Border Patrol Arrests Parents While Infant Awaits Serious Operation

Irma and Oscar Sanchez were apprehended by the Border Patrol when they took their infant son, Isaac, to a children’s hospital to have emergency surgery.

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When 2-month-old Isaac Enrique Sanchez was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a condition that causes vomiting, dehydration and weight loss in infants, his parents were told that their son’s condition was curable. The problem was that no hospital in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas had a pediatric surgery team capable of performing the operation on his stomach.

To make Isaac well, Oscar and Irma Sanchez would need to take their infant son to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was just a couple of hours up the highway, but for them it was a world away.

The Sanchezes, who are undocumented, would need to pass a Border Patrol checkpoint.

“The nurse told us we had to go there,” Oscar says in Spanish. “We said we couldn’t go.”

While they pondered their predicament in a Harlingen, Texas, hospital, a Border Patrol agent showed up in the waiting room — Oscar Sanchez suspects a nurse turned them in — and said he could arrange for officers to escort the parents through the checkpoint to Corpus. But the agent said when they arrived, they would be arrested and put into deportation proceedings. The couple agreed.

The events that followed at the Corpus Christi hospital are the latest developments in a national controversy over so-called sensitive locations. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Homeland Security adopted a policy that immigration agents should avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools, churches and public demonstrations unless there are special circumstances.

The Sanchezes’ 48-hour odyssey with federal agents shows the lengths to which the Trump administration will go to round up people in the country illegally, whether they have a criminal record or not. Immigrant advocates worry this is the new normal under President Trump’s immigration crackdown.

The Border Patrol followed the ambulance, the night of May 24, as it raced to Corpus through desolate ranchland, carrying Oscar, Irma and tiny Isaac — with an IV in his arm and a tube in his stomach. Once they arrived at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the green-uniformed agents never left the undocumented couple’s side. Officers followed the father to the bathroom and the cafeteria and asked the mother to leave the door open when she breast-fed Isaac.

“Everywhere we went in the hospital,” Oscar says, “they followed us.”

Customs and Border Protection says it is required to monitor subjects in custody “at all times” and tried to do so at the hospital “in the least restrictive manner possible.”

The next morning, agents took Oscar and Irma Sanchez, separately, from the hospital to the Corpus Christi Border Patrol station to be fingerprinted and booked. They were permitted to return. Oscar asked the surgeon if she could delay the operation until both parents could be in the waiting room. She agreed.

“You feel vulnerable,” Oscar says. “We didn’t know if they were going to let us stay with our son or not.”

The Border Patrol, in an email to NPR, says it made sure to leave one parent with the baby at all times and that agents played no role in the decision to postpone the operation.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital, citing patient privacy, declined to discuss the case.

On a recent Tuesday 3 1/2 months after the operation, Isaac sat on his mama’s lap — all pudgy cheeks and wide eyes, wearing a top covered with little race cars. The family lives in a tidy, weathered frame house in North Brownsville, Texas.

“Thank the Lord, everything went well,” Irma says. “He still throws up a little milk, but thank God he’s fine.”

Advocates are puzzled why the Border Patrol chose to put the Sanchezes under such intense supervision, which one would expect for higher-value targets like drug traffickers or MS-13 gang members. The couple has no criminal records. He works construction and landscaping; she stays home with their four children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

“I can’t pretend to understand any reasoning that would have led anyone up the chain of command to think that Irma and Oscar were flight risks or dangers to the community or in any other way people who needed to be followed into a hospital in order to be placed in deportation proceedings,” says Lisa Koop, a lawyer with the National Immigrant Justice Center. She will be asking an immigration judge in December to let the Sanchezes remain with their children in the U.S.

“That’s how you treat criminals that are harmful, and that’s understandable for our own protection,” says Ana Hinojosa, an immigrant advocate with the Mennonite Central Committee in Brownsville, who is also working on the case. “But they’re a family that’s just here trying to make a living, provide an education and a future for their children.”

Advocates are concerned that immigration enforcers are chipping away at places formerly considered safe zones. Three examples: Immigration agents detained six men leaving a church homeless shelter in Virginia; they removed a woman with a brain tumor from a Texas hospital and put her back in detention;and they arrested a father after he dropped off his daughter at school in Los Angeles.

As with the Corpus hospital, the agency maintains none of the arrests were actually made inside a sensitive location. But several members of Congress, all Democrats, are troubled just the same. They have proposed the “Protecting Sensitive Locations Act,” which would codify protected places in federal law. And it would expand them to include courthouses and bus stops.

