Tag Archive: affordable health insurance Texas


 

jeffrey-epstein-9.jpg

 

Federal prosecutors charged financier Jeffrey Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking on July 8 2019.  Epstein was first arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on July 6, after arriving back in the United States from France.  Federal prosecutors also searched his New York City home over the weekend and news outlets report that during the search of his townhouse, investigators seized photographs of nude underage girls, federal prosecutors said.  Epstein has pleaded not guilty on both charges.  If convicted of the charges, Epstein faces a maximum of 45 years.

A federal judge in New York has denied bail to Jeffrey Epstein, declaring him a danger to the community and a significant flight risk. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman pointed to a raid by investigators on Epstein’s mansion earlier this month that found “piles of cash,” stashes of diamonds and an expired passport with Epstein’s photo next to someone else’s name listed under a Saudi address.  Prosecutors accused the serial child sex abuser of possible witness tampering, saying he made payments totaling $350,000 to two people he feared could testify against him in court.

Court documents say “over the course of many years, Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”  It also notes that “in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused.” The prosecution alleges that he sexually assaulted girls as young as 14 years old.

Epstein started his career in New York City as a math teacher at the Dalton School, but went to work at the investment bank Bear Stearns in the 1970s before founding his own firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982. According to Vox, he specifically marketed his services to “those with assets worth more than $1 billion,” and operates his company out of the U.S. Virgin Islands for tax reasons.  Throughout the years, Epstein belonged to a high society social circle that included politicians and elitists.

Epstein’s bust comes months after a federal judge ruled his 2007 non-prosecution agreement —violated federal law by keeping Epstein’s victims in the dark. Under the sweetheart deal, Epstein dodged federal charges that might have sent him to prison for life. He instead pleaded guilty in 2008 to felony state charge of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  He served 13 months in a private wing of a county jail, mostly on work release, which allowed him to commute to an office outside the jail six days a week. He also registered as a sex offender.  Many say it was a slap on the wrist for someone accused of abusing dozens of underage Florida girls.

“It’s been a long time coming—it’s been too long coming,” said attorney David Boies, who represents Epstein accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome. “It is an important step towards getting justice for the many victims of Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise.  “We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible.”

 

Advertisements

michael-wolfe.jpg

 

The bodies of a missing Salem, Oregon mother and her son were found in a remote area of Oregon.  Karissa Fretwell, 25, and her 3-year-old son, William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing last month. Family members said they had not seen or heard from them since May 13.  Karissa’s cause of death was determined to be from a single gunshot to the head, and the manner of death was determined to be homicide.  The cause and manner of death of Billy is yet to be determined, pending additional testing.

Despite the lack of bodies, Michael John Wolfe, 52, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping. Court documents identify him as Billy’s biological father and Karissa’s friends and family say Billy was conceived through an affair.  Wolfe, who is married to another woman, was established as Billy’s biological father through a DNA test in 2018 after Fretwell filed a petition to establish the boy’s paternity.

Wolfe and Fretwell had an affair while working together at a local steel mill and the two were locked in a custody battle.  Court documents state Fretwell and Wolfe were in court as recently as April, and Wolfe was ordered to pay over $900 a month in child support and provide health insurance coverage for Billy.  The court documents state Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.  Fretwell had sole custody of her son, and the two had been living in West Salem.  Billy Fretwell’s babysitter told police Karissa Fretwell reported being threatened by Wolfe and his wife, who said they would take custody of the boy.  Police say the wife is not a person of interest in the case at this point, but that detectives continue to look at anyone who could be connected.

The sheriff’s office said ongoing efforts by detectives to locate the missing mother and son led searchers to a remote area of Yamhill County, about 10 miles west of the city of Yamhill.  Crews searched the heavily wooded and remote area for about two hours before finding two bodies.  Yamhill-area police conducted about 20 searches looking for the bodies since they were reported missing in mid-May.  At one point, they searched about 800 yards away from where the bodies were eventually found partially covered by debris in a forested part of Weyerhauser property 10 miles west of the city of Yamhill.  Investigators say that Wolfe fished and had a permit to cut wood on the Weyerhauser property where the bodies were eventually found.

