Can Spain’s new paternity leave law address entrenched gender roles?

Can Spain’s new paternity leave law address entrenched gender roles?

Starting this year, fathers in Spain have four months of federal mandated paid leave — the same amount of time mothers have had for years. While that puts Spain ahead of many European countries, some critics say the law won't do much to change gender norms and roles.

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Lucía Benavides

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Erika Oliva, left, and her husband Benjamin Lopez’s family gather inside their apartment in the southern neighborhood of Vallecas, in Madrid, Oct. 15, 2020.

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Every Friday, María Gallardo and Francesc Turmo pick up their three children from school together. They first head to one building to wait for 3-year-old Martí and 5-year-old Mia, who run to their parents with painted faces as soon as they spot them. 

Their third child, 7-year-old Alex, won’t get out of his Capoeira class for another couple of hours, so the family heads to a nearby Barcelona plaza, where dozens of children have thrown their backpacks aside and swarm the playground. A small group of children plays a game of soccer.

For Gallardo and Turmo, this Friday ritual is important. In fact, sharing child care duties has been a crucial part of becoming parents, which is why Turmo took as much paternity leave as he could for each child.

“I was able to have four months off with all of them,” Gallardo said. “But [Turmo] had two weeks off for the first child, three weeks off for the second child, and a month off for the youngest.”

Turmo added that fathers were granted one extra week of leave for each child they had. 

But now, that’s all changed. Starting this year, fathers have four months of federally mandated paid leave — the same amount of time mothers have had for years. It’s nontransferable, which means men have to use it themselves or risk losing the compensation — it’s paid entirely by the Spanish government at 100% of their yearly salary. 

Related: Abortion is a protected right in Spain

In terms of paternity leave, that puts Spain ahead of many European countries, where even places like Sweden pay fathers only 80% of their salary for their leave and give them the option of transferring the allotted time to their partners. (Though, in all, parents in Sweden have 16 months of leave — double the amount in Spain.)

Turmo says this is an important step forward.

“I think it’s a good thing that men are able to stay with their child after the mom has returned to work. …It’s good for the children, too, to have time with each parent.”

Francesc Turmo, father of three, Spain

“I think it’s a good thing that men are able to stay with their child after the mom has returned to work,” he said. “It’s good for the children, too, to have time with each parent.”

Turmo and Gallardo say many of their male friends are already taking advantage of longer paternity leave, which has increased progressively since 2017.

The paternity leave law in Spain is the result of over a decade of lobbying from the organization, Platform for Equal and Non-Transferable Birth and Adoption Leave. Spokesperson María Pazos says the idea was to push men to take a more active role in child care and ensure better work opportunities for women — since companies are less likely to discriminate against an employee’s gender if every person is guaranteed the same amount of paid leave.

“When you give men paternity leave, and it’s well paid, they take it, and they get involved in child care,” Pazos said.

In 2018, the leftist party Unidas Podemos sponsored a bill based on the organization’s proposal, which was approved by the Spanish Parliament in early 2019. In a speech given just weeks before becoming a father himself, the leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, says men need to step up their child care duties.

“We’re not here to help women raise our children, we’re here to split the responsibilities fifty-fifty.”

Pablo Iglesias, leader, Unidas Podemas, a leftist political party

“We’re not here to help women raise our children, we’re here to split the responsibilities 50/50,” he said. 

But Pazos says the law isn’t exactly what the organization had proposed: nontransferable paid leave for men to take separately from their female partners. The law requires fathers to take the first six weeks in conjunction with the mother — and the last 10 weeks, which can be taken part time, to be arranged with their employers.

“It undermines the purpose of a paternity leave and ultimately pressures fathers to take their entire leave alongside the mothers, or to take it when it’s most convenient for their company.”

María Pazos, spokesperson, Platform for Equal and Non-Transferable Birth and Adoption Leave

“It undermines the purpose of a paternity leave and ultimately pressures fathers to take their entire leave alongside the mothers, or to take it when it’s most convenient for their company,” Pazos said.

The idea behind a nontransferable leave is to ensure men take it, she says, because if it were transferable, they would likely hand it over to their female partners instead.

Related: In Spain after lockdown, soccer resumes for men — but not for women

But Gracia Trujillo, sociology professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, says only a small percentage of fathers actually take their paternity leave — and that’s unlikely to change with the new law.

“This law is being implemented in the name of equality, but the reality is that caretaker duties still aren’t equal.”

Gracia Trujillo, sociology professor, Complutense University of Madrid 

“Until now, men who wanted to take care of their children had the option of taking paternity leave or a leave of absence. So, if you really want to be involved in your child’s life, you don’t need the government to give you four months off,” she said. “This law is being implemented in the name of equality, but the reality is that caretaker duties still aren’t equal.”

Trujillo says that changing the law won’t change gender roles. Women continue to be the primary caretakers and are disproportionately affected by low-paid or precarious jobs, so Trujillo says they’re the ones who need more paid time off. Or it should at least be transferable, she adds, so that couples can decide for themselves how to best distribute the time.

Related: Centuries ago, Spanish writers challenged gender norms and barriers

And the law has other setbacks, Trujillo says. For example, it doesn’t keep in mind families outside the heteronormative framework. 

When Trujillo and her female partner had twin girls in 2017, Trujillo had to take a “paternity leave” because she wasn’t the biological mother — and it wasn’t possible for both mothers to take maternity leave. This also applied to gay fathers, who were able to access 16 weeks of paid leave before the paternity law was implemented by having one of them take a “maternity leave.” Legally, same-sex parents are now bureaucratically recognized, Trujillo says, but some government offices continue to have paperwork that only allows for one paternity leave and one maternity leave per child.

Vicent Borràs, a sociology professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, says that while the law protects every parent, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, it’s largely geared toward heterosexual couples. 

“There’s more inequality between heterosexual couples because of the history of gender roles between men and women.”

Vincent Borràs, vice president, Families LGTBI

“There’s more inequality between heterosexual couples because of the history of gender roles between men and women,” said Borràs, who is also the vice president of the organization Families LGTBI

He says the law will not get rid of centuries’ worth of inequality between men and women in the household — but it’s a start.

“This law attempts to bring men into the world of child care,” Borràs said. “Because according to nearly every study, if the father is present in the first year of his child’s life, he’s likely to be present throughout the child’s entire life.”

Trujillo says that, in the end, the key to having a good parental leave is ensuring that the law centers around the well-being of those who need care — in this case, the child and the caretakers.

“This is one small part of a larger discussion about vulnerability, about caretaking duties and about who takes on those roles,” Trujillo said. “Historically, it’s been women, and it’s a job that hasn’t been valued, neither from a material nor from a cultural or social dimension. That needs to change radically.”

Revisiting Wuhan a year after the coronavirus hit the city 

Revisiting Wuhan a year after the coronavirus hit the city 

More than 3,000 people died of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. But there hasn’t been a case there since last spring.

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Rebecca Kanthor

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The COVID-19 Exhibition in Wuhan, China, pays tribute to soldiers. 

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A year ago, I passed through Wuhan just before the city went into lockdown for 76 days.

More than 3,000 people died of the coronavirus here, but there hasn’t been a single new case in Wuhan since last spring. I wanted to return to see how the city has recovered.

Related: China hopes for cooperation, better relations under Biden

First stop, this sprawling exhibition hall. It used to be a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients. Today, it’s a museum documenting the city’s fight against the virus. It’s strange to walk through a museum that explores a threat that is still very real for so many people — even here.

Outside, large banners feature the faces of front-line workers. And giant Chinese characters read, “The people and life above all else.”

Inside, a massive screen displays China’s leader Xi Jinping larger than life, praising the response to the pandemic. There’s a timeline of what the government did and when, and photos and videos showing the actions of top leaders.

Related: US bans cotton products from China’s Uighur region over forced labor concerns

The heart of the exhibition is a re-creation of the hospital ward that stood at this very spot. A 3D hologram shows hospital workers in full protective gear fighting to save their patients’ lives. Hospital cots are set up as if still in use.

An exhibit in Wuhan, China, documents the story of the coronavirus in the city.

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Rebecca Kanthor/The World 

Tour guides lead visitors through the hall filled with drawings made by patients, even an ambulance. Visitors can lay virtual flowers in front of small black-and-white photos of COVID-19 martyrs, including Li Wenliang, one of the doctors who warned about the virus early on and was punished for doing so. Of course, that part was left out.

Related: Green China: Where authoritarianism and environmentalism meet 

College student Zhao Xin Yu says he traveled from Beijing to see for himself how Wuhan has recovered.

“I feel like they gave so much. So many people from the top government leaders down to each volunteer really pitched in to help out.”

Zhao Xin Yu, Beijing resident, student

“I feel like they gave so much,” he said. “So many people from the top government leaders down to each volunteer really pitched in to help out.”

One of the videos shows Wuhan residents saying farewell to the medical teams who came from all over China to help out, with a song playing in the background called, “Let Me Thank You.”

Then the mood of the exhibit lifts, and one last display shows Wuhan’s vibrant street life, everything back to normal. The message is clear: The government led the city out of the crisis.

Not everyone feels that way though. I talked to a few people here who feel their lives can never go back to normal.

Last January, Yang Min’s 24-year-old daughter went to the hospital for chemotherapy. Then she got a fever. Doctors said she was getting better, but she died of COVID-19 shortly after. Because Yang was also sick, she didn’t learn about her daughter’s death until weeks later. She’s angry at what she calls a cover-up.

Related: WHO team arrives in Wuhan to investigate pandemic origins

I want justice for my daughter, she says. I want the officials who concealed the epidemic and didn’t act to be held accountable. This is my only reason to live now.

Visitors at the COVID-19 Exhibition in Wuhan, China, get a closer look at photos on display.

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Rebecca Kanthor/The World 

Like everyone who has lost a family member to the virus, Yang was offered just under $500 compensation. She refused it and has been trying to sue the government ever since. The courts won’t take her case. After she visited the local government office to complain, the police came.

“The next day, they restricted my personal freedom and prevented me from going outside my apartment complex. They changed my health code color from green to red and said I couldn’t go out.”

Yang Min, Wuhan resident

“The next day, they restricted my personal freedom and prevented me from going outside my apartment complex,” she said. “They changed my health code color from green to red and said I couldn’t go out.”

Zhang Hai is also trying to sue. A year ago, he brought his 76-year-old father to Wuhan for hip surgery. Within 15 days, his father contracted COVID-19 and died.

Zhang is filled with guilt. I sent my father to his death, he says. Zhang thinks the government needs to be held accountable for its mismanagement in the early days.

“The virus broke out because of the government’s underreporting,” he said. “That killed people. How can you praise yourself for later actions? What matters most is what you did at the beginning.”

But a year after the lockdown, voices like Zhang’s and Yang’s are not welcome. They say they are under surveillance. They’ve been blocked from social media, and have been called to talk to police numerous times. Local journalists can’t publish interviews with them.

There are others here in Wuhan who just want to put that difficult time behind them.

Like at a pub in Wuhan that is packed with customers who drink and laugh, masks off.

Hu Zheng Hong was having a beer with a couple of friends. He says that going through the lockdown brought people together. I ask him if he feels like Wuhan is back to normal.

The COVID-19 Exhibition in Wuhan, China, honors medical workers. 

 

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Rebecca Kanthor/The World 

“Well, 80% really,” he said. “As long you have your health and your life, that’s most important.”

He and his friends just want to enjoy themselves. Others tell me there’s a feeling of anxiety bubbling beneath the surface. No one wants to let down their guard too much. Some are hoarding food to prepare for a second wave.

Zhou Zhu, a young office worker, says he’s anxious about a potential second lockdown now that there’s another outbreak in Hebei province.

“But there’s a vaccine now and we’ve learned from our experience last year, so we’re not as worried as we were then,” he said.

The people of Wuhan want to move on but until the pandemic ends, it seems they will always have to be on alert. 

Biden tackles the coronavirus; Twin suicide bombings in Baghdad; Migrant shipwreck off Libyan coast

Biden tackles the coronavirus; Twin suicide bombings in Baghdad; Migrant shipwreck off Libyan coast

Newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden will sign 10 key executive orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, as cases surge and troubling new variants appear around the world. Biden is asking all Americans to mask up during travel as a federal mandate, radically shifting the culture of mask-wearing in the US.

