Monthly Archives: April 2018

Why is the United States ignoring one of the most effective strategies against the Opioid Crisis?

By Maximilian Eyle

In the 1990s, Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) became a hotly debated harm reduction strategy. The tactic of providing people who inject drugs with sterile syringes was originally developed in the Netherlands in 1983, and was eventually adopted by many other countries to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infections. For many years, SEPs faced strong criticism in the USA by those claiming it enabled drug use, though the studies examining its impact showed that this was a fallacy. The practice significantly reduces the transmission of disease and infection via shared needles. Today, its efficacy as a harm reduction tool has long been proven though many legal barriers still prevent its application in many U.S. states. We are watching history repeat itself along the topic of Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs).

A Safe Injection Facility is a clean, safe environment where users can inject their own drugs under the supervision of clinical staff. As we face public health issues in the United States, we often forget that other countries have faced the same problems and in many cases have developed effective strategies to overcome them. In response to an epidemic of opioid abuse in Europe, the concept of SIFs was developed to facilitate low-risk, hygienic drug consumption, and reduce risk of fatal overdose and transmission of HIV and HCV along with other infections. The service also puts users in touch with social services, drug treatment services, and mental health services while reducing public drug use and unsafe needle disposal.

Opiate overdose is now the leading cause of death for people under 50 years in America, with a total of 64,000 deaths nationwide in 2016. The CDC reports that there are an average of 115 unintended overdose deaths per day in the US. Last year, 91 people died from opioid overdoses in Onondaga County alone. How many unnecessary deaths until the US joins Canada, Europe, and Australia with the commensurate pragmatic and effective public health policy of Safe Injection Facilities?

SIFs vary in the details of their operation, but most follow a similar format: users can inject under clinical supervision with clean equipment. After injection, they usually go to a post-injection room to be treated for any wounds or infections, seek counseling, and receive other services. Palliative care is also available (food, showers, clothes, and laundry), and registered nurses, trained peer workers, and addiction counselors are available as needed. If an emergency occurs, the presence of trained medical staff and a well-equipped facility prevents it from becoming a fatality.

Though the first Safe Injection Facilities emerged in central Europe over 30 years ago, the practice continues to face strong resistance in the United States today – despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating its efficacy. Currently, there are nearly 100 SIFs in Canada, Australia,

and Europe. None exist in the United States, though some cities are beginning to consider the idea. The “Opioid Epidemic” in our country has become a national issue, but our interest in exploring new approaches to harm reduction remains stubbornly absent. In her article, “How Much Evidence Is Enough?”, Professor Lisa Maher cites the large body of peer reviewed research demonstrating that SIFs reduce overdose fatalities, prevent needle sharing and unsafe syringe disposal, increase participation in treatment programs, and have not caused increases in drug use or crime. Furthermore, they are shown to be well accepted by the communities in which they exist due to the positive effects resulting from their presence. With this information in front of us, it seems unthinkable that SIFs continue to face powerful resistance in the United States.

By continuing to threaten people who inject drugs with arrest, we only add new elements of danger and difficulty to their lives. Heroin has been illegal since the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914 and yet continues to be a significant public health problem over 100 years later. This is further evidence that we are in desperate need of a new approach to this area of drug policy. Safe Injection Facilities keep people with addictions out of the criminal justice system and allow them to be treated more humanely by placing an emphasis on their health and well-being.

The United States District Court for the Western District of New York is inviting applications for expansion of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Mediator Panel.  Attorneys and non-attorneys with relevant experience may submit an application, resume, and letter of interest to:

WDNY ADR Program
Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse
2 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY 14202

Applications are located on the ADR Program Website:

The deadline for submission is May 31, 2018.

Informational meetings regarding the ADR Program will be offered at the
US District Court in Buffalo, 2 Niagara Square on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. and at
US District Court in  Rochester, 100 State Street, on Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

If you have any questions, please contact:
Barry Radlin, ADR Program Administrator at (716) 551-1511
 Amanda Williams, ADR Program Law Clerk at (716) 551-1817


    ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Environment & Planning, in cooperation with the Northwest and Northeast Southtowns Solid Waste Management Boards, has announced “Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days” will be held on Saturday, June 2, 2018 in the New Era Field parking lots off of Abbott Road in Orchard Park and Saturday, August 11, 2018 at the ECC North Campus in Williamsville.

    Both events, which will be open to all Erie County residents between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., will allow for the safe disposal of hazardous items that cannot be thrown out in the regular garbage, helping to reduce pollution and the potential contamination of groundwater.

    Due to high demand, please allow approximately one hour to be unloaded.

    “These annual collection events are a great way for homeowners to rid their properties of potentially hazardous household waste in a responsible way. Over the past several years our Department of Environment and Planning, along with their partners, has played a large role in preventing these wastes from entering landfills or groundwater,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “By working together we can have a greater impact on protecting our environment today and for the future. I thank DEP and their partners, as well as the thousands of residents who have participated in these waste collection events, for pitching in to create a cleaner, greener Erie County.”

    ·         WHAT:      Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days

    ·         WHEN:      Saturday June 2 2018 and Saturday, August 11 2018    (9:00 AM – 2:00 PM each day)

    ·         WHERE:   Saturday June 2 : New Era Field parking lots on Abbott Road (ECC side of Abbott)

                      Saturday August 11:  ECC North Campus (enter from Wehrle Drive)


    •          Pesticides, Fertilizers, Pool and Household Chemicals/Cleaners (limit 2 gallons or 20 pounds)

    •          Oil-based paints, Spray cans (limit 10 gallons)

    •          Paint Thinner, Stripper and Solvents (limit 2 gallons)

    •          Batteries (lead acid & rechargeable)

    •          Oil, Gasoline, Kerosene, Antifreeze (limit 10 gallons)

    •          Mercury (thermometers, thermostats, liquid)


    ·         Latex paint: latex paint does not need to be disposed of as household hazardous waste and should not be brought to these events.   For more info: (

    ·         Automobile tires

    ·         Computers and other electronics

    ·         Appliances

    ·         Pharmaceuticals

    ·         Fluorescent bulbs

    ·         Commercial/industrial wastes

    For more information on these events, for a full list of items that will be accepted, or for details on how to properly dispose of latex paint, call the Erie County Household Hazardous Waste 24-Hour Hotline at (716) 858-6800 or visit

    Participants may need to verify that their waste products were generated by households.

