Six historical New York City LGBTQ sites given landmark designation

36 0 19 Jun 2019

The Stonewall Inn is no longer the only historical LGBTQ site given landmark designation by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. As of Tuesday, six other locales have been granted the same status.

The sites include the Audre Lorde Residence in Staten Island, Caffe Cino and The LGBT Community Center in the West Village, the James Baldwin Residence in the Upper West Side, the Women’s Liberation Center in Chelsea and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse in SoHo.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an organization dedicated to documenting buildings tied to influential LGBTQ trailblazers across the five boroughs, curated a list of more than 200 sites in an initiative titled “Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City.” The organization sent a truncated version of this list to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which then, along with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, identified the six places now designated as landmarks, according to Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“We’re thrilled that the city is recognizing these sites and establishing them as integral spaces in LGBT and American history,” Lustaber told NBC News. “Millions of people will be in New York City visiting Stonewall for its 50th anniversary, but while Stonewall marked a turning point, LGBT history predates Stonewall and the city is full of places that reflect that rich history.”

The Audre Lorde Residence on St. Paul’s Avenue in Staten Island was home to acclaimed writer, professor, activist and black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde from 1972 to 1987. Lorde, who lived in the home with her partner and two children, often worked in the house’s study and wrote numerous books there, including “Coal,” “The Cancer Journals” and “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.”

Cafe Cino on Cornelia Street in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood is “widely recognized as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway theater,” according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Joe Cino rented a ground-story space in the building in 1958, intending to run a small coffeehouse. Yet soon enough, patrons began staging avant-garde performances there. Caffe Cino became known for elevating the works of unknown playwrights, including William M. Hoffman, who credits his career to the space. Many of Caffe Cino’s early productions featured gay characters and LGBTQ issues, and as a result, the space became a haven for gay men. Caffe Cino closed in 1968, a year after Cino’s death.

New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983.Travis Mark / The LGBT Community Center

New York City’s LGBT Community Center has served as a hub for the community since 1983. Located in the West Village of Manhattan, the center is the birthplace of The Gender Identity Project, which is the longest running provider for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the state. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Dignity/New York and more than 400 other organizations have gathered in the center for meetings since it first opened its doors.

The James Baldwin Residence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side served as the iconic writer’s home from 1965 until his death in 1987. Though the civil rights activist and literary intellectual did not self-identify as gay, he spoke openly about LGBTQ issues and wrote several novels that featured gay and bisexual characters, including “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone” (1968) and “Just Above My Head” (1979), which were published while he lived in the 71st Street residence.

Founded in the 1970s, the Women’s Liberation Center was an integral meeting space for women’s groups, including several that specifically focused on the city’s lesbian community. The Lesbian Feminist Liberation, a group that sought to ensure lesbians were visible and heard at political and pride marches, and Lesbian Switchboard, a volunteer-led counseling hotline, were two of the many groups that met in the center. The Women’s Liberation Center closed in 1997.

The Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, a firehouse in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, served as the headquarters for the Gay Activists Alliance from 1971 to 1974. The group was considered the most influential American gay political activist organization in the early 1970s. The firehouse also brought together other LGBTQ groups, such as Gay Youth, the Lesbian Feminist Liberation and Gay Men’s Health Project, for social events.

“As people from around the world gather in New York to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride, now is the perfect time to preserve our unparalleled LGBTQ history,” Johnson wrote in an emailed statement. “New York City played such an important role in moving the LGBTQ civil rights movement forward and we owe it to those who fought in this movement to ensure that their legacy lives on.”

“These sites memorialize the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ rights movement and will make excellent additions to the city’s amazing list of landmarks,” he added.


Election Confessions: Tell us how you really feel about the 2020 candidates

40 0 19 Jun 2019


Concept by Anna Brand. Design by Robin Muccari, Kara Haupt. Development by Jeremia Kimelman, Nigel
Chiwaya, Joe Murphy, Jiachuan Wu. Illustration by Chelsea Stahl / NBC News. Photography by Getty Images file, AP

5 exercises that target and tone the inner thighs

48 0 19 Jun 2019

We all have those areas of our body that we’re self-conscious about, that we would like to tone up. If the inner thighs are one of those areas for you, you’re not alone (hello, shorts season!).

