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Malawians vote for president (again) amid pandemic 

Malawians vote for president (again) amid pandemic 

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Halima Gikandi

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A Malawian woman waits to vote in a rerun of a discredited presidential election in Thyolo, Malawi, June 23, 2020. 

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Ernest Mwale/Reuters 

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As countries around the world debate how to move forward with national elections amid the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Malawians head to the polls on Tuesday to vote for president —  again. 

Related: Coronavirus exposes Sudan’s broken health care system

Earlier this year, the country’s constitutional court nullified the results of its presidential election in May 2019, when incumbent President Peter Mutharika narrowly won another term in office.

Malawians took to the streets to protest the results and reelection of Mutharika, who has been in office since 2014.

The opposition, led by candidate Lazarus Chakwera, took the matter to court last year, citing widespread irregularities.

“The court even says let’s nullify the elections because there were vast irregularities that affected the will of the people.”

Tadala Peggy Chinkwezule, president, Women Lawyers Association of Malawi

“The irregularities ranged from the use of different tally sheets [to] the correction of errors,” said Tadala Peggy Chinkwezule, president of the Women Lawyers Association of Malawi.

“The court even says let’s nullify the elections because there were vast irregularities that affected the will of the people,” Chinkwezule said.

In February 2020, in a 500-page ruling, the courts took a rare step to nullify the elections, ordering a new one within 150 days. They determined that candidates running for office would need at least 50% plus one of the votes. 

Voters like Jane Mtika, a party vendor in the capital city of Lilongwe, appreciate the second chance at a fair vote. She plans to vote for Chakwera, who is now backed by a coalition of eight opposition parties and is running on improving the economy and bringing jobs to Malawians.

“I hope Chakwera and Chirima will do whatever they can for us business service providers,” she said, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic and countrywide lockdown has worsened poverty and hunger.

“We are now starving, we don’t have money. We are just staying at home. Our workers are at their homes. That’s not good,” said Mtika, who first spoke about her struggles to The World back in April.

Related: Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict 

Boniface Dulani, a political scientist at the University of Malawi, says many Malawians are fed up with the leadership of President Mutharika, whose time in office has been marred by corruption scandals.

“The economy is certainly in a very, very bad and very fragile state. Our dependence on agriculture in times of increasing drought remains a big challenge.”

Boniface Dulani, political scientist, The University of Malawi

“The economy is certainly in a very, very bad and very fragile state. Our dependence on agriculture in times of increasing drought remains a big challenge,” Dulani said.

The election rerun also hasn’t been without its challenges and controversies.

“Apart from the logistical issues, including ballots, there are also other issues related to the financing of the election. The government has been quite reluctant to release funds to the electoral commission,” Dulani said.

In recent years, recurring droughts and natural disasters have contributed to food insecurity in Malawi. More than 50% of the country lives below the national poverty line.

Related: After Cyclone Idai, governments struggle to secure recovery funds

Chifundo Kachale, the new election commissioner tasked with managing the election, was only appointed two weeks ago. Voting ballots printed abroad only arrived in the country on Friday.

The pandemic has also brought worries that the large campaign crowds and election could lead to a spike in the coronavirus in a country that has so far seemed to manage the relatively few cases. 

It has also prevented outside election observers from entering the country. Still, lawyers like Chinwezule say they will be at the polls to make sure things are on the right track.

Barcelona opera reopens to full house — of plants

Barcelona opera reopens to full house — of plants

Writer
María Elena Romero

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The stage lights turned back on in Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu on Monday, a day after Spain’s three-month lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic came to an end.

The show opened with the traditional announcement in Catalan asking the audience to turn their cell phones off and avoid taking photos. But the string quartet walked into an unusual performance. This time, they played Puccini’s “Crisantemi” to a verdant audience of 2,292 plants that filled the venue to capacity. No crowds were present — just plants from a local nursery.

Spanish conceptual artist Eugenio Ampudia created the performance as a way to highlight how art, music and nature can help people get through this difficult time of the pandemic. After the concert, the plants were donated to health workers.

“After a strange, painful period, the creator, the Liceu’s artistic director and the curator Blanca de la Torre offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature,” read the event press release.

Related: Art during the coronavirus pandemic

The Liceu, located in the La Rambla area in central Barcelona, is one of the largest and most important opera halls in the world. The symbolic show comes as Spain slowly reopens after being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain ended a state of emergency on Sunday that was imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. Spaniards are now allowed to move freely around the country — something they have not been able to do since March 14, when the lockdown was imposed. People are required to wear masks in public when social distancing measures cannot be observed.

Spain has recorded more than 245,000 coronavirus cases and more than 28,000 deaths.

Reuters contributed to this story.

When reform hasn’t worked: Part II

When reform hasn't worked: Part II

By
Sam Ratner

Police officers in Washington, DC, detain a man as they clear the entire area around Black Lives Matter Plaza during racial inequality protests near the White House in Washington, June 23, 2020. 

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Leah Millis/Reuters 

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Is the US ready for the rising tide of mercenaries?

Is the US ready for the rising tide of mercenaries?

War is getting sneakier. And mercenaries could be changing war in ways that the US might not be prepared for.

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Laicie Heeley

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Ruth Morris

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A boy walks near his building, which was damaged during fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists as an armored personnel carrier (APC) of the Ukrainian armed forces stands near by in Avdeyevka near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, June 7, 2015.

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The Things That Go Boom podcast is a co-production of PRX and Inkstick Media, and is a partner of The World. This season on the podcast: What kinds of security risks are building out there? We’ll look at misinformation, shadow warfare and even ask if democracy is still in vogue.

In February of 2014, when war broke out in Eastern Ukraine, the top brass of the Russian army hatched a plan to support pro-Russia separatists fighting the government. Russia sent in what came to be called “little green men” — Russian soldiers, but in unmarked green uniforms.

And — they sent in a small band of mercenaries called “Wagner Group.”

Wagner Group only played a small role in the conflict, which led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. But the Russian generals deemed the mercenary experiment a success. 

Wagner became a mercenary army with about 5,000 members, active in about 12 different countries, from Syria, where it has protected oil fields for President Bashar al-Assad, to Venezuela, where it has provided security for President Nicolás Maduro, and all over Africa.

Today, these mercenaries could be changing war in ways that the US might not be prepared for. 

Episode 1: ‘World War C’: How did national security miss the coronavirus? 

Sean McFate is a professor at Georgetown University and a former paratrooper. He served under generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus during his years in the US 82nd Airborne Division.

“But then I got out and went to, what they say, the dark side,” McFate said. “And I became a private military contractor, a paramilitary, some would say mercenary … to basically fight wars in Africa.”

Some of that fighting was for the US government — but some of it wasn’t. 

“It opened my eyes to … how wars are being fought,” he said.

The situation in Ukraine in 2014, when soldiers in unmarked green uniforms began popping up in the conflict, is useful to understand what McFate means. Because the Kremlin wasn’t openly sending troops, what was happening on the ground didn’t immediately look like a war between Ukraine and Russia — and the international community only realized what was happening once it was too late.

“If they had blitzkrieged directly into Ukraine, there would have been huge international outrage, the UN would have gotten involved, and it would have stymied their progress,” McFate said. “In this way, they just kind of stole Eastern Ukraine.” 

Episode 2: Was the US sleeping through China’s rise?

War is getting sneakier. We live in a global information age where weapons that give you plausible deniability are more powerful than firepower. And very few things offer better plausible deniability than mercenaries.

Why? If the Russian army takes a big hit, the Kremlin has a PR problem on its hands. If it’s Wagner contractors, the Russian government can deflect the blame. 

“Plausible deniability” isn’t the only reason Russia is using mercenaries. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s Red Army was the largest in the world — bigger, even, than the United States, though, the US Naval and Air Forces seem to have balanced things out. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia’s new economy and its military took a big hit. 

But Russia seems to know how to stretch a limited budget a long way — that’s one reason why the use of mercenaries is such an attractive tool. Generally, private military contractors are considered cheap — you don’t have to pay for their training, employ them year-round, or pay veterans’ benefits, and in most cases, they come with their own weapons. 

And Russia isn’t the only country using mercenaries.

Related: It’s time for the US to rethink Huntington’s philosophy: Part I

“This rising tide of mercenaries — eventually, in a decade or two, we’ll get to a point where war is privatized, where anybody who can swipe a big enough check can become a superpower,” warned McFate. 

Of course, the US isn’t an innocent bystander. Blackwater, a private military company contracted by the US, caused a scandal in Iraq when contractors opened fire on civilians in the 2007 Nisour Square Massacre.

Blackwater Chief Executive Erik Prince holds a photograph of the remains of a blown up vehicle in Iraq while testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 2, 2007.

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Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has recently been pushing Washington to privatize the entire war in Afghanistan. Such a move wouldn’t likely save money, but there could be more menacing benefits. A Brookings Institution report found that contractor deaths are not listed on public rolls, and they’re rarely mentioned by the media. Plus, these firms aren’t subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, so hiding information from journalists is also much easier.

So far, the US hasn’t taken Prince’s advice — but it has signed more than 3,000 contracts with private military firms over the last decade, employing tens of thousands of people.

Most of these people aren’t armed mercenaries. They perform support tasks like training, cooking and delivering supplies. 

But the problem is what happens when those contractors themselves need protection. The US Army doesn’t provide any armed help, so contractors often need to hire their own security. A Congressional investigation from 2010 found that one US contractor relied on Afghan “warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders, who compete[d] with the Afghan government for power and authority.”

In 2010, The New York Times wrote that there are strong suspicions that an Afghan company, which provided protection to NATO convoys, used American money to bribe the Taliban to attack those same convoys — just to make sure the demand for protection remained high.

A NATO official in Kabul said it most clearly: “We’re funding both sides of the war.”

“We’ve helped create a whole global mercenary marketplace,” said McFate. 

Last season on Things That Go Boom: Nothing good happens after ‘nuclear midnight’

It might be terrifying to think of a world where individuals can go out and hire mercenaries. But we already live in a world where organizations like Wagner Group can fight wars more or less in secret.

So, how does the US military deal with this problem?

“When Americans think about war, our model for war is World War II. We call it ‘the good war.’ It’s what we teach in war colleges,” McFate said, adding that World War II still informs how American generals think about the future of war.

Right now, the US is still mostly stocking its shelves for the apocalypse — buying the kind of big, expensive things it thinks it might need for WWIII. But, McFate says, WWIII isn’t going to look anything like WWII. And US adversaries are investing their own resources completely differently.

“What they’re doing is they’re investing in other places, like the troll factory, their internet hackers, Wagner Group, other sort of clandestine means.” 

And that means something in the US has to change.

Related: Is a US-China nuclear conflict likely?

“We don’t need to scrap … our superlative conventional forces. We have the best in the world, but we don’t need $13 billion new aircraft carriers either,” McFate said. “So, let’s stop throwing money into things that we’re already good at. Let’s throw money into things we need help in. And so, that includes strategic communication.” 

A lot of the world has moved on to a new form of war — one it’s already actively fighting in the shadows. And the US is still sitting in its bunker, waiting for the blitz.

“What we need to do is we need to update the way we think about war,” McFate said. “If war is going underground to the shadows, we have to go into the ground and punch back. So, how do we fight secret wars, which is where warfare is today, and not lose your Democratic soul? That’s the discourse we should be having, not how many F-35s we need — that’s the discourse Lockheed wants you to have.”

This isn’t the whole story. To hear more, including what a hot dog salesman and actress Mia Farrow have to do with all of this, listen above and subscribe to the Things That Go Boom podcast

Trump announces new visa restrictions; Saudi Arabia planning only a limited Hajj; White House trade adviser walks back comments

Trump announces new visa restrictions; Saudi Arabia planning only a limited Hajj; White House trade adviser walks back comments

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The World staff

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

US President Donald Trump temporarily suspended the issuance of new work visas for certain foreign workers yesterday, a move widely opposed by business groups. Trump’s presidential proclamation bars most H-1B visas for skilled employees as well as H-2B seasonal worker visas. It also restricts some H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas. Tech companies like Amazon, Google and Twitter, who rely heavily on the H-1B visas, are objecting to the directive.

The White House said the move would help the economy rebound amid the coronavirus crisis and that targeted visa categories pose “a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery.” Critics argue the order is part of the Trump administration’s broader efforts to curb immigration.

The visa suspension, which exempts those already in the US and visa holders abroad, as well as some agricultural, health care and food industry workers, takes effect Wednesday and lasts until the end of the year.

What The World is following

Saudi Arabia said yesterday it plans to allow only a limited Hajj this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement bars foreign travelers, allowing only people already living in the kingdom to make the religious pilgrimage. As many as 2 million people come to the holy city of Mecca every year for the Hajj.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Monday on Fox News that the China trade deal was “over.” The comment stoked volatility in markets. Later, Navarro walked back the remarks, suggesting his comments were taken “wildly out of context.”

The German region of Guetersloh in the northwest of the country was put under lockdown today as the number of coronavirus cases surged past 1,000 following an outbreak at a meatpacking plant. Guetersloh is home to about 360,000 residents and is the first area in Germany to go back into lockdown.

Russia jails Pussy Riot manager for 15 days for petty hooliganism

Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Sept. 28, 2018.

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Reinhard Krause/Reuters 

A Moscow court jailed Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for 15 days on Monday after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public. Kirill Koroteev, a lawyer and the head of the International Practice of Agora, the group that has taken up Verzilov’s case, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about what happened.

Discussion: What’s next in the fight against the coronavirus?

A man walks next to a graffiti depicting a cleaner wearing protective gear spraying viruses with the face of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro amid the coronavirus outbreak, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 12, 2020. 

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Sergio Moraes/Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 9 million people globally and caused 440,000 deaths worldwide. With countries starting to reopen while we await vaccines and treatments, what can we expect next and how can we prepare and respond? As part of our series of conversations addressing the coronavirus crisis, The World’s Elana Gordon will be taking your questions while moderating a discussion with epidemiologist Caroline Buckee from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health on Tuesday, June 23, at 12 p.m. EST.

Morning meme

Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera reopened its doors to potted plants Monday. Spanish conceptual artist Eugenio Ampudia had the idea to place the plants in the theater, inspired by his connection to nature during the pandemic. The plant-based reopening came a day after Spain’s three-month state of emergency ended.

Nursery plants are seen placed in people’s seats at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, June 22, 2020.

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Nacho Doce/Reuters

In case you missed itListen: Face masks and the coronavirus crisis

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a protective face mask among many other supporters without masks during a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

Credit:

Leah Millis/Reuters

The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more the evidence points to the importance of face coverings in limiting the virus’s spread. Still, if you’re confused about the what and the how of masks, you are not alone. And, Beijing had some strong words for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning: “Stop making irresponsible remarks.” Trudeau reiterated his belief that China’s decision to charge two Canadians with spying was retribution for the arrest of a Chinese tech executive. Also, temperatures above 100 degrees have been recorded in a small town in Eastern Siberia.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition

Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition

US President Donald Trump stands at the podium during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

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Leah Millis/Reuters/File Photo

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US President Donald Trump on Monday issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B, a move the White House said would help the coronavirus-battered economy, but which business groups strongly oppose.

