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first_imgOn a bright May afternoon, two third-year Harvard Law School students set out on one of their regular visits to Dorchester and Mattapan. They are a slightly odd couple: Nick Hartigan, an intense, fast-talking 225-pound former running back, and David Haller, a laid-back native of Arkansas, with a slow Southern drawl. But they have been drawn together on a mission of hope. For the past nine months, the students have been driving through Boston neighborhoods in a car bought on Craigslist, offering to use their legal skills to help families stay in their homes and fight foreclosure.“Nothing good can happen in a vacant home,” said Hartigan. “The problem is not just for the people who are getting kicked out of these homes, it’s for those who live on the same street whose property value also drops. You can’t refinance, and if you want to sell your home, you are not going to be able to.”The banter on the trip from the Cambridge campus to Boston is like that of an old married couple. “I’m trying to keep the car nice and you don’t clean up after anything,” complained Hartigan to Haller, who was about to peel an orange in Hartigan’s 2002 Lincoln Continental, which periodically punctuated the conversation with a loud thumping noise from the undercarriage.But when the topic turns to the wave of foreclosures across the nation, this odd couple is of one mind.The pair are part of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student-operated organization created in 1913 to provide legal services and representation to those unable to afford it. One of the bureau’s four areas of specialization is housing law. As part of Hartigan and Haller’s weekly work with the bureau, they attend housing court, and each has several clients that they represent in a variety of housing court claims. And not long ago, the two came up with an effective, hands-on way to help more tenants in jeopardy —the students knock on one door at a time and explain to tenants their legal rights.“The people we talk to need just a little bit of help; they are on the cusp of doing really well, having their kids go to schools, and having good things happen, and all of a sudden the rug is taken out from under them. … That is a big blow,” said Hartigan. “It’s just a decision by people who have a ton of money that these people, who don’t have a lot of money, aren’t worth the time. It just seemed so unfair.”The problem, explained Haller, is with bankers who want to vacate the premises so they can board up a property until they can find a new buyer. They send representatives to tell the tenants they have to move out by the end of the month and offer them money as an incentive to leave. Often the tenants, who don’t know their rights, think the “cash for keys” offer is the only option and accept the deal.Before they came up with their canvassing idea, Haller and Hartigan were having modest success in the courtroom aiding tenants in need. But they wanted to reach more than just the handful of people they were able to help each week. The explosion of bank foreclosures made the choice an easy one.“We were looking for a way to provide some level of service to a lot more people,” said Haller.In advance of the actual canvassing, they teamed up with the WilmerHale Legal Services Center and Greater Boston Legal Services and created a foreclosure task force, visiting the five Boston housing courts each week, identifying candidates they could help, offering them advice and information, and running a special legal clinic every Friday. But they wanted to do still more.A massive canvassing effort seemed the best way to reach as many people as possible. Last September, they visited other institutions in the Boston area, recruiting undergraduates at 11 local colleges, universities, and law schools to be part of their team. They named their program “No One Leaves.”The process is simple: Each week, banks are required to list the properties being foreclosed upon in the Boston-based business paper Banker & Tradesman. The pair, with help from their technology expert and graduating Law School student Tony Borich, take the listings from the paper, create a spreadsheet, enter it into Google maps, divide up the properties among their volunteer corps, and start making house calls.The figures are dire. As the battered U.S. economy tries to regain its footing, thousands of new foreclosures are reported daily across the nation. According to the Warren Group, a Boston-based company that records real estate data from New England and publishes Banker & Tradesman, more than 12,000 homes were foreclosed on in Massachusetts in 2008.Wearing matching red T-shirts with “No One Leaves” on the back, the legal eagles encourage tenants to attend a weekly meeting organized by the group CityLife, a community outreach program located in Jamaica Plain.“No One Leaves” has recently been recognized by the Law School as a formal club, and has received funding. In addition, a group of eight current Harvard Law students have agreed to take over the program for next year. Hartigan and Haller hope that with some luck, it might even be expanded statewide.On their recent trip to Boston, the pair tried to convince a couple with four children that they should fight for their home.“We’ve got four kids; they kick us out; we are on the street,” said the young father from the porch of his rented house in Dorchester. “Who is going to rent us a place?” he asked. “No one.”“I would not go out without a fight,” said Haller.“It’s a long fight,” added Hartigan, “before you would ever have to leave.”The husband, who was initially worried they were asking for money, warmed quickly to the likeable pair. While his wife was more skeptical, a passing car helped Hartigan and Haller’s cause as the driver waved and yelled, “No One Leaves!” out the window.