Day: February 13, 2017

A Spike in Overdose Emergency Calls Is Seen in Kentucky

The numbers were remarkable even for a city in Kentucky, which is one of the top five states in the nation for overdose deaths.

In a span of 32 hours last week, emergency workers in Louisville responded to almost two calls per hour for overdose patients, the highest rate so far this year. Only one person died, but officials said on Monday that the number raised concerns that drug-related overdoses and deaths, which started rising last year, are accelerating.

Mitchell Burmeister, a spokesman for the Louisville emergency medical services, did not have a breakdown of what caused the overdoses, whether it was heroin, alcohol or some other drug, even prescription drugs.

Still, Mr. Burmeister said the number of calls in last week’s spike between early Feb. 9 through the next morning on Feb. 10 was the biggest so far this year. It compared with 25 such calls in the same period the week before. The annual figure for overdose calls was 6,879 in 2016, up from 4,642 in 2015, Mr. Burmeister said.

“We put out an advisory to our crews that it was a little bit higher than normal, and we are trying to make sure that there is nothing more systematic,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

“It ebbs and flows,” he said, adding “it’s fair to describe that as a spike.”

With a population of about 590,000, Louisville is the largest city in Jefferson County, which had the greatest number of deaths in the state from heroin, or 131 in 2015, according to state figures.

Kentucky is one of the five states with the highest rates of death linked to drug overdose: West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less than half of the emergency call patients, or 18 of them, received Narcan, an opiate antidote, said Mr. Burmeister.

Steve Moran, a deputy coroner, said the coroner’s office could not confirm that the one death out of the 52 overdose emergency calls last week was caused by a heroin overdose until they receive a toxicology result.

Kentucky is not alone in coming to grips with what a nationwide trend in the rise of opioid abuses and related deaths. The state has partnered with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s 360 Strategy program, which includes community outreach and law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking, Mr. Burmeister said, and it is also reaching out to officials in other areas of the country where opioid abuse has had a significant impact.

Over the past 10 years, the drug landscape in the United States has shifted, with the abuse of controlled prescription drugs, fentanyl and heroin having “risen to epidemic levels,” the D.E.A.’s National Drug Threat Assessment survey of 2016 says.

Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States, it says. Every year since 2009, drug poisoning deaths have outnumbered those by firearms, vehicle crashes, suicide and homicide. In 2014, approximately 129 people died every day as a result of drug poisoning, the report said.

Timothy J. Plancon, a D.E.A. special agent in charge of Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, said that the Kentucky calls fit a pattern of high numbers of overdoses related to opioids that officials are seeing in those three states.

”Multiple overdoses related to fentanyl abuse and other opioid abuse spiked in the middle of 2016,” he said. “And it seems to keep getting worse.”

The C.D.C. says that 91 people in the United States die every day from opioid overdose.


A heroin user prepared to inject himself in Connecticut last year. CreditJohn Moore/Getty Images

Mr. Moran said in his two dozen years as a law enforcement officer and at the deputy coroner’s office, he has never seen so many heroin-related overdose deaths, which have multiplied to several a week or about one a day at the highest, compared with about one a month in the past year.

“Here locally, people are shooting up in hospital parking lots in case they overdose,” he said. “Some have already overdosed two or three times prior to dying, but they had Narcan administered and they survived.

“It is Russian roulette, is what they are playing,” said Mr. Moran.


Sore Back? Try Heat and Exercise First, Guidelines Say

Patients with lower back pain should try heat wraps and exercise first, and prescription drugs should be used only as a last resort, a leading doctors’ group said Monday.

New guidelines from the American College of Physicians detail just what works and what doesn’t for lower back pain, which affects a quarter of Americans at any given time.

“Given that most patients with acute or subacute low back pain improve over time regardless of treatment, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic treatment with superficial heat massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation,” the American College of Physicians says in its new guidance.

Image: A woman rubs her lower back
A woman rubs her lower back. Tom Merton / Getty Images, file

It may be a big change for many doctors, who often turn to pills first for patients who are in pain.

“For patients with chronic low back pain, [the] American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends non-drug therapy first,” the organization says in the new guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal medicine.

Heat wraps, massage and exercise can all help, the group said.

Related: Acupuncture Can Help Some Back Pain

“Exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and spinal manipulation are shown to improve symptoms with little risk of harm,” it adds.

“ACP emphasizes that physical therapies should be administered by providers with appropriate training.”

If none of those helps, then over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be tried, the group says. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, has been shown in several studies to do little to help back pain, it added.

Only if nothing else works and the patient is still in debilitating pain should a doctor try prescription drugs, the ACP says.

“Physicians should consider opioids as a last option for treatment and only in patients who have failed other therapies, as they are associated with substantial harms, including the risk of addiction or accidental overdose,” said Dr. Nitin Damle, president of the ACP.

“Physicians should avoid prescribing unnecessary tests and costly and potentially harmful drugs, especially narcotics, for these patients.”

Monica Afesi of New York says yoga worked for her.

“I have had back pain for about 20 years, and it started off pretty mild,” Afesi told NBC News.