The presidential proclamation temporarily suspends H-1B visas for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company.

He also blocked those entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, used by landscapers and other industries.

The visa suspension, which takes effect on Wednesday until the end of the year, will open up 525,000 jobs for US workers, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at “getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible.”

But businesses including major tech companies like Amazon and Google, and the US Chamber of Commerce said the visa suspension would stifle the economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic.

Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to achieve his longstanding goal to limit immigration. The proclamation’s immediate effects are likely to be limited, as US consulates around the world remain closed for most routine visa processing.

Related: 10 US immigration issues to watch in 2020

The proclamation exempts those already in the United States, as well as valid visa holders abroad, but they must have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States.

Immigration attorneys were working on Monday to determine what the order might mean for clients now out of the country.

The measure also exempts food supply chain workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. The suspension will include work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, including camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers.

Trump has made a tough immigration stance a central pitch for his re-election in November, although the coronavirus, faltering economy and nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue.

The president has faced pressure to restrict work visas from groups that seek lower levels of immigration, as well as some Republican lawmakers.

In a statement, BSA, the Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft and Slack, urged the administration to “refrain from restricting employment of highly-skilled foreign professionals,” adding, “These restrictions will negatively impact the US economy,” and decrease job opportunities for Americans.

Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, a pro-migrant group that helps families navigate the US immigration system, said the fact that H-2A visas used to bring in foreign farmworkers were exempt signals that “big agriculture interests are the only stakeholder with any sway over immigration policy in this administration.”

H-2B visas, which were included in the suspension, have been used by Trump owned- or Trump-branded businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Many business groups were lobbying against a temporary visa ban before it was announced.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the rest of the year.

“This is introducing more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of US companies,” she said.

“The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the US labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers.”

Mitch Wexler, a managing partner at law firm Fragomen, said the order would hurt his social media and wireless communications clients and other tech companies.

Employers “wouldn’t pay a lot of money to file these applications and hire lawyers like me if they could hire an American for these positions,” he said.

Trump also renewed an April proclamation that blocks some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, extending that measure until the end of the year.

The senior administration official said that proclamation freed up roughly 50,000 jobs for Americans, but did not provide details.

The visa suspension issued on Monday narrows an exemption for medical workers in Trump’s April ruling to include only people working on coronavirus research and care.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 15,269 petitions for H-1B visas in healthcare-related jobs across the United States in fiscal year 2019.

The Trump administration will make several other moves to tighten rules around temporary work visas.

The administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 visas available each year go to the highest-paid applicants, instead of the current lottery system, the senior administration official said.

It also plans to issue rules making it harder for companies to use the H-1B visa program to train foreign workers to perform the same job in another country, the official said.

Both moves would likely require regulatory changes.

The Trump administration is also taking steps to limit work permits for asylum-seekers, finalizing a regulation on Monday to remove a requirement to process such permits within 30 days.

A separate asylum measure set to be finalized on Friday would greatly limit asylum seekers’ access to work permits.

By Ted Hesson/Reuters

Russia jails Pussy Riot manager for 15 days for petty hooliganism

Russia jails Pussy Riot manager for 15 days for petty hooliganism

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Daniel Ofman

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Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Sept. 28, 2018.

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Reinhard Krause/Reuters 

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A Moscow court jailed Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for 15 days on Monday after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public.

Verzilov, the publisher of the private MediaZona news outlet, was taken in for questioning by police on Sunday over a political rally last summer and held him for hours. He was attacked by an unknown male assailant after he was released.

Both men were later detained by police and Verzilov was charged with swearing in public, Verzilov’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Writing on Twitter after his sentencing on Monday, Verzilov accused the police of staging the incident to provoke and jail him.

“The judge just sentenced me to 15 DAYS FOR SWEARING — but in actual fact, for a police provocation that included attacking me after being questioned for 13 hours in the Investigative Committee,” Verzilov wrote in his Tweet.

TASS news agency cited a police source as saying Verzilov had planned to stage a prank on Wednesday when Russia marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II with a military parade on Red Square. Verzilov denied this in comments to the BBC’s Russian Service.

Verzilov was one of four Pussy Riot activists who ran onto the pitch wearing police uniforms during the soccer World Cup final in Moscow in 2018, a stunt they said aimed to draw attention to human rights abuses.

Kirill Koroteev, a lawyer and the head of the International Practice of Agora, the group that has taken up Verzilov’s case, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about what happened. 

Marco Werman: Kirill, before we get to the court case from earlier today, what is the timeline here? Just briefly explain what happened to Mr. Verzilov after he got arrested Sunday.

Kirill Koroteev: Police burst into his apartment. They broke the door. There he was arrested and taken to a police station where he was questioned for 13 hours approximately, without access to a lawyer, but then he was released. So he was walking away from the police station and noticed a person following him. And 10 minutes after his release, that person just attacked him, pushing him on the ground. That’s when the police arrived and arrested him for the fight. Now, it turned out that the person who pushed Mr. Verzilov had no injuries, and only Mr. Verzilov had injuries. So, the police charged him with cursing in public instead.

 

So, let me get the straight. After 13 hours of interrogation, Verzilov was followed from the station. He was beaten up and then rearrested?

Exactly.

So, what was the verdict today in court?

The court sentenced him to 15 days in prison and decided not to hear the policeman who charged him and not to hear the person who attacked him. The court believed the police-written report saying that Verzilov cursed in public and the court did not believe Verzilov who said he didn’t.

Why do you think this is happening right now to Pyotr Verzilov?

What is happening is quite usual for the activists but the timing of his precise arrest is not very clear. It was rumored that he was going to stage some sort of interruption at the military parade on June 24, or at the voting on the constitution on July 1. But today in court, Pyotr Verzilov denied that and said he had no such intention.

 

What does this arrest and this whole ordeal tell you about the mindset of state authorities in Russia?

Well, during last year’s Moscow protests and even previously, any major leaders would get arrested beforehand so that they spend the day of the protest in prison. It is quite a regular modus operandi for the Russian authorities. They just cannot operate otherwise than by breaching individual rights.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Discussion: What’s next in the fight against the coronavirus?

Discussion: What's next in the fight against the coronavirus?

By
The World staff

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Amid global protests, Jamaicans confront their own problems with policing 

Amid global protests, Jamaicans confront their own problems with policing 

Jamaica shares the US’s history of colonialism and slavery, and now has one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings. Activists there are thinking about what the global moment of police accountability could mean for their country. 

By
Rupa Shenoy

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People hold posters as they take part in a demonstration against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at the Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica, June 6, 2020.

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Earlier this month, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, as part of the worldwide George Floyd protests.

The country’s historic newspaper, the Jamaica Gleaner, recorded the chants: “Say her name! Susan Bogle! Say her name! Susan Bogle!”

Bogle was a disabled woman in Jamaica who was allegedly accidentally killed by officers in her home two days after Floyd’s death in the US.

Related: This African American in Ghana says making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a ‘small gesture.’ She urges police reform.

“There is still a sense where people feel that they don’t get social justice,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in an address to the nation.

“The government will ensure that nothing in these matters will be hidden, nothing will be swept under the carpet. And that the social and economic status of the victim does not determine the outcome of justice.”

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

“The government will ensure that nothing in these matters will be hidden, nothing will be swept under the carpet. And that the social and economic status of the victim does not determine the outcome of justice.” 

Those reassurances were necessary because there are long-standing problems with policing in Jamaica. Human rights groups have found there’s a culture of fear, with officers carrying out extrajudicial killings, tampering with evidence and intimidating witnesses.

“To say that the Jamaican police is corrupt is not something that I have to say, and say, ‘Oh, don’t say I said that,’ you know, that’s openly acknowledged,” said Diana Thorburn, director of research at the Caribbean Policy Research Institute.

Related: ‘We need to talk about racism,’ these Middle Easterners say 

She said that even though Jamaicans see the police as corrupt, they also believe the country needs law enforcement. Violent crime, pervasive in Jamaica, is fueled by, among other things, the country’s strategic location for smuggling drugs into the US. Just this month, two police officers were fatally shot by men with high-powered guns.

The incident horrified the public, Thorburn said, and reminded Jamaicans that in a society with one of the highest murder rates in the world, they need protection — even if it comes from a police force that’s had issues almost as long as it’s existed.

“Most analyses of the problem trace it back to the origins of the police force, which was as a colonial institution to keep down the slaves.”

Diana Thorburn, Caribbean Policy Research Institute

“Most analyses of the problem trace it back to the origins of the police force, which was as a colonial institution to keep down the slaves,” she said.

The British used colonial Jamaica as a center for slave trading in the West Indies. Even after the country became an independent member of the British commonwealth in 1962, the historical disregard for Black life continued, said University of Pennsylvania professor Deborah Thomas, who has written books about human rights in Jamaica.

“It’s a hard sort of conceptual reality for Americans to understand, African Americans in particular, that you could have anti-Black violence in a majority-black country,” Thomas said. “But it doesn’t go away because there’s a Black person in power, because, in fact, the societies were built on this.”

Related: US protests highlight ‘anti-black racism across the globe,’ says South African political analyst

After Jamaica’s independence, the US stepped in, eager to make sure that a country in its backyard was secure during the Cold War. Then, during the war on drugs, Thomas said the US helped fund the militarization of Jamaica’s police. That drew international attention in May 2010, when the US pressured Jamaica to extradite the head of a gang who controlled a community called Tivoli Gardens, in Kingston.

Jamaica declared a state of emergency, and during the manhunt, police killed more than 70 people. Thomas directed a documentary about what happened at Tivoli and was surprised that the killings there weren’t a subject of conversation in Jamaica after Floyd’s death.

“The George Floyd stuff happens and people were going back and forth on social media about police violence in Jamaica, there wasn’t really a robust conversation about Tivoli and/or a recognition that, in fact, this is what we’re talking about — and this is the 10th anniversary exactly of this.”

Deborah Thomas, University of Pennsylvania professor

“The George Floyd stuff happens and people were going back and forth on social media about police violence in Jamaica, there wasn’t really a robust conversation about Tivoli and/or a recognition that, in fact, this is what we’re talking about — and this is the 10th anniversary exactly of this,” Thomas said.

Instead, since Floyd’s and Bogle’s deaths, Holness has declared another state of emergency in response to violent crime, granting police powers to stop, search and detain residents without a warrant in certain areas.

Related: Video of police beating Indigenous chief fuels ongoing anti-racism protests in Canada

“These areas, if left unchecked, have shown historically that they can spiral to chaotic ends, even having national disruptive impact,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are fewer checks on police power. Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations, which once arrested and prosecuted officers, no longer has that ability.

Rodje Malcolm, director of Jamaicans for Justice, said in the name of fighting crime, Jamaicans have given up on human rights for some people.

“But those people are viewed as expendable,” Malcolm said. “Those people are viewed as deserving it because they are from the communities where there is high crime.”

But in this global moment, sparked by Floyd’s death, Malcolm said Jamaicans might be able to consider other ways of policing that prioritize peace.

“It’s possible a little bit more now because many Jamaicans can see in themselves as those Black people in the United States,” he said, “and it’s simply about turning that gaze inwards to understand … the ways that we perpetuate various similar systems and are OK with it.”

Paulinho Paiakan is remembered as a hero to Indigenous Brazilians

Paulinho Paiakan is remembered as a hero to Indigenous Brazilians

As Brazil tops 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the country’s Indigenous peoples mourn the death of a historic leader.

By
Michael Fox

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Indigenous leader Paulinho Paiakan takes part in an Occupy Funai protest that will shut down Funai offices throughout Brazil in Brasilia, July 13, 2016.

Credit:

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters 

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Kayapó Bepkororoti, better known as Paulinho Paiakan, was a hero to Indigenous Brazilians across the country, not just those of his own Kayapó people.

Paiakan was seen as one of the first Kayapó to recognize the power of the media and of learning Portuguese, the language of Brazil’s majority. He also understood the importance of unifying Brazil’s Indigenous people.

Related: Police beating of Indigenous chief fuels Canadian anti-racism protests

“The only thing, brothers and sisters, is unity,” he said in a recent interview from an Indigenous gathering, which was posted after his death. “We all must unite in order to fight. That is the only way we will overcome any government.”

 Partiu nesta manhã o grande líder Kayapó Bepkororoti, mais conhecido como Paulinho Payakan.

Partiu nesta manhã o grande líder Kayapó Bepkororoti, mais conhecido como Paulinho Payakan. Mais uma vida levada pela Covid-19! Para os povos indígenas, em especial os Kayapó, mais uma enciclopédia de conhecimento tradicional que se vai! Lembramos sua luta e trajetória com uma mensagem de união, gravada em janeiro de 2020, quando já reforçava a importância de somar esforços para combater os ataques sistemáticos que os povos indígenas vem sofrendo. O avanço da pandemia já vitimou 287 parentes e segue em ritmo acelerado nas aldeias e territórios indígenas. Confira a homenagem da @coiabamazonia para o líder Paulinho Payakan. #luto #vidasindígenasimportam #povosindigenas #quarentenaindigena

Posted by Mídia NINJA on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Last week, he died from the coronavirus, and while his legacy lives on, some say his death is a sign of the times for Indigenous peoples across Brazil, as COVID-19 increasingly spreads into their territories.

“Paiakan will be missed,” said Adriano Jerozolimski from the Protected Forest Association, which represents roughly 30 Kayapó communities in southern Pará state.

“It’s difficult to predict the real impact that this new illness is going to have on the Kayapó and Indigenous peoples, in general. But it will be enormous. It’s already a catastrophe.”

Adriano Jerozolimski, Protected Forest Association

“It’s difficult to predict the real impact that this new illness is going to have on the Kayapó and Indigenous peoples, in general. But it will be enormous. It’s already a catastrophe.”

So far, 332 Indigenous people have died from the coronavirus, and 7,208 people are infected across 110 tribes, according to the Association of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB), a leading Indigenous organization.

Amid the pandemic, Indigenous peoples across Brazil are also facing increasingly racist and hostile attitudes from local officials and businesses. The mayor of Pau D’Arco, in the Amazonian state of Pará, banned Kayapó tribal members from the city, saying they are high-risk for infection.

“This is prejudice, discrimination — or racism,” said local Indigenous leader Takwyry Kayapó.