“They’re pushing the envelope to the point where they’re trying to find out how far they can go,” says Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, one of the bill’s authors. He is outraged by what happened to the Sanchez family in South Texas. “It violates human decency,” he says. “You don’t interrupt medical procedures.”

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'Turning The Tables': Women Of The '90s

The real TLC (from left to right, Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas) in the early ’90s.

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  • Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know” from Jagged Little Pill
  • TLC – “Waterfalls” from CrazySexyCool
  • Alanis Morissette – “Ironic” from Jagged Little Pill
  • TLC – “Creep” from CrazySexyCool

In this special episode, we’re having a listening party inspired by Turning the Tables, NPR Music’s list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women. It was spearheaded by Ann Powers, our Nashville correspondent. She joins us — along with Alisa Ali from WFUV in New York City, Andrea Swensson from The Current in Minneapolis, and me, Talia Schlanger — to focus on a couple important records from that list that came out in the ’90s.

Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill in 1995 – it was an earth-shattering album for women in rock. But the ’90s were also really important for women in R&B, especially thanks to TLC‘s album CrazySexyCool, featuring the popular single “Waterfalls.”

TLC, Alanis Morissette and the contributions of female artists to rock and R&B in the ’90s are all coming your way in this episode. Stream the full Turning the Tables listening party in the player above.

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Obama Argues Against Dark Worldview, Defends Health Care Law

Former President Barack Obama speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center Wednesday in New York City.

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Former President Barack Obama delivered a rebuke of President Trump’s “America First” worldview Wednesday in New York, the same city where Trump is meeting with world leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“You have to start with a premise and believe that multilateral institutions and efforts are important,” Obama said, “and you don’t have to cede all your sovereignty and it doesn’t make you less patriotic to believe that. You just have to have some sense — and read.”

He also offered a vigorous defense of his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C., try to corral the final votes needed to pass their latest effort to repeal and replace the law.

“It is aggravating,” the former president said of watching yet another repeal effort, “and all of this being done without any … rationale, it frustrates. And it is certainly frustrating to have to mobilize every couple of months to prevent our leaders from imposing real human suffering on our constituents.”

Though he did not name Trump during his speech and a question-and-answer session that followed, Obama argued against a dark and pessimistic world outlook.

“We have to reject the notion that we are suddenly gripped by forces that we cannot control,” Obama said at a Goalkeepers conference, a gathering of young, international activists sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is among NPR’s financial supporters. “[We’ve] got to embrace the longer and more optimistic view of history and the role that we play in it. And if you are skeptical of such optimism, I will say something that may sound controversial … by just about every measure, America is better and the world is better than it was 50 years ago, 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. And I know that statement doesn’t jibe with the steady stream of bad news and cynicism that we’re fed through television and Twitter. But it’s true. Think about it: I was born at a time, for example, when women and people of color were systematically excluded from big chunks of American life. … even if we still have miles to travel and innumerable laws and hearts and minds to change. The shift in what this country is and what it means is astonishing, remarkable and it’s happened, when you measure it against the scope of human history [snaps fingers] in an instant.”

The Gates Foundation viaYouTube

Obama argued that crime, teen birth, dropout, poverty and uninsured rates are all down; and that the share of those with college degrees is up, as are median incomes and life expectancies. He also contended that democratic and civil rights — like the right to vote and the right to marry — have expanded for women, ethnic and racial minorities and gays and lesbians.

“All of this has happened in such a steady march that sometimes we have a tendency to take it for granted,” Obama said.

He added, “If you had to choose any moment in history in which to be born, and you didn’t know in advance whether you’re going to be male or female what country you’re going to be from, what your status was, you’d choose right now because the world has never been healthier or wealthier or better educated or in many ways more tolerant or less violent than it is today.”

That “Yes, we can” optimism stands in stark contrast with the nostalgia signified by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The current occupant of the White House rose to prominence and power by selling millions of Americans on a vision of America and the world now as dark and scary places.

Part of how Trump did that was by channeling their cultural anxieties. Obama hat tipped to that rising feeling of grievance as a critical problem in the world, describing it as: “The rise of nationalism and xenophobia and a politics that says it’s not ‘we’ but ‘us and them,’ a politics that threatens to turn people away from the kind of collective action that’s always driven human progress.”

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Episode 795: Is Record Breaking Broken?

Ashrita Furman broke the Guinness World Record for most balloons burst with chopsticks in one minute.

