russian deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyansky dismissed what he called "unverified and extremely non-objective data regarding the situation in Syria," and criticized Western nations that called the meeting for providing no information on people missing and detained in opposition-held areas.
"We have repeatedly stated that it is unacceptable to politicize humanitarian and human rights issues," Polyansky said. "However, we are once again hearing accusations against one of the parties, the official authorities in Damascus, while outright terrorists ... are being presented as innocent victims."
He said a Working Group on Detainees and Missing Persons comprising Russia, Iran and Turkey as well as experts from the U.N. and the Red Cross arranged a prisoner exchange July 31 and is developing procedures "for establishing a database of persons considered to be missing by the Syrian government and the opposition."
Syrian Charge d'Affaires Louay Falouh said the U.S. and United Kingdom had "no right" to call for a council meeting, accusing them of imposing "unilateral coercive measures" on the Syrian people, adopting "immoral conduct" and exploiting the humanitarian issue.
British Ambassador Karen Pierce retorted that nine countries on the 15-member council called for the meeting and there were no objections.
Pierce said Syria had not answered the most critical questions and again asked: "Would the Syrian authorities please provide a list of who is detained, where they are detained and, for those people who have died, their burial sites? And will they allow ... access to the detention sites?"
(JAMMU, India) — Hit by a complete security lockdown in Kashmir, hundreds of poor migrant workers have begun fleeing the Himalayan region to return to their far-away villages in northern and eastern India.
Some complained on Wednesday that their Kashmiri employers didn't pay them any salary as security forces began imposing tight travel restrictions over the weekend and asked them to leave their jobs.
Authorities in Hindu-majority India clamped a complete shutdown on Kashmir as they scrapped the Muslim-majority state's special status, including exclusive hereditary rights and a separate constitution, and divided it into two territories.
The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
Pakistan announced Wednesday that it is downgrading its diplomatic ties with India and suspending bilateral trade in response to New Delhi's decision to reduce Kashmir's special status.
On Wednesday, workers crowded the railroad station at Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, as they waited for trains bound for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. They carried their belongings on their heads and under their arms, tied in bedsheets.
Worker Jagdish Mathur said many people walked for miles (kilometers) on a highway and hitched rides on army trucks and buses from Srinagar to Jammu, a distance of 260 kilometers (160 miles).
"We haven't eaten properly for the past four days," said Mathur, adding that he doesn't have money to buy a rail ticket to take him to his village in eastern Bihar state. "The government should help me."
Surjit Singh, a carpenter, told the New Delhi television channel that he was returning home because of Kashmir's security lockdown.
Every year, tens of thousands of people travel to Kashmir from various Indian states looking for work, mainly masonry, carpentry and agriculture. Whenever the security situation deteriorates, they return homes.
Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
(LOS ANGELES) — Actor Danny Trejo played a real-life hero when he helped rescue a baby trapped in an overturned car after a collision at a Los Angeles intersection.
Authorities say two cars crashed Wednesday in the Sylmar neighborhood.
Video aired by KABC-TV shows Trejo at the crash scene. Trejo says he crawled into the wrecked vehicle from one side but couldn't unbuckle the child's car seat from that angle. He says another bystander, a young woman, was able to undo the buckle.
Together they pulled the baby safely from the wreckage.
The Los Angeles Fire Department says three people were taken to a hospital, and there were no life-threatening injuries.
The 75-year-old Trejo, an L.A. native, is best known for playing the character Machete from the "Spy Kids" series.
Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and an investor in Equinox gyms and SoulCycle, defended his decision to hold a Donald Trump fundraiser, saying he likes to “engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.”
After reports of a planned Trump luncheon at Ross’s home in New York’s Hamptons drew boycott threats and criticism from within his own businesses, the billionaire said he engages with political leaders out of “deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.”
“I always been an active participant in the democratic process,” Ross, 79, said in an emailed statement. “I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.”
SoulCycle Chief Executive Officer Melanie Whelan, meanwhile, sought to distance the company from Ross as calls for boycotts spread on social media. The furor was over a fundraiser where attendees will reportedly pay $250,000 for lunch, a photo and private round-table discussion.
“We believe in diversity, inclusion and equality,” Whelan said on Twitter. “Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of SoulCycle.” Equinox issued a similar statement.