“In their last six or seven years, it bothered me to the point where I had to go to chiropractors and get help that way,” she said. “I have trouble bending over to feed my cats. I have trouble picking up my keys if I drop them at the door.”

To her surprise, yoga helped. “If I’m feeling an onset of pain, I know I can come into class, take a class and every time I come into class and finish. I feel taller. I feel stronger. My spine feels longer.”

That doesn’t surprise Alison West, director of Yoga Union Back Care and Scoliosis Center in New York.

“The number one cause of lower back pain is poor posture and poor sitting,” West told NBC News.

The evidence backing yoga to help back pain is not strong. But there are many different types of yoga, and West said the instructor is important.

“We often hear people being told they should just do yoga to help their back, and that can be problematic, because we have had students come to us saying the yoga practice did increase their problem,” she said.

“That is not necessarily the fault of the yoga. It was just the wrong practice at that time for the problem the student might have had.”


Yoga should never hurt, West said.

“Pain should never be there, and in fact, our motto is ‘no pain, no pain,'” she said. “No student should be forced into a pose.”

West said patients should make sure yoga instructors are qualified and know about their back pain before they start.

Alternative therapies in general are worth trying, said Houman Danesh, director of Integrative Pain Management at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Evidence also backs the use of acupuncture.

“Overall, it’s a very safe thing to at least try. And if it works, you’ll know relatively soon for low back pain.”

There is not enough evidence to show whether antidepressants, benzodiazepines (drugs that include Valium), anti-seizure medications or opioids even help lower back pain, the ACP said.

And there’s some evidence showing that ultrasound and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) do little or nothing to help, the ACP said.

Apple takes a big step toward wireless charging on iPhones

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Rumors have swirled for a while that Apple might embrace wireless charging beyond smartwatches (including for the next iPhone), and the company only seems to be stoking those expectations. Apple has quietly joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which governs the Qi standard you see on most devices with wireless charging. This doesn’t guarantee that this year’s iPhone will tout wireless charging, or even that Apple will use the Qi standard at all (the Apple Watch uses a modified take on Qi). However, it does say a lot about Apple’s broader wireless charging strategy.

For over a year, there’s been talk of Apple exploring long-range charging, possibly through a partnership with Energous. You’d just have to keep your iPhone within several feet of a charging station to top it up. The Wireless Power Consortium move doesn’t mean that Apple has given up on long-distance electricity, but it does suggest that the company believes conventional inductive charging is more practical in the near term. Also, it shows a firmer commitment to the very concept of wireless charging — Apple doesn’t think it starts and ends with one wearable product.

Verizon vs. T-Mobile ‘unlimited’, which one is better?

Verizon yesterday announced that they are now offering unlimited data to its customers. Over the last few years, the word unlimited has been thrown around with all four carriers, and not a single one of them actually means unlimited. With Verizon, unless you’re grandfathered in to the old plan, means you get unlimited smartphone data and 10GB of LTE tethering (3G speeds after), up to 22GB. At 22GB, Verizon uses a tactic known as deprioritization. Now, this isn’t as bad as some makes it out to be. It’s not throttling, as there’s not set speed limit. Deprioritization is when your device connected to a crowded tower and your device is placed lower on the list. Meaning, if someone who hasn’t hit the 22GB limit yet connects to that tower, they get priority over your device. Meaning, if that guy is streaming 4K video and the available bandwidth only permits his device to play that video, you’ll experience really slow speeds. But if a bunch of people who’ve not hit the 22GB threshold are just browsing Facebook or Twitter? You should feel no speed difference as those tasks require small bits of data. Same goes with AT&T and Sprint. T-Mobile, however, has their threshold at 28GB and is, so far, the only carrier to continue to update the threshold depending on the top 3% of users. T-Mobile also offers 10GB (with 3G speeds after) of LTE tethering (starting Friday) and otherwise has no limits on their plan. AT&T throttles video down to DVD (480p) quality with no way of changing this. They also have no tethering plans whatsoever. Sprint is the worst offender, as it has all of the aforementioned limits along with limits on music streaming quality and gaming (whatever that means). Needless to say, unlimited isn’t what it used to be.

But for this post, I’ll solely be focusing on Verizon and T-Mobile as they’re the most interesting out of the bunch.

Before yesterday, Verizon was kicking people who used more than 100GB a month off of their grandfathered unlimited plans. Heck, they even went as far as to create an ad that said that customers don’t need more than 5GB of data and that customers who paid for more data are wasting their money. Now, all of a sudden, after multiple tests prove that T-Mobile is not only catching up in terms of LTE coverage, but is also faster in areas that they do cover, Verizon unleashes unlimited. On Verizon, you can get unlimited for $180/month (before taxes) for a family of four. As mentioned earlier, you may get deprioritized after 22GB (per line), and you’re limited to 10GB of LTE tethering data. What Verizon tries to hide is that this plan is only available at an introductory price, meaning after an undefined amount of time, Verizon will no longer offer this plan at this price. That’s no good if you want to switch in a year or two when Verizon doesn’t offer this pricing for the plan.