By
The World staff

US President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 20, 2021.

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

Newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden will sign 10 key executive orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, as cases surge and troubling new variants appear around the world. Initiating the national COVID-19 strategy rollout on Biden’s first day in office, the US announced plans to rejoin the World Health Organization after the former Trump administration had admonished it. Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, also said the US would join the COVAX Facility, a global project to ensure equitable vaccine distribution around the world. A new COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in the US will ensure that all minority and underserved communities are not neglected.

Biden is asking all Americans to mask up during travel as a federal mandate, radically shifting the culture of mask-wearing in the US after Trump often discouraged it. And Biden plans to amp up vaccine distribution in the US, shooting for 100 million jabs during the first 100 days in office. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is charged with setting up 100 vaccine centers within the month and to reimburse states to use their National Guard troops to help with vaccine distribution. After many schools shut down due to the virus, states can now turn to FEMA for disaster relief funding to reopen, depending on increased testing.

What the world is following

Twin suicide bombings shook the Bab al-Sharqi commercial area of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding more than 100 others, according to Iraq’s Health Minister Hassan Mohammed al-Tamimi. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iraqi Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji said: “This is a terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State.” ISIS may want to “prove its existence” after several military operations in Iraq to root them out. ISIS has been largely defeated in Iraq since 2017, but ISIS militants continue to assert power. While the US has reduced its troops in Iraq in the last few years, Biden’s pick for defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, said in his confirmation hearing that he remains concerned about the threat ISIS poses inside Iraq and beyond.

boat bound for Europe carrying 43 migrants capsized on Tuesday in the Mediterrean Sea, off the coast of Libya, drowning all 43 passengers. The International Organization for Migration said the tragic shipwreck was the first boat disaster of this kind in 2021. It  follows the trend of migrants from North and West Africa and the Middle East who flee poverty and political instability in their home countries and make dangerous sea crossings in search of better lives in Europe. The EU has partnered with Libya’s coast guard to manage migrant traffic, but rights groups say these policies place migrants in further peril by holding them in squalid detention centers and jails.

From The WorldA post-America world: Biden’s challenges begin at home, former diplomat Richard Haass says

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at the North Portico of the White House,  Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.

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Alex Brandon/Pool via AP

Former diplomat Richard Haass suggests that a “post-America world” may come sooner than we think — and that it’s been hastened by and connected to the Jan. 6 riots at the US Capitol.

“The connection is that the insurrection raised questions around the world, particularly on the part of our allies, as to our constancy,” Haass told The World.

“Even though Mr. Trump will be departing the Oval Office, it raised fundamental questions about the long-term trajectory of the United States, American society and American politics. In order to be an alliance leader, you need to be steadfast, reliable, predictable — and suddenly, those things seem to be in short supply. And more specifically, the concern is, even if Joe Biden is a familiar and traditional American president, what might follow him?”

Biden supporters across the political spectrum unified by outrage, heartbreak and hope

Lady Gaga performs the national anthem during the 59th presidential inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

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Andrew Harnik/AP

As Joe Biden starts his work as US president, the balance of power is changing everywhere. And the anti-Trump coalition believes Biden must succeed, said Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the nonprofit Indivisible. She said they believe Biden can only do that by addressing structural problems in the US government.

“I think what we’re seeing is that people want to both cheer President Biden on and they want to make him be bold. And they’re coming at that from a supportive but pressuring angle,” Greenberg said.

Bright spot

In one of the most talked about moments at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant Wednesday as she called out to the world: “Even as we grieved, we grew.”

Watch the video of Gorman’s poem here.

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

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In case you missed itListen: US President Joe Biden sends a message to the world

Kenyans watch President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on TV, in Nairobi. Biden has officially become the 46th president of the United States, Jan. 20, 2021.

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US President Joe Biden used his inaugural address to send a message to the world, taking the opportunity to directly repudiate Trump’s “America First” policy. And, Biden outlined his top priorities on Wednesday including the environment, calling climate change one of the “cascading crises” America faces as he takes office. Also, in stark contrast to former President Trump’s policies and approach, the Biden administration marks a major shift in the US pandemic response globally.

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

China hopes for cooperation, better relations under Biden

China hopes for cooperation, better relations under Biden

A vendor selling lighted balloons stands near a large video showing a news report about the inauguration of US President Joe Biden at a shopping mall in Beijing, Jan. 21, 2021.

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After a sometimes confrontational and often turbulent relationship with the the Trump administration, China on Thursday expressed hope the newly inaugurated Biden administration will improve prospects for people of both countries and give a boost to relations.

“I think after this very difficult and extraordinary time, both the Chinese and American people deserve a better future,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing.

She said China and the US need to relaunch cooperation in a number of areas. She particularly welcomed the new administration’s decision to remain in the World Health Organization and return to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Many people of insight in the international community are looking forward to the early return of Sino-US relations to the correct track in making due contributions to jointly address the major and urgent challenges facing the world today,” Hua said.

She also criticized ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other former officials, a day after Beijing imposed travel and business sanctions on 28 of them, including Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien and UN Ambassador Kelly Craft.

“Over the past few years, the Trump administration, especially Pompeo, has buried too many mines in Sino-US relations that need to be eliminated, burned too many bridges that need to be rebuilt and wrecked too many roads that need to be repaired,” Hua said.

Hua on Wednesday described Pompeo as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.”

Hua’s markedly more friendly tone Thursday appeared to signal Chinese hopes to cool the rhetoric on both sides and give the relationship a chance to heal over some of the worst divisions.

“I think both China and the United States need to show courage, show wisdom, listen to each other, face up to each other and respect each other,” Hua said. “I think this is the responsibility of the two major countries of China and the United States, and it is also the expectation of the international community.”

Also Thursday, China’s Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai offered his congratulations to Biden on Twitter, which is widely used by the Chinese government despite being blocked in the country.

“Congratulations to President Biden on his inauguration! China looks forward to working with the new administration to promote sound & steady development of China-U.S. relations and jointly address global challenges in public health, climate change & growth,” Cui tweeted.

Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping congratulated Biden on his election but had no immediate comment on Wednesday’s inauguration.

While Biden’s administration is expected to seek to put relations with China back on an even keel, he is unlikely to significantly alter US policies on trade, Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea that have angered Xi’s increasingly assertive government.

A post-America world: Biden’s challenges begin at home, former diplomat Richard Haass says

A post-America world: Biden's challenges begin at home, former diplomat Richard Haass says

Former diplomat Richard Haass wrote recently that a "post-America world" may come sooner than we think — and that it's been hastened by the Jan. 6 riots at the US Capitol.

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Amanda McGowan

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at the North Portico of the White House,  Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.

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Biden supporters across the political spectrum unified by outrage, heartbreak and hope

Biden supporters across the political spectrum unified by outrage, heartbreak and hope

People want to cheer on Biden and make him be bold, Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the nonprofit Indivisible, told The World. 

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Rupa Shenoy

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Lady Gaga performs the national anthem during the 59th presidential inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

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As Joe Biden starts his work as US president, the balance of power is changing everywhere.

Former President Donald Trump identified with, aided and supported strongman leaders across the globe. But Trump also united the protesters pushing back — creating momentum that organizers say may help make the Biden administration successful.

Related: ‘Even as we grieved, we grew’: Poet Amanda Gorman gives powerful performance at inauguration

Trump’s tenure began in January 2017 with the Women’s March — the largest single-day protest in US history. Afterward, Harvard University sociologist Theda Skocpol and other researchers tracked protesters as they sought to continue their activism.

“Suddenly, people turned up at Democratic Party meetings that had been nobody there. I would describe it as a revitalization of the roots of the Democratic Party.”

Theda Skocpol, Harvard University 

“Suddenly, people turned up at Democratic Party meetings that had been nobody there,” she said. “I would describe it as a revitalization of the roots of the Democratic Party.”

New grassroots groups also sprang up across the country, many of them led by women. And their collective efforts paid off pretty quickly. Skocpol says the 2018 midterm elections were “a turning point.” The newly mobilized activists phone-banked and went door-to-door for the midterms to elect — in many cases — moderate Democrats. She says they increased voter turnout with a broad coalition.

“The way they looked at it is any Democrat that can build a majority, we’re going all out for him,” Skocpol said. “I think they saw it as a way to save the country really from Trump and Trumpism.”

Then, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer, and people protested racism and police brutality in countries across the globe.

Related: How the Biden administration might undo some of Trump’s immigration policies

“This summer was a very, very transformational moment. We saw more non-Black people joining protests, we saw corporations speaking out for the first time. And it happened in the middle of the pandemic,” said Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color Of Change, a group that leads campaigns for racial justice. “We believe racial justice is becoming a majority issue.”

Movements have coalesced, she said. People across the political and demographic spectrum have been unified by a similar feeling of outrage and heartbreak. They’re motivated by an array of issues — from police brutality and family separation to health care and student loan debt.

Hatch believes the sense of unity among groups that helped elect Biden will last — especially because of the attack on the Capitol two weeks ago. But she said Biden still has to use his slim Democratic majority in Congress to deliver.

“Democrats should be very aware that there’s an expectation that people’s lives will be improved on a host of different issues because they are in the majority,” Hatch said. “Democrats have to begin to figure out how they’re going to deliver for that coalition if they hope to hold that majority for longer than two years. And yeah, that will involve negotiation and back and forth and sometimes criticisms.”

Related: 5 major challenges facing Biden on Day One   

The anti-Trump coalition believes Biden must succeed, said Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the nonprofit Indivisible. And she said they believe Biden can only do that by addressing structural problems in the US government.

“I think what we’re seeing is that people want to both cheer President Biden on and they want to make him be bold. And they’re coming at that from a supportive but pressuring angle.” 

Leah Greenberg, Indivisible

“I think what we’re seeing is that people want to both cheer President Biden on and they want to make him be bold. And they’re coming at that from a supportive but pressuring angle,” Greenberg said.

If the coalition that defeated Trump remains unified and keeps pushing, Greenberg said it ultimately could help defeat right-wing authoritarian figures around the globe.

“What I would hope is that the defeat of Trump and the successful transfer to Joe Biden is part of a broader wave, turning back this right-wing, ethnonationalist current,” she said.

Related: Georgia’s green voters helped deliver the Senate to the Democrats

If the US can make the reforms necessary to represent and care for all its people, Greenberg said, it may help countries keep strongmen like Trump from taking power again.

5 major challenges facing Biden on Day One   

5 major challenges facing Biden on Day One   

Here’s a roundup of coverage on The World that will get you caught up on the fraught transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

By
Anna Pratt

and
The World staff

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th presidential inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

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Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office in a pandemic-friendly, high-security ceremony in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

Harris is now the highest-ranking woman and woman of color to ever hold national government office. Prior to Wednesday’s formal proceedings, Biden’s Cabinet nominees began confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Related: Watch live: Biden takes the helm as president — ‘Democracy has prevailed’

In a break from tradition, former President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were notably absent from the inaugural proceedings. Donald Trump did not immediately concede the election, and his final days in Washington were rife with conflict. He was impeached for a historic second time by the US House following Jan. 6’s deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

Related: Watch live: Biden’s national security Cabinet nominees face Senate tests

Biden, who plans to undo plenty of the Republican president’s policies, is inheriting a great many challenges from the Trump administration while the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe and economies falter. The coronavirus, climate and environment, immigration, national security and US-China trade relations are just some of the key policy areas that Biden will begin focusing on, starting on Day One.

“We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain.” 

Joe Biden, US president

“We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” Biden said during the inaugural address, stressing the need to overcome political divisiveness. 

New: Here’s a breakdown of the 17 executive actions President Biden will sign this afternoon in the Oval. Many directly undo Trump’s touted accomplishments. @cbsnews pic.twitter.com/oQSVK5MYWr

— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) January 20, 2021

Here’s a roundup of presidential transition coverage on The World that will get you caught up on what’s in store as Biden steps into the White House.   

