Monthly Archives: February 2019

By: Edwin Martinez

For some 30 years, Buffalo, Rochester and for the most part school districts around the nation have failed to deliver on Bilingual Education. Although,  many Millions of dollars, if not, Billions on the national stage has been invested, full programing has never been achieved. The end results, high drop out rates and low achievement scores.

Bilingual students are dropping out of schools at alarming rates and those who graduate can barley make it in a community college because of lack of preparation.

Recent discussions with Higher Education officials indicated that too many Bilingual student are unable to meet the basic requirements for entry into a community college or 4 year college. College officials indicate, that the students they do allow into their colleges are spending too much time catching up on basic math and english skills, which eat up their financial aid for college. Often, their financial aid is exhausted just taking courses to catch up, leaving little or not enough funds to Graduate.

In recent years the Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY has engage with current schools superintendent Kriner Cash to address the ongoing problem of high drop-out and low achievement scores for English Language Learners and Bilingual Students. Yet, two years later and no progress has been achieved. The district remains out of compliance with state law.

The State Education Department has hired an outside firm to review Buffalo’s and Rochester Bilingual  Programs and make recommendations to bring them into compliance with the law. The Report should be published within the next month.

Over the last three decade, the number of students in the Buffalo and Rochester Public Schools learning English as a new language has more than doubled, and now account for nearly 1 in every 5 kids enrolled in the city school system.

But Latino, immigrant and refugee leaders are concerned there are too few bilingual teachers to address the poor academic results seen among so many of these students.

And while they have seen the district somewhat bolster its bilingual education for Spanish-speaking students, there still are many more languages to consider – 83 in all spoken throughout the district.

“Our main concern has been, ‘What about these other communities?’” Said Edwin Martinez “What about the Somali  speakers? Or the Nepali speakers? Or the Bhutanese speakers or the speakers from South Rwanda or South Sudan?”

Here’s the problem: Where do you find qualified teachers who speak those languages?

In the past, Buffalo Schools depended on Dr. Lillian Malave’s Bilingual Program at The University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College for Bilingual Teachers. However, over the last 20 years those institutions have cut back or almost totally eliminated their Bilingual Programs, this in a time of most need. Today, the only institution providing Bilingual or ESL training nearby seem to be Fredonia College an hours drive from Buffalo.

Buffalo Schools has been slow to recruit teachers from around the country and only recently starting recruiting teachers from Puerto Rico and other School districts around the country.

Community Advocate have been recommending for the last 20 years that the Buffalo School system develop a pipeline for Bilingual Teachers with the many local schools of higher education in the Buffalo region, however, the Buffalo District has been unwilling or unable to promote and build a successful Bilingual program in the City of Buffalo. Currently Director of Multilingual Services seems to have the same obstacles today, lack of support from School district leaders or an inability to develop a successful program.  In any event, The Bilingual programs in Buffalo and Rochester remain out of compliance with State Law, denying school children equal and accessable education.

In 2008, the district enrolled 2,700 students whose primary language was not English. That number has reached almost 6,200 and the district only has 50 Bilingual teachers according to district figures from October.

Rising numbers of English language learners

The number of students in Buffalo Public Schools learning English as a new language has more than doubled the past decade. This year, almost 1 out of 5 students in the district is an English language learner.

Earlier this year, The Latino went public with their concerns about the low graduation rate for the city’s English language-learners, 27 percent, and their high drop-out rate, 42 percent. The organization believes an underlying issue is the need for more bilingual educators who can teach in a student’s native language while the pupil is adjusting to English.

The district does employ 50 certified bilingual education teachers, but all of those are Spanish-speaking and not nearly enough to meet the demands and requirments of all students. Let alone, meet the requirments under law.

The district also has more than 200 teachers who teach English as a new language.  Those are teachers who speak English, but are trained to use a variety of strategies, including visual aids, to teach kids who speak another language. The problem with this is the Teachers can’t communicate with their students.

The Latino Community and other groups returned to Superintendent Kriner Cash and his staff last month and reminded the district it was out of compliance with state education law that requires districts to have a bilingual education program if they have at least 20 students per grade who speak the same foreign language.

The group asked the district to ramp up its recruitment of bilingual teachers, to add as many as 150 over the next five years. In the short term, the group asked that next year the district add 15 new teachers who are either bilingual or teach English as a new language.

