Day: February 17, 2020

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Attorney seeks justice for Marine confined more than two years without trial or charges…


A Marine recruit arrested for allegedly striking a drill instructor at the service’s San Diego boot camp has spent most of the last two years in the brig and is now confined to a federal prison hospital.

He has not had a trial, nor has he been charged with a crime, according to the Marine Corps and the man’s attorney.

Jay-Ar Ruiz’ case raises questions about how the military justice system handles complex issues involving mental health, his attorney says, and how someone like Ruiz — who his lawyer says had a pre-existing mental illness — was allowed to ship off to boot camp in the first place.

Ruiz, 28, enlisted in the Marine Corpsin Los Angeles and reported to the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in November 2017. By January 2018, three months later, he was locked in the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where he would remain for 22 months.

It wasn’t long after he started training that Ruiz began exhibiting behaviors his lawyer says were symptomatic of mental illness — a condition she says should have disqualified him for military service.

“Within days (of arriving at boot camp) he starts exhibiting behaviors with this personality disorder,” said attorney Beth Payton-O’Brien during an interview. “He gets dropped within 30 days. He should have never been recruited.”

Payton-O’Brien, a retired Navy captain and former military judge, is Ruiz’ civilian military defense attorney. She recently signed on to defend the Marine, who is incarcerated at a secure federal medical center in Springfield, Missouri.

He was transferred to the facility in November, after 22 months in the Miramar brig.

Payton-O’Brien said Ruiz authorized her to discuss his case and medical condition with the Union-Tribune, which has also been in communication with Ruiz via letters and email.

A spokesman for MCRD San Diego, which is still Ruiz’ command, said he could not go into detail about Ruiz’ case, though the Marines do not dispute the main facts as described by Payton-O’Brien.

Ruiz’ issues began well before he shipped off to boot camp in November 2017.

In June 2017, a woman in Los Angeles County filed a temporary restraining order against him, according to online court records, which did not provide details. However, upon arrival in boot camp, Ruiz began sending the woman letters, violating the order.

When he was confronted by a Marine staff sergeant about the letters and was served with a military protective order, Ruiz reacted violently, striking the staff sergeant, who placed him in a bear hug, rendering him unconscious, Payton-O’Brien said.

He received medical care and was sent to the brig.

As in the civilian justice system, military service members facing criminal charges can be held in custody before trial. A military brig functions like a jail and a prison.

Ruiz began pretrial confinement in January 2018, awaiting an article 32 hearing which, in the military system, is similar to a civilian grand jury, except a hearing officer hears testimony and makes a recommendation whether to proceed to court-martial.

Early in Ruiz’ process, it became apparent to his first military defense attorney that he was not fit to defend himself, Payton-O’Brien said. It took six months before Navy doctors examined his mental health.

In the military justice system, a service member will normally be treated for any mental illness until they are deemed competent to defend themselves in court, Payton-O’Brien said.

Ruiz has gone through at least two competency hearings, she said. He was again found not mentally competent for trial last summer and transferred to the medical facility in Missouri in November.

“I can’t believe how long this case has been sitting around,” Payton-O’Brien said. “It’s shocking to me that if somebody is found to be not competent to assist in their defense, that it would take almost four months to get him transferred into a mental health facility.”

A Marine Corps official not authorized to comment publicly told the Union-Tribune that delays in Ruiz’ case could be partially attributed to the Marine’s conduct while in the brig, which included damaging the facilities.

The Marines did not comment on why Ruiz was kept in the brig so long without psychiatric care.

The service also has not released Ruiz’ charge sheet. His lawyer said he is accused of assault, disobeying orders, damaging government property, stalking, violating a restraining order and fraudulent enlistment.

The Marines also declined to comment on the circumstances of Ruiz’ recruitment or his screening process.

Payton-O’Brien said the Marines are ready to administratively separate Ruiz — to remove him from the Marines — without levying criminal charges.

She said she wonders how Ruiz will conduct himself at an administrative separation board, which she plans to attend.

“The government said they’re going to drop the charges, (but) how can he be competent to defend himself in an admin board?” Payton-O’Brien said.

Payton-O’Brien said Friday she hopes to resolve Ruiz’ case without an administrative board.

If so, she hopes he continues to get medical care if he is released. She is concerned about the long-term effects of his time in custody without mental health treatment.

As for Ruiz, he has sent several pieces of correspondence, both via mail and email, alleging wrongdoing by some in the military justice system.

He says the hospital he’s at now is no different than prison.

“There’s prison politics and anything that happens in a federal penitentiary is the same here,” Ruiz wrote in a Dec. 30 letter.

Neither Payton-O’Brien nor the Marines could say when they expect the case to be resolved.



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EU officials scold Zuckerberg as charm offensive flops…


Mark Zuckerberg came to Brussels looking to make friends.

But in a number of high-profile meetings Monday, European officials responded: no thanks.

Facebook’s chief executive was scolded for the company’s involvement in a series of recent scandals, asked to do more to clamp down on widespread misinformation on its global platform and urged to take greater responsibility for the role that the social networking giant plays in people’s daily lives.

The cold reception comes as the tech giant is facing mounting regulatory pressure in Europe, the United States and beyond. In response, Zuckerberg has pledged billions of dollars in resources to clamp down on everything from fake news to privacy violations — promises that have been met with widespread skepticism from policymakers across the globe.

“I spent time saying that when you have such a big position, you need to anticipate the role that you play in our societies and economies, and not wait for regulators or governments to tell you what you have to do,” said Thierry Breton, Europe’s commissioner for internal markets.

“Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility” — European Commission Vice President Vera Jourová

“It’s up to them to see the impact of their responsibility before we tell them so,” the French policymaker added.

