Day: March 16, 2017


ObamaCare repeal bill narrowly clears House hurdle – FOX NEWS POLL: 34% of voters favor GOP plan – READ THE FULL POLL RESULTS

The embattled Republican proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare narrowly cleared a key hurdle Thursday morning, as the House Budget Committee approved the package over the objections of three GOP members. 

The 19-17 vote sends the American Health Care Act to the House Rules Committee, with GOP leaders hoping to take up the bill in the full House next week. 

There are 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats on the Budget Committee. The three Republican defections came from Reps. Dave Brat of Virginia, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Gary Palmer of Alabama.

All Democrats on the committee voted against it. 

“This is Robin Hood in reverse, but far worse,” Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, the committee’s top Democrat, said ahead of the vote.

He added that the bill, as it now stands, “is not what the American people want.”

House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., appealed to Republicans on the committee to vote in favor of the legislation, calling it “the conservative health care vision we’ve been talking about for years.”

The close vote was considered the toughest of the three committee votes held so far on the controversial package. One more defection for Republicans would have resulted in a tie, stopping GOP leaders’ current strategy for passing the bill in its tracks. 

The agenda of President Trump and congressional Republicans hinges on reforming the Affordable Care Act in some way. But this bill’s fate remains uncertain even after Thursday’s preliminary approval, amid lingering resistance to certain provisions from moderates and conservatives alike.

House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed reports that the GOP and the White House were at odds on the bill and told journalists that Trump was deeply involved in efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation.

“No palace intrigue,” Ryan told reporters.

He added that the goal is to get a health care bill that can pass Congress.

The White House and GOP leadership have been on a health care selling spree across the country — and Capitol Hill — trying to change minds.

At a Nashville rally on Wednesday, Trump reiterated his goal to “get something done” on the health care issue.

Vice President Pence has personally met with House Republicans in recent days and pressed them to get behind the bill.

Complicating the process for the White House and Republican leadership is a recent analysis of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office which predicted that 24 million fewer Americans would be insured under the new legislation.

The CBO said the Republican proposal would be “less generous” with new tax credits for those receiving subsidies under the current law and the plan would likely increase average premiums in the nongroup market until 2020. The report predicted premiums would decrease over the long-term, however. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who used to be on the House Budget Committee, downplayed the CBO report.

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” Price said earlier this week. “It’s just not believable is what we would suggest.”

The CBO report, compiled along with staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, also determined the Republican proposal would save money for taxpayers and cut federal deficits $337 billion from 2017 to 2026. Price did not seem to have a problem with that part of the analysis. 

Despite Thursday’s news, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, indicated the health care proposal, as it stands, lacks the votes needed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. 

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Rare strep infection costs dad his hands and feet

A Michigan father whose seemingly ordinary stomach pains turned out to be an extremely rare case of strep throat is now facing a series of procedures to amputate his hands and feet. Kevin Breen, 44, first landed in the emergency room in December for what doctors mistook as acute mild pancreatitis, WOOD-TV reported.

“It didn’t seem that unusual,” Breen told WOOD-TV. “I never thought [I’d be] going in for a stomachache and coming out a totally different person, and [it’s] life-changing.”

Although his son had been diagnosed with strep recently, a blood test came back negative for any infection. A subsequent CT scan revealed that his stomach was filled with pus, and then his organs began shutting down, WOOD-TV reported.

 “He was one of the sickest patients that we’ve ever taken care of,” Dr. Elizabeth Steensma, an acute care surgeon at Spectrum Health Butterworth, told WOOD-TV. “It was almost a mystery.”

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Doctors redirected blood flow to save his organs, which cut off blood supply to his hands and feet. Eventually, a rash indicating a possible strep infection appeared on his torso, but by the time a test was conducted on his stomach and penicillin was administered, it was too late for his hands and feet.

Steensma  told the news outlet it’s extremely rare for a strep infection to travel from the throat to a patient’s stomach, and that Keen is only the second documented case involving a male. 

An update on the family’s GoFundMe page posted on Thursday indicated Breen was released from the hospital and is recovering from his first surgery, which removed his right food.