“We recognize, given there are 83 languages in Buffalo schools, that we’re not going to be able to get bilingual teachers for every language, so we want to start with the top eight,” said Edwin Martinez

Among the 83 languages in the school district, a third of them are spoken by only one or two kids, according to district figures. The vast majority of English language learners in the district speak one of eight languages. Those languages are, in order by the number of students who speak them: Spanish – by far the most common  – Arabic, Karen, Somali, Burmese, Swahili, Bengali and Nepali.


By: Richard Morrisroe

During a December council meeting, I received a text from my wife telling me my 80-year-old father was being taken to the hospital with chest pains. Seconds later, Councilman Shaun Heenan asked about the council term change referendum.

Distracted and worried about my father, I used the word “we” in my response when I expressed the referendum sponsors’ desire to increase voter participation by moving it to 2019, when all Dunkirk’s elected officials except the city judge are on the ballot. I was caught off-guard.

That “we” triggered quite the response. Councilman Heenan picked up on the “we” immediately. A letter to the OBSERVER expressed confusion and alleged lack of city accountability. OBSERVER Publisher John D’Agostino wrote several pieces decrying “dark decisions” and “illegal acts” by councilmembers and city leaders. He accused the leadership of voter suppression. Another recent commentary called for an investigation into the City’s alleged wrongdoings, and my alleged illegal acts.

One misplaced pronoun created a perception of wrongdoing. But that’s just it. It is a perception. It is wrong. Here is the reality.

All that I said at the council meeting is the truth, albeit with a bit of agitation due to concern over my father’s health, not Heenan’s question. Council did debate whether to put the referendum on the 2018 or 2019 ballot. I did not. My role as city attorney is to provide legal advice, do the legal research and draft the resolutions requested by council. That is what I did.

Councilmembers Martin Bamonto and Don Williams sponsored the resolution introducing the referendum on changing council terms. A public hearing occurred at the next council meeting, where three citizens stated that the terms should remain two-year terms. More council debate followed, then they voted. A 3-2 majority passed the resolution. Even one of the referendum resolution’s sponsors, Bamonto, voted against it, after seeing how unpopular the term change was with citizens.

Next, as Norm Green wrote in his Jan. 8 letter to the OBSERVER, lack of communication between the Board of Elections staff and the city clerk led to a missed deadline to put the referendum on the 2018 ballot. I did not catch the mistake on time. The resolution’s council sponsors did not catch it either. The Board of Elections did not catch it until it was too late, as Green admitted. Conspiracy? Far from. It was an honest mistake.

As I stated at that December council meeting, resolutions can be amended, changed, rescinded or modified at any time, by council vote, not by my hand or that of the mayor. Nor can they be amended by “secret, closed-door meetings.” We do not have such power. I never meant to give that impression. The city charter is clear on this. We didn’t change the date. Miscommunication lead to a missed deadline. So, when the deadline was missed, this January’s resolution changing the referendum date to the 2019 general election was not illegal. It was simply late, but ultimately necessary to fix the error.

The Feb. 16 letter notes that the mayor, Commissioner Green, the referendum sponsors and I all conspired via a phone call to make “an illegal change.” He is simply wrong. I was never a part of any phone call or closed-door meeting. The mayor had nothing to do with either the error or the referendum. After the deadline was missed, the councilmen did meet with the commissioner and the mayor to discuss options, as Green relates in his letter. After weighing the options, the council members thought it best to change the date to 2019.

My “we” should have been “the council resolution sponsors,” or “they.” Thus stated, they did nothing illegal or wrong. Nor did I. My involvement ended at drafting the resolution. I was told of the meeting after the fact.

Ask the writer to cite any statutes that were broken. He cannot. There is a reason the district attorney has not investigated this issue. No laws were broken. It was a procedural error, nothing more. As Commissioner Green wrote in his commentary, a lack of communication led to the error. That is the truth. It is also true that the resolution sponsors preferred the referendum be on the 2019 ballot to increase voter turnout, not to suppress it.

Let’s now talk about political realities. No one in April and May of 2018 knew the blue wave response to Trump’s policies would drive up the 2018 midterm election vote as it did, as did the Trump supporters’ strong turnout in support of said policies. And D’Agostino’s accusation that this was an intentional move because of the county’s strong Republican slate is baseless. The county voted heavily Republican. The city, as usual, voted heavily Democrat. Cuomo and down ballot Democrats lost in much of rural Chautauqua County. But they won in Dunkirk.