Detectives obtained data from Karissa Fretwell’s cellphone showing her phone used a cell tower southeast of Gaston, which provides coverage to Wolfe’s rural property.  Cell data also placed her phone Wolfe’s place of work, a steel mill in McMinnville. He told police he was working the night of May 13 and morning of May 14, but detectives believe surveillance video and cell tower activity disputes that.  Footage at the mill shows Wolfe leaving his work area on a golf cart and walking toward a line of trees and bushes to a nearby parking lot.

Wolfe reappears through the trees almost five hours later and drives the golf cart back to his work area while carrying a white trash bag filled with unknown items.  Phone records from May 13 also show Wolfe’s phone pinged cell towers “away from his place of work” shortly after he disappeared through the trees. That evening, Wolfe’s phone pinged a tower that would cover Fretwell’s apartment in Salem and pinged towers near his workplace about the time he reappeared at his workplace. Wolfe told detectives he had not been to Salem in more than a year.

 

 

christchurchshooter.jpg

The New Zealand man accused of massacring Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch in March pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act. The 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, is an avowed white supremacist who emailed out a racist manifesto minutes before he opened fire with an assault rifle at two mosques, live-streaming his massacre on Facebook.

He live streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away and indiscriminately firing into piles of bodies.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  His manifesto expressed several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  He described himself as an ethno-nationalist and referred to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentioned revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Tarrant was judged fit to stand trial after an assessment of his mental state. His pleas of not guilty raise the prospect of a lengthy trial that could give him a platform to air the white supremacist views that allegedly motivated the attack. Tarrant’s trial has been set for May of 2020. He was not in court in person in Christchurch; instead he appeared via a video link from a maximum-security prison where he’s being held in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.  New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1989 and has not executed anyone since 1957. If found guilty, Tarrant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Eighty survivors and family members of victims watched the proceedings. After the hearing, Abdul Aziz, a survivor of the attack said “He’s a coward and he will lose.” Aziz was at Linwood Mosque during the shootings and has been hailed a hero after confronting the gunmen-ultimately stopping him from claiming as many lives at the second mosque as he did at the first.   After hearing shots outside, Aziz ran outside and grabbed the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, which he threw at the gunmen.  The gunmen shot at him but they played cat and mouse between cars.  Then Aziz grabbed a gun that had been discarded by the attacker tried to fire at Tarrant but the gun was empty.  As Tarrant ran back to his car Aziz threw the gun at his car, shattering his windshield.  Tarrant yelled that he was going to kill them all but instead drove off and was apprehended by police minutes later.

 

insys.jpg

 

 

A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy.  Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.

They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.

The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label.  Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.

Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”

Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.  Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.

Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.

The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States.  The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

 

sri-lanka-easter-bombings-church.jpg

The death toll from Easter Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches in Sri Lanka has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects.  Nearly 500 people were injured during the coordinated bombings across the island nation.  Sri Lankan officials say the attacks were a response to last month’s attacks on two mosques by a white nationalist gunman who killed 50 Muslim worshipers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Sri Lankan officials say a little-known Muslim organization called National Thowheed Jama’ath carried out the series of Easter Sunday suicide bombings with another Sri Lankan group known as the JMI.  Officials also apologized for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks.  A confidential memo which was ignored, circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies 10 days prior to the attack that warned of a possible attack and gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects.

The first round of deadly attacks hit busy Easter services at Catholic churches in the heart of Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community in and around the capital Colombo, as well as a Protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.  Bombs also exploded in three luxury hotels in Colombo, with another blast striking a hotel near a zoo south of the capital, and a final blast at a private home believed to be tied to the attackers.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena requested Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks but ath first, the police chief refused.  Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defense secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.   Fernando resigned earlier in the week and Jayasundara later resigned.  Police are looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.  “Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.  Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.

Despite the police having already detained a lot of suspects, they warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers, a leading businessman who is active in politics, has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.

 

 

browardteenassaulted.jpeg

 

The Broward County Sheriff’s Department says it will probe the actions of officers caught on camera brutally assaulting teenagers after responding to a call about an after-school fight in a McDonald’s parking lot near their high school in Coral Springs.  Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said in a statement that the deputy shown in the viral video should be fired.  The incident between the teen and deputy was captured on cellphone video by a group of teens who had gathered at a McDonald’s parking lot after school to watch two teens fight.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said he would launch a “thorough investigation” into deputies who are shown on video pepper-spraying, tackling and punching teens near J.P. Taravella High.  “It may take some time but we will be transparent, and if folks need to be held accountable, it shall be done,” he said in a video statement.  One of the deputies involved, Christopher Krickovich, has been with the department for six years and is on restricted assignment pending the investigation.  The other deputy, Sgt. Greg LaCerra, has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 17 years and his status is unclear.