    Support for both events is provided by SUNY Erie, NOCO Energy Corp., the Battery Post, the Buffalo Bills Inc., Northeast Southtowns and Northwest Solid Waste Management Boards and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

    For more information:

    On the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, visit

    Tras el rezo del Regina Coeli, celebrado en la Plaza de San Pedro, el Pontífice instó a los líderes mundiales a alcanzar un acuerdo de paz

    Por EFE

    El Papa Francisco dijo hoy sentirse “profundamente preocupado” por “la incapacidad” para acordar una acción común destinada a la paz en Siria, tras el rezo del Regina Coeli celebrado en la Plaza de San Pedro en el Vaticano.

    Al concluir el rezo, asomado a la ventana del palacio pontificio, Francisco lamentó que “a pesar de los instrumentos a disposición de la comunidad internacional, cueste concordar una acción común a favor de la paz en Siria y en otras regiones del mundo”.

    El Papa, que confesó estar hondamente preocupado por la actual situación mundial, afirmó que reza “incesantemente por la paz” e invitó a todas las personas de buena voluntad a hacerlo.

    Por último, lanzó un nuevo llamamiento “a todos los responsables políticos para que prevalezca la justicia y la paz”.

    La preocupación y el llamamiento a la responsabilidad por parte del Papa llega tras la ofensiva militar de ayer coordinada por Estados Unidos, Francia y Reino Unido contra algunos objetivos en Siria tras el presunto ataque en Duma con armas químicas por parte del régimen de Bachar al Asad.

    El pasado domingo, también tras el rezo del Regina Coeli, que sustituye al Ángelus en tiempo de Pascua, Jorge Bergoglio afirmó que “nada puede justificar tales instrumentos de exterminio contra la población” y pidió que “los responsables políticos y militares elijan el otro camino, el de negociación, el único que puede llevar a la paz y no a la muerte y destrucción”.

    Además de hablar de la situación en Siria, el Papa Francisco expresó hoy su cercanía al pueblo de Ecuador tras el asesinato de las tres personas que formaban parte de equipo de prensa de un diario ecuatoriano, que fueron secuestrados en la frontera con Colombia el pasado 26 de marzo.

    “Con dolor he recibido la noticia del asesinato de los tres hombres secuestrados a finales de marzo en la frontera entre Ecuador y Colombia. Rezo por ellos y por sus familiares”, dijo Francisco al concluir el rezo del Regina Coeli celebrado en la Plaza de San Pedro en el Vaticano.

    Además expresó su cercanía “al querido pueblo ecuatoriano” y les animó “a seguir adelante unido y pacífico”.

    Islanders must look to themselves to salvage their fortunes 

    By: The Economist

    PUERTO RICO’S distant overlords have often displayed mixed feelings towards it. With its central Caribbean location and natural harbour at San Juan, the island was a strategic asset for the Spanish for four centuries. It was, said Philip IV in 1645, “front and vanguard of all my Western Indies and, consequently, the most important of them and most coveted by the enemies.” On the other hand, its rugged terrain was less productive than Hispaniola. It was also plague-ridden, expensive to fortify and the garrison in San Juan kept deserting because the Spanish kings rarely paid their troops.

    Their enemies squandered the opportunity this presented: perhaps they felt similarly about the place. Puerto Rico was seized or assailed by the English, French and Dutch, then abandoned and returned to Spain. Until, in 1898, America grabbed the island in the spasm of empire-building that also took it to Cuba, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines, and it stayed. But it has been even more ambivalent about its Caribbean prize than Spain. This was evident after the island was ravaged on September 20th by the fifth-fiercest Atlantic storm to make American landfall.

    Fuelled by unusually warm Atlantic waters, Hurricane Maria swept the island from the south-east, sustaining wind speeds of up to 280 kilometres an hour (175mph). It obliterated Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, mobile-phone towers, and air-traffic-control system and radar. It broke or blocked hundreds of kilometres of roads and bridges and damaged or levelled over 470,000 houses. At least 64 people perished during the storm, drowned in their houses or brained by flying debris. Perhaps another 1,000 died in the aftermath, including old people who suffocated after their hospital respirators packed up. “No power, no water, no transport, roads were closed, many streets broken, houses destroyed and people crying,” is how María Meléndez, the mayor of Ponce, the biggest city in southern Puerto Rico, recalls the devastation her namesake wreaked.

    As an overseas territory, with most of the rights of a state, less a vote in general elections or in Congress, Puerto Rico was due the same emergency response as any other part of America. Its 3.4m inhabitants got so much less, in such desultory fashion, with such horrible consequences, that the storm has rekindled a painful debate about the island’s relations with America. “A senator told me that if the power hadn’t been fully restored in his state within a month, there would have been mayhem,” says its governor, Ricardo Rosselló, seated in his elegant 16th-century residence in San Juan. “Puerto Rico has been part of the US for more than 100 years, but we’re still treated as second-class citizens. Anything would be better than this.”

    Indeed, the effects of Maria were so severe because the island was already in such bad shape. That is in part, though by no means only, due to the federal government’s neglect. Almost half of Puerto Ricans—or Boricuas, as they call themselves—are poor. The economy has been in recession for 12 years; gross national product has fallen by 15% in that time. Almost a fifth of the population has quit the island for Florida, New York and other Puerto Rican enclaves of the mainland, including around 300,000 since Maria struck. The government is bankrupt. The island’s politicians are meanwhile haplessly fixated on its status. The ruling New Progressive Party, led by Mr Rosselló, wants it to become a state, the Popular Democratic Party prefers the status quo; a few socialists and other romantics want independence.