Note the irony of accusing modern Democrats with strong ties to labor (which preaches voter turnout) like Williams and Bamonto of voter suppression, when it is the modern Republicans and the Dixiecrat Democrats of the past century that have suppressed the vote for decades. My father nearly lost his life in Alabama in 1965 fighting for African-Americans’ right to vote. Google Richard F. Morrisroe for more information. What you find will make it plainly obvious I am not a proponent of voter suppression either. Thus, D’Agostino’s accusations of voter suppression and conspiracy theories ring hollow.

With all the fuss, I ask this: did this procedural error harm the citizens of Dunkirk? No. Were they deprived of their right to vote on the issue? No. If a citizen sought a lawyer to sue the city because of the error, the lawyer’s first question on any civil lawsuit would be, “What are the damages?” Here, there are no damages, as much as others would like you to believe. No one was harmed. Citizens will still have their vote on the referendum this November.

Motives matter. Why would Heenan, who voted against the referendum being placed on the ballot, raise the issue in December, a month after the election? Rumors abound about a possible run for mayor. True or not, the political season has started in Dunkirk, and a smear campaign is underway against the city administration. This wasn’t about illegal council action, or the referendum. It was about scoring political points to create a case against the mayor and the council Democrats. Heenan is quoted as stating, “What happened was they dropped the ball and didn’t get it filed. I would have been satisfied with that answer.” See “Heenan grills attorney on change in vote” (Dec. 8). That is the political reality.

Thankfully, my father just pulled a chest muscle. It was not a heart attack, as I feared when I received that text message. Thankfully, the fuss over the council term referendum is unfounded. Thankfully, I believe Dunkirk’s citizens can see through the attempted smear. Miscommunication led to procedural error, but laws were not broken. Citizens will still have their say this November on the council term issue.

Attempted political smears and criticism aside, Dunkirk is improving, as Mayor Wilfred Rosas and his administration are working hard to continue its resurgence. The administration is not perfect, nor am I. But we do our best, and we achieve results. Don’t let this unnecessary, politically motivated drama obscure that reality. As I said to Heenan at that council meeting, time to move on.

Richard J. Morrisroe, Esq., is Dunkirk city attorney.

Starting Out in CNY: A Conversation about the Experience of Immigrants in the Region

By Maximilian Eyle

The Latino population in New York State has been steadily growing. Today, Hispanics represent nearly 20% of the State’s overall populous and are having a growing impact on the social and political culture of the region. One key driver is that our state is particularly welcoming to immigrants. While New York City has a long history of diversity, Central New York is now a primary destination for immigrants starting a new life in the United States. In this interview with Ivette Cruz Barsó, we explore what the area has to offer and what new arrivals can expect.

Ivette is a petite and attractive Cubana in the midst of her third year in the United States. She lives in a cozy apartment near Syracuse’s downtown. Ivette arrived here from Havana and is currently earning her Master’s degree in Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture from Syracuse University. I met with her to discuss her impressions of Central New York, and to see what advice she has for people who are just arriving.
M: What was your impression of Central New York before you arrived?

I: I had never heard about Syracuse or CNY. It was through the refugee program that I learned about it – when I found out that I had the option to come here. It looked like a very American place from the pictures I saw, especially compared to Miami. The refugee program warned me that it would be cold, with lots of snow, and that I should have good winter clothes. Since they didn’t tell me much else except about the bad weather, I was worried.

M: Has your opinion changed? What do you think of it now that you’ve had a chance to get settled?

I: After three years, I can say that it’s a great place for immigrants – there is a lot of support from the local government. The problem is that the anti-immigrant position of the federal government has lowered the amount of help that can be found here. I’ve seen local organizations shut down or stop certain services because they lost federal funding. But the local attitude is very supportive. I read about anti-immigrant discrimination in other parts of the country, but I never encounter it here.

M: How did you first find out about what opportunities were available here?

I: The social workers were very helpful in getting me my papers and setting me up with a place to live. There was a great support system in dealing with the local government and other local resources. I was able to find English classes and help with preparing for job interviews. I also received tips about general living in New York State.

M: What are the best things about living here? The worst things?

I: I love the pace of the city – very relaxed. The cost of living is low too, so you can work, study, and have fun without constantly thinking about money. I think other cities are much more financially stressful. There are a lot of cultural opportunities here too. The first thing I found was Argentine tango. I met a lot of very nice local people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise there.

M: What advice would you give to people who have recently settled in the region?

