Archive for June, 2018


family separations.jpg

 

 

Nationwide outrage and protests has grown over the practice of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in violation of international human rights law. At least 3,700 immigrant children have been separated from their parents since October and Border Patrol says it has separated more than 2,300 kids since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April.  The separated children have been sent to detention facilities in at least 17 states.

It had long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the US, punishable by up to six months in prison.  However, the administration didn’t always refer everyone caught for prosecution. Those apprehended were swiftly put into immigration proceedings and unless they met the threshold to pursue a valid asylum claim, were quickly deported from the country.  The “zero tolerance” policy plan makes no special arrangements for those who claim asylum when apprehended and refers all apprehended for prosecution-thus the increase in family separations.  While they will be allowed to pursue their claims and could eventually be found to have a legitimate right to live in the US, they could still already have a conviction for illegal entry.

Outrage grew as images of immigrant children housed in chain-linked cages covered with foil blankets circulated through social media and news outlets.  Investigative news source ProPublica obtained audio of children desperately crying for their parents at an immigrant detention facility.   ProPublica: “The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.”  The audio can be hard to listen to for many and sparked mass outrage from both sides of the political parties.

Governors of eight states—Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, North Carolina and Connecticut—said they would either withhold or recall their National Guard troops from the border, in protest of the practice of separating children.  The resources in question from each state are relatively small, so the actions a more of a strong symbolic political gesture.

American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the administration to stop transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their families aboard their companies’ planes. American Airlines said in a statement, “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.”   United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said, “Our Company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”

On Wednesday, the US President signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, by detaining them together while their legal cases go through the courts. The order does not say where the families will be detained or whether children will continue to be separated from their parents until the facilities are ready.  Critics warn the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families.  The order has not outlined any plans for reuniting children already separated from their families.

 

 

Advertisements

nyc cab suicides.jpg

 

 

A string of suicides by New York City taxi drivers in the last several months has advocates concerned about the impact of Uber and Lyft, as well as the loans cabdrivers have relied on to purchase taxi medallions.  Taxi medallions are permits that cities issue to cap the number of cabs on the road. Until the past several years, the value of the medallions seemed to keep rising as large taxi companies, individual operators and other investors bought them up.

The latest suicide that has shaken the cab industry is that of fifty-nine-year-old Abdul Saleh, a Yemeni immigrant who had been a taxi driver for 30 years. He was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday morning.  On March 16, Nicanor Ochisor, a 65-year-old yellow cab driver, took his own life in his Queens home. According to his family and friends, he had been drowning financially as his prized taxi medallion, on which he had hoped to retire, plummeted in value. In February, driver Douglas Schifter shot himself outside City Hall after posting a lengthy statement to Facebook blaming politicians for letting the streets get so saturated.

Another driver, Yu Mein Chow, 56, disappeared on May 11 and his body was found floating in the East River about nine miles south, near the Brooklyn Bridge, on May 16th.  Chow, had taken out a loan seven years ago to buy a $700,000 medallion that gave him the right to operate a cab.  It’s believed that he jumped to his death after being unable to make a payment on the $700,000 medallion loan.  According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, at least two other drivers have killed themselves since December in response to mounting financial pressures.

Many saw securing a taxi medallion as the fulfillment of their American Dream, and they financed them as they would a mortgage, assuming they would only grow in value over time.  In 2014, the price of a New York City medallion topped $1 million. That year, they went for $700,000 in Boston, $400,000 in Philadelphia, and $300,000 in Chicago.  As competition from ride-hailing services intensified, loans for medallions have dried up across the country and their values have plummeted.   In January, seven medallions in NYC sold for under $200,000 each at auction-leaving many drivers deeply in debt.  Though New York City had used taxi medallions to cap the number of yellow cabs at just over 13,600, it doesn’t limit the number of drivers for Uber, Lyft, or other services.  The lack of regulation has led to rapid growth.   Uber launched in the city in 2011 with just 105 cars on the road and grew to to 20,000 by 2015.  Today, there are more than 63,000 black cars providing rides through various ride-hailing apps, 60,000 of which are affiliated with Uber.

John Boit, spokesman for the national group, Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, said operators like Uber aren’t solely to blame for undermining what had been a respectable living for generations of drivers.  He said New York’s City Hall also deserves blame for not protecting those who had invested in driving careers.  “The city enriched itself with billions of dollars in medallion sales and then allowed a massive influx of new drivers, clogging the streets and bringing down income industrywide,” he said. “The current situation makes it impossible for many to repay their debts. What the drivers need now is a fair solution for their investment in city medallions and a level playing field for the future.”

