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4 die in frigid conditions on Canada-MN border; Florida man charged with human smuggling

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4 die in frigid conditions on Canada-MN border; Florida man charged with human smuggling

EMERSON, MANITOBA — Four people, including an infant, were found dead just north of the Canada-Minnesota border, authorities announced Thursday, and a Florida man has been charged with human smuggling in relation to the incident.

According to a news release from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the bodies of an adult man, woman and infant were discovered at approximately 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The body of another male, believed to be a teenager, was discovered shortly thereafter. All of the victims were located some 40 feet from the U.S.-Canada border on the Canadian side just east of Emerson, Manitoba.

Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commander of the RCMP in Manitoba, told reporters Thursday the incident is “an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

According to a Thursday news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Steve Shand, 47, of Florida was arrested after Border Patrol agents stopped a white passenger van about 1 mile south of the border, between the Lancaster, Minn., and Pembina, N.D., ports of entry. Agents asked for the identification of the two passengers in the van and found they were undocumented Indian nationals.

As the agents were transporting Shand and the passengers to the Pembina Border Patrol Station, they encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border, walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. They said they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up. Members of the group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours.

One person in that group said he was carrying a backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys and some medication.

Officers of the RCMP were alerted to a possible situation after Border Patrol agents encountered the group of people who had crossed into the U.S. from Canada near Emerson. Agents informed the RCMP that one of the individuals was carrying items that were meant for an infant, but no infant was with that group.

The RCMP began a search of the area approximately 6 miles east of Emerson shortly after 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, after being alerted by their American counterparts.

According to the release, the four individuals appear to have died of exposure. RCMP officers are working to identify the individuals, and autopsies have been scheduled to confirm the cause of death.

Temperatures around northwest Minnesota and near Emerson were frigid late Tuesday into early Wednesday, with highs below zero on Wednesday. Temperatures were as low as minus-13 without wind chill.

The bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated from the other group. Two of the surviving Indian nationals suffered serious injuries and were transported to hospitals, including one in St. Paul.

In an updated release Thursday night, the RCMP said a thorough grid search was done of the area and no other victims were found.

The RCMP is investigating the incident in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Shand is suspected of being a part of a larger human smuggling operation, according to a court document filed with the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

The investigation into this, and the deaths of the four people in Canada, is ongoing. According to court documents, one of the Indian nationals reportedly said that he paid a “significant amount of money to enter Canada from India under a fraudulently obtained student visa.” The Indian national did not intend to study in Canada, but to enter the U.S. illegally, the court document said.

According to the court document, Shand had apparently rented a van from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday. It appears he made a stop at a Walmart in Fargo, N.D., on Tuesday; a receipt was found in the vehicle with the drinks and snacks that were found inside.

When he was arrested on Wednesday he was driving in a rural area away from other services, homes or ports of entry into Canada, according to the court document. He was also driving through blowing snow and snowdrifts. The court document says weather was “severe at the time with high winds, blowing snow and temperatures well below zero.” The area is also known by the Border Patrol as “a high incident area for human smuggling,” the document said.

Recently, there have been three separate incidents of human smuggling that occurred at the same location where Shand was arrested, the court document said.

Authorities had observed boot prints in the snow made by three people who had walked across the border at the location on Jan. 12. The boot prints apparently matched the same brand of boots being worn by the seven foreign nationals who were taken into custody when Shand was arrested.

Two other human smuggling incidents also apparently occurred in December 2021.

Court documents say a woman who was detained stopped breathing several times while in custody and may need to have part of her hand amputated due to frostbite.

Authorities also found a receipt from the La Quinta hotel in Grand Forks, N.D., dated Jan. 11, indicating this may not have been Shand’s first time in the area.

In a Thursday evening news release from the Border Patrol, Grand Forks Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony S. Good said he was saddened by the deaths.

“I am saddened there was loss of life and the fact a small child died makes it even more difficult. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones,” Good said in a statement, adding he was “incredibly proud” of the agents and RCMP partners who searched in the cold for the missing persons.

He added that “anyone thinking of crossing the border illegally in these treacherous conditions should not do it.”

“Smugglers only care about the money they are going to make and have zero regard for lives lost,” he said in the statement.

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Aaron Boone popped out of the dugout in the ninth inning to boos. It was not the Rays fans booing, but the large group of Yankees fans. The manager was headed to the mound to get Nestor Cortes, who had just given a leadoff single to Wander Franco—but had been brilliant all night.

Cortes dominated the Rays’ dangerous lineup for eight innings as the Yankees beat the Rays 7-2 at Tropicana Field Thursday night in the first of the four-game series.

The Yankees (32-13) have won three straight games and 13 of their last 18. They maintained the best record in baseball and increased their cushion in the American League East to 5.5 games over the Rays (26-18)

Cortes threw eight scoreless innings, but Franco scored on Manuel Margot’s single off Wandy Peralta to charge him with a run. It was his 18th consecutive start allowing three earned runs or less. The 27-year old scattered four  hits, walked one and struck out five for his fourth win of the season. It was just the second time in his career that Cortes pitched into the eighth inning.