While spot-reducing specific areas of fat on the body is near impossible, adding more muscle definition to certain areas is completely doable. Working the entire body and speeding up the metabolism through consistent cardio helps with overall fat loss. Combine that with exercises that specifically target the inner thighs, and you’re looking at stronger, more toned legs (and less of the “jiggle” that people are self-conscious about).

Appearance may be your main reason for wanting to show this area of the body some extra attention, but you will also be improving your body’s functionality and reducing risk of injury. The inner thighs actually are part of the core, so by strengthening them, you’ll be able to help prevent hip, knee and even low-back issues.

Dr. Steven Struhl, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, says “Working on strengthening inner thighs, also known as adductor muscles, is extremely important for both men and women, and has many unexpected benefits.” He explains that the adductors themselves are made up of five main muscles whose primary goal is to adduct or pull the legs toward the mid-line of the body and stabilize the outward rotation of the knees. “Unbeknownst to many, a strong core begins with strong inner thighs, as they serve as a foundation for the hips,” he says. Dr. Struhl explains that strong inner thighs can also keep ankles healthy and less prone to injury by providing better mobility. “Likewise, stronger inner thighs can help to take some of the pressure off of the knees, helping to protect the knee from injury,” he says.

Ready to start toning and strengthening? Perform this workout three times a week (every other day is a good schedule to aim for), along with 20 minutes of cardio three times a week, to reduce fat and build muscle in your inner thighs.

Leg raises

Lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, extend the right leg straight. Turn the toes out to the right and squeeze your right quad. Lift the leg up off of the ground, point it up towards the ceiling and then lower it down. Repeat this 15 times on the right leg, and then switch to the left leg.

Bridge and squeeze

Lying on your back with your knees bent, reach your fingertips towards your heels so that they almost touch. Make sure your feet are as hip-width apart, and then slowly pull the naval in towards the spine as you lift the butt, lower back, and finally your middle back up off of the ground, towards the sky. Hold this position for a few seconds, squeezing the inner thighs in towards each other. Lower back down and repeat this 10 times.

Leg lifts

Lying down, turn onto your right side. Prop yourself up on your forearm and stack the legs, shifting them out on a slight diagonal from your hips. Step your left foot over in front of the right leg, planting the foot in front of the knee. This is your starting position. From here, lift your right leg up off of the ground as high as you can, then lower it down. Repeat 10 times.

Leg circles

After completing the leg lifts, hold the right leg up and make a forward circle with the leg 10 times. Then reverse the circle backward 10 times.


Still lying on your right side, bend both knees, and place the left foot on top of the right. Open the left knee up towards the ceiling, and then close the clam by squeezing the right knee up to meet the left knee. Release down and repeat 10 times.

Then, turn over onto your left side and repeat these 3 exercises on your left side

Gear that will work your inner thighs

Looking to take your workout up a notch? If you’re in the market for a new piece of fitness gear, these are great options to challenge the inner thigh muscles:

Exercise Ball

While lying on your back in the bridge position (or while performing any ab exercise on your back), squeeze a ball in between your legs to activate the inner thighs even more.

Pilates Ring

Similarly, you can place the Pilates ring either in between your inner thighs or between your ankles to help activate the inner thighs more during abdominal or leg exercises (like bridges, crunches or leg raises).


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Biden touts past work with segregationists, de Blasio attacks with photo of his interracial family

52 0 19 Jun 2019

Joe Biden, recalling the “civility” of the Senate in the 1970s and ’80s, on Tuesday touted his experience working with two segregationist Southern senators to get “things done” – drawing an immediate rebuke from Bill de Blasio, who is married to an African American and has an interracial family.

Speaking at a fundraiser at New York City’s Carlyle Hotel, Biden brought up the names of Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats who were staunchly opposed to desegregation. Eastland chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden entered the Senate — a committee he would later chair.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.'”

Of Talmadge, Biden said he was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys.”