Ross made much of his fortune as founder of Related Cos., the real estate behemoth. The company doesn’t disclose Ross’s interest in its properties, including Equinox and its SoulCycle unit, and big developments like New York’s Hudson Yards. Bloomberg calculates his wealth at $9.9 billion, based on his ownership of Related’s assets, plus stakes in Equinox and SoulCycle.
Kenny Stills, a receiver for the Dolphins, said on Twitter that the fundraiser in the Hamptons was inconsistent with efforts to fight racial inequality. The billionaire has a nonprofit called the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality with a mission of championing social justice and improving race relations.
Ross wasn’t one of the nine NFL owners that reportedly contributed to Trump’s original campaign, or his inauguration. America’s richest sports league has often been at odds with the president, including a high-profile row in 2017 over the league’s handling of players who chose to protest during the national anthem.
The Trump event, reported in the Washington Post, also prompted a backlash against Equinox, with comedian and actor Billy Eichner among those who said they were canceling their memberships.
Just contacted @Equinox to cancel my membership after many years. Money talks, especially with these monsters. If it’s too inconvenient for u to trade one LUXURY GYM for another, then you should be ashamed. (No disrespect to the many wonderful employees at my local Equinox). Bye!
“There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump,” he said on Twitter. “Practically speaking, it’s probably impossible to completely avoid them. But considering Equinox’s clientele and how they’ve pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful.”
In his statement, Ross said he is “and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
Jews of Pittsburgh watched with horror, and unfortunate familiarity, this weekend as two more shootings left communities in mourning. For many of us, memories flooded back from that Saturday morning nine months ago when we waited to hear who, and how many, from our community had been lost.
Pittsburgh is now tied to El Paso by a web of hate. With Christchurch, Poway, Charleston and too many others, we share the tragic bond of terror brought on by the violence of the white power movement. We have a choice. We can let hate win – and these days it seems like it often is winning – or we can fight.
That fight starts with the President. The leader of our country has empowered, enabled and encouraged this hatred. His deference to “both sides,” characterizations of honest, loving human beings as “rats” that “infest” our country, demands that elected representatives “go back” to their countries and constant references to an “invasion” of migrants provide the match to the kindling of white nationalism.
Three months ago, ranting about migrants at a Florida rally, Trump asked, “How do you stop these people?”
“Shoot them,” yelled a person in the crowd.
And that’s exactly what someone did.
But they will not stop us. We are weaving together communities where relationships did not exist before. We have seen the awesome power of solidarity. When we marched in Pittsburgh and demanded the President fully denounce white nationalism, we didn’t do it alone. Pittsburgh’s Jews were surrounded by and supported by the larger Pittsburgh (and even a global) community, calling for the President to recognize that words matter. We realized his rhetoric was deadly, not only for the Jewish community. And that has been proven, sadly, time and time again since October 27.
Words made us a target. Our community spoke out in defense of immigrants and refugees. Words also motivated a white nationalist to terrorize shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, a city that is 80 percent Hispanic or Latinx. In that case, though, it was the words of the President of the United States.
Since we made our demands of the President, we have been waiting for him to denounce white nationalism. And waiting. And waiting. When he finally did, reading stiffly and awkwardly from a teleprompter on Monday, it was hard to find the words anything but hollow and insincere. There’s a reason: He is a racist.
We see you, Mr. Trump. And the people of El Paso see you. To borrow from the impassioned words of Beto O’Rourke, we do know how to connect the dots. And the connected dots all lead right back to you.
The white nationalist playbook, in many ways, is simple: use hate to divide. Keep those who should be standing shoulder to shoulder, who should be holding each other up, apart. Do it with hateful rhetoric and, yes, with violence.
We in Pittsburgh are here to tell the people of El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy, Christchurch, Poway, Charleston and every place where the politics of hatred turns to bloodshed that we will not allow this division to happen. We grieve with you and we stand with you in solidarity.
We invite you to join us as we reject hate and division, embrace diversity and inclusion, building a safer multiracial democracy.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mix of rage, disappointment and grief are still there. Just under the surface.
And while Simone Biles tries to stay focused on the healing process more than 18 months after the Olympic gymnastics champion revealed she was among the hundreds of athletes abused by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, there are times when the massive systemic breakdown that allowed Nassar's behavior to run unchecked for years becomes too much.
"It hits you like a train wreck," Biles said Wednesday as she prepared for the U.S. championships.
One that leaves the greatest gymnast of her generation and the face of the U.S. Olympic movement ahead of the 2020 Games in a difficult spot.