    Natural disasters can at least spur economic growth, which Puerto Rico urgently needs: there are already signs of this in strong car sales and debit-card transaction numbers. By strengthening Mr Rosselló, who was elected in 2016 on a promise of structural reform, the hurricane might also lead to improvements in the island’s governance. The 39-year-old governor calls it a “transformational opportunity”. But that is not to gloss the horrors Maria caused, or the inadequacy of the American response.

    “I was expecting it to be like the Berlin airlift,” recalls Nicholas Prouty, a financier from New York now based in San Juan, who used his helicopter to survey the disaster. In fact, there was a more recent example of what Puerto Ricans were entitled to. A month before Maria, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and within six days the American army’s Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters to the city. Yet a week after Maria, Mr Prouty still had the skies over Puerto Rico pretty much to himself: “There was nothing, no Black Hawk up in the air, no C130.” It took Northern Command at least three weeks to send 70 choppers to the island.

    Digging by Politico suggests the federal government sent 30,000 relief workers to Houston within nine days of its hurricane; it sent 10,000 to Puerto Rico. Over the same period, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved payments of $142m to victims of Harvey, and $6m to victims of Maria. Ms Meléndez says it was two weeks before she heard from FEMA, and two months before the Army Corps of Engineers started dispensing tarpaulins to patch up Ponce’s 49,000 damaged houses.

    In the coastal town of Punta Santiago, in the poor south-east of the island, Father José Colón says it was two months before he saw any sign of FEMA, when two of its workers came to his church asking for directions. The priest was by then dispensing $1m of supplies, which he had raised in private donations over the internet. “At least the response from the American people was extraordinary,” he says.

    Even the most attentive government would have struggled with Maria. FEMA was overstretched in Texas, Florida and California. Puerto Rico, unlike Houston, is rugged, 180 kilometres long, and has worn-out infrastructure and weak institutions. The state-owned electricity monopoly, whose 700 pylons came crashing down, is especially inept. Yet instead of strong leadership, to cut through the difficulties, Donald Trump provided little help. The president at first sought to downplay the disaster, then suggested Puerto Ricans were doing too little to help themselves. Three weeks after Maria, he suggested it would soon be time for the feds to leave. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

    Overseas, not abroad

    He might almost have been speaking of a foreign country. Maybe he thought he was. Before Maria, over half of Americans did not know Puerto Ricans were American citizens. No wonder they were treated like second-class ones. Even now, six months after the disaster, over 50,000 have no electricity and San Juan is prone to daylong power cuts. The poor, whose tin-roofed shacks were most damaged by the storm, have found it especially hard to secure assistance. Of the nearly 1.2m applications FEMA has received for money to repair damaged houses, it has rejected 60% for lack of title deeds or because the shacks in question were built on stolen land or in contravention of building codes.

    The economic toll is enormous. Around 80% of the island’s agricultural crop was destroyed, including coffee and banana plantations that will take years to regrow. An estimated 10,000 firms, one in five of the total, remain closed, including a third of the island’s hotels. Glinting in the Caribbean sun behind Father Colón a bulldozer was clearing debris from Punta Santiago’s once-popular, now deserted, beach. The local fishery has also suffered, its reef having been buried under debris, including a car.

    The government forecasts output will shrink by another 11% in the year to June 2018. A burst of growth should then follow—estimated at 8% over the following year—on the back of $35bn in federal assistance, an estimated $20bn in private-insurance payments and as Puerto Ricans dip into their savings to repair their houses. Yet even allowing for the effects of that growth, Puerto Rico and the nearby US Virgin Islands will by one estimate lose $47.5bn in output and employment equivalent to 332,000 people working for a year. The 3,000 people estimated to have left the Punta Santiago area, mostly for Florida, may not return soon.

    Yet the storm has also reinforced two positive trends. One concerns the political effect of the island’s swelling population on the mainland, where there are over 5m Puerto Ricans. Most recent departees have headed to Florida, whose Puerto Rican population has surged to over 1m. Given that Mr Trump won Florida in 2016 by a little over 100,000 votes, and most Puerto Ricans on the mainland vote Democratic, this gives them leverage. On a post-Maria embassy to Washington, Ms Meléndez went to see Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to try to capitalise on that. After a roundabout discussion about debt relief and aid, conducted in Spanish and English, the pugnacious mayor of Ponce says she slammed her fist onto Mr Rubio’s desk. “I said, ‘Sir, treat us the same as any other Americans or we are going to tell our relatives in Florida not to vote for you and you will not win another election’.”

    The second, more important, benefit concerns the creative potential of the destruction wrought by Maria on the island’s government and businesses. Saddled with massive debts—including $70bn to bondholders and another $50bn in pension liabilities—Mr Rosselló’s administration is making deep cuts. Before Maria, it was committed to slashing funding to local governments by $175m, closing 184 schools and trimming public-sector pensions that, at an average of $1,100 a month, are not generous. It will now be able to cut during a burst of growth and less steeply, at the discretion of its overseer—a seven-person fiscal control board that was tasked in 2016 with approving the government’s budgets in return for negotiating with its creditors. But much more is required.

    Is this the end of Puerto Rico?

    Assisted by federal tax incentives, Puerto Rico’s economic model was for decades based on manufacturing, especially of drugs. Its economic collapse was a result of those incentives being taken away by a Republican-controlled Congress, between 1996 and 2006. The debt crisis is an equally predictable product of the government’s efforts to sustain its operations, at boom-time levels, with borrowed money. This reflected, beyond foolishness, an assumption that Washington would provide a replacement incentive. The fact that three successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, have refused to do so, even after the horrors of Maria, points to the emptiness of that hope. To climb out of its hole, Puerto Rico needs to become more competitive. Given that it lags the United States by 58 places in the World Bank’s ranking of the ease of doing business, it at least has a lot of options, some of which the hurricane has made more palatable.