Related: Black Lives Matter protests renew parallel debates in Brazil, Colombia

Far to the south, 40 Kaingang tribal members living on the Serrinha Indigenous Territory were fired from their jobs at a local meatpacking plant run by JBS, the world’s largest meat-processing company, on the grounds that they, too, were high-risk for infection. A local Kaingang lawyer is fighting the mass firing.

Meanwhile, deaths continue to climb, and the number of Indigenous people infected with COVID-19 has doubled in just a week.

“We are losing our leaders. We are losing our libraries. That’s the feeling that we have about losing many of these community elders. That the communities are losing their knowledge and history.”

Sandro Luckmann, Missionary Council for Indigenous People, COMIN

“We are losing our leaders,” said Sandro Luckmann, the director of the Missionary Council for Indigenous People, COMIN

“We are losing our libraries. That’s the feeling that we have about losing many of these community elders. That the communities are losing their knowledge and history.”

Paiakan, who was about 65 years old, is survived by his wife and their three girls. There’s been an outpouring all over social media in Brazil honoring the late Indigenous leader.

Related: Brazil’s government hid coronavirus stats. That’s a problem.

In one 36-second video, roughly a dozen members of the Kaingang tribe, in southern Brazil, dance in face masks and feathered headdresses. 

pic.twitter.com/oeyLhQztS2

— APIB oficial (@ApibOficial) June 18, 2020

“Today is a very sad day. A day of mourning for the Indigenous peoples of Brazil,” says a man in an accompanying video clip. “We are here to say that we will survive the pandemic and try to live life as Paiakan did, in defense of the environment and fighting for the Indigenous cause.”

O legado da luta de Bepkororoti, Paulinho Paiakan, está enraizado na vida dos povos indígenas de todas as regiões do Brasil. O povo Kaingang do Sul do país fez uma linda homenagem pela passagem de Paulinho. #luto pic.twitter.com/aV9Sj0YaZR

— APIB oficial (@ApibOficial) June 18, 2020

Another, produced by the Indigenous filmmaker Kamikia Kisedje, features grainy news footage from 1989. Representatives of 24 different Brazilian Indigenous tribes and environmentalists march chanting into a stadium in the Amazon city of Altamira to fight government plans to build hydroelectric dams on their land.

Homenagem do fotógrafo e cineasta ambiental indígena @kamikiakisedje para Paulinho Paiakan, que junto com seu tio, Cacique Raoni, liderou a mobilização de enfrentamento da hidrelétrica de Kararaô (primeiro nome dado para o projeto da usina que hoje é Belo Monte), em 1989. #luto pic.twitter.com/Ira7s369ZW

— APIB oficial (@ApibOficial) June 18, 2020

Paiakan, the organizer, tells a government representative that dams would destroy their people. The crowd cheers.

Paiakan, who began to defend Indigenous land under Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, was instrumental in the demarcation of tribal territory and ensuring that Indigenous rights were enshrined in Brazil’s 1988 Constitution.

“Paiaka was one of the activists who was on the frontlines of making sure that clauses that guarantee Indigenous rights today are in the constitution.”

Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and filmmaker who has lived and worked in the Amazon for decades

“Paiaka was one of the activists who was on the frontlines of making sure that clauses that guarantee Indigenous rights today are in the constitution,” said Glenn Shepard, an anthropologist and filmmaker who has lived and worked in the Amazon for decades.

Related: Women leaders eschew ‘macho-man’ politics in COVID-19 response

“He was in the room during the creation and signing of the constitution and he was translating. There was this huge Kayapó commission.” 

Historic alliance of forest peoples at Altamira in 1989 in opposition to the Belo Monte dam, with Paulino Payakan in a leading role via @felipedjeguaka @socioambiental https://t.co/G4dtftNDYU

— Glenn H. Shepard (@TweetTropiques) June 19, 2020

Paiakan and his uncle, Chief Raoni Metuktire became the faces of the international movement to defend the Amazon against deforestation, mining and development. With the help of rock star Sting and an international campaign, they successfully blocked the development of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River for years before a modified project was eventually built over the last decade.

But his international image was tarnished in 1992 when a student accused him of rape. The news broke on the cover of the conservative magazine Veja the very week that the world’s environmental leaders were amassed in Rio de Janeiro for the historic Earth Summit.

The allegations were thrown out of court two years later. But a retrial in 1998 led to the conviction of both Paiakan and his wife. They were sentenced to six, and four years in jail, respectively, which they partially served under house arrest on their Indigenous territory.

Paiakan never regained his previous international rock star status. For his allies, the case was a tool to silence Paiakan and his prominent environmental activism.

“In order to push back against the demarcation of Indigenous lands and in order to be able to deforest and extract the resources from the land, and everything that Paulinho was against, they politically shot him — the greatest environmental icon on the planet at that time,” said Felipe Milanez, a humanities professor at the Federal University of Bahia, who knew Paiakan and his family well, having worked at Brazil’s National Indian Foundation.

De toda a imprensa que massacrou Paiakan e os Kayapo, sempre ao lado dos fazendeiros e mineradoras, que inclui OGlobo, Estadão, JB, QuantoÉ, Veja, etc, a @folha foi a única que trouxe dois obituários RACISTAS por Fabiano Maisonnave e Sérgio Dávila requentando mentiras antigas.

— Felipe Milanez (@felipedjeguaka) June 21, 2020

 

Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok

Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok

Part of the appeal for Chinese urbanites is a peek into life in the countryside. But the promise of a bargain is also a draw.

By
Rebecca Kanthor

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A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s app TikTok, known locally as Douyin, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Oct. 18, 2019. 

Credit:

Reuters 

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Just like in the US, TikTok in China is full of funny videos, odd challenges and its own brand of stars. Farmers are some of the most unlikely social media stars here, and they’re using their fame to sell their produce.

“It’s almost a more modern take on the old TV shopping.”

Mark Tanner, founder of China Skinny

“It’s almost a more modern take on the old TV shopping,” said Mark Tanner, the founder of China Skinny, a marketing research agency based in Shanghai.

Related: Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

In one video on TikTok, a farmer who goes by the name Northern Big Sis sits in her greenhouse and takes giant bites of the raw vegetables she grows on her farm. All of her videos are variations on this theme: She chomps her way through onions, garlic and other vegetables. The videos are strangely addictive. Viewers keep swiping just to find out what vegetables she’ll eat next.

A button above the video lets viewers buy the produce she’s marketing without even leaving the TikTok app, and in record time, boxes of fruit and vegetables are delivered straight to your doorstep.

Livestreaming is big business in China, and with everyone stuck at home earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, companies large and small had a captive audience. Tanner said there was a 730% rise in brand livestreaming in February alone.

“It was already rising quite quickly; all of a sudden, with COVID [-19], it has just gone gangbusters,” he said.

He’s been surprised at how much of a hit the farmers have been. Millions of viewers tune in to watch them sell their produce.

“So, you’re getting a large number of these farmers that have all of a sudden become minicelebrities.”

Mark Tanner, founder of China Skinny

“So, you’re getting a large number of these farmers that have all of a sudden become minicelebrities.”

Related: Millennials in China reexamine their spending habits as economy recovers

Part of the appeal for Chinese urbanites is a peek into life in the countryside. But the promise of a bargain is also a draw.

“Chinese consumers, like any consumers, they love a deal. So, they’re getting this deal, and they’re getting entertained at the same time; so, it’s been incredibly popular.”

Some farmers are getting creative in how they hawk their wares.

One group of young farmers has a captive audience for their farming fashion shows on TikTok and Kuaishou, another livestreaming app. In each video, the Four Country Treasures, as they are known, strut down a red carpet laid out in the middle of a field in rural Guangxi Province, clothed in nothing but the food they sell. Garlic strands, bamboo leaves, handmade noodles, strings of chives and hot peppers — make for some silly and mouthwatering outfits. Accompanied by a laugh track and sound effects, the videos are fun to watch, and the products they’re selling are clickable — one day it’s homemade pickled turnips, the next day, fresh mangoes.

This new sales approach has helped a lot of farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown. That includes Yang Qin Feng who runs the 16-acre Mi Le family farm on the outskirts of Shanghai. His first attempt at livestreaming included a cooking demonstration on a makeshift stove in the middle of a field.

Yang says he wants to teach shoppers about where their food comes from.

“Livestreaming is a little bit like selling at the farmers’ market. Shoppers can communicate with us and see how we harvest, they can ask questions and we can answer. That way, the customers can see for themselves and they’re more likely to buy.”

Yang Qin Feng, Mi Le family farm

“Livestreaming is a little bit like selling at the farmers’ market,” he said. “Shoppers can communicate with us and see how we harvest, they can ask questions and we can answer. That way, the customers can see for themselves and they’re more likely to buy.”

Related: China sends new message about centuries-old chopstick tradition

Yang’s broadcast worked on Rong Wei, a shopper who lives in the center of Shanghai. She was fascinated to learn how Manchurian wild rice, known as jiaobai, actually grows and she wound up buying some — along with eggs and chicken to give to her friends.

“Watching him explain his farming process made us want to eat the crops,” she said. “The jiaobai looked delicious. There was a bit of educational value, too.”

So, will growers around the world take up livestreaming like Chinese farmers have? Tanner thinks their success can’t be easily replicated.

Related: Canadian activists say they’re being targeted by China

“Chinese people are much more engaged with digital and particularly e-commerce, and they adopt new technologies faster than anyone, and they also have incredibly well-integrated payment systems,” he said.

It’s unlikely this trend will catch on in the West with quite the same speed. But in China, farmers have already become influencers. 

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Park in Arizona is the only area where Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. The Tohono O’odham Nation is one of the many tribes which considers this land sacred. The construction of the border wall involves heavy machinery that has already damaged wildlife and cacti in the Arizona desert.

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Courtesy of the National Park Service

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The Trump administration’s rush to complete sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border before the November election is threatening to damage and restrict access to sacred and historic Native American sites in the region.

The border wall was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and in his bid to keep that promise, dozens of environmental laws, from the Endangered Species Act to the Clean Air Act, were suspended to fast-track construction.

The Tohono O’odham Nation says the suspension of certain laws to speed wall construction has allowed damage to sacred ancestral lands, including burial grounds.

The Tohono O’odham Nation, which has been confined to a fraction of the lands it once held in the desert Southwest, says the suspension of these laws has allowed damage to sacred ancestral lands, including burial grounds. And they fear more damage is to come.

RelatedUS border fence skirts environmental review

Rafael Carranza, a journalist for the Arizona Republic and USA Today who has reported on this issue, visited several of the sites in question, some of which are located in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona.

“These are protected lands,” Carranza says. “It’s desert wilderness, but they contain signs of the early tribal life that the O’odham people carried out for centuries and centuries.”

There are numerous archaeological, historical and cultural sites throughout the Arizona desert that are important to the Tohono O’odham Nation, Carranza explains, including a ceremonial site called Las Playas and an unnamed burial site located right next to the border wall.

Last October, as contractors were preparing to build a section of wall in Organ Pipe, they came across what they thought were bone fragments. After testing, they determined that they were, in fact, human remains. Work was stopped, the government recovered the fragments and it plans to give them to the Tohono O’odham Nation, but the tribe has been “very concerned that this is just one reported instance [and] that there could be many more instances where the contractors or the construction workers don’t know what to look for…and their heritage will be irreparably damaged,” Carranza says.

The Tohono O’odham people have lived in these areas for centuries, many, many years before the United States or Mexico existed, Carranza explains.

“A big part of their culture involved traveling the desert…, following the water, following the resources of the land,” he says. “It’s a very parched area, so it was a constant struggle, looking for food and water. They would travel vast territories, stretching from the Colorado River on the Arizona-California state line, all the way to the San Pedro river in the eastern part of Arizona, as far north as Phoenix [and] as far south as the state of Sonora [in Mexico].”

RelatedBuild the wall across the San Pedro River? Many say no.

In 1917, the US government created the main reservation for the Tohono O’odham near the US-Mexico border. But once the borders were instituted, Carranza says, the Nation was split between the two countries.

Unlike the United States, Mexico did not create a reservation or designate protected lands exclusively for the tribe. For these members of the Tohono O’odham, accessing historical sites and pilgrimage routes was difficult. Now, similar difficulties are arising on the US side because of all the border security mechanisms the Trump administration has put in place, Carranza says.

The administration has pushed to erect a new type of barrier along the entire length of the US-Mexico border, but because the Tohono O’odham Nation enjoys tribal sovereignty and controls the reservation, they have been able to stop the government from building these 30-foot tall bollards within the reservation itself, Carranza says. Instead, the US government has focused its work on protected federal lands, where it’s relatively easy to issue waivers on laws that in the past provided some measure of protection from damage and destruction.

Because wall construction has proceeded so rapidly, Native tribes say they are not being taken into account, that their voices are not being heard and their concerns are not being addressed.

Because construction has proceeded so rapidly, Carranza says, the tribes say they are “just not being taken into account, that their voices are not being heard and their concerns are not being addressed when it comes to the erection of these new, taller barriers” in places along the border that already had protections in place.

“The Trump administration has been pushing [for these] 30-foot-tall bollards that tower above anything else that you would see in these parts of the border and in the desert,” Carranza says.

The US government has hired environmental and cultural monitors who work on site in case workers come across endangered species or cultural artifacts, but only one person monitors the entire swath of construction in the desert region where the project is now ongoing, Carranza says.

RelatedTrump’s wall will harm wildlife along the US southern border, say environmental experts

Despite all of this, Carranza sees little indication that the government will alter its plans in any significant way. They want to have all the barriers in the region, and throughout Arizona, finished close to the November election, “so they’re moving full speed ahead,” he says.

“Environmentalists and community groups are hoping the courts will be able to step in through one of the several lawsuits that they filed,” Carranza notes. “They’re hoping that federal judges will either issue an injunction barring the government from any additional construction or any other type of measures that will stop the construction at the moment. But to date, we haven’t seen any of that.”

This article is based on an interview by Bobby Bascomb that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

China rebukes US envoy for photo stunt at nuclear talks with Russia

China rebukes US envoy for photo stunt at nuclear talks with Russia

US special envoy Marshall Billingslea and his delegation arrive for a meeting with Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Vienna, Austria, June 22, 2020.

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Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

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US and Russian officials met in Vienna on Monday to discuss to nuclear arms control. But the US envoy taunted China for its absence, earning a rebuke from Beijing for posting a picture of empty seats with Chinese flags

US President Donald Trump has sought to include Beijing in talks to replace the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia, which expires in February. China, a nuclear power with an arsenal a fraction the size of those of the Cold War-era superpowers, has repeatedly declined.

“China is a no-show,” US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea said on Twitter around the time he arrived for the talks in a palace adjoining Austria’s Foreign Ministry.

“Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear build-up, and so many other things. We will proceed with #Russia, notwithstanding,” he added. His post included a picture of a Chinese flags at empty seats around the negotiating table.

