Law minister Anisul Huq on Thursday said the much-awaited gazette notification on the rules determining discipline and conduct of lower court judges will be issued before 3 December if the President permitsm, reports UNB.The minister came up with the announcement while talking to the journalists after a meeting with acting Chief Justice Abdul Wahhab Miah at the latter’s residence tonight.”Thanks to Almighty Allah. We have finally reached a consensus on the rules determining discipline and conduct of lower court judges,” Anisul said.”If the President allows, we will publish the gazette notification in this regard by 3 December,” he added.Reply to a query, the Law Minister said president will decide whether he himself or the Supreme Court will control the lower judiciary.”I can’t say anything until the publication of the gazette,” Anisul added.Four other Justices of the Appellate Division were also present during the meeting.On 5 November, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the Law Minister would sit with the Justices of the Appellate Division to discuss the issue.Earlier on 8 October, the SC extended time up to November 5 the deadline for publishing the gazette notification.On 20 August, the apex court gave the government two more weeks to publish it.On 6 August, the SC extended time up to 8 October for publishing the gazette.On 30 July, the SC declined to accept the draft of the disciplinary rules and code of conduct for lower court judges which was earlier submitted by the Law Minister to the Chief Justice, and proposed a meeting with the government to settle the issue.Earlier on several occasions, the apex court expressed dissatisfaction at the government’s failure to issue the gazette notification.The lower judiciary was officially separated in November 2007 but the disciplinary rules for lower court judges are yet to be formulated.On 2 December 1999, the Supreme Court in the Masdar Hossain case issued a seven-point directive, including formulating separate disciplinary rules, for the lower court judges.The law ministry on 7 May 2015 sent a draft of the rules to the Supreme Court which is similar to the Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1985.
.Police detained a member of Detective Branch (DB) of police along with 1,000 pieces of yaba from Moizzartek area in Chittagong on Tuesday evening, reports UNB.The detainee is Anwar Hossian, 35, an assistant sub-inspector of district Detective Branch of police.Karnaphuli police station officer-in-charge Sayedul Mostafa said based on secret information a team of Chittagong metropolitan DB police conducted a raid in the port city and detained Anwar along with a private car.Later, DB police seized 1,000 pieces of contraband tablets from his possession and handed him over to the police station.A case was filed.
The second span of Padma Bridge is installed on Sunday. Photo: Satyajit GhoshThe second span (superstructure) of the much-hyped Padma Bridge was installed between pillars 38 and 39 on Sunday morning, reports news agency UNB.With the installation of the second span around 8:30am, a total of 300 metres of the Padma Bridge is now visible, said the engineers concerned.A concerned official said now it will be possible to set up more than one span in every month.Earlier on Saturday, the second span of the bridge could not be installed due to the depth and strong current in the river.“The installation process of the 150 metres span has been started on Saturday morning. The floating crane carrying the 150-metre span weighing 3,140 tonnes could not reach the pillars for depth and strong current in the river,” said Mir Faruque Hossain, surveyor of the project.The work of Padma Multipurpose Bridge became visible with the installation of a 150-metre first span on the pillars 37 and 38 on September 30 last.The construction work on the country’s largest bridge started in December in 2015 and it is expected that the mega construction will be completed by December this year.A total of 41 spans, each 150 metres long, will be installed on 42 concrete pillars of the 6.15-km bridge, according to the engineers concerned.
.Two people were killed in a reported gunfight with members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Narayanganj’s Alirtek early Monday, reports UNB.The law enforcement identified both of them as robbers. They were Zillur, an alleged ringleader of gang ‘Zillur Bahini’ and his associate Jony.A team of RAB-11 arrested Zillur two days ago, according to RAB.After obtaining information from him, a team of RAB led by major Ashiq, deputy commanding officer, conducted a drive in the area around 3:40am.Sensing the presence of law enforcers, Zillur Bahini people opened fire on them, prompting the RAB men to retaliate, triggering the shootout, said RAB personnel.After the gunfight, the RAB recovered the two bodies from the spot.The elite force also recovered a foreign pistol, a bullet, a cartridge, and five-rounds of bullets of shotgun.The law enforcement’s version of the event was, however, not verified independently as no version of the incident was available immediately either from any witnesses or from any members of the victim’s family.Earlier on 5 March, three people were killed in two separate gunfights with law enforcers in Brahmanbaria and Barguna districts.
A handout picture released on 20 January, 2017 by the Vigili del Fuoco shows a child (C) being rescued from the Hotel Rigopiano, near the village of Farindola, on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain, engulfed by a powerful avalanche a day before. Photo: AFPA total of 23 people remain unaccounted for at an Italian hotel buried by an avalanche, local authorities said Saturday in the first official confirmation of how many people were inside the building.The statement from the Pescara prefecture was based on the list of registered guests and staff and reports from friends and relatives of others who were there when the avalanche struck on Wednesday.Earlier estimates had put the number missing at between 11 and 20. To date, five bodies have been recovered and there are 11 confirmed survivors of the disaster.