    There was previously little enthusiasm for reforming the state-owned electricity company, which is saddled with debts of $9bn (an impressive feat of incompetence for a monopolist with high demand for its product). There is now broad support for the government’s ambition to privatise power stations and contract out transmission and distribution. The grid, which will be rebuilt with federal money, will probably be redesigned to make it more resilient to hurricanes, which climate change is expected to make more frequent and severe. There is talk of micro-grids and more distributed sources of power, especially solar panels. Also, by necessity, some officials are trying to clean up the island’s messy land registry, to help poor householders denied help by FEMA. Pointing to a map of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the city’s mayor, who enjoyed brief celebrity for butting heads with Mr Trump, points to slum areas she plans to provide with titles or land-use permits

    Livin’ la vida loca

    Mr Rosselló introduced modest labour market reforms last year; more are needed. Puerto Ricans enjoy among the most generous protections of any American workers, including mandatory holidays and severance pay. They also have the highest unemployment rate in the country (it was 10.6% before Maria) and are losing workers to states such as Florida and Texas that have few state-level labour laws. That is nuts. So are the island’s onerous business permits, including half a dozen different certificates of tax compliance. Mr Rosselló has sworn to reform that, too, and there is little doubt about his sincerity. The question is whether the greenhorn governor has the political strength and courage to see it through. He will have no better opportunity than the fleeting growth window the hurricane is about to provide.

    The havoc wreaked by Maria could be especially creative for the island’s private sector, which represents a chronically missed opportunity. Puerto Rico, for all its problems, is a beautiful tropical island, with white-sanded beaches, rainforest, fascinating history, lovely colonial buildings and a vibrant mix of Latin-American and European culture. Yet, with 3.5m visitors a year, its tourism industry is less than half the size of Hawaii’s. It has an excellent climate for growing coffee and other highly marketable products, yet its agriculture sector is inefficient and tiny. The island has a well-educated, bilingual middle-class, including a surfeit of engineers, trained at the well-regarded University of Puerto Rico for the manufacturing industry, and cheap to hire. But in the wake of the departing multinationals, they are also leaving. Isabel Rullán, a 20-something former migrant, who has returned to the island from Washington to try to improve linkages to the diaspora, estimates that half her university classmates are on the mainland.

    But there are signs of improvement, which Maria has reinforced. Almost all the shuttered hotels are being refurbished. Marketing of the island has been handed to a private entity which aims to double revenues from tourism over five years. Ms Rullán is using some of the $3m her organisation crowdsourced during the hurricane to help 2,500 coffee farmers replant more productively. As manufacturing shrinks, the island’s remaining entrepreneurs are shifting towards services, including call-centres, business processing, IT services and, perhaps soon, medical tourism, that are more suitable to a high-skilled island economy.

    “Every week I hear from someone who wants to come back from the US to start their own thing,” says Ángel Pérez, whose IT-services company, Rock Solid Technologies, exports to governments in Central America and across the Caribbean. Puerto Rico’s government offers good tax incentives for startups. If it can also provide more basic inducements, such as reliable electricity, it is not hard to imagine entrepreneurs returning. Besides its natural advantages, Puerto Rico is their home: the minimal degree to which it has succumbed to American culture is indeed remarkable.

    That speaks to the albatross hanging around the island’s neck: the uncertainty over its status. Jealous guardians of their language and culture, misty-eyed even now over Spain (la madre patria, “the mother country”, as Boricuas call it), Puerto Ricans have maintained a strikingly transactional view of America. It took a big expansion in health-care and other benefits, during the 1950s and 1960s, to quell a surge in violent nationalism on the island. And though many thousands of Puerto Ricans have fought and died in America’s armed forces, they still tend to cherish the Puerto Rican Olympic team and other tokens of national identity. A class of 30 political science students, at the University of Puerto Rico’s campus in the south-east city of Humacao, said they had nothing particularly against America; it just wasn’t their country. None of them knew the pledge of allegiance or more than a few words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”. And now, as Maria underlined, America’s interest in and inducements to the islanders are running dry.

    This has left Puerto Ricans angry and uncertain. Pre-Maria polls pointed to perhaps a small majority for statehood. Yet the quasi-colonial status quo, which has robbed their government of initiative while putting them at the back of the line for federal attention, now seems intolerable. Mr Rosselló says even independence would be preferable: “At least it is a dignified alternative to the current status.” Yet that status is not up for review currently. That is probably a good thing.

    It seems likely that Puerto Rico will become a state eventually. But to manage that transition, without risking a violent nationalist repulse, it needs to do so from a position of relative strength, not in its current shattered state. The island’s government seems to know what is required. Its fiscal overseers will try to keep it moving. If they succeed, the economy will start growing sustainably and the flood of emigration will slow. Or else the brain-drain will become a demographic death-spiral, leaving the island with too few taxpayers to cover its costs. The horrific aftermath of Hurricane Maria might almost be considered an augury of what that would look like, every day.




    El Ministerio de Exteriores ruso dice que los medios occidentales son responsables del ataque; la OTAN respalda las acciones de Washington, Londres y París contra el régimen de Bashar Al Assad.

    El embajador de Rusia en Washington, Anatoli Antónov, aseguró ayer que el ataque perpetrado por Estados Unidos, Reino Unido y Francia contra instalaciones sirias “no se quedará sin consecuencias”.

    “Los peores presagios se han cumplido. No han escuchado nuestras advertencias. Nos vuelven a amenazar. Habíamos advertido de que estas acciones no se quedarán sin consecuencias. Toda la responsabilidad recae en Washington, Londres y París”, dijo Antónov en una declaración oficial.

    El jefe de la legación diplomática rusa en Washington calificó de “inadmisibles” las palabras del presidente Donald Trump sobre la responsabilidad del mandatario ruso, Vladímir Putin, en el supuesto ataque químico de Duma.

    “Los ataques al presidente son inaceptables e inadmisibles. Estados Unidos, un país que tiene el mayor arsenal de armas químicas en el mundo, no tiene derecho moral de culpar a otros países”, subrayó Antónov.