Coronavirus 

In the lead-up to the election, many voters said they were disappointed in Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus and it was a deal-breaker at the polls, including for 18-year-old Jacob Cuenca, of Homestead, Florida.

“He has fallen. There’s no way he’s going to be able to resurrect himself.”

Jacob Cuneca, 18, Homestead, Florida

“He has fallen,” Cuenca said of Donald Trump prior to Election Day. “There’s no way he’s going to be able to resurrect himself.”

Donald Trump, who himself got COVID-19, was not in sync with top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, about staving off the pandemic that has already claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US.

“If we can get the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated, we can put an end to this outbreak,” Fauci, who will be part of the Biden administration team in charge of managing the pandemic, told The World.

In addition, other less wealthy countries are faced with a dearth of vaccines as a result of  “vaccine nationalism.”  

Climate

While all eyes were on the US Capitol attack and its aftermath, the Trump administration plowed on with a Jan. 6 auction of oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic wildlife refuge. Biden plans to reverse this by executive order. 

Previously, Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement and pressures from his administration to downplay environmental issues have been detrimental to the Arctic Council. Biden has also said he will restore US involvement in the accord. 

Immigration   

Donald Trump’s hard-line, anti-immigrant rhetoric and border wall plans have been front and center since he entered office. Biden says he will overturn immigration policies such as the bilateral agreements the Trump administration made with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to keep asylum-seekers away from the US-Mexico border.

He is also canceling the travel ban against Muslim-majority countries. But it’s unclear how the Biden administration will handle the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy as he has walked back his promises to undo it. 

National security 

The recent violence at the Capitol has exposed a national security issue brewing from within the country: white extremism.

Fiona Hill, who was a top Russia adviser, said the attack “has all the elements of a civil conflict.”

And, some warn that a similar breach could happen again while misinformation continues to circulate online, with dangerous offline implications. US scholars and other observers say the events signal the “death of American exceptionalism.”

Canada, seeing the rise of US-inspired, right-wing extremism within its borders, may designate the Proud Boys, who’ve been connected to the recent Washington events, as a terrorist group.

A former FBI agent says that the Capitol breach requires a 9/11-style commission. Michael McFaul, who was the US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, says Biden, together with his State Department pick, Antony Blinken, has a chance to restore US footing on the world stage.

“They share a similar worldview, and that means a lot in diplomacy, because every time Secretary Blinken, I hope that’ll be the case, goes abroad, everyone will know that they are speaking directly to somebody that has direct access to the president.”

Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia

“They share a similar worldview, and that means a lot in diplomacy, because every time Secretary Blinken, I hope that’ll be the case, goes abroad, everyone will know that they are speaking directly to somebody that has direct access to the president.” 

US-China relations  

Biden steps into fraught US-China relations. Over the past four years, the power struggle with China has centered on trade.

Recently, the Trump administration banned cotton products from China’s Uighur region over forced labor concerns. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China has “committed genocide” against the Uighur ethnic group.

The US also drew a red line, saying that China cannot name Tibetan Buddhism’s next leader

‘Even as we grieved, we grew’: Poet Amanda Gorman gives powerful performance at inauguration

'Even as we grieved, we grew': Poet Amanda Gorman gives powerful performance at inauguration

By
The World staff

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In one of the most talked about moments at the inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant Wednesday as she called out to the world: “Even as we grieved, we grew.”

Related: A poem penned during Libya’s 2011 uprising continues to inspire hope 

The 22-year-old Gorman referenced everything from Biblical scripture to the Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” and at times echoed the oratory of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. With urgency and assertion, she began by asking, “Where can we find light/In this never-ending shade?” and used her own poetry and life story as an answer.

The poem’s very title, “The Hill We Climb,” suggested both labor and transcendence.

Related: A Uighur poem travels from Chinese internment camp to New Jersey

It was an extraordinary task for Gorman, the youngest by far of the poets who have read at presidential inaugurations since Kennedy invited Robert Frost in 1961, with other predecessors including poets Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander. Mindful of the past, Gorman wore earrings and a caged bird ring given to her by Oprah Winfrey, as a tribute to the late writer Maya Angelou, who penned the memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I. pic.twitter.com/I5HLE0qbPs

— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021

Gorman, a native and resident of Los Angeles, California, and the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman told The Associated Press last week that she planned to combine a message of hope for President Joseph Biden’s inaugural without ignoring “the evidence of discord and division.” She had completed a little more than half of “The Hill We Climb” before the Jan. 6 siege of the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman told the AP. 

Related: Global youth network writes poems to cope with climate crisis

Read the full text of the poem below:

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always justice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Georgia’s green voters helped deliver the Senate to the Democrats

Georgia's green voters helped deliver the Senate to the Democrats

Voters most likely to rank the environment as their top priority are young, Black or Latino, and they were key voters in the two recent senatorial wins in Georgia that gave the majority to Democrats.

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Adam Wernick

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Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to arrive and speak at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta.

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Inauguration Day for Biden-Harris; Biden to sign 15 executive orders upending Trump-era policies; Trump’s flurry of pardons

Inauguration Day for Biden-Harris; Biden to sign 15 executive orders upending Trump-era policies; Trump's flurry of pardons

Today is Inauguration Day — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in at noon as the 46th president and vice president of the United States. On Day One, Biden announced plans to sign at least 15 executive orders, upending a broad range of Trump-era policies.

By
The World staff

Marine One with President Donald Trump onboard leaves the White House for the last time ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

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Watch live: Biden takes the helm as president — ‘Democracy has prevailed’

Watch live: Biden takes the helm as president — 'Democracy has prevailed'

Updated:

January 20, 2021 · 12:30 PM EST

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Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed.” He swore the oath of office to take the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

Biden’s inauguration came at a time of national tumult and uncertainty, a ceremony of resilience as the hallowed American democratic rite unfurled at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago. On a chilly Washington day dotted with snow flurries, a bipartisan trio of ex-presidents along with the elite of nation’s government gathered, ensuring the quadrennial ceremony persevered, even though it was encircled by security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden said. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”

And then he pivoted to challenges ahead, acknowledging the surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States. Biden looked out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial injustice.

And he was not applauded by his predecessor.

Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol. Though three other former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — gathered to watch the ceremonial transfer of power, Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, instead flew to Florida after stoking grievance among his supporters with the lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate.

Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. On his first day, Biden will take a series of executive actions — on the pandemic, climate, immigration and more — to undo the heart of Trump’s agenda at a moment with the bonds of the republic strained.

“Biden will face a series of urgent, burning crises like we have not seen before, and they all have to be solved at once. It is very hard to find a parallel in history,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “I think we have been through a near-death experience as a democracy. Americans who will watch the new president be sworn in are now acutely aware of how fragile our democracy is and how much it needs to be protected.”

Biden will come to office with a well of empathy and resolve born by personal tragedy as well as a depth of experience forged from more than four decades in Washington. At age 78, he was the oldest president inaugurated.

More history was made at his side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.

The two will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels in history.

Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the Republican president, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.

The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Lincoln, who was secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Roosevelt’s inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.

The day began with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. At Biden’s invitation, congressional leaders from both parties bowed their heads in prayer in the socially distanced service just a few blocks from the White House.

Once at the Capitol, Biden will be administered the oath by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for Trump, was sitting nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a gold microphone, sang the National Anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.

The theme of Biden’s approximately 30-minute speech will be “America United,” and aides said it would be a call to set aside differences during a moment of national trial.

Biden will then oversee a “Pass in Review,” a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Then, Biden, Harris and their spouses will be joined by that bipartisan trio of former presidents to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.

Later, Biden will join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year’s parade will be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.

In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“I protested 45’s inauguration, and I wanted to be here when he left,” said Raelyn Maxwell of Park City, Utah. “And I wanted to celebrate the new president.” She brought a bouquet of roses she hoped to toss to Harris and some champagne to toast the occasion.

Trump is the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. In a cold wind, Marine One took off from the White House and soared above a deserted capital city to his own farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews. There, he boarded Air Force One for the final time as president for the flight to his Florida estate.

“I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better,” said Trump, who wished the incoming administration well but once again declined to mention Biden’s name.

The symbolism was striking: The very moment Trump disappeared into the doorway of Air Force One, Biden stepped out of the Blair House, the traditional guest lodging for presidents-in-waiting, and into his motorcade for the short ride to church.

Trump did adhere to one tradition and left a note for Biden in the Oval Office, according to the White House, which did not release its contents. And Trump, in his farewell remarks, hinted at a political return, saying “we will be back in some form.”

And he, without question, will shadow Biden’s first days in office.

Trump’s second impeachment trial could start as early as this week. That could test the ability of the Senate, poised to come under Democratic control, to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet choices.

Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days that includes a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion virus relief package. On Day One, he’ll also send an immigration proposal to Capitol Hill that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

He also planned a 10-day blitz of executive orders on matters that don’t require congressional approval — a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to unwind the Trump years. Among the planned steps: rescinding travel restrictions on people from several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoining the Paris climate accord; issuing a mask mandate for those on federal property; and ordering agencies to figure out how to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.

By Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe/AP

After Museveni wins presidency, Ugandans gradually return to preelection normal 

After Museveni wins presidency, Ugandans gradually return to preelection normal 

People who had left Kampala, either out of fear of postelection violence or to vote in their rural homes, have begun to return to the city. 

By
Halima Gikandi

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni attends the state funeral of Kenya’s former president Daniel Arap Moi in Nairobi, Kenya. Despite failing to dislodge the long-time leader Museveni, opposition challenger Bobi Wine has emerged from Uganda’s Jan. 14, 2021, disputed polls as the country’s most powerful opposition leader after his party won the most seats of any opposition group in the national assembly.

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In the days since the Ugandan Electoral Commission announced President Yoweri Museveni won his sixth term in office, the streets of the capital city, Kampala, have begun to return to some semblance of preelection normal.

People who had left Kampala, either out of fear of postelection violence or to vote from rural outposts, are coming back to the city. The streets, eerily quiet in the lead-up to the election — are filled with the sounds of urban life once again and the military presence seems to be tapering off.  

Related: After months without work, Uganda’s boda boda drivers hit the road

Still, for many in Kampala, the air is heavy with profound disappointment. Museveni secured 58% of the vote, overall, but according to local media, more than 70% of the District of Kampala voters supported political newcomer and musician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine.

“People expected something to change. But nothing has changed in this election. So, according to me, I won’t vote again in Uganda.”

Mahamoodu Tenywa, voter, Kampala

“People expected something to change. But nothing has changed in this election. So, according to me, I won’t vote again in Uganda,” lamented Mahamoodu Tenywa, a 26-year-old who runs a food stall in Kampala.

Tenywa opened the stall after having to drop out of school when he could no longer afford the fees. As he spoke, he chopped onions to add to kikomondo, a local dish made of beans and sliced chapati bread.

“You can find someone who is educated. But you can get him making chapati [local flatbread] because of the situation that is in Uganda. Corruption,” Tenywa said, explaining how hard it is for people to break into local politics.

Related: Ugandan archbishop breaks with tradition to promote birth control during pandemic

He hoped Bobi Wine, a political newcomer whose anti-corruption message resonated with many, would change the status quo.

But those who voted for Museveni, it seemed, wanted business as usual.

In the Bugolobi market, Sam Kato Kyazze, 57, waited for his shoes to be shined. As if emboldened by the election results, Kyazze wore a bright yellow shirt with Museveni’s face printed on the front — a rare show of support for Museveni in Kampala.

“I’m feeling quite good. Very happy for winning. My party has won,” said Kyazze, who works as a casual laborer, finding odd jobs to support his four children.

Kyazze points to free public health care as an example of how the president has improved the lives of ordinary Ugandans in the past 30 years.

“If you go to hospital, sometimes I’m treated free of charge. And other ones, like immunizing. That one he has done a lot.”

During a presidential speech on Saturday evening, Museveni said he would continue to develop these programs over the next five years, and claimed, “I think this may turn out to be the most cheating-free election.”

Museveni, who first became president in 1986 at the age of 44, was only able to run again after Uganda’s Parliament, headed by his party, removed an age restriction for candidates.

But this election was criticized both at home and abroad, long before votes were cast on Thursday.