MalaysiaThe government will serve show-cause notices to 10 private recruiting agencies that once enjoyed monopoly in sending workers to Malaysia, the minister concerned said.The move followed Kuala Lumpur’s move to suspend recruitment of Bangladeshi workers from 1 September.“I was always against the 10 recruiting agencies and still I am against them. I don’t believe in syndicate. We will serve show-cause notices to them,” expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment minister Nurul Islam said at a ‘meet the press’.Reporters for Bangladeshi Migrants (RBM) organised the ‘meet’ at the ministry in Prabashi Kalyan Bhaban in Eskaton area on Tuesday.On the suspension of any more hiring of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, the minister expressed optimism that the Malaysian government may change the recruitment system.He also made it clear that around 30,000 aspirant workers, who have completed all procedures for employment in Malaysia, will be able to go there.According to stakeholders, the 10 recruiting agencies in collusion with influential quarters in Malaysia, controlled the labour market and take workers from Bangladesh.The 10 agencies are: Unique Eastern, Carrier Overseas, Catharsis International, HSMT Human Resource, Sanjary International, Rabby International, Passage Associates, Amin Tours and Travels, Prantik Travels and Tourism and Al Islam Overseas.On 14 August, at a meeting of special committee on foreign workers’ management in parliament, new prime minister Mahathir Muhammad reportedly decided a halt in hiring workers from Bangladesh since 1 September.Mahathir then said his government would open up the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh to all agencies, New Straits Times of Malaysia reported.“Currently, only 10 agencies are allowed to process prospective Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia. This is a form of monopoly,” the Malaysian leader was quoted to have said.
Zakir NaikThe Indian passport of televangelist Zakir Naik, who is wanted in connection with an alleged terror case, was on Tuesday revoked on the NIA’s request, an official statement said in Mumbai.”The Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, has revoked the Indian passport of Dr Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, resident of B-1005/1006 Jasmine Apartment, 65-B, Dockyard Road, Mazagaon, Mumbai, under the provisions of the Passport Act 1967,” a National Investigation Agency (NIA) statement said.The NIA had requested India’s external affairs ministry to revoke Naik’s passport after he failed to respond to three summons in cases filed under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against him last year, an NIA official said.The NIA took the step after a special NIA court on 21 April issued non-bailable warrant against Naik and subsequently issued proclamation on 15 June requiring his appearance.Following the Dhaka terror attacks last year, the NIA had filed the case against Naik, 51, and other officials of his Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation.Naik was on a tour abroad at that time and has since not returned to India allegedly to evade arrest under various charges, including inspiring terrorist activities and money-laundering.In December last, the Central government had permanently cancelled the FCRA licence of Naik’s NGO and his educational trust after declaring it as a terror outfit.
High CourtA writ was filed with the High Court on Monday seeking its directive to stop private practice by the physicians of government hospitals during their office hours, reports UNB.Five Supreme Court lawyers — Abdus Sattar Palwan, Salah Uddin Regan, Sujad Mia, Aminul Haq and Kawsar Uddin Mondal — filed the writ petition which is likely to come up for hearing at a bench on Tuesday.The director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), president of Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council and president of Bangladesh Medical Association have been made respondents to the writ.A report titled ‘Physician at his chamber, patient dies at hospital’ which was published in national dailies and online portals on 29 January were attached with the writ petition.The writ also sought HC directives to issue a rule seeking explanation as to why the inactiveness of the respondents to stop the practice of the physicians of government hospitals at private hospitals during office time should not be declared illegal and why directives should not be given to stop such practices.The writ also sought directives to monitor the activities in government hospitals and mobile court drives against irregularities at those.The writ was filed as a legal notice served by lawyer Abdus Sattar Palwan on 29 January urging the government to stop private practice by the physicians of government hospitals went unheeded.According to the notice, government physicians’ practice at private hospitals and clinic is a professional misconduct and a crime as per the law. “So, the physicians of government hospitals have to stop the private practice for ensuring medical services to the people as well as for protecting their constitutional rights.”Babul Hossain, 40, who was suffering from cardiac problem, died at Lakshmipur Sadar Hospital due to negligence of physicians as duty physician Bhabani Prasad Roy was absent at that time. Bhabani Prasad was at his chamber in Dakkhin Temuhani of the district during the incident.A report titled ‘Physician at his chamber, patient dies at hospital’ was published in national dailies and online portals on 29 January.
Mayor-elect of Dhaka North City Corporation Atiqul Islam calls on prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official Ganabhaban residence in Dhaka on Friday. Photo: PIDMayor-elect of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Atiqul Islam called on prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official Ganabhaban residence in the capital city on Friday evening, reports BSS.The mayor-elect greeted the prime minister by presenting her with a bouquet.The prime minister also congratulated Atiqul Islam on being elected as the DNCC mayor and wished him success in performing his responsibilities.AL advisory council members Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Rashidul Alam, presidium members Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Abdur Razzak and Muhammad Faruk Khan, commerce minister Tipu Munshi, AL joint secretaries Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Dipu Moni and Abdur Rahman, organising secretary barrister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury, office secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap and deputy office secretary barrister Biplab Barua were present.Besides, Dhaka north city AL general secretary Sadek Khan, MP, Abdus Salam Murshedi, MP, FBCCI president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman were also present.Awami League candidate Atiqul Islam was officially declared elected in the by-elections to the mayoral post of the DNCC on Friday.He secured 839,302 votes with ‘Boat’ symbol while his nearest contestant Shafin Ahmed of Jatiya Party bagged 52,429 votes with ‘plough’ symbol.