“Well guess what?” Biden continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition — the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

de Blasio, the New York City mayor and a presidential contender, struck back on Twitter on Wednesday.

On the campaign trail, Biden, who has previously mentioned both Eastland and Talmadge in appearances, cautions against those who believe it’s not worth the time to even try and persuade those across the aisle or with lawmakers who have morally different views on divisive issues.

“You know I got (to the Senate) and all the old segregationists were there for Lord’s sake,” Biden said last month at a Nashua, New Hampshire, house party. “But after the fight was over, then you moved on and this is, like I don’t consider the opposition my enemy, they’re the opposition and no one has brought the vitriol to American politics who has won.”

Biden, who is leading the Democratic primary field in the polls, said Tuesday he believes “one of the things I’m pretty good at is bringing people together,” before citing negotiations he took part in with Mitch McConnell, now the Senate majority leader.

“I know the new ‘New Left’ tells me that I’m — this is old-fashioned,” Biden said. “Well guess what? If we can’t reach a consensus in our system, what happens? It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president. That’s what it does. You have to be able to reach consensus under our system — our constitutional system of separation of powers.”

Did Trump walk himself into a post-presidential indictment?

49 0 19 Jun 2019

President Donald Trump is enormously effective at courting legal controversy. Most recently, he appears to be tempting the gods of federal indictments.

Trump declared in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that if a foreign national offered him dirt on a political opponent, he would listen to what they offered. Nothing to see here, other than public declaration that he’d likely violate federal law.

Federal election law provides that a person may not “solicit, accept or receive” a contribution, donation or a “thing of value” from a foreign national in connection with a federal, state or local election.

This particular federal law is meant to guard against foreign influence over domestic elections and to preserve the importance of self-government.

This particular federal law is meant to guard against foreign influence over domestic elections and to preserve the importance of self-government. But perhaps now more than ever, our country is threatened by continued attempts by foreign nationals to sway our elections. It is not a coincidence that former special counsel Robert Mueller decided to bookend his short press conference with fears about foreign interference in our elections. This is a real threat to the integrity of our elections, and we are not doing nearly enough about it.

In fact, the president of the United States appears to be open to help from foreign nationals in the next presidential campaign. And he is doing so in a way that in all probability violates federal law.

Trump’s exact words to Stephanopoulos were: “I think you might want to listen …. If somebody called from a country — Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent’ — Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” If the information was good, “I think I’d take it,” he added.

Sure, this statement is conditional and may be wishy-washy enough to fail to meet the legal standard for solicitation of opposition research from a foreign national. But it likely still amounts to a public declaration of a willingness to commit crime. Trump specifically evidenced the intent to “accept or receive” opposition research from a foreign national.

The big question is whether or not opposition research can be considered to be “a thing of value” under federal election law. The best answer here is that it can be. FEC guidance indicates that a thing of value can include membership or mailings lists of activists and polling data.

There is not a federal court ruling on this issue. Put another way, while no federal court has specifically ruled that opposition research qualifies as a thing of value, no federal court has ruled that it does not.

If these questions and this legal analysis sounds familiar, it is because this is the same analysis contained in the Mueller report. Specifically, Mueller examined whether to issue indictments as a result of the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer.

Trump Jr., like Trump Sr. in Stephanopolous’ hypothetical, was offered dirt on a political opponent — in this case, then-candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. In response to this offer, Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.” The Mueller report indicates that those attending the meeting on behalf of the Trump campaign were aware of the purpose of the meeting.

But Mueller opted not to indict anyone for three main reasons. First, he vacillated on whether or not opposition research is a thing of value, in part because there is no federal court ruling explicitly saying that it is. Second, and perhaps most importantly, he was not convinced that there was enough evidence to show that the people at the meeting had “general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct.” Put another way, he did not think there was enough evidence to show that people at the meeting knew about the federal law that prohibits candidates and campaigns from accepting a thing of value from foreign nationals. This is akin to the “I’m too ignorant to break the law” defense, and it appears to have worked for those who attended the June 2016 meeting on behalf of the campaign.