    Desde Moscú, la portavoz del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores ruso, María Zajárova, denunció que los medios occidentales que propagaron informaciones sobre el supuesto ataque con armas químicas contra la ciudad de Duma son responsables de la ofensiva lanzada por Estados Unidos contra Siria.

    “La Casa Blanca ha declarado que su certeza del ataque químico (por parte) de Damasco se basa en los medios de comunicación, informaciones sobre los síntomas (de las víctimas), videos, fotos e informaciones de confianza. Después de esta declaración, los medios estadounidenses y occidentales deben entender su responsabilidad” en el ataque contra Siria, escribió Zajárova en Facebook.

    Por su parte, la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN), Jens Stoltenberg, respaldó la respuesta armamentística contra instalaciones de armas químicas en Siria, que “reducirá la capacidad del régimen” de Al Assad de atacar más a la población.



    LONDON — After months of speculation about whether the Obamas or the Trumps would be invited to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle next month the answer is finally in: neither.

    Neatly sidestepping the issue, Kensington Palace released an opaque statement Tuesday saying that no politicians would be invited to the May 19 wedding at Windsor Castle, not even Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain.

    “It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both U.K. and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding,” Kensington Palace said in a statement. “Her Majesty’s Government was consulted on this decision, which was taken by The Royal Household.”

    The lack of “an official list” was interpreted by royals watchers to mean that no invitations would be issued to political leaders.

    In deciding to limit the attendees to close friends and family, the couple were characteristically keeping things low key and breaking with a long tradition of grand British royal weddings attended by world leaders and politicians.

    The question of the Obamas versus the Trumps was always a difficult one. It was widely believed that the Obamas had the inside track, after Prince Harry and Mr. Obama forged a friendship while attending the Invictus Games in Toronto last year.

    During the event, Prince Harry interviewed the former president for BBC Radio 4’s flagship program, “Today,” in Mr. Obama’s first international interview after leaving office.

    Yet, British newspapers reported in December that the royal couple was under great diplomatic pressure to invite President Trump and the first lady, despite Ms. Markle being a vocal critic of Mr. Trump. Downing Street is eager to maintain good relations with the White House, with an eye to negotiating a bilateral trade agreement as quickly as possible after Britain leaves the European Union.

    A Palace source, speaking on the condition of anonymity following protocol, said Prince Harry and Ms. Markle hoped to see the Obamas soon, but confirmed that they would not be attending the wedding.

    The Palace source said that 600 guests would be invited to the wedding ceremony, based on the size of St. George’s Chapel, and said that it is not necessary for the royal couple to invite world leaders and politicians to their wedding because Prince Harry is not a direct heir to the throne.

    He is fifth in line after his father, Prince Charles, his brother, Prince William, and his brother’s children.

    Some world leaders may still be invited to the wedding based on their personal relationship with the royal couple and not in their official capacity, the Palace source added.

    Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have also invited 1,200 members of the public to Windsor Castle to celebrate their marriage. On Monday they asked people to donate to charities instead of sending them wedding gifts.

    “The couple have chosen charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.

    Puerto Rico’s left is rebuilding in the wake of two disasters: Hurricane María and a neoliberal onslaught.


    Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity.

    Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppression praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.

    Today a new wave of leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles.

    But, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental-justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island.

    The Struggle Against Neoliberalism

    In 2010, Luis Fortuño’s conservative administration attacked the Puerto Rican public sector. The economy was in crisis, and Fortuño and his advisory council were confident that the problem had a familiar solution — economic austerity. His government went after unions, social policies, and most violently, higher education.

    In response, a popular front came together in order to defeat a common enemy: Fortuño and the private interests he so faithfully represented. The island had seldom been so polarized, with neoliberal forces preparing to strike a fatal blow and opposition groups looking for ways to resist. The Puerto Rican left aimed to build an emancipatory struggle connected to the global wave of resistance that included Occupiers, Indignados, Pingüinos, and Arab Spring activists.

    Labor leaders, scholar-activists, pro-independence leaders, feminists, the Christian left, environmentalists, lawyers, and other sectors seized the opportunity, forming a coalition of thirty-five organizations called Todo Puerto Rico por Puerto Rico. They aimed to ride the momentum built by University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students while preparing for the widely anticipated neoliberal attack on public higher education. Veteran organizers saw the student movement as a model to imitate as they expanded, sustained, and escalated the Todo Puerto Rico por Puerto Rico coalition.

    The students used democratic decision-making and deliberative practices to plan direct actions, set the terms of negotiations with university administrators and government officials, and ratify the agreements made at the table. They also devoted significant efforts to recruiting new organizers for youth groups, including the Unión de Juventudes Socialistas, J-23, Juventud Hostosiana, Juventud del Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, Organización Socialista Internacional, Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia, and MASFALDA. These practices of democratic and inclusive debate — coupled with a strong organizational structure — allowed the students to occupy the UPR’s main campus for sixty-two days.

    Thanks to this wave of activism, the Puerto Rican left scored important victories during the Fortuño administration (2009–2013). Not only did students stop a system-wide tuition hike and save tuition waivers for athletes, student workers, and honor students, but environmentalists also blocked the construction of a natural-gas pipeline and the development of the North Ecological Corridor, which would have sacrificed the area’s unique biodiversity in order to build luxury resorts. Civil-rights lawyers united to defeat a referendum in which the Fortuño administration tried to curtail the right to bail.

    These sectors eventually came together at a massive People’s Assembly, where they organized an island-wide work stoppage and mobilized tens of thousands at marches. The movement began to resemble the campaigns that eventually drove the US military out of Vieques Island in 2003. It seemed like the stage was set for a broader emancipatory struggle, one that could transition from resistance to revolution. Unfortunately, the forces committed to continuing the colonial and neoliberal order in Puerto Rico proved to be stronger than those that fought to subvert it.