Vienna talks about to start. China is a no-show. Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear build-up, and so many other things. We will proceed with #Russia, notwithstanding. pic.twitter.com/EjDxXNmblv

— Ambassador Marshall S. Billingslea (@USArmsControl) June 22, 2020

The director general of the arms control department at China’s Foreign Ministry, Fu Cong, responded:  “What an odd scene! Displaying Chinese National Flags on a negotiating table without China’s consent! Good luck on the extension of the New START! Wonder how LOW you can go?”

China’s diplomatic mission in Vienna retweeted Billingslea’s photo with the caption “US performance art?”.

Russia, for its part, posted pictures of the talks after they started, with no Chinese flags. Austria’s Foreign Ministry, which hosted the talks, declined to comment.

The talks in Vienna are on a possible replacement for the 2010 New START, which caps US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons warheads at 1,550 each. That replaced the original Cold War-era START treaty signed in 1991 six months before the Soviet Union collapsed.

China has around 300 warheads in total, roughly the same as France, and many times less than the thousands possessed by Washington and Moscow, according to the Stockholm International Peace Institute.

Trump, who has clashed with China on a range of issues, has repeatedly called for Beijing to join talks on a replacement for New START. China has rejected those calls.

Billingslea and his Russian interlocutor, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, both said little about the substance of the talks on their arrival.

“We’ll see,” Billingslea told Reuters when asked what he expected to come of the talks as he arrived. Ryabkov told reporters: “Let’s see, let’s see. We are always very hopeful.”

by Francois Murphy/Reuters

The global implications of Geoffrey Berman firing; US and Russia start nuclear weapons talks; US targets Assad govt and backers with sanctions

The global implications of Geoffrey Berman firing; US and Russia start nuclear weapons talks; US targets Assad govt and backers with sanctions

By
The World staff

US Attorney for the Southern District Geoffrey Berman attends a news conference on the indictment of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia, and Andrey Kukushnin for various charges related to violations of US federal election laws in New York City, Oct. 10, 2019.

Credit:

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Shares in Turkish state lender Halkbank surged 8% today after US federal chief prosecutor Geoffrey Berman was forced to step down over the weekend. Berman oversaw an indictment against the bank which alleges the company used money service businesses and front companies to evade US sanctions on Iran. John Bolton, the former national security adviser, has claimed in his tell-all book set for release tomorrow, that President Donald Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he would intervene in the case.

The firing of Berman, the US attorney for the influential office of the Southern District of New York, was the latest in a series of moves by Attorney General William Barr that critics say undermines the independence of the Justice Department over political benefits for Trump.

Berman’s office has spent years engaging cases that take on figures in Trump’s orbit and had been investigating Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s private lawyer and a central person in the president’s interest in Ukraine and subsequent impeachment.

What The World is following

Wirecard, the former German technology darling, said on Monday that $2.1 billion is missing from its accounts and was likely never there. News of Wirecard’s accounting problems rattled Germany’s financial industry. Wirecard is a payments processor firm for companies including Visa and Mastercard, and it is now looking at the sale or closure of parts of its business.

Representatives from the US and Russia started nuclear weapons talks today in Vienna. Envoys for the countries haven’t said much ahead of the meetings, but the talks may include negotiations over replacing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in February. The Trump administration had repeatedly asked China to take part but Beijing refused.

And Verkhoyansk, Russia, a town north of the Arctic Circle in Siberia, may have recorded a new record heat temperature of 100.4 degrees over the weekend. If verified, the temperature would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed.

Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history,’ says Nicholas Burns

Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

Credit:

Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters

Nicholas Burns, a former career foreign service officer, worked with the former Trump White House national security adviser, John Bolton. Burns spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about the most disturbing allegations in Bolton’s book, which comes out Tuesday.

US targets Assad govt and backers with toughest sanctions yet against Syria

A woman walks past a poster depicting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, March 5, 2020.

Credit:

Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters 

The aim is to prompt the Syrian president to negotiate an end to the war that has lasted almost a decade.

Morning meme

K-pop fans claim that through the social platform TikTok, they were responsible for the rows and rows of empty seats at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the weekend. 

A supporter of President Donald Trump shoots a video with his  phone from the sparsely filled upper decks at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

Credit:

Leah Millis/File Photo

In case you missed itListen: Celebrating Juneteenth amid global outrage over systemic racism

A child takes part in a rally as people march down Central Park West during events to mark Juneteenth amid nationwide protests against racial inequality, New York City, New York, June 19, 2020.

Credit:

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Today is the Juneteenth holiday celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. The World hears from an African American woman who moved to Ghana decades ago to escape racism in the US. Also, Former US ambassador Nick Burns, who knows former National Security Adviser John Bolton from his time in government, weighs in on the veracity of some of the claims in Bolton’s forthcoming book. And, one-on-one concerts are replacing full orchestral shows in Stuttgart, Germany.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

This African American in Ghana says making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a ‘small gesture.’ She urges police reform.

This African American in Ghana says making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a ‘small gesture.’ She urges police reform.

By
The World staff

Producer
Carol Hills

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This year’s Juneteenth celebration in Ghana. Mona Boyd, who is African American and lives in Ghana, says the Juneteenth celebration in Accra has grown over the years. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Mona Boyd

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The news that slavery had ended reached Texas on June 19, 1865 — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Annual celebrations and events mark the end of slavery, but this year there’s renewed focus on the holiday amid recent protests pushing for racial equality and systemic change in the US and around the world.

Even corporate America is getting on board — companies like Twitter and Spotify are offering employees paid holidays on Friday. And there’s currently an effort to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Mona Boyd, an African American, celebrates Juneteenth in Ghana, where she’s lived for the past 30 years. She moved there from the US in the 1990s.

Boyd talked with The World from Accra, after returning from a  Juneteenth celebration, to explain how the day is celebrated in Ghana and the changes she’d like to see in the US.

“When I came to Ghana, I found a community of African Americans already celebrating this holiday. So, I joined them to celebrate it,” Boyd said. “And since that time, many people have joined us, many Ghanaians, in celebrating the holiday. So, I would say there’s a good knowledge of it. It’s not a holiday that people celebrate when you go upcountry. But down here in Accra, which has people from everywhere, it’s celebrated.”

Related: A professor with Ghanaian roots unearths a slave castle’s history — and her own

Marco Werman: I know from your own story, Mona, that you left the US because you did not think it was a good place to raise your son. How does that affect how you think about Juneteenth?

Mona Boyd: Juneteenth is a holiday that I’m much more connected to than July 4. July 4 was always just a holiday, a free day. But Juneteenth has a lot of significance because it actually means something to me. It was the day that my ancestors learned that they were no longer slaves, that they were now free.

This year, of course, Juneteenth comes in the midst of some major introspection and anger about the deaths of black people at the hands of police in this country. What is it like to observe from Ghana, the protests and the focus on police violence against African Americans right now?

Well, I have kind of mixed feelings because we have been there before. I’m not sure that much will change when it’s all over. You know, I grew up in the rural south under Jim Crow. So, you know, I know racism. I lived in an all-black world because of racism until I went to college. So, I have really mixed feelings about what it will all come to. I think that we need to have some new strategies.

Like what? What would you add?

If you look at American society, the country, everything is based on economics and the kind of capitalistic system that we have. Someone has got to be, from my perspective, someone has got to be at the bottom or else it may not work as well. And I think that what we need to do as black people is try to develop an economic strategy that will lift us from that bottom, which will then give us more power and more control over our lives and over how we are treated in the society.

You know, I’m not a big fan of integration, to be honest with you. I grew up in an all-black town and 50% of the people were self-employed. My father’s father bought his farm. He had been out of slavery maybe 20, 25 years. And then he and his son kept adding onto the land until it got up to around 500 acres. So, we were quite independent. We weren’t marginalized, and we didn’t really have to worry about people respecting us.

I understand your emphasis on creating wealth, but isn’t integration key, though, to eliminating otherness? Like to get people comfortable with the fact that we are all humans?

You know, we all know that. So, why do we have to tell you that? I didn’t feel this way until I left America. Because I had a chance to live in a place where race was not an issue. So, for almost 30 years, I haven’t really in my personal life had to deal with race. So, I was able to step back. Some things are about race. Some things are not about race. And I think if black people don’t do everything through the lens of race, then I think it would be much easier for us to deal with some of these social inequities in our society.

You know, every white person in America, from my perspective, is part of the problem. They know racism is systemic in every arena of America and they benefit from it. I’m not sure people are really willing to give it up. So, this is why I think black people need to start thinking about it differently. I mean, we shouldn’t have to tell people our lives matter. Because for many people, our lives don’t matter to them. And I think that we should decide our lives matter. And this is what we’re going to do to protect our lives on a daily basis. But I think one of the strategies that we have not gone near is looking at what we can do economically because we have a lot of money. We have a lot of money. And we really need to look at how that money is employed in America.

You raised something a moment ago that I want to ask you about — the idea that capitalism needs somebody on the bottom. How do you change that in a world that is driven by profit?

I’m not sure that you change it. I think that you concentrate on how you lessen its impact on you. I don’t see America changing its economic system at all. But, you know, other countries have dealt with this issue. Scandinavian countries tax their people at a 45% rate. So, everybody can have health care, education and enough food, a place to stay. It’s just the American value system, which is solely built on capitalism and nothing else matters.

And it’s not just black people that are marginalized by this capitalism. There are so many poor white people that are marginalized as well. So, getting into the heart and mind, especially the heart of people, of white people, they’re going to have to get into their own hearts because black people are never going to be able to turn that around. It’s been going on since black people have been in America. So, it’s up to white people to get into their own heart and do the right thing.

You said earlier, Mona, how much more Juneteenth means to you than July 4. There is a movement undertaken by a Republican lawmaker from Texas to make it a federal holiday. What do you think about that? I mean, it’s symbolic, is it important to have that?

Well, you know, we have been celebrating Juneteenth probably since slavery on our own without it being a holiday. They can make it a holiday. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me because I’m interested in a much bigger picture than a holiday in terms of change in America. I mean, pass the law that prevents chokeholds. Get rid of the law where cops will have immunity no matter what they do and how they do it. Those are the things that matter to me.

I can continue to celebrate Juneteenth, as I have been, you know, since I started. We cannot think that these little gestures actually are going to give us the results that we need to have happen. They won’t. We’ll just have another holiday.

 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Nicholas Burns: Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history’

Nicholas Burns: Bolton allegations on Trump 'as damaging as any in modern American history'

By
The World staff

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Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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John Bolton’s memoir from his time as the national security adviser in the Trump White House is set to publish Tuesday, but advance copies are already making waves. 

In the book, Bolton says explicitly that President Donald Trump is unfit for office. 

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Bolton writes.

Trump fired Bolton this past September after roughly 17 months as his national security adviser.

The Trump administration is suing to block the book’s publication, claiming it contains classified information and would compromise national security. 

Nicholas Burns, a former career foreign service officer who served as undersecretary of state for former President George W. Bush, knows John Bolton from his years in government. He’s now professor of the practice of diplomacy at Harvard University and an adviser to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Burns spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about the most disturbing allegations in Bolton’s book.

Related: Nicholas Burns: US’ ‘unusual’ absence on world stage is bad for Americans

Marco Werman: First of all, how do you know John Bolton? What’s he like? 

Nick Burns: Well, truth be told, I’ve had my share of differences with him in the past. We worked very closely together at one point in the George W. Bush administration. It was not always a pleasant experience, I’m sure, for either of us. He is an arch-conservative, a loyal Republican, highly intelligent. Lots of experience at the high levels of government, a true national security expert. And he’s a patriotic person. Despite my differences with John, I have to credit him with all that. 

How do you judge the veracity of the claims he’s making in his book? 

Well, these allegations are about as damaging as any in modern American history. I mean, it’s explosive, when John Bolton says that President Trump agreed with President Xi Jinping of China that Xi should build concentration camps for Uighurs, the Muslim population of western China. President Trump encouraging President Xi to buy US farm products in order to help President Trump win the 2020 election. And I think the most explosive revelation in the book is that John Bolton is confirming the charge by House Democrats back in the impeachment trial that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until the government in Kyiv would provide political dirt on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. 

And you remember, Marco, the Republican defense of President Trump back in the impeachment trial in January was: “Well, all these people who testified, they were secondhand sources. They never met or engaged with the president.” John Bolton was in the Oval Office with the president every day and had lots of discussions about this specific issue. And I think that is the most meaningful charge in the book. 

So, if John Bolton had so much damning information, why did he not come forward during the impeachment inquiry? What was his motivation? 

I can’t know what his motivation was, but he should have come forward. Back in December and January, during the impeachment inquiry, he had information, really, that no one else had that was central to the question being debated by the House and the Senate: Was the president guilty of impeachable offenses on the issue of Ukraine? Bolton knew the history. He had the details. He should have come forward. 

I mean, it’s not unusual, really, for any president to always be thinking about election prospects. It sounds like what you just said is what makes this administration different. 

It is what has distinguished the tenure of President Trump in office. What underlies all of these different revelations in the Bolton book — and Bolton says this, specifically — the president was always looking out for his own self-interest or his family’s self-interest, rather than the national interest. And we elect the president to represent all 330 million of us, to put aside his family’s financial interests, which this president has not done. And that, to me, is the most disturbing aspect of this. Of course, a lot of us — I certainly suspect that this is the way the president operated. But this is not from a journalist. This is not from a Democrat who might be opposed to the president politically. These are revelations from a true conservative and a true Republican who has never broken with his party in the past. 

We should note, Nick, that the Trump administration says the book is all lies. But it’s also asking the courts to prevent the publication on the grounds that it’s full of classified information. So, how can lies be classified as vital national secrets? 

That’s what a lot of people are asking. And it’s a contradictory statement. And the president, of course, said publicly the other day, every conversation with me is classified — which, of course, is patently untrue. It’s never been the case. It never will be the case. Some conversations are classified. Many are not. 

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. Reuters contributed reporting.

US targets Assad govt and backers with toughest sanctions yet against Syria

US targets Assad govt and backers with toughest sanctions yet against Syria

The aim is to prompt the Syrian president to negotiate an end to the war that has lasted almost a decade.

By
Shirin Jaafari

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A woman walks past a poster depicting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, March 5, 2020.

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Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters 

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The US State Department announced this week some of its toughest sanctions yet against Syria.

The sanctions are named “Caesar,” the code name for a former Syrian military officer who smuggled roughly 50,000 images and documents out of Syria’s prisons. The gruesome photos showed emaciated bodies of those detainees — men, women, even children.

“Today, we begin a sustained campaign of sanctions against the Assad regime under the Caesar Act. The individuals and entities targeted today have played a key role in obstructing a peaceful, political solution to the conflict.”

Morgan Ortagus, US State Department, spokesperson

“Today, we begin a sustained campaign of sanctions against the Assad regime under the Caesar Act,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday. “The individuals and entities targeted today have played a key role in obstructing a peaceful, political solution to the conflict.”