The pushback followed a full-court charm offensive by Zuckerberg to woo local lawmakers in his first trip to Brussels in early 2018 in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

This time, the Facebook CEO focused on high-level policymakers, meeting with Margrethe Vestager, the region’s competition chief, as well as Věra Jourová, the Commission’s vice president in charge of fundamental rights and election integrity.

His outreach included the publication of suggestions on how to regulate online content, a hot topic for European officials, and claims, during his trip to the Munich Security Conference ahead of Brussels, that the tech giant would be willing to pay more tax to countries beyond the United States in proposed digital tax reforms that may be completed by the end of the year.

European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager | Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

Zuckerberg and senior Facebook executives say that they want governments to come up with new rules to police the online world, and that it should not be left to private firms to determine how much of the digital economy is run.

But with the European Union to unveil a raft of digital proposals later this week, many of which will touch on Facebook’s core business, officials politely rebuffed many of these advances Monday, claiming the company must do more on its own to combat many of the regulatory challenges now confronting the company.

Brussels will publish new policies around artificial intelligence, the use of data and how the region will approach the global digital economy — efforts that will lead to years of hard-fought lobbying before final rules are passed.

“Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility,” Jourová said after her meeting with the tech boss. “Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg have to answer themselves a question: ‘Who do they want to be as a company and what values do they want to promote?'”

Wearing a blue suit and tie for his rounds of meetings inside the Commission’s Berlaymont building in central Brussels, Zuckerberg told a small group of reporters before he met with EU officials that he wanted to find a way — laid out in recommendations on Monday — to work with authorities on a model for regulating social media platforms.

His idea would be for Facebook not to be treated like telecoms firms that just carry content, with no accountability for that material, nor like traditional publishers, which have control over such content. It comes amid a growing drumbeat on both sides of the Atlantic for social media companies to be held more responsible for what users posts online, including hate speech, terrorist content and other harmful material.

“It’s not for us to adapt to those companies, but for them to adapt to us” — European Commissioner Thierry Breton

“Given that there are more than 100 billion pieces of content a day, and that we’re not generally producing the content, I think that that would be operationally unfeasible,” Zuckerberg said, in reference to strict content rules for Facebook and others.

Antitrust storm clouds

Despite Zuckerberg’s whirlwind schedule — which was treated more like a state visit by a national leader than a series of meetings with a corporate executive — Commission officials remain overtly skeptical of Facebook’s intentions.

Talking to reporters Monday, Breton dismissed Zuckerberg’s suggestions on potential ways to regulate online content, saying they were “too low in terms of responsibility and regulation [and] there is nothing on market power,” in reference to Facebook’s dominance over much of social media

Breton also dismissed Zuckerberg’s proposal for a third status for Facebook that would fall between telecom provider and publisher while expressing skepticism at the idea of one single EU regulator. Taking the stage alongside the Facebook chief executive, the French official cut off the tech boss from speaking, something that Zuckerberg is not accustomed to.

“It’s not for us to adapt to those companies, but for them to adapt to us,” he said.

Like Google and Microsoft before it, Facebook has often misjudged how to interact with policymakers in Brussels.

Officials routinely gripe that Facebook executives either do not understand Europe’s priorities or do not take their complaints seriously — something that Nick Clegg, the United Kingdom’s former deputy prime minister and former MEP, has tried to change since he took over as the company’s chief global lobbyist in early 2019.

Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg has made an effort to woo EU leaders | Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images

Clegg, who has spent much of his first year at Facebook visiting national EU capitals, attended many of Zuckerberg’s meetings in Brussels on Monday, often hovering in the back. The former British lawmaker also met with Didier Reynders, the Commission’s justice commissioner.

Still, Zuckerberg faced a tough climb in his efforts to convince European lawmakers that Facebook is now one of the good guys.

Brussels is already investigating whether the company’s online marketplace broke the region’s tough antitrust rules, though no charges have yet to be filed. An EU official said Zuckerberg’s meeting with Vestager, who runs both Europe’s competition cases and is in charge of its broader digital industrial policy, was friendly, but to the point.

“They had a good exchange of current issues in the digital sector,” Vestager and Zuckerberg said in a joint statement.

The Dane has openly questioned whether a few digital giants should be allowed to dominate much of the online world, and has raised particular concerns about how these firms collect and use people’s online data. But she has been careful not to portray herself as against Silicon Valley, despite Donald Trump calling her the “tax lady” for ordering Apple to repay €13 billion in back taxes. Both Dublin and the iPhone maker are appealing.

Jourová, the Czech politician who regularly speaks about her childhood growing up behind the Iron Curtain, said she had urged the millennial tech boss to do more to defend democratic values, and make it easier for outsiders to understand how decisions were made on Facebook’s platforms through its complex algorithms.

Such changes must come from the company, she said. Zuckerberg, she added, should not wait for policymakers to draw up new rules.

“It will not be up to governments or regulators to ensure that Facebook wants to be a force for good or bad,” Jourová said.

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How lifesaving organs for transplant go missing in transit…


Scores of organs — mostly kidneys — are trashed each year and many more become critically delayed after being shipped on commercial airliners, a new investigation finds.

When a human heart was left behind by mistake on a Southwest Airlines plane in 2018, transplant officials downplayed the incident. They emphasized that the organ was used for valves and tissues, not to save the life of a waiting patient, so the delay was inconsequential.

“It got to us on time, so that was the most important thing,” said Doug Wilson, an executive vice president for LifeNet Health, which runs the Seattle-area operation that processed the tissue.

That high-profile event was dismissed as an anomaly, but a new analysis of transplant data finds that a startling number of lifesaving organs are lost or delayed after being shipped on commercial flights, the delays often rendering them unusable.

In a nation where nearly 113,000 people are waiting for transplants, scores of organs — mostly kidneys — are discarded after they don’t reach their destination in time.