    The Balance of Forces

    The Puerto Rican left has resisted a number of neoliberal attacks in the past, but the fiscal and humanitarian crisis brought on by Hurricane María is testing this ability. In the wake of the storm, both veteran and new activists have had to migrate or accept jobs with entities complicit in neoliberal policy making. But left-wing activism is still taking place and, in some instances, deepening its practices.

    Socialist, environmentalist, and youth-activist groups had set up a network of mutual-assistance centers, which grew in the aftermath of the storm. When these solidary brigades reached areas in the mountainous regions two weeks after María’s landfall, they discovered that residents didn’t need their help. They had already prepared, sourcing water from wells and storing enough food to last for weeks.

    The organizers quickly recognized that the people’s needs entailed more than just basic goods. This lesson forced the Puerto Rican left to acknowledge that its relevance would depend on listening to and learning from these communities.

    Since the storm, the farmers’ and food-sovereignty movements have drawn support from Vía Campesina and the climate-justice movement to provide rapid response to frontline communities affected by the disaster. Mutual-aid groups from the Puerto Rican diaspora and the Climate Justice Alliance have joined local activists to get supplies to local farmers, rebuild ecosystems, and coordinate relief efforts with local and US labor unions.

    They are resisting the nonprofit, corporate, and government-led network that has raised millions of dollars in donations since the disaster, calling attention to the fact that funds raised in the name of relief have yet to reach the Puerto Rican population and denouncing government efforts to implement false solutions, such as privatizing public utilities and education. They are working to politicize the recovery process, which has already produced widespread frustration, manifesting as roadblocks, picket lines, and occupations of government buildings.

    On the other hand, right-wing forces have strong allies not only among the Republican-led government in Washington but also within the island’s major political parties: the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

    The NPP’s base includes religious fundamentalists, and its ample campaign funding comes from local capitalists. Sheltered by the darkness that swept the island after the hurricane, the NPP exploited the crisis to side step legislative hearings, silence the opposition, introduce a religious-freedom bill, grant no-bid contracts to dubious providers, and push conservative criminal-justice reforms.

    In January, Governor Ricardo Rosselló confirmed his intentions to continue the legacy of his father, former governor Pedro Rosselló, by selling the island’s besieged power authority. A week later, he announced the privatization of the primary and secondary public school system. Last week he announced a sweeping labor reform and the closure of a number of government agencies.

    His father had tried to win public support for similar schemes by claiming that the revenue gained from privatizing public goods would fund social spending, including public employee pensions and universal health care. Instead, his administration took on expensive mega-projects, which handed lucrative contracts over to campaign donors but failed to raise the money necessary to sustain welfare programs.

    The government’s efforts to privatize Puerto Rico’s Public Power Authority (PREPA) and public education prove that the Puerto Rican right feels strong. The NPP has long wanted to enact these policies, but previous administrations deemed public sector unions — and the Left more generally — too strong to undertake such an attack.

    The crisis that followed Hurricane María opened the door for the Rosselló administration to consolidate its plans. Line workers are exhausted, toiling around the clock to restore power while facing attacks from citizens who blame them for the government’s inability to restore power. Meanwhile, many teachers are working in schools without electricity.

    The privatization announcement was carefully timed. Vulture funds have been looking over the governor’s shoulder, pressuring him to include PREPA’s privatization in the fiscal recovery proposal. Though it’s ironic that someone who ran as an erudite technocrat with a sophisticated plan for every possibility failed to prepare for a natural disaster. Selling off the few remaining public assets was always part of his vision — even if he never revealed it on the campaign trail.

    A week after the announcement, UTIER, the PREPA workers’ union, issued a call for solidarity across all sectors of the Puerto Rican left to renew their resistance to privatization. Many have answered.

    The new generation of leftist organizers has shed much of the old left’s baggage. While they disagree about tactics, these debates have not been as divisive as they once were. Younger activists did not have take sides on the extremely divisive issue of armed struggle, as those groups have mostly disbanded. Now debate centers on electoral participation, on mutual-assistance projects, and on diversification.

    The Electoral Question

    Pedro Albizu Campos once referred to ballot boxes as coffins designed for the burial of the Puerto Rican nation. Under his leadership, the nationalist party militarized, rejecting the electoral process. The Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) stepped in to provide an electoral alternative for left-wing voters. Though these two sectors have come together to resist militarism, right-wing influences on public education, the displacement of marginalized communities, repression, and environmentally hazardous projects, the disagreement over electoral participation has persisted.

    In 2016, the Obama administration created an unelected Fiscal Control Board with the power to impose fiscal policies in order to recover Puerto Rico’s ballooning debt. That year’s elections revealed a growing discontent with the island’s three main parties and with the electoral process more generally. Between 2012 and 2016, Puerto Rico experienced a remarkable 22 percent drop in electoral turnout (from 77 to 55 percent). While these numbers are still higher than turnout in the United States, Puerto Rico has historically experienced voter turnout nearing 80 percent.

    The Left has not figured out how to address voters’ obvious frustration. Leftists who reject the electoral process argue that participating in elections legitimizes the colonial order, while others argue that boycotting will limit the Left’s ability to curtail government corruption and hold elected officials accountable. This group is further divided between those who support the PDP in order to defeat right-wing candidates and those that who support the more left-wing parties, the PIP and the Working People’s Party (PPT). The first tactic handed the PDP slim victories against two recent NPP reelection bids: both Rosselló and Fortuño lost by a margin of less than .6 percent. Without the Left’s support, Puerto Rico would have had uninterrupted NPP rule since 2000.

    In recent elections, neither the PIP nor the PPT has passed the 3 percent threshold necessary to remain in the ballot for future elections. The pro-independence party has failed to do so since 2004, but have been able to win at large seats in the House and Senate. The PPT, which participated in elections for the first time in 2012, has never had legislative representation. Given this landscape, the Left’s ability to claim electoral victory seems significantly limited.

