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Rights groups demand Biden end ‘torture’ of solitary confinement | Coronavirus pandemic News



A new proposal by the Federal Anti-Solitary Taskforce (FAST) calls on the US government to use legislative, executive and administrative methods to end the “torture” of solitary confinement on inmates in federal detention.

“The debilitating, dehumanizing, and even deadly effects on incarcerated people are an ongoing stain on the American legal system,” Tammie Gregg, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Stop Solitary Campaign, said in a statement.

“Medical and mental health experts, impacted people, and advocates agree that solitary confinement … is torture,” Gregg continued.

Solitary confinement in federal custody varies across different forms of “restricted housing” in “special housing units” according to the US Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Inmates can be put in solitary for attacking others, for their own safety or even for arguing with guards. It can mean spending 22 to 24 hours in a small cell a day for extended periods.

A solitary confinement cell called ‘the bing’ is pictured on January 28, 2016, at New York’s Rikers Island jail [File: Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo]

“Inmates who have been in [special housing units] longer than 90 days are reviewed at the applicable regional office level to determine why he or she is not appropriate for return to general population,” the BOP website says.

Extended stays in solitary can “severely” compromise mental health, according to the American Friends Service Committee.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture defines torture as any measure “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person”.

The UN also said in 2011 that solitary confinement of more than 15 days should be banned in most cases.

But roughly 8 percent of 152,832 inmates in federal custody are in some form of solitary confinement in federal custody, according to Bureau of Prisons data. That is close to 12,226 inmates in similar conditions.

State and county push

The ACLU is one of the 130 advocacy organisations in FAST working to end solitary confinement. The movement to end this form of detention has seen more progress on the state and county levels.

Johnny Perez, a survivor of solitary confinement and director of the US Prisons Program at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a member of FAST, said in a statement there “are a growing number of states that have taken a stand against the torture of solitary confinement”.

A man walks past a banner prior to a rally at the Elihu Harris on September 1, 2015, in Oakland, California, after the state agreed to release hundreds of inmates confined for years in solitary confinement [File: Robert Galbraith/Reuters]

FAST noted in its recommendations that in “2021, 70 pieces of legislation were filed across 32 states to end some aspect of solitary confinement in state prisons and jails”.

In April, New York banned solitary confinement for longer than 15 days. The move was applauded by advocacy groups pushing for policy change.

They noted that Black and Latino comprise roughly 70 percent of New York’s imprisoned population and make up about 80 percent of inmates in solitary, The New York Times reported.

In March, officials unveiled Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans for New York City to end solitary confinement on Rikers Island, the city’s notoriously violent jail.

Outrage over solitary confinement on Rikers erupted after transgender inmate Layleen Polanco’s 2019 death from an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement.

“I came to the conclusion that we could end the confinement entirely, something that has been done in few places in this country,” de Blasio said in March.

Connecticut is also considering legislation to end solitary’s use, backed by former NBA star Caron Butler, who spent two weeks in isolated custody as a minor in Wisconsin.

The toll of the coronavirus pandemic brought attention to the issue of solitary. Many states adopted varying forms of solitary or extended confinement to isolate inmates to slow the spread of the virus.

However, studies suggested solitary confinement may have worsened COVID transmission by discouraging imprisoned people from reporting their symptoms, according to Undark, an online magazine that explores “the intersection of science and society”.

Numerous prisons and jails experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, from California’s San Quentin to Rikers Island.

Advocates said prison release programmes appeared to be one of the few means of lessening the virus’s toll behind bars.

Federal moves

As states and cities move to end solitary confinement’s use, there has been little movement from the White House, though the heads of the administration previously promised to end its use.

President Joe Biden’s campaign website promised to “ensure humane prison conditions” and to “start by ending the practice of solitary confinement, with very limited exceptions such as protecting the life of an imprisoned person”.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is playing an increased role in the Biden administration when compared with her predecessors, called for the end of solitary confinement as a candidate in 2019.

“It is time for the federal government to lead by ending the practice once and for all and incentivizing states to do so. We are hopeful the Biden-Harris administration will follow through with their campaign promise to end solitary by any name and in all forms,” Perez said.