So why go with Verizon? Coverage. Verizon still has the edge (albeit that gap is getting smaller as the days go on). For right now, Verizon still leads the industry in terms of overall network coverage. Some things to consider, however. Verizon, unlike AT&T or T-Mobile, does not have HSPA+ (“4G”) fallback. Meaning, if you’re not in an area with LTE, you’re dropping all the way back to 3G speeds. It’s also worth mentioning that Verizon is still running on CDMA, meaning if you do fall back to 3G (a really small percentage of the time), you don’t get simultaneous voice and data, in addition to slower data speeds.

Now, T-Mobile before today had some pretty weird network management nonsense they had in place. For those who know me, I’m personally a T-Mobile customer, however, I do call T-Mobile out if something isn’t right. T-Mobile calls their unlimited plan, T-Mobile One, so for the sake of simplicity, I’ll be referring to their plan as “One” from this point on. With One, you have video optimization which typically streams at 480p (1.5Mbps). In some scenarios you were able to get better quality if compression was done right. You were able to pay T-Mobile $15/mo/line (yep, per line), in order to get HD video on your lines (One Plus). But this required you to go into the T-Mobile app and enable the feature on a daily basis. This is really annoying, especially when you weren’t able to do so as a customer and you had to contact support every time you needed to. They also limited all tethering to 3G speeds (512Kbps), which was also annoying. To circumvent this, you had to pay for the more expensive One Plus International plan, which enabled unlimited LTE tethering.

However, as of today… one day after Verizon announces their unlimited plan, T-Mobile gets rid of both of these pain points and feature parodies Verizon. For the base plan, you’re able to get 10GB of LTE tethering (3G thereafter) and unlimited HD video without any sort of annoying daily passes. The timing is interesting, and T-Mobile CEO John Legere did tweet saying that they were expecting Verizon to make such a change.

The unfortunate part is that it took a wakeup call from Verizon for T-Mobile to really amp up their game. Before today, they didn’t see the daily HD passes as an inconvenience or that some customers wanted a small chunk of LTE tethering while not necessarily wanting unlimited (or even want to pay for it).

But I digress. Competition is healthy. T-Mobile still has lots of benefits that Verizon doesn’t such as unlimited international text and data (now at 256Kbps) in over 140 countries with Wi-Fi calling back to the U.S. being free. Unlimited call, text and data in Mexico and Canada (Verizon has unlimited calling and texting, but data is capped at 500MB/day). In-flight texting is also a biggie to anyone who travels a lot as it gives you something to do while in-flight. You can also optionally pay for unlimited Wi-Fi access in-flight and unlimited LTE tethering on T-Mobile, something Verizon doesn’t offer at all.

T-Mobile has a promo going on where 2 lines is only $100. But for the sake of argument, they offer 4 lines at $160/mo with taxes and fees included. Pricing for both T-Mobile and Verizon are with AutoPay enabled.

At the end of the day it boils down to this: does T-Mobile have coverage where you are/where you plan to be? If so, T-Mobile by far is the better option. With all the perks and the fast LTE speeds, there’s no arguing that T-Mobile is the better option. But on the flip side, if T-Mobile doesn’t cover your area, or if you plan on taking long road trips (within the U.S.), Verizon is your only option. They might not offer all the cool stuff T-Mobile does, but if you live in the middle of nowhere, Verizon is your best bet. You just have to lookout for taxes and fees, and when this plan becomes grandfathered as you might not be able to hold onto that plan forever. Though, with the type of improvements T-Mobile is doing to their network, that coverage edge may be coming to a close.

Inflation picks up to multi-year highs in China as cbank eyes tighter policy

China’s producer price inflation picked up more than expected in January to near six-year highs as prices of steel and other raw materials extended a torrid rally, adding to views that global manufacturing activity is building momentum.

China consumer inflation also rose more than expected, nearing a three-year high as fuel and food prices jumped, data showed on Tuesday.

Much of the pick up in consumer prices was likely due to higher food and travel costs heading into the long Lunar New Year holiday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

But mounting price pressures in China and many other countries have sparked talk of tighter monetary policy this year, after years of super-loose settings aimed at reviving economic growth.

China’s central bank raised short-term interest rates in recent weeks as it looks to contain risks from an explosive growth in debt, while India’s central bank last week unexpectedly signaled an end to its longest easing cycle since the global financial crisis, citing inflation risks.

Some analysts, however, believe the ramp up in price pressures in China may be short-lived, noting that a jump in January food prices was likely seasonal and that producer price gains slowed by half on a month-on-month basis.

“We don’t expect such high rates of inflation to last,” Capital Economics China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said in a note.

“Tighter monetary policy, slowing income growth and cooling property prices should keep broader price pressure contained over the medium-term,” he added, noting that weak prices early last year may have exaggerated the strength of a reflationary trend seen in recent months.

Consumer inflation quickened to 2.5 percent in January from a year earlier, the highest since May 2014.