The cellphone video appears to show one deputy who responded to the scene restraining a teenager in the parking lot when another deputy pushes away a girl who appeared to grab a phone from the ground.  When another teen intervenes, the same deputy then uses pepper spray on the teen before grabbing him and taking him to the ground.  Two other deputies then jump in, one of them straddles the boy who is face down on the ground, punched him in the head repeatedly before grabbing him by the back of the neck and slamming his face into the pavement.  The victim, a 14-year-old student at J.P. Taravella High School, was left bleeding heavily and was later rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

It all began with the initial 911 call at 2:55 p.m. reporting that several students had gathered in the Tamarac McDonald’s parking lot, a popular after-school hangout.  A follow-up call at 3:08 p.m. reported that kids were fighting.  Krickovich wrote in a police report that he and LaCerra saw a fight starting but it ended before they got close enough to break it up. They also spotted a student who had been warned not to trespass at the shopping center and arrested him.  “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me.

I observed a teen wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone,” Krickovich wrote.  The teen “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists,” Krickovich wrote. At that point, one of the deputies pepper-sprayed and “quickly jumped on the male with the red tank top,” Krickovich wrote, saying he was fearing for his safety.  The teen’s “left arm was free and next to him, while he placed his right arm under his face. I struck the male in the right side of his head with a closed fist as a distractionary technique to free his right hand. This technique was successful and I was able to place him into handcuffs without further incident.”  Krickovich’s also stated in the police report that the three officers were outnumbered by about 200 students “who were yelling, threatening us and surrounding us, I had to act quickly, fearing I would get stuck or having a student potentially grab weapons off of my belt or vest.”

Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said the deputy who threw the student to the ground should be suspended at the very minimum and the deputy who punched the student and pushed his head into the ground should be removed.

 

ophioid.jpg

 

 

New York State announced a sweeping lawsuit against members of the Sackler family, the owner of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, the highly addictive drug at the center of the opioid epidemic.  A group of over 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes have filed suit against Purdue and 8 members of the Sackler family, which founded and owns Purdue Pharma, for their role in creating “the worst drug crisis in American history” by lying about the dangers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin and deceitful marketing of the drug.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Sacklers of masterminding a scheme that “literally profited off of … suffering and death.”  While announcing the suit, James said “And as Purdue sold more and more opioids, the Sackler family transferred more and more wealth into their personal accounts. And as the lawsuits have piled up against the Sackler family and Purdue for their roles in this crisis, they continue to move funds into trusts and, yes, offshore accounts.”  The suit states that the Sackler family is worth an estimated $13 billion, partly due to the more-than-decade-long marketing campaign to boost sales of OxyContin.  At the same time, the economic cost to the U.S. for the opioid epidemic was $504 billion in 2015, the lawsuit contends.  Former Purdue CEO Richard Sackler allegedly touted the drug for unapproved uses and that Purdue workers were instructed to tell doctors the painkillers were not addictive and could help an “enhanced lifestyle,” according to the suit.

Portions of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue that were made public, allege that the company, the Sackler family, and company executives misled prescribers and patients as they aimed to blanket the country with prescriptions for their addictive medications.  Five years after the drug was released to the market, questions were raised about the risk of addiction and overdoses that came with taking OxyContin and opioid medications.  Richard Sackler outlined a strategy that critics have long accused the company of unleashing: divert the blame onto others, particularly the people who became addicted to opioids themselves.  In a February 2001 email he wrote “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible.  They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”  The Massachusetts suit claims “By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible and the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”  The complaint reveals that since 2007, Purdue has sold more than 70 million doses of opioids in Massachusetts for more than $500 million. “And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”

Purdue and the family denied any wrongdoing in a statement “The latest legal action is part of a larger effort to “single out Purdue,” and fault it for the entire crisis.  Purdue Pharma and the individual former directors vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint and will continue to defend themselves against these misleading allegations,” the statement said.