I: Because the city is laid back, it’s easier to pursue you goals. Education is accessible too, but learning English is a very important skill to develop in order to access the resources here. Fortunately, the relaxed rhythm of the city gives you time to do those things.


Empezando una vida en CNY: Un diálogo sobre la experiencia de inmigrantes en la región

Por Maximilian Eyle

La población hispánica de Nueva York ha estado creciendo continuamente. Hoy la gente hispana representa casi el 20% de la población total del estado y tiene un impacto en el crecimiento de la cultura social y política en la región. Un clave primario es que nuestro estado es muy acogedor a los inmigrantes. Mientras la ciudad de Nueva York tiene una larga historia de diversidad, la parte central del estado es ahora un destino primario para inmigrantes que están empezando una vida nueva en los EE.UU. En esta entrevista con Ivette Cruz Barsó, exploramos lo que tiene este lugar para ofrecer y lo que las personas que llegan pueden anticipar.

Ivette es una cubana pequeña y atractiva que se encuentra en su tercer año en los EE.UU. Ella vive en un piso muy acogedor cerca del centro de Syracuse. Ivette llegó aquí desde La Habana y está ahora estudiando para su maestría en Lengua, Literatura, y Cultura española en Syracuse University. Me reuní con ella para hablar sobre sus impresiones sobre Central New York, y para ver qué consejo tiene para la gente que está llegando justamente ahora.

M: Dime sobre tu impresión de aquí antes de llegar.

I: Yo nunca había oído de Syracuse ni CNY. Me enteré a partir del programa de refugiados – cuando descubrí que tenía la opción de venir aquí. Me pareció como un lugar muy americano en las fotos que vi, especialmente comparado con Miami. El programa de refugiados me comentó que hacía mucho frío, que había mucha nieve, y que debía tener buenas ropas para el invierno. Como no me dijeron mucho más aparte del duro invierno, venía muy preocupada.

M: ¿Ha cambiado tu opinión? ¿Qué opinas de este lugar ahora que has tenido la oportunidad para establecerte aquí?

I: Después de tres años, puedo decir que es un lugar muy especial para los inmigrantes – hay mucho apoyo del gobierno local. El problema es que la posición contra los inmigrantes del gobierno federal ha reducido los recursos aquí. He visto organizaciones locales cerrarse o parar algunos servicios porque perdieron sus fondos federales. Pero la actitud local es de apoyo. He leído sobre discriminación contra inmigrantes en otros partes del país, pero nunca he sufrido ninguna aquí.

M: ¿Cómo aprendiste de las oportunidades disponibles aquí?

I: Los trabajadores sociales me ayudaron mucho cuando tuve que aplicar a mis papeles y encontrar un lugar para vivir. Había un sistema muy bueno de apoyo para lidiar con el gobierno local y otros recursos locales. Pude encontrar clases de inglés y me ayudaron con las preparaciones para mis primeras entrevistas de trabajo. También recibí consejos sobre el estilo de vida aquí.

M: ¿Cuáles son las mejores cosas de vivir aquí? ¿Las peores?

I: Me encanta el ritmo de la ciudad – muy relejada. También, el costo de la vida es muy bajo, y por eso se puede trabajar, estudiar, y disfrutar sin estar constantemente pensando en el dinero. Creo que otras ciudades te dan más estrés financiero. Hay muchas oportunidades culturales aquí también. La primera cosa que encontré fue el tango argentino. Conocí muy buena gente que no hubiera sucedido de no ser por el baile.

M: ¿Qué consejo darías tú a la gente que ha llegado recientemente a esta región?

I: Porque la ciudad es muy tranquila, es fácil realizar tus metas. La educación también es accesible, pero es muy importante aprender y mejorar el inglés para acceder mejor a los recursos aquí. Afortunadamente, el ritmo relajado de la ciudad te da tiempo para hacer esas cosas.

i clase debe ser un lugar en que me siento segura.

2019 Summer Youth Internship Program runs twenty (20) hours per week for six (6) weeks. The first day of employment is July 8th and runs through August 15th. To be eligible for this program you must be a City of Buffalo resident, between the ages of 14 and 21, and you must turn age 14 by March 29, 2019.