Cortes walked Yandy Diaz to lead off the bottom of the first and then gave up a single to Harold Ramirez before getting out of the inning unscathed. Cortes matched scoreless innings with Yarborough, retiring 14 straight Rays. The Yankees most consistent starter this season, Cortes threw 109 pitches and got seven swings and misses, four off his four-seam fastball.

It was just the second time in his career Cortes had gotten through eight innings. He spared a bullpen that has been hit hard recently by injuries.

And gave a lineup that has also been hit by the injury bug a chance to catch up.

The Yankees were no-hit through five innings by Ryan Yarborough, who walked Anthony Rizzo in the first and then retired 14 straight before it unraveled in the sixth. Matt Carpenter, who had arrived in the Yankees clubhouse just hours before, was hit by a pitch, the first base runner since the first, and Marwin Gonzalez’s line drive to center field was the Bombers’ first hit of the night.

Aaron Judge grounded a single—98 miles an hour off the bat—up the middle to bring in the Yankees’ first run. The slugger, playing center field after Aaron Hicks was a late scratch, stole second. Miguel Andujar singled to drive in another and a  second run scored on the Rays’ throwing error on the play.

Isaiah Kiner-Falefa led off the seventh with a walk and scored on a Ralph Garza, Jr. wild pitch. Judge drove in the Yankees’ fifth run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo followed with a sharp line drive double that plated two more.

The Yankees signed Carpenter, who exercised his opt-out earlier this week, and immediately brought him into the fold with uncertainty about DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list.

LeMahieu, who had a cortisone shot in his wrist, was still out of the lineup and he tried hitting and took balls at third base before Thursday night’s game. He said the shot had not yet helped enough. The Yankees are also without Josh Donaldson, who is on the COVID-19 list but has not tested positive for the coronavirus. The third baseman is back in New York dealing with a respiratory illness. He is also facing a possible one-game suspension after his altercation with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, whom he repeatedly called “Jackie,” in reference to Jackie Robinson. Donaldson issued a statement saying that he and Anderson, who is Black and interpreted the comments as racist, have a mutual understanding. Donaldson is appealing the league’s discipline.

Thursday night, the Yankees were just trying to get through their first series against the always tough Rays. It is also the first of a streak in which the Bombers will play 10 out of 13 games against teams with a winning record, after facing the perpetually rebuilding Orioles seven out of the last 10.

Carpenter, signed by the Yankees after opting out of his minor league deal with the Rangers last week, arrived at the visitors’ clubhouse about an hour and a half before first pitch and minutes before he was hustled off to the hitters’ meeting. The three-time All-Star and former Cardinal was rushed into the lineup less than an hour before first pitch when Hicks was scratched with tightness in his right hamstring.

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

It’s the yellow caution tape that gets to me when I look at the pictures tweeted by the satirical website The Onion in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this week. Emblazoned with the words “Sheriff’s Line Do Not Cross,” the yellow tape is draped around the schoolyard after an 18-year-old man gunned down 19 small children who had recently finished their honor-roll ceremony.

Yellow is a bright, cheery color. It’s one of my 6-year-old daughter’s favorites. It’s the color of the sun, of sunflowers, of balloons and candy. It’s the color of her hair — soft and fine as corn silk.

On police tape, however, yellow is the color of every parent’s worst nightmare: that their child’s school became the target of yet another mass shooting, and that maybe their precious baby has been violently murdered.

It’s a fear we have lived with since the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, after which absolutely nothing was done to effect change when it comes to guns in America. In fact, since 20 children were shot down in cold blood in Newtown, Connecticut, gun laws have actually loosened in this country. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon deliver a decision undoing a long-standing New York law that forbids people from carrying guns in public without first demonstrating a “special need” for self-defense.

Wednesday morning, The Onion devoted its entire home page to dozens of images from mass shootings dating back to 2014, accompanied by the same devastating headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

The picture at the very top is the one of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, with the yellow tape circling a schoolyard that should have been filled with joyful kids. The image made the rounds across Twitter and trended rapidly. The Onion has a history of cutting to the chase when it comes to moments of extreme national tragedy in the way that only razor-sharp satire can. No one looking at it was laughing, though. Especially not parents, for whom that specific set of signifiers has a particularly horrific resonance.

The image of yellow tape, paired with police cars, sirens flashing, in front of a school — that’s the image that fills parents with the kind of grief they can taste. The kind that keeps them up at night, wondering if one day they too will have to face such a scene at their child’s school.

