Things That Matter

Youngest Victim Of Alabama Tornado Is 6-Year-Old Armando ‘AJ’ Hernandez

The community of Beauregard, Alabama is still cleaning up after a deadly F3 tornado tore through the rural area. The death toll of the tornado is at 23 people and all missing people have been accounted for. The youngest victim of the tornado is 6-year-old Armando “AJ” Hernandez. The weekend saw 34 tornadoes touch down in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina as the storm cell moved through the southeastern part of the U.S.

Twenty-three people died during a catastrophic weekend of tornado activity in the southeastern U.S.

Credit: @wsfa12news / Twitter

President Trump tweeted about the tornado saying he directed FEMA to offer the impacted communities “A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama.” The victims range in age from 6 to 89 years old. According to USA Today, the tornado that struck Lee County Alabama had sustained winds of 170 mph and cut a mile wide swath through 70 miles in the rural community.

Armando “AJ” Hernandez is the youngest victim to die in the tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

Hernandez’s mother, Kayla Melton, posted during the storm desperate to find her son. Family, friends, and strangers flooded the comments of her plea for help with offers of prayers and condolences before it was confirmed that Hernandez had died in the tornado. Others offered to go look for her child in the wreckage of Beauregard, Alabama that has been seen on national news stations.

When the news of Hernandez’s death was confirmed, his aunt posted a heartbreaking message about her nephew.

Credit: Tina Melton / Facebook

Strangers came together to offer his aunt support on social media after hearing about the tragic death of the little boy.

“I do not know you but my heart breaks for you all,” Facebook user Michelle Brown Burris wrote on Tina Melton’s post. “My best friend lost her daughter in the Joplin tornado in 2011. I know the pain may seem unbearable but I pray that God brings you all some comfort especially to his mother.”

Hernandez was with his older brother and father in their home when they took a direct hit from the tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

According to Al.com, Hernandez, his 10-year-old brother, and their father huddled in the closet when the tornado started to tear through the rural community. Despite the father holding onto both boys, the house took a direct hit from the tornado and the children were torn from his arms.

Hernandez’s brother was found after the storm and had a broken arm and a skull fracture. Hernandez’s father sustained broken ribs and other minor injuries.

“They’re holding up,” Bobby Kidd, Hernandez’s grandfather, told AL.com about the state of the family after the storm. “They’re holding up better than I would be. I know it’s going to get difficult as we go home… But Beauregard is the greatest community.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with costs related to the devastating tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

“On Sunday, March 3, 2019, A destructive tornado devastated Lee County, Alabama leaving many families heartbroken. My best friend Kayla Melton was affected tremendously by this. She lost her home, and most importantly her son Armando ‘AJ’ Hernandez,” reads the GoFundMe page.

“We can only imagine the hurt that her family is experiencing at this time. Her boyfriend and her other son have been transferred to UAB hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.  We know that God is still in control even in the midst of turmoil.”

“If you would be so kind to please consider donating to help this family in their time of need it would be greatly appreciated.”

“If you are unable to donate please send up a prayer for this family and others affected by this catastrophic weather event.”

“Thank you and God bless.”

President Trump has announced a trip to the devastated area on Friday to survey the damage.

Credit: @TheRealDWoo / Twitter

“President Trump has been very gracious and pledged his unwavering support to Alabama since the devastating storms and tornadoes struck Alabama over the weekend,” Governor Kay Ivey told USA Today. Gov. Ivey also confirmed that Trump approved her request for a major disaster declaration.

READ: Coastal Towns In Southwestern Mexico Flooded From Major Storm Surges From Hurricane Willa

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Alabama Abortion Activists Scored A Major Win As Federal Judge Blocks Near-Total Abortion Ban

Things That Matter

Alabama Abortion Activists Scored A Major Win As Federal Judge Blocks Near-Total Abortion Ban

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A federal judge has temporarily halted a near-total abortion ban from going into effect in Alabama, originally slated for enforcement on November 15. That decision, made by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, blocks all of the near-total abortion bans passed by red states this year. The law would have criminalized both doctors who perform abortions and the women who receive them, with no exception for rape or incest victims. Doctors who performed the procedure would be faced with prison sentences up to 99 years.