Share Twitter user @NewsweekOne of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Puerto Rico pummeled the island Wednesday, tearing off roofs and sending doors flying from hinges as officials warned Hurricane Maria would decimate the power company’s crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.Maria, which has killed at least nine in the Caribbean, made landfall early Wednesday in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph (250 kph) winds, and it was expected to punish the island with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours, forecasters said.People calling local radio stations reported that doors were flying off hinges and a water tank flew away in the island’s southern region. Meanwhile, widespread flooding was reported in the capital of San Juan, with water running down one apartment’s interior staircase.“This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.”Metal roofs were already flying and windows were breaking as the storm approached before dawn, with nearly 900,000 people without power and one tree falling on an ambulance. Those who sought shelter at a coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building’s second and third floors, reported radio station WKAQ 580 AM. The storm was moving across Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning at 10 mph (17 kph), with a gust of 113 mph (182 kph) reported in the capital of San Juan, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.Maria, which had previously been a Category 5 storm with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, hit Puerto Rico as the third strongest storm to make landfall in the United States based on a key measurement that meteorologists use: air pressure. The lower the central pressure a storm the stronger it is and Maria’s pressure was 917 millibars, lower than Irma’s U.S. landfall of 929 millibars in the Florida Keys earlier this month.Puerto Rico had long been spared from a direct hit by hurricanes that tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane landfall in Puerto Rico occurred in 1932, and the strongest storm to ever hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 160 mph.As Maria approached, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his support via Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!”More than 4,400 people were in shelters by late Tuesday, along with 105 pets, Rossello said.The storm’s center passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to insist that people remain alert. St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. But this time, the island would experience five hours of hurricane force winds, Mapp said.“For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear,” he said during a brief news conference. “Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around. Something for your head in case your roof should breach. … I don’t really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o’clock to 4 (a.m.). … Be aware of what’s going on around you.”Maria killed two people in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.About 40 percent of the island — 80,000 homes — were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.The storm also blew over the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page, including that his own roof had blown away.“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote before communications went down.Hartley Henry, an adviser to Skerrit, said there have been seven confirmed deaths in the Caribbean country from Hurricane Maria. Hartley Henry didn’t give details about how the deaths occurred.The storm knocked out communications for the entire island, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread. “The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.She said she lost contact with the island about 4 a.m. At that point, officials had learned that 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.Flooding was a big concern, given the island’s steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.Forecasters said the storm surge from Maria could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.To the north, Hurricane Jose weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday night. Forecasters said dangerous surf and rip currents were likely to continue along the U.S. East Coast but said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.
Listen 00:00 /15:28 A lot can happen in a week. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Some of it downright ugly. When faced with intriguing developments in the week’s news, we turn to our rotating panel of “non-experts” to parse The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of it all.This week, our panel weighs in on: Katy ISD officials drawing scorn for pulling popular young adult novel The Hate U Give from its library shelves, and Sports Illustrated naming J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve its 2017 Sportspersons of the Year.Our panel of non-experts this week includes:Marcus Davis, owner of The Breakfast Klub restaurant and host of Sunday Morning Live on Majic 102.1 Monica Richart, attorney and community education advocate Share To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: X
To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Houston Matters offers a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps. On Wednesday’s Houston Matters: Immigration experts discuss the uncertainty many so-called DREAMers are living with amidst the uncertainty over the fate of DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.Also this hour: Our political experts discuss the latest national, state, and local political stories with an eye for how they might affect Houston and Texas. Plus: In the latest installment of The Full Menu, our local food writers discuss their favorite places for a good cup of coffee (and pastries, atmosphere and free Wi-Fi). And we learn about a local researcher working to create new plastics that last longer and biodegrade better.WATCH: Today’s Houston Matters 360-Degree Facebook Live Video X 00:00 /50:23 Listen Share