Between 2014 and 2019, nearly 170 organs could not be transplanted and almost 370 endured “near misses,” with delays of two hours or more, after transportation problems, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The media organizations reviewed data from more than 8,800 organ and tissue shipments collected voluntarily and shared upon request by the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, the nonprofit government contractor that oversees the nation’s transplant system. Twenty-two additional organs classified as transportation “failures” were ultimately able to be transplanted elsewhere.

Surgeons themselves often go to hospitals to collect and transport hearts, which survive only four to six hours out of the body. But kidneys and pancreases — which have longer shelf lives — often travel commercial, as cargo. As such, they can end up missing connecting flights or delayed like lost luggage. Worse still, they are typically tracked with a primitive system of phone calls and paper manifests, with no GPS or other electronic tracking required.

Transplant surgeons around the country, irate and distressed, told KHN they have lost the chance to transplant otherwise usable kidneys because of logistics.

“We’ve had organs that are left on airplanes, organs that arrive at an airport and then can’t get taken off the aircraft in a timely fashion and spend an extra two or three or four hours waiting for somebody to get them,” said Dr. David Axelrod, a transplant surgeon at the University of Iowa.

One contributing factor is the lack of a national system to transfer organs from one region to another because they match a distant patient in need.

Instead, the U.S. relies on a patchwork of 58 nonprofit organizations called organ procurement organizations, or OPOs, to collect the organs from hospitals and package them. Teams from the OPOs monitor surgeries to remove organs from donors and then make sure the organs are properly boxed and labeled for shipping and delivery.

From there, however, the OPOs often rely on commercial couriers and airlines, which are not formally held accountable for any ensuing problems. If an airline forgets to put a kidney on a plane or a courier misses a flight because he got lost or stuck in traffic, there is no consequence, said Ginny McBride, executive director of OurLegacy, an OPO in Orlando, Florida.

Ginny McBride, executive director of OurLegacy, an OPO in Orlando, Florida

In an era when consumers can precisely monitor a FedEx package or a DoorDash dinner delivery, there are no requirements to track shipments of organs in real time — or to assess how many may be damaged or lost in transit.

“If Amazon can figure out when your paper towels and your dog food is going to arrive within 20 to 30 minutes, it certainly should be reasonable that we ought to track lifesaving organs, which are in chronic shortage,” Axelrod said.

For years, organs were distributed locally and regionally first, a system that resulted in wide disparities in organ waiting times across the country. In recent years, UNOS officials and the transplant community, with federal urging, have been working, organ by organ, to restructure how it’s done.

Amid those ongoing efforts to allocate organs more fairly — and, recently, a Trump administration effort to overhaul kidney care — the waste of some of these precious resources donated by good Samaritans has been overlooked. Last year, an average of nine people a day died while waiting for a new kidney.

Donor families and waiting patients may never know what’s happened to an organ provided by a loved one or why a surgery is canceled at the last minute.

“We have been unaware of how many kidneys have been waylaid,” said McBride, of the Orlando procurement agency. “That’s not a number that’s been transparent to us.”

But, she added, she’s aware of the risk: “I say a prayer and hold my breath every time a kidney leaves our office.”

46 Minutes To Spare

In October, a kidney en route from McBride’s OPO in Florida to a patient in North Carolina missed its connection in Atlanta. The box was prominently marked as a human organ and displayed a phone number to call. Apparently unaware of the urgency, a Delta cargo worker merely set it aside for a later flight.

The waiting transplant surgeon in Greensboro, North Carolina, “was having a fit,” said Kim Young, the OurLegacy organ recovery coordinator. If the kidney didn’t get to the hospital by 7 a.m., he wouldn’t be able to use it. Both the risk of organ failure and the chance of death increase with every hour a kidney is out of the body.

McBride had to decide whether to charter a plane at a cost of $15,000 — or to find a courier to drive the kidney through the night. She settled on the road trip, and the organ arrived at 6:14 a.m. — with just 46 minutes to spare.

Four months later, the transplant appears to have been a success, McBride said.

Delta Air Lines officials declined repeated requests to comment on its organ transport service or the specific incident McBride described.

Several domestic airlines, including Delta, United, American, Southwest and Alaska, provide special cargo services for organs with priority boarding, handling and monitoring. They all declined to comment on organ transportation.

The traveling public may not realize it, but thousands of transplant organs — mostly kidneys, but some pancreases — fly on commercial flights each year. Roger Brown, who runs the Organ Center at UNOS, estimates that as many as 10 organs for transplant are on the move this way every day.

Roger Brown, who runs the Organ Center at UNOS, estimates that up to 10 organs for transplant fly commercially every day.

UNOS handles about 1,800 of these organ and tissue shipments a year, of which 1,400 are kidneys. That’s a fraction of the nearly 40,000 organs transplanted in the U.S. last year, including more than 23,000 kidneys. About 1 in every 6 transplanted kidneys is shipped nationally, UNOS figures show.

Most of the time, the organs get where they’re going without incident, Brown said.

“We’re never going to get rid of flight delays. We’re never going to get rid of human error,” he said. “We’re never going to get rid of the person who’s [trying to be] a little too helpful and perhaps puts it someplace special, which then maybe creates issues downstream.”

Troubling Reports

Reports of trouble abound. In August, transplant officials at Medical City Dallas reported in a public forum that they’d lost three kidneys just that month because of problems with commercial flights.

“One organ was delayed due to weather and the next available flight wasn’t till the next day,” the report said. “Another organ made it to the airport, but was never placed on the intended flight. The third organ was mistakenly taken to the wrong airport and missed the intended flight.”

In Kentucky, transplant surgeon Dr. Malay Shah said a kidney traveling on Delta from Pensacola, Florida, via Atlanta, on Oct. 1 sat in the Lexington airport for three hours before he was notified it was there. No one had noticed the box with the label that said “human organ for transplant,” he said.