The state of Oklahoma recently reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma—settling a lawsuit that claimed the company contributed to the deaths of thousands of Oklahoma residents by downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits.  More than $100 million of the settlement will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University.  The settlement is the first Purdue has made amid more than 2,000 pending lawsuits connecting its painkiller OxyContin to the opioid crisis-which U.S. government data estimates is responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths per year.

 

 

parkland suicides.jpg

 

 

Authorities have identified a second survivor of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who has committed suicide this month.  Sixteen-year-old Calvin Desir took his own life on Saturday, just days after 19-year-old Sydney Aiello had killed herself.  Seventeen students, staff and teachers were killed in Parkland on Valentine’s Day last year, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Sydney Aiello had suffered from PTSD and survivor’s guilt after the shooting that that took the life of close friend Meadow Pollack.  It’s unclear if Calvin, who was a sophomore at the school, suffered from survivor’s guilt as Aiello’s family have confirmed.  School district officials, community leaders, law enforcement and concerned parents met on Sunday to discuss how to address the trauma and identify possible warning signs.  A mental health and suicide prevention town hall meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, March 27 at 6 pm, at the Coral Spring City Hall.  A spokesperson for the city hall said “We simply cannot let the events of that day take the lives of any more of our children. As a city, we are committed to shining a light on those who suffer in the darkness. The mental health of our children and all those who have been affected by the MSD tragedy must be made a priority.”

The meeting hosted a panel of experts who answered questions from those wanting to help children cope with trauma.  Experts offered advice on how parents can connect with teenagers who isolate themselves, discussed alternative methods of therapy and whether adults can safely talk with children about suicide.  Jackie Rosen, executive director of the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, said parents should feel confident to talk about mental health with their children and begin those conversations “as soon as possible.”  Experts also encouraged promoting mental health for teachers.  “To the teachers in the room, the first thing I’m going to ask you to do is to take care of you, take care of yourself and make sure that you are as strong and as nurturing as you can be for yourself,” said Patrice Rotolo, clinical director for Smith Community Mental Health.  “Take care of your own needs because that’s the best way to meet the needs of your students.”

As news of the Parkland suicides circulated, it was confirmed that the father of a 6-year-old girl who was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was found dead by apparent suicide on Monday. Jeremy Richman, a neuroscientist who, after the death of his daughter Avielle, devoted his life to finding solutions to brain abnormalities that lead to violence. He founded the Avielle Foundation to support brain science research, with the ultimate goal of preventing violence and building compassion.

Six year old Avielle Richman, who was the only child of Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, was among the 26 people killed in the Dec. 2012 shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary.   The couple had two more children after Avielle’s death.  Hensel wrote in a statement this week, “To parent our children without my champion shatters my heart and I will love my best friend forever. … Side by side since 1991, Jeremy and I walked a path of deep friendship, marriage, and parenthood.  “He succumbed to the grief that he could not escape,” she wrote.

Tragically, these recent deaths speak to how critical it is to shatter the stigma of mental health issues and for people suffering or affected by it to seek help for themselves, loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need.   If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

 

kraft.jpg

The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was charged with two counts of soliciting sex during a wide ranging sting operation investigating prostitution and human trafficking at day spas in South Florida.  The charges against Mr. Kraft, 77, in Jupiter, Fla., came after the police used video surveillance to observe activity inside several day spas and massage parlors.  Prosecutors say they have video evidence of Kraft engaging in the criminal acts.  While Mr. Kraft lives in Massachusetts, he has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years.  Kraft is accused of patronizing a spa in Jupiter called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall on two occasions.

All of the sexual encounters that have resulted in charges were videotaped as part of the prostitution investigation.  Investigators had been conducting surveillance of massage parlors in the area for 6 months and have charged nearly 200 people, though only a fraction have been arrested so far.  The police said that the massage parlors and spas had been used for prostitution and that many of the women involved were considered to be victims.  Many of the women involved in the case came to the U.S. from China on temporary visas, and some reportedly had sex with 1,000 men a year.  The investigation involved several law enforcement agencies and resulted in raids and arrests connected to nearly a dozen businesses in the region.  At least one person was charged with human trafficking while others, including several women, are accused of racketeering and money laundering. More than two dozen customers, men ranging in age from their 30s to at least one in his 80s, have been arrested.