AP Photo/Matt SaylesIn this Feb. 11, 2007, file photo, adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing President Donald Trump and wants a California judge to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election.A lawyer representing adult film star Stormy Daniels was pressed for more evidence of her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in a series of appearances the morning after his client told her story in a highly anticipated interview on “60 Minutes.”Michael Avenatti said there is more evidence to come, but that he and his client are withholding certain details, including the contents of a CD or DVD he tweeted a picture of last week.“We’re not going to get into the details of everything we have at this time, and there’s a reason for that,” he said on ABC’s “Today” show. “We understand the American people want all the information right now, immediately. It would make no sense for us to play our hand as to this issue and we’re not going to do it right now.”Cohen’s lawyer fired back almost immediately after the Daniels interview with this letter saying allegation of goon threatening her was false >> pic.twitter.com/TWH2djrFPq— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 26, 2018In the interview, Daniels said that she’d been threatened by an unidentified man in Las Vegas to keep quiet about her alleged relationship with Trump, an incident that she said happened while she was with her young daughter. She said in the interview that she had one encounter of consensual sex with the future president.“He knows I’m telling the truth,” said Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. She does not allege that she was coerced in her encounter with Trump, saying, “This is not a ‘Me too.’ I was not a victim.”Avenatti said Monday that he is still working to verify the man’s identity, and that he has no direct evidence tying the threat to Trump or his lawyer “other than common sense.”“It had to have come from someone associated with Mr. Trump, there is no other place for it to have come from. It didn’t come from the magazine, it makes no sense. It certainly didn’t come from my client,” he said on ABC.Not long after the magazine story was killed, Stormy Daniels says she was threatened by a man who approached her in Las Vegas. “A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’” pic.twitter.com/JMskKQiYCi— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 25, 2018He also taunted Trump for failing to tweet about the allegations, suggesting that meant they were true.Trump did complain later Monday morning about there being, “So much Fake News,” but it’s unclear whether he was referring to Daniels.In the interview, the adult film actress provided little new evidence of her alleged 2006 affair with Trump but said she faced intimidation tactics aimed at ensuring her silence in 2011.Daniels said that in the incident, in a parking lot, the man told her: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” She said he then looked at her daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”Daniels received a $130,000 payment days before the 2016 presidential election for her silence and has sought to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement.The White House did not immediately comment Sunday on the interview. Trump, through his representatives, has denied the allegations. His attorney, Michael Cohen, has said Trump never had an affair with Daniels. Cohen has said he paid the $130,000 out of his pocket.Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment.However, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti told “60 Minutes” he has documents showing Cohen using his Trump Organization email address in setting up the payment and that the nondisclosure agreement was sent by FedEx to Cohen at his Trump Organization office in Trump Tower.A lawyer for Cohen, David Schwartz, accused Daniels of lying about the affair in his own appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”“The lying is all over that piece,” he said, adding that the suggestion that someone associated with Trump or his organization was behind the alleged threatening incident was “speculation” and “guesswork.”In the interview, Daniels described a sexual encounter with Trump that began with him talking about himself and showing her an issue of a magazine with his picture on the cover. She said she asked, “Does this … does this normally work for you?” He was taken aback, she says. “And I was like, ‘Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it.’” She says she then ordered him to drop his pants and, in a playful manner, “I just gave him a couple swats.”NEWS – Trump had dinner with Michael Cohen last night. Night before the Stormy Daniels interview.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 25, 2018She said they talked some more, although he quit talking about himself, and that she became more comfortable.“He was like, ‘Wow, you — you are special. You remind me of my daughter.’ You know — he was like, ‘You’re smart and beautiful, and a woman to be reckoned with, and I like you. I like you.’”She said after dinner in Trump’s room, they had sex. He didn’t use a condom, she said, and she didn’t ask him to. Afterward, he asked to see her again, she said.Daniels said that before they had sex Trump had broached the idea of her being a contestant on “The Apprentice,” and she likened it to a “business opportunity.” She said he called her several times and would ask if they could get together again and that he had an update for her. She said she felt that he was holding out the opportunity to keep her coming back.The CBS interview came as Trump deals with allegations about his sexual exploits long before he ran for president.Former Playboy model Karen McDougal told Cooper in a CNN interview broadcast Thursday that her affair with Trump began at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2006. McDougal said she ended the relationship in 2007 out of guilt.McDougal has filed suit in Los Angeles seeking to invalidate a confidentiality agreement with American Media Inc., the company that owns the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. It paid her $150,000 during the 2016 presidential election.The lawsuit alleges that McDougal was paid for the rights to her story of an affair, but the story never ran. It also alleges that Cohen was secretly involved in her discussions with American Media. Share
Share Obtained by The Texas TribuneA Texas Department of State Health Service employee found mold on an office mousepad in June 2018.She said the agency is working to move people out of the affected areas to other open spaces and other short-term space “while continuing the preexisting search for long-term office space to house those employees.”Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, said broken elevators, leaks, mice, cockroaches and electrical outages in state buildings are common problems he hears about from members. He said state workers can talk to their supervisors about these problems but nothing happens without proper funding.“All of these issues are rampant throughout the state and state office buildings because the Legislature is not putting the money toward these maintenance problems,” Hutchinson said.One staff member, who requested anonymity for fear of being fired, told the Tribune that department employees have expressed exasperation with how the agency has expected business to proceed as usual during the mold problem. Staffers who found mold on their chairs have been using whichever mold-free ones they can find around the office.State workers have dreaded showing up to work, the staff member said. Employees try to wipe down any mold that’s visible but, according to the worker, “in terms of mold in the air, who knows.”