The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, the local yellow cab union, has also called for changes including capping the number of for-hire vehicles operating in the city.  The New York City Council is considering several bills that would curb the expansion of ride-sharing services — by charging annual fees to drivers, limiting how many apps one person can drive for or limiting the number of cars each company can have in operation.

fresh-mark-salem-2-raid-june-2018.png

 

 

 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Ohio raided another company and said 146 workers were arrested as part of a year-long investigation into Fresh Mark, a northern Ohio meat supplier.  ICE officials raided the company’s plant in Salem, Ohio, about 4 p.m. Tuesday. Search warrants also were served at three other locations in the state.  An ICE spokesman said the investigation continues and could result in additional charges. He did not rule out charges against Fresh Mark employees who may have hired workers in the country illegally.

Fresh Mark was once touted by the government as a partner in preventing hiring undocumented workers. Under the Obama administration, ICE announced the supplier was the first Ohio company to partner with a program meant to “curtail the employment of unauthorized workers,” according to a 2012 news release announcing ICE’s partnership with Fresh Mark. “We are honored to be selected by ICE to participate in this program,” Fresh Mark human resources director Mark Sullivan said in the news release. “For nearly a decade, Fresh Mark has proactively partnered with the government to ensure the integrity of our workforce and the IMAGE program will be a tremendous addition to our future employee verification process.”

Under the program, called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE, employers can voluntarily partner with the agency by taking steps to weed out undocumented workers. They must use the government’s E-Verify system, which checks employees’ I-9 employment eligibility status and create hiring policies.  After the June 19th raid, ICE said the company may have knowingly hired undocumented workers and many are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.

Immigration officials lined up dozens of workers, many dressed in white helmets and smocks, outside the meat-processing plant in rural Ohio.  An ICE spokesman confirmed that about 60 workers at the Fresh Mark plant in Salem who were detained have been released.  Workers who are in the country legally but did not have proper documentation with them at the time of the raid were released after officials determined they are authorized to work in the United States.  ICE officials said they also released several workers for health and family reasons and other humanitarian concerns.

The remaining 86 workers detained in the raid are being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road and the Geauga County jail while they await deportation proceedings.  The men were sent to the East Side private prison and the women were sent to Geauga County.  Sister Rene Weeks, of St. Paul Parish in Salem, said the majority of those detained in the raid were Guatemalan nationals who fled violence in that country and they comprise a large percentage of Salem’s immigrant community.  She added that those released for humanitarian reasons included parents who had children left behind after the raid as well as one woman who is several months pregnant and another who has leukemia.  “They were pretty terrified when the raid happened and relieved to be back with their families, but they are also worried about what comes next,” Sister Rene said.  Sister Rene said many of those who were released met with immigration lawyers Wednesday at St. Paul Parish.

ICE has carried out several such raids in recent months. Two weeks ago, it arrested 114 workers at a gardening company’s two Ohio locations. In April, ICE raided a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee and arrested 97 immigrants. In January, ICE raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide, arresting 21.

 

 

 

chase-bishop-in-court.jpg

 

 

The off-duty FBI agent who accidentally shot a man while doing a back flip on the dance floor of a Denver bar has been charged.  Chase Bishop, 29, whose gun went flying out of his holster at Mile High Spirits bar in Denver, was charged with second-degree assault. The incident was captured in a viral video with many outraged that he had not been charged by the Denver Police.  Police had initially released Bishop to an FBI supervisor while awaiting toxicology results before deciding whether to charge him.

A spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office said Bishop turned himself in after a warrant for his arrest was issued on Tuesday.  He was being held in Downtown Detention Center in Denver but jail records say Bishop posted a $1000 bond and was released.  Additional charges could be filed based on the results of a blood alcohol content test, which has not yet been received, authorities have said.  Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said the assault charge was filed before that report comes back “because sufficient evidence has been presented to file it.  If an additional charge needs to be filed after further evidence is received, we can file those charges then.”  Results from the BAC test are expected within a week.

