Nation and World briefs for January 9

Asylum seekers find it’s catch and can’t release fast enough

SAN DIEGO — President Donald Trump says he has ended “catch-and-release” for asylum seekers, but in cities on the U.S. border with Mexico it is catch and can’t release fast enough.

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Since late October, the U.S. has been releasing asylum-seeking families so quickly they don’t even have time to make travel arrangements, which it blames on lack of detention space. Families are often given court dates without even having to pass initial screenings by asylum officers. They end up in shelters run by charities, or are dropped off at bus stations in border cities.

For one Salvadoran family that dizzying series of events began when their 7-year-old daughter, Yariza Flores, landed on barbed wire after being hoisted over a border fence during their illegal crossing last month. She was rushed to a San Diego hospital to stop profuse bleeding.

Just four days later, U.S. authorities dropped her off at a San Diego shelter with her parents and 3-year-old brother. They had no money, the clothes on their backs and an order given to them during their stint in U.S. custody to appear in immigration court in Houston, where they planned to live with Yariza’s grandmother and two aunts. They didn’t even have time to arrange for relatives to buy bus tickets before they were released.

“I feel happy because we’re finally here, we’re finally going to see my family,” the girl’s mother, Tania Escobar, said in the shelter dining hall after a meal of shredded chicken, rice and beans. Her daughter sat nearby, all smiles, wearing a silver crown that a Border Patrol agent gave her and holding a stuffed animal from a doctor who treated the severe cuts on her lower back.

Far-right German lawmaker is severely beaten in Bremen

BERLIN — A lawmaker from the far-right Alternative for Germany party was attacked and seriously wounded by several men in the northwestern city of Bremen in what police said Tuesday may have been a politically motivated assault.

The beating of Frank Magnitz, a lawmaker in the national parliament who leads the party’s branch in Bremen, drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.

“There’s zero tolerance for violence, whoever is affected and wherever the violence comes from,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told The Associated Press.

“We need to do everything to find the culprits and hold them to account.”

Police said the 66-year-old Magnitz was beaten by three people in dark clothing and hoods or hats, who then fled. Two workers loading a car nearby found him on the ground and called an ambulance.

Trump’s AG pick has argued presidents have robust powers

WASHINGTON — William Barr once advised that a president didn’t need Congress’ permission to attack Iraq, that his administration could arrest a foreign dictator and that the FBI could capture suspects abroad without that country’s consent.

It’s an expansive view of presidential power and an unsettling one for Democrats as the Senate holds a confirmation hearing next week for Barr, a onetime attorney general and President Donald Trump’s pick to again serve as America’s top law enforcement official.

Democrats already fear that Barr, if confirmed, would be overly deferential to Trump in a position where legal decisions aren’t supposed to be guided by political considerations. Trump has made clear he demands loyalty from an attorney general, repeatedly haranguing and ultimately forcing out his first one, Jeff Sessions, for not protecting the president from the Russia investigation.

Barr’s philosophy on presidential power adds to those concerns. As attorney general and in the years since, Barr has expressed his belief that presidents have broad authority, limiting the power of Congress and courts to hold them in check.

Those views were evident in an unsolicited memo Barr sent the Justice Department last year arguing Trump couldn’t have obstructed justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey. Barr contended presidents cannot be investigated for actions they’re lawfully permitted to take, arguments similar to those of Trump’s lawyers. That document raised Democratic alarms that Barr could influence special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in ways that protect Trump.

Florida felons rejoice after regaining their right to vote

ORLANDO, Fla. — The normally humdrum bureaucracy of registering to vote brought tears to the eyes of some Floridians on Tuesday when most felons regained their right to vote under a state constitutional amendment.

“I’ll be a human being again. I’ll be an American citizen again,” Robert Eckford said, choking up and weeping after filling out an application at the elections supervisor’s office in Orlando.

The ballot measure went into effect Tuesday, overturning a ban that netted Florida the highest number of disenfranchised felons in the nation. It potentially increases the pool of eligible voters by as many as 1.4 million people in a battleground state infamous for its narrow margins in key elections.

“I’m an ex-Marine,” said Eckford, who served seven years for a drug conviction. “I served this country. I’ve done my time. I’ve made some mistakes. But thank God the system works.”

Nearly 65 percent of Florida voters last November approved Amendment 4, which was crafted so that it would take effect on Tuesday. It applies to all felons who have done their time and completed the terms of their probation and parole, with the exception of people convicted of murder or sex offenses.

US medical marketing reaches $30 billion, drug ads top surge

Ads for prescription drugs appeared 5 million times in just one year, capping a recent surge in U.S. medical marketing, a new analysis found.

The advertisements for various medicines showed up on TV, newspapers, online sites and elsewhere in 2016. Their numbers soared over 20 years as part of broad health industry efforts to promote drugs, devices, lab tests and even hospitals.

The researchers estimated that medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997. Spending on consumer-focused ads climbed fastest. But marketing to doctors and other health professionals still grabbed the biggest share with the bulk of it paying for free drug samples.

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“Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, said Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert. Woloshin wrote the report with his wife, Dr. Lisa Schwartz, both longtime critics of overdiagnosis and overtreatment. She died in November.

They analyzed marketing data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Medicare, other federal and state agencies, private companies and medical research. The report covers 1997, when the FDA eased rules for TV ads, through 2016. Although some types of spending waxed and waned during those years, Woloshin said the upward trend is concerning and suggests consumers need to be increasingly skeptical about marketing claims.

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