“To me, the scariest part is that you actually have people who have mold allergies,” the worker said. “There’s one person I know who has mold allergies and he just couldn’t breathe.”Employees have also complained about how it took the agency three weeks from a recent mold sighting last month to get a contractor to come in. They’re also frustrated that there’s been no permanent fix to what they described as the office’s longtime humidity problem.“They haven’t really done much to try and actually fix the actual problem or find the actual problem,” the employee said.Felipe Rocha, director of the TB/HIV/STD Section, under the Texas Department of State Health Services, told staff in an email on June 6 that the department would relocate people into cubicles divvied up around the office and in another building about five minutes away. He noted it would be “conducive” for staff who have a laptop and can use Wi-Fi.“I would consider you working remotely elsewhere but there needs to be a compelling reason for it,” Rocha said.Obtained by The Texas TribuneA Texas Department of State Health Services employee found mold on an office chair in June 2018.Other employees who need to stay home but haven’t been approved to work there would need to request emergency leave, he said.Currently, three employees are on emergency leave. Anton said in an email that the agency doesn’t know how many employees are unable to work from home, saying only a limited number of employees have agency-issued laptops.Rocha wrote in a June 7 email to employees that fans and a large dehumidifier had been brought into the office. Plus, housekeeping staff was applying an enzyme solution to the carpet “to keep any additional mold from growing.”“What type of testing will be done to confirm that mold is no longer growing in my workspace?,” one employee replied to Rocha. “It is very important to me because I have a severe mold allergy and will need to confirm no more mold.”Rocha responded to the employee that Patel, the epidemiologist who specializes in occupational health, was providing resources and that Rocha would be discussing testing with her and Zumbrun, the associate commissioner. The next day he emailed that the commission ordered two dehumidifiers.The Department of State Health Services’ web page on indoor air quality warns about the risk of mold, saying its presence in a home “is an unsanitary condition that may present potential health risks to occupants.” Some health side effects, according to the site, include allergic reactions, respiratory problems, nasal congestion, eye irritation, coughing, skin rashes, headaches and fatigue.The site says health issues from mold “depend on the amounts and types of mold present, the length and frequency of exposure, and the sensitivity and health condition of exposed individuals.” Those most at risk of severe symptoms include people with allergies or asthma, people with weakened immune systems, young children and the elderly.“I know that this situation has been incredibly disruptive and that the mold has also affected different staff in different ways,” Rocha said in a June 21 email. “Some staff may have had their allergies exacerbated and others have seemingly not been affected at all.”According to a Rocha email on June 22, a mold assessment consultant from Baer Engineering set up data loggers to track temperature and humidity readings. A follow-up email from Rocha after a staff meeting about the mold problem noted that the consultant would return at the beginning of the week to collect mold samples from the carpet and chairs.Rocha wrote at the end of the email, “P.S. Don’t forget to turn off the dehumidifiers.”In recent weeks, the agency has opted to keep them on at all times on weekdays and weekends.But that’s becoming another point of contention in the mold saga. On July 11, the power went out in the TB/HIV/STD Section.“We have noticed that sometimes power is going off in certain cubicles and pods so we may end up having to amend our plan to continuously run the dehumidifier,” Rocha wrote in a July 11 email to workers.In addition, with the dehumidifiers running at all hours, employees are being put on rotation to empty them — even on weekends.“Shelley and Jonathon will coordinate putting together a schedule of staff to assist with this duty,” Rocha wrote. “I am sure they will take volunteers.”More troubling for employees is that the whole ordeal feels like deja vu. In May 2017, staffers were told Baer Engineering had not found a mold issue in Suite 1102 of the Austin State Hospital 636 building.According to Baer Engineering’s report at the time, there was a “musty and stuffy feel” but “no indication of a mold concern at the time of this assessment.” However, Baer Engineering said the office’s high humidity meant there was “a higher than normal chance of future mold growth.”On June 2, 2017, Annalise Monterosso, an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of State Health Services, wasn’t convinced.“There is black mold on the middle refrigerator next to Justin’s office, and the mini-fridge in the pump room has been largely colonized on the magnetic seal (which doesn’t seal well),” Monterosso said in an email obtained by the Tribune. “There may not be mold circulating in the air, but there is definitely mold in the building.” Obtained by The Texas TribuneA Texas Department of State Health Services employee found mold on their office keyboard hand rest in June 2018.Only one word comes to mind looking at photos that Texas Department of State Health Services employees took of gray, green and brown-hued mold dotting their office furniture: Ew.As of July 10, as many as 127 state workers have been affected by mold in the building, with some finding mold infiltrating their desks, chairs and keyboard hand rests in the Austin State Hospital 636 building. Mold also spotted the carpet. One state worker even found mold on shoes left in the office. As a result, employees whose job it is to analyze data on tuberculosis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in Texas have lately found themselves also researching what kind of health risks their own offices might pose.The state agency has tried to ward off the mold — with little success. A department staff memo, emails obtained by The Texas Tribune and inquiries to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Department of State Health Services reveal $15,721.19 spent on dehumidifiers and a mold assessment and some workers placed on emergency leave or relocated to vacant cubicles or a nearby building. The agency is even planning for Ketki Patel, a department epidemiologist who specializes in occupational health, to lead Q&A forums about mold in the workplace.