Stacey Vanek Smith

Ashrita Furmon has broken more than 600 records— earning him the Guinness World Record for most records broken. He grew up reading the Guinness Book of World Records. A lot of kids did. It’s one of the best selling books of all time.

But book sales have been dropping and now Guinness has started having to change the way it makes money. Now, record holders like Ashrita are being joined by a different kind of record breaker: celebrities and companies looking for publicity. People pay thousands to have Guinness orchestrate a record-breaking event for them.

This week on the show: how record purists reacted to Guinness’ pivot. Also, how our intern, Eduard Saakashvili, becomes part of the future of Guinness.

Music: “Turquoise Sun” and “Bass Debate.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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Hurricane Season Takes Its Toll On Home Sales And Builder Optimism

Electrician Chris Piazza works on a home being built in Destrehan, La., in March. The recent, enormous storms have hit the housing industry, with several signs turning negative.

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Gerald Herbert/AP

With Hurricane Maria still smashing up Puerto Rico, the economic costs of this year’s hurricane season continue to grow by the minute. It’ll take a while for economists to tally it all up.

But this much already is clear: The recent, enormous storms have taken a toll on the housing industry.

Three separate industry reports, issued over the past three days, have all shown that rough weather in the South and wildfires in the West have been creating problems for this key economic sector.

The streak started Monday when the National Association of Home Builders said its monthly industry survey showed a significant decline in optimism. The trade group’s confidence index dropped to a reading of 64, down 3 points from August, because “the recent hurricanes have intensified our members’ concerns about the availability of labor and the cost of building materials,” Granger MacDonald, the group’s chairman, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department said its measure of housing completions fell 10.2 percent in August from the previous month. And in the South, where Hurricane Harvey hit hard in late August, completions were down 22.2 percent. When weather prevents builders from completing projects on time, it hurts profits.

And on Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors said existing homes sales fell again, down 1.7 percent from July. The decline reflected the ongoing lack of inventory — that is, buyers can’t find enough affordable houses to purchase. But it also showed the impact of Hurricane Harvey, which kept many people from getting to their closings.

“Some of the South region’s decline in closings can be attributed to the devastation Hurricane Harvey caused to the greater Houston area,” Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist, said in a statement. “Sales will be impacted the rest of the year in Houston, as well as in the most severely affected areas in Florida from Hurricane Irma.”

Still, economists are optimistic about the longer-term outlook for housing because many other factors remain favorable. “With ongoing job creation, economic growth and rising consumer confidence, we should see the housing market continue to recover at a gradual, steady pace throughout the rest of the year,” National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz said.

Yun agreed that better days will come once the hurricane season ends, saying “nearly all of the lost activity will likely show up in 2018.”

And there’s one other factor that brightens the outlook: Millennials are getting older, paying off student debt and moving into their homebuying years, which is expected to drive demand.

At the end of its meeting Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Board issued a statement on the economy, and it too said that while the hurricanes have been hurting businesses and workers, the impact won’t last. “Storm-related disruptions and rebuilding will affect economic activity in the near term, but past experience suggests that the storms are unlikely to materially alter the course of the national economy over the medium term,” the board said.

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Miami Fourth-Graders Write About Their Experiences With Hurricanes

Antonio Santamaria (left), Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo, Louis Perez, and Olivia Geller.

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

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When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma.

By the time I visited, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced.

After drawing their experience during Hurricane Irma, students had an easier time talking about it to the class.

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

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The essays all started off this way: The name Irma will always strike fear, disappointment, and dismay in our city. Here’s what else they had on their minds:

Antonio Santamaria, 9

Antonio Santamaria

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR

“I felt like Dorothy and her dog in the Wizard of Oz, the winds were howling around my house, the rain came on and off, lights flickering on and off in the kitchen. Irma, she devastated the internet and the cable, so we played board games. We had a really good family time experience. Florida and hurricanes … it’s a perfect recipe for disaster. Now we have Maria and Jose and Lee on the loose. For them, I would suggest that you always should stay safe, always try to remember that even if it seems like the world is all darkness, it’s always gonna be a way out. Always. You may not see it, but it’s there.”

Emilia Rubalcaba, 9 & Veronica Segredo, 9

Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo

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Emilia: “Everyone was like really excited, because like, hello, like we’ve never been in a hurricane before, what this is like? And I’m like, ‘Just because you’ve never been in a hurricane before doesn’t mean it’s good.’ My mom and I evacuated to Canada, but first, we had to wait 11 hours to get on the flight.”

