US border agent in Texas confesses to 4 killings, police say
Monday, September 17
LAREDO, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol supervisor who confessed to killing four women and assaulting a fifth who managed to escape remained in jail Monday, police said in court records.
Juan David Ortiz is being held in Laredo on $2.5 million bond on four counts of murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint.
According to affidavits , the 35-year-old Ortiz “provided a voluntary verbal confession” early Saturday in the deaths of the women. Ortiz was arrested a day after being found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo, at about 2 a.m. Saturday, capping what investigators portrayed as a 10-day string of violence. Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Saturday that investigators “consider this to be a serial killer” whose victims were believed to be prostitutes.
Alaniz described how the Customs and Border Patrol supervisor continued going to work as usual throughout that time.
“As law enforcement was looking for the killer … he would be reporting to work every day like normal,” he said.
It all began with the discovery Sept. 4 of the body of 29-year-old Melissa Ramirez. According to court records, Ortiz said he killed Ramirez a day earlier. Like the other victims, Ramirez was shot in the head and left in a road in rural northwest Webb County.
She was a mother of two. Her mother, Maria Cristina Benavides, told the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday that she had been collecting donations on a street corner Saturday to pay for her daughter’s funeral.
“I hurt a lot. All I want is justice. I want that guy to die in jail for taking the life of my daughter,” Benavides said.
A second victim, 42-year-old Claudine Anne Luera, was found shot and left in the road Thursday morning, badly injured but still alive, according to the affidavit. The mother of five died at a hospital later that day.
On Friday, according to the affidavit, Ortiz picked up a woman named Erika Pena. She told police she struggled with Ortiz inside his truck, where he pointed a pistol at her, but that she was able to flee. She made it to a gas station where she found a state trooper whom she asked for help.
According to the affidavit, Ortiz told investigators that after Pena ran off, he picked up his last two victims, whose identities have not yet been released by authorities.
Alaniz said one of the unnamed victims was a transgender woman. At least two were U.S. citizens; the nationalities of the others were not known, he said. He said investigators are still working to determine a motive.
Ortiz was believed to have acted alone.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement offering its “sincerest condolences” to the victims’ families and saying criminal activity by its employees is not tolerated.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are investigating, referred questions on the case to the Webb County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Martin Cuellar did not return several messages seeking comment.
Jail records don’t list an attorney to speak for Ortiz, who had worked for Border Patrol for 10 years. He is the second Border Patrol agent in Laredo to be arrested on a murder charge this year after Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles was accused of killing a woman with whom he was romantically involved and her 1-year-old child. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in that case.
OHIO HOUSE EDUCATION CHAIRMAN ANDREW BRENNER IS #ECOTANDY
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Senate Democrats launched the #ECOTAndy campaign to highlight the horrible record of Ohio State Rep. and Education Committee Chairman Andrew Brenner.
“There are few people in the Ohio House or Senate who did more to aid and abet the ECOT for-profit charter school scandal than Andrew Brenner,” said Alexis Miller, spokesperson for the Ohio Senate Democrats. “ECOT got away with stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Ohioans by making campaign donations to Andrew Brenner and other Republican politicians. What ECOT did was criminal, and #ECOTAndy was there every step of the way.”
ECOT was an online for-profit charter school scam devised by Bill Lager and sketched out on the back of a Waffle House napkin in Columbus. Over the years, Lager curried favor with the supermajority Republican politicians at the Statehouse by donating millions of dollars to their campaigns.
Andrew Brenner, Chairman of the Ohio House Education committee and self-proclaimed education “champion”, accepted more than $27,500 from Lager. Brenner has so far refused to donate the money ECOT gave him, even as other Republicans rushed to donate theirs after an FBI investigation of Lager’s donations became public.
In return for Brenner and other Republicans’ campaign contributions, ECOT was allowed to get away with egregious fraud, including faking attendance numbers to get more state money. Under Brenner’s watch, ECOT also maintained the worst graduation rate in the country. Because ECOT hired Lager’s private company to manage the school, more money for ECOT meant more money for Lager and his businesses.
