Lawmakers to Visit Detention Site in Wake of Girl’s Death

U.S. lawmakers will travel to New Mexico in the coming week as they search for answers about how a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died while in federal custody. 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday that it would lead a delegation on Dec. 18 to Lordsburg Station in Lordsburg, N.M., the detention center Jakelin Caal Maquin was en route to, along with her father and scores of other migrants detained with them on the night of Dec. 6, after being taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Jakelin died in an El Paso, Texas, hospital 27 hours later of what medical officials preliminarily determined to be “sepsis shock,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Her official cause of death has not yet been released. 

Symptoms of sepsis, or septic shock, can include extremes in body temperature, lethargy and restlessness. Official accounts indicate the girl received a quick assessment, as all people taken into custody do, before waiting for hours to be transported to the next detention facility with the group.  

​Minors transported first 


Among the 163 people detained that night in a remote area of southern New Mexico, near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry, were 50 unaccompanied minors, who were transported to Lordsburg Station first, according to DHS. 


It was en route to Lordsburg that Jakelin’s symptoms worsened, according to the government’s timeline of events.  

“This is not who we are or who we want to be as a nation,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement Friday that included an open invitation to lawmakers to join the visit. “We must understand what led to this child’s death and how these stations are equipped to protect the health and safety of those seeking refuge at our borders.” 


Jakelin crossed into the U.S. with her father, Nery Caal, 29, after traveling from Raxruha in Alta Verapaz, northern Guatemala. The father and daughter left home on Nov. 30.   

Guatemalan media reported the girl’s mother and three siblings remain in Raxruha, citing an interview with Tekandi Paniagua, Guatemala’s consul in Del Rio, Texas.


Language barrier 


Prior to the bus ride to Lordsburg, Caal signed a form indicating Jakelin did not have health issues. However, there may have been a language barrier. 


CBP said border agents provided Spanish interpretation to fill out the English-language form. However, a Guatemalan official in Texas told Univision that Jakelin’s father is a native speaker of the Mayan language of Ke’chi, also called Q’eqchi’.

The Guatemalan press also reported on the potential language problem. A consular official told El Pais that Caal said he “doesn’t fully understand Spanish” and has received consular services in Q’eqchi’.


It can be challenging for U.S. personnel to find Q’eqchi’ interpreters even during normal business hours, a DHS staffer with experience interviewing Guatemalan migrants told VOA on condition of anonymity.  


“It’s a difficult thing,” the staffer said, describing the need to schedule “relay interviews” with a Q’eqchi’ interpreter who interprets to Spanish, then a Spanish interpreter who speaks in English to the U.S. government employee, a process that often involved a full 24 hours of planning. 


More questions than answers 


The girl’s death on Dec. 8 was not initially made public by CBP or DHS. The Washington Post first reported the story on Dec. 13.  

Since then, the agencies have made several public comments and provided a timeline about the events leading to Jakelin’s death. In a Facebook statement, DHS related that according to the girl’s father, she “had not been able to consume water or food for days” before her death. 


The Office of the Inspector General at DHS announced Friday that it would be investigating Jakelin’s death. 


U.S. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said Friday that in addition to the DHS inspector general’s investigation, “Congress will also investigate this horrific tragedy to ensure the safety and security of every child.”


Additionally, a letter sent Friday by six members of Congress, including New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and acting DHS Inspector General John V. Kelly raised the issue of why CBP did not report the death of an individual in its custody within 24 hours as required. 


The lawmakers requested, in part, details and a full investigation into Jakelin’s death, as well as a meeting with the commissioner.


McAleenan testified before Congress this week but made no mention of the death.  

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Voice of America

Governments Agree on Rules for Implementing Climate Accord

After two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries agreed Saturday on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming. Fierce disagreements on two other climate issues were kicked down the road for a year to help bridge a chasm of opinions on the best solutions. 


The deal agreed upon at U.N. climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.


“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks. 


He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn’t like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties. 


“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.” 


The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year. 

Overhaul of global economy


And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels. 


Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, oil-exporting nations the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report midway through this month’s talks in Katowice. That prompted an uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.  

The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions. 


Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday’s scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal. 


One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming. 


But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent. 

Push from U.S. 


Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and promote the use of coal. 


“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank. 


When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded.”  