In order to determine your eligibility for the Mayor’s Summer Youth Internship Program, copies of the below items must be returned with your completed application:

  1. Working Papers (obtained from your school’s counselor) for all youth under age 18
    • Ages 14-15 (Blue Card)
    • Ages 16-17 (Green Card)
  2. Birth Certificate
  3. Proof of Buffalo Residency (Utility Bills, Lease Agreement)
  4. Family Income
  5. Social Security Card
  6. Attending School (Most recent School Report Card or Transcript)

If you have any questions regarding the application, please contact us at (716) 851-5887. Once again, thank you for your interest in my Summer Youth Internship Program.

2019 Summer Youth Internship Program. This is truly a wonderful opportunity for you, as well as hundreds of other city youth, to get the experience you need to become a successful working adult, earn money and learn critical skills that will benefit you now and in the future.

Application that must be completed and returned to the Department of Community Services by FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019. Incomplete applications and late applications will not be accepted!

Bring or mail your completed application to the Department of Community Services, located at Buffalo City Hall, 65 Niagara Square -Room 1701, Buffalo, New York, 14202. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.


Applications accepted until March for scholarships for minority students in chemical sciences 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2019 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) Scholars Program is offering renewable scholarships of $1,000 to $5,000 per year for African-American, Hispanic and Native American students entering chemistry-related fields. Qualified students may be studying at community colleges or four-year institutions. Graduating high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors may apply.

Eligible majors include but are not limited to chemistry, materials science, toxicology, biochemistry, chemical engineering and chemical technology.

In addition to providing financial support, the ACS Scholars Program pairs students with academic and professional mentors to give them the opportunity to learn from those who have experienced similar challenges related to ethnicity. These relationships can span entire careers.

Scholarship applications will be accepted online at the ACS Scholars Program website through March 1, 2019, for the academic year 2019-20. Additional information is available by calling 1-800-227-5558, extension 6250, or by emailing

The Scholars program, now in its 24th year, aims to build awareness of the value and rewards associated with careers in chemistry and to help students acquire the skills and credentials needed for success. Nearly 1,700 ACS Scholars have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the chemical sciences, and a substantial number have gone on to graduate school and/or entered the workforce in their field.

The ACS Scholars Program is generously supported by:

Founding Partner $1 million+

PPG Industries

Benefactor $1 million

Procter & Gamble


Visionary Partners $500,000


The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation



Sustaining Partners $250,000

ACS Petroleum Research Fund


Dow Corning


Merck & Co., Inc.


Société de Chimie Industrielle


Partners $100,000

Air Products



Covestro (formerly Bayer)

CME ACS – Chemical Marketing and Economics Group, ACS NY Section

Dow Chemical Co.





The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive press releases from the American Chemical Society,



(Buffalo, NY February 20, 2019) – The Community Health Center of Buffalo, in collaboration with the Near East and West Side Task Force, is presenting the second in a series of panel discussions focusing on the issue of mental health in the African-American community. The second of these forums is being held on Wednesday, February 20 at the Catholic Health System Regional Training Center, 144 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY14203 from 5:30 pm (dinner and registration) and 6-7 pm (program with Q&A). Parking is free. The program will focus on the topic of homicide, trauma and grief in the African-American community.

The program is being moderated by Karl Shallowhorn, Education Program Coordinator at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Panelists include Lenny Lane, President of F.AT.H.E.R.S., Karrien Williams, Associate Minister, New Jerusalem Revival Center, Rev. Alan Core, Funeral Director and owner of Alan. R. Core Funeral Home, and Alyssa Sullivan, Program Director, Horizon Health Services.

African Americans experience homicide violence at a rate that is on average 12 times greater than American Indians and Latinos, 15 times greater than whites, and 16 times greater than Asians and Pacific Islanders.

“The road to closure for families experiencing grief from the homicide of a loved one rests in the apprehension of the person responsible.  In 2018, Buffalo’s homicide rates reached a 3 year high yet our solving rate remains below the national average.  Community Health Center of Buffalo hosts an annual celebration of lives lost called ‘The Tree of Life’ to help families enduring the tragedy of homicide get through the difficult holiday season.” Karla Thomas, Director of Outreach and Marketing, Community Health Center of Buffalo

“Alexander and Ho in particular, researchers, talk about this whole concept of cultural trauma. That in particular, in marginalized and disenfranchised populations of color, because of race, those particular populations chronically experience cultural trauma just because of race-based structural inequality.” Tanya L. Sharpe, MSW, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Social Work

About the Community Health Center of Buffalo: The Community Health Center (CHCB) is a federally qualified health center that operates out of four sites in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Lockport and Niagara Falls. Since 1999, CHCB has been providing comprehensive healthcare to those who are on Medicaid and Medicare as well as those who lack health insurance. CHCB serves a diverse population of patients including those in the African-American, Latino, and refugee communities of Erie and Niagara County.