“Life is forever going to be different,” Julie, Breen’s wife, told WOOD-TV, suggesting her husband would eventually receive prosthetic limbs. “But different doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. It’s just going to be what we make it, and we just have to figure it out, figure it out for our kids. Dad’s going to have cool hands, Dad’s going to have cool feet. We want to be positive

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Toddler was in home with dead mom for days, police say

Police in Connecticut say a three-year-old girl lived alone with her dead mother for several days, surviving on cereal that had spilled on the floor. 

The body of Twanna Toler, 37, was found in her East Hartford apartment Monday by a social worker who convinced the girl to let her in. Authorities said Toler had been dead for “several days,” but did not know the exact time of her death. 

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East Hartford Police Lt. Joshua Litwin said the child believed her mother was sleeping. The girl was taken to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where she was treated for dehydration.

Police said they found no evidence of a crime or break-in. Investigators are awaiting results of an autopsy by the medical examiner’s office.

A neighbor, Susan Tash, told the Associated Press the television in Toler’s apartment was very loud over the past week, and she heard the girl scream and cry. She said she just thought the child was being fussy. She said she had no idea anything was wrong.

“I was mortified,” Tash said after Toler’s body was found. “It hit me hard because the noise upstairs and I felt kind of responsible.”

It wasn’t immediately clear who has custody of the child. The state Department of Children and Families was called in.

Court records show Toler had a criminal record that included narcotics possession, assault, larceny and failure to appear in court. Records show she also was arrested on a misdemeanor larceny charge in October and was supposed to appear in court for the case Thursday. She had pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Doctors: 3 patients blinded by stem cell procedure

Three elderly women who underwent an unapproved stem cell “treatment” for macular degeneration became legally blind from the procedure, physicians who later treated the patients reported on Wednesday. It is the latest evidence that for-profit stem cell clinics are “peddling the modern equivalent of snake oil” in a “gross violation of professional and possibly legal standards,” said Dr. George Daley, a leading stem cell biologist and dean of Harvard Medical School, in an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The women, ages 72 to 88, were all treated in the summer of 2015 at Florida-based Bioheart Inc., which last August changed its name to US Stem Cell.

Each woman received a slurry of cells derived from liposuctioning her belly. US Stem Cell employees processed the tissue to isolate what the study authors call “the putative stem cells.” Those were mixed with platelet-dense plasma from the patient’s blood, treated with an enzyme, shaken, spun, and injected into both eyes.

The women all suffered detached retinas, vision loss, and hemorrhages in their eyes. While previously they just had trouble reading small print, afterwards they could barely see hand movements or, in some cases, light.

Read more: FDA chief pushes back against criticism of stem cell treatment regulations

None of the women are named in the study. But at least two US Stem Cell patients, Elizabeth Noble and Patsy Bade, sued the company and some of its employees in 2015 after having stem cell procedures for macular degeneration that June. Both lawsuits were settled, with the women receiving payments.

The paper comes in the wake of efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to more tightly regulate stem cell clinics and close down those that put patients at risk. Those efforts have stalled, however. An FDA spokeswoman told STAT she has “nothing to share at this time” about the status of proposed regulations, and experts consider FDA action unlikely in the regulation-averse Trump administration.

In general, clinics have argued they are not subject to regulation of procedures using stem cells taken from a patient’s own body as long as those cells are “minimally processed.”

“There is little question that when the FDA is involved in regulatory oversight it works in favor of patient safety,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, senior author of the NEJM paper. “That would have protected patients in cases like these.”

Clinical trial?

The company appeared to have plans to do more such procedures. A clinical trial run by Bioheart, first listed in a government database in 2013, was withdrawn in September 2015 before it enrolled anyone.

At least one woman said she thought she was in a clinical trial that she found in that database. In fact, however, the consent form she signed was simply to undergo the stem cell procedure, said Dr. Thomas Albini, of the University of Miami, who treated two of the women days after their procedures, when they were in pain and becoming blind. (The third was treated at an Oklahoma eye institute.)

Read more: Stem cell clinics hawking unproven therapies sprout up across US

Each woman paid $5,000 for the procedure. Virtually no reputable clinical trial charges patients for a procedure that is supposedly being studied. The clinical trial listing “lured these women into thinking this was a legitimate procedure and could help them,” Albini said.