Related: Ugandan farmers take on French oil giant in game changer case

“From the human rights perspective, there’s been a bit of high-handedness, torture, arrest. A number of cases have been reported where people have disappeared,” human rights lawyer and Chapter Four program manager Peter Gwayaka Magelah told The World in an interview last Tuesday.

“I can safely say this is the worst yet,” Magelah said, referring to the violence that has mostly been directed at members of Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform and other opposition members and their supporters.

Many international and local election observers were also restricted from observing the election, Magelah said.

One Kenyan election observer, Sen. Fredrick Outa of Kenya, said his preliminary evaluation of election day itself was that it was free and fair — with one major exception: “A hitch was the blackout of the internet. Now, I can’t even know what’s happening. That’s the only thing I think needs to be improved in the future.”

During the election on Thursday, many Ugandans told The World that the internet shutdown made them feel less confident in the electoral system, and made others suspicious that the government was trying to rig the election by preventing Ugandans from sharing videos of election irregularities online.

After a five-day shutdown, the internet in Uganda was restored on Monday, although social media continues to be restricted.

“There was gross fraud. Gross irregularities.”

Bobi Wine, Uganda presidential candidate

“There was gross fraud. Gross irregularities,” candidate Bobi Wine told The World on Friday, from his home in Magere, which remains surrounded by military and security forces who have set up checkpoints to control who can enter.

“The military facilitated ballot stuffing, and in some areas, people were blocked from voting,” he claimed.

Bobi Wine and his party have said they will produce evidence of electoral fraud.

For now, Bobi Wine remains effectively under house arrest.

Related: In Uganda, a refugee camp becomes a city

On Saturday, a military spokesman told The World that the heavy security presence was for Bobi Wine’s protection. But on Monday, US Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown was prevented from entering his home, according to the US Embassy. Still, Bobi Wine remains undeterred and says the primary mission in his campaign has been accomplished.

“Now, we are paying attention to the way we are governed,” said Wine, who has been arrested and beaten and seen his family members and friends disappear or be killed over the course of his campaign.

Despite losing the presidential election, members of Wine’s nascent political party won a number of parliamentary seats.

“I know it will never be the same again,” he said, adding that he will consider all peaceful legal and constitutional pathways to contest the election.

“I did not show up just to run for an election. I showed up to add to many efforts to remove a dictator. And the sooner we do that, the better.” 

How the Biden administration might undo some of Trump’s immigration policies

How the Biden administration might undo some of Trump's immigration policies

The incoming Biden administration has said it will overturn policies such as the bilateral agreements the Trump administration made with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to keep asylum-seekers away from the US-Mexico border.

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Carol Hills

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A Honduran migrant woman carries a child on her back as they travel with other migrants by foot along a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala,  Jan. 16, 2021, in hopes of reaching the U.S. border. 

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McFaul: Blinken has a chance to ‘reinvigorate America’s place in the world’

McFaul: Blinken has a chance to 'reinvigorate America's place in the world'

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Daniel Ofman

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Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken testifies during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Jan. 19, 2021. 

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Trump administration tries to sell off Arctic wildlife refuge in its final days

Trump administration tries to sell off Arctic wildlife refuge in its final days

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge likely has billions of gallons of oil under it and for decades has been one of the most high-profile environmental battles. Despite opposition from conservationists and Indigenous peoples, a judge allowed the Trump administration to proceed with a Jan. 6 auction of oil and gas drilling leases in the refuge.

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Adam Wernick

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This undated aerial file photo provided by US Fish and Wildlife Service shows a herd of caribou on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. The refuge takes up an area the size of West Virginia and Connecticut combined in the northeast corner of Alaska.

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The fight to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling has raged for decades. In Trump’s final days, despite opposition from conservationists and native peoples, a judge allowed the Trump administration to proceed with a Jan. 6 auction of oil and gas drilling leases in the refuge.

Supporters of oil drilling, especially Alaskan Republicans, claim opening ANWR is key to revenue and job creation. In 2017, the Alaska congressional delegation was able to get a sale of oil leases into the budget resolution bill, claiming it would generate $1 billion of revenue for the government.

RelatedDrilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is more likely now than ever before

ANWR is a crucial wildlife habitat and, for the Gwich’in Indigenous peoples, it’s known as “sacred land where life begins.” Several conservation and Indigenous groups sued the Trump administration to try to block oil leasing but, despite the lawsuits, the Bureau of Land Management scheduled ANWR lease sales for Jan. 6, 2020. And on Jan. 5, US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason denied request for an injunction that would have delayed the bidding process until after president Trump leaves office.

According to Anchorage Daily News Reporter Alex DeMarban, Gleason didn’t focus on arguments conservation groups had made regarding improper environmental review. Instead, DeMarban says, she noted that the conservation groups did not claim that issuance of the leases would cause “immediate and irreparable harm,” which was something she needed to see in order to immediately halt the them.

Judge Gleason said she still has time to make a decision “before any irreparable harm is done,” DeMarban reports. “She also said that that the seismic exploration program isn’t even approved yet, so there’s nothing she can rule on there. But she invited the conservation groups to try again if they want to stop that, once it is approved, and she would consider that request. So it’s not an end to the case.”

The lease sales began the day after Judge Gleason gave her ruling. Twenty-two tracts of land were available for lease, but only half of them were purchased and none of the big oil companies put in a bid.

This lack of interest is likely due to several factors. First, half a dozen financial institutions, including Bank of America, bowed to pressure from conservation groups and pledged not to fund any Arctic drilling. That means extraction companies would mostly have to invest their own money in the project. Second, the price of a barrel of oil is quite low right now, so there’s little economic incentive for big companies to take on drilling in a remote, controversial region like ANWR.

Two small companies bought one parcel each: Regenerate Alaska, which is an affiliate of an Australian oil company, and Knick Arm Services, which appears to be an LLC based in Alaska, but very little information is available about it.

The biggest bidder was the Alaskan state itself. The government relies heavily on extraction for both revenue and jobs. So, the state-owned Alaska Economic Corporation bought the rights to nine parcels of land, totaling roughly half a million acres. They paid the minimum of $25 per acre, but will get half of that money back as part of the sale.

RelatedCan Alaska rely on oil and address climate change? State officials are about to find out.

President Trump made opening ANWR a key part of his plan for expanding domestic oil production, and the administration hoped the sale would bring in about $1 billion in revenue, Instead, it totaled less than $15 million.

President-elect Biden has said he opposes drilling in the Arctic and is against allowing new leases on any public land. If the ANWR sales aren’t finalized by Inauguration Day, it’s possible the new administration could block them. Congress could also pursue a more long-lasting solution and reverse the 2017 law that allowed the sale to move forward to begin with and then work to pass legislation to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This article is based on a report by Steve Curwood and Bobby Bascomb that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

Political science of the periphery: Part I

Political science of the periphery: Part I

By
Sam Ratner

A Venezuelan migrant family walks away from the Venezuelan border in Pamplona, Colombia, Oct. 7, 2020. 

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This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly newsletter from The World and Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

You know the state, right? It’s got borders, and a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence within them? On the international stage, it acts on an equal legal basis to all the other states? It has a flag? Most international politics studies rest on this classical conception of the state, and yet, anyone who actually studies statehood will readily admit that few, if any, states actually meet those definitional requirements. Borders can be fluid, claims to a universal monopoly on force strain credulity, and states are self-evidently unequal in international law — check out who gets seats on the UN Security Council, for starters.

Related: Federalism in violence: Part I

On the edges of countries, states tend to get a lot less state-y.

Recognizing this conundrum, political scientists have tried to build other models for understanding how people experience international politics in areas where the classical definition breaks down. The next two editions of Deep Dive will look closely at border areas. On the edges of countries, states tend to get a lot less state-y. A boundary that might be clear when viewed on a map in a national capital can become much fuzzier when you’re actually looking at the mountain range that contains some unmarked border. And the concept of legitimate violence gets complicated in places where smuggling gangs are more capable of providing security to civilians than police. This week and next, we’ll look at new research that considers border areas as distinct political phenomena, related to but different from classical ideas of the state.

A recent article in the Journal of Latin American Geography uses a border lens to look at the most contemporary of security problems: COVID-19. Oxford political scientists Annette Idler and Markus Hochmüller examined how the unique characteristics of borderlands have affected the course of the pandemic on the Colombian periphery. 

Related: Peacekeeping work: Part II

Idler and Hochmüller call the reduced state-ness of areas around national borders the “border effect.” The effect increases insecurity in border areas due to a mix of lowered state capacity and high potential illicit gains from cross-border smuggling, but it also creates opportunities for non-state service provision. The pandemic has brought examples of both phenomena. In border areas where non-state armed groups have a bigger footprint and more local legitimacy than state forces, Idler and Hochmüller’s contacts reported some of those groups were enforcing curfews and other public health measures. The National Liberation Army (ELN), a leftist rebel group, even declared a unilateral ceasefire in their war with the Colombian government in order to address the pandemic.

Related: Colombia to refuse coronavirus vaccines for undocumented immigrants 

Colombia closed its border with Venezuela in response to the pandemic, despite the fact that thousands of Venezuelans living near the border need to commute into Colombia regularly to work and buy goods.

Yet many of these same groups have sought ways to profit from lessened state control during the pandemic. Colombia closed its border with Venezuela in response to the pandemic, despite the fact that thousands of Venezuelans living near the border need to commute into Colombia regularly to work and buy goods. As many as 4,000 Venezuelans are still crossing the border illegally each day, but they must now do so using informal routes that put them at the mercy of non-state armed groups. Checkpoints have sprung up, at which border crossers must pay exorbitant fees to various armed actors, and kidnappings of border crossers is on the rise. 

The more non-state groups shape daily life in this public health crisis, the less people will think of themselves as being members of a classical state when the crisis abates.

In general, the pandemic has led to an increase in state involvement in most people’s lives. From stay-at-home orders to stimulus checks, citizens have directly felt their government’s responses to the virus. In borderlands like those on the Colombian periphery, the opposite effect can happen. An increase in discussion of state involvement without the capacity to actually extend state power into border areas can lead to those residents feeling even more disconnected from the central state than they did before. That feeling, Idler and Hochmüller argue, is what non-state groups are pursuing in both their positive and negative responses to the pandemic. The more non-state groups shape daily life in this public health crisis, the less people will think of themselves as being members of a classical state when the crisis abates.

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy without all the stuff you don’t need. It’s top news and accessible analysis for those who want an inside take without all the insider bs. Subscribe here.

Senate begins Biden cabinet hearings; Mexico urges US immigration policy reform; American woman allegedly steals Pelosi laptop for Russian intelligence

Senate begins Biden cabinet hearings; Mexico urges US immigration policy reform; American woman allegedly steals Pelosi laptop for Russian intelligence

On inauguration eve, President-elect Joe Biden’s top national security cabinet picks are set for Senate approval hearings Tuesday.

By
The World staff

President-elect Joe Biden listens as his Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 24, 2020.

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Carolyn Kaster/AP/File photo

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

On inauguration eve, President-elect Joe Biden’s top national security cabinet picks are set for Senate approval hearings Tuesday. Biden tapped recently retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to be his secretary of defense, ruffling feathers by asking Congress to waive the rule against picking a military officer who has served in the Pentagon within the last seven years

Also up for confirmation is Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Homeland Security top choice, along with longtime career diplomat Antony Blinken to lead the State Department. Blinken says he’ll rebuild the department after it was essentially gutted under the Trump administration. If confirmed, Avril Haines will be the first woman in the role of director of national intelligence, and Janet Yellen will also make history as the first woman to serve as treasury secretary

Having Biden’s top cabinet officials in place will be critical in enacting his ambitious reforms, set against the backdrop of racial and civil unrest, a pandemic death toll of almost 400,000 Americans, and an economic recession. Biden has also pledged to overhaul US immigration policy on Day One in office, with plans to sign an executive order that will reunite migrant parents with their children who were separated at the US-Mexico border.