“It is very distressing for me (and much more so for you) that there are so many significant building issues in ASH 636, particularly the high humidity and mold,” wrote Janna Zumbrun, associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services for the Department of State Health Services, in a June 27 email to staff members.The mold, which officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed to the Tribune, is another setback in Texas state agencies’ losing battle with building maintenance issues, which have forced them to spend money from their budgets to contract out for help. Another example emerged last year when the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said its Austin building was overrun by “several hundred rats.” Typically, the Texas Facilities Commission handles maintenance issues, but Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials say the facilities agency isn’t involved with fighting the mold problem.The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the Department of State Health Services, hired Baer Engineering and Environmental Consulting to conduct a mold assessment in late June. That cost $4,826.24, according to Kelli Weldon, a spokesperson for the agency.The Baer Engineering mold assessment report, obtained by the Tribune, found “visible suspect mold was observed on desks, cabinets, chairs, carpet, walls, and around skylights.” The report found that throughout the dozen areas inside the building where samples were taken there was mold visibly seen or detected. Baer Engineering noted that the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was a factor, since “cycling at nights and weekends is causing temperature and humidity issues that promote mold growth.”The company recommended the agency either professionally clean or toss all furniture contaminated by mold; remove and replace damaged drywall walls in three areas of the building; keep the humidity at or below 65 percent or the temperature at 82 degrees Fahrenheit; and have the building ventilation evaluated by a specialist.The Department of State Health Services has so far spent $10,894.95 alone on dehumidifiers to fight the mold. As of July 2, the agency is renting six large dehumidifiers — $90 each for a total of $540 per day — so far racking up $9,720. In addition, the agency purchased five small dehumidifiers for $1,174.95.Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in an emailed statement that the agency is “concerned about the health and safety of our employees” and asked for the mold assessment.“We recently received the results of the assessment and we have begun implementing the recommendations to improve the indoor air quality in the building, including removal of furniture with mold on it and instructing the cleaning staff to thoroughly wipe down all surfaces on a regular basis,” Anton said.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera: O’Rourke/Bob Daemmrich: CruzU.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso (left), is challenging Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has challenged Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke to five topical debates before Election Day, about three months after O’Rourke challenged Cruz to six.Cruz strategist Jeff Roe sent a letter Wednesday to O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, proposing the following debate schedule:Aug. 31 in Dallas on “Jobs/Taxes/Federal Regulations/National Economy”Sept. 14 in McAllen on “Immigration/Border Security/Criminal Justice/Supreme Court”Sept. 21 in San Antonio on “Foreign Policy/National Security”Oct. 5 in Houston on “Energy/Trade/Texas Economy”Oct. 12 in Lubbock on “Healthcare/Obamacare”Roe said the debates would all take place on Friday evenings “because the Senate is expected to be in session during that time.” The debates would each be an hour long and vary in format — some would be town hall-style, while others would feature the two candidates seated or standing at podiums.“As Senator Cruz has long believed, our democratic process is best served by presenting a clear and substantive contrast of competing policy ideas, and these five debates will be an excellent way for both you and the Senator to share your respective visions with Texas voters in the weeks leading up to the November election,” Roe wrote to O’Rourke.The five debates would be the most ever conducted in a U.S. Senate race in Texas, according to the Cruz campaign. A spokesperson described the proposal as “all-inclusive and final,” saying the Cruz campaign is not open to negotiating the dates, locations or topics. Cruz’s team, however, is willing to work with O’Rourke’s on other details such as moderators, sponsorships and media partners, the spokesperson said.Cruz has long expressed openness to debating O’Rourke, but his campaign has resisted making commitments until now. O’Rourke’s campaign first reached out to Cruz’s in April to start coordinating a debate schedule. The letter to senior Cruz staffers proposed six debates, including two in Spanish, and asked for a response by May 10. Though Cruz’s team did not respond directly to O’Rourke’s, Cruz told reporters at the time that his Spanish wasn’t good enough for him to debate in it.After about two months passed without a formal reply, O’Rourke’s campaign sent another letter to Cruz’s senior staffers, nudging them on the initial proposal and offering to replace the two Spanish debates with two more English debates. Cruz’s team responded with a letter that reiterated he was looking forward to debating O’Rourke.“However, your arbitrary timeline for coordinating between the campaigns remains irrelevant to our decision-making process,” senior Cruz adviser Bryan English wrote. “We will let you know when we are ready to discuss the details of joint appearances.” Share