Third, in a heavily redacted portion of the report, Mueller brought up First Amendment concerns regarding the ban on foreign contributions. However, even accepting that money given and spent in elections should be treated as speech, the better conclusion is that we have compelling governmental interests in prohibiting foreign interference in our elections.

There is at least one big difference between Trump’s potential criminal liability regarding Stephanopolous’ hypothetical and the criminal exposure to Trump campaign members as a result of the Trump Tower meeting. At this point, after all of the discussion about the foreign-contribution ban, it is much harder to argue that Trump is not aware of the law.

Republicans acknowledged the problematic nature of Trump’s comments but then went on to employ the old schoolyard “I know I am, but what are you” tactic. Specifically, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that the foreign-contribution ban would also make the Clinton campaign’s indirect payment to Christopher Steele, a foreign national, for opposition research on Trump, problematic.

But the correct legal argument, explained by University of California at Irvine professor Rick Hasen, is that the foreign-contribution ban does not apply to goods or services that a campaign purchases at fair market value. Put another way, you can pay an accountant who is a foreign national to do accounting for your political campaign, but you cannot accept their services free of charge. If this sounds like a minor distinction, welcome to federal election law.

As the 2020 election campaign ramps up, it is worth considering the consequences of foreign interference. Particularly when the president of the United States seems unable to hide his openness to committing a federal crime.

ICE chief blasts Ocasio-Cortez for comparing migrant detention centers to concentration camps

46 0 19 Jun 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Tuesday defended her comments comparing migrant detention centers on the U.S. southern border to “concentration camps,” which critics slammed as insensitive to Holocaust survivors.

The freshman lawmaker made the comparison while filming an Instagram Live on Monday night in which she excoriated President Donald Trump’s administration for its treatment of migrants at the border.

“The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something. The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the ‘home of the free’ is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.”

Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Mark Morgan told Hill.TV on Tuesday that Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are “reckless.”

“It’s completely inappropriate, it’s reckless, it’s irresponsible, it’s misinformed, and it’s flat out wrong,” Morgan said, noting that “there is so much oversight in these facilities.”

“I encourage the check and balance, I encourage inspections. I feel very satisfied that if you go to these facilities, whether it’s a border patrol facility or an (Health and Human Services) facility or an ICE facility that there will be safe and adequate conditions to detain individuals,” he added.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., condemned Ocasio-Cortez for the remarks Tuesday.

“Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this,” Cheney said on Twitter.

Josh Holmes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff, called Ocasio-Cortez’s comments “an alarming and dangerous false equivalence that suggests a breathtaking lack of appreciation for the unparalleled evil of the Holocaust.”

However, the Democratic lawmaker refused to walk back the comparison, responding directly to Cheney’s criticism in a Tuesday tweet.

“Hey Rep. Cheney, since you’re so eager to ‘educate me,’ I’m curious: What do YOU call building mass camps of people being detained without a trial?” she wrote. “How would you dress up DHS’s mass separation of thousands children at the border from their parents?”

Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted a link to an Esquire magazine article that quotes author and historian Andrea Pitzer calling the situation on the southern border “a concentration camp system” and defining concentration camp as the “mass detention of civilians without trial.”

“This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote Tuesday.

During her Instagram Live on Monday, she said: “I don’t use those words lightly. I don’t use those words to just throw bombs. I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist and it’s very difficult to say that.”

The Democratic lawmaker noted the Trump administration’s reported plan to house 1,400 undocumented migrant children at Fort Sill, an Oklahoma military base that was previously used to detain Japanese Americans during World War II.

President Barack Obama also used the base to house migrants but stopped after criticism, according to Time magazine.

Meet the nurses who cared for AIDS patients when no one else would

59 0 19 Jun 2019

At the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, little was known about the disease except that contracting it was effectively a death sentence. Before it was known how the disease spread or how it could be treated, nurses at San Francisco General Hospital opened Ward 5B to care for people — most of them LGBTQ — who were dying of AIDS-related illnesses.

In 1983, 5B became the world’s first hospital ward dedicated to HIV/AIDS patients, and now the story of those who worked there and received treatment there is the subject of a new documentary aptly titled “5B.”