Related: Syria’s first family is caught in a feud 

The images sparked outrage and set off a yearslong effort to introduce additional sanctions on the Syrian leader and his inner circle. President Donald Trump signed the ensuing Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act into law this past December.

“The sanctions confirm the direction that the State Department is taking,” explained Rime Allaf, a Syrian writer and commentator.

She said American officials have targeted 39 people or entities with ties to the Syrian government.

“Any company, any government, any entity around the world is going to be sanctioned if they deal with the Syrian regime elite who the State Department believes are responsible for committing these atrocities.”

Rime Allaf, Syrian writer and commentator

“Any company, any government, any entity around the world is going to be sanctioned if they deal with the Syrian regime elite who the State Department believes are responsible for committing these atrocities,” Allaf said.

Also on the list, for the first time, is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad.

A State Department press statement said she has been designated because “she has become one of Syria’s most notorious war profiteers.”

Related: Remembering Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi

Born in the United Kingdom, Asma al-Assad Akhras worked as an investment banker in London until 2000, when she married Bashar al-Assad and moved to Syria.

The new sanctions restrict the first lady’s financial dealings, says Ibrahim Olabi, a Syrian lawyer in the UK.

“So, a lot of third parties would now hesitate to engage with Asma because they could face penalty for dealing with sanctioned individuals,” Olabi said.

The new sanctions take effect at an already difficult time for Syrians. The country’s economy has been hit hard by the war and the coronavirus.

One woman in Damascus told The World that she has stopped buying pricier food items like meat. She only buys the essentials now. The woman didn’t want to be identified because she worried she might lose her job for speaking to foreign media.

“Everything is so much more expensive these days. We feel insecure so we are not sure next month or the month later what we’re going to face.”

Woman in Damascus who asked to remain unnamed

“Everything is so much more expensive these days,” she said. “We feel insecure so we are not sure next month or the month later what we’re going to face.”

Related: Afghans in shock after attacks on a maternity hospital and a funeral

Lately, she said, she has noticed longer lines at the market for subsidized goods like rice and sugar.

“We are considering everything else as [a] luxury,” she said.

And with the new US sanctions, she expects the economy to get worse.

“Although we know that the effects won’t be seen suddenly in a few days, we are expecting that the upcoming months would be harder and harder,” she said.

There are already frustrations with the state of the economy. Last weekend, Syrians came out to protest — even in areas usually supportive of the president.

Critics of the Caesar Act say sanctions will only hurt the people.

Related: Syrian officials on trial for war crimes in Germany

“I would be lying if I said there won’t be any impact on regular, average Syrian civilians.”

Jomana Qaddour,  Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, nonresident senior fellow

“I would be lying if I said there won’t be any impact on regular, average Syrian civilians,” said Jomana Qaddour, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

“But I think that there are some robust humanitarian exceptions that explicitly discuss food, medicine, and on top of that there’s a lot of civil society organizations that will be monitoring the impact of Caesar,” she said.

Qaddour, who has family in Syria, hopes that the sanctions eventually bring the Syrian government to the negotiating table.

“The hope of these sanctions was that … listen, clearly, [the] military threat hasn’t worked. Upwards of a million people being killed hasn’t worked. Creating half of Syria as a refugee population outside of the country hasn’t worked. Maybe economic pressures might do the trick,” Qaddour said.

For the sanctions to be lifted, the Syrian government will have to fulfill six major demands. Among them, it has to end the bombing of civilians, release tens of thousands of detainees and allow Syrian refugees to return safely to their country.

This writer is grappling with the paradox of public parks in Paris

This writer is grappling with the paradox of public parks in Paris

Writer
Adam Wernick

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The Medici Fountain is a must-see highlight of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Writer John Freeman has spent much time in this park, contemplating humanity’s place in the natural world and how parks shape and change us.

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Joe deSousa/Flickr CC 1.0

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A new book of poetry by John Freeman, “The Park,” uses the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris as a lens to peer into the paradox of how public green space can provide refuge and access to beauty for some while excluding others.

For the last five or six years, Freeman has spent his summers and winters in Paris. Most of the time, he lives near the Luxembourg Gardens, so it has become “a kind of second home” to him, he said.

“I’ve studied it and lived in it and grieved in it, and missed people in it and met friends in it. So, to me, it feels like another part of my mental circulatory system,” Freeman said.

As the United States has “gone through this spasm of anxiety over what a citizen means,” Freeman said, he’s been spending much of his time in the park, which he now sees as “a kind of giant metaphor for how we live together and who we allow in and who we kick out.”

“I began to write poems in the park, not really thinking in those terms right away, just simply observing the park,” he said. “And gradually, as I transferred them from my notebook to my computer, I realized I was thinking about more than just a park, but about how we live together.”

RelatedConnecting with nature in the time of COVID-19

In his poems, Freeman explores the paradox of public parks being open to all, yet also finding ways to exclude some people. Paris, which has over 400 parks and gardens and some 1,000 fountains, has a long history of exclusion that continues to the present day, Freeman said.

The Luxembourg Palace, surrounded by the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, France.

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Rdevany, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

“When I was living in Paris, especially in the last couple of years since the Syrian civil war, you would see migrants, some of whom who had even walked all the way to Paris from a war zone, living in the park,” he said. “Once Macron was elected, he was quite brutal about excluding migrants from public spaces, pushing them out of the city, pushing them out of parks. …

[T]he park encourages you to have a meditative and kind of expansive mode of thinking and people, once they’re in the park, tend to be pretty tolerant of being around each other, and yet there are all these official policies which say certain people are not allowed.”

But parks can also be spaces that open up the possibility of tenderness between people, between people and animals and between humans and the natural world, Freeman suggests.

“As a world, as a society, as a group of humans, I think we’re desperate for tenderness,” he said. “Because we’ve been seeing its opposite for so long — on broadcast and on social media and on all the ways that we get information. And right now, in the middle of this pandemic, I think people are rediscovering the power of tenderness because we’re with each other more.”

When you enter a park, such as the Luxembourg Gardens, Freeman believes “your way of thinking changes and your capacity to be around others expands.”

“There’s no better contrast than the difference between, say, being on Twitter, where you get none of the signals [of] face-to-face communication — tone of voice and body language, smells, touch. So, people are meaner to each other. They just are,” he said.

Cognitive scientists who study face-to-face communication versus computer-mediated communication confirm there is a great difference between the two, he said.

“The park is, to me, the ultimate retreat back into the full capacity of human-to-human communication, and in that sense, I think we need these spaces desperately.”

“The park is, to me, the ultimate retreat back into the full capacity of human-to-human communication, and in that sense, I think we need these spaces desperately,” Freeman insists. “We need places where people can get out of the spaces that bring out the worst in us [and] into those that bring out a more thoughtful register.”

RelatedGetting outside is a prescription for better health

“We’ve been sold, through the internet, this idea of public space online, which tends, I think in many ways, to destroy actual physical public space because it draws people into these imaginary spaces, these digital spaces, whereas the public ones are not used as much as they used to be,” he continues. “But I hope this pause, as horrible as it’s going to be — if we can get through it, if we can survive it — makes us remember that public space can be a really beautiful, enlarging thing, especially parks. That they’re there for us to be in to share with other people, that there’s nothing so beautiful as sitting on a park bench and having a picnic. Whatever you’re eating, it’s ennobled by a tree looking down on you, and if we get out of this I think there’s going to be a flood of people going to parks.”

Parks can also be a place of discovery or self-soothing, a place where a small detail can instill a particular feeling or desire. One of Freeman’s poems, “The Folded Wing,” expresses this experience: 

The lone duck in
Medici Fountain
slips her beak
beneath a wing
and falls asleep.
Drifting like a
hat tossed into
a green pond.
How good it feels
to be one’s own
comfort, to discover
all the warmth we
need buried in
our bodies. Yes
we bleed, we are
broken, we get
just one body, yet,
there it lies most of
the time, calling
to us, saying, rest here,
lie down in me, I
am more than less
than you, even in a
world that treats
us as two.

“There is something enormously comforting about being in a world where nature abounds,” Freeman said. “And when you can find a space, a public space, where, even if it’s built, even if it’s crafted, even if it’s kind of a fiction, you’re around trees and ducks and birds and animals and light and air and shade and insects and water, you feel this sort of age-old force calling to you.”

This article is based on an interview with Jenny Doering that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

Juneteenth celebrations take on new significance; Australia says China involved in cyberattacks; Anti-poverty program in Indonesia also helps save forests

Juneteenth celebrations take on new significance; Australia says China involved in cyberattacks; Anti-poverty program in Indonesia also helps save forests

By
The World staff

The sun rises on the Lincoln Memorial on Juneteenth — the day celebrating the emancipation of African American slaves more than a century and a half ago, in Washington, DC, June 19, 2020.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Today is Juneteenth, a 155-year-old holiday celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. This year, Juneteenth has taken new significance amid protests against systemic racism and police brutality in the US that sparked a global movement. Weeks of demonstrations and mounting demands to end police brutality and racial bias are expected to animate rallies today in cities across the US, but also Canada and elsewhere around the world.

Though it is not a federal holiday, Juneteenth is recognized in 47 US states and the District of Columbia as an official state holiday or observance. Texas became the first state to recognize the holiday in 1980. But many African American communities have been celebrating it since 1865.

Union dockworkers at nearly 30 ports along the West Coast planned to mark the occasion today by staging a one-day strike. But much of the focus of the annual observance will take place online — with lectures, discussion groups and virtual breakfasts — to help safeguard minority communities especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

Listen to The World today for a conversation with Mona Boyd, an African American who has spent the past 30 years living in Accra, Ghana, where she just returned from a Juneteenth celebration.

Also: ‘Willful amnesia’: How Africans forgot — and remembered — their role in the slave trade

What The World is following

China said Friday it has charged two detained Canadians for suspected espionage. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in late 2018 soon after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei chief financial officer, in Vancouver on a US warrant. The indictments could result in life imprisonment.

Australia suggested today that China was the chief suspect in a number of cyberattacks on the Australian government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a “sophisticated state-based actor” had spent months trying to hack essential service providers and critical infrastructure operators and all levels of the government. China has dismissed the accusation.

From The WorldAnti-poverty program in Indonesia also helps save forests, study shows

Sumbanese villagers work on a field seeding peanuts in Hamba Praing village, Kanatang district, East Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, Feb. 23, 2020.

Credit:

Willy Kurniawan/Reuters 

Helping Indonesia’s poorest people could save the nation’s forests, too, a new study shows. Indonesia is one of the most rapidly deforested places on Earth, and nearly 10% of the population lives below the poverty line.

These struggles are not separate, conflicting issues — but deeply intertwined — the study from Science Advances says. The study shows that where people received services from a national anti-poverty program, 30% fewer trees were cleared — and about half of the saved forests were old-growth.

SCOTUS ruled in favor of DACA. A permanent solution is still needed, advocates say.

Thursday’s much-anticipated ruling ended a yearslong legal battle around how the Trump administration ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and provides some relief to the more than 650,000 DACA recipients in the country. But advocates say there’s still a long road ahead in the fight for more permanent protections for DACA recipients.

Morning focus

Among the many celebrations today for Juneteenth, here’s something special from Yo-Yo Ma and Rhiannon Giddens.

There are so many stories made invisible: too-often-violent histories hidden beneath the surfaces of our cities, our institutions, our music. It’s our job to make them visible. I’m honored to mark #Juneteenth with a new song by @RhiannonGiddens. #blacklivesmatter #songsofchange pic.twitter.com/RraYnGiwzT

— Yo-Yo Ma (@YoYo_Ma) June 19, 2020In case you missed itListen: US Supreme Court issues ruling on DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters celebrate outside the US Supreme Court after the court ruled in a 5-4 vote that President Donald Trump’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was unlawful, in Washington, DC, June 18, 2020.

Credit:

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In a much-anticipated decision issued Thursday morning, the US Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to cancel Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. And, a new study shows how an anti-poverty program has an unexpected benefit when it comes to saving Indonesian forests. Also, farmers in China turned to livestreaming to sell off their produce during the coronavirus lockdown. It turns out the technique worked so well that some farmers are planning to continue with the online trend.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Juneteenth observance arrives amid US reckoning with racism

Juneteenth observance arrives amid US reckoning with racism

A rainbow appears behind the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, June 19, 2020.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Despite the limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic, Juneteenth celebrations, commemorating the end of slavery a century and a half ago, hold particular significance this year coming at a time of national soul-searching over America’s troubled racial history triggered by the death of George Floyd.

Weeks of mounting demands to end police brutality and racial injustice are sure to animate rallies expected in cities coast to coast, including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In Texas, where Juneteenth originated, Lucy Bremond oversees what is believed to be the oldest public celebration of the occasion each year in Houston’s Emancipation Park, located in the Third Ward area where Floyd spent most of his life.

This year a gathering that typically draws some 6,000 people to the park, purchased by freed slaves in 1872 to hold a Juneteenth celebration, will be replaced with a virtual observance.

“There are a lot of people who did not even know Juneteenth existed until these past few weeks,” Bremond said.

Juneteenth, a blend of June and 19th, commemorates the US abolition of slavery under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, belatedly announced by a Union army in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, after the Civil War ended.

Texas officially made it a holiday in 1980, and 45 more states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit. This year, a number of a major companies declared June 19, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, a paid holiday for employees.

Juneteenth takes on raw emotion this year in Atlanta, where a black man last week was fatally shot in the back by a white policeman in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. The policeman was terminated by the department and charged with murder.

Instead of an annual Juneteenth parade and music festival, Atlantans will mark the occasion with a march to Centennial Olympic Park that organizers say will have a spiritual, rather than celebratory, tone.  

“Join us in decrying racism in every form, and declaring unity from the church across lines of race, class, denomination and culture,” OneRace, an ecumenical group that organized the march, said in a statement.

Dozens of protests and marches marking Juneteenth and calling for an end to racial injustice were scheduled to take place across New York City’s five boroughs on Friday.

On the West Coast, union dockworkers at nearly 30 ports planned to mark the occasion by staging a one-day strike.

But much of the focus of the 155th annual observance will take place on social media, with online lectures, discussion groups and virtual breakfasts, to help safeguard minority communities especially hard hit by the pandemic.

“We have been training our staff on how to use technology to present their events virtually and online,” said Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Many chapters have also planned car caravans — slow-speed processions of motorists honking horns and waving their arms as they wend their way through neighborhoods, Williams said.

A focal point of Juneteenth observances this year is likely to be Tulsa. President Donald Trump is traveling to the Oklahoma city’s first campaign rally in three months, originally scheduled for Friday but moved to Saturday after an outcry.