    Various voices within the Left have suggested forming a party combining the PIP and the PPT, but party leaders don’t agree — at least not yet. Some argue that the Left must address its internal differences and define the purpose of these alliances before uniting. These critics only feel compelled to join a coalition focused on building radical democracy, as opposed to one that prioritizes the question of status.

    Power to the People

    Despite these electoral failures, left-wing forces have shown their strength in the streets and in communities.

    Umbrella organizations like Jornada Se Acabaron las Promesas and the Concertación Puertorriqueña en Contra de la Junta have joined culture workers like Papel Machete and AgitArte to mount a sustained campaign against the Fiscal Control Board.

    Feminists from growing organizations like the Colectiva Feminista en Construcción have built popular resistance to patriarchy, neoliberalism, and authoritarianism. They disrupted two of the island’s main highways on two separate occasions, mobilized hundreds for a feminist assembly, formed a mutual assistance center, and forced the resignation and prosecution of Guaynabo mayor Hector O’Neill for sexual assault against a municipal employee.

    An amalgam of leftist organizations called for an island-wide work stoppage and thousands flooded Puerto Rico’s financial district in Hato Rey during the May 1 demonstrations.

    The farmers’ movement has grown dramatically in the past decade, with a growing number of independent and sustainable farming projects underway. Activist leaders have joined other activists at the United Nations climate-change negotiations and have strengthened their ties with the anti-capitalist farmer’s movement Vía Campesina.

    The environmental-justice movement has successfully mobilized against pipeline projects and used the media attention following Hurricane María to call for a just energy transition.

    The network of mutual assistance centers throughout the island has breathed new life into the Left. They are working to meet the needs of isolated communities that the state, local, and federal governments have ignored, moving the people from resilience to resistance.

    While some have warned that the Left should also pressure the state to meet its responsibilities to the population, these activists have criticized the false dichotomy of bottom-up and top-down approaches to organizing. The vitality of the Puerto Rican left, they argue, must come from a synthesis of these approaches.

    Emancipatory Diversity

    Puerto Rican feminists argue that the Left’s vitality will also depend on its ability to build more inclusive leadership groups. While left-wing groups have long fought to diversify government, schools, and other societal institutions, some have resisted internal diversification.

    Historically, the Puerto Rican left has been at its strongest when it has identity, ideological, and tactical diversity. The upsurge that it experienced in the 1960s came when leaders focused on organizing marginalized groups and workers, fostering unity in diversity, strengthening youth and student groups, opening dialogue across different sectors of the Left, and developing international relationships of solidarity. These approaches encouraged collaboration despite disagreements about tactics, electoral participation, and organizing priorities. It also allowed the Left to deploy new tactical repertoires, mounting massive campaigns, organizing strikes, and supporting cultural work.

    Some have dismissed these calls to diversify, expressing a desire to avoid what they consider a postmodern or neoliberal concern for identity. But others see diversity as a form of strength. Adopting this second approach entails building opportunities for dialogue despite differences, amplifying marginalized group’s voices and perspectives, and prioritizing the issues of oppressed groups while fighting against shared grievances. Most importantly, it involves building leadership from the bottom up and trusting those without prestigious educations who possess the knowledge that comes from the pedagogy of the oppressed.

    New groups have taken important steps in this direction. Members of the Juventud Hostosiana, which took a prominent role in the most recent student strike, have embraced diversity and declared themselves intersectional feminists, anti-colonialists, and ecologists.

    The leaders of the feminist organization Colectiva Feminista en Construcción also played active roles in the student movement. The Colectiva, now a powerful force within the Puerto Rican left and in Puerto Rican politics more generally, has adopted an intersectional feminist organizing praxis and pushed the Left to fulfill its commitment to ending oppression by aiming to defeat capitalism and patriarchy simultaneously.

    The Path Forward

    Moving forward, the American and international left must refrain from using Puerto Ricans as a pawn in their battles against the Trump administration and afford them a substantive role in these efforts. Rather than framing the urgency of supporting Puerto Ricans in terms of their US citizenship, advocates must ground solidarity in the values of radical democracy and emancipation.

    This orientation runs counter to how mainstream American politicians treat Puerto Ricans. The Democrats have launched voter-registration campaigns in hopes of using recent migrants as cannon fodder for the war against the Republicans — a cause that few Puerto Ricans seem eager to join. Liberals hope to enlist the Puerto Rican diaspora in the 2018 midterm elections, forgetting that Puerto Ricans, and Latinxs more generally, have often failed to reap the promised benefits of Democratic electoral victories.

    In the days that followed Hurricane María, Puerto Ricans took matters into their own hands. Groups of retired line workers and electricians restored power in isolated sectors. Communities came together to rebuild their own bridges, literally and metaphorically. Collectively, they dispelled the myths that portray them as lazy and dependent on the government.

    Hurricane María did not only bring devastation to the island. It also opened opportunities for both the Left and the Right. In the next months, the Left can defeat the neoliberal attacks on its public services and institutions, but only if it continues to embrace the energy of the alliances of unions, environmentalists, farmers, students, and scholar-activists that have formed on the ground, in the Puerto Rican diaspora, and internationally.

    Frustrated by Congress’ response to Hurricane Maria, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is preparing to drop a ‘hammer’ in targeted states in 2018.

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló says months have gone by since he’s talked to President Donald Trump.

    By: Politico –Edward-Isaac Dovere

    But more than 200 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall—what Rosselló in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast called “the most catastrophic event in the modern history of the United States”—the governor is gearing up to get everyone else’s attention in November: Rosselló and allies are finalizing plans to push their way into the midterms on the mainland.

    The Trump administration and Congress offered prayers and promises for help last year, but many Puerto Ricans haven’t seen the follow-through. Six months in, 55,000 Puerto Ricans still don’t have electricity.

    “It’s all based on one thing: political power. We don’t have it,” Rosselló said.

    Rosselló and allies want to reward the politicians who’ve helped and punish those who haven’t.