“It’s scary,” Shah said. “Organs traveling by this mechanism are treated as simply ‘baggage’ or ‘cargo.’”

Before the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, OPO workers could take organs through airport security and see them loaded onto the plane from the passenger gate, McBride said. Because of changes in security protocol, airline employees now load organs on the tarmac, where they fly in pressurized cargo holds.

While anecdotes like Shah’s are common, there’s little data to show how often these transportation problems occur. No federal agency, including the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, which contracts with UNOS, requires monitoring of transportation for transplant organs.

“Matters involving the transportation methods used by organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are arranged directly between OPOs and transplant centers,” HRSA spokesperson David Bowman said in an email.

Airlines log organ shipments in internal booking systems and on cargo manifests, but those documents aren’t public and no summary is available, said Katherine Estep, communications director for Airlines for America, an industry trade group.

“Live human organs receive the highest priority designation,” she said in a statement.

UNOS researchers noted the impact of transportation problems in 2014. They found 30 organs discarded and 109 “near misses” between July 2014 and June 2015.

But the agency didn’t begin formally tracking transportation errors until 2016, when a new computer system came online. Before that, Organ Center staff kept track of problems informally, with pencil and paper, and the information wasn’t verified, Brown said.

Teams from organ procurement organizations, or OPOs, monitor surgeries to remove organs from donors and then make sure the organs are properly boxed and labeled for shipping and delivery.

Calls for closer tracking from within the system have been met with defensiveness — or apathy, said Brianna Doby, an organ transplant community consultant for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“If you talk out loud about organ issues, they say it will drive down donation rates,” Doby said. “It’s not OK for us to say, ‘Well, shipping is hard.’ That’s not an acceptable answer.”

A National Network

UNOS was established in 1984 after Congress enacted the National Organ Transplant Act to address a critical shortage of donor organs and to improve organ matching and placement. It called for a national network to ensure that organs that couldn’t be used in the area where they were donated would be transplanted to save lives elsewhere. Before that, many organs were lost simply because transplant teams couldn’t find compatible recipients in time.

The act established the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and called for the OPTN to be operated by a private, nonprofit organization under federal contract. UNOS, which has held the contract since the inception of OPTN, is overseen by HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Today, UNOS typically handles organs with conditions that can make them hard to place. That can include organs from older donors or those with medical or other characteristics that make them difficult to match.

Overall, about 7% of shipments handled by UNOS from July 2014 to November 2019 encountered transportation problems, the data obtained by KHN and Reveal showed. UNOS wouldn’t release details about individual shipments, including dates or places shipped or causes of the transportation failures or delays.

But Brown, of the UNOS Organ Center, said an internal analysis showed that more than half of the transportation problems were related to commercial airlines or airports. Of those, two-thirds were caused by weather delays, mechanical delays and flight cancellations.

About one-third of transportation problems were related to logistics providers or ground couriers, mostly delays of package pickups. The rest were related to the sender or receiver of the shipments. The most common issue was the package not being ready for pickup at the designated time.

However, Brown said, poor outcomes can’t be blamed directly on transportation problems, even when they do occur.

“The delay could be the primary reason an organ wasn’t transplanted,” he said. “It could be a contributing factor or it could have nothing to do with the reason that the organ is not transplanted.”

Other transplant experts downplay the impact of transportation problems. Kelly Ranum, president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, said she’s “surprised at how low” UNOS’ failure numbers are, considering the volume of kidneys shipped.

Nearly 40,000 organs were transplanted in the U.S. last year, including more than 23,000 kidneys.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, chief executive of LifeCenter Northwest, an OPO based in Seattle, said transportation problems are “minimal” compared with the other reasons organs — including about 3,500 donated kidneys — are discarded each year. These typically include biopsy findings, the inability to find a recipient and poor organ function.

“For over 30 years and literally tens of thousands of organs being transported,” he said, “I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that, because of a transportation glitch, an organ was ultimately not transplanted.”

Still, O’Connor acknowledged that “even one kidney being thrown away because of transportation errors is unacceptable.”

Part of the problem lies with the way organs are transported now, said Axelrod, who also represents the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.

“We don’t have an end-to-end unified transportation system,” Axelrod said. “We don’t have a FedEx for transplant. We have a cobbled-together system of OPOs and couriers and private aircraft and commercial aircraft.”

In recent years, several courier companies have emerged to meet the market for transplant organs. Don Jones, chief executive of the Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance, or NORA, contracts with more than 15 OPOs and oversees about 400 organs a year on commercial flights.

“I would say 99.8% of our transports on commercial airlines go perfectly fine,” Jones said based on his estimate. Jones noted that his firm ships organs only on direct flights and uses GPS tracking to monitor them.

However, GPS tracking isn’t universal — or required by UNOS or HRSA. Some couriers and airlines use it; many don’t. Many OPOs monitor organs through a combination of verbal handoffs, automation and label scans, Brown said.

In Ginny McBride’s misadventure last fall, she contracted with a courier, Sterling Global Aviation Logistics, which used Delta Air Lines to ship the kidney.

Delta uses GPS trackers on its Dash Critical shipments, promising fast, guaranteed delivery of human organs. But on that night in October, the kidney was shipped from Orlando to Atlanta without a GPS tracker. In Atlanta, a cargo worker couldn’t find a GPS device to put on the box containing the kidney, so the worker held the organ for a later flight. That would have pushed it far beyond the window of viability.

An internal Delta report, obtained by McBride, found that Delta didn’t have enough GPS devices available in Atlanta that night. “Destination stations are not returning the devices in a timely manner,” according to the report. “One way to mitigate this from reoccurring is to have a larger inventory of GPS devises (sic) at each station.”

Delta declined to comment on the report.

The average wait time for a kidney varies widely nationwide, from less than three years to more than a decade. One proposal to put more organs to use called for eliminating the 58 donation service areas and 11 regions now used to allocate kidneys and replacing them with a zone of up to 500 nautical miles from the donor hospital.