The taxpayer money allocated to ECOT would have gone to traditional public schools if not for the bought favor of Andrew Brenner and Ohio’s Republican politicians. ECOT got away with one of the worst scams in Ohio history due, in part, to the complicity of Andrew Brenner.
Visit www.ECOTAndy.com or www.facebook.com/ECOTAndy to learn more about Andrew Brenner and the ECOT scandal.
Are today’s white kids less racist than their grandparents?
September 17, 2018
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Mississippi State University
Margaret Hagerman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Mississippi State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
In America’s children, we often see hope for a better future, especially when it comes to reducing racism.
Each new generation of white people, the thinking goes, will naturally and inevitably be more open-minded and tolerant than previous ones.
But do we have any reason to believe this? Should we have faith that today’s white kids will help make our society less racist and more equitable?
Previous research has had mixed findings. So in order to explore more fully what white kids think about race, I went straight to the source: white children themselves.
In my new book, “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America,” I explore how 36 white, affluent kids think and talk about race, racism, privilege and inequality in their everyday lives.
The limitations of survey data
Before beginning my research, I looked at what previous studies on the racial attitudes of young white people had found.
According to some researchers, we do have reason to be hopeful.
Using survey data, they found that young white people are expressing less prejudice than generations before them. For instance, white support for segregated schools – a traditional measure of racial prejudice – has dramatically decreased over a 50-year period. And surveys show that younger whites are less likely to express racial stereotypes than older whites.
But a second group of researchers disagreed. They found that whites today simply articulate racial prejudice in new ways.
For example, according to national survey data, high school seniors are increasingly expressing a form of prejudice that sociologist Tyrone Forman calls “racial apathy” – an “indifference toward societal, racial, and ethnic inequality and lack of engagement with race-related social issues.”
Racial apathy is a more passive form of prejudice than explicit articulations of bigotry and racial hostility. But such apathy can nonetheless lead white people to support policies and practices that align with the same racist logic of the past, like a lack of support for social programs and policies designed to address institutional racism or an indifference toward the suffering of people of color.
Other researchers question the ability of surveys to capture honest responses from whites about race-related questions or to describe the complexity of whites’ perspectives on race.
As useful as surveys can be, they don’t allow us to fully understand how white people explain, justify or develop their views on race.
What the kids are saying
In order to better understand how white children think about race, I interviewed and observed 30 affluent, white families with kids between the ages of 10 and 13 living in a Midwestern metropolitan area. Over the course of two years, I immersed myself in the everyday lives of these families, observing them in public and in the home, and interviewing the parents and the kids. A few years later, when the kids were in high school, I re-interviewed a subset of the original group.
These children had some shared understandings of race, like the idea that “race is the color of your skin.” But when I brought up topics like racism, privilege and inequality, their responses started to diverge, and there was more variation than I anticipated.
Some kids told me that “racism is not a problem anymore.” But others told me in great detail about the racial wealth gap, employment discrimination, unequal schooling, and racist treatment of black kids by police.
As an 11-year-old named Chris explained:
“I think that the white kids, since they have more power in general in society … disciplinary actions aren’t brought down as hard upon them. But when it’s, you know, a black kid getting in trouble with the police … I think people are going to be tougher with them, because, you know, [black kids] can’t really fight back as well.”
Although some of the kids had much greater understandings of the history of racism in America, others flattened time and lumped all of African-American history together, while also mixing up names and dates.
One 11-year-old named Natalie told me:
“Racism was a problem when all those slaves were around and that, like, bus thing and the water fountain. I mean, everything was crazy back in the olden days. … But now, I mean, since Martin Luther King and, like, Eleanor Roosevelt, and how she went on the bus. And she was African-American and sat on the white part. … After the 1920s and all that, things changed.”
When it came to the understandings of privilege and inequality, some kids made comments like, “There’s no such thing [as privilege]. Everyone gets what they deserve in life, if they work for it.”
Other kids disagreed, like 11-year-old Aaron:
“I think [whites] just kind of have the upside. … And since much of society is run by white people anyway, which is an upside, more white people are, you know, accepted into jobs, so they get the upside. So, yeah, I do think they have the upside.”