But it is still well within the government’s comfort zone of 3 percent, and is showing few signs yet that the jump in producer prices is filtering through to the broader economy, analysts say.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted the consumer price index (CPI) would rise 2.4 percent, after a 2.1 percent gain in December.

Food prices, the biggest component of CPI, rose 2.7 percent in January, led by a 7.1 percent increase in the price of pork.

Fuel costs surged 16.5 percent on-year, the biggest increase among CPI components, likely due to a low comparison in the year-ago period when fuel prices fell.

Capital Economics expects consumer prices to rise only 2.0 percent this year.

Producer price inflation accelerated to 6.9 percent — the fastest since August 2011 — from December’s rise of 5.5 percent.

Gains in the producer price index (PPI) were driven by a 31.0 percent increase in mining costs as coal prices rise, the biggest jump in that category since early 2010.

The market had expected producer prices to rise 6.3 percent on an annual basis.

But on a monthly basis, they only rose 0.8 percent, down from December’s 1.6 percent gain.

China’s massive imports of coal, crude oil, iron ore and industrial materials have helped fuel a sharp rebound in global resources prices in recent months, boosting profits for producers and processors.

Iron ore futures in China rose for a sixth session in a row on Tuesday, hitting their highest in more than three years, while London copper futures have climbed to around 20-month highs.

Price gains in China have been further amplified by government efforts to reduce industrial overcapacity.

Investors are cashing in on the global reflationary trade. Shares of Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd (600362.SS)(0358.HK), China’s biggest integrated copper producer, have surged over 60 percent in the past year in Shanghai and 85 percent in Hong Kong.

But heady increases in China’s commodity futures market, especially for iron ore, metal reinforcing bars and coking coal used in steel production, have added to policymakers’ worries about speculative price bubbles.

Worries about speculation and debt risks led the central bank to move to a tightening bias in recent months, not inflation, analysts say.

“Inflation is not the main driver of monetary policy at the moment…I do think they are going to tighten more this year, but the main driver is credit risk and concerns of leverage and what’s going on in the property market,” said Capital Economics’ Evans-Pritchard.

Banks in some big Chinese cities have started to reduce discounts on mortgage rates for first-time home buyers, newspapers have reported, joining recent steps to curb financial risks stemming from years of loose credit conditions.

Jerry Sandusky’s son Jeffrey charged with child sexual abuse

One of Jerry Sandusky’s sons was charged Monday with sex crimes involving two girls, more than five years after the former Penn State assistant coach was himself first arrested on child molestation charges.

Jeffrey S. Sandusky, 41, was charged by state police and arraigned by a district judge in Bellefonte on 14 counts. He was jailed on $200,000 bail.

Sandusky was a stalwart supporter of his father and accompanied his mother, Dottie, to many of his court proceedings. On Monday, Dottie accompanied Jeffrey Sandusky to his.

Police accused him of soliciting nude photos from a then-16-year-old girl last year and seeking oral sex in 2013 from her then-15-year-old sister.

His defense lawyer, Lance Marshall, declined to comment on the allegations.

“All children have a right to be safe,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “We will prosecute this case as aggressively as we do all child abuse cases.”

Miller said Sandusky talked to investigators. “He made statements,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t classify them necessarily as directly inculpatory, but I don’t think they helped him much.”

Sandusky was charged with solicitation of statutory sexual assault, solicitation of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, six counts of unlawful contact with a minor and two counts each of solicitation to photograph or depict sexual acts, sexual abuse of children and corruption of minors.

A state trooper said in the arrest affidavit that on Nov. 21, the alleged victims’ father turned over to investigators text messages from Sandusky in which he asked one of the girls for nude photographs.

The affidavit said Sandusky told the alleged victim in texts in March that “it’s not weird because he studied medicine” and instructed her “to not show these texts to anyone.”

The girl’s mother told investigators that when she confronted Sandusky, he told her “he knows it was wrong and inappropriate,” police said.

“The victims’ mother advised that Jeffrey Sandusky had advised her that he was trying to help her daughter by getting naked pictures of her off the internet and needed naked pictures of her to do it and to ‘role play,” the affidavit said.

The girl, called “Victim 1” in the affidavit, told police the texts made her uncomfortable and that “he kept pressuring me and asked me multiple times not to show the texts to anyone,” police said.

Prosecutors allege Jeffrey Sandusky sought oral sex from a second girl, “Victim 2,” in 2013. She was 15 years old at the time.

“Victim 2” told investigators that Jeffrey Sandusky told her in March: “I can’t even say anything except I’m sorry.”

Jerry Sandusky, who adopted Jeffrey Sandusky and five other children, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys.

Jeffrey Sandusky has not made any public allegations of abuse by Jerry Sandusky, but one of his siblings, Matt Sandusky, alleged during their father’s 2012 criminal trial that he had been abused by him. Matt Sandusky was not called as a witness, and Jerry Sandusky has never been charged with those allegations.

The state Corrections Department said that because of the charges, Jeffrey Sandusky was suspended without pay Monday from employment as a corrections officer at Rockview State Prison, near State College. He had been hired in August 2015.