While this is all very good news for women, especially the rapidly growing Latino population in Alabama, the decision just brings the question of abortion closer to the Supreme Court, where anti-abortion legislators hope to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“It defies the United States Constitution,” writes U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.

Credit: @ResistMoveTRM / Twitter

Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act “violates Supreme Court precedent,” because it bans abortion before the fetus is viable, Thompson writes. Thompson goes on to discuss the irreparable harm that enforcement of the ban would cause while awaiting the court to decide on the matter. “Enforcement of the ban would yield serious
and irreparable harm violating the right to privacy and preventing women from obtaining abortions in
Alabama.”

Thompson puts it bluntly: “A near-total ban imposes
substantial costs on women,” he concludes, referring to the financial and emotional cost on women who are unable to obtain an abortion, along with the women who would be so desperate, they may attempt to self-abort at great risk to their own health.

All this to say that Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah are all still places women can legally exercise their reproductive rights.

Credit: @zeroultra4 / Twitter

As quickly as these states passed their severely restrictive abortion bans, some that were so early in the pregnancy that most women aren’t even aware that they’re pregnant yet, the ACLU filed a lawsuit. As the non-profit announced the news, supporters flooded Twitter with comments like “HELL YEAH” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the work that you do!”

Of course, just as many opponents of the decision have made their opinion heard, too. “The ACLU used to defend free speech. Now they advocate infanticide,” tweets one Richie Angel. Latinas might be the loudest voices yet, because one Maria Florencia Freijo responded to Richie, “Callate pelotudo. Shut UP.”

Abortion restrictions disproportionately affect low-income POC, and legislators know it.

Credit: @globalissuesweb / Twitter

“Many Latinxs understand that these bans only serve to hurt our community,” Maria Elena Perez, Deputy Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) told POPSUGAR. “What we know to be true about these restrictions is that they disproportionately affect low-income people of color who are forced to travel long distances and pay high costs to obtain abortion care. People with means will always seek abortion care somewhere else. And undocumented Latinx immigrants, many of whom cannot travel for fear of detention and deportation, have even fewer options.”

In fact, research shows that the majority of Latinxs, regardless of religious faith, don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

When the Alabama ban was initially passed in March, a #YouKnowMe hashtag was born.

Credit: @gomezb1013 / Twitter

Amidst the initial fury that Alabama lawmakers elected to force any child or adult who was raped by a stranger or family member to carry the baby to full-term, women rallied. They flooded the Alabama statehouse and, if they couldn’t, they shared their abortion stories on social media under the hashtag #YouKnowMe. 

Once again, women must actively humanize themselves and their experiences for the men in power to listen. It shouldn’t matter if it’s your mother, your sister, or your daughter, because we’re full-fledged human beings who deserve rights no matter what we mean to you. For so many women, #YouKnowMe became a way to lift the shame around abortion and empower young women to choose how they want to start a family.

Women across America are celebrating the victory.

Credit: @jess_ez / Twitter

The fight is far from over. “As we have stated before, the State’s objective is to advance our case to the US Supreme Court,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said, “where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.” That leads many concerned over women’s reproductive rights, given the Supreme Court’s most recent Justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

READ: Google Maps Has Been Directing Women In Search Of Abortion Clinics To Anti-Choice Clinics

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Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. Nearly two years later and infrastructure is still in planning mode. That’s because, even though Congress allocated $20 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico, very little has been released to Puerto Rico.

As campaign season for 2020 is in full swing, Trump has ordered the largest, most expensive parade in U.S. history. Military tanks will line the National Mall. Warplanes will fly over the Washington Monument, and he’ll have his own televised address. Celebrating America’s Independence Day will cost $92 million, and it leaves behind Puerto Ricans.