About the Near and East West Side Task Force: The Near East and West Side Task Force Inc. (NEWS TF) is a collaboration of two community-based organizations: The Western New York Hispanics and Friends Civic Association: Child and Families Task Force and The Near East Side Community Health Task Force. The mission of the Near East and West Side Task Force is to be

a collaborative group of community partners, who, through advocacy, promote the well-being and self-sufficiency racial and ethnic communities in Buffalo.

People wait in line at a stand during the Executive Branch Job Fair hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December as receipts fell across the board, suggesting a sharp slowdown in economic activity at the end of 2018.

The economy’s outlook was further dimmed by other data on Thursday showing an unexpected increase in the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits last week. That pushed the four-week moving average of claims to a one-year high, an indication that job growth was moderating.

There was also little sign of inflation in the economy, with producer prices dropping in January for a second straight month. Moderate inflation and softening domestic demand support the Federal Reserve’s pledge to be “patient” before raising interest rates further this year.

“This suggests that the word ‘patience’ will be in the Fed’s vernacular for some time,” said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.

The Commerce Department said retail sales tumbled 1.2 percent, the largest decline since September 2009 when the economy was emerging from recession. Data for November was revised slightly down to show retail sales edging up 0.1 percent instead of gaining 0.2 percent as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales increasing 0.2 percent in December. Retail sales in December rose 2.3 percent from a year ago.

The December retail sales report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25. No date has been set for the release of the January retail sales report, which was scheduled for publication on Friday.

The plunge in retail sales came amid a sharp stock market sell-off and drop in consumer confidence in December. The longest government shutdown could also have undercut sales.

Some economists questioned the credibility of the report, arguing that the shutdown could have impacted on the collection of data. But the Commerce Department said the “processing and data quality were monitored throughout and response rates were at or above normal levels for this release.”

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales dropped 1.7 percent last month after an upwardly revised 1.0 percent surge in November. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. They were previously reported to have jumped 0.9 percent in November.

December’s sharp drop in core retail sales suggested a moderation in the pace of consumer spending in the fourth quarter. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, increased at a 3.5 percent annualized rate in the July-September quarter.

As result of the weak retail sales report, economists slashed their fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth estimates by as much as seven-tenths of a percentage point to as low as a 2.0 percent rate.

Growth estimates could be trimmed further after another report from the Commerce Department showed retail inventories excluding automobiles tumbled 1.0 percent in November, the most since December 2008.

The economy grew at a 3.4 percent pace in the July-September period. U.S. Treasury prices rose on the data, while the dollar fell to session lows against a basket of currencies. Stocks were trading lower.


In December, online and mail-order retail sales dropped 3.9 percent, the biggest drop since November 2008. Receipts at service stations dived 5.1 percent, the biggest fall since February 2016, reflecting cheaper gasoline prices.

There were also declines in receipts at clothing and furniture stores. Americans also cut spending at restaurants and bars. Sales at hobby, musical instrument and book stores plunged 4.9 percent, the biggest drop since September 2008.

But sales at auto dealerships rose 1.0 percent in December and receipts at building material stores gained 0.3 percent.

The outlook for consumer spending, which has been underpinned by a strong labor market and cheaper gasoline, is not encouraging. A report this week from the New York Fed showed the overall debt shouldered by Americans edged up to a record $13.5 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018.

In a separate report on Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 239,000 for the week ended Feb. 9.

Economists had forecast claims falling to 225,000 in the latest week. Claims surged to a near 1-1/2-year high of 253,000 in the week ended Jan. 26 and last week’s surprise increase suggested some ebbing in labor market conditions.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 6,750 to 231,750 last week, the highest level since January 2018.

In another report on Thursday, the Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand dipped 0.1 percent last month as the cost of energy products and food fell. The PPI dipped 0.1 percent in December.

In the 12 months through January, the PPI rose 2.0 percent. That was the smallest gain since July 2017 and followed a 2.5 percent rise in December. Economists had forecast the PPI edging up 0.1 percent in January and increasing 2.1 percent on a year-on-year basis.