“That was Lee,” said Haller, “another client we were able to help.”Their sense of humor and close bond help them through the rough spots. On this day, in particular, they needed a little lightness. Several of the homes they attempted to visit were completely boarded up, a sign that a bank representative had arrived ahead of them and persuaded the tenants to move out.“This is a hell of a bad run,” said Hartigan with a disappointed sigh, as they reviewed the list of properties that were now vacant.But their work has yielded many successes.They point to the near-capacity CityLife meetings that take place on a weekly basis, and the growing list of their own clients who have managed to stay in their homes.“It’s a very tough spot for a lot of people,” said Hartigan. “All we are trying to do is find some sort of outlet for both owners and tenants — so they can try to find some sort of way through this.”last_img read more

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first_imgTwo new studies involving evolutionary genomics, computer simulations, and travel records from the COVID-19 pandemic suggest that inadequate travel monitoring, contact tracing, and community surveillance allowed the novel coronavirus to spread unchecked to and throughout North America and Europe in late January or early February.The studies, published late last week in Science, traced the United States’ COVID-19 outbreak to a traveler who flew from China to Seattle in late January or early February, seeding the nation’s first outbreak, which then went undetected for 3 to 6 weeks.Undetected, uncheckedThe first study, led by University of Washington researchers in Seattle, involved genomic analysis of 453 SARS-CoV-2 viruses, which cause COVID-19, collected from the Washington state outbreak from Feb 20 to Mar 15 and coronavirus testing of more than 10,000 respiratory specimens collected as part of the Seattle Flu Study from Jan 1 to Mar 15.Finding that 84% of the virus genomes in Washington state were closely related and derived from a variant of the virus from Wuhan, China, the researchers concluded that the source of the outbreak probably was a traveler who flew from China to Seattle between Jan 22 and Feb 10.The first confirmed US coronavirus case was identified on Jan 19 in a traveler, designated as “WA1,” who returned to Seattle on Jan 15 from Wuhan. The traveler’s virus genome was similar to others involved in the Washington state outbreak but different enough to make it unlikely that he or she was the source of the outbreak.COVID-19 spread undetected in Washington state until Feb 28, after US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing criteria were broadened to include nontravelers, which the authors said highlights the importance of continuing widespread community surveillance even after an outbreak is controlled. “We see the combination of community surveillance, genomic analysis and public real-time sharing of results as empowering new systems for infectious disease surveillance,” they wrote.Within a month, the state had reported 2,580 cases and 132 deaths, the result of both increased testing and community transmission.The genomic sequences of most coronavirus samples collected from New York and Connecticut were different from those found in Washington state and similar to those from Europe, the researchers said. Virus samples from earlier in the pandemic and other locations will be needed to pinpoint the specific date and geographic origin of the introduction of the virus in Washington state, they said.Too little, too lateThe second study consisted of computer simulations of epidemic epidemiology and analysis of 1,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes from around the world. Its reconstruction of coronavirus transmission in Washington state suggests that public health officials acted quickly to quash the outbreak after identification of the Jan 19 case, which bought them some time to prepare for community transmission.Likewise, the authors credited quick responses to earlier virus introductions in Germany for relatively successful initial disease suppression.But US officials’ failure to closely monitor travelers returning from China in late January or early February—when contact tracing and case isolation might have been most effective—may have led to multiple introductions of COVID-19 in both Washington and California, the authors said. The United States banned incoming flights from China on Feb 2.The researchers studied the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Europe, involving an auto supplier visiting the company’s headquarters in Bavaria, Germany, from Shanghai, China, on Jan 20, suspected to be the origin of the massive outbreak in Lombardy, Italy. But they found no such connection; rather, a simulation showed that the virus likely spread directly from China to Germany and Italy and that multiple travelers from Italy brought the virus to New York City.Lead author Michael Worobey, PhD, of the University of Arizona at Tucson, said in a university press release said that the very detailed computer simulations enabled researchers to ask questions about the pandemic’s behavior.”In the Washington case, we can ask, ‘What if that patient WA1 who arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 15 really did start that outbreak?’ Well, if he did, and you re-run that epidemic over and over and over, and then sample infected patients from that epidemic and evolve the virus in that way, do you get a pattern that looks like what we see in reality? And the answer was no,” he said. “If you seed that early Italian outbreak with the one in Germany, do you see the pattern that you get in the evolutionary data? And the answer, again, is no.”Study findings also ruled out the theory that the virus spread to British Columbia before spreading south to Washington state, the authors said. While viral variants from Washington state appeared similar to those from British Columbia, they did not match.Today, many identical COVID-19 genomes are spreading quickly because SARS-CoV-2 mutates more slowly than it spreads.”This genetic similarity places limitations on some inferences such as calculating the ratio of imported cases to local transmissions in a given area,” the authors wrote. “Yet we have shown that, precisely because of this slow rate, when as little as one mutation separates viruses, this difference can provide enough information for hypothesis testing when appropriate methods are employed.” The study findings underscore the value of implementing intensive, community-level respiratory virus surveillance, like that of the Seattle Flu Study, before a pandemic, the authors said. “Our research shows that when you do early intervention and detection well, it can have a massive impact, both on preventing pandemics and controlling them once they progress,” Worobey said.”While the epidemic eventually slipped through, there were early victories that show us the way forward: Comprehensive testing and case identification are powerful weapons.”last_img read more

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first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAYlast_img read more

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first_img Share Tweet Sharing is caring! 8 Views   no discussions Sharecenter_img Share NewsRegional US court rules law targeting smugglers in Caribbean Sea is illegal by: – December 5, 2012 US federal prosecutors in Miami said they have intensified efforts to crack down on drug smuggling in the CaribbeanMIAMI, United States – A United States Federal Court of Appeals has ruled that a law targeting drug smugglers in foreign waters, including the Caribbean Sea, is illegal.In what has been described as a blow to the unrelenting war on drugs, the Appeals Court concluded that the 1986 law used to charge defendants is illegal.The court’s ruling came in a case in which, two years ago, the US Coast Guard spotted a wooden fishing boat without lights and a flag off the coast of Panama and reported the suspicious vessel to the Panamanian Navy.The Coast Guard said the Navy then pursued the boat until its occupants jumped out and fled. The Coast Guard said it then found 760 kilos of cocaine on board.US officials said Panamanian authorities later arrested the four occupants on the beach and turned them over to US law enforcement authorities for prosecution.But the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals here has now vacated the drug traffickers’ convictions after finding that the US Congress exceeded its constitutional power when it passed a portion of that law that was used to prosecute the smugglers.The appeals court found that the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act could not be used for prosecuting drug smugglers arrested within the 12-mile territorial waters of foreign countries.In the 35-page decision, the appeals court concluded that the US Congress lacked the authority to pass part of the maritime act under its constitutional power to “define and punish offenses against the Law of Nations.“Drug trafficking was not a violation of customary international law at the time of the Founding [of the United States], and drug trafficking is not a violation of customary international law today,” the appeals court ruled.In the Panama case, US authorities said three of the four defendants have already served their US prison terms and have been deported, but one defendant is still serving a seven and a half year sentence.But, despite the appeals court’s ruling, US authorities said the case is of “first impression” that is likely to be challenged by the US Justice Department because of its unique significance.Authorities said it does not apply to the US prosecution of drug smugglers arrested in international waters. Those prosecutions make up the majority of maritime drug cases filed in federal courts, officials said. Officials also said the ruling does not affect the US federal prosecution of traffickers charged with using “stateless” submersible or semi-submersible vessels to import drugs on the high seas.“If this decision stands, it’s not going to be a deadly blow to the war on drugs,” said Miami attorney David Weinstein, who once headed the narcotics section of the US attorney’s office in South Florida.“But it is going to increase the level and depth of communications between the United States and foreign countries as they battle drug-trafficking together,” he added.In the meantime, US federal prosecutors in Miami said they have intensified efforts to crack down on drug smuggling in the Caribbean.US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said he has launched an initiative to target narcotics shipments from Colombia through the Caribbean basin, stating that authorities have detected an increase in drug smuggling activity.In highlighting the Caribbean crackdown, Assistant US Attorney George Karavetsos and Ferrer attended for the first time the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police meeting in the Bahamas last May.“We are here because we recognize we share a common threat,” said Ferrer in his address, warning Caribbean police officials about the dramatic increase in drug trafficking in the region.Caribbean 360last_img read more

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