Examining President Trump’s Use Of Executive Orders Compared To Previous Presidents

President Donald Trump has issued 12 executive orders in his first three weeks as president, immediately fulfilling a series of campaign promises made throughout the year and a half presidential campaign.

Former President Barack Obama had issued 14 executive orders by the end of his third week, two more than Trump. President George W. Bush only signed two executive orders in his first three weeks, according to the National Archives.

Incoming presidents will use executive actions to meet campaign promises early on in their term, or to eliminate policies of the previous administration.

Immediately after his inauguration, the president signed an executive order to ease the “regulatory burdens” of Obamacare. Since then, the president has issued executive actions that put in place a federal government hiring-freeze, officially withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific partnership and two orders reviving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The president also signed a controversial order imposing a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day travel ban on citizens in seven countries identified as a terrorist hot spots.

An executive order is a type of written instruction that a president uses to advance policy goals through the executive branch, as described by the Heritage Foundation.

Trump voters have given the president high marks for his first few weeks in office, with a part of that approval due to his action on campaign promises.

Trump said he was going to repeal and replace Obamacare as central part of his campaign. The president followed through on his promise about an hour into his term, signing the executive order from inside the capitol Jan. 20.

The Number Of Executive Orders:

Carter: 320

Reagan: 381

Bush: 166

Clinton: 364

Bush: 291

Obama: 276

According to the Daily Signal, which compiled data from the National Archives, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the most executive orders, with 3,721 over the course of his almost four terms in office.

Some have criticized the president for his use of executive actions, charges that conservatives also leveled against Obama.

The president has recently focused his executive orders on his promise to “make America safe again.” The president signed three new orders after the swearing-in of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Feb. 9, which directs Sessions to establish a new task force on “Crime Reduction and Public Safety.”

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Why these librarians are protesting Trump’s executive orders

“Libraries Are For Everyone.” That’s the message of a series of images created by Rebecca McCorkindale in the days after President Donald Trump announced the temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. She never expected her signs of inclusion to go further than a handful of libraries.

But by the time she’d woken up the following day, she had received messages from librarians across the world wanting their languages represented. And libraries across the country — in Illinois, Minnesota, California, Virginia — had begun putting up the images as posters, along with displays about books on Islam, empathy and being a good neighbor.

McCorkindale, who is assistant library director and creative director at the Gretna, Nebraska, public library, said she created the images because she believes librarians can and should be activists.

“Libraries are the heart of a community, for anyone and everyone that lives there, regardless of their background,” she said. “And so we strongly believe that libraries are not neutral. We stand up for human rights.”

She is not the only one. Since Mr. Trump took office a little more than three weeks ago, a vocal and growing number of librarians across the country have begun to take a more politically active stance.

Credit: Rebecca McCorkindale

Credit: Rebecca McCorkindale

But it began before that, after the revelation of the role so-called “fake news” had played in the election. Librarians, sometimes considered an antiquated breed, were swiftly deemed essential in the fight against disinformation. And libraries across the country responded, promoting researcher-vetted content, hosting community discussions on fake news and sharing libguides to help people think critically about what they were reading.

Post-inauguration, reports that the new administration was quick to clamp down on the flow of information from some federal agencies prompted additional anxiety among librarians. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, for one, immediately condemned what it saw as government censorship. “ALA opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information,” wrote the association, which typically fights for privacy and against banned books in schools, such as “Brave New World” or “Twilight.” (Librarians and scientists had also preemptively begun preserving what they saw as vulnerable government information online, including climate data.)

 “Libraries are the heart of a community, for anyone and everyone that lives there, regardless of their background,” McCorkindale said. “And so we strongly believe that libraries are not neutral.”

But protests against the new administration by librarians only began popping up in large numbers around the country after Mr. Trump signed two executive orders on immigration, one which could lead to the stripping of federal funds of so-called “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants, and the other which temporarily banned all refugees as well as travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. — an order that’s been halted by the courts, but is still at the center of a legal battle.

Librarians who spoke to the NewsHour said these orders touched a nerve, especially for those who work at public libraries, which often serve a diverse population that includes new immigrants. According to the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, 55 percent of new Americans use a library at least once a week.

“We are huge resources for newcomers to this country, whether it’s for connection to this country, legal resources, testing preparation, citizen tests, services like storytimes or homework help,” said Elizabeth McKinstry, a public librarian based in Dedham, Massachusetts, who has been vocal in rallying librarians online post-election. “We are there for the most vulnerable folks in our communities, people on the other side of the digital or language divide.”

And so, after the two executive orders, librarians across the country began responding with individual acts of resistance at their branches. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has been a sanctuary city since 1985, the public library announced that it would be a sanctuary space. At the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota, which serves a large population from Somalia, one of the seven countries affected by the travel ban, a campaign was launched called “All are welcome here.” The library serving Multnomah County, Oregon, began promoting books about immigrant and refugee experiences for kids; elsewhere in Oregon, librarians put “all are welcome” buttons on sale. At the William Jeanes Memorial Library in Pennsylvania, a Yemeni-American, Muslim-American girl doll named Sameerah became available for checkout. “We are glad to welcome her to our library,” librarian Rachel Fecho wrote online, and said, with evident sarcasm: “She is able to travel freely to the homes of our library patrons.”