The PPI report came on the heels of data on Wednesday showing consumer prices were unchanged in January for a third straight month.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

    A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas, Tuesday, June 6, 2006. According to agents, the children were separated from their families after the Border Patrol apprehended a large group of immigrants that crossed into the U.S. illegally. They spent the next 11 hours in the brush until agents found them. This came a few hours before President Bush visited the Laredo Border Patrol Sector. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    HOMESTEAD, Fla., SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Reuters) – For a growing number of migrant children, this is their first home in America: a sprawling campus dotted with beige buildings, massive white tents and metal trailers, next door to a U.S. Air Force base.

    General view of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, which is the Trump administration’s largest shelter for migrant children, in Homestead, Florida, U.S, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

    The federal government is holding nearly 1,600 migrant children here, at what it calls a “temporary influx” shelter. It has added 250 beds in the last two months and could soon house 2,350 children who crossed the nation’s southern border on their own.

    It is the country’s only such temporary quarters for migrant children, after the closure last month of a similar facility in south Texas, and the only shelter for migrant youths that is run by a for-profit company.

    The site is a topic of heated debate, as immigration advocates and Democratic legislators complain many traumatized children who fled violence and poverty in their home countries are held in an institutionalized setting for too long before being released to sponsoring families who can better care for them.

    Government officials say they are trying to safely release children to family members as fast as they can, and that the facility provides the first experience of stability that the children have had after long and often perilous journeys northward.

    Their arduous journeys are not necessarily over: Some of the children will gain asylum, which can take years; others will be deported.

    As the government seeks to rapidly expand the site’s capacity, it has waived a federal requirement at Homestead meant to ensure children receive sufficient health care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which cares for the children, previously required Homestead to maintain a clinician-to-child ratio of 1 to 12 to provide mental health services, according to a November 2018 report. But that requirement has been relaxed to 1 to 20, a Homestead program director said on Wednesday.

    The facility sits on federal property, and unlike established children’s shelters, such as smaller group or foster homes that hold migrant children across the country, is not governed by state child welfare regulations designed to protect youngsters from harm.

    On this day, as a steady rain poured down, children wearing clear plastic ponchos walked in single file lines around the grounds, attended by shelter staff. Some waved and yelled greetings in English and Spanish to visiting reporters.

    The Trump administration opened the Homestead site’s doors to media on condition that reporters not interact with children or photograph or record them inside, which they said was to protect children’s privacy.

    For these youths, aged 13-17, school is held in large white tents divided into small classrooms. Their instructors are not required to be certified teachers but must have a bachelor’s degree and speak English and Spanish.

    The younger children sleep in rooms with six sets of bunk beds each. Seventeen-year-olds, who are housed separately, sleep in large, long “bays” with 144 beds each. The older children use toilet stalls in an attached tent.

    In recreation areas near the beds were games of dominoes, Jenga, and Parcheesi. Outside, kids can play soccer, volleyball and basketball on the palm-dotted campus.

    Inspirational slogans and other art work by the children decorate building walls, including a drawing of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the words “I have a dream” written in Spanish. Another sign atop a doorway says, “Through These Doors Walk the Greatest People in the World!” in English.

    The facility was first opened during the Obama administration, but immigration rights advocates say the Trump administration has stranded children there for longer periods by making it more difficult for them to be released to sponsors, usually parents or close relatives.

    They say youngsters have been there for months, one of them for more than eight.

    Officials say the children spend an average of 67 days at Homestead before they are released.

    $750 A DAY

    About 35 miles south of Miami, the facility is run by Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., a private, for-profit company with a growing line of business in housing immigrant children. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, the firm’s parent company, Caliburn International Corp., noted President Donald Trump’s immigration policies were driving “significant growth.”

    It costs approximately $250 per day to house a migrant child at a standard, permanent shelter, said Mark Weber, an HHS spokesman. But at an influx facility like Homestead, the cost is triple that – around $750 per day. It is covered by American taxpayers.

    Democrats in Congress introduced a bill in December that would ban the use of unlicensed temporary emergency shelters for unaccompanied minors, arguing that stays at the shelters can re-traumatize children.

    In 2014, record numbers of children crossed the border and were held at Border Patrol stations in the southwest for days longer than the 72 hours allowed by law, he said. (That limit applies to how long children can be kept in Border Patrol custody – not HHS custody, as at Homestead.)

    A lawsuit filed in January on behalf of migrant children by immigrant rights groups accuses HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement of instituting “opaque and arbitrary” bureaucratic hurdles as it processes the release of the children.