On July 1, The House Oversight Committee sent a letter demanding the White House release sealed documents surrounding Hurricane Maria.

@JRehling / Twitter

A similar letter was sent on May 6th with no response. Democrats are now seeking a “compulsory process” that would legally require the administration to hand over the documents. The Bush administration released 18,000 documents related to Hurricane Katrina when asked.

The Trump administration has come under fire for its lack of response to the disaster. What is it hiding?

In October 2017, Trump visited a Puerto Rican church and tossed paper towels.

@6halfdozenother / Twitter

Given that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, critics point to this moment as an example of the lack of empathy shown by the President of the United States for U.S. citizens in the midst of a worsening tragedy.

At the time, he painted the death toll of 16 people as a victory.

Trump argued that Maria wasn’t “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

@climateprogress / Twitter

In an attempt to downplay the impacts of Maria, Trump used the false death count toll as a symbol of victory. He later refused to acknowledge the official death toll of nearly 3,000 deaths.

The death toll rose in the six months following the storm as a result of the lack of electricity, clean water, and weakened healthcare.

Netflix

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz blames the Trump administration for “neglect.” “I screamed, literally, out at the top of my lungs to say ‘We’re dying here’ and the bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the federal government was killing us,” she told BBC news.

The Puerto Ricans who used FEMA’s hotel vouchers on the mainland are now largely homeless.

Netflix

Netflix’s documentary After Maria depicts a total lack of strategy for Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed by Maria. They were granted a fixed amount of time in hotels on the mainland, without any support to rebuild their home. When the time ran out, they were transferred to homeless shelters.

The state of Georgia has implemented a ‘Puerto Rican interview’ for those applying for a driver’s license.

@carlitocenteno / Twitter

After Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services refused to return Puerto Rican Kenneth Cabán’s identity documents, Cabán is suing the department for “unlawful and discriminatory treatment of American citizens from Puerto Rico.” The agency claims Puerto Rican documentation is cause for “fraud review.”

All this making it clearer that Puerto Ricans are second class citizens.

@ricardorossello / Twitter

Twitter user Carlos Centeno thinks that “too many white folks, we Puerto Ricans are undocumented immigrants until we prove otherwise. What Georgia is doing is not only racist, it’s economically debilitating to these U.S.-born citizens and their families.”

In After Maria, we witness how these experiences lead displaced Puerto Ricans to conclude that they’re not wanted.

Netflix

As devastating as Hurricane Maria was to the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, what After Maria shows is the psychological effects of what happened after. We see a young pre-teenaged girl fall into a depression as she’s bullied by her new peers in New York. We see how the system failed Puerto Ricans and how there could be no other reasonable conclusion for the survivors.

There’s the trauma of experiencing that hurricane and surviving, while so many didn’t.

@yarimarbonilla / Twitter

Folks are already tweeting about the stress of the power going out already, in July. Puerto Rico isn’t ready for another hurricane season. It’s still recovering from 2017.

And the trauma of prepping for another season.

@luvsjoonie / Twitter

Many Puerto Ricans want to be granted statehood. They want the same treatment and respect offered to victims of Hurricane Harvey. They do pay taxes, but they don’t benefit like other taxpayers.

Largely, Puerto Ricans have taken it upon themselves to cope and recover.

@NPR / Twitter

These are volunteers at a retirement community in Rio Piedras. They’re helping to train its residents on how to cope and deal with the stress and depression that persists years after Hurricane Maria. Given that those communities were at much higher risk of mortality after the hurricane, the fear is credible.

With news that Trump’s Fourth Parade might get washed out, this Puerto Rican has one thing to say:

@MAGGIEHALOWELL / Twitter

Hope it helps. Happy 4th of July.

READ: Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin Killed A ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill In Puerto Rico Furthering LGBTQ+ Rights In The Caribbean

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