I also found that many of the children expressed forms of racial apathy. When a black teenager was shot and killed by a police officer in the community, 16-year-old Jessica told me that she “did not care” about black people being killed because they “obviously did something to deserve it.”
But some kids, like 16-year-old Charlotte, had a very different reaction:
“It should all be stopped. There is actually a problem and a system that allowed this to happen. … Technically, legally, what that officer did was ‘okay’? It’s like, well, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe killing black people shouldn’t be legally ‘okay,’ you know?”
The importance of a child’s social world
Why such stark differences among these kids?
It wasn’t simply a matter of these kids repeating the views of their parents.
I found that their perspectives were shaped less by what their parents explicitly said about race and more by the social environments these kids grew up in – and how their parents constructed these environments.
Decisions parents made about where to live, where to send their kids to school, which extracurricular activities to enroll them in, where they traveled and what media they consumed work to create what I refer to as a child’s “racial context of childhood.”
Within this racial context, kids developed ideas about race by observing and interpreting what was going on around them. And because of important variations in these social environments, the children made sense of race in different ways.
In this sense, my work builds on existing scholarship on how children develop understandings about race and racism in the context of family, place, early school experiences,elementary and secondary schools, child care and even summer camp.
All of these aspects of a child’s social environment play a role in shaping how they learn about race.
Are white kids less racist than their grandparents? My research with kids doesn’t give us any reason to believe that each new generation of white people will naturally or inevitably hold more open-minded and tolerant viewpoints on race than previous generations.
Dismantling racism in the United States will require more than just passive hope.
To avoid overdoses, some test their heroin before taking it
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
Monday, September 17
NEW YORK (AP) — The newest tool in the fight against opioid overdoses is an inexpensive test strip that can help heroin users detect a potentially deadly contaminant in their drugs.
Sales of fentanyl test strips have exploded as a growing number of overdose-prevention programs hand them out to people who use illicit drugs.
Though they weren’t designed for it, the test strips can signal the presence of fentanyl in illicit drugs. Some health officials question their accuracy, but they have proven to be so popular that some programs can’t get enough to satisfy demand.
“As soon as I hit the street with them, they’re gone,” said Washington, D.C., needle-exchange outreach worker Maurice Abbey-Bey.
The U.S. is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history, and it’s been getting worse. More than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to preliminary U.S. government numbers.
Growing numbers of recent deaths have been attributed to the painkiller fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs. The drugs are far more potent than heroin, but they are relatively cheap and increasingly have been cut by suppliers into street drugs without buyers’ knowledge.
The strips sell for $1 each. Costs can quickly add up for groups distributing them because some people use drugs four or five times a day.
Government agencies have begun paying for the test strips and providing them to needle-exchange programs. The state health department in California started last year, and the health departments in some cities — including Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio — have started since then.
But some other health agencies have declined, citing uneasiness with the tests’ accuracy or doubt about whether someone would actually throw away contaminated dope.
There’s been little research on whether tests strips are an effective weapon against the overdose epidemic, said Catherine McGowan, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Anything that empowers people who inject drugs to mitigate their own risk is a good thing,” McGowan said. “You just need to be really careful.”
The tests strips are intended for testing the urine of patients who are legally prescribed fentanyl for pain, as a way for doctors to make sure they are taking the drug, said Iqbal Sunderani, the chief executive of BTNX, the Canadian company that is a main producer of the strips.
The strips are licensed for that purpose — and only that purpose — in Canada. They are not licensed for any use in the United States.
In 2016, a Canadian doctor devised a new way to apply them: by dipping them into the residue of “cooker” cups that heroin users employ to prepare their injections.
A government-sanctioned facility in Vancouver that allows people to use drugs under medical supervision started offering the tests two years ago. Last year, health officials there released results of a study of more than 1,000 drug checks. More than 80 percent of heroin and crystal meth samples tested positive for fentanyl, as did 40 percent of cocaine samples.
Drug users who got a positive result were 10 times more likely to lower their dose, the study found.
The Vancouver results drew attention. In October 2016, St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in New York City became one of the first U.S. programs to offer them.