In December, OPTN cut that range in half — to 250 nautical miles — in part because of an outcry about problems shipping kidneys via commercial air.

“There are certainly no technological barriers to doing GPS and to actually requiring it,” Brown said.

A UNOS committee is considering whether to collect data on transportation methods and outcomes, but, so far, the question remains under review.

“If the community wants it, they should ask for it,” Brown said. “We can help facilitate and get it done for them.”

McBride, who discussed solutions with her colleagues, hopes the transplant organizations will come together to solve transportation problems, to make sure every eligible donated kidney gets transplanted.

“Any organ that’s wasted, in my opinion, is a loss to the patient and to the community,” said Paul Conway, of the American Association of Kidney Patients, an advocacy group, who is himself a kidney recipient. “With all of the advances going on with drugs, with medical procedures, how can you have a logistics error be the barrier?”

This investigation and a related podcast represent a collaboration between Kaiser Health News and Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a nonprofit news organization. Reveal, from CIR and PRX, is a nationally broadcast public radio show and investigative reporting podcast. Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



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WHITE HOUSE LOVE! Stephen Miller weds Pence press secretary…


President Trump and first lady Melania Trump raced from the Daytona 500 to his namesake DC hotel Sunday night for the wedding of senior adviser Stephen Miller and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Waldman.

The affair took place at the Trump International Hotel and included a ceremony officiated by Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, senior adviser to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, according to the couple’s New York Times wedding announcement.

Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and wife Sally were also in attendance. The former Republican National Committee chairman posted a photo of him and his wife with the happy couple on Twitter along with a congratulatory message.

“Spectacular and very special wedding tonight with new bride and groom Stephen and Katie Miller! So much fun and still going with ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ having fun and the band is going strong!” Priebus tweeted.

During the festivities, the commander-in-chief made a speech ribbing his senior adviser for choosing a holiday weekend to wed his bride, according to a Real Clear Politics reporter.

“[Miller] is the only one who could have a damn wedding in the middle of Presidents’ Day weekend. I’m sure it didn’t affect anybody here,” Trump said during his speech.

The president, who spent the morning in Florida serving as grand marshal at the Daytona 500, then joked that he didn’t think he could miss the wedding without upsetting the bride.

“I think Steve would understand. I don’t think Katie would. But that’s okay,” he quipped.

The Trumps stayed at the wedding for about two hours, while reporters were kept out of the event and waited outside the hotel.

Waldman (right) with Vice President Mike Pence
Waldman (second from right) with Vice President Mike PenceCQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Waldman, 28, was previously a spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Miller, 34, has worked under Trump since joining his campaign in January 2016. He has served as the White House’s chief architect of immigration policy, and is personally responsible for spearheading hardline policies such as family separations at the border, the indefinite detention of migrant families and releasing migrants into sanctuary cities.

He has reportedly pushed Trump to end the practice of birthright citizenship, under which babies born to non-citizens on US soil are granted the right of citizenship.

The two were introduced by mutual friends in the spring of 2018, according to the Times, and were engaged in November 2019.



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Dems Weigh Whether to Pursue New Investigations on President…


WASHINGTON—House Democrats are grappling with whether to pursue further investigations of President Trump following his acquittal in the Senate, facing both an election in nine months and fresh White House actions that they say demand scrutiny.

Democrats want to look into whether the president improperly influenced the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for a Trump confidant, casting Mr. Trump as emboldened by the end of the impeachment process. At the same time, party leaders are eager to focus on pocketbook issues…



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Bolton book remains stuck in classification review…


DURHAM, N.C. — Former national security adviser John Bolton on Monday is scheduled to deliver his first public remarks since the conclusion of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Bolton’s appearance at Duke University comes as one of his aides tells NBC News that it’s unclear if his book about his time in the Trump White House — “The Room Where It Happened” — will publish next month as planned. The aide said a White House national security review of the manuscript could push back the book’s March 17 publication date.

Bolton also is scheduled to speak publicly on Wednesday at Vanderbilt University.

He and the White House have been at odds for nearly two months over the publication of his book. The White House has said it contains classified information. But Bolton, who also wrote a book about his time in the Bush administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has maintained that there is nothing classified in his book.

When Bolton submitted his book to the White House in December for a standard national security review his lawyer, Charles Cooper, wrote in a letter that the former national security adviser was not required to do so but was out of an abundance of caution.

After parts of his book leaked to the media, Bolton’s team said the White House review process had been corrupted.

“We continue to believe that the manuscript contains no legitimately classified material,” Sarah Tinsley, a senior adviser to Bolton, recently said in a statement. She expressed concern that the review process “is more about suppressing Ambassador Bolton’s book than about classification issues.”

One possibility is the White House has or will retroactively classify information in Bolton’s book.

A longtime fixture in the Republican Party, Bolton recently became a target for Trump and his allies after revelations that he would directly link the president to the White House’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. The New York Times has reported that Bolton writes in his book that Trump sought his help with his Ukraine pressure campaign.

Bolton offered to testify in the president’s impeachment trial, where he would have provided a first-hand account of the Trump’s decision to withhold U.S. aid to Ukraine in exchange for its government announcing an investigation into his political rivals. But Senate Republicans rejected the idea and acquitted Trump of charges that he abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Biden is running in the Democratic primary to challenge Trump in the November election.

Bolton left the White House in September on contentious terms with Trump. He said he resigned, while the president said he was fired. He served 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser.



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Ocasio-Cortez faces 13 challengers – but can anyone unseat her?


Democratic leftist superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has risen to national – and even global – fame from an unlikely position as a young first-time congresswoman from New York.