The incident happened at 12:45am on June 2.  Bishop’s gun discharged and struck fellow patron Tom Reddington in the leg.  Bishop immediately picked up the weapon but accidentally squeezed off a single round. He then placed the gun in his waistband and walked off the dance floor with his hands in the air, the video shows.  Reddington said “We sat down at one of those picnic tables — I heard a loud bang and I thought some idiot set off a firecracker.  Then I looked down at my leg and see some brown residue… All of a sudden from the knee down it became completely red. Then it clicked that I’ve been shot.”  Reddington told “Good Morning America” that he asked for someone to call 911 before blacking out. A security guard and fellow club-goers applied a tourniquet to his leg.  “I soaked through several blankets, several towels, a few gauze pads,” Reddington said.  Reddington is expected to fully recover.

Though Bishop offered no assistance to Reddington on the night of the shooting, his attorney said his client would like to meet with the man who was injured and is praying for his recovery.  Attorney David Goddard asked that Bishop be allowed to travel because he lives and works in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors did not object, and Denver County Court Judge Andrea Eddy gave Bishop permission to travel.  Chase Bishop, 29, made his first appearance in a Denver courtroomon Wednesday, where a judge issued a standard protection order stating that he must have zero contact and stay at least 100 yards away from the victim, Tom Reddington.

Bishop did not enter a plea and declined to answer any questions as he left the courthouse.  The FBI field office in Denver declined to comment on the incident “to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation,” said Amy Sanders, a spokeswoman.  Sanders said the field office would fully cooperate with Denver police and prosecutors “as this matter proceeds through the judicial process.”

 

 

 

 

george tyndall.jpg

 

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the University of Southern California (USC) and a former gynecologist there, Dr. George Tyndall, who is accused of sexually harassing and molesting dozens, and potentially hundreds, of students during his nearly 30 years at the university.  The attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tyndall’s accusers, wrote that USC “actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse for years.”  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven women who claim Tyndall used racist and inappropriately sexual language during consultations and conducted pelvic examinations with his fingers without gloves.

After an LA Times piece published in May exposed the allegations, the Los Angeles Police Department has launched an investigation into the allegations, USC president C.L. Max Nikias has resigned, and the rest of the university faculty has been scrambling to address the school’s shortcomings in regard to issues of sexual misconduct.

Tyndall had a history of allegedly inappropriately touching female students during gynecological examinations, making lewd comments about their bodies, and taking pictures of their genitals. USC acknowledged it had received complaints against Tyndall as early as 2000.  Authorities say school administrators received reports of sexual abuse during pelvic exams dating back to the early 1990s but failed to investigate these reports until 2016. The doctor wasn’t fired until 2017, when his colleagues discovered a box full of pictures of female genitalia in his office.

They finally parted ways with him last June, but only after the university conducted an internal investigation and found out about the ignored complaints.  University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.  Authorities say fifty-two former patients of a Tyndall, who treated thousands of women at the University of Southern California have reported they may have been victims of inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior.  Police estimate Dr. George Tyndall may have seen 10,000 patients and they think there could be more victims among women who were examined by him.

The 71-year-old reportedly admitted that his exams were “extremely thorough” but claimed he never did anything inappropriate. Several former co-workers spoke to the LA Times “They felt like they were violated,” explained one nurse, who spoke with at least five women in 2013 and 2014 who refused to be seen by Tyndall.  “They felt like he was inappropriately touching them, that it didn’t feel like a normal exam.”  Other co-workers claim he was improperly taking pictures of students’ genitals and making inappropriate remarks during pelvic exams.  Tyndall would often commend patients on their “flawless” and “creamy” skin, while also making comments about their bodies, the employees said.  A nurse recalls an exchange where she watched him compliment a student on her “perky breasts.”  “They stand right up there, don’t they?’” she recalled him telling the patient.

In 2013, eight different medical assistants who were in exam rooms during exams, voiced their concerns about Tyndall to long time nurse Cindy Gilbert, but nothing was done about his behavior.  Gilbert reported the complaints to then-executive director Dr. Lawrence Neinstein who instead chose to handle the situation “independently.”

 

 

 

oxy lawsuit.jpg

 

Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against 16 top executives of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular drug OxyContin, claiming they misled doctors, patients and the public about the dangers posed by the opioid-based painkiller.  Attorney General Maura Healey said “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made—and the more people died. We found that Purdue engaged in a multibillion-dollar enterprise to mislead us about their drugs. Purdue pushed prescribers to give higher doses to keep patients on drugs for longer periods of time, without regard to the very real increased risk of addiction, overdose and death.”  Texas, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee have filed similar lawsuits in state courts against the drug maker, whose headquarters are in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Texas’ lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma, the privately held manufacterer of OxyContin, of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by aggressively selling its products “when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said.  “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses,” Paxton said.