She still loves competing, pushing herself and the boundaries of her sport in the process.
And yet the 22-year-old still finds herself working under the banner of USA Gymnastics and by extension the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Both organizations were called out by Congress along with the FBI last week in a scathing report that detailed a series of catastrophic missteps that allowed Nassar — a longtime trainer with USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University — to continue to abuse patients even after athletes started questioning his methods in the summer of 2015.
While Nassar is now behind bars for the rest of his life and USA Gymnastics has undergone a massive overhaul in leadership since the 2016 Olympics as it fights to retain its status as the sport's national governing body, the scars remain fresh for Biles, though she knows that doesn't make her different from the other women who were abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment.
"I don't mean to cry," the typically poised Biles said through tears two days before attempting to win her sixth national title. "But it's hard coming here for an organization having had them failed us so many times. And we had one goal and we've done everything that they've asked us for, even when we didn't want to and they couldn't do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn't protect us."
Biles is in therapy to help deal with the emotional fallout, well aware that progress will be slow and that a full recovery might not be possible.
"Everyone's healing process is different and I think that's the hardest part," she said. "Because I feel like maybe I should be healed or this or that. But I feel like it will be an open wound for a really long time and it might not ever get closed or healed."
So Biles is doing what she can, trying to find a balance between her pursuit to become the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as Olympic champion while using her status as the face of her sport to effect change.
"When we tweet, it obviously goes a long way," she said. "We're blessed to be given a platform so that people will hear and listen. But you know, it's not easy coming back to the sport. Coming back to the organization that has failed you. But you know, at this point, I just try to think, 'I'm here as a professional athlete with my club team and stuff like that.' Because it's not easy being out here. I feel every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I've been through and what I'm going through and how I've come out of it."
The process in some ways is getting easier. There were days early in her return to training in the fall and winter of 2017 and early 2018 when she would quit in the middle of practice and walk out of the gym without a word to coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi as to why.
Those days are gone. Biles says therapy has helped her rediscover her joy for the sport she is redefining at every meet.
Still, the effects of her experience with Nassar, combined with the inability of USA Gymnastics, the USOPC and the FBI to act decisively when athletes alerted them about his conduct, linger. She can feel it when she is introduced to a new staff member at USA Gymnastics and sense it in her reluctance to meet with trainers after practice.
"How can we trust them?" Biles said. "They bring in new people all the time and I automatically put my foot up because the people that I had known for years had failed us."
Yes, the organization has taken several steps in addressing what it acknowledges was a toxic culture that played a role in Nassar hiding in plain sight, including updating its Safe Sport policy to provide better protection for athletes and clearer guidelines for coaches, parents, trainers and club owners on what constitutes abuse.
Yet Biles is wary. She has watched for the last three years as every step forward by USA Gymnastics is met with a step backward. Biles is intent on making sure she leaves gymnastics in a better place. She hopes the organization she competes for is sincere in its attempts to do the same.
For now, she doesn't sound convinced.
"All we can do at this point is have faith that they'll have our backs, they'll do the right thing," she said. "But at the end of the day it's just a ticking time bomb. We'll see. It's a waiting game."
Leaving the White House for a trip to Dayton and El Paso Wednesday, President Donald Trump couldn't resist a detour to politics, lambasting critics of his response to two mass shootings as "political people" who are "very low in the polls."
The Democrats seeking to replace him sought to draw a sharp contrast to that kind of moment as the nation still reeled from the latest violence, revealing differences in their own approaches as they struck back at the president.
Around the same time that Trump was speaking, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker stood in the pulpit of a church that was the site of a mass shooting four years ago and argued that simply acknowledging white supremacy is insufficient. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who was born in El Paso, joined a protest against the president's visit. And former Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech blaming Trump's rhetoric, which he claimed has "unleash[ed] the deepest darkest forces in our nation."
It was a stunning day of politics in the 2020 campaign, as Democrats sought to show that they could help heal the nation in a time of tragedy, a role that has always been unnatural for Trump, and bridge deep racial divisions that have surfaced.
Booker began his day at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, S.C., the site of a hate-driven massacre in 2015 that left nine dead at the hands of a white supremacist with deep misunderstand of slavery and race. In a stand-out speech of the campaign thus far, Booker laid responsibility for the deaths at the feet of those like Trump who fueled fear of an “invasion” and those who likened minorities as “rats and rodents” during his visit to the oldest black church in the South, known as Mother Emanuel and an icon to many African-Americans.