But now she faces 13 different challengers, including from within her own party as well as Republicans, as she prepares for her first congressional re-election campaign. News of the multiple bids to unseat AOC, however, came as a surprise to many voters on the streets of her district in the Bronx last week.

Some voters still had not heard of the progressive superstar. Others said they would weigh the merits of her rivals as the contests heat up over the summer. But most voiced support, arguing that almost two years since Ocasio-Cortez threw a grenade at the Democratic establishment by ousting incumbent Joe Crowley, her progressive agenda – touting universal healthcare and a Green New Deal – was only now taking hold in the nation’s political capital.

“Give her a chance! We knew who she was when we sent her, that she’d make a noise, and making a noise was why we sent her,” said local businessman Abdul Abbas.

“She’s done good things for the Bronx,” concurred Carol Heraldo. “I like how she presents herself as woman, that she’s firm, that she took what she believed and made it real. We don’t see a lot of young people accomplish a lot because they’re afraid – and she’s not afraid.”

That’s not how all see it. The first-term congresswoman is facing eight Republican and five Democratic candidates aiming to unseat her. Some appear symbolic, with little fundraising potential or appetite for collecting the necessary 4,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

At her first campaign rally on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez said she hoped to multiply turnout by four, reaching 60,000 votes in the primary election. She declined to be drawn on the challengers that have lined up to contest her seat.

“I think everyone has a right [to run]. I of course won my seat with a primary,” she told the New York Post. “I would never begrudge anyone trying to run in a primary.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican challengers certainly seem to have their work cut out for them. In 2018 she steamedrolled the Republican candidate by a margin of 78%.

With about $3.4m in her campaigns re-election coffers in a solidly Democratic district, Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican challengers probably plan on merely damaging her or securing a bigger national media profile by taking on such a famed opponent.

John Cummings, a former police officer, raised $425,000 in 10 weeks after announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination on Fox & Friends. Jamaican immigrant Scherie Murray gave her first interview to Fox News’s Sean Hannity and raised a similar amount.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally for Bernie Sanders in Venice, California, on 19 December 2019.



Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally for Bernie Sanders in Venice, California, on 19 December 2019. Photograph: Christian Monterrosa/EPA

But having led a campaign to prevent Amazon from establishing a headquarters in neighboring Long Island City, and established herself as a leading member of “the Squad”, the self-described group of progressive congresswomen that includes Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ocasio-Cortez is a political target.

In a district that hasn’t voted Republican in half a century, the Republican candidates are tackling a candidate who has become a lightning rod for rightwing anger nationally.

“Anything that indicates AOC is vulnerable would be godsend to people who don’t like her or are upset about the Amazon loss of 27,000 jobs in New York,” said veteran Democratic party strategist Hank Sheinkopf, warning: “Politics are unstable across the nation. Things are happening that we haven’t seen or thought about before.”

Strategically speaking, a challenge to one of the most influential voices on the American left also could affect candidates in other, more marginal races. Within New York City, more than three dozen candidates promoting progressive, generational change are taking on congressional incumbents.

In her own district, enthusiasm among supporters for Ocasio-Cortez is unwavering. The Working Families party “knows Ocasio-Cortez will beat any challengers who might arise because she’s fighting tirelessly for her district and her agenda speaks to the people of Queens and the Bronx”, the group said in a statement to the Guardian.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez serves drinks in support of One Fair Wage at the Queensboro restaurant in Queens, New York, on 31 May 2019.



Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez serves drinks in support of One Fair Wage at the Queensboro restaurant in Queens, New York, on 31 May 2019. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

But the Ocasio-Cortez campaign also knows that opposition to her remains deep within the Democratic party establishment. Open warfare broke out in July when the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, took aim at her and her close colleagues in the Squad.

“All these people have is their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

In a tweeted response, Ocasio-Cortez said: “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.”

The progressive-moderate split could be clearly discerned, too, in the battle last year over the election of a new Queens district attorney when Tiffany Cabán, an Ocasio-Cortez-backed candidate running on a platform to reduce record levels of incarceration, initially declared victory with a margin of 1,100 votes.

But establishment-backed candidate Melinda Katz demanded a recount and ultimately pulled ahead by 55 votes after a series of court challenges over voter eligibility.

Ocasio-Cortez’s most coherent Democratic challenger to date is former longtime CNBC correspondent and anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. Caruso-Cabrera, who published a book in 2011 called You Know I’m Right: More Prosperity, Less Government, is a skeptic of big government and a proponent of free markets.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in May 2011.



Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in May 2011. Photograph: Evan Agostini/AP

Caruso-Cabrera is a relatively recent Democratic party member who registered her candidacy last week, appear to be preparing a more serious challenge as she seeks to take on Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary.

“Caruso-Cabrero is as wild a card as AOC was two years ago,” said Sheinkopf. “Caruso-Cabrero is likely to lead a spirited challenge and could be very competitive.”

She certainly fancies her chances.

“I am the daughter and granddaughter of working-class Italian and Cuban immigrants,” Caruso-Cabrera said in a statement. “I am so lucky to have had such a wonderful career and I want everybody to have the opportunity that I’ve had. That’s why I’m running.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign declined to comment on the challenge. But people close to the campaign said Caruso-Cabrera could be AOC’s most potent opponent at least from the Democratic side, even though she represents a radically different vision of the party.

“It’ll be interesting if she decides to hide her libertarian-conservative ideology,” one source said. “Certain conservatives are upset that AOC beat Crowley and over Amazon so there maybe certain Koch-type figures who have had some role in recruiting her. I don’t think [Caruso-Cabrera] is going to get young Democrats from around the country to work for her, but you could see young conservative activists in the district because they all spend so much time condemning her politics or lusting after her.”

However, candidates on both sides will be looking to raise money from outside the relatively poor, racially diverse district. Ocasio-Cortez’s fame has long transcended the borders of her hardscrabble patch of the Bronx.