Major professional library organizations have begun mobilizing, too. The Association of College & Research Libraries, which represents more than 11,000 academic and research librarians, slammed Mr. Trump’s executive orders, condemning what it sees as “the use of intimidation, harassment, bans… and violence as means with which to squelch free intellectual inquiry and expression.” The Society of American Archivists, which has 6,200 members in government, at universities and elsewhere, similarly critiqued the travel ban, saying it undermined their efforts to “preserve diverse archives and support the study of our nation’s cultural heritage.”

And the ALA, the country’s oldest and largest library organization with some 57,000 members, denounced the new administration’s actions, saying they “stand in stark contrast to the core values” of librarianship, which according to the ALA include access to information, confidentiality and privacy, diversity and social responsibility.

Librarian dissent is also spreading on social media. On Twitter, a new @LibrariesResist account is sharing resources “for libraries and library workers in the resistance… because if Park Rangers can do it, so can we” — a reference to the National Park Service rogue tweeting after the Trump administration told the agency not to. The @LibrariesResist resources include pages on privacy and surveillance, fake news and propaganda, a “Stop Trump” reading list and a “Trump syllabus” as well as an explanation of libraries as sanctuary spaces.

Matthew Haugen, the librarian at Columbia University who started the account, said, “I started thinking a lot about how I and other librarians can use our strengths to do something effective… and I thought: ‘We can organize resources, do what librarians do.’” Under the hashtags #librariesresist, as well as #librariesrespond, there are now hundreds of posts from librarians sharing their local acts of opposition.

Jessamyn West, an influential blogger, technologist and librarian, said this should come as no surprise, as libraries have long been on the forefront of activism. “We’re the ones who stick up for intellectual freedom, or your right to read, or to look at whatever you want to in the library,” she said. “There’s been an activist contingent for a long time.”

Credit: Multnomah County Library Twitter

Libraries have begun promoting books about immigrant and refugee experiences in the wake of the immigration ban. Credit: Multnomah County Library Twitter

Rewind, then, back to the 1950s in America, when fear of communism ran rampant in the U.S., and literature, films and music became targets of government censorship. At the time, librarians got together with professors, publishers and others in the academic and intellectual community to figure out how to respond. The result was a document called “The Freedom To Read,” which began with the sentence: “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy,” and ended with: “Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.” A Freedom to Read Foundation was also established by the ALA, to challenge censorship and other threats to the First Amendment in court.

In the late ‘60s, when a confluence of social movements supporting civil rights, women’s equality and war opposition swept the country, the ALA also founded a Social Responsibilities Round Table to respond to the issues of the day. They were particularly focused on ensuring service at libraries to black Americans, and including black librarians in their ranks. This activism, a historical note on the roundtable says, was the result of “aggressive volunteers.” By the ‘80s, the roundtable had become even more aggressive, adding task forces for feminists, gay liberation and “alternative” reading.

Perhaps the moment when librarians are best remembered as activists, though, came in 2001, when the ALA fought back forcefully against the Patriot Act, which expanded the powers of government surveillance in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Librarians were particularly vexed over Section 215 of the act, colloquially called the “library records provision,” which required librarians to hand over patron data when law enforcement asked for it. The act also included a gag order that said librarians could not tell patrons they had forked over their data.

In response, librarians began hanging signs for library patrons telling them that the FBI could be watching them. They also lobbied electronic vendors to add privacy measures, and in 2005, took the fight over the gag order to court. By 2006, the government had given up its fight to protect that order.

And in 2015, Section 215 expired, along with other provisions of the Patriot Act. “Long before [Edward] Snowden, librarians were anti-surveillance heroes,” Slate declared that year.

Under the Obama administration, though, librarian activism seemed to quiet. President Obama was an avid reader, and many librarians told the NewsHour that it felt like the administration was on their side. Librarians fought smaller battles, such as when a group of Dartmouth University students — with the support of Dartmouth librarians — petitioned the Library of Congress to change subject headings in libraries from “illegal aliens to “noncitizens,” to be more sensitive to the patrons who visited.

And though government surveillance continued under the Obama presidency, librarians were heartened by his pick to head the Library of Congress: Carla Hayden, a former public librarian, who was also said to be anti-surveillance. Some conservatives criticized her as an “activist,” saying her appointment “politicize[d]” the position. Which begs the question: Should libraries and librarians be politically neutral? / Jessamyn West

After the Patriot Act was passed, librarians began hanging signs to let patrons know the FBI could be watching them. Credit: / Jessamyn West

Especially after the election, an increasing number of librarian voices online say libraries are not neutral spaces, and never have been. See Jessamyn West (“Libraries are not neutral spaces, nor should they be”), the School Library Journal (“Libraries are not neutral”), or librarian/technologist Jason Griffey: “Stand, Fight, Resist.”

April Hathcock, a librarian at New York University who has advocated for the ALA to take a less neutral, more activist stance against the president, argues that the idea of providing information to everyone freely is in itself a “radical notion.”