Critics said staging the rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the scene of a notorious massacre of African Americans by white mobs in 1921, showed a profound lack of sensitivity to the city’s history, not to mention disregard for public health concerns. Tens of thousands of supporters will jam into a sports arena for the event despite the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Juneteenth organizers were planning an outdoor event expected to draw tens of thousands on Friday, local media reported.

Byron Miller, Juneteenth commissioner for San Antonio, Texas, said he has long felt compelled to make the celebration “palatable” to white people by emphasizing advances in racial harmony, rather than dwelling on centuries of abuses endured by African Americans.

But Floyd’s death has left him newly embittered.

“The times we’re living now have forced many of us to acknowledge that maybe slavery has never ended, in some fashion or another,” he said.

Bremond saw the potential for the holiday as a balm for racial wounds, saying, “I’m hopeful that Juneteenth will serve as a stabilizing influence for the chaos that we’ve been seeing in the streets.”

By Rich McKay and Brad Brooks/Reuters

Duterte’s ‘weaponization of the law’ is a threat to democracy, says journalist Maria Ressa

Duterte’s ‘weaponization of the law’ is a threat to democracy, says journalist Maria Ressa

By
The World staff

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Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippine news website Rappler, walks out of Manila City Hall after being found guilty of cyber libel, in Manila, Philippines, June 15, 2020.

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Eloisa Lopez/Reuters 

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Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, the founder of the online news outlet Rappler Media, has spent years staring down President Rodrigo Duterte, one of the world’s most ruthless dictators.

She hasn’t blinked yet. 

But this week, a Manila court convicted Ressa and a former colleague at the news site she founded of the crime of cyber libel.

Related: Journalist Maria Ressa says democracies are fragile

Her alleged crime involved a 2012 article published on Rappler that linked a Filipino businessman to human trafficking and drug smuggling. She could face up to six years in prison. 

“In 2014, someone in Rappler noticed a typographical error in this 2012 article, and they changed one letter of one word. Based on that, I could go to jail for six years because the judge then ruled that this is re-publication. Of course, we’re going to challenge this. And I hope I do get justice at some point,” Ressa told The World while out on bail waiting to appeal the verdict. 

Related: Violence toward journalists is rising around the world

Ressa spoke with Marco Werman about her legal challenges and what it means to be a journalist in the Philippines under the Duterte administration. She says the legal acrobatics the Filipino government performed to get to a guilty verdict are a saga of their own.

Marco Werman: It sounds like a really Kafkaesque situation you find yourself in. Are you preparing yourself mentally for the possibility of going to jail? 

Maria Ressa: It took me a month of really thinking about it. I talked to other journalist friends who had been imprisoned, and I realized that the path I was on that I would need to start thinking about this. I had to confront that. 

President Duterte has called journalists “sons of bitches.” He says journalists are not exempt from assassination. Do you think on some level you intimidate Duterte? Or are the attacks against you personal on some level for him? 

I’m not sure. I know the last time I spoke with him directly was in December 2016. That was his first year in office. I was one of four journalists that he gave interviews to. I think that the Duterte administration makes examples of people. Among businessmen, he focused early on after he took office on a businessman whose …company’s stocks dropped, and they were forced to sell. And politicians — Senator Leila de Lima was head of the Commission on Human Rights and was running after [Duterte] for human rights violations when he was still mayor. She [was] imprisoned in February 2017, and she is still in prison until today. And then, for journalists, I’m a cautionary tale. And I think that there’s some level of threat that if we can do this to her, imagine what we can do to you. 

Related: Will Voice of America’s new Trump pick protect agency independence? 

Does his language frighten you? 

It’s something that we gradually accepted in Rappler. And then, when we were confronted bit by bit with decisions that we had to make, the choice was always very clear. And part of that probably was because the women who founded Rappler were older. I was in my 50s already at that point. I felt like I’d spent my entire career going to the gym to get ready for this moment. So — frightened? By the time I realized the path I was on, I just spent some time to wrap my head around it in the same way for the Monday verdict, I sat and accepted the worst-case scenario. And if I was okay with the worst-case scenario, then everything else will be all right. 

I know a lot of Filipinos support President Duterte. What is it like for you, battling such a popular dictator, when he’s got that support behind him? 

He was one of five presidential candidates, and he didn’t win substantially. In fact, he won only a small majority over the five. I think he’s definitely a popular president. His authoritarian style of leadership was what Filipinos wanted during great times of uncertainty. The fact that he says what he thinks — he seems like “every man.” But he’s also aided by a propaganda machine on social media. And these disinformation networks seed these narratives that really take on a life of their own and float his reputation. One of the most familiar narratives is that “He’s just like me. He is the best president this country will ever have.” I have never — and I’ve gone around a lot in the Philippines — no one has ever come to my face to say or do the things that they do on social media. I’ve been a journalist for a long time. This next year will be my 35th year. And this is part of the reason I worry about the manipulation of the public sphere through social media. 

You’ve been working as a journalist since 1986. What will stop you from reporting? 

I hope nothing. I mean, I did conflict reporting in Southeast Asia for CNN. I’ve worked in war zones. And this time period, with the kind of hate and exponential attacks you get on social media — the weaponization of the law — this is tougher. This is a tougher environment to work in than a war zone because you don’t know where the attacks are going to come from, right? There’s a Damocles sword hanging over your head all the time. When I look at my colleagues in the Philippines, look, the largest newspaper was attacked first by the president. The largest television station was just shut down about a month ago. We were the third attack. And what I’ve learned is that we need to swat away the Damocles sword, because if you allow it to change the way you do your journalism, then they win.

I always wonder, why is our government attacking us so much? Why do they not want the questions in a time of COVID? It almost seems like right now they’re codifying into law the abuses of our rights that have happened on an ad hoc basis. So, this is a precipice that we need to make sure we don’t fall off the edge and lose our democracy. 

Do you have an answer to why? Why is the government going after journalists? 

It’s the consolidation of power — the perfect storm of social media [and] President Duterte-style of leadership. In my last interview with him, I asked him, do you need to use violence? And he just categorically said yes. He feels that violence and fear are important aspects of leadership. I don’t know where this will lead, but we certainly, because of technology, because of the weaponization of the law, we’re in a new area. Look, the eight criminal charges I have, cumulatively, I could face almost 100 hundred years in jail. But I look away from that and look at where we are today and see that we have to actively push. It is a battle for truth, right? And in a battle for truth, journalists are advocates. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

In Ciudad Juárez, a new ‘filter hotel’ offers migrants a safe space to quarantine

In Ciudad Juárez, a new 'filter hotel' offers migrants a safe space to quarantine

The guests at Hotel Flamingo in Ciudad Juárez aren't tourists on vacation — they're people who tried to cross into the US but, for a variety of reasons, have been sent back to this border city and need a safe place to stay.

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Mallory Falk

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Volunteers work on May 30, 2020 at Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. On the second level of the hotel, a doctor attends migrants in observation, either because they were exposed or are at high risk for COVID-19.

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This story first aired on KERA Texas. Read and listen to the original here

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Hotel Flamingo in Ciudad Juárez has been filling up with guests.

When they arrive, they have to go through a thorough disinfection process. First, they step inside a tray filled with diluted bleach to clean off the soles of their shoes. Then it’s on to a handwashing station, where they’re instructed to scrub with a generous amount of soap and follow up with a big squirt of hand sanitizer.

Finally, they receive a fresh face mask, and the hotel coordinator sprays their shoes with an alcohol mixture.

These guests aren’t tourists on vacation. They’re people who tried to cross into the US but, for a variety of reasons, have been sent back to this border city and need a safe place to stay.

Doctor Dayaites Rios is pictured through the window in the attending physician’s room while Doctor Leticia Chavarria stands below on May 30, 2020 at Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

‘We’re taking migrants off the street’

Migrant shelters, which are trying to control the spread of COVID-19, can’t immediately take them in. So Hotel Flamingo has been temporarily converted into a “filter hotel” — a space where they can quarantine for 14 days before transferring to a longer-term shelter.

“We’re taking migrants off the street and away from the risk of potential infection,” said Leticia Chavarria, the hotel’s medical coordinator. “We have them here for two weeks, and if during that time they don’t present any symptoms, then another shelter can receive them.”

Once guests have washed up, hotel coordinator Rosa Mani guides them to a waiting room with well-spaced out chairs and explains how things work. Every guest will go through a preliminary health screening, then receive a private room.

“We’re taking migrants off the street and away from the risk of potential infection. We have them here for two weeks, and if during that time they don’t present any symptoms, then another shelter can receive them.”

Leticia Chavarria, medical director at Hotel Flamingo 

“One of the first questions is if someone feels ill, if someone has a headache, a fever, or any symptom related to COVID,” said Mani, who is with the World Organization for Peace. “If someone says yes, then immediately they’re the first person we care for.”

There’s an isolation wing for people with COVID symptoms or who have come into contact with someone who’s infected, and another wing for everyone else.

Protocols are strict. Once a doctor goes up to the isolation area, she can’t come down until her shift is over. Anything she needs gets sent up in a bucket on the end of a rope, which Chavarria jokingly refers to as an elevator.

Rosa Mani, coordinator of Hotel Filtro, speaks to Portugese interpreter Flor Cedrella who was donning personal protective equipment and had just spoken to a Brazilian migrant in quarantine on May 30, 2020 at Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez.

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

Many groups came together to rent out the hotel, stock up on cleaning and medical supplies and transform it into a quarantine center, including the International Organization for Migration, the World Organization for Peace, Seguimos Adelante and several government entities.

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

It can accommodate up to 108 people and is currently about three-quarters full. Recently, several medically vulnerable migrants and their families were transferred there from the government-run Leona Vicario shelter, where there has been a cluster of COVID-19 cases. Seven of them have since tested positive for the virus. According to Mani, they are currently in isolation and are not experiencing health complications.

Some hotel guests have been forced to wait in Mexico as their asylum cases play out in US immigration court, as part of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). They’ve been living in Juárez for months or longer — renting out rooms or apartments — and suddenly found themselves in need of new housing during the pandemic, unable to afford rent now that work has dried up. Some have also lost financial support from relatives in the US, who are also hurting due to the coronavirus and can no longer send money.

Others have been rapidly expelled from the border, under a public health directive issued as concern about COVID-19 grew.

Michael Margolis, an American volunteer with NGO Seguimos Adelante disinfects buckets used by migrants for washing clothes on May 30, 2020 at Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez. Hotel Filtro was set up by non profits as a place for migrants, many of which have been rapidly expelled from the US due to the pandemic, to quarantine at before being placed in a shelter.

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

A temporary safe haven

That includes a Honduran mother who arrived at the hotel with her two children: an 11-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. She asked that her name not be used, out of fear for her family’s safety.

On a sunny afternoon in late May, she stood outside her room, taking in some fresh air while her son played behind her, stacking blocks into small towers.

Through a face mask, she recalled a journey that started last winter when, she said, a local gang tried to extort her.

“I sold candy,” she said. “What I earned was only enough to cover my family’s expenses.”

When she couldn’t pay, “they didn’t give me any option except to leave my country. They told me I had less than twelve hours to leave my country or they would kill me, along with my children.”

So she fled. She could not have predicted that a global pandemic would dramatically alter her plans. But by the time she reached the US-Mexico border, coronavirus had reshaped daily life and public policy in both countries.

In late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an emergency public health order that the Trump administration has used to expel unauthorized migrants at the border in a matter of hours, including asylum seekers. Officials take down basic identifying information in the field and then almost immediately send people back into Mexico or their home countries.

A Cuban volunteer doctor tends to migrants under observation on the second floor of Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez on May 30, 2020.

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

Administration officials say this order helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the US, though dozens of public health experts have pushed back against the statement, arguing in a May letter to the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services that “there is no public health rationale for denying admission to individuals based on legal status.”

After crossing the border, the Honduran mother claimed authorities detained her so roughly she was left with bruises and ripped clothes.

“They grabbed me worse than you would an animal,” she said.

Related: US and Mexico are blocking kids from asking for asylum because of coronavirus

She said they took her photograph and fingerprints, then dropped her at an international bridge without any explanation.

“They didn’t tell me anything,” she said. “They just did that, without giving me any reason. It was really ugly.”

She wasn’t sure where to go. As a diabetic, she knew she was at an elevated risk for complications from the coronavirus and worried about what might happen to her children. But the Mexican governmental agency Grupo Beta brought her to the filter hotel.

She’s grateful to them.

“If I were on the street, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” she said.

A place to wait and hope

It’s difficult to think past the next two weeks. Going back to Honduras isn’t an option, the woman said. But for 14 days, her family has a safe place to stay.

A few small touches make the space feel more homey. Her children painted flower pots during an outdoor art class, led from a distance by a volunteer teacher. She’s placed them on the windowsill.

“I’m not lacking for anything here,” she said. “They’re giving me medical care, food, a place to sleep.”

That medical care includes two daily checkups.

Doctor Yuneisy Gonzales, 37, from Cuba, is pictured at work on May 30, 2020 at Hotel Filtro in Ciudad Juárez. She volunteers as a doctor at Hotel Filtro, which was set up by nonprofits as a place of quarantine for migrants that have been rapidly expelled from the US due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

“We go room to room,” said Yuneisy Gonzales, one of six doctors who work at the hotel. They’re volunteers, though they receive a small, mostly symbolic stipend. “We can’t enter the rooms because we try to maintain all the safety measures. We check temperature, oxygen saturation levels, heart rate. We do a short physical exam.”

Gonzales identifies with the guests here, because she is a migrant as well. She left Cuba last year, was placed in MPP, and has been living in Juárez while she pursues her asylum case. Before the filter hotel opened, she worked at a fast food restaurant — a far cry from her previous life as a general practitioner.

“It had been more than a year since I’d practiced medicine. You miss your profession. Because medicine is a profession that you study but also that you feel, and you like helping people.”

Yuneisy Gonzales, volunteer doctor at Hotel Flamingo

“It had been more than a year since I’d practiced medicine,” she said. “You miss your profession. Because medicine is a profession that you study but also that you feel, and you like helping people.”

When Gonzales heard the hotel was seeking doctors, she was eager to sign up. It may not seem like much, she said, but monitoring people for 14 days means when they go back into the community, they won’t be spreading coronavirus.

“For me, it’s a huge honor to get up every day at six in the morning, get ready, come here, and put on my white coat,” she said. “There’s no comparison.”

RelatedMexico: The ‘waiting room’ for thousands of migrants trying to get into the US

Gonzales’ next asylum hearing is scheduled for July, though it’s not clear if immigration court will be open by then.

“Sometimes you lose hope because it’s been very hard,” she said. “But I haven’t considered giving up my case.”

For now, this hotel has given her a sense of purpose — and so many others a place to shelter — while they wait.

US protests highlight ‘anti-black racism across the globe,’ says South African political analyst

US protests highlight 'anti-black racism across the globe,' says South African political analyst

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The World staff

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Carol Hills

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Eusebius McKaiser’s on-air interview style is to ask the questions others may be too afraid to ask. 