What the world is following

After thousands of Honduran migrants clashed with Guatemalan police as they attempted to reach the US border via Mexico over the weekend, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged US President-elect Joe Biden to reform US immigration policies immediately. “In Joe Biden’s campaign, he offered to finalize immigration reform and I hope that he is able to achieve this. That is what I hope,” Obrador said. The Trump administration had taken a hard line against thousands of Central American migrants who travel in large groups referred to as “caravans,” fleeing hunger, poverty and violence in their respective countries.

Amid the chaos led by Trump supporters of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 22-year-old Riley June Williams, who is from Pennsylvania, has been accused of stealing a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with plans to allegedly sell it to Russian intelligence. The FBI arrested Williams on Monday, charging her with illegal entry and disorderly conduct, but not theft. Williams’ mother told an ITV reporter that her daughter had recently been drawn to “far-right message boards” and Trump’s politics. The matter remains under investigation and a court date has not yet been set.

From The World Hazara community demands justice for slain coal miners in Pakistan

Hazara men protest and refuse to bury the dead bodies till the prime minister Imran Khan came to visit the victims and their families.

 

 

Credit:

Asef Ali Mohammad/The World

In the early hours of Jan. 3, gunmen ambushed a group of miners as they slept in their shared living space near a coal mine in the town of Machh, in southwestern Pakistan.

The attackers separated those who belonged to an ethnic group called Hazaras, blindfolded them, tied their hands behind their backs and brutally killed them. They recorded it all on video.

That’s how witnesses, local security officials and activists described the atrocities that took place in Machh earlier this month. The news shocked many far and wide. It was yet another reminder of how Sunni extremists — in this case, ISIS — continue to systematically target mostly Shiite Hazara people.

In Canada, Syrian refugee kids find belonging through hockey

When a hockey coach in Newfoundland, Canada, heard a Syrian refugee boy named Yamen Bai wanted to play hockey, he put out a call for donations. A year later, Yamen is keeping up with his teammates and scoring goals. 

Bright spot

About 200 light-years from Earth is a giant exoplanet called WASP-107b. Originally discovered in 2017, new research has found that WASP-107b is one of the least dense exoplanets scientists have discovered, which has prompted the “super-puff” or “cotton-candy” nickname. 

The exoplanet WASP-107b is a gas giant, orbiting a highly active K-type main sequence star. The star is about 200 light-years from Earth.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser

In case you missed itListen: Uganda’s Museveni reelected president amid calls of election fraud

Soldiers patrol outside opposition challenger Bobi Wine’s home in Magere, Kampala, Uganda, after President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of the presidential election, Jan. 16, 2021.

Credit:

Nicholas Bamulanzeki/AP

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been declared the winner of the recent election and will begin his sixth term in office. But, the main opposition candidate is calling the election fraudulent. And, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and activism profoundly shaped the US, but it also has had a huge global impact. Also, Italian authorities are calling for proposals of a new, historically accurate recreation of the iconic Colosseum floor, after over a millennium of having a bare arena.

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

UN rapporteur emphasizes responsibility to protect ‘vulnerable’ Hazaras

UN rapporteur emphasizes responsibility to protect ‘vulnerable’ Hazaras

The World’s Shirin Jaafari interviewed Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, about the plight of the Hazara people.

By
Shirin Jaafari

Supporters of a civil society organization hold a demonstration to protest against the killing of coal mine workers by gunmen near the Machh coal field, in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 8, 2021. Pakistan’s prime minister Friday appealed to the protesting minority Shiites not to link the burial of coal miners from the Hazara community who were killed by ISIS to his visit to the mourners, saying such a demand amounted to blackmailing the country’s premier.

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K.M. Chaudary/AP 

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In early January, at least 10 coal miners were brutally killed in southwestern Pakistan.

Witnesses and local security officials said the victims were specifically selected because of their ethnic and religious background. They belonged to a minority group called the Hazaras.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

The incident shocked the community, who say they have been targeted by Sunni extremist groups for years. They say they demand justice and an end to the persecutions.

Related: Hazara community demands justice for slain coal miners in Pakistan

The World’s Shirin Jaafari interviewed Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, to ask about the plight of the Hazara people.

Shirin Jaafari: What is your assessment of the condition of the Hazara communities in different parts of the world? There are communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Fernand de Varennes: It’s difficult for me to answer directly in the sense that I have had no allegations, letters of allegations, in fact, involving the Hazara minority either in Pakistan, Afghanistan or even Iran. In other words, usually as the special rapporteur, as an independent expert with the United Nations, we respond to and we examine more closely situations where we have received allegations of violations of the human rights of different groups, in my case, minorities. 

And until now, it seems from the information that I have been able to assess that no member of the Hazara minority has sent directly any letter of allegation to my mandate. All of that to say, I do have some background information which I have obtained from various sources, but I actually don’t have any in-depth appreciation or understanding of the situation there because my mandate has actually never been asked to intervene at this point.

(Editor’s note: Since this Jan. 16 interview, The World has relayed messages from The World Hazara Council and the Canadian Hazara Humanitarian Services to the special rapporteur.)

A group of miners was killed in Pakistan earlier this month, and ISIS claimed responsibility. In the past, ISIS and other Sunni extremist groups have stated that they target the Hazara communities because of their background, religion and ethnicity. What can be done from your standpoint?

I am aware of a number of situations, including the most recent one, the horrific murder of, I think, 11 miners in Pakistan who were of Hazara background and Shiites. It is clear that the Hazara are being targeted by extremist elements, if you will, such as ISIS, as you mentioned. More recently, there have been, to my knowledge, other incidents in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in particular. And this is deeply concerning.

I am concerned that while, very clearly, my own mandate could possibly play a role, I think the United Nations organization itself, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has an important role to play here. And I’m hoping that we will be approached by organizations or individuals of the Hazara community in relation to these incidents.

Why does the community need to reach out to you, specifically, and what happens once you receive those allegations?

It has to be understood that as the special rapporteur or independent experts, we have a mandate from the United Nations. And the mandate that we have is a special report. There is a procedure to look into allegations of violations of human rights. But it is a procedure where we are reactive. We have to usually react to allegations. And so, we have to receive allegations of violations of these human rights.

In the case of the procedure of a mechanism under a special rapporteur, essentially, what we do is once we receive an allegation of violations of human rights, we prepare a diplomatic note, which is sent to the permanent mission, the embassy, if you will, of the government involved in Geneva. And we express our concern, and we ask for the government to clarify what has occurred, what is occurring.

We can issue an international press release expressing our concerns around a certain situation and we can bring this to the attention of the Human Rights Council in our annual report. We can also perhaps be in some cases a little bit more proactive and insist on knowing what the government has done in relation to a situation. But let me be clear. The special rapporteurs can exercise a bit of pressure, if you will, but there are other human rights entities at the United Nations that should be considered and approached.

I have talked to individuals in the Hazara community who expressed deep concerns about the Taliban. The group has carried out atrocities against Hazaras in the past, and those atrocities have been documented by human rights groups. What is your response to those concerns?

As a humanitarian, you know, somebody who has studied these things in the past, I’m going to answer in a general way because I’m not up-to-date necessarily with all of the details of the negotiations going on. I think in any situation where there is a peace agreement being negotiated, one of the groups that tend to be forgotten sometimes are minorities. And minorities are particularly vulnerable in situations of conflict. Once again, without judging on what is occurring in Afghanistan, I don’t have access to the details to comment. I think that in any country which is coming out of conflict, where ethnicity or religion plays a role, it is extremely important.

And I cannot emphasize this point sufficiently. It is extremely important that all the parties involved in the peace negotiations keep in mind the need to protect some of the most vulnerable communities.

If allegations from the communities do reach you, how would you approach the governments and also the different actors in the region, for example, the Taliban?

The way that we have to proceed because we do have a rather strict mandate, if you will, from the United Nations, is that we would approach the government of Afghanistan expressing our concerns in relation to the allegations of breaches, violations that have occurred. So in other words, a bit of diplomatic pressure pointing out that we have received allegations which are taken seriously.

There might be something else in relation to the point that you made in relation to peace agreements; it might be possible to request the special rapporteur to raise the issue of the protection of the Hazara or any other minorities in any future peace agreement or power-sharing agreement. But someone has to approach my mandate and suggest that as special rapporteur, I should probably intervene publicly in the sense of issuing a press release, raising these concerns and also raising the point with the Afghan government.

Back to the attack in Pakistan earlier this month. The government has increased security by putting armed guards and checkpoints at the entrances of Hazara neighborhoods. On the surface, that might sound like a good idea but one activist told me those measures have severely restricted the community’s movements and have led to the “ghettoization” of the community. How do you see these measures?

I would suggest that what is important or the very first step that needs to be taken in any situation where you have murders, assassinations of individuals belonging to a minority is to prosecute and penalize the offenders. You do not isolate, you do not simply put into a closed environment the victims. You need to actually be extremely proactive in identifying and punishing those who are responsible for violations of the rights, including physical violence and even murders or assassinations. This is the way that you ensure the security, the safety and the respect for the human rights of the victims.

So I think once again, without entering into a judgment of the various measures taken by the Pakistan government, essentially, what you need to do is provide a safe and inclusive environment for all individuals who reside in Pakistan. And you do not just try to isolate completely a group from the rest of society, because in a way, that is conceding that those who are committing atrocities can continue to live normal lives, whereas the victims cannot.

Any final point you would like to add?

I think it is important to realize and to make clear and to raise awareness that the treatment of the Hazara is not just atrocities. These are atrocities where you have a group, a minority that is targeted. And minorities are quite often the most vulnerable, even their own governments, sometimes, unfortunately, do not protect them as much as they should. History is full of situations where the minorities are the targets of genocide and atrocities. We can think about the Second World War and the Holocaust in relation to the Jews and the Roma and other minorities.

This situation that is occurring would be, in my opinion, an extremely important area where the United Nations and other human rights organizations should, as a priority, come up and actually raise these matters directly with the authorities involved, because as minorities, the Hazara and other minorities are, well, pretty much defenseless. And if there is one area where human rights and the United Nations and other organizations are supposed to be active and involved, it is to defend those who cannot defend themselves. And to me, that’s why the Hazara are a minority where we have to play a much greater role.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Hazara community demands justice for slain coal miners in Pakistan

Hazara community demands justice for slain coal miners in Pakistan

ISIS took responsibility for the attack — the latest example of their systematic targeting of Hazaras in recent years.

By
Shirin Jaafari

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Hazara men protest and refuse to bury the dead bodies till the prime minister Imran Khan came to visit the victims and their families.

 

 

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Asef Ali Mohammad/The World

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In the early hours of Jan. 3, gunmen ambushed a group of miners as they slept in their shared living space near a coal mine in the town of Machh, in southwestern Pakistan.

The attackers separated those who belonged to an ethnic group called Hazaras, blindfolded them, tied their hands behind their backs and brutally killed them. They recorded it all on video.

That’s how witnesses, local security officials and activists described the atrocities that took place in Machh earlier this month. The news shocked many far and wide. It was yet another reminder of how Sunni extremists — in this case, ISIS — continue to systematically target mostly Shiite Hazara people.

Related: Afghans mourn the loss of young lives in ISIS attacks 

On social media, the hashtags “HazaraGenocide” and “StopHazaraKillings” circulated.

Read more: UN rapporteur emphasizes responsibility to protect ‘vulnerable’ Hazaras

Local media published the names of almost a dozen victims: 18-year-old Anwer, 22-year-old Sher Mohammad, 28-year-old Hassan Jan, 17-year-old Naseem, 38-year-old Aziz, 35-year-old Chaman Ali, 36-year-old Abdullah, 33-year-old Karim Baksh, 35-year-old Mohammad Sadiq and 18-year-old Abdullah Shah.

Masooma Hazara mourns the killing of five of her family members on the 5th night of the sit-in near Hazara Town in Quetta, Pakistan.

 

Credit:

Asef Ali Mohammad/The World

Hazaras are an ethnic group native to Afghanistan who have survived genocidal campaigns, slavery and land dispossession since the 1800s, according to Derakhshan Qurban-Ali, a Hazara Canadian human rights advocate and a law graduate from McGill University.

Years of mass atrocities, persecution and discrimination have forced many of them to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran. There are Hazara diaspora communities in other parts of the world as well.