Veronica: “I wasn’t like scared or anything, I was fine. But we did lose power. Something I just wanted to say, my grandma’s name is called Irma, and now she wants to change her name.”

Olivia Geller, 9

Olivia Geller

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

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“It’s a little scary once it starts because most of us hadn’t been in a hurricane yet. Most of the hurricane was gloom, but not all of it. The actual day of the hurricane was boring. We played hide and seek and we ate snacks.”

She offers this advice: “Always stay inside, if you lose power have snacks in case you are really hungry. If something happens and you need to evacuate always put gas in your car.”

Louis Perez, 9

Louis Perez

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

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“A bad thing is that I had to go sleep in a closet. It’s kind of hard sleeping there like you’re always squished. But it was just for a day. It’s like a bad dream, happening in a fake world but it’s real. It was like swirling winds a lot. You could hear like schwooooo schwooo.

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A Neglected Family Of Killer Viruses

This computer-generated image shows the structure of the hepatitis B virus.

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We think of HIV, TB and malaria as some of the deadliest infectious diseases on earth. And the death tolls bear that out.

But there’s a family of viruses that is in the same league: hepatitis viruses.

There are five of them. Their alphabet soup of names tells us the order in which they were discovered: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. According to a new report from the Global Burden of Disease, the viruses kill 1.34 million people a year.

By contrast, HIV/AIDS claims 1 million lives a year. Estimates vary for malaria (from 429,000 deaths by WHO’s calculations to 719,000 deaths according to the new report). TB statistics range from 1.2 million in the study to 1.8 million from WHO).

The report from the Global Burden of Disease Study is conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which is a funder of this blog). The 2017 update was published in the Lancet earlier this month.

The hepatitis viruses are transmitted in different ways and belong to different virus families. What they do have in common is that they can all cause liver damage, and in some cases, liver cancer. Indeed, the definition of hepatitis is “a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver.” That liver damage is the main cause of death for people who are infected.

There’s one more thing the viruses have in common: They’re an overlooked cluster of killers. And that means the research dollars don’t flow as easily as they do to HIV.

The neglect may be that the viruses “don’t immediately kill you in most cases,” says Brent Korba, a research professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, who works on developing new drugs to treat hepatitis B. “It takes 30-plus years,” he says. People with long-term hepatitis infections often develop cancer in their 30s to 50s, when most people are at the peak of their earnings potential. “The economic impact of viral hepatitis is enormous,” says Korba,

The lack of fanfare may also stem from a lack of data about hepatitis as a cause of death, says Dr. David Witt, chief of infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael. When a person dies of cirrhosis or liver cancer, especially in poorer regions where autopsies are uncommon and laboratory testing is meager, the underlying viral infection isn’t always recognized. “It’s not evident,” says Witt. “People don’t think you have hepatitis.”

And it’s not a problem that’s going away: “The number of deaths due to viral hepatitis is increasing over time, while mortality caused by tuberculosis and HIV is declining,” WHO writes in its “Global Hepatitis Report 2017.”

The main culprits

Two of the five hepatitis viruses are the main killers: hepatitis B is responsible for 815,000 yearly deaths and hepatitis C, 489,000, according to the Global Burden of Disease data.

An estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B and 71 million have hepatitis C, per the World Health Organization. Most of them — 89 percent with hepatitis B and 80 percent with hepatitis C — don’t realize they’re even infected because symptoms may not appear for decades.

In its report, WHO promised to work on making viral hepatitis a public health priority and has set an ambitious goal to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health problem by 2030. The goal is to reduce the number of annual new cases by 90 percent and reduce deaths by 65 percent.

That will require a number of strategies to address the different types of the virus. Hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with blood from an infected person. Because doctors in poor areas may re-use needles without sterilizing them, unsafe injections are still a source of infection. Getting a transfusion of blood that hasn’t been screened properly can also cause an infection. Drug users can contract hepatitis B or C by sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia.

Hepatitis B can also be spread sexually and from mother to child during childbirth. The younger you are when infected, the more likely you are to develop chronic infection that can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Most people who contract hepatitis B or C are able to clear the virus from their bodies within a few months without treatment. Their immune system is able to fight off the virus. But some people can’t, so the virus lingers, and the infection becomes long-term, or chronic. Most of them will likely not show any symptoms although they can still spread the virus. But some will eventually develop complications from the infection like cirrhosis or liver cancer. By the time those health problems become evident, it’s usually too late to repair the damage to the liver.