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Courtesy of Eusebius McKaiser

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Eusebius McKaiser wants white people to feel uncomfortable — or at least be willing to feel uncomfortable. 

McKaiser is a mixed-race South African. He’s 41 and grew up during the tail end of apartheid. Today, he’s popular across South Africa as an author, political analyst, broadcaster and podcaster. He has a background in moral philosophy.

McKaiser’s on-air interview style is to ask the questions you may be too afraid to ask. He joined The World’s host Marco Werman from Johannesburg. 

Related: Black Lives Matter organizers in the US and UK compare and contrast the global movement

Marco Werman: The anger and the protests against police brutality on African Americans in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — they’ve got plenty of energy right now. They spread to many other parts of the globe. They don’t seem to be stopping. What do you think is going on here? Is this a moment that is sustainable? And if it is, does that tell you something deeper is happening? 

Eusebius McKaiser: I think it is a moment, but it’s a moment that must be connected to history. There’s institutionalized, anti-black racism across the globe. I think because of the pandemic, ironically enough, we have an opportunity to single-mindedly focus on the nature of anti-black racism across the globe because we don’t have the usual complex array of distractions like mass entertainment and sport and the other hurly-burly, everyday things that come with life as normal. 

You came of age in South Africa as apartheid rule came to an end. So, your adult life has essentially been spent living through and watching the transition to the new South Africa. So, as you’ve watched the reaction to this killing of a black man by white police — what aspects of South Africa’s transition are relevant, do you think, to the US today? 

Sadly, Marco, the answer is that actually South Africa is a very unhelpful case study because we, too, have institutionalized black racism within the state, even though we have a majority black-led government that is currently in government here at the tip of Africa. And what I mean by that is that black life is so cheap across the globe that even in a region like Africa, you will find postcolonial governments, our own included, that often are at the helm and are responsible for state-led violence against black people. So we, too, have police brutality. We, too, have soldiers that are disproportionately trampling on the rights of poor black people in poor areas here in Johannesburg during this pandemic.

So, there are echoes between what is happening in America and what is happening in South Africa, notwithstanding the fact that in South Africa, black people are a numerical majority. And what that tells you is that although, fundamentally, white supremacy is about whiteness, that nevertheless, you can also have postcolonial governments with phenotypically black people in charge who are themselves anti-black. 

We spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recently on our show. It was a process to address past violence during apartheid. It was painful, really painful, for a lot of people. But many say the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prevented a civil war. So, do you think some sort of truth and reconciliation commission is possible for the United States 150 years after the official end of slavery? 

A truth and reconciliation commission for the United States is not a good idea, but not because so much time has elapsed after slavery. The reality is that black life continues to be used as part of the economic oppression of black people’s entitlement to be part of a democratic, corporate America. 

Yeah, to some extent, the TRC in South Africa prevented a civil war. But at what cost? At the cost of economic justice. What the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave us on the upside was peace, and it gave us civil and political freedoms.

The reality of the matter is that there is a certain kind of liberal comfort in the language of reconciliation because reconciliation doesn’t … imply reparations. You need to make good by black Americans in terms of the historic injustices, in terms of how their bodies quite literally were used as yet another implement in the making of the American economy that benefited white Americans. Those are material questions that have to be located legally inside the reparations debate. And reconciliation talk is really just a fluffy, liberal way of avoiding that conversation. 

Related: What South Africa can teach the US on racial justice, reconciliation

I totally hear your point that dealing with the past is a crucial step here. I came upon an interview you did last year with Wilhelm Verwoerd, the grandson of Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid and a person who is universally loathed by South Africans today. You said to him, “You have genetically in you the genes of Hendrik. Many South Africans, black and white, regard Hendrik as evil. How do you feel about the fact that you are genetically, through blood, related to the architect of apartheid?” What were you trying to get at in asking that question on the blood connection to the father of apartheid? 

What I was trying to get at is in addition to these structural economic justice questions that you and I have managed to frame in this conversation, Marco, there’s also an experienced element. I want to know, what do you feel like as a white person? Do you feel the burden of history in terms of being implemented, an intergenerational injustice, even if you weren’t around in 1948 when your grandfather began the apartheid state formally? That’s a question that many white Americans listening must grapple with. 

It is possible for you to feel shame, which is a very important moral emotion, even if you are not directly legally accountable for the sins of your father. And I wanted to see whether the grandchildren of Hendrik — and by extension, metaphorically, white South Africans, in general — can grapple with what it means to have intergenerational privileges, even if they were not responsible for the original moral sin. 

What advice would you give Americans on how to have conversations like these? 

The most important thing is to stop speaking euphemistically. I find even with my American friends, when I studied at Oxford, many of them were top scholars who were studying abroad, that there’s a kind of careful language here that is framed to avoid speaking plainly. You have to speak plainly. No. 2, you have to learn to listen rather than to wait to speak. Learning to listen actively and closely — particularly, uncomfortably — what it means to be black in America right now, it’s not easy. It’s easy to flip the channel right now and listen to music instead of actually staying with this conversation between you and me.

And I think it’s incredibly important to allow yourself the habits that you need to form, which is a difficult one of actually sitting through the discomfort. And the last thing I would say is, don’t think that if you are a white, progressive American, that simply requires you to speak out against overt racism. The worst kind of racism in America is the racism of many progressive whites, who don’t recognize their own spectrum of racism that they have. So, the other problem in American discourse at the moment is that everyone goes for a template of racism that makes themselves come out decent. But the truth of the matter is that all white people have work to do — not only the ones who are overt racists. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Discussion: How systemic racism intersects with the coronavirus pandemic

Discussion: How systemic racism intersects with the coronavirus pandemic

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The World staff

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Calls for social justice and police reform have gained momentum as unrest continues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of a white officer has roused worldwide protests.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by video Wednesday, calling for an investigation into US police brutality and racial discrimination.

“The way you saw my brother tortured and murdered on camera is the way black people are treated by police in America,” Floyd told the council.

Related discussion: Stopping the spread of misinformation amid the coronavirus crisis

The calls for social justice and police reform are intersecting with the coronavirus crisis. Around the world, the pandemic is hitting minority communities harder than others. And recent incidents of racial discrimination around the US have shed light on the moral and economic costs of racism.

As part of our regular series discussing the coronavirus crisis, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a live conversation with David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School. They discussed the drivers of current unrest — and steps to consider to create a more just society.

The conversation is presented jointly by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Reuters contributed reporting.

Will Voice of America’s new Trump pick protect the agency’s independence?

Will Voice of America’s new Trump pick protect the agency’s independence?

By
The World staff

Producer
Joyce Hackel

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A Voice of America crew reports in front of the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, where the Chinese president stayed in Manalapan, Florida, April 5, 2017.

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The Voice of America (VOA) got its start in 1942 during World War II, with the aim to provide news in more than 40 languages to nearly 300 million people around the globe. 

It’s a US taxpayer-funded agency, and its charter insists that its journalism be “accurate, objective and comprehensive.” 

President Donald Trump has not been a big fan of VOA. At an April 15 White House news briefing, the president lambasted VOA’s coverage — especially on its treatment of the coronavirus in China: “If you heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting. What — things they say are disgusting toward our country,” Trump said. 

Related: Violence toward journalists is rising around the world

Now, Trump has picked Michael Pack to head the broadcast agency. Pack, who has been confirmed by the Senate, is a close ally of conservative political strategists including Steve Bannon, once a top aide to Trump and former executive chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart News. Meanwhile, two top VOA officials resigned this week

David Ensor, a radio and TV journalist who headed up the VOA from 2011-2015, talks with The World’s host Marco Werman about what lies ahead for the taxpayer-funded media outlet. 

Related: Journalist Maria Ressa says democracies are fragile

Marco Werman: First of all, David, about this new pick to run the VOA, Michael Pack. He is an ally of former White House strategist Steve Bannon. What else is Michael Pack known for, and what is his vision for VOA?

David Ensor: Well, he’s a documentarian. He did a recent documentary on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He’s on the right, politically. No surprise there. But we really don’t know what his plans are — if he has them. He did say in his hearings that he would honor the charter of the Voice of America that sets up a firewall protecting VOA’s independence from the rest of the government.

There were two top VOA officials who stepped down this week. Why?

I don’t know why they’ve resigned just now, but I presume they feel that the era of a Trump appointee running the agency is not one they want to be part of.

There are reports about Michael Pack misusing funds at the Public Media Lab and diverting them to his own organization. Is that something that the two VOA officials who stepped down this week were incensed with?

No, I don’t think so. That was an issue that Senator [Bob] Menendez, the ranking Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was looking into and was concerned about. And I don’t know all the details, but it was an allegation of financial impropriety. Menendez said that there ought to be fully looked into and he shouldn’t be voted on before it was. But the chairman went ahead and held a vote. And then, of course, it went through the full Senate.

President Trump, as I said earlier, has never been a big backer of VOA. In recent months, he’s really been lashing out at VOA, criticizing it for, among other things, its coverage of China during the coronavirus outbreak. What has VOA been doing that’s really gotten under Trump’s skin?

Well, the White House suggested that VOA had praised the way China has handled the pandemic, which, in my understanding, is simply not true. There were all sorts of reports on Voice of America in Mandarin and other languages about the many problems, about the period of weeks, if not months, in which the Chinese hid how serious the problem was. Unfortunately, we have a president who lies a lot.

There are a lot of things that Trump has revealed since he came into office about what he does not understand about the federal government. Do you have a sense that he does not understand what VOA is or supposed to be?

Well, I think a lot of Americans don’t really understand Voice of America. They think it’s a Cold War relic, no longer relevant. It’s extremely relevant. Its audience has grown dramatically in the last 10 years, because I think people are looking for reliable news sources.

What do you see coming in the months ahead for VOA? Can it avoid becoming a mouthpiece of the White House?

I hope so. It depends very much on Mr. Pack’s approach.

Interesting scenario. What will happen if Joe Biden clinches the presidency while VOA could potentially be staffed by executives who have more in common with Breitbart news?

Well, if that were to happen, I would hope that the new president’s people would move fairly quickly to replace those individuals. Breitbart is not an objective news source. I’m all for a variety of voices coming from different perspectives, but there’s such a thing as facts and news organizations that don’t try to get the facts right, I don’t have a lot of respect for.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

This trans woman sparked Kuwait’s biggest LGBTQ movement in history

This trans woman sparked Kuwait's biggest LGBTQ movement in history

Maha al-Mutairi filmed herself after being called in to the police station for being an openly transgender woman in Kuwait, where “imitating the opposite sex” is illegal. Her message went viral, and sparked a groundswell of support and attention for the LGBTQ community in the country.

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Bianca Hillier

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A transgender rights activist waves a transgender flag in New York, May 24, 2019.

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Video of police beating Indigenous chief fuels ongoing anti-racism protests in Canada

Video of police beating Indigenous chief fuels ongoing anti-racism protests in Canada

It’s one of many recent incidents of police violence against Indigenous and black people causing an outcry. 

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Rupa Shenoy

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Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation exits the passenger seat of a truck before his violent arrest by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, in a still from police dashcam video obtained during legal discovery, in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, March 10, 2020.

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In a dashcam video, officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — or RCMP — stop the outspoken chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta for an expired license plate.

From the start, Chief Allan Adam appears angry and frustrated.

“I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP.” 

Chief Allan Adam

“I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP,” Adam says.

The situation suddenly escalates when an officer, who runs in from offscreen, launches himself at Adam, tackling him to the ground and punching him in the head.

“Don’t resist, sir!” the officer yells.

Related: Canadian universal basic income experiment has been life-changing for those unemployed amid coronavirus 

The incident happened in March, but the video was released last week, as protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer spread across Canada. Amid the ensuing public outrage, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had not done enough to address the treatment of Indigenous people.

“This is a problem that we have seen for many years. We have made steps to improve it. But there is a need for much more, much quicker,” Trudeau said on June 15. “And that’s why we are working right now with communities to address what needs to be done most rapidly, and we are going to move forward with them rapidly.”

Trudeau acknowledged that there is systemic racism in Canada. Other Canadian leaders, though, seemed reluctant to go that far. Ontario Premier Doug Ford on June 2 said Canada doesn’t have the same “systemic, deep roots” of racism as the United States. After criticism, he walked back those comments. The RCMP commissioner, Brenda Lucki, also at first said her organization wasn’t systemically racist before clarifying that systemic racism does exist at the RCMP.

Related: Black Lives Matter protests renew parallel debates in Brazil, Colombia

“It’s very disheartening because it’s all been talk. There hasn’t been much action,” said Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

She points out that it’s now been a year since the release of a 1,200-page, groundbreaking report into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The report concluded that thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been killed or have disappeared as a result of what they called “Canadian genocide.”

The report found that these deaths and disappearances weren’t properly investigated because of systemic bias within the police force. The Canadian government promised to have a national action plan in place by this month, but it’s been delayed.

“This has happened for years and years, and they need to take it seriously,” Whitman said. “We need to be heard, and we aren’t being heard. If there’s no action plan, they’re not doing anything.”

Related: Toronto’s first black police chief resigns

Meanwhile, troubling cases involving police and Indigenous people continue to make the news. Recently, a black and Indigenous woman died when she fell from a balcony while Toronto police were in her apartment. Another Indigenous woman was shot and killed by police in Edmundston conducting a well-being check. In New Brunswick, officers fatally shot an Indigenous man.

“It’s an uphill battle, especially when it doesn’t stop,” said Norm Leech, executive director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. “If we could go a week or two without a death, maybe we could get started. But it goes on and on.”

Leech’s group trains new officers in Vancouver about interacting with Indigenous people. They’re allowed three hours to explain that Indigenous people still see the RCMP in a historical context that isn’t fully acknowledged.

“When they created the RCMP, or originally the Northwest Mounted Police, well, their job was to police the frontier — which meant us,” Leech said.

Colonial powers made laws that Indigenous people never agreed to follow, he said, and Indigenous people are still seen as the “bad guys.” But Leech said this could be a turning point in the fight against police violence — not because of any acknowledgment or promises by the Canadian government. Instead, Leech says this time could mean real change because of the momentum behind the protests in both the black and Indigenous communities.

“I think it’s a natural alliance,” he said.

Related: From Minneapolis to Madrid, racial profiling and police harassment cost lives

Black and Indigenous communities have allied throughout history, even though colonial powers have tried to separate them, says Ciann Wilson, an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Toronto. She leads the Proclaiming Our Roots project, which collects the histories and experiences of black and Indigenous Canadians.

“I think there is a really deep-seated investment in hiding that history of resistance and collaboration and solidarity. There’s an investment in defining black history as separate from or something other than Indigenous history versus something that’s been very intertwined with or overlapping with Indigenous history.”