In response to requests for comment, US Stem Cell’s public relations firm said in a statement that, since 2001, its clinics “have successfully conducted more than 7,000 stem cell procedures with less than 0.01 percent adverse reactions reported.” The spokeswoman said the company would not comment on whether the women believed they were enrolling in a clinical trial or why it withdrew the trial before enrolling any patients.

It is not clear what went wrong in the three cases. One possibility is that the slurry contained cells that contracted, literally pulling the patients’ retinas off the back of the eye. Alternatively, enzymes used to prepare the fat cells might not have been washed off before the slurry was injected, and may have attacked the patients’ eyes. The women’s blindness “was obviously due to the procedure,” Albini said, calling it “off-the-charts dangerous.” Not only is there no reputable research showing stem cells derived from fat and injected into the eye are safe and effective, but it was done on both eyes at once — a no-no even for established ophthalmological procedures.

Nor is it clear what the company thought the fat-derived stem cells would do in eyes. No stem cell expert contacted by STAT knew of any studies by the company testing the procedure in lab animals. “This case is a perfect example of why doing preclinical studies [on lab animals] is so important,” said Paul Knoepfler of the University of California, Davis, a stem cell biologist who follows the industry and was not involved in the new study. “Doing the procedure in rats might have shown whether there are safety problems.”

US Stem Cell no longer performs eye procedures. In a regulatory filing, it reported that its techniques can treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hip and knee conditions, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, autism, colitis, and lupus. There is no rigorous evidence that stem cells spun out of patients’ fat can safely and effectively treat any of these, and none are FDA-approved.

What was then Bioheart became a publicly traded company in February 2008, raising $5.8 million, one-tenth what it had forecast. The stock is currently trading at a little below 3 cents per share and the company is known for “really preaching the gospel for stem cell therapy and the need for less FDA oversight,” said Knoepfler.

At a recent FDA hearing on stem cell clinics, US Stem Cell’s chief scientific officer, Kristin Comella, said, “The government should not regulate our bodies. … I will always stand up for patient rights.”

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IT’S A DOGFIGHT Bow Wow’s Melania tweet adds to Snoop/Trump feud

Bow Wow pushed his way into the Snoop Dogg-Donald Trump feud.

The rapper said in a since-deleted tweet Wednesday, “Ayo @realDonaldTrump shut your punk a– up talking s–t about my uncle @SnoopDogg before we pimp your wife and make her work for us.”

Bow Wow, whose real name is Shad Gregory Moss, was responding to President Donald Trump’s tweet to Snoop Dogg after Snoop Dogg released a music video where he shoots a clown dressed as Trump.

Trump tweeted Wednesday, “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!”

A rep for Bow Wow did not return Fox News’ request for comment. Snoop Dogg has yet to respond to Trump’s tweet.


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Paris IMF letter bomb: Possible link to failed German bomb investigated – France high school shooting: Armed teen arrested, 10 hurt

French authorities are working with officials in Greece to determine if a Greek anarchist group was behind the letter bomb attack that left one injured at the International Monetary Fund office in Paris early Thursday.

The group, called Conspiracy Cells of Fire, claimed responsibility for a failed letter bomb sent to the German Finance Minister on Wednesday. French authorities are investigating if there is a link to the IMF letter bomb.

French President Francois Hollande called Thursday’s explosion in Paris “an attack” and said the government would do “everything to find out the origin of this malicious act.”


Hollande noted “a similarity with another event of the same nature in Berlin. … We are trying to establish the causes of what happened as part of an international investigation.”

After the late-morning explosion in Paris, employees of the IMF office in a chic district of western Paris were evacuated while armed military officers and police guarded the area.

It was unclear who sent the homemade explosive, which was like a “big firecracker” and sent by regular mail, Paris police chief Michel Cadot said. He said the IMF office had received threatening phone calls in recent days but they were not necessarily linked to Thursday’s incident.


IMF director Christine Lagarde, who is French, said in a statement that she was informed about the explosion while on a trip to Germany. “I condemn this cowardly act of violence and reaffirm the IMF’s resolve to continue our work in line with our mandate,” she said.

The secretary who opened the letter was injured by shrapnel in the face and hurt in the eardrum because of a “rather violent noise,” the police chief said.