“AOC can raise an awful lot of money throughout the country from all sorts of people, but within the district there’s not an awful lot of money to raise,” said Sheinkopf.



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Maxine Waters: He's Going to Get Worse…


Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) ripped President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in a long-winded rant Sunday on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC.”

After saying she thinks Barr criticizing Trump’s tweets is an attempt to “trick” everyone, Waters predicted Trump will “get worse” now that he has been acquitted of impeachment in the Senate, adding he will “bring” Russian President Vladimir Putin “into the White House to continue to interfere.”

“The president does not believe that there are any reigns on him, that he can do whatever he wants to do,” Waters told host Kasie Hunt. “And that’s exactly what he’s doing, and he’s going to get worse since he was basically not indicted, not charged with obstruction of justice in the impeachment trials. He’s going to get worse now. This president is going to do everything from bring Putin into the White House to continue to interfere. And don’t worry, he’s going to pardon [Michael] Flynn eventually, pardon Roger Stone eventually. This president is out of control.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent



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'iPhone supply shortages'…


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See all three sizes and the phones’ newest features.”,”descriptionText”:”The new Samsung Galaxy S20 has a souped-up camera and 5G capabilities. See all three sizes and the phones’ newest features.”},{“title”:”See Samsung’s new $1,380 flip phone”,”duration”:”02:27″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com/business”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/02/11/samsung-galaxy-z-flip-foldable-smartphone-unveiling.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/02/11/samsung-galaxy-z-flip-foldable-smartphone-unveiling.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200211143207-underscored-samsung-z-flip-in-story-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/02/11/samsung-galaxy-z-flip-foldable-smartphone-unveiling.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-tech/”,”description”:”A year after the botched rollout of its first foldable smartphone, Samsung unveiled theu003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/2020/02/11/tech/samsung-galaxy-z-flip/index.html” target=”_blank”> Samsung Galaxy Z Flipu003c/a>. 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CNN Business saw a demo of the product, which the company describes as a digital human being.”,”descriptionText”:”The Samsung-backed company STAR Labs just unveiled its much-hyped AI technology called Neon. CNN Business saw a demo of the product, which the company describes as a digital human being.”},{“title”:”Samsung’s new TV rotates to play vertical videos”,”duration”:”00:58″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/01/06/samsung-sero-vertical-tv-ces-zw-gr-orig.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/01/06/samsung-sero-vertical-tv-ces-zw-gr-orig.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200105200506-01-samsung-sero-tv-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/01/06/samsung-sero-vertical-tv-ces-zw-gr-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-tech/”,”description”:”Samsung new Sero TV can rotate to play vertical or horizontal videos. 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Detained for beards, veils and internet browsing…


Redacted copy of The Karakax List in Chinese

A document that appears to give the most powerful insight yet into how China determined the fate of hundreds of thousands of Muslims held in a network of internment camps has been seen by the BBC.

Listing the personal details of more than 3,000 individuals from the far western region of Xinjiang, it sets out in intricate detail the most intimate aspects of their daily lives.

The painstaking records – made up of 137 pages of columns and rows – include how often people pray, how they dress, whom they contact and how their family members behave.

China denies any wrongdoing, saying it is combating terrorism and religious extremism.

The document is said to have come, at considerable personal risk, from the same source inside Xinjiang that leaked a batch of highly sensitive material published last year.

One of the world’s leading experts on China’s policies in Xinjiang, Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, believes the latest leak is genuine.

“This remarkable document presents the strongest evidence I’ve seen to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs,” he says.

One of the camps mentioned in it, the “Number Four Training Centre” has been identified by Dr Zenz as among those visited by the BBC as part of a tour organised by the Chinese authorities in May last year.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe BBC previously visited one of the camps identified by scholars using the Karakax List

Much of the evidence uncovered by the BBC team appears to be corroborated by the new document, redacted for publication to protect the privacy of those included in it.

It contains details of the investigations into 311 main individuals, listing their backgrounds, religious habits, and relationships with many hundreds of relatives, neighbours and friends.

Verdicts written in a final column decide whether those already in internment should remain or be released, and whether some of those previously released need to return.

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It is evidence that appears to directly contradict China’s claim that the camps are merely schools.

In an article analysing and verifying the document, Dr Zenz argues that it also offers a far deeper understanding of the real purpose of the system.

It allows a glimpse inside the minds of those making the decisions, he says, laying bare the “ideological and administrative micromechanics” of the camps.

Row 598 contains the case of a 38-year-old woman with the first name Helchem, sent to a re-education camp for one main reason: she was known to have worn a veil some years ago.

It is just one of a number of cases of arbitrary, retrospective punishment.

Others were interned simply for applying for a passport – proof that even the intention to travel abroad is now seen as a sign of radicalisation in Xinjiang.

In row 66, a 34-year-old man with the first name Memettohti was interned for precisely this reason, despite being described as posing “no practical risk”.

And then there’s the 28-year-old man Nurmemet in row 239, put into re-education for “clicking on a web-link and unintentionally landing on a foreign website”.

Again, his case notes describe no other issues with his behaviour.

The 311 main individuals listed are all from Karakax County, close to the city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang, an area where more than 90% of the population is Uighur.

Predominantly Muslim, the Uighurs are closer in appearance, language and culture to the peoples of Central Asia than to China’s majority ethnicity, the Han Chinese.

In recent decades the influx of millions of Han settlers into Xinjiang has led to rising ethnic tensions and a growing sense of economic exclusion among Uighurs.

Those grievances have sometimes found expression in sporadic outbreaks of violence, fuelling a cycle of increasingly harsh security responses from Beijing.

It is for this reason that the Uighurs have become the target – along with Xinjiang’s other Muslim minorities, like the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz – of the campaign of internment.

The “Karakax List”, as Dr Zenz calls the document, encapsulates the way the Chinese state now views almost any expression of religious belief as a signal of disloyalty.