It was important to take new steps, said Van Asher, the Bronx organization’s syringe access program manager.
“We’re losing people at a greater rate than we were at the height of HIV” in the early 1990s, he said.
A few small studies have shown a high willingness by drug users to use the tests. Perhaps the most important was a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Brown University, which was not published in a peer-reviewed journal but was released to the public in February. It concluded the test strips were highly accurate.
BTNX doesn’t recommend the strips for testing illicit drugs, but Sunderani, the company’s president, knows it has become the main driver of sales.
It sold 117,000 tests in the U.S. last year. So far this year it has already sold more than 410,000, he said.
A growing list of government agencies in Canada and the United States are paying for the strips, but others have been reluctant.
Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, a point person in the Trump administration’s response to the nation’s opioid epidemic, said she doubts positive test results deter people from shooting up.
“I don’t think they’re going to be using fentanyl test strips and say ‘Oh gee, this is positive for fentanyl? I better go find something else,’” said McCance-Katz, who heads the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Strip proponents agree: Most heroin addicts won’t walk away from their drugs, no matter what a test result says.
“In the whole time I’ve been doing this, I’ve had only three people throw out positive samples,” said Tino Fuentes, an overdose-prevention outreach worker who has become a kind of Johnny Appleseed in the U.S. for test strips, promoting and handing them out in multiple cities.
But Fuentes and others say the strips can nevertheless get people to reduce their chance of a fatal overdose, for example by taking smaller doses or taking drugs in the presence of someone who has an overdose-reversal drug.
Fuentes said he was delighted when he learned of two people who recently stopped using the strips because they decided to treat every dose as contaminated and to take precautions every time.
“The ideal thing is we no longer need strips because people are using safely,” he said.
Some health officials worry that there’s a chance that the test strips will fail to detect certain contaminants. Late last year, Canada’s national health agency said a preliminary analysis of 70 samples found three in which the test failed to detect fentanyl or fentanyl analogs. A follow-up analysis by Health Canada found BTNX strips produced five false negatives among 364 samples tested.
In Washington, D.C., the health department has declined to pay for them or endorse their use “based on the high likelihood of false negatives,” said department official Michael Kharfen.
Some outreach workers understand the caution, noting for example the test strips detect the presence of fentanyl, but not how much.
“It could be 2 percent or 98 percent. And the difference will kill you,” said Reilly Glasgow, who works at New York City’s Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, which is part of an organization called the Alliance for Positive Change.
But he said his program was finally persuaded to offer the strips because too many people didn’t believe any fentanyl could be in their drugs.
“They needed proof,” he said.
‘THERE IS NO SECOND LINE’
Fentanyl contamination has become so common that one New York man joked that his drug habit has become “a little bit of heroin but mostly fentanyl.”
The man said he’s been injecting heroin since 1992 and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to jeopardize his ability to get housing, to keep his place in a treatment program or to land a job.
He said the test strips are hard to come by, but he’s used them — usually when he bought drugs from a new dealer. All those tests were positive. He said he took the drugs anyway, starting with a smaller dose called a “tester shot.”
One day last month, he demonstrated how the test strips worked on a packet of heroin powder stamped with a blue devil on the side, which he bought from his regular dealer.
He called the dealer’s product “consistently mediocre.” It’s a selling point, since it means he knows what he’s getting “as opposed to playing Russian roulette.”
Inside a Brooklyn apartment, he shook the powder into a tiny cup, added water, and drew up the resulting brown liquid into a syringe. Then he set the needle aside, added a few drops of water to what was left in the cup, and swished it around.
Then he dipped the end of a test strip in to absorb the water and drug residue. In seconds, a red line appeared. “There’s supposed to be two. There is no second line, so this contains fentanyl,” he said.
Then he emptied the syringe into a vein on the back of his right hand, his eyes glazing as the drug took effect.
A friend, Jessie Kruger, arrived a short time later. Kruger said she used to inject heroin but quit more than a year ago after a scary health episode.
The test strips “are a godsend,” Kruger said. “But it’s important to not just do the test strip but do a tester shot, too … You can’t test for everything.”
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.