The crushing news out of Uvalde came about an hour before I was due to pick up my 6-year-old and her best friend from kindergarten. I could not get to the elementary school fast enough. My heart pounded, and I wiped at my eyes because I couldn’t see through my tears to drive. The radio didn’t help, as the scope and scale of the carnage in Texas began to crystallize. I was not alone in my race to get to my child. The schoolyard was filled with parents who had shown up early, who could not wait to wrap arms around their babies. Our worried, pained eyes met as we hustled toward the pickup line. But we didn’t speak. We couldn’t. What would we say?

The bell rang, and children burst forth from the school doors — yelling and laughing, chasing one another and running to their waiting parents. Little kids full of giggles and questions, wearing clothes dirty from play, shoelaces untied, hair messy, faces caked in food, bearing lopsided smiles.

As we walked back to the car, my daughter and her friend chattered on about the dance party they had in school and the glow-in-the-dark bracelets they got as a special treat. They wore paper crowns that they made in art class, decorated with tender kid drawings: smiling faces, stick arms, flowers and birds.

The worry and fear were more palpable Wednesday morning, as parents who had spent the night stewing in this new horror were further processing its vast implications — and realizing that this grief was theirs to shoulder forever, maybe, unless actual change was made in favor of common-sense gun legislation.

This week had been spirit week at Robb Elementary, and Tuesday was foot loose and fancy-free day, with the kids encouraged to wear their fanciest footwear. We parents had to grapple with images of tiny bodies in glittery, fabulous shoes — shoes that made the morning fun and exciting to kids who were still learning to read. I thought about that as I put my daughter’s feet into her own glittery shoes as we got ready for school. They are the kind that light up when she runs. She finds so much joy in those shoes. Because little kids can find joy in anything.

I thought about not taking my daughter to school this morning. But I did. And I wasn’t alone. We parents got up and did it again. As we walked toward the main doors, we held our children’s hands a bit more tightly. Many parents got down on their knees at the school gate and hugged their kids longer than usual. Our eyes still filled with worry. We were not yet ready to speak.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a conversation I had with my daughter a few nights ago, just before the nightmare in Uvalde. I had just put her to bed, when she got up again and came timidly into my room. She said two things were “concerning her.”

She asked if dying meant she would never imagine anything again. I said that was likely the case. I told her everyone dies. That her daddy would die one day, that I would and that she would too. But, I said, she didn’t have to worry about that for a long, long time.

She asked how people die. I told her it happens when our hearts stop beating — from sickness, or accidents, or when we are very, very old.

She nodded and then said, “Maybe if I die, I’ll come back as a little baby somewhere else.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Some people believe that. Your grandma Boo always said she would come back as a yellow butterfly. That’s why when we see yellow butterflies, we think of her.”

She thought about this for a moment.

“I’m going to come back as a black and white cat,” she said. “And I’m going to show up at your door, and you’ll know it’s me. I’ll push up against your door, and I won’t go.”

I liked the image of the cat, but I didn’t at all like the idea that I would still be around when she was not.

I told her, “Oh, sweetheart, I hope I’ll be long gone before then.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I said, “I hope I die before you. Mamas should die before their babies.”

“Most mamas and daddies stay alive until their babies are gone,” she said.

I could tell she needed me to say I’d never leave her, so I said, “OK, deal. I’m not going anywhere, as long as you promise not to either.”

“Deal,” she said.

I kissed her and tucked her back in. Then I went to my room and cried my eyes out.

Parents aren’t supposed to lose their babies. We aren’t supposed to show up at school to be confronted by the shock and horror of yellow tape and police cars on a clear blue day just before summer vacation is about to begin. We aren’t supposed to digest one mass shooting after another after another, always hoping that the bullets won’t one day fly closer to home.

And we should never have learned to accept the standard line after such a tragedy occurs, the one currently blanketing The Onion’s homepage in a heart-shattering tableau of yellow tape and emergency vehicles. Like a relentless funeral dirge, it reads: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Jessica Gelt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

 

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Yankees, Rays tweet about gun violence instead of game

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Yankees, Rays tweet about gun violence instead of game

The Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays shared facts about gun violence instead of baseball on their Twitter timelines during Thursday night’s game.

“In lieu of game coverage and in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rays, we will be using our channel to offer facts about the impacts of gun violence,” the Yankees said in a statement before first pitch. “The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”

On Tuesday, an 18-year-old fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde. Ten days earlier, a white teenager targeted a Black grocery store in Buffalo for his own rampage, killing 10 people and wounding three more.

One of the Yankees’ and Rays’ tweets was about the disproportionate impact of gun violence on Black communities.

“Every three hours, a young Black man dies by gun homicide,” the teams wrote.

In addition to the tweets, the Rays announced a $50,000 donation to Everytown for Gun Safety. Rays relief pitcher Brooks Raley is from Uvalde and graduated from Uvalde High School, the same school that killer Salvador Ramos attended.

“Every day, more than 110 Americans are killed with guns, and more than 200 are shot and injured,” the teams wrote to open the game.

Other tweets touched on topics such as domestic violence and suicide, and how access to guns can make things worse.

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