In Quetta, outraged and grief-stricken families staged a sit-in that went on for days. They laid down the coffins in the middle of the road and refused to bury their dead — despite the explicit requirement in Islam that they do so as soon as possible.

Sajjad Hussain Changezi, a 34-year-old activist from the Hazara community in Pakistan, said this was the highest form of protest — a way to get Prime Minister Imran Khan’s attention. The families had a list of demands, including that the prime minister visit them in person and promise to do everything in his power to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“For six consecutive days, other officials like the chief minister and others kept coming to them but they refused to end their protest,” Changezi, who studied global studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The World in a WhatsApp call from Quetta.

Related: New doc features the life of Iran’s leading human rights lawyer

When Khan did speak, he made matters worse, he said.

“We have accepted all of their demands,” Khan said in a public speech. “[But] one of their demands is that the dead will be buried when the premier visits. I have sent them a message that when all of your demands have been accepted […] you don’t blackmail the prime minister of any country like this.”

The families were furious.

“No leader in any civilized nation should ever talk to the bereaved families in such a tone.”

Sajjad Hussain Changezi, Hazara activist, Pakistan 

“No leader in any civilized nation should ever talk to the bereaved families in such a tone,” Changezi said.

In response, Changezi and a group of others went on a hunger strike.

A long history of persecution

As the news about the miners spread, protests spread to several other cities across the country.

Well-known Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai urged the prime minister to visit the families.

“The whole country is in mourning,” she said on Twitter.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the Pakistani authorities “to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators of this terrorist act to justice.”

This isn’t the first time the Hazara community has come under attack in Pakistan.

For years, they have been killed at markets, sports clubs and mosques. Sunni extremist groups such as ISIS and the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have taken responsibility for the bloodshed, past and present.

Related: Fighting in Afghanistan claims lives and displaces families as peace talks drag on

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government’s response has been to secure the Hazara neighborhoods in Quetta, Changezi explained, adding that there are armed guards at every entrance point. Residents can’t leave without prior security arrangements. Many have simply given up on going out altogether, he said.

“We have lost employment opportunities, we’ve lost on the educational front, we’ve lost on the business front, the community’s mobility has been compromised immensely,” he said. “I have long been arguing that this could be a temporary solution to protect the community from outside attacks but in the longer term, this will create more alienation, more discrimination, more division within Balochistan and Quetta’s diverse communities.”

Not to mention that the attacks haven’t stopped.

In an interview with The World, Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, said he didn’t know the exact details of the situation in Pakistan but that he found the policies questionable.

“Essentially, what you need to do is provide a safe and inclusive environment for all. And you do not just try to isolate completely a group from the rest of the society because in a way, that is conceding that those who are committing atrocities can continue to live normal lives whereas the victims cannot.”

Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues

“Essentially, what you need to do is provide a safe and inclusive environment for all. And you do not just try to isolate completely a group from the rest of the society because in a way, that is conceding that those who are committing atrocities can continue to live normal lives whereas the victims cannot,” he said. 

Killed ‘because they are Hazara’

Among the miners killed earlier this month were young men who had come to Pakistan from Afghanistan in search of work.

In Afghanistan, too, Hazaras have long been persecuted, said Qurban-Ali, the Hazara Canadian human rights advocate.

Related: Afghan women negotiating with the Taliban say they feel ‘heavy responsibility’

More recently, the Taliban and ISIS have been behind the attacks.

“The reason Hazaras are being killed and targeted and massacred in Afghanistan and in Pakistan is because they are Hazara. This persecution is wholly based on their identity.”

Derakhshan Qurban-Ali, Hazara Canadian human rights advocate

“The reason Hazaras are being killed and targeted and massacred in Afghanistan and in Pakistan is because they are Hazara. This persecution is wholly based on their identity,” Qurban-Ali said.

Qurban-Ali, a representative for the Canadian Hazara Humanitarian Services, added that the persecution of Hazaras is not widely recognized and acknowledged outside the communities. This poses a major problem for many Hazara refugees who are denied refugee protection abroad and often get deported back to places they fled.

The uncle of Sadiq Hazara sits next to his dead body on the 6th day of sit-in staged by the Hazara Community of Quetta, Paskistan.

 

 

Credit:

Asef Ali Mohammad/The World

But that is slowly starting to change.

“I think before, there was widespread awareness within Hazaras of our own persecution. It is something that I think people felt powerless to change in the past. But today, I think people are more and more realizing their power to change through raising awareness and connecting with one another.”

A few days after the sit-ins and hunger strikes in Quetta, Prime Minister Khan eventually visited the families in person. He promised better security and compensation.

Changezi, the activist in Quetta, doesn’t think these promises will end attacks on the Hazaras in Pakistan.

“It’s a sorry and really sad state of affairs that the basic, essential definition of peace for the Hazara community has been the period between two attacks on them.”

Sajjad Hussain Changezi, Hazara activist, Pakistan

“It’s a sorry and really sad state of affairs that the basic, essential definition of peace for the Hazara community has been the period between two attacks on them,” he said.

Activists like Qurban-Ali hope more people learn about the plight of the Hazara people.

Admittedly, she said, there is a lot going on in the world right now — the pandemic, political crisis in the US and climate change. But for anyone who wants to help, she says, she has tips: Step one: Educate yourself and your community. Step two: Understand the skills or resources you can offer and connect with others working on the issue. Step three: Start at home, support refugees in your area, and write to your local representatives.

After all, she added, “it’s 2021, and it’s not OK for anyone to be killed because of their ethnicity or what they believe in.”

Poisoned opposition leader Navalny arrested in Moscow; Migrants stopped in Guatemala; Bobi Wine’s opposition party rejects Museveni win

Poisoned opposition leader Navalny arrested in Moscow; Migrants stopped in Guatemala; Bobi Wine's opposition party rejects Museveni win

By
The World staff

Alexei Navalny and his wife Yuliastand in line at the passport control after arriving at Sheremetyevo airport, outside Moscow, Russia, Jan. 17, 2021. Navalny was detained at the airport after returning from Germany.

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Mstyslav Chernov/AP

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Artist Shungudzo feels an urgency to ‘use her words’ to fight against racism

Artist Shungudzo feels an urgency to 'use her words' to fight against racism

In her music and poetry, Shungudzo tackles the racist experiences she had growing up in Zimbabwe and the US.

Producer
April Peavey

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Zimbabwean American singer, poet and activist Shungudzo says she finds an outlet for her activism through music.

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As a kid in Zimbabwe, Shungudzo was the first woman of color to compete on the national artistic gymnastics team.

It wasn’t easy, but Shungudzo, a singer-songwriter and poet — she also appeared on MTV’s “The Real World: San Diego” — says her mother helped her train and overcome many barriers.

“[My mother] actually trained me at home using tree branches as bars and tape on the ground as a balance beam because I wasn’t allowed to go to gyms because of the color of my skin,” Shungudzo said. “So, to go from that to being on the national team was a great accomplishment. And I’m grateful to have done my small part to open doors for other athletes of color in my country.”

Related: ‘African in New York’: Shirazee’s personal twist on an iconic song by Sting

Shungudzo and her family left Zimbabwe when she was 10 and settled in California. She found the transition to be odd since the impression of perfection and freedom she had of the US did not match with the reality she experienced. 

“I thought that moving here, I would leave racism behind,” Shungudzo said. “But that exists here too — as do so many other forms of oppression.”

Related: Four musicians grapple with the same question: What is home?

She says she was never fully accepted by a lot of Black Zimbabweans, white Zimbabweans and descendants of British colonialists.

“I was in this sort of in-between, not really knowing where I fit in.”

Similarly, in the US, “I was bullied and experienced racism solely for being Black. So, that was an interesting jump. Nobody in America has bullied me for being white here. I’m just Black.” 

Shungudzo draws from those experiences in her music and activism — like in the song, “It’s a good day (to fight the system),” which she wrote last year in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed in the aftermath.

“What I do feel is an urgency and a desire to use my words, to say things that make some sort of difference, even if it’s a small one,” she said. “Even as a kid, throughout everything that I was experiencing, I always found words as a great way of describing what I had been going through and healing from it.”

In her latest single “To be me,” Shungduzo tackles sexism head-on. She says the song is intended to be an anthem of empowerment for those who’ve been victims of sexual or racial violence as well as those who live in fear of it. 

The song is about what it feels like to be unsafe in your body. Although it’s also personal for Shungudzo, its message is universal and mirrors the ideals of #MeToo and BLM. A music video will follow the release in the coming weeks.

Guatemala forces stall migrants with tear gas, batons

Guatemala forces stall migrants with tear gas, batons

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Jan. 17, 2021.

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Sandra Sebastian/AP

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Thousands of migrants from Honduras were met with force on Sunday by Guatemalan police and soldiers who launched tear gas and wielded batons as they tried to push through a roadblock.

The roadblock was strategically placed at a chokepoint on the two-lane highway to Chiquimula in an area known as Vado Hondo. It’s flanked by a tall mountainside and a wall leaving the migrants with few options.

Some 100 migrants tried to make their way through authorities around 7:30 a.m. Sunday. The security forces beat them back and deployed tear gas. None made it through and the larger remaining contingent kept its distance during the melee.

Some migrants were visibly injured by baton strikes. One man, who did not give his name, leaned against a wall near police with a bandage atop his head.

“They hit me in the head,” he said. “I didn’t come with the intention of looking for problems with anybody. We’re brothers, Central Americans. We’re not looking for trouble. We just want to pass.”

Later, hundreds of migrants sat down on the roadway, refusing to leave and insisting they be allowed through, appealing to the soldiers as fellow Central Americans.

Leila Rodriguez, of Guatemala’s human rights office, spoke to the migrants, acknowledging “this is a distressing moment we’re experiencing.”

“We want to start a dialogue with you, to ask you to accept some of the needs of the Guatemalan people right now,” Rodriguez said, in apparent reference to President Alejandro Giammattei’s refusal to allow caravans through out of fear they could spread COVID-19.

Some of the migrants wore face masks, others didn’t, but there was little social distancing among them. Few had the negative COVID-19 tests that Guatemala requires for people entering the country.

Guatemala’s Health Ministry reported that 21 of the migrants sought medical attention at health centers and tested positive for the coronavirus. The department said the 12 men and and nine women would not be returned to Honduras until they undergo quarantine at centers in Guatemala.

As the standoff stretched toward 24 hours, some migrants, like Ismael Eliazar of Choloma, Honduras, lay down in the grass beside the roadway. “We have only had water, even my stomach is grumbling,” Eliazar said.

Referring to the damage wrought by two major hurricanes that hit his hometown near San Pedro Sula in November, Eliazar said “there is still mud everywhere there, everything got knocked down, we lost everything.”

Guatemalan soldiers and police had blocked part of a caravan of as many as 9,000 Honduran migrants Saturday night at a point not far from where they entered the country, seeking to reach the US border.

Guatemalan soldiers block part the passage of Honduran migrants in their bid to reach the US border, in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Jan. 17, 2021.

Credit:

Sandra Sebastian/AP

The soldiers and riot police — about 450 in total — formed ranks across a highway.

Guatemala’s immigration agency distributed a video showing a couple of hundred men scuffling with soldiers, pushing and running through their lines, even as troops held hundreds more back Saturday night.

On Saturday, Giammattei issued a statement calling on Honduran authorities “to contain the mass exit of its inhabitants.” On Friday, the migrants entered Guatemala by pushing past about 2,000 police and soldiers posted at the border; most entered without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires.

“The government of Guatemala regrets this violation of national sovereignty and calls on the governments of Central America to take measures to avoid putting their inhabitants at risk amid the health emergency due to the pandemic,” Giammattei’s statement continued.

Guatemala has set up almost a dozen control points on highways, and may start busing more migrants back to Honduras, as it has done before, arguing they pose a risk to themselves and others by traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Governments throughout the region have made it clear they will not let the caravan through.

Mexico mounted a dissuasive campaign at its southern border, circulating videos and photos of thousands of National Guardsmen and immigration agents preparing if the migrants manage to cross Guatemala.

On Saturday, the Mexican Foreign Relations Department issued a statement praising Guatemala’s stance.