To root out that perceived disloyalty, he says, the state has had to find ways to penetrate deep into Uighur homes and hearts.

In early 2017, when the internment campaign began in earnest, groups of loyal Communist Party workers, known as “village-based work teams”, began to rake through Uighur society with a massive dragnet.

With each member assigned a number of households, they visited, befriended and took detailed notes about the “religious atmosphere” in the homes; for example, how many Korans they had or whether religious rites were observed.

The Karakax List appears to be the most substantial evidence of the way this detailed information gathering has been used to sweep people into the camps.

It reveals, for example, how China has used the concept of “guilt by association” to incriminate and detain whole extended family networks in Xinjiang.

For every main individual, the 11th column of the spreadsheet is used to record their family relationships and their social circle.

China’s hidden camps

Alongside each relative or friend listed is a note of their own background; how often they pray, whether they’ve been interned, whether they’ve been abroad.

In fact, the title of the document makes clear that the main individuals listed all have a relative currently living overseas – a category long seen as a key indicator of potential disloyalty, leading to almost certain internment.

Rows 179, 315 and 345 contain a series of assessments for a 65-year-old man, Yusup.

His record shows two daughters who “wore veils and burkas in 2014 and 2015”, a son with Islamic political leanings and a family that displays “obvious anti-Han sentiment”.

His verdict is “continued training” – one of a number of examples of someone interned not just for their own actions and beliefs, but for those of their family.

The information collected by the village teams is also fed into Xinjiang’s big data system, called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP).

The IJOP contains the region’s surveillance and policing records, culled from a vast network of cameras and the intrusive mobile spyware every citizen is forced to download.

The IJOP, Dr Zenz suggests, can in turn use its AI brain to cross-reference these layers of data and send “push notifications” to the village teams to investigate a particular individual.

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Adrian Zenz has analysed the leaked document

The man found “unintentionally landing on a foreign website” may well have been interned thanks to the IJOP.

In many cases though, there is little need for advanced technology, with the vast and vague catch-all term “untrustworthy” appearing multiple times in the document.

It is listed as the sole reason for the internment of a total of 88 individuals.

The concept, Dr Zenz argues, is proof that the system is designed not for those who have committed a crime, but for an entire demographic viewed as potentially suspicious.

China says Xinjiang has policies that “respect and ensure people’s freedom of religious belief”. It also insists that what it calls a “vocational training programme in Xinjiang” is “for the purposes of combating terrorism and religious extremism”, adding only people who have been convicted of crimes involving terrorism or religious extremism are being “educated” in these centres.

However, many of the cases in the Karakax List give multiple reasons for internment; various combinations of religion, passport, family, contacts overseas or simply being untrustworthy.

The most frequently listed is for violating China’s strict family planning laws.

In the eyes of the Chinese authorities it seems, having too many children is the clearest sign that Uighurs put their loyalty to culture and tradition above obedience to the secular state.

China has long defended its actions in Xinjiang as part of an urgent response to the threat of extremism and terrorism.

The Karakax List does contain some references to those kinds of crimes, with at least six entries for preparing, practicing or instigating terrorism and two cases of watching illegal videos.

But the broader focus of those compiling the document appears to be faith itself, with more than 100 entries describing the “religious atmosphere” at home.

The Karakax List has no stamps or other authenticating marks so, at face value, it is difficult to verify.

It is thought to have been passed out of Xinjiang sometime before late June last year, along with a number of other sensitive papers.

They ended up in the hands of an anonymous Uighur exile who passed all of them on, except for this one document.

Only after the first batch was published last year was the Karakax List then forwarded to his conduit, another Uighur living in Amsterdam, Asiye Abdulaheb.

She told the BBC that she is certain it is genuine.

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Asiye Abdulaheb decided to speak out, despite the danger

“Regardless of whether there are official stamps on the document or not, this is information about real, live people,” she says. “It is private information about people that wouldn’t be made public. So there is no way for the Chinese government to claim it is fake.”

Like all Uighurs living overseas, Ms Abdulaheb lost contact with her family in Xinjiang when the internment campaign began, and she’s been unable to contact them since.

But she says she had no choice but to release the document, passing it to a group of international media organisations, including the BBC.

“Of course I am worried about the safety of my relatives and friends,” she says. “But if everyone keeps silent because they want to protect themselves and their families, then we will never prevent these crimes being committed.”

At the end of last year China announced that everyone in its “vocational training centres” had now “graduated”. However, it also suggested some may stay open for new students on the basis of their “free will”.

Almost 90% of the 311 main individuals in the Karakax List are shown as having already been released or as being due for release on completion of a full year in the camps.

But Dr Zenz points out that the re-education camps are just one part of a bigger system of internment, much of which remains hidden from the outside world.

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The outside of one of the camps in Xinjiang

More than two dozen individuals are listed as “recommended” for release into “industrial park employment” – career “advice” that they may have little choice but to obey. There are well documented concerns that China is now building a system of coerced labour as the next phase of its plan to align Uighur life with its own vision of a modern society.

In two cases, the re-education ends in the detainees being sent to “strike hard detention”, a reminder that the formal prison system has been cranked into overdrive in recent years.

Many of the family relationships listed in the document show long prison terms for parents or siblings, sometimes for entirely normal religious observances and practices.

One man’s father is shown to have been sentenced to five years for “having a double-coloured thick beard and organising a religious studies group”.

A neighbour is reported to have been given 15 years for “online contact with people overseas”, and another man’s younger brother given 10 years for “storing treasonable pictures on his phone”.

Whether or not China has closed its re-education camps in Xinjiang, Dr Zenz says the Karakax List tells us something important about the psychology of a system that prevails.

“It reveals the witch-hunt-like mindset that has been and continues to dominate social life in the region,” he said.



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