“The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger. It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel 10 hours to kill as many human beings as he could,” Booker said, broadening his assessment of hate. “It was planted in fertile soil, because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of our body politic.”
Bleak and uplifting in equal measure, Booker used the stop to reframe the campaign against Trump in a way almost guaranteed to leave the incumbent President on shaky ground.
The President, for his part, denied any culpability. “I think my rhetoric brings people together,” Trump insisted Wednesday morning before he left for Ohio.
But the nation’s divisions were laid bare when Trump arrived in Dayton for his first stop of the day, as protesters lined the streets downtown holding pro-Trump flags in some hands and “Dump Trump” and “Flip the Senate” signs in others. As he spent about an hour inside Miami Valley Hospital, where, according to the White House, he thanked first responders and hospital staff and met with the victims and families being treated there, he faced growing criticism over his own divisive rhetoric.
“We have a President who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation,” Biden said during a stop in Burlington, Iowa, that took place while Trump was on Air Force One flying from Ohio to Texas. “And that makes winning the battle for the soul of this nation that much harder.” It was arguably the best showing yet this campaign from the former Vice President who, at times, has appeared unsteady in the front-runner role.
Comforting the nation in times of crisis has never been Trump’s strong suit. He thrives on rally-style environments and provocation, not on solemn or emotional calls to unity. “He hasn’t really been a consoler,” Michael Cornfield, a professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, told TIME about the way Trump talks about national tragedies. “This kind of language, which we do associate with the presidency — it’s one of their undefined but socially expected roles — would be new to him.”
After Trump denounced white supremacy in a speech at the White House Tuesday, he largely stayed out of the public view in Dayton on Wednesday. The only insights came from White House aides’ Twitter feeds and comments to reporters aboard Air Force One afterwards. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted her account of the President’s conversations in the hospital. “You had God watching,” Trump told victims and families, according to Grisham’s tweet. “I want you to know we’re with you all the way.” Social media aide Dan Scavino tweeted Trump “was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital,” and posted pictures of Trump smiling, taking selfies and giving thumbs up to the people there.
President @realDonaldTrump with the incredible medical staff at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio today. Some extremely powerful moments throughout the entire visit, with so much enthusiasm and love, contrary to what the Trump Hating Dems would ever share or say. pic.twitter.com/Wpvf2zPDRd
Speaking briefly to reporters after the visit, Trump said he had an "amazing day." "The love, the respect for the office of he presidency — I wish you could have been in there to see it," he said. Trump left for Texas after the hospital visit, and his limousine rolled past hundreds of protesters near the hospital entrance, some bearing Trump campaign gear while at least one person held a sign that said “Impeach.”
El Paso was always going to be a more fraught stop for the President. The Dayton shooter’s motive is still unknown. But the suspected shooter who killed 22 people and injured at least 26 others after opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso may have posted a screed online before his killing spree, which referred to a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The author, whose identity authorities are trying to determine and who may be the shooting suspect, explicitly clarified that he has held his views since before Trump’s political rise, but critics have been drawing parallels between the language used in the posting and words Trump has used in the past, like “invasion” to describe undocumented immigrants coming to the United States.
“How far apart are those comments?” Biden asked in his fiery speech in Iowa. “I don’t think it’s that far at all. In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.” (Trump declared Biden’s speech “Sooo Boring!” in a tweet from aboard Air Force One while the former Vice President was still on stage.)
No 2020 Democratic candidate has a more personal podium from which to criticize Trump right now than O’Rourke, who cancelled campaign travel in the wake of the shooting in his hometown and spent Wednesday and the days leading up to it meeting with community members there. On Tuesday night, the president tweeted about O’Rourke, mocking him and his polling and telling him to “be quiet!” On Wednesday morning, O’Rourke attended a morning of remembrance at El Dorado High School, where he addressed students from a football field.
“I want to stand with this community, not so much against anybody else. [It’s] a great moment to remind ourselves just who we are, this beautiful, diverse community of people who’ve come from all over the planet,” O’Rourke told reporters after the assembly.
From there he went to an El Paso Strong rally, a community event put on by local organizations “to honor those lives lost, confront President Trump and white supremacy, and demand responsible gun control.”
There, people spent the hottest part of the day out in the sun, where they held signs that said “your words have consequences” and “f-ck racism” and “there’s blood on your little hands.”