“It’s a political notion, a political stance, by entering into this profession,” she said. “In order for people to have access to freedom regardless of who they are, they have to be able to participate in societies freely.”

But that ideal is complicated by the fact that libraries are funded, in part, by the government. Though funding often happens at the local level, America’s libraries do get money from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, a federal agency whose budget in 2016 was some $237 million. Among other efforts, IMLS has supported the expansion of high-speed broadband service in libraries, which many librarians say is an essential service for patrons. In 2015, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proposed eliminating the IMLS altogether, and, after the Hill reported in January that the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities could be eliminated under the Trump administration, some fear library funding could be next.

These fears played out days after the election, when the ALA sent out a friendly and encouraging press release saying it looked forward to working with the new administration. Among the ALA’s many roles are lobbying for funds for libraries from Congress.

The response was fierce and immediate. Hundreds of librarians began angrily commenting on a ALA website, saying they felt “betrayed.” They said it was obvious ALA was just making nice to the administration so as not to lose funding, and that it had lost sight of its core values.  “F@ck you, ALA,” Hathcock, the NYU librarian, wrote online. “ALA does not care about diversity and inclusion and justice. Not really. ALA cares only about its bottom line.” Emily Drabinski, a librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, wrote a post called: “ALA does not speak for me,” and argued that it was “shameful sell out of a profession that stood against the Patriot Act.” McKinstry, the Dedham, Massachusetts-based librarian, started a hashtag #NotMyAla, and a blog to keep track of all the librarians registering their frustration. Weeks later, ALA rescinded the release.

“It’s very hard,” ALA president Julie Todaro said of balancing the need for funding with fighting against politicians who threaten librarian core values. “We are going to fight for our values,” she said. “But we are also a nonpartisan organization, and it’s important to realize that our 57,000 members don’t all feel the same way.”

On an ALA website, a few conservative librarians pushed back against all the calls for library activism. In their comments, they complained that the hysteria around Trump was outsized, and said they only hoped there was enough money available to keep funding libraries. In 2010, a piece called “The Conservatives Among Us” in American Libraries Magazine argued that librarians needed to be more tolerant of conservative views — rare as they may be in librarianship. “That is why conservative librarians are afraid to speak out,” wrote Will Manley, the piece’s author, “they fear professional ostracism.” On the ALA site, the few conservative librarians who commented were quickly drowned out by the larger number who said it was time to fight back.

Credit: ALA's 'Libraries Transform' campaign

The American Library Association is fighting back against “fake news” as part of its Libraries Transform campaign. Credit: the American Library Association

Where librarian activism goes from here — and whether dissent will reach the kind of tipping point that happened under the Patriot Act — is an open question. There is no scheduled librarian march on Washington, for example, like scientists have planned for Earth Day (though librarians with library science degrees say they will joining in).

On Feb. 17, librarians, museums and other institutions have planned a “Day of Facts” to combat misinformation in its communities. The website for the campaign reminds visitors that facts are not “an overt political stand.”

And press releases by professional organizations are likely to only go so far. But Haugen, who started @librariesresist, said he believes librarians will coalesce against President Trump in large, physical numbers if the administration threatens funding to any major library institutions, such as the Library of Congress or National Archives. There has been no indication that this will happen. A “Rogue Library of Congress” Twitter account has been started, but no one has tweeted from it yet.

Short of an organized national movement, it seems clear that librarians will continue to register their dissent vocally and locally, in individual acts of protest. “All of this is going to be local,” said McKinstry. “It’s what you can do to make information accessible and available, and what you can do to link to resources to help protect people.”

Meanwhile, McCorkindale’s “Libraries Are For Everyone” images continue to spread around the world. By Thursday, the posters had been published in a dozen languages, including Spanish and Arabic, with plans to translate 13 more. In Brantford, Ontario, a library printed out “Libraries Are For Everyone” images with their 3D printer; in Leicester, England, the poster was hung from a library fence; and in the Bronx, a school librarian began planning a project around it for his diverse group of students.

“People think that libraries are obsolete,” said McCorkindale. “But we’ve stood up against censorship for decades…. And with all that’s going on with these executive orders, we will do what we can to help.”

Here is every executive order Trump has signed

Tribune News Service

Vice President Mike Pence (left) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus watch as President Donald Trump shows off an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact on Jan. 23.

President Donald Trump entered office with an aggressive agenda for his first 100 days, pledging action on everything from reforming immigration to renegotiating trade deals.

While many of his promises will require congressional action, the president has moved forward with a number of his proposals through executive orders.

Trump has already signed 12 executive orders, including ones covering immigration, crime reduction and public safety.

What is an executive order?

Executive orders are legally binding directives issued by the president to federal administrative agencies. There have been 13,766 executive orders signed, with every president except William Henry Harrison using them while in office. Perhaps the most famous executive order was Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

How many executive orders did President Barack Obama sign in his first 100 days?

Obama issued 19 executive orders in this first 100 days of his presidency, including several that reversed orders signed by former President George W. Bush.