The film follows the nurses who got the ward up and running, as well as other San Francisco General employees who rallied against 5B’s demand for resources and the hospital’s treatment of patients with HIV.

One of 5B’s nurses, Guy Vandenberg, worked in hospice care prior to his job at San Francisco General, so his expertise was uniquely suited to handling the victims of the nascent epidemic.

For Vandenberg, the disease became personal when friends contracted HIV and got sick. Eventually, his work followed him home when his partner, Steve, contracted the disease.

“I was dealing with the HIV, I was fighting for better access to medications in my free time,” Vandenberg told NBC News. “I was in ACT UP, and during work when Steve got sick and was diagnosed, I was angry. I was terrified. This man is the love of my life.”

Vandenberg sat down with NBC News THINK contributor Brian Latimer to discuss his work in Ward 5B, how his partner survived the HIV/AIDS crisis, the current state of health care and the new documentary film in which he is a central character.


No, the Dominican Republic hasnt suddenly become more dangerous

40 0 19 Jun 2019

Early Sunday, Skylar Martin of Hanover, Virginia, was taken to the hospital after she spent six miserable hours in her room and lost consciousness at a resort in the Dominican Republic.

Martin and her husband were married last month, and they were in the country on their honeymoon.

“I had a fever,” Martin told NBC affiliate WWBT of Richmond, Virginia. “I was in and out of consciousness for a while. I would wake up to vomit. My body would wake itself up to get more out.”

She said doctors in the Dominican Republic speculated that it might have been a blood infection, but the exact cause of her illness is still unknown.

The company that runs the hotel the Martins were staying at, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, said Tuesday that it’s “regretful that we did not achieve the extremely high standards we set for ourselves.” It apologized and said it “immediately took corrective action,” including a full disinfection process and inspection of all common areas.

The Punta Cana resort is the same one where Robert Bell Wallace, 67, died in April. He is one of seven Americans known to have died in the Dominican Republic this calendar year and at least the ninth in the last 12 months — numbers that have sparked concern among would-be tourists.

“We just want some answers,” said Jason Allen, the brother of Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, New Jersey, who was found dead at the Terra Linda resort in Sosúa on June 13.

Those answers are likely to be unsatisfying, because in overall terms, nothing unusual is going on in the Dominican Republic. In fact, you’re less likely to die there than if you’d just stayed home.

The State Department has tallied all deaths of U.S. citizens abroad from so-called unnatural causes since 2007. Compared with the seven Americans who have died so far this year, 15 died through June in both 2011 and 2015 of causes like auto accidents, suicides, homicides and drownings. In 2009, 14 Americans died through June. In 2016, the number was 13.

Those numbers don’t include deaths from natural causes like those that are suspected in some of the recent cases; overall death totals are likely to be even higher.

“We have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department,” a State Department official told NBC News on Tuesday.

Tourists on Barceló Bávaro beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in January 2012.Erika Santelices / AFP – Getty Images file

The State Department said an average of 2.7 million Americans visit the Dominican Republic every year. In the decade through 2018, 194 Americans died or were killed there, an average of slightly more than 19 a year, according to State Department statistics, which works out to a death rate of 7.18 per 1,000 people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports that in 2017, the last year for which complete figures are available, the overall U.S. death rate was 8.49 per 1,000 — 18 percent higher than the death rate for Americans in the Dominican Republic.

That doesn’t shed any light, however, on the dozens of Americans who have fallen ill in the country in recent months. Neither the State Department nor any other agency, U.S. or Dominican, collects that data, so there’s no way to know whether recent illness reports are out of the ordinary.

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Reports of mass outbreaks of illnesses, however, are not uncommon in the Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean. A single message board on the travel site TripAdvisor, for example, runs to 11 pages of people reporting problems with or asking about the safety of bootleg and unregulated alcohol in the Dominican Republic, one of the avenues investigators are exploring to explain the current illnesses.

The CDC, meanwhile, warns would-be tourists that drinking the country’s tap water can open them to risk of hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera. The agency is currently warning travelers about an increase in report of rabies in Punta Cana; last year, the Zika virus was a big concern.