Perhaps the sign that most universally captured the mood at Washington Park, where the rally took place mere miles from the border, was the giant banner held by several people in front of the stage that read, “not welcome.” At one point, the crowd even broke out into chants of “send him back.”
“We have a president who demonizes communities like this one, who vilifies immigrants, who says that those from Mexico are rapists and criminals and warns of invasions and infestations," O’Rourke said.
Punctuating O’Rourke’s speech were people chanting “no more complacency, stop white supremacy.”
Meanwhile, Trump visited first responders, staff, victims and families at the University Medical Center of El Paso.
Elsewhere in the city, a crowd chanted “present” in Spanish after each of the 22 victims’ names from the Walmart shooting here in El Paso were called one by one.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez became Puerto Rico's new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island's Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi's swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.
Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Díaz, and her daughter, Vázquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment.
"I will continue to focus on helping our people regain their way in an orderly and peaceful fashion," she said in a statement in which she promised to assume the position with "humility and commitment."
The high court's unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.
But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don't want Vázquez as governor.
"It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional," the court said in a brief statement.
Pierluisi said that he had stepped forward to help islanders "in the best good faith and desire to contribute to the future of our homeland," but that he would respect the court's ruling.
"I must step aside and support the Justice Secretary of Puerto Rico, the Honorable Wanda Vázquez Garced," he said in a statement before she was sworn in.
People began cheering in some parts of San Juan after the ruling was announced, and Puerto Ricans were expected to gather later outside the governor's seaside mansion in the capital's colonial district — some to celebrate the court's decision and others to protest the incoming governor.
In the early afternoon, someone yelled through a loudspeaker near the residence: "Pierluisi out! The constitution of Puerto Rico should be respected!"
"It was the correct decision," said Xiomary Morales, a waitress and student who works a block away, adding that those in power "are used to doing what they want."
Puerto Ricans are physically and emotionally exhausted and want an end to the political turmoil, she said. "They should just hold fresh elections, hit restart like a PlayStation game."
But Tita Caraballo, a retired nurse from the inland eastern city of Gurabo, disagreed with the court.
"I think they are playing with the people and, I don't know, maybe they have someone they want and that is why they are doing this," Caraballo said.
Pierluisi was appointed secretary of state by then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló while legislators were in recess, and only the House approved his nomination. Pierluisi was then sworn in as governor Friday after Rosselló formally resigned in response to the protests.
Puerto Rico's Senate sued to challenge Pierluisi's legitimacy as governor, arguing that its approval was also necessary, and the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Senate.
The Senate had also asked the court to declare unconstitutional a portion of a 2005 law saying a secretary of state need not be approved by both House and Senate if they have to step in as governor. Puerto Rico's constitution says a secretary of state has to be approved by both chambers.
The court agreed that the law's clause was unconstitutional.
"Today this Tribunal speaks with a single voice, loud and clear," Justice Roberto Feliberti Cintrón said in his written opinion. "The constitutional norms do not allow for absurdities and legal technicalities to contravene our Democratic System of Government."
In a separate opinion, Justice Erick Kolthoff Caraballo said Puerto Rico has suffered upheaval "like never in its modern history" and "the People need calm and security that things will soon return to order."
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz praised the court ruling in a triumphant statement.
"With absolute LEGITIMACY, we will seek TRUE PEACE and STABILITY," he said.
Six of the court's nine judges were appointed by governors from the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, to which both Pierluisi and Rivera Schatz belong.
Vázquez, a 59-year-old former prosecutor, is to serve out the remainder of Rosselló's term, with the next election scheduled for 2020.
Vázquez became justice secretary in January 2017. She previously worked as a district attorney for two decades at Puerto Rico's justice department, handling domestic and sexual abuse cases, and in 2010 was appointed director of the Office for Women's Rights.
Some critics say that as justice secretary that she was not aggressive enough in pursuing corruption investigations involving members of her New Progressive Party and that she did not prioritize gender violence cases.
William Gónzalez Roman, a retiree also from Gurabo, wasn't bullish on the idea of Vázquez as governor.
"We will see. You have to give everyone a chance, right?" González said. "Let's see what decisions (she makes), but I tell you that job is big with a lot of responsibility."
Last November, the Office of Government Ethics said it had received a complaint about possible ethical violations involving Vázquez, who was accused of intervening in a case involving a suspect charged with stealing government property at a home where Vázquez's daughter lived.