Police searched all four floors of the building, Cadot said. No one else was injured and only light damages were incurred.

France has been on high alert after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks over the past two years.

The most recent attack happened last month when a machete-wielding assailant shouting “Allahu Akbar!” was shot by soldiers stationed outside the Louvre Museum. The attacked, who was shot four times after injuring a soldier, was identified as Egyptian-born Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy, 28.

A Greek public order ministry official said French authorities sent Greek police photographs of the blast site, which are being examined by Greece’s anti-terrorism squad.

Greek authorities were awaiting information on potential evidence from the injured secretary in the hope she might remember details about the sender’s address, the ministry official said.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, which is customary in cases involving criminal investigations.

The Greek group that claimed responsibility for the German bombing, Conspiracy Cells of Fire, claimed in an online posting Thursday on a Greek left-wing website that the attack was part of a concerted campaign by international anarchist groups.

Many Greeks resent austerity measures imposed by the IMF and the European Union and linked the financially troubled country’s bailout.

The bomb sent to Germany, containing low-grade explosives like the ones used in fire crackers, was destroyed Wednesday before it could explode.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Hawaii judge grants temporary restraining order on new Trump travel ban – GOP-appointed 9th circuit judges back Trump order – VIDEO: Are liberal judges abusing their positions?

President Trump’s revised travel ban was put on hold Wednesday by a federal judge in Hawaii just hours before it was set to take effect after hearing arguments that the executive order discriminates on the basis of nationality.

Trump addressed the judge’s move during a rally in Nashville, Tennessee calling it “unprecedented judicial overreach” and vowed to fight.

“We’re going to win. We’re going to keep our citizens safe,” Trump said. “The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.”

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson prevents the executive order from going into effect, at least for now. Hawaii had requested a temporary restraining order.

“Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this Court,” Watson wrote in his ruling. 


In a statement released late Wednesday night the Department of Justice said they strongly disagreed with the ruling and called the move “flawed both in reasoning and scope.”

“The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” said DOJ Spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.

The ruling came as opponents renewed their legal challenges across the country, asking judges in three states to block the executive order that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries.

More than half a dozen states are trying to stop the ban, and federal courts in Maryland, Washington state and Hawaii heard arguments about whether it should be put into practice early Thursday.

Hawaii also argued to the court that the ban would prevent residents from receiving visits from relatives in the six countries covered by the order. The state says the ban would harm its tourism industry and the ability to recruit foreign students and workers.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, welcomed the ruling and said “Judge Watson exemplifies the importance of an independent judiciary.”

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called the travel ban “bad policy” and praised Attorney General Doug Chin for stopping the order.

In Maryland, attorneys told a federal judge that the measure still discriminates against Muslims.

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Government attorneys argued that the ban was revised substantially to address legal concerns, including the removal of an exemption for religious minorities from the affected countries.

“It doesn’t say anything about religion. It doesn’t draw any religious distinctions,” Jeffrey Wall, who argued for the Justice Department, said in court.

Attorneys for the ACLU and other groups said that Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and statements from his advisers since he took office make clear that the intent of the ban is to ban Muslims.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the order “yet another victory.” 

“President Trump’s second executive order is just a Muslim Ban by another name – with the same unlawful and unconstitutional goal of discriminating based on religion and national origin,” he said in a statement.

Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller has previously said the revised order was designed to have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first.

The latest version of the ban details more of a national security rationale. It is narrower and eases some concerns about violating the due-process rights of travelers, appyling only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas.

“Generally, courts defer on national security to the government,” said U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang. “Do I need to conclude that the national security purpose is a sham and false?”

In response, ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat pointed to Miller’s statement and said the government had put out misleading and contradictory information about whether banning travel from six specific countries would make the nation safer.

The Maryland lawsuit also argues that it’s against federal law for the Trump administration to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Attorneys argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go.

In the Hawaii case, the federal government said there was no need to issue an emergency restraining order because Hawaii officials offered only “generalized allegations” of harm.

Jeffrey Wall of the Office of the Solicitor General challenged Hawaii’s claim that the order violates due-process rights of Ismail Elshikh as a U.S. citizen who wants his mother-in-law to visit his family from Syria. He says courts have not extended due-process rights outside of a spousal relationship.