The non-profit International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers even devotes a section on its website to “travelers’ diarrhea” in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García insists that the recent illness reports, while regrettable, are “isolated.” The FBI is conducting toxicology analyses in some of those cases and said it could take until mid-July for results to come in.

In a statement last week, García cited a survey by the country’s central bank that reported that 99 percent of Americans who visited as tourists last year “said they would return to our country on vacation.”

“It is important for everyone who wishes to disseminate information about the situation to do it in context and with perspective,” he said.

More than 16 tons of cocaine worth up to $1B seized in massive bust in Philadelphia

42 0 18 Jun 2019

Federal authorities seized 15,000 kilos of cocaine, worth as much as $1 billion, at a Philadelphia shipping port, officials said Tuesday.

There were 16.5 tons of the drug found in seven shipping containers late Monday night, officials said.

“This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain tweeted. “This amount of cocaine could kill millions — MILLIONS — of people. My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics.”

The street value of all the seized cocaine could be as high as $1 billion, according to federal prosecutors in Philadelphia.

The illicit haul was found aboard a cargo ship, the MSC Gayane, which had traveled from Chile, Panama and the Bahamas, according to NBC Philadelphia.

A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that authorities believe the ship was loaded with the drugs in the Bahamas.

“Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection are leading a multi-agency inspection of shipping containers aboard a merchant ship at the Port of Philadelphia,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement. “We will release additional details when it is appropriate to do so.”

The shipping company MSC thanked federal authorities for making the bust.

“MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services,” according to a company statement.

“Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” the statement said.

Deaths linked to cocaine abuse have been on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The troubling trend began around 2012, before cocaine-related deaths jumped 34 percent from 2016 to 2017, the CDC said.

David K. Li contributed.

Paul Manafort expressed concern about going to a New York prison. Then the DOJ stepped in.

33 0 18 Jun 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort expressed concern over being transferred to a state lockup in New York, and then the Department of Justice stepped in to keep him in federal custody.

Facing state charges in New York, Manafort was expected to be transferred from federal prison in Pennsylvania to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex in New York City while he awaits state trial.

But his attorneys contacted the Federal Bureau of Prisons to express concern about his health and personal safety if such a transfer were to occur and proposed he stay in federal custody, a Justice Department spokesperson told NBC News.

“The department requested the views of New York prosecutors, who did not object to Mr. Manafort’s proposal,” the spokesperson said. “In light of New York’s position, and Mr. Manafort’s unique health and safety needs, the department determined to err on the side of caution by keeping Mr. Manafort in federal custody during the pendency of his state proceeding.”

Manafort “has been transported to New York and will be made available to the state whenever needed for his state case,” the spokesman added. “This arrangement will not have any impact on his state proceedings.”

The New York Times reported Monday that, to their surprise, Manhattan prosecutors received an inquiry from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen last week asking about Manafort’s case. Then Monday, federal prison officials told the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Trump’s former campaign manager would not go to Rikers Island and instead would await his trial at a federal prison in Manhattan, the Times reported.

NBC News obtained the letter from Rosen to Manhattan prosecutors. In it, Rosen attached a four-page letter from Manafort’s attorney to the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressing concerns about detention at Rikers Island. Rosen asked in his letter if the district attorney had “a response” or “would otherwise like to comment.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance replied to Rosen that his office “did not make any recommendation about where Mr. Manafort should be housed, or under what conditions” and “our office takes no position on the question of where Mr. Manafort should be housed when he is in New York, whether it be on Rikers Island, another city facility, or a local federal facility such as the Metropolitan Correctional Center.”

Manafort is serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence after he was convicted last year of financial fraud in two separate cases stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation of Russian electoral interference.

In March, Manafort was indicted on mortgage fraud and other state felony charges in New York. Those charges were filed in part to ensure Manafort would still face prison time if President Donald Trump opted to pardon him for his federal convictions.

Manafort’s state arraignment is set for next week in Manhattan State Supreme Court.