Share Thibault Camus/APFacebook says hackers accessed a wide swath of information from millions of accounts as part of a security breach the company disclosed two weeks ago.Facebook says hackers accessed a wide swath of information — ranging from emails and phone numbers to more personal details like sites visited and places checked into — from millions of accounts as part of a security breach the company disclosed two weeks ago.Twenty-nine million accounts had some form of information stolen. Originally Facebook said 50 million accounts were affected, but that it didn’t know if they had been misused.The news comes at a jittery time ahead of the midterm elections when Facebook is fighting off misuse of its site on a number of fronts . The company said Friday there’s no evidence this is related to the midterms.On Friday Facebook said hackers accessed names, email addresses or phone numbers from these accounts. For 14 million of them, hackers got even more data, such as hometown, birthdate, the last 10 places they checked into or the 15 most recent searches.An additional 1 million accounts were affected, but hackers didn’t get any information from them.Facebook isn’t giving a breakdown of where these users are, but says the breach was “fairly broad.” It plans to send messages to people whose accounts were hacked.Facebook said third-party apps that use a Facebook login and Facebook apps like WhatsApp and Instagram were unaffected by the breach.Facebook said the FBI is investigating, but asked the company not to discuss who may be behind the attack. The company said it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of smaller-scale attacks that used the same vulnerability.Facebook has said the attackers gained the ability to “seize control” of those user accounts by stealing digital keys the company uses to keep users logged in. They could do so by exploiting three distinct bugs in Facebook’s code.The hackers began with a set of accounts they controlled, then used an automated process to access the digital keys for accounts that were “friends” with the accounts they had already compromised. That expanded to “friends of friends,” extending their access to about 400,000 accounts, and went on from there to reach 30 million accounts. There is no evidence that the hackers made any posts or took any other activity using the hacked accounts.The company said it has fixed the bugs and logged out affected users to reset those digital keys.At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg — whose own account was compromised — said attackers would have had the ability to view private messages or post on someone’s account, but there’s no sign that they did.Facebook Vice President Guy Rosen said in a call with reporters on Friday the company hasn’t ruled out the possibility of smaller-scale efforts to exploit the same vulnerability that the hackers used before it was disabled.The company has a website its 2 billion global users can use to check if their accounts have been accessed, and if so, exactly what information was stolen. It will also provide guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious emails or texts. Facebook will also send messages directly to those people affected by the hack.Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, said the breach appeared similar to identity theft breaches that have occurred at companies including Yahoo and Target in 2013.“Those personal details could be very easily be used for identity theft to sign up for credit cards, get a loan, get your banking password, etc.,” he said. “Facebook should provide all those customers free credit monitoring to make sure the damage is minimized.”Thomas Rid, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University, also said the evidence, particularly the size of the breach, seems to point to a criminal motive rather than a sophisticated state operation, which usually targets fewer people.“This doesn’t sound very targeted at all,” he said. “Usually when you’re looking at a sophisticated government operation, then a couple of thousand people hacked is a lot, but they usually know who they’re going after.”
Houston received a score of 70 out of a possible 100 on the annual Municipal Equality Index by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.That ranks the Bayou City above average both in Texas and the nation.But it’s also the only one of the state’s largest cities – Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin – that didn’t get a perfect score.There’s one simple reason for that, said Xavier Persad, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior legislative counsel and author of the index.“Currently, Houston does not have citywide nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations,” he said. “So that’s the primary difference.”The other big Texas cities all have laws that protect LGBT people. Houston also passed such an ordinance in 2014 but voters repealed it a year and a half later.One Texas city, Laredo, got a score of zero. College Station, Killeen, McKinney and Round Rock are next near the bottom with 12 points each. 00:00 /00:53 X Listen To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Mathias Wasik/FlickrHouston scored 70 out of 100 in the city’s LGBT-friendly policies. Share
President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his 2019 State of the Union address at 8 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Watch live in the player above, followed by a Democratic response delivered by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The bitter partisanship of the past two years was on full display Tuesday just hours before President Donald Trump was to call for optimism and unity in his State of the Union address.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York seems to have triggered the latest Trump twitter outburst when he said on the Senate floor that the president talks about unity in his annual addresses to the nation but “spends the other 364 days of the year dividing us.” He accused Trump of “blatant hypocrisy.”Minutes later, Trump tweeted that Schumer hadn’t even seen the speech and was “just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune.”Skepticism was already expected from both sides of the aisle for Trump’s televised address to lawmakers and the nation. Democrats, emboldened after the midterm elections and the recent shutdown fight, see little evidence that the president is willing to compromise. Even Trump’s staunchest allies know that bipartisan rhetoric read off of a teleprompter is usually undermined by scorching tweets and unpredictable policy maneuvers.The deeply personal attacks show the challenge for Trump as he attempts a reset with Congress. Still, the fact that his advisers feel a need to try a different approach is a tacit acknowledgement that the president’s standing is weakened as he begins his third year in office.The shutdown left some Republicans frustrated over his insistence on a border wall, something they warned him the new Democratic House majority would not bend on. Trump’s approval rating during the shutdown dipped to 34 percent, down from 42 percent a month earlier, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.White House press secretary Sarah Sanders indicated the president would highlight what he sees as achievements and downplay discord.“You’re going to continue see the president push for policies that help continue the economic boom,” Sanders said Monday night while appearing on “Hannity” on Fox News. “You’re also going to see the president call on Congress and say, ‘Look, we can either work together and get great things done or we can fight each other and get nothing done.’ And frankly, the American people deserve better than that.”But Washington’s most recent debate offered few signs of cooperation between Trump and Democrats. Under pressure from conservative backers, Trump refused to sign a government funding bill that did not include money for his long-sought border wall. With hundreds of thousands of Americans missing paychecks, Trump ultimately agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow negotiations on border security to continue.With the new Feb. 15 funding deadline looming, Trump is expected to use his address to outline his demands, which still include funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure wall funding if Congress doesn’t act, though it appeared unlikely he would take that step Tuesday night. Advisers have also been reviewing options to secure some funding without making such a declaration.“You’ll hear the State of the Union, and then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union,” Trump told reporters.Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he remains hopeful Congress can resolve the dispute.“Democrats can call it a fence, the president can all it a wall and then we can call it a day, which I think is one way of skinning the cat,” said Cornyn, who is a close adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.The president’s address marks the first time he is speaking before a Congress that is not fully under Republican control. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who won plaudits from Democrats for her hardline negotiating tactics during the shutdown, will be seated behind the president — a visual reminder of Trump’s political opposition.In a letter Monday night to House Democrats, Pelosi wrote that she hopes “we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”In the audience will be several Democrats running to challenge Trump in 2020, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, will deliver the party’s response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become Georgia’s first black governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for Senate.Schumer earlier previewed Democrats’ message for countering Trump, declaring Monday, “The number one reason the state of the union has such woes is the president.”While Trump was still putting the final touches on the speech Tuesday, he was expected to use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy. Despite the shutdown, the U.S. economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth. That’s the longest such period on record.Trump and his top aides have also hinted that he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Despite the objections of some advisers, Trump announced in December that he was withdrawing U.S. forces in Syria.In a weekend interview with CBS, Trump said efforts to defeat the IS group were “at 99 percent right now. We’ll be at 100.”The U.S. military says the Islamic State group now controls about 5 square kilometers (less than 2 square miles) in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Syria, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated. Including the large swath of desert around the villages, the militant group controls more than 50 square kilometers (20 square miles). The figures do not include IS militants in other parts of the country.That’s down from an estimated 400 to 600 square kilometers (155 to 230 square miles) that the group held at the end of November before Trump announced the withdrawal, according to two officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.However, a Defense Department inspector general report released Monday said the Islamic State group “remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that could likely resurge in Syria” absent continued counterterrorism pressure. According to the Pentagon, the group is still able to coordinate offensives and counteroffensives.Administration officials say the White House has also been weighing several “moonshot” goals. An announcement is expected on a new initiative aimed at ending transmissions of HIV by 2030. “He will be asking for bipartisan support to make that happen,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.Trump’s guests for the speech include Anna Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who was allegedly bullied because of his last name. They will sit with first lady Melania Trump during the address.Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville, Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Share
00:00 /56:05 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen X On Wednesday’s Houston Matters: We learn more about the annual homeless count from The Coalition for the Homeless. In 2018, for the first time, the count showed a spike in the unsheltered population by 18 percent. The Coalition says that was mostly due to Hurricane Harvey. Today, we learn what homelessness in Houston looks like more than a year and a half out from the storm.Then, panhandlers are a common sight on street medians and sidewalks around town. We discuss how Houstonians could best help our homeless population.Also this hour: We discuss the latest developments in politics on this week’s political roundup.And Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn takes us behind the scenes of last weekend’s ESPN’s Collegiate Esports video game championship.We offer a daily podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcasting apps. This article is part of the Houston Matters podcast Share
00:00 /00:40 X Listen – / 2 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Amazon officially opened a new tech hub in Houston Friday.The Bayou City didn’t get the online retailer’s second headquarters, but it’s now one of 18 cities with an Amazon tech hub.The one here is Amazon Web Services, or AWS, which helps companies with their digital and cloud needs.It’s located at Citycentre, where the Katy Freeway meets Beltway 8.At the grand opening, Mayor Sylvester Turner said having this new hub shows the city has progressed after failing to get “HQ2.”“I mean the very fact that we’re here today and they’re opening this tech center indicates that it’s a win-win for both Amazon and the city of Houston,” he said.The mayor also called the opening “a leap” forward in Houston’s effort to become a top tech innovation city.“Quite frankly, you can’t have a strong ecosystem without having a strong presence by Amazon,” Turner said. “The very fact that they are expanding their presence here in the city speaks volumes.”Kris Satterthwaite, enterprise sales leader at AWS Gulf Coast, echoed that sentiment.“If you think about the talent we have here in the city, the innovation that’s taking place, I mean it’s really one of the best cities in the world,” he said. “So that’s one of the key reasons that we’re investing heavily in Houston and continue to expand.”Houston is the third city in Texas to get an Amazon tech hub after Austin and Dallas. Share