Acting on a tip, the police began their investigation of Orchids of Asia by searching online reviews for the business, several of which used a slang term for a sex act that was available to male customers.  After conducting 24-hour video surveillance in November, the police noticed that only male clients had entered.  A Florida Department of Health investigator inspected the business on behalf of the police and noticed several indications that women were living there, including beds, dressers with personal items and a refrigerator containing food and condiments.

One day in January, the police stopped men leaving the spa and the men told police officers that they had taken part in sex acts during their visits. Using that information, the police obtained a search warrant allowing them to monitor and record conduct inside the spa on video.  At 11:30pm on January 17th, the police entered the Orchids of Asia massage parlor under the pretense of investigating the report of a suspicious package.  They evacuated the parlor and set up surveillance cameras to capture what went on inside.  For five days, starting on Jan. 18, the police monitored the video, and they said they had observed more than 20 men receiving manual or oral stimulation during massage sessions.  Police say they did not observe sexual intercourse in any of the instances.

It is extremely difficult for law enforcement to takedown the rings that operate these types of parlors and even more difficult to prove human trafficking charges because of workers’ reluctance to testify, cultural barriers and an international business structure that makes identifying the masterminds next to impossible.  In the last several years, law enforcement has started to view the women in these situations as victims and have cracked down on arresting johns in an effort to eliminate the demand.  In many cases, they refer these women to social services after a parlor is raided.  Many of the women who are working in these establishments are recruited from rural parts of China with promises of legal employment in the US.  Some are fleeing domestic abuse, have little education or their families are heavily in debt.  Agencies in China charge them thousands in travel fees to the US and they agree to work off the debt, eventually being forced into the sex trade with little to no other options for housing or income once in the US.

 

Hoda-Muthana-1.jpg

 

 

 

 

The US Government has said that Hoda Muthana, a 24 year old Alabama woman who fled to Syria in 2014 to join ISIS fighters will not be allowed to return to the United States.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Muthana is not a U.S. citizen, but her attorneys insist she does hold U.S. citizenship and was born in Hackensack, New Jersey.  She is now in a refugee camp in Syria with her 18-month-old son.

In 2014, Muthana, then a 20-year-old student, apparently left Alabama after first registering for classes and then withdrawing and getting a refund check.  She lied to her parents saying she was traveling to Georgia for a university event.  She went to Turkey instead and was then smuggled into Syria to join the Islamic State at the height of the Caliphate. She reportedly served as a recruiter and urged attacks on the West.

Muthana briefly made headlines again after her takfiri husband of 87 days was allegedly killed during an airstrike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force on March 17, 2015.  Now, years later, with the militant group she belonged to driven out of Syria, she is hoping to return to the United States.  Along with 12 other Americans, mostly women and children, Muthana is being held by U.S. Kurdish allies in Syria.  She claims she regrets her decision to join the group and is ready to face the consequences of her act -including jail time.  She said during a recent interview “I hope they excuse me because of how young and ignorant I was. Now I’m changed. Now I’m a mother and I have none of the ideology and hopefully everyone will see it when I come back.  I hope America doesn’t think I’m a threat to them and I hope they can accept me.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unprecedented statement declaring that Muthana was not a U.S. citizen with no legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States has been controversial.  Muthana, was in fact, born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1994 which does make her a U.S. citizen via birthright.  Some believe she is not a U.S. citizen because her father was a Yemeni diplomat in the U.S. on official business.  The US Constitution grants citizenship to everyone born in the country – with the exception of children of diplomats, as they are not under US jurisdiction.

Muthana’s father has filed an emergency lawsuit asking a federal court to affirm that his daughter is a US citizen and to let her return along with her toddler son.  In the lawsuit, Muthana’s father said he was asked by Yemen to surrender his diplomatic identity card on June 2, 1994, as the Arab country descended into one of its civil wars.  Hoda Muthana was born in New Jersey on Oct 28 of that year and the family later settled in Hoover, Alabama.  The State Department initially questioned her right to citizenship when her father sought a passport for her as a child because US records showed he had been a diplomat until February 1995, the lawsuit said.  The State Department accepted a letter from the US mission to the UN that affirmed that he had ended his position before his daughter’s birth, and granted her a passport.  The lawsuit said that Hoda Muthana was also entitled to citizenship due to her mother, as she became a US permanent resident, anticipating the loss of diplomatic status, in July 1994.