How many executive orders did President George W. Bush issue in his first 100 days?

Bush signed 11 executive orders in his first 100 days in office.

What executive orders has Trump signed so far?

1. Minimizing the economic burden of the patient protection and Affordable Care Act pending repeal

His first order gives agencies authority to grant waivers, exemptions and delays of provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Read the full text of the order.

2. Expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects

It would streamline environmental reviews related to infrastructure projects. Read the full text of the order.

3. Enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States

This order seeks to abolish sanctuary cities in the Unites States and ensure that all jurisdictions are enforcing federal immigration law. Read the full text of the order.

4. Border security and immigration enforcement improvements 

This order directs federal agencies to secure the United States’ southern border, including taking steps to begin the planning for Trump’s “border wall.” Read the full text of the order.

5. Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States

The order invokes the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying it is aimed at preventing another such strike in the U.S. It bars people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for three months: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Read the full text of the order.

6. Ethics commitments by executive branch appointees

The order bars executive brand appointees from lobbying for five years after they leave their position. Read the full text of the order.

7. Reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs

It makes the Executive Branch get rid of two regulations for every new one that is put into effect, arguing it will reduce a major burden on small businesses in America. Read the full text of the order.

8. Core principles for regulation the United States financial system

This order encompasses Trump’s “America First” campaign pledge, along with establishing an anti-bailout policy for his administration. Read the full text of the order.

9. Task force on crime reduction and public safety

It would create a task force that aims to reduce violent crime. Read the full text of the order.

10. Preventing violence against federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers

It allows Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to develop a plan to prevent violence against police officers. Read the full text of the order.

11. Enforcing federal law with respect to transnational criminal organizations and preventing international trafficking

It would “break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth” by directing the FBI and other federal agencies to make targeting drug trafficking a top priority. Read the full text of the executive order. 

12. Providing an order of succession within the Department of Justice

This order sets a line of success for the Attorney General position, and comes after Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally YatesRead the full text of the executive order. 

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Venezuela’s Vice President, Calling Him a Drug ‘Kingpin’

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Trump administration announced sanctions against Venezuela’s vice president on Monday, calling him a drug “kingpin” in its first moves against the country’s leftist government that President Trump railed against during his campaign.

Vice President Tareck El Aissami, according to a Treasury Department statement, was being sanctioned for “playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” The sanctions mean that Mr. El Aissami, 42, will be blocked from financial dealings with Americans and will have any American assets frozen.

Such actions against officials in the government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela are nothing new in a long and fraught relationship between Washington and Caracas. But the accusation that Mr. El Aissami, the next in line for the presidency, was a drug trafficker was certain to set a new, more hostile tone in relations.

“This can be seen as the opening salvo of the Trump administration in dealing with Latin America’s deepest crisis,” said Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group in Washington. “It is hard to imagine that, with this decision, Washington will now be inclined to offer many carrots to the increasingly authoritarian regime.”

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has come under increasing pressure by both Republicans and some Democrats to take a tougher stance on Venezuela, which has suffered an economic collapse punctuated by food and medicine shortages and soaring crime, even as its government has taken a harsher stance against dissent.

In a letter on Feb. 8, 34 members of the United States Congress urged the president to “take immediate action to sanction regime officials.”

The Treasury Department document contained wide-ranging accusations against Mr. El Aissami, the result of years of investigation, officials said.

“Power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities,” said John E. Smith, the acting director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. “Denying a safe haven for illicit assets in the United States and protecting the U.S. financial system from abuse remain top priorities of the Treasury Department.”

Venezuelan officials had no immediate public comment on Monday evening. Mr. Maduro did not mention it during a television address.

In its announcement, the Treasury Department said Mr. El Aissami’s history of drug trafficking went back years through his previous political positions, which included a state governorship and establishing a national police force at the Interior and Justice Ministry.

Mr. El Aissami “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela,” the department said.

Additionally “he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States,” according to the statement. It did not specify what kinds of drugs were involved.

The department also said Mr. El Aissami had protected accused drug traffickers, including the Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled García and the Colombian kingpin Daniel Barrera Barrera. The accusations linked Mr. El Aissami to shipments destined for the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico.

The department also said a Venezuelan businessman, Samark López Bello, had assisted Mr. El Assami, and now faced similar sanctions.

The sanctions come as Mr. El Aissami has been consolidating power in Venezuela. He was appointed as vice president by Mr. Maduro on Jan. 4 after rising from a job as a rural student leader. David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington Institute on Latin America, an advocacy group, said he was seen as the front-runner for the leftist candidacy in the 2018 elections.

Since appointing Mr. El Aissami to the post, Mr. Maduro has granted him expanded powers, including over the economy and expropriating businesses.

Mr. El Aissami also heads a newly formed “commando” unit, meant to root out dissidents that the government accuses of plotting coups. The group has so far arrested at least five people.

Mr. El Aissami does not have a good history on human rights, Mr. Smilde said, adding that while he was governor of the state of Aragua “he presided over a police force that came to be one of the most violent and abusive in the country.”

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