“Transparency is vital to U.S. interests,” added Nathaniel Keohane, a climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that the breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China agreed on a common framework for transparency. 


“In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks, helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for those that need it,” said Keohane, calling the agreement “a vital step forward in realizing the promise of the Paris accord.” 


Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they’re taking to reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have already happened. 

Some not hearing alarms


“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report” on the dire consequences of global warming. 


But a central feature of the Paris Agreement — the idea that countries will ratchet up their efforts to fight global warming over time — still needs to be proved effective, he said. 


“To bend the emissions curve, we now need all countries to deliver these revised plans at the special U.N. secretary-general summit in 2019. It’s vital that they do so,” Adow said. 


In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September. 


Speaking hours before the final gavel, Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially at a time when multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism. 


“The world has changed, the political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still, you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress, we’re able to discuss the issues, we’re able to come to solutions.”  

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Voice of America

US Says Airstrike in Somalia Killed 8 Militants

The U.S. military said it conducted an airstrike Saturday in Somalia, killing at least eight al-Shabab militants.

No civilians were involved in the airstrike near Gandarhse, a coastal area south of Mogadishu, according to the U.S. Africa Command.

The military said the strike was conducted in close coordination with the Somalia government to degrade al-Shabab’s freedom of movement. So far this year, the U.S. military has conducted at least 40 airstrikes against al-Shabab in various parts of Somalia. 

Chaos in Baidoa

Also on Saturday, in the Somali city of Baidoa, chaos and protests continued for a third day over the arrest of Mukhtar Robow, the former deputy leader of al-Shabab, who was a top candidate for the presidency of South West State in upcoming elections. 

​12 fatalities in clashes

Robow was arrested Thursday and transferred to Mogadishu. The move angered his supporters, who clashed with police. At least 12 people have been killed, including a lawmaker. 

Authorities said at least 200 civilians were arrested following the clashes. 


The rights group Amnesty International condemned the killing of civilians in Baidoa. 


“Somali and Ethiopian security forces in Baidoa must refrain from using lethal force against protesters. … No one should have to die for simply expressing their views,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International deputy director for East Africa. 


African Union forces operating in Somalia (AMISOM) said in a statement that its troops did not help in the arrest of “Mr. Robow and his subsequent transfer to Mogadishu.”

The statement was made after it was reported that Ethiopian troops, who are part of AMISOM, were involved in Robow’s arrest.  

Speaker urges release

Somalia’s Parliament Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman called on the government on Saturday to release Robow and postpone the regional election, where Robow is competing with other candidates for the presidential post. 

The Somalia government accuses Robow of bringing Islamic militants and weapons back to Baidoa, the capital of South West State. 

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Voice of America

Thousands Volunteer to Lay Wreaths at Arlington Cemetery

Thousands of volunteers braved the rain Saturday for the annual holiday tradition of placing wreaths at the more than quarter-million headstones at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. 


The event, to honor soldiers who served and died for the country, is planned and coordinated by a group called Wreaths Across America. The organization provides wreaths for individuals and groups to place on graves in more than 1,400 locations in the U.S., including the Arlington cemetery, and abroad. 

WATCH: Thousands Volunteer to Lay Wreaths at Arlington Cemetery

“In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season,” the organization’s website said. 


The wreaths come from the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine. 


About 2:15 p.m., President Donald Trump arrived at the scene, and he walked with soldiers and a guide, viewing the work that had already been completed. He said the volunteers “do a great job.” 

The president’s visit took place on a gray and rainy day, with conditions not unlike those at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery east of Paris, which Trump was set to visit in early November before canceling.

For the event at Arlington, which began at 8 a.m. Saturday, people travel from states near and far to help place the wreaths at each gravesite. The wreaths remain through the year-end holidays, and another coordinated event occurs in January, when volunteers and U.S. troops remove the wreaths. 


“Last year, we had over 90,000 folks volunteer, visiting our hallowed grounds to participate in laying wreaths on the final resting place of more than 260,000 service members, veterans and their families,”MichealMigliara, Arlington National Cemetery director of operations, told WTOP news. 


Health care

While at Arlington, reporters asked Trump about a Texas court ruling released Friday night that found the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. 


“It was a big ruling, a great ruling for our country. We’ll be able to get great health care. We’ll sit down with the Democrats if the Supreme Court upholds,” he said. “Let’s say repeal and replace handled a little bit differently.” 

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Voice of America



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