Neal Katyal, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Hawaii, called the story of Elshiskh, an Egyptian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, “the story of America.”

Wall told the judge that if he is inclined to issue an injunction, it should be tailored specifically to Hawaii and not nationwide.

In Washington state, U.S. District Judge James Robart — who halted the original ban last month — heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is making arguments similar to the ACLU’s in the Maryland case.

Robart said he is most interested in two questions presented by the group’s challenge to the ban: whether the ban violates federal immigration law, and whether the affected immigrants would be “irreparably harmed” should the ban go into effect.

He spent much of Wednesday afternoon’s hearing grilling the lawyers about two seeming conflicting federal laws on immigration — one which gives the president the authority to keep “any class of aliens” out of the country, and another that forbids the government from discriminating on the basis of nationality when it comes to issuing immigrant visas.

Robart said he would issue a written order, but he did not say when. He is also overseeing the challenge brought by Washington state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argues that the new order harms residents, universities and businesses, especially tech companies such as Washington state-based Microsoft and Amazon, which rely on foreign workers. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon have joined the claim.

Washington and Hawaii say the order also violates the First Amendment, which bars the government from favoring or disfavoring any religion. On that point, they say, the new ban is no different than the old. The states’ First Amendment claim has not been resolved.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the original ban but did not rule on the discrimination claim.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump administration reversal on private prison use faces pitfalls

The Trump administration’s plan to reconsider privately run prisons faces a web of complications amid litigation and allegations the industry cuts corners at the expense of security. 

Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo directing the Bureau of Prisons to start phasing out the use of private prisons. 

Supporters maintain the private model is cheaper and more efficient, and Sessions’ directive was an apparent nod to that argument. The industry also has pushed back strongly on claims it skimps on rehabilitative programs like job training. 

“We do not believe in cost-cutting for profit’s sake as critics like the ACLU contend,” Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for top private prison provider GEO Group, told Fox News. “Instead we believe in running an efficient operation that provides adequate staffing and relies on state of the art technology for monitoring, communication, health care and rehabilitation programs.”

But critics point to a Justice Department audit that found private facilities have more safety and security problems than government-run ones. In moving to phase out these operations, the Obama administration also cited the decline in the federal prison population.  

Critics also allege some for-profit prison providers enjoy a cozy relationship with Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions is a private prison enthusiast,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, a left-leaning Washington non-profit. 

A private prison – also known as a for-profit prison – is run by a third party that is contracted by a government agency.

In the U.S., there are two leading private prison providers – GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corp. of America). Both companies donated heavily to Republicans during the 2016 election cycle and both have seen their share prices double in value since President Trump’s White House win.

GEO maintains it has never taken a position or been an advocate for or against any criminal justice, sentencing or immigration policy. Paez says the company’s “contributions should not be construed as an endorsement of all policies or positions adopted by any individual candidate.”

Private prisons were virtually non-existent in the 1980s but shot up more than 1,600 percent between 1990 and 2009. As incarceration rates continued to climb, the private prison industry grew with it – expanding at exponential rates.

As the Obama administration began to put a damper on that growth, Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders both vowed to keep the Obama directive during last year’s campaign.

Shares of GEO and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) tumbled.

But with Trump’s surprise November win and Sessions in place as the country’s top cop, the private prison industry has recouped its losses and is currently on track for a substantial windfall.  

The market capitalization of GEO has roughly doubled to $3.7 billion; CoreCivic’s market capitalization is more than $4 billion. 

In the Public Interest said the policy change didn’t come as a total shock.

Sessions backs a no-holds-barred approach to going after drug and violent crime offenders. In a Feb. 21 memo, the former Alabama Republican senator said Obama’s efforts to end privatization had “impaired” the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s “ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” 

Sessions’ comments indicate he expects a significant rise in people being incarcerated, though the number of federal prisoners has been on the decline since 2013. It is now at its lowest rate in a decade. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are 189,041 total federal inmates. Of those, 11 percent or 21,359 federal inmates are held in private prisons. 

Trump’s illegal immigration crackdown, though, could represent one area where the administration hopes to employ private facilities. 

Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit that represents low-wage workers, told The Washington Post that Trump’s pledge to deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants creates an environment where for-profit prisons could make millions detaining and deporting those who cross the border illegally.