Vázquez appeared in court to face charges including two violations of a government ethics law. In December a judge found there was no evidence to arrest her.
Rosselló's resignation followed nearly two weeks of protests after the public emergence of the chat in which he and 11 other men including government officials mocked women, gay people and victims of Hurricane Maria, among others. More than two dozen officials resigned in the wake of the leak, including former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín.
"NOW is when that detestable group from the chat that lied, mocked, machinated, conspired, violated the law and betrayed Puerto Rico is truly ended and will leave government," Rivera Schatz, the Senate president, said Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Mariela Santos contributed to this report.
Like millions of her peers, Nicole Read graduated with thousands of dollars of debt. Unlike most of them, she’s getting direct help from her employer to pay it back.
The 26-year-old’s job at event organizer Live Nation Entertainment in Beverly Hills, California, comes with a benefit that may be starting to catch on at U.S. companies: Contributions to her student loan bills. Offering such an incentive helps businesses lure prospective employees as they grapple with tight labor market conditions marked by a jobless rate near its lowest in almost five decades.
In Read’s case, it’s $100 a month. As a result, “I’m paying like $30 over my minimum payment every month, so it’s gotten me to pay off my interest a little quicker,” she said. “It just kind of gives me a bit of breathing room.”
Such plans are spreading. They were on offer to staff at about 8% of U.S. employers in 2019, more than double the 2015 level, according to an April survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Another study by business adviser Willis Towers Watson found that 32% of firms are considering introducing a similar benefit by 2021.
“If you have a young demographic, offering benefits like student loan repayment could be the way to go,” said Alex Alonso, chief knowledge officer for SHRM.
Pronounced competition for talent and the elevated debt burden for a generation of Americans making their way into the workforce are driving the change. Millennials make up more than half of Live Nation’s U.S. labor force.
The balance on outstanding student loans reached $1.6 trillion at the end of the first quarter, and more than a quarter of that is held by people younger than 30. The effects reverberate through their social and economic lives, making it harder to start a family, buy a home or purchase big-ticket items, research shows.
The federal government is considering giving companies a break for helping employees with their debt.
The Employer Participation in Repayment Act, introduced in the House and Senate in February, would provide tax relief to firms that do so. It has bipartisan sponsors, including Democratic presidential candidates Seth Moulton and Amy Klobuchar.
Other Democratic contenders, like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have proposed more sweeping fixes that include writing off loans.
“Helping employees get out of debt faster is a win-win, both for the employee and for our productivity,” said Katie Wandtke, director of human resources at Cybrary, a cyber-security firm based in College Park, Maryland.
It’s not just smaller shops adopting the benefit. Larger companies, including professional services powerhouse PricewaterhouseCoopers, are catching on too.
Live Nation began offering the benefit in early 2017 and has helped employees save over $4 million. More than 80 of the company’s workers have been able to completely pay off their loans, according to Live Nation.
The event organizer works with startup Tuition.io, which specializes in helping companies set up such programs and has clients including Estee Lauder Cos. and Staples Inc. There are other platforms in the market too, including Goodly, which works with Cybrary, and Gradifi, used by PwC since 2016.
Paying an extra $30 a month more than the minimum, like Read says she does with her employer’s help, makes a difference.
For example, for a 10-year loan of $50,000 at 5%, it would save close to $1,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan – allowing the borrower to clear the slate eight months early.
“Jobs in the entertainment industry like this one, they’re not high-paying jobs necessarily,” said Read. “So this kind of helps offset that wage difference and it’s really helpful for people like me.”
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At TIME for Kids, one of our goals is to help equip children with the skills they need to navigate the news. We also want to make sure educators and families feel supported in this mission. Below, you'll find two interviews that ran earlier this year in TFK. The first talks to children about how to handle their feelings if the news is upsetting. The other looks at how kids can help stop cycles of anger and misunderstanding. There is also a set of resources to help you talk about tough stories in the news with the children in your life.
Gun violence is an all-too-frequent reality in our country. One way to create change is to build a community in which our children feel safe and validated. Let’s work together to achieve this goal.
—Stacy Bien, Curriculum Director, TIME for Kids
Share Your Feelings
If something in the news makes you feel worried or upset, what should you do? TFK asked an expert, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute. Here, he offers some advice.
I hear people talking about the news. How do I know whom to trust and what to believe?