    One Guatemalan boy, identified only as E.A.R.R., entered the United States in July 2018 and was held at Homestead for five months, according to the suit. His father applied to be his sponsor in July, and fulfilled myriad requirements set by caseworkers, such as giving the boy a separate room and even moving at one caseworker’s request, the suit alleges. His son was released shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

    “At one point, E.A.R.R. suffered from a headache so severe that he broke out in screams, and was taken to a hospital,” the suit said. “He has become anxious and depressed and has begun mental health treatment and medication.”

    While some of the children detained in federal facilities over the past year were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, most crossed alone, often planning to reunite with a parent or close relative.

    The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is not out of line with previous years, but children are spending far longer in federal custody, government data show. The average length of stay for migrant children in HHS custody for the first four months fiscal 2019 was 89 days, compared to 60 days in fiscal 2018 and 41 days in fiscal 2017, according to HHS data.

    As of Feb. 13, 11,500 children were in HHS custody, down from a record of nearly 15,000 in mid-December, partly because of a change in fingerprinting policy — but still it was nearly 80 percent higher than a year ago, the data show.

    “We don’t think most of these kids need to be detained at all,” said Mary Bauer, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “These are kids who have for the most part loving family members who want them.”

    Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Homestead, Fla., and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Julie Marquis and Marla Dickerson

    El presidente Miguel Díaz Canel-Bermúdez denuncia presiones y acciones del gobierno de Estados Unidos a través de Puerto Rico y otras islas del Caribe.

    El gobierno de Cuba emitió hoy una declaración oficial en la que critica el uso de Puerto Rico para realizar una intervención militar en Venezuela.

    El presidente cubano Miguel Díaz Canel-Bermúdez, denunció en un tuit que el gobierno de Estados Unidos “prepara una aventura militar disfrazada de ‘intervención humanitaria’ en la República Bolivariana de Venezuela”. Mientras, la Cancillería cubana expresó que se usa el aeropuerto de Aguadilla para tales fines.

    Explicaron que se trata de una “escalada de presiones y acciones” para emprender una acción militar contra Venezuela.

    Específicamente, la Cancillería de Cuba expresó que los “movimientos de fuerzas de operaciones especiales de Estados Unidos hacia aeropuertos de Puerto Rico, República Dominicana y otras islas del Caribe sin conocimiento de sus gobiernos. Continúa la preparación de una agresión militar contra Venezuela con pretexto humanitario”.

    “Entre el 6 y el 10 de febrero de 2019, se han realizado vuelos de aviones de transporte militar hacia el aeropuerto Rafael Miranda de Puerto Rico; la Base Aérea de San Isidro, en República Dominicana, y hacia otras islas del Caribe estratégicamente ubicadas, seguramente sin conocimiento de los gobiernos de esas naciones, que se originaron en instalaciones militares estadounidenses desde las cuales operan unidades de Fuerzas de Operaciones Especiales y de la Infantería de Marina que se utilizan para acciones encubiertas, incluso contra líderes de otros países”, dice el comunicado.

    La expresión fue errónea, dado a que el único aeropuerto boricua con nombre Rafael es Hernández, no Miranda. El mismo se encuentra en Aguadilla. De ahí fue que despegó el avión que envió el gobierno de Puerto Rico con ayuda humanitaria hacia Venezuela la semana pasada. No fue hasta hoy que se confirma que la nave llegó a Bogotá, Colombia, para que se traslade la carga, vía carretera, hacia el centro de acopio de Ayuda Humanitaria Internacional en Cúcuta, ciudad fronteriza de Colombia con Venezuela.

    Según Cuba, “Estados Unidos pretende fabricar un pretexto humanitario para iniciar una agresión militar contra Venezuela y se ha propuesto introducir en el territorio de esa nación soberana, mediante la intimidación, la presión y la fuerza, una supuesta ayuda humanitaria, que es mil veces inferior a los daños económicos que provoca la política de cerco, impuesta desde Washington”.

    La expresión cubana finaliza con un espaldarazo al gobierno de “Nicolás Maduro Moros, la Revolución bolivariana y chavista, y la unión cívico-militar de su pueblo y hace un llamado a todos los pueblos y gobiernos del mundo a defender la paz y a oponerse unidos, por encima de diferencias políticas o ideológicas, para detener una nueva intervención militar imperialista en la América Latina y el Caribe que dañará la independencia, la soberanía y los intereses de los pueblos del Río Bravo a la Patagonia”.



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