State officials in Arizona, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia,  — sued various pain-killer manufacturers and distributors for their roles in helping the opioid epidemic grow.  In 2007, Purdue Pharma did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million to settle lawsuits with 26 states and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.  Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were part of that agreement while Florida and North Dakota were not.

Opioids were the cause of nearly 42,250 deaths in 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Research suggests that since heroin and opioid painkillers, (including prescription ones) act similarly in the brain.  Opioid painkillers are often referred to by some doctors as “heroin lite” and taking one (even “as directed”) can increase one’s susceptibility to becoming hooked on the other.  Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, with opioids as the number-one driver.

Deaths from opioids (including fentynals) have been rising sharply for years with an estimated 100 drug overdoses a day across the country.  Experts say the epidemic could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ice_sting_ohio_2_-_by_john_minchillo.jpg

 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), arrested 114 undocumented immigrants working at an Ohio gardening business in one of its largest workplace raids in recent years.  Tuesday’s arrests targeted employees of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky and Castalia, Ohio.  Those arrested are expected to face criminal charges, including identity theft and tax evasion.

About 200 ICE personnel were involved in the operations, which began at 7 a.m. and continued late into the evening.  Agents surrounded the perimeter of the Castalia locations, blocking off nearby streets as helicopters flew overhead.  Search warrants were served at both locations without incident.  They arrested 114 workers suspected of being in the country illegally and loaded many onto buses bound for ICE detention facilities.

Khaalid Walls, spokesman for ICE’s Northeastern region, said the investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 with the arrest of a suspected document vendor.  They reviewed 313 employee records and found that 123 were suspicious.  He added that the majority of those arrested were Mexican nationals and some individuals were processed and released for humanitarian reasons.

Authorities are pursuing a bevy of allegations against Corso’s, including allegations of harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, false impersonation of a US citizen, fraud and aggravated identity theft, Walls said.

Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations said “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.”  “If your business is operating legitimately, there’s nothing to fear.  If you are hiring illegal aliens as a business model, we will identify you, arrest you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

In October 2017, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said he ordered the investigative unit of ICE to increase work site enforcement actions by as much as fivefold.  “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan said at the time.  Homan also said that those actions would target both the employers and the employees in violation of immigration law.  “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers.  The aggressive efforts are meant to deter people from entering the country illegally and protect jobs for American workers.”

Corso’s employee Salma Sabala told news outlets that undercover officers showed up in an employee break room initially offering to give out Dunkin’ Donuts. Then, they started rounding up workers.  “ They’re armed. They had the dogs. We hear the helicopters on top of us,” Sabala said.  Videos captured by workers and reporters showed immigration agents putting employees in handcuffs and separating authorized U.S. residents from undocumented immigrants. No employees were seen fleeing.

The 114 people arrested were taken to detention facilities in St. Clair County, Michigan; Seneca County, Ohio; and the Youngstown, Ohio, area.  Families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones.

 

 

 

fbi-agent-gunfire-e1527996182914.jpg

 

A Denver man is recovering after he was shot when an off-duty FBI agent dropped his gun while doing a backflip in the middle of the dance floor at a downtown Denver bar.  Twenty-four year old Tom Reddington, was shot in the leg by the single round of gun fire.  The Denver Police Department is facing criticism because no charges have been filed.  They say they’re still waiting for pending lab results before deciding if the off-duty agent, Chase Bishop, will face charges in connection with the accidental shooting.

Reddington’s lawyer told news outlets that his client could have died if it weren’t for a quick thinking security guard who removed his belt and used it as a tourniquet.  He said the off-duty agent offered no help to Reddington immediately after the shooting and that his client will have to undergo vascular surgery to repair a major artery in his leg.

Bishop, 29, a Washington D.C.-based FBI agent, was visiting Denver for training.  While there he visited Mile High Spirits where he before accidentally fired his handgun after it fell from his holster when he executed a backflip trying to impress a crowd of onlookers.  Video of the incident shows the agent, Chase Bishop, dancing on the outdoor dance floor and then doing a back-flip.  While doing the flip, his gun falls from his holster.  He picks up his gun, which discharged a single round as he picked it up-and puts it back into his holster.

According to military records, Chase is a decorated war veteran who served in the army from November 2011 to February 2017.  He was deployed to Afghanistan in February 2013. He was an Army Intelligence Officer and achieved the rank of captain in October 2016.  Bishop was also twice awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, a Meritorious Unit Commendation and a Global War of Terrorism Service Medal, among others.