“The Mexican government recognizes the outstanding work of the government of Guatemala, which has acted in a firm and responsible manner toward the contingent of migrants that violated its sovereignty,” according to the statement.

The department said Mexico “rejects any unregulated and disorderly entry that puts at risk the lives and health of the migrant population or the host country.”

Honduras has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the hurricanes that hit the country in November leaving its most productive northern regions in tatters. Many of the migrants hope for a warmer reception from the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden who will be inaugurated Wednesday.

So far, Biden’s team has indicated it will not make immediate changes to policies at the US-Mexico border.

By Sandra Sebastian/AP

Hospitals in Manaus run out of oxygen amid coronavirus surge in Brazil

Hospitals in Manaus run out of oxygen amid coronavirus surge in Brazil

This isn’t the first time that COVID-19 has hit the city particularly hard.

By
Michael Fox

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A health worker stands in front of an empty oxygen tank station, the only station at Joventina Dias Hospital, a small clinic in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 15, 2021. Hospital staff and relatives of COVID-19 patients rushed to provide facilities with oxygen tanks just flown into the city as doctors chose which patients would breathe amid dwindling stocks and an effort to airlift some of them to other states.

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A woman walks through a hospital parking lot in Manaus, Brazil, distraught, and pleas for help in a cellphone video she posts on Twitter.

On Thursday, the hospital where she works ran out of oxygen.

O que está acontecendo hoje em Manaus é um crime.

Está faltando oxigênio nas unidades de saúde.

Cadê o governador?
Os senadores do Estado?
O ministério da Saúde?

pic.twitter.com/b70utmS1l6

— Renan Brites Peixoto (@RenanPeixoto_) January 14, 2021

“People, I’m asking for your mercy. We are in a deplorable situation,” she says in the recording. She’s not named, but she’s reportedly a hospital psychologist.

“The oxygen has simply run out in an entire unit. We don’t have any oxygen and a lot of people are dying. If you have oxygen available, bring it here to the Urgent Care Unit of the Redenção polyclinic. My God, there are a lot of people dying.”

The video was one of dozens that went viral on Thursday across the country, as hospitals in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, ran out of oxygen — endangering the lives of dozens, according to reports.

Related: Brazil weighs COVID-19 vaccines as its death toll climbs

In another video on social media, posted by a local journalist, retired nursing technician Solange Batista stands on the street in a burgundy face mask.

She says her sister’s blood oxygen level is below 60% and is on a manual respirator to survive. 

‘Não tem oxigênio. Minha irmã está sendo ambuzada para sobreviver (com respirador manual), com 60% de saturação. Não é só ela. Famílias estão comprando oxigênio. Um descaso. Em um hospital federal. Tanta gente morrendo por asfixia’
–Solange Batista, técnica de enfermagem#Manaus pic.twitter.com/uTpB1P3yWc

— Fernando Oliveira (@FernandoCesar) January 14, 2021

“Patients are having to buy oxygen,” she says. “This is neglect. Neglect. In a federal hospital, I have to buy oxygen for a patient? This is impossible.”

Family members of patients with COVID-19 have waited for hours in long lines to purchase oxygen tanks from private distributors in the city. At least one businessman has been jailed for hiding oxygen tanks in order to sell at elevated prices.

Meanwhile, more than 200 patients are being transferred to hospitals in six different states. Health Minister Eduaro Pazuello said Thursday night that along with the lack of oxygen, there were over 480 people on the waitlist for intensive care units throughout the city.

“First, we ran out of ventilators, then beds and finally, and the least expected, oxygen. I believe we were already expecting a high number of patients, but not as we are actually seeing in practice.”

André Basualto, doctor at a private hospital in Manaus

“First, we ran out of ventilators, then beds and finally, and the least expected, oxygen,” said André Basualto, a doctor at a private hospital there. “I believe we were already expecting a high number of patients, but not as we are actually seeing in practice.”

Related: Brazilians flock to the coast during the height of tourist season while coronavirus cases surge

But Basualto says the whole situation could have been avoided. He points to inadequate planning and crowded stores and malls at the end of the year that helped the virus to spread.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been alerting the population about the need for isolation and prevention, the use of masks and social distancing, however what we saw was a disregard by many and denialism regarding the imminent severity of the situation,” he said.

This is not the first time the pandemic has hit Manaus hard. The city was ground zero for COVID-19 in Brazil back in April. The images of coffins being buried in mass graves in the city was a terrifying metaphor for the toll that the coronavirus was taking on the country.

Those mass graves are back.

“I believe we are living our worst moment. Just to give you an idea, yesterday, we buried 176 people just in the city of Manaus. It’s a very serious situation.”

David Almeida, mayor, Manaus

“I believe we are living our worst moment,” Mayor David Almeida told Radio Gaucha earlier this week. “Just to give you an idea, yesterday, we buried 176 people just in the city of Manaus. It’s a very serious situation.”

Related: Black man’s death by security guards in Brazil sparks outrage, protests

Manaus is in a tough spot. First, it’s the only city in the state of Amazonas with ICU units. And that state is huge — roughly four times the size of Germany. This means that logistics and transportation are not easy.

Amid the oxygen shortage, many Brazilians took to social media with the word “lockdown.”

“It is past time for Brazil to have a serious lockdown. And a serious president too,”

Venezuela has responded to the #COVID19 health crisis in #Manaus & says it will help provide oxygen for the city’s hospitals. Foreign minister @jaarreaza tweeted last night & said he had spoken w/ the governor of the state of Amazonas. #Brazil https://t.co/IKBXNdIlq8

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) January 15, 2021 “>one person tweeted.

They blame President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters for demanding the end of social restrictions and tighter measures that could have prevented the chaos now unfolding.

Related: Bolsonaro loses big in Brazil’s local elections

Such measures were set to be in place in late 2020 before state Gov. Wilson Lima rolled them back under pressure from the business community. Lima has now suspended public transportation and instituted an overnight curfew. He has also requested air support from the United States to help ship oxygen tanks from elsewhere around Brazil.

The Brazilian military says it has already shipped 8 tons of hospital supplies and is preparing to send more.

Venezuela, which shares a border with the state of Amazonas, has also promised to send in oxygen.

The spike in cases in Manaus comes as the region enters its rainy flu season.

Venezuela has responded to the #COVID19 health crisis in #Manaus & says it will help provide oxygen for the city’s hospitals. Foreign minister @jaarreaza tweeted last night & said he had spoken w/ the governor of the state of Amazonas. #Brazil https://t.co/IKBXNdIlq8

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) January 15, 2021

For cardiologist Marcio Bittencourt, Manaus is being hit by a perfect storm.

“On top of everything you have the seasonal period of greater respiratory infections, which comes with the rainy season that is beginning now in January,” Bittencourt said. “We have a new mutation of the virus with a new variant that apparently is more infectious. And we have a clear problem of structural logistics and administration, which makes the situation ever more critical.”

For Latinos ineligible to vote, US census offers a path to political power

For Latinos ineligible to vote, US census offers a path to political power

The instability wrought by the pandemic could lead to census counts of historically undercounted Latino communities. Organizers are racing to get people to fill it out before the Sept. 30 deadline.

By
Max Rivlin-Nadler

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Signs advertising the 2020 US Census cover a closed and boarded up business amid the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle, Washington, March 23, 2020.

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This story is part of “Every 30 Seconds,” a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

By her first day of college last week, Marlene Herrera had moved several times since the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

First, her mother, three aunts and cousins all moved into one house to save money. Now, Herrera, who is 18, splits her time between that house, her father’s house and another house with an aunt. She’s helping take care of three younger cousins while also taking classes on Zoom. 

Amid the shuffle, Herrera didn’t know whether she’d been counted in this year’s census. Her mother said she had been — as one of 13 people in her aunt’s household. Though Herrera will vote in her first presidential election this November, not all of her family members will be eligible to do so, given their varying immigration statuses. But being counted in the census ensures they’ll play a small part in the US political process.

Herrera’s housing situation is typical for US families whose finances have fluctuated during the pandemic. Like hundreds of thousands of workers across the country, her mother was briefly laid off and faced delays before her unemployment insurance kicked in. Those income gaps have led families to double and triple up to keep a roof over their heads. 

Marlene Herrera, 18, will vote in her first presidential election this November.

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 Adriana Heldiz/The World

The instability is one reason census organizers are worried about a possible undercount among Latino communities. A Brookings survey from late July found that 29% of Latino families have had someone in their household lose their job during COVID-19, and that 49% of Latino renters are having trouble paying their rent. Latinos, especially young Latinos, have already been undercounted in previous censuses. Past undercounts have led to less federal funding for predominantly Latino neighborhoods and less representation in Congress.  

Another worry for Latino advocates and census workers is that they’re running out of time to find and count everyone. 

Related: ‘COVID-19 is in charge of the census,’ says former US Census Bureau director

After initially extending the census deadline to the end of October, the Trump administration announced last month that in-person counting efforts would end Sept. 30. The Census Bureau said it will end door-knocking operations in the San Diego area and other parts of the country on Sept. 18

Some Latino organizers say getting Latinos counted in the census can bring about even more change than casting a single vote. While elections take place once or twice a year, getting counted in the census means one person’s existence will be used again and again to provide funding to their community for the next decade. The census counts people regardless of their immigration status. 

The CARES Act, the pandemic relief funding bill Congress passed in March — was allocated in part based on the 2010 census. 

Paola Aracely Ilescas, a community health specialist, organizes agricultural workers from Mexico and Central America who work in avocado fields in northeast San Diego County. Most of them can’t vote because they are not US citizens: They’re either legal permanent residents, undocumented or work on temporary visas. Their children, many of whom are US citizens, are still too young to vote. 

So for the workers to participate politically, Ilescas wants them to get counted in the census.

“We tell them, ‘You count yourself this year, you’re making sure you count for the next ten years’.”

Paola Aracely Ilescas, community health specialist in San Diego County

“We tell them, ‘You count yourself this year, you’re making sure you count for the next ten years’,” said Aracely Ilescas, who works for Vista Community Clinic, a nonprofit health center. “You don’t count yourself this year, you basically are not receiving or don’t exist for the next ten years. And guess what? We’re going to lose $2,000 each year for each person that doesn’t count for the next ten years.”

But Aracely Ilescas says it’s hard to get a community that’s been relentlessly targeted by immigration enforcement to answer questions from government workers who are now knocking on doors tracking down people who haven’t yet answered the census. 

“Many of them have said other people have expressed distrust,” she said. “Are they really employees or are they faking to be employees in order to get them? Because for years we’ve been saying, ‘Don’t open the door to ICE officials. This is your right.’ Now we’re saying, ‘Open the door!’”

That transition, she explains, requires trust between organizers pushing for an accurate census count and local communities. But in California, where 27% of the population is immigrants, other issues — such as wildfires and the pandemic — are taking priority.

Related: Pandemic, privacy rules add to worries over 2020 census accuracy

On a recent sweltering day in San Marcos, an inland city in southern California, wildfires threatened rural communities. Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, a community organizer, had planned to lead volunteers to pass out census literature. Instead, they helped with relief efforts when the fires reached area farmworkers.

Nunez-Alvarez trains workers to become community leaders. 

“We work with a lot of adults, many have very limited formal education. They’ve had to work their entire lives, but care about their community,” Nunez-Alvarez said, standing outside of a low-income housing development beside a box of signs reminding people to fill out the census. She grew up in the area and understands the importance of messaging: it needs to come from someone they trust.

“These leaders live in apartment complexes like this one here, around us,” she said. “They’re members of the community, they speak the language of the community, they look like the community that we’re trying to reach.”

While many community members can’t vote, she says, that doesn’t mean they don’t play a role in getting resources to their areas. 

“We think that being counted in the 2020 census is a foundational part of participating in democracy, and that’s what we’ve been sharing with families.”

Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, community organizer

“These are communities that have been politically disengaged or disenfranchised and undercounted in the census,” she said. “We think that being counted in the 2020 census is a foundational part of participating in democracy, and that’s what we’ve been sharing with families. We’re talking about millions of people nationally that risk being left out of the census.”