Norm Leech, Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre

“I think there is a really deep-seated investment in hiding that history of resistance and collaboration and solidarity,” she said. “There’s an investment in defining black history as separate from or something other than Indigenous history versus something that’s been very intertwined with or overlapping with Indigenous history.”

For his part, Chief Allan Adam also thinks this time will be different, and there will be change. At a press conference where he discussed his beating by RCMP officers, he sent a strong message: “Be aware that you are put on notice,” he said to law enforcement listening. “This can’t continue going on. And it has to stop.”

Options dwindle for Venezuelan migrants across Latin America during the pandemic

Options dwindle for Venezuelan migrants across Latin America during the pandemic

By
Megan Janetsky

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A man from Venezuela who migrated to Colombia wears a face mask and carries a mattress at a makeshift camp amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Bogotá, Colombia, June 8, 2020.

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Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

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Miguel Benites walked along lanes of cars in Medellín, Colombia, with a black mask wrapped around his jaw. In one hand he held a box of candies and in the other, he held a sign that read: “Ayúdame para alimentar a mi familia. Busco empleo.” (“Help me feed my family. I’m looking for work.”)

Benites, 24, is among the 5 million Venezuelans who have fled their collapsing country in recent years. In Medellín, he found a job as a mechanic and a respite from years of violence and economic turmoil.

But in March, Benites lost that economic lifeline when Colombia went under a now monthslong quarantine. 

COVID-19 has left Venezuelans across Latin America reeling and with dwindling options at the same moment that the World Health Organization declared the region the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Colombia has an underdeveloped medical system, dense urban cities and high poverty rates, but its strict quarantine measures have so far helped to avoid the spiking death tolls seen in Brazil and Mexico. As of June 16, it has reported more than 53,000 confirmed cases and over 1,700 deaths, though cases have jumped as restrictions have loosened. 

Related: Coronavirus spread threatens Colombia’s Amazonian Indigenous region

But the lockdown also pushed poorer populations to the brink, forcing workers like Benites to decide whether to go hungry or risk infection.

Miguel Benites 24, sells candies on the streets of  Medellín, Colombia. He lost his job as a mechanic during the pandemic. 

Credit:

Megan Janetsky/The World 

“Right now, well, I’m in the streets trying to survive. … But it’s really hard. Here at the streetlight, you don’t earn a lot, just enough to eat for the day.”

Miguel Benites, migrant from Venezuela living in Colombia

“Right now, well, I’m in the streets trying to survive,” Benites said. “But it’s really hard. Here at the streetlight, you don’t earn a lot, just enough to eat for the day.”

On a good day, he can earn about $7. On a bad one, less than $3.

Related: Meet the woman who buries forgotten migrants from Venezuela

The situation has forced nearly 75,000 Venezuelans to return to the country they once fled, including 22-year-old Danny Quintero Velásquez. 

“My fear at the beginning of the coronavirus was something like, ‘Wow, I’m far from home, and if something happens to me, who is going to be with me? No one. I’m alone.’ So, I said it’s better to return to my country.”

Danny Quintero Velásquez, Venezuelan migrant in Colombia who decided to return to his home country

“My fear at the beginning of the coronavirus was something like, ‘Wow, I’m far from home, and if something happens to me, who is going to be with me? No one. I’m alone,'” Quintero Velásquez said. “So, I said it’s better to return to my country.”

Danny Quintero Velásquez was among the first wave of people to return by a bus organized by the Colombian government after living for three years in Colombia. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Danny Quintero Velásquez

Quintero Velásquez was among the first wave of people to return by a bus organized by the Colombian government after living for three years in Colombia, host to the largest number of Venezuelan migrants in the region. Others walked hundreds of miles on foot.

Overlapping humanitarian crises have plagued Venezuela for years as economic and political turmoil has spurred on violence, starvation and a collapse of the medical system.

Quintero Velásquez’s heart ached for his home in the northern city of Valencia, and the family he left behind to support. But when he tried to return, he described the process as “torture.”

He first waited for days on the streets in the Venezuelan border city of San Antonio del Táchira without shelter from the blistering desert sun and rain. Later, Venezuelan authorities packed them into a broken-down building with throngs of other migrants to quarantine for two weeks. Reports show that those who resisted were beaten or disappeared.

They lived in deteriorated conditions, he told The World, sleeping on cement floors and eating little more than corn-based arepas. As he waited, he said people along the border called him a traitor and discriminated against him for leaving the country. 

This comes despite the fact that embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on state TV that all returnees should be greeted “with love, affection and all preventative measures.”

“The experience was horrible for us returning after so much time. … Almost three years of being gone, and to return and be treated like that in your own country, that’s really hard.”

Danny Quintero Velásquez, Venezuelan migrant in Colombia who decided to return to his home country

“The experience was horrible for us returning after so much time,” Quintero Velásquez said. “Almost three years of being gone, and to return and be treated like that in your own country, that’s really hard.

That’s the experience for a growing number of returnees, said Arles Pereda, president of Colony of Venezuelans in Colombia. Since the beginning of the mass migration in 2016, the organization has provided aid and legal resources to many of the 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia.

Now, he said their role has been flipped. In addition to delivering food to starving families in Medellín, they’ve “become a bridge” for people who want to return.

“They arrived here with a dream, which many fulfilled — some were in the process of establishing themselves, others were just starting and were very unstable — but many of those dreams have been broken.”

Arles Pereda, president, Colony of Venezuelans in Colombia

“They arrived here with a dream, which many fulfilled — some were in the process of establishing themselves, others were just starting and were very unstable — but many of those dreams have been broken,” Pereda said.

It’s a struggle not just in Colombia, but for migrants across South America in countries like Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.

Thousands more wait in informal camps near borders, highways and bus stations across the region, hoping to return home as COVID-19 cases and deaths jump.

According to Colombia’s migration authorities, the Venezuelan government currently only allows 400 migrants to cross back into the country three days a week — leaving them in limbo. There are at least 24,000 Venezuelans in Colombia waiting to return, according to those authorities, and with these restrictions, it could take up to six months for people to return.

Pereda and other human rights leaders fear for migrants returning home, where the medical system was already shattered by years of crisis. 

While Venezuela has only reported 3,062 confirmed cases and 26 deaths as of June 16, the country lacks reliable testing and transparency. The real number is likely far higher, and researchers have reported that case counts appear inconsistent with the scale of the pandemic. 

Maduro’s government has largely censored journalists and medical workers, but one May survey reported that 62% of hospitals faced shortages of face masks and 90% faced shortages of alcoholic gel. 

Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins University officials called the country “grossly unprepared” to take on the brunt of the pandemic, even warning that the deepening crisis there may drive a new wave of emigration down the line.

Now in quarantine with his family in Valencia, Quintero Velásquez feels torn. That looming sense of insecurity he felt in Colombia — that he could get kicked out of his apartment or be infected without any lifeline — is gone. But this has been replaced by dread for the future — something he’s reminded of on a daily basis.  

Severe gasoline shortages have created days long lines to buy gasoline at skyrocketing prices, a product that used to be so cheap it was once smuggled over the border and sold in plastic bottles. Access to medical services is practically nonexistent, he said. 

Related: Doctors wait hours to fill tanks as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

In May, when they rushed his mother to the hospital for a heart attack, medical staff sent her home because they were only treating COVID-19 patients. Instead of treatment by a doctor, Quintero Velásquez bought her medicine on the black market.

“Is the crisis going to get worse? Yes. It gets worse every day,” he said. “It’s already collapsed because of the gasoline. We’re a petroleum country, and we don’t even have combustibles. … What’s more, the medical system has also already collapsed, and now that’s worsening too.”

He paused and added, “so, thank God there haven’t been that many cases.”

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

By
The World staff

A person receives a parcel inside a residential compound that has been put under stricter virus control measures and surrounded by barbed wire after a new outbreak of the coronavirus, in Fengtai district, in Beijing, China, June 17, 2020.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Chinese officials have described the new outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Beijing as “extremely grave.” More than 60% of flights to the capital have been canceled and China’s emergency warning has been raised to its second-highest level. But China is not alone in dealing with growing cases of the virus, as infections have spiked in the US, India and Iran.

Six US states have reported record highs of new cases. Texas is among them — it’s seeing thousands of new cases and hospitalizations after the state agressively reopened the economy in May. Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier this week that the recent spike “does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed.”     

After more than three weeks without a new case of the coronavirus, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an “unacceptable failure” in which health officials allowed two women returning from London to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds before being tested. The women later tested positive for the virus. Ardern has now appointed a top military leader to oversee quarantine measures.  

And, while many have pointed to the link between the coronavirus and wet markets, some warn that “in the rush to create a safer food system, culturally significant food practices, which pose comparatively minor public health risks, are coming under threat,” The Guardian reports.

What The World is following

At least 20 people have died in close combat clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed border in the Himalayas. Soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat and reportedly fought with rocks and nail-studded bamboo sticks. Both countries have lobbed accusations at each other. China has recently taken an aggressive tactic on territory and borders, and over the last several decades has built infrastructure around the Line of Actual Control demarkating the region. With the loss of life in this week’s clashes, de-escalation of tensions may be difficult to achieve.  

Controversial Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has tested positive for the coronavirus, along with his wife and two aides. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s residence now has a disinfectant tunnel to protect him from the disease. But do these tunnels come with more risk

From The WorldTensions continue in Darfur as Sudanese war criminal faces his day in court

After more than a decade evading charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a Sudanese suspect, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, widely known as Ali Kushayb, finally appeared in court. The conflict, which the United States later called a genocide against Indigenous Africans, left an estimated 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. For some Darfuris, Kushayb’s arrest is a sign that justice, long-elusive, could be on the horizon.

Remembering Sarah Hegazi, the Egyptian LGBTQ activist arrested for unfurling the rainbow flag

Crowds listening to Mashrou Leila concert in Cairo in 2017. 

Credit:

Egyptian Streets/Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Hegazi will be remembered as someone who just wanted to be herself — and was imprisoned and tortured for doing so. During a 2017 music festival in Cairo, Hegazi hoisted a rainbow flag above the crowd — a daring move in a country where homosexuality is taboo. A friend took her photo, and Hegazi became famous after the image spread across on social media. But that moment came back to haunt her. On Saturday, Hegazi died by suicide in exile in Canada. She was 30 years old.

Canadian universal basic income experiment has been life-changing for those unemployed amid coronavirus 

Nick Abrantes walks after purchased three pairs of shoes during a phased reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Toronto, May 19, 2020.

Credit:

Carlos Osorio/Reuters 

Canadians who have lost their job or can’t work because of the coronavirus can apply for an emergency jobless benefit from the Canadian government. It’s a temporary program, but it’s also turned into what may be the world’s largest experiment with a universal basic income. More than 8 million Canadians have applied.

As governments scramble to come up with ways to financially support people out of work because of the pandemic, many economists and politicians say the Canadian program is proof the time has finally come for a no-strings-attached, guaranteed income.

Morning meme

Austrian police have fined a man €500 after he provocatively “let go a massive intestinal wind apparently with full intent.” We’re blown away. 💨

Meanwhile in Vienna. https://t.co/de4VQQ0N2C

— Adriaan Louw (@adriaanhlouw) June 16, 2020In case you missed itListen: China imposes restrictions after new coronavirus cases

Police officers wearing face masks and gloves stand guard outside an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale market, which has been closed following cases of the coronavirus in Beijing, June 16, 2020.

Credit:

Tingshu Wang/Reuters

A new cluster of cases of the coronavirus in Beijing is raising concerns about a second wave in China. Also, anger is mounting over the deaths of Indigenous people at the hands of police in Canada, sparked by the killing of George Floyd. And, how South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a new South Africa might be instructive for how the United States might use this unprecedented moment of focus on race.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

India, China want peace but blame each other after deadly border clash

India, China want peace but blame each other after deadly border clash

Indian army trucks move along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, June 17, 2020.

Credit:

Danish Ismail/Reuters

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India and China blamed each other on Wednesday after soldiers of the two sides savagely fought each other with nail-studded clubs and stones in the remote Galwan Valley, high in the Himalayan border region, killing at least 20 Indian troops.

“We never provoke anyone,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on national television, referring to Monday’s hand-to-hand fighting. “There should be no doubt that India wants peace, but if provoked, India will provide an appropriate response.”   

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the clash erupted after Indian soldiers “crossed the line, acted illegally, provoked and attacked the Chinese, resulting in both sides engaging in serious physical conflict and injury and death.”

He said he did not know of any Chinese casualties, although Indian media quoted officials as saying at least 45 people were dead or injured on the Chinese side.

Zhao said the overall situation at the border was stable and controllable.

Under an old agreement between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants, no shots are fired at the border, but there have been fisticuffs in recent years between border patrols.  

According to Indian officials, soldiers were hit with clubs studded with nails and stones during a brawl that erupted in the remote Galwan Valley, high in the mountains where India’s Ladakh region borders the Aksai Chin region captured by China during the 1962 war.   

The rival armies have been eyeball-to-eyeball at their border for decades, but it was the worst clash since 1967, five years after China humiliated India in that war.

Modi, a strident nationalist, was elected to a second five-year term in May 2019 following a campaign focused on national security after spiralling tensions with old enemy Pakistan, on India’s western border.

India’s gung-ho media and the opposition piled pressure on him to respond aggressively.

“Gloves are off, with the Galwan valley clash, China pushed too hard,” the Times of India wrote in an editorial. “India must push back.”

“Beijing can’t kill our soldiers at the border and expect to benefit from our huge market,” it continued, advocating sanctions against Chinese imports.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party tweeted: “Enough is enough, We need to know what happened. How dare China kill our soldiers, how dare they take our land.”

Hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops have been facing each other since early May at three or four locations on the disputed border in the uninhabited, barren mountains of Ladakh.

India says Chinese troops have intruded into its side of the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border.

China rejects the allegation and has asked India not to build roads in the area, claiming it to be its territory.

Colonel killed

According to the Indian government sources, the fighting on Monday night broke out during a meeting to discuss ways to de-escalate tensions, and the colonel commanding the Indian side was one of the first to be struck and killed.

Many of the other Indian soldiers who died had succumbed to their wounds, having been unable to survive the night in freezing temperatures.

Unlike in India, the incident did not receive wall-to-wall coverage in China, where official media reported a statement on the incident from the spokesperson for the Chinese army’s Western Command.

On social media, bloggers and media aggregating platforms shared Indian media reports, such as the Indian army’s announcement acknowledging that the death toll had risen to 20.

Most vocal was the Global Times, a paper published by the official paper of the country’s ruling Communist Party.

Its editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, took to domestic and global social media platforms to scold India, saying “Indian public opinion needs to stay sober” and to warn that China did not fear a clash.

By Sanjeev Miglani and Yew Lun Tian/Reuters