Legal experts are outraged that the Denver police and District Attorney have not filed charges in the incident even with video evidence of what transpired.  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper also weighed it on the situation.  “Those instances where someone puts the public at risk, should have consequences.  Sources in the FBI have said that the agent will be held accountable and that his stupid actions should not tarnish the reputation of the agency.

Mile High Spirits released a statement in regards to the shooting.   It is shocking that the only shooting to ever occur at our establishment came about as a result of an FBI agent entering our distillery tasting room carrying a loaded firearm without our knowledge, in violation of our rules.”

While it is not illegal for off-duty agents of law enforcement branches to have concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol or that do not allow firearms- it is illegal for them to consume alcohol while carrying a weapon.

 

 

aaron persky.jpg

 

 

Aaron Persky, the California judge who drew national attention in 2016 when he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday.  He is the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years.  Almost 60% of voters were in favor of removing Judge Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he had served since 2003. Prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson was elected to replace him.

The recall stemmed from the case of Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting a woman near a dumpster in 2015 after she had blacked out from drinking. In 2016, a jury found the 20 year old Stanford swimmer guilty on all three felony charges against him: sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape.

The maximum sentence in Turner’s case was 14 years but Judge Persky had sentenced him to six months.  During sentencing Judge Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him.  His decision along with the fact that he did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, outraged victims’ advocates nationally.

Turner served only three months before being released in September 2016.   He also received three years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.  Stanford forced him to withdraw and barred him from campus.  His victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published.  The sentence and resulting backlash, prompted California lawmakers to change the law. Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.

Talk of a recall campaign began immediately after he handed down his sentence.   The recall campaign was led by Ms. Dauber, whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.  In a statement, Judge Persky said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders.  LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, called the recall an attack on judicial independence and said it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”

Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Ms. Dauber said the results “demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue,” and that “if candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously.”

 

 

hawaii-volcano-fissue-aerial-view-paradise-helicopters-620.jpg

 

FEMA has ordered the evacuation of parts of a neighborhood on Hawaii’s Big Island as fast-moving lava from Kilauea volcano threatens to destroy more homes.  The volcano first erupted on May 3, 2018 and has destroyed over 100 houses.  Since the first eruption, 22 fissure vents have opened on the volcano’s East Rift Zone in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

Hawaii’s Highway 137 has been blocked by lava, cutting off access to Kapoho Bay, Vacationland, Hwy 132 and the Puna Geothermal power plant.  The flowing lava completely filled Kapoho Bay, inundated most of Vacationland and covered all but the northern part of Kapoho Beach Lots.  There are several hundred homes in these two subdivisions. Homes in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are on smaller lots and are closer together than in other parts of the Puna district.

More than 2,500 local residents have been forced to evacuate the dangerous lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide fumes that have consumed the neighborhoods.  Officials have warned residents of the threat of toxic gases, choking ash plumes, and volcanic glass falling from the sky.  When the sulfur dioxide from the fissures mix with sunlight and oxygen it forms a type of volcanic smog called “vog,” which can cause pneumonia and bronchitis-like symptoms.

Lava continues oozing from volcanic fissures, burning homes to the ground and turning into rivers of molten rock.  The lava from Kilauea has spread across 2,000 acres of land into the surrounding neighborhoods on Hawaii’s Big Island.  The rate of lava flow in the East Rift Zone has increased, advancing at rates up to 300 yards per hour.  Officials say flowing lava has reached the Pacific Ocean, creating a steam cloud of lava haze commonly called “laze”.  Laze is a mix of hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles.  The laze extends 15 miles west of the Big Island and can cause breathing issues and skin irritation.

On May 29, 2018, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that an ash eruption at Kīlauea summit occurred overnight at around 2 am.  According to officials, the resulting ash plume reached 15,000 feet and the wind was blowing in the Northwest direction, sending ash fall out into the surrounding area.  A a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was also reported in the summit region of the Kīlauea Volcano at 1:56 a.m.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement saying that no tsunami was expected.

Hawaii Civil Defense Service officials said they went through the neighborhood to warn residents this was their last chance to evacuate before their final escape route was cut off by lava Some chose to stay in the area, which now has no power, cell reception, landlines or county water, officials said.  Authorities are planning to airlift people out if the lava spreads farther and endangers the dozen or so holdouts.  Hundreds of residents are now living in shelters and emergency tents as local residents provide food and supplies.