Cohen believes Sessions’ motives run deeper. 

“As Alabama’s attorney general, Sessions green-lighted their use in the state, and shortly after the Obama Justice Department’s original announcement, GEO Group … hired two former Sessions aides as lobbyists,” Cohen said. 

The Justice Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Fox News. 

Private prison companies operating in the United States handle facilities and inmates for the federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Homeland Security – which includes detainees from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

With government contracts worth millions of dollars on the line, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union argue that a profit motive introduces perverse incentives into the job of running prisons.

The less a prison spends per inmate on things like health care, upkeep and security, the more it can make monetarily, they say.

“Certain private prison companies employ shrewd tactics to obtain more and more government contracts to incarcerate prisoners,” the 2011 ACLU report “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” claimed. The report said tactics include: “use of questionable financial incentives; benefitting from the ‘revolving door’ between public and private corrections; extensive lobbying; lavish campaign contributions; and efforts to control information.” 

Safety concerns also have been cited. After a well-documented 2010 escape from an Arizona private prison, an Arizona Department of Corrections audit revealed that prison staff hired by Management & Training Corp. were “fairly green,” “not proficient with weapons,” and habitually ignored sounding alarms. 

Around the same time, at least 28 riots were documented in private prisons in Arizona, as well as more than 200 other “disturbances” involving dozens of inmates.

Earlier this month, a federal judge green-lighted a 2014 lawsuit filed against GEO to continue as a class-action lawsuit. It’s the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private prison company of violating federal anti-slavery laws has been allowed to move forward.

The suit centers on conditions at the 1,500-bed prison at the Denver Contract Detention Facility. The prison, owned and operated by GEO Group, is accused of using tens of thousands of immigrants detained by ICE to work for $1 a day – or for free.

GEO maintains it did nothing wrong.

“We have consistently, strongly refuted these allegations, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these claims,” Paez told Fox News. “The volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the Federal government. Our facilities, including the Aurora, Colo. Facility are highly rated and provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments pursuant to the federal government’s national standards.”

In addition to allegations of forced labor at private prisons, there have also been accusations of collusion.

In 2011, for example, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy in connection with payments received from a private prison developer.

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Miami man arrested in botched butt lift procedure

A Miami man is facing charges after a woman told police he provided her with illegal injections during a botched at-home butt lift procedure that left her hospitalized. Carlos Gilberto Mendoza was arrested and charged with performing a medical procedure without a license, and illegally possessing prescription drugs with the intent to sell, The Miami Herald reported.

The victim, who was identified as Ileana Duarte, allegedly spent more than $4,000 on injections to her face and butt between May 2016 and February, NBC Miami reported. Duarte told police that a man and a woman told her they were injecting her with vitamins and a substance that would make her gluteus larger and harder.

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 “Any time you have anything done, even if it’s just a facial and you think it’s going to be at a house, at a friend’s house, I don’t recommend that, because there’s a lot of things that are unsanitary that happen,” an undercover detective told NBC Miami.

Mendoza, 49, was arrested at his home where police found lidocaine, botox and bacteriostatic water, The Miami Herald reported. 

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Police: Calif. pastor stabbed to death by parishioner

A 68-year-old California pastor was stabbed in the neck and killed Tuesday night by a parishioner whom the pastor visited so they could pray together, police said.

The pastor, Herbert Valero, was able to identify the murderer to his family before he died, The Mercury News reported. He was pronounced dead at the scene despite the efforts of emergency responders.

But while Valero was allegedly able to tell his family 37-year-old Servando Ayala Silva stabbed him, the motive for the attack was still unknown.


“That’s one of the things we’re not sure if truly we’re ever going to be able to answer,” Salinas police Cmdr. Stanley Cooper told The Mercury News. “At the time of the stabbing, it was only the two of them that were out in front of the pastor’s house.”

Silva left the scene, but officers later tracked him down at a family member’s house. He was arrested and booked into the Monterey County Jail on suspicion of homicide.

Valero’s stabbing is the 10th homicide in Salinas in 2017, The Mercury News reported.

A vigil was held Wednesday at Victory Outreach Church, where Valero preached.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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