Turn to the trusted adults in your life—parents, teachers, and coaches—to speak about topics that concern you. If a friend shares information, make sure the source isn’t just someone’s opinion passed along through social media. Seek information from reliable sources, such as newspapers. Your school librarian can help you assess a news source’s trustworthiness if you are unsure.
I saw a TV report that upsets me. What can I do?
Sometimes, when you go on the Internet or you watch news on TV, it’s not completely accurate. The news on TV is fast-paced. When sad news affects our nation, all of us need time to understand it and process it. The best people to help you do that are your parents, teachers, and other adults you trust.
The news made me feel sad. What should I do?
Sadness is a normal emotion. Even someone strong and powerful weeps when he or she is very sad. It’s part of being human that sad events make us personally feel sad. That doesn’t mean we need to fall apart. We just have to acknowledge that we’re sad and move forward.
The news made me feel worried. What should I do?
When we have upsetting news, people respond in different ways. There are certain kids who are very private and don’t want anyone to see how they feel. Other kids share their worries. If you feel worried, talk to your parents and teachers. Getting information can make you feel more comfortable.
I spoke to my parents and teachers, but I still feel worried. What else can I do?
If you’re still very nervous, another way to feel better is to take part in activities that help others. Go with your parents to a soup kitchen, or think of ways that you or your class can help other kids. Also, make sure to keep your normal routine. Go to sleep at the right time, play with your friends, and go to the movies. It’s okay to feel sad, but it’s not good to stop doing the things you usually do.
Show Respect, Model Kindness
Understanding and inclusion start with you. TFK talked with Caryl M. Stern, president and CEO of UNICEF U.S.A. and coauthor of a book called Hate Hurts. Here’s her advice on how to handle hurtful comments and find common ground.
Be a part of creating the world you want. That means thinking and planning ahead. Do not wait until hate happens to talk about hate.
There’s no time limit for responding to a hurtful comment. You don’t have to respond right in the moment. Sometimes, you are so angry or hurt or shocked that you can’t respond. Or sometimes, it would be such a public response that you would humiliate the offender. That might not be the best way to get them to hear what you have to say. Make a plan as to when you are going to respond, and follow through with it.
Open the ears of the listener. Start by pointing out why you’re bothered and how you feel. Make sure the person knows that they matter enough for you to talk to them.
Use I statements, not you statements. Explain to the offender that you are not talking about what they said. Explain that you are talking about how what they said made you feel. You are not trying to get them to defend what they said. You are trying to explain to them why it was hurtful. You can’t necessarily change a person in one conversation. And you can’t ask someone to change who they are. But you can ask them to change the way they act around you.
Learn how to ask questions. I consider there to be two basic diversity skills. One is how to ask questions, the second is how to give answers. You want to be able to ask about things you don’t understand, but you need to know how to ask in the right way. Part of that comes from learning how to give answers and finding the right vocabulary.
Learn about cultures you know nothing about. As a class project, look at what’s happening in your community to find out what’s different from what you normally do. What festivals, concerts, or plays are happening? How many different houses of worship are there? See if each of you can get the adults in your life to take you to one of them.
Our kids are exposed to so much more information than previous generations were. How do you explain to them the scary and difficult events that they no doubt hear about, without making them anxious or fearful? Our immediate instinct is to shield our children from such events. While this is perfectly natural, especially as parents are also having difficulty wrapping their heads around the events, it might not always be the best approach, according to experts.
Figuring out what your child has learned and answering his or her questions in understandable terms is usually the best approach, according to Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute: “By initiating this dialogue and allowing and encouraging your children to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future.”
It’s important to stay calm as you talk through the events. Children pick up their cues from their parents, so if you act anxious, they will be anxious. Psychologist Paul Coleman, author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces, says parents should follow these SAFE steps.
Search for hidden questions or fears. Ask what else is on their mind about what happened, what their friends say about it and what their biggest worry is right now.
Act. Keep routines going—homework, bedtime rituals, and so on—because they’re reassuring and distracting. “It is a good time to have them do kind things for others,” says Coleman. Little things, like opening a door for a stranger, “remind them that there are kindnesses in this world.”
Feel feelings. “Let them know their feelings make sense,” says Coleman. Let them talk it out and show that you understand.
Ease Minds. After you’re sure they’ve talked through their fears, you can assure them of their safety.
Every week, TIME puts out a free parenting newsletter that quickly summarizes the latest interesting and important parenting stories of the week. It’s a compendium of new studies, different approaches, and a shared con