The Nature Of Hepatitis A, D And E

The other hepatitis viruses also contribute to the toll on public health. Hepatitis D is rare in most countries, only infecting people who have Hepatitis B. That virus can bring on complications like cirrhosis or liver cancer sooner than in a person with Hepatitis B alone, although scientists don’t understand exactly why.

Hepatitis A and E, unlike the other hepatitis viruses, are usually transmitted via contaminated water or food. It’s difficult to count annual cases because many people show no symptoms. And the death toll is relatively low compared to hepatitis B and C — about 30,000 a year, according to the Global Burden of Disease Report. Although in some places these viruses are omnipresent: In countries with poor sanitation, as many as 90 percent of kids under 10 have been infected with hepatitis A.

Hepatitis E often occurs in refugee encampments. An estimated 20 million people are infected every year, although only 3 million will show any symptoms. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to dying from hepatitis E, probably because of hormonal and immune system changes that happen during pregnancy. The virus can also cause stillbirths.

Better weapons

But there’s some good news in the form of vaccines.

A vaccine exists for hepatitis A and is widely used, including in the United States. A vaccine for hepatitis E was recently developed and licensed in China but hasn’t yet been licensed in other countries.

A vaccine for hepatitis B was introduced in the early 1980s and “is a superb vaccine,” says Korba. Subsequent versions have been even cheaper and even more effective. Middle and high income countries started making hepatitis B vaccinations part of routine childhood vaccinations in the 1990s, but many poorer countries have only recently been able to add the vaccine to their routine schedule, often thanks to donor funding.

“A few billion people have had the vaccine,” Korba says. That effort is paying off. The rate of hepatitis B infections among children younger than five years old has dropped from 5 percent in the pre-vaccine era to just over 1 percent in 2015.

More can be done to prevent chronic infections that start early in life. Not all infants born to infected mothers are getting their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within the first 24 hours of birth, when it is most likely to prevent infection.

Developing a vaccine for hepatitis C has proven more difficult, but since 2014, new drugs to treat infections were licensed and have been effective. Unlike anti-retroviral treatment for HIV or current treatment options for hepatitis B that simply suppress the virus, the new treatments can completely clear the virus in about 95 percent of infected people within a year.

But the drugs are expensive, even though one manufacturer, Gilead, has made medications available at low cost for developing countries. One strategy is to get a special government license to manufacture and distribute the drugs. The Malaysian health ministry announced on Wednesday that they’ve approved this kind of license for the Egyptian pharmaceutical company Pharco. The Malaysian health ministry is currently conducting clinical trials for Pharco’s formulation of the drugs and trials are also happening or planned in South Africa, Thailand and Ukraine.

Cheaper alternatives for hepatitis C treatment will mean more widespread use, and that possibility has hepatitis experts cautiously hopeful. “Hepatitis C could be gone in a generation,” Witt says, although questions remain about how to strategically deploy this new treatment.

Rina Shaikh-Lesko is a science journalist who writes about medicine, global health and the life sciences. She can be reached @rinawrites

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'Stronger' Does The Hard Work To Earn Its Every Inspiring Moment

Work It, Make It, Do It: In Stronger, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, who was injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

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There’s one extraordinarily beautiful shot in Stronger that helps account for why this inspirational drama, about a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, stands out from other films of its kind. As the city of Boston processes this traumatic event and the manhunt that followed, Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, braces himself for the agony of having the dressing removed from his amputated limbs for the first time. The director, David Gordon Green, shoots the scene in shallow focus from the behind the bed, so all we see is Bauman’s face and the blurry activity of the procedure as it unfolds below. Bauman will become a symbol of the “Boston Strong” movement — cheered at Bruins and Red Sox games and pursued by media outlets and selfie-takers — but at this moment, he’s alone with his pain.

Then a second face emerges from the left side of the frame. Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), Bauman’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, was the reason he was standing at the finish line that day, cheering her attempt to complete her first marathon. Though they were off-again at the time, Hurley is there with him now and back in his life for the long haul. It’s a scene of profound intimacy that Green will recreate consistently throughout Stronger, which uses shallow focus to emphasize the distance between Bauman’s personal struggle and the city that needs him to serve as their avatar of courage and resilience.