The FAST recommendations call on the US government to “end all forms” of solitary confinement, ensure any alternatives are the “opposite” of solitary, employ “neutral decision-makers” at hearings and create “independent oversight by an Ombudsperson, media, and community stakeholders” through legislative pushes and executive orders.

“We strongly believe that the reforms outlined in this Blueprint will go a long way towards eradicating much of the senseless and counterproductive harm that has been caused,” Gregg said.

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Explainer: What is the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19? | Coronavirus pandemic News




Scientists worry the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

India on Wednesday said it has found about 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Here is what we know about the variant.

What is Delta Plus?

The variant, called Delta Plus in India, was first reported (PDF) in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sublineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation, called K417N, which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Where all it has been found?

As of June 16 (PDF), at least 197 cases have been found in 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday about 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first five cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the United Kingdom and Indian cases.

What are the worries?

Studies are continuing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters news agency.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination”.

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

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EU citizens in UK to be given 28 days to apply for settled status | Brexit News




People who miss the June 30 settlement scheme deadline will be issued warnings to apply or risk losing their rights.

European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom will be given a 28-day warning to apply for post-Brexit settled status or face losing some of their rights from next month, the government said on Tuesday.

The UK’s so-called settlement scheme for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, which opened in early 2019, closes on June 30.

It allows Europeans in the UK to retain the same residence, travel, employment and healthcare rights they had before Brexit.

The rules around the UK’s departure from the bloc, which came into force at the beginning of this year, ended the reciprocal freedom of movement.

About 5.6 million people and their dependents have applied for settled status under the scheme since it was introduced.

But about 400,000 cases still require processing, while many are rushing to submit their applications before next week’s deadline.

At the same time, messaging and outreach campaigns are targeting those who may not be aware of the need to apply by next week’s deadline.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said anyone whose application was not filed by the deadline would not see their rights immediately withdrawn, as they were protected by law.

But he also ruled out extending the June 30 cutoff point.

“Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties,” Foster told members of a parliamentary committee.

He added that immigration enforcement officials would instead begin issuing 28-day notices to those yet to apply.

The UK’s Home Office, which oversees immigration, said that applications may also be submitted past the 28-day notice period in some cases.

“We’ll set up the support available and we’ll signpost people to make an application, but we do recognise that there may be some people who, after that 28 days, still haven’t been able to make an application,” a Home Office spokesman said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

“I think we would want to work with them to understand why that is the case, and then support them again to make the application.”

Foster said those who had missed the deadline on reasonable grounds will still be able to apply, citing exceptions such as children whose parents had failed to apply on their behalf, or individuals with a serious illness that had prevented them from filing their paperwork.

The government will also issue a “certificate of application” for those awaiting a decision, he added, which will act as proof of their right to work, rent property, obtain benefits and use the National Health Service.

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Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences




Government has on Wednesday started distributing mosquito nets to traders; starting with the Nakasero market.

The exercise was kick-started with 2000 mosquito nets from Quality Chemicals Limited (QCL).

During his last address to the nation on Friday 18th June 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown directive, and all food market vendors were asked to stay at their places of work to avoid spreading the disease.

“Food market vendors should revert to the Presidential Directive of March 2020 to stay in their places of work,” he said.

President Museveni also said that the food market vendors were to be provided with mosquito nets and polythene sheets for their protection.

Handing over the donation, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, a director at Quality Chemicals Limited applauded the market vendors for the sacrifice made when they fled their homes to sleep at workplaces to earn a living for their families and provide food to our communities.

“It is therefore important to us to ensure that they are protected from the harmful mosquitoes that linger in the night. We have donated 2000 mosquito nets to the Ministry of Health who will supply them to the market vendors,” he said

Adding, “I applaud the president and the Ministry of Health for their role in the fight against covid-19. As Quality Chemicals, we decided to contribute towards government efforts in the fight against malaria.”

Upon receipt of the donation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary applauded quality chemicals for a helping hand.

“The women who sleep in the market are about 5000 according to the number that was given to us by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The ministry has also brought 3000 nets to ensure that the population is covered. The nets are to protect them from mosquito bites while you’re asleep,” she said.

She asked them to follow the Standard Operating Procedures to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.

The post Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences first appeared on ChimpReports.

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