    “We need to demonstrate that we have a hammer,” Rosselló said. “Congressmen need to know that if we go to their office, they can’t just give us a happy talk, as has happened in the past. So, if you’re going to give us happy talk and then take actions that clearly affect the people of Puerto Rico, then the only strategy that we have left … is to go to your districts.”

    Rosselló kicked off the effort in January with a trip to Florida, which was already home to many Puerto Ricans before they were joined by many others who had been displaced by the hurricane—but which also holds critical elections this year for governor and U.S. Senate in addition to a collection of tight House races.

    With Senate and House races getting priority, Rosselló and allies have already started voter-registration drives in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, and are eyeing New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. They’ll build a list of voters to activate, put money and effort into keeping after them throughout the year and push them to the polls for the primaries and midterms. There will be more travel and fundraising to support the efforts.

    Rosselló’s model: Cuban-Americans, who for 60 years have mobilized what are still fewer than 2 million people into a force that’s shaped American politics and foreign policy. Compare that with the 5.6 million Puerto Ricans concentrated in just a few states.

    Details are still coming together, but Rosselló thinks that under these circumstances he can kick-start that kind of action in just a few months and keep building it into the 2020 election.

    “Puerto Rico has never had a structure like the one that we’re forming. It has never demonstrated to have the national wherewithal and political power that we hope to showcase in this election,” he said. “And if we do that, I think it will start pressing on these issues of second-class citizenship, equality and then what are the solutions for Puerto Rico.”

    Rosselló grew up the son of a governor but went about as far away from the family business as he could: first to MIT, then to the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. He envisioned a life for himself in science. But Puerto Rican statehood remained a passion, and eventually that pulled him back to the island full time, and into politics more broadly. In 2016, he was elected governor at age 37, and likes to point out that he’s the only governor in the country who’s anywhere close to being a millennial (he’s older than the cutoff by about a year and a half).

    He was elected to a much different job than the one he’s had since October. He expected to use his bully pulpit to push for Puerto Rico statehood. Instead, he’s been trying to get the island back to the basics of food, electricity and running water—though that, he argues, is about statehood, too.

    It’s great, he says, that post-hurricane, so many more Americans now know that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Now it’s time to do something about it.

    “When they ask the question ‘why’ [Puerto Rico has been treated differently], it opens this whole new Pandora’s box of reasons that I think showcase one of the weaknesses that we have as a nation. It hurts me because I’m a very proud U.S. citizen,” Rosselló said. “But how can we talk about democracy in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Afghanistan, if in the United States, we have 3.5 million U.S. citizens that are disenfranchised, essentially?”

    It’s personal; it’s professional. He has uncles who made it to March without any power at home. So did some employees in the governor’s office.

    “Some people ask me, you know, ‘What do you say to somebody that doesn’t have energy?’ You can’t say anything, right? I mean, I can explain all the process and so forth, but all I can do is share their frustration,” he said.

    One sure way to rile him: Bring up the idea that Americans are apprehensive about Puerto Rican statehood because 50 states is a round number, and that many people find it hard to envision an American flag with another star on it or a U.S. Senate with 102 members.

    He’s become a regular arguing the case for statehood behind closed doors in Washington, and wrangling Puerto Rican leaders from both parties for an ongoing series of public events. “We don’t want to be more. We don’t want to be less. We just want to be equal,” said former Puerto Rican Gov. Carlos Romero.

    Rosselló says it’s a mission everyone else should be cheering on. Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood in their own organized elections, so now they need Congress to initiate the formal process with a mandated vote, which if successful, begins a process that includes a formal petition for inclusion, followed by House and Senate votes and the signature of the president.

    Rosselló is sure Puerto Ricans will pass it again, and believes the combination of the hurricane, Trump and the pressure in Congress opens a window in which statehood can actually happen.

    “I can see that, if we showcase that we have political power, that we can affect different races and that we’re serious about making this push,” Rosselló said.

    Or, the governor says, there’s the less desirable alternative of just cutting Puerto Rico loose and letting it be an independent country.

    “What I am trying to do,” Rosselló said, “is help facilitate the unfinished business of American democracy, where we finally eliminate colonialism.”

    Popular free event returns on June 18 with information to assist older adults, caregivers in

    long-term care decisions 

    Free parking, refreshments, box lunch available with registration for Elder Law Day


    ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Senior Services and the Center for Elder Law and Justice have announced that Elder Law Day 2018 will be held on Monday, June 18 from 8:30 AM – 1:30 PM at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church Street, Buffalo. Now in its eighteenth year, Elder Law Day features seminars on legal issues of interest to older adults, caregivers, and aging service professionals to assist them in making decisions about their health, long-term care needs, and financial well-being. Seminar topics include Medicare & Medicaid; Wills & Trusts; Elder Abuse & Mistreatment; Special Needs Trusts; LGBT issues; Living Independently at Home; Veterans’ Rights; and more.

    “Each year Elder Law Day provides a great opportunity for seniors and caregivers to learn about their rights, get answers to their questions, and build a plan for the future. Popular and fun, these events have proven to be a good way to get information into the hands of people who need it,” said Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services Tim Hogues. “I encourage seniors, caregivers, and anyone who needs the latest information on any aspect of senior life to attend and get the help they need right on the spot.”

    Additional sponsors of Elder Law Day 2018 include AARP-NY; the Bar Association of Erie County; Network in Aging; the NYS Bar Association, Elder Law Section; and SUNY Buffalo Law School. Community agency partners providing aging services will be on hand at the event to provide handout information and talk with attendees between sessions. Elder Law day is a free event for all, but only registered guests will have access to free parking, morning refreshments and a box lunch.

    Attendees at Elder Law Day also have an opportunity to pre-register online for free, 15-minute consultations with an attorney, health insurance counselor, and/or case manager for options counseling.  For more information or to register by telephone, call (716) 858-6864 or visit .

    A voluntary $5 donation will be gratefully appreciated at check-in.

    For more information:

    On the Erie County Department of Senior Services, visit .


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