In every sense the anti-Patriots Day, Stronger doesn’t necessarily seek to throw cold water on the “Boston Strong” rallying cry, but it does commit itself to understanding Bauman’s perspective and the private burdens of being a hero. In the early scenes, Green and screenwriter John Pollono underline Bauman’s average-guy qualities. Living in the sticks with his mother Patty (Miranda Richardson), a brash woman who hits the bottle hard, Bauman works at Costco during the day and typically goes barhopping with his buddies at night. His routine also includes breaking up and getting back together with Hurley, who’s prepping for her first Boston Marathon run.

Green doesn’t bother with a tick-tock on the bombing itself, except to show one of the perpetrators brush Bauman’s shoulder as he walks past, enough for Bauman to turn his head and get a good look at him. When he regains consciousness in the hospital later, Bauman gives the FBI a description of Tamerlan Tsamaev that aided in the effort to track him down. But that triumph is blunted by his long and painful journey back, which is exacerbated by the intensity of the media spotlight, conflict within his family, and his own battles with drinking, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

The key to Stronger is that it treats Bauman’s story as a coming-home narrative, like a soldier returning from the front lines with grievous injuries to his body and mind. The only difference is that Bauman faces an unusual set of circumstances that challenge his recovery and rehabilitation. Though the film stays firmly in his corner, it doesn’t assign him any special nobility and it doesn’t absolve his mother and father (Clancy Brown) of the mistakes they make along with way, too. When Bauman returns from the hospital, for example, he gets thrown a big party, but he doesn’t get a wheelchair-accessible staircase or any accommodations inside his mom’s apartment, either. Patty has thought about the Bruins game and a possible appearance on Oprah, but she hasn’t thought about how her son might use the bathroom.

Stronger is also one of the few films to get working-class Bah-ston talk right, with all the cacophony of The Fighter, but a more natural, improvisational back-and-forth between characters who are constantly talking over each other. Bauman’s family and friends are imperfect, as is Bauman, as is the process of rehabbing and getting used to prosthetic legs, which stalls out whenever his will gets drowned in beer. Gyllenhaal and Maslany are excellent as a couple that that’s reunited by fate, but don’t have all their problems worked out so tidily. Adversity may reveal how much they care about each other, but it doesn’t wave a magic wand.

Nothing comes easy in the film — even its generic title must be earned. Stronger is an answer to inspirational dramas that treat the afflicted like the city of Boston treated Bauman after the bombing, as a victory lap instead of a human being. We may come away appreciating his effort, but with a much more clear-eyed view of what that effort entailed. It’s all the more inspirational for being accessible.

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Mexico City Doomed By Its Geology To More Earthquakes

Rescue workers search for earthquake survivors in Mexico City on Wednesday.

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In Mexico City and surrounding areas, rescuers are still searching for casualties and survivors of yesterday’s earthquake. More than 200 people are believed to have died.

Geologically speaking, Mexico City is not built in a very good place.

This is the second big quake in Mexico in less than two weeks. And it came 32 years to the day after another deadly quake. And there will be more in the future, though when is anyone’s guess.

The problem is that just to the west, a huge slab of the Earth’s crust called the Cocos Plate is grinding relentlessly toward North America.

But it’s running into an even bigger slab — the North American Plate. So the Cocos Plate is shoving itself underneath its northern neighbor.

Lots of faults lie along and near the junction of these two plates. like stitches in the seam of a baseball. When the faults slip from all that continental grinding, quakes happen.

This is what surrounds Mexico City. But there’s another problem, as geophysicist Gavin Hayes with the U.S. Geological Survey points out. The city sits on a dry lakebed made of clay, sand, silt and water. That’s not good. “So you’ve got a lot of soft sediments,” Hayes says, “and when the energy from the quake comes into that, those basins really kind of amplify that shaking, like a bowl of jelly shaking around, and it just keeps on reverberating.”

Hayes also points out that shallow quakes in this region often create earth-moving waves — called surface waves — at a frequency that’s especially damaging to 10 to 20 story buildings. A building will respond to or “resonate” with waves of a certain frequency depending on its height. If they are in sync, the building responds like a vibrating tuning fork, and gets shaken more.

“A lot of buildings in Mexico City are at that kind of 10 to 20 storey level,” says Hayes, “so they are just at the right height to be vulnerable.”

The two quakes this month were on the same tectonic plate but several hundred miles apart. Hayes says it’s not likely the first quake earlier this month triggered a second quake so far away, but it’s possible.

Mexico City has strengthened many buildings since the 1985 quake, which killed more than 5,000 people. And it has designed an early-warning system that detects the first vibrations from a quake.

But like many cities around the Pacific rim — San Francisco, Tokyo, Manila — it’s sitting on ground that isn’t going to stop moving.

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