The efforts by groups like hers have been paying off. As it stands, the cities of Vista and San Marcos are ahead of their final self-response rate from 2010 by 5%. That means government census takers have less ground to cover. 

But concerted efforts by organizers with deep connections to the community aren’t always so successful. In City Heights, a dense, immigrant-heavy neighborhood of San Diego, the census response rate is still lagging behind that of 2010. 

Related: Census 2020 ads don’t do enough to dispel immigrant fears, advocates say

An undercount would narrow the political power of Latinos in their own communities, says Rosa Olascoaga, a 24-year-old community organizer in City Heights, California.

“If our undocumented communities or our immigrant communities are scared to get counted, then we lose thousands and thousands of dollars every time we get counted, because the government doesn’t see us living here,” she said. “And that leaves us fighting for crumbs when we know we deserve more.” 

She works for Mid-City Community Action Network and focuses on the transportation needs of local immigrants. In a car-centric city like San Diego, the census is one of the few ways to get funding for buses, trolleys and safer streets. 

Ultimately, she knows the census — and this year’s election — must take a backseat to people’s immediate needs during the pandemic. Disillusionment with the government among Latino communities is high. And organizers like her can’t go door-to-door allaying people’s fears the way they did before the pandemic. Olascoaga hears those sentiments but hopes the community still prioritizes voting.

“I understand the government already made you feel that it doesn’t matter. These systems don’t work,” she added, wishing that impactful, in-person activism were still possible in 2020. “It hurts that we can’t have those face-to-face interactions.” 

Time is running out for Latino communities — encompassing people who are undocumented, immigrants and US citizens — that have just a few weeks to make themselves count. 

And a decade to live with the results.

A Black radio host calls on South Asian Americans to reject racism

A Black radio host calls on South Asian Americans to reject racism

Khafre Jay taught himself Hindi so he could call out acts of racism by Indian Americans on his radio show. He touched on a subject many Indian Americans don't talk about: the prevalence of anti-Black attitudes in the South Asian community.

By
Deepa Fernandes

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Khafre Jay, the executive director of Hip Hop for Change, based in Oakland, says he has experienced anti-black actions from Indian Americans when visiting his in-laws in Sunnyvale, a suburb of the Bay Area that is majority South Asian.

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Matt Rogers/The World

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Exasperation drenched radio host Khafre Jay’s voice as he spoke between tunes on a recent edition of his Sunday afternoon hip hop show. His visits to see family in Sunnyvale, a Bay Area suburb with a large and fast-growing South Asian population, infuriated him. 

“People walk past me like they’re afraid,” said Jay, who is Black. “Sometimes people cross the street and then when they get past me, then they cross back.” 

But worse, he said, were the times when “people [called] the police on me,” assuming he was up to no good.

Asians make up almost half of Sunnyvale’s population, while Blacks comprise less than 2%. The mistreatment Jay experienced came from Indian Americans, he said.

“There are so many brown people here in Sunnyvale, I don’t know why I should be experiencing racism down here… like, we should be walking hand-in-hand. We face the same white supremacy on a daily basis.”

Khafre Jay, radio host

“There are so many brown people here in Sunnyvale, I don’t know why I should be experiencing racism down here…like, we should be walking hand-in-hand. We face the same white supremacy on a daily basis,” Jay said.

Jay, who is the executive director of the nonprofit Hip Hop For Change, decided to speak out about it. 

During one July radio show, broadcast across the Bay Area on public radio station KPOO, Jay went on a bilingual offensive, throwing out Hindi lines he learned on Google to express his frustration. 

“Why are you staring at me?” Jay attempted in Hindi. “Do you know that I’m a human being?”

His radio rant came a few weeks into the nation’s deep reckoning with systemic racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. 

“The most beautiful thing about what’s happening after George Floyd is so many white folks out in the streets fighting for Black liberation,” he said. 

Indian Americans, too, have come out to protest racism. Within days of Floyd’s death, South Asians in Palo Alto organized a racial justice solidarity protest by spreading the word on Facebook. Yet in protests from Oakland to San Francisco, the South Asian community has not been a large or organized presence.

Nilesh Junnarkar, left, Esha Junnarkar, center, and Anushka Junnarkar take part in a racial justice protest organized by Indian American groups in Palo Alto, California, on June 5, 2020.

Credit:

Courtesy of Priya Junnarkar 

Related: How Indian Americans are reacting to Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP pick

What Indian Americans often don’t talk about is exactly what Jay called out on the radio: the prevalence of anti-Black attitudes in the South Asian community. This is perhaps one reason more Indian Americans have not joined the protests. 

“There is a problem, and we need to address that in the South Asian community,” said Basab Pradhan, who runs a Bay Area theater company that stages plays for the Indian community. 

Part of the problem among Indians in this part of California is a lack of exposure to Black Americans within their own communities, says Pradhan, a Bay Area resident of many years. 

“There are places in the Bay Area, like Fremont, like Sunnyvale, like Cupertino, where the density of Indians is so high that you just glom onto that instead of widening your social circle,” Pradhan said. 

Furthermore, many Indians in the Bay Area work in the tech sector, and Silicon Valley companies employ low rates of Black people. 

Pradhan says Indian Americans in the Bay Area tend to have higher incomes and may believe issues like police brutality just don’t affect them. 

In 2017, his theater company staged a play about police brutality that provoked intense questions about justice and impunity. The play refused to sanitize how African Americans have been brutalized by the police. Yet attendance was low, Pradhan said. 

Actors Paul Costello, left, and Nabil Awad perform in a play “Counter Offence,” that tackles police brutality and was staged at the Bay Area Drama Company. The theater’s co-artistic director Basab Pradhan said the play was not well-attended.

Credit:

Courtesy of Bay Area Drama Company

Pradhan’s wife, Vidya, also works to raise consciousness within the Indian community. 

“Misinformation thrives in a vacuum,” she said. “If you have no information about the history of Black people, then it’s going to be filled in by whatever comes your way.”

Hollywood’s negative stereotypes of Black men can take hold, Pradhan says. She recently held workshops about Black history for Indian American children. Parents were interested, too, she said, and that gives her hope that this moment of racial justice reckoning might be opening some hearts and minds in the Indian American community. 

Yet Basab Pradhan points out anti-Black sentiment among Indian Americans may be connected to something far deeper: India’s entrenched caste system, which traces its roots to a rigid hierarchy present in Hindu scriptures. The priestly class, Brahmins, sit at the top, while Dalits are subjected to the bottom rung. 

Related: The US isn’t safe from the trauma of caste bias

Indians of higher castes hold many of the same stereotypes about lower caste Indians that whites hold about Blacks in the US, Pradhan says. Brahmins often believe lower castes to be lazy and not smart, and to get jobs or college placements due to affirmative action programs in India rather than their own smarts. Pradhan says it’s a challenge to erase these beliefs.  

“The education system [in India] does not work to blunt caste divisions in India, it works to cover it up. Then you come here and you take that system in your head and you apply it to your new country and it results in prejudice against Black people or Hispanic people.”

Basab Pradhan, co-founder, Bay Area Drama Company

“The education system [in India] does not work to blunt caste divisions in India, it works to cover it up,” Pradhan said. “Then you come here and you take that system in your head and you apply it to your new country and it results in prejudice against Black people or Hispanic people.”

Although discriminatory practices by upper-caste Brahmins against lower-caste Dalits are against the law in India, they happen in plain sight. 

Caste discrimination also takes place within the Indian community in the US. 

A survey by a nonprofit Dalit civil rights group, Equality Labs, found that two-thirds of the respondents felt discriminated against in their workplace due to their caste. 

Related: Netflix’s ‘Indian Matchmaking’ stirs conversation about tradition, colorism and caste

In a landmark case brought in June by the state of California, regulators are suing tech firm Cisco Systems, accusing it of discrimination against an Indian American engineer because of his lower-caste status. The company has denied the allegations. 

The Cisco case has brought to light more stories from Dalit Indians of caste discrimination at US workplaces. Software engineer Maya Kamble said she has experienced it a lot

“I never could imagine that I would face the caste system after coming to the US,” she said. “It’s not so easy when you have an Indian manager. Managers have a lot of control over what kind of bonuses you get, whether you get promoted or not.”

Kamble says she recently left a job because of the hostile work environment created by her Indian manager.

Yet, caste discrimination against Dalits is something that has brought lower-caste Indian Americans to identify strongly with other oppressed communities in the US, according to Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs.

“Dalits have been really pushing the rest of the South Asian community that if you want to really show up for Black lives, you have to work on your internal hegemonies of caste and that will really change the way that you show up for all oppressed peoples.”

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director, Equality Labs

“Dalits have been really pushing the rest of the South Asian community that if you want to really show up for Black lives, you have to work on your internal hegemonies of caste and that will really change the way that you show up for all oppressed peoples,” she said.

Dalit South Asian Americans have a long history of solidarity with African American communities, Soundararajan said. There were the Dalit Panthers, who were directly inspired by the Black Panthers. And famous Dalit leader, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, reached across the ocean from India to build solidarity with Black Americans, she said. 

“This goes back many years from the correspondence between W.E.B. Dubois and Dr. Ambedkar about the possibilities for engagement at the UN [United Nations] for issues of caste and racial justice,” Soundararajan said. 

Khafre Jay says he wants Black and brown communities to stand in solidarity against racism.

Credit:

Matt Rogers/The World

Khafre Jay, the hip hop community organizer, often invokes the same Black thinkers and activists on his show. 

“Part of me is pissed at the [Indian American] community out here for excluding me and making me feel so unwelcome, and using the man and the dogs of the man to police me,” he said. 

Yet Jay also wants to express solidarity. And he’s not giving up on learning Hindi. 

“As a Black dude looking like me speaking Hindi, I think my biggest point to the Indian community would be like, ‘Hey, we have to fight because oppression for anybody becomes oppression for everybody.’”

Nigeria’s ‘Ìfé’ film reclaims love at the center of LGBTQ stories

Nigeria’s ‘Ìfé’ film reclaims love at the center of LGBTQ stories

By
Bianca Hillier

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“Ífé” film features two women in love in Nigeria. 

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Courtesy of The Equality Hub

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“Ìfé,” one of the newest Nollywood films coming out of Nigeria, is unlike any that has come before. Upon release, it’ll be the country’s first positive love story made by queer women about queer women.

“I have never been proud to release anything to the world as much as I am proud of this film.”

Pamela Adie, “Ìfé” film producer

“I have never been proud to release anything to the world as much as I am proud of this film,” said Pamela Adie, an LGBTQ advocate and producer of “Ìfé.” The film, Adie said, follows two women falling in love over a three-day date, “who then have their love tested by the realities of being in a same-sex relationship in a country like Nigeria.”

Related: This senior center is helping Mexico’s ‘invisible’ LGBTQ seniors

Those realities can be wide-reaching. Under the country’s Same-Sex Prohibition Act, queer Nigerians face up to 14 years in prison for showing affection in public, a law which 75% of the country supports, according to a recent survey by The Initiative for Equal Rights.

The love story between Ìfé and Adaora is fictional, Adie said. But the plot will be familiar to queer Nigerians.

Related: Abruptly canceled, ShanghaiPRIDE could be harbinger for China’ civil society

“We fall in love. We break people’s hearts. Other people break our hearts. You know? And … we also want family. … So, all of these things really present a picture of the complexity of love — of same-sex love — in a country like Nigeria, where you have to deal with a lot of homophobic attitudes.”

Pamela Adie, “Ìfé” film producer

“We fall in love. We break people’s hearts. Other people break our hearts. You know? And … we also want family,” Adie said. “So, all of these things really present a picture of the complexity of love — of same-sex love — in a country like Nigeria, where you have to deal with a lot of homophobic attitudes.”

Adie said she knows the film “Ìfé” won’t get rid of all homophobic attitudes in Nigeria. Instead, she hopes it helps to reclaim the stories of Nigeria’s LGBTQ community on screen when it’s released later this year. 

But the film won’t be played in theaters. Cinemas are largely still closed due to the pandemic, but the crew also knows the film wouldn’t be approved by Nigeria’s National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). The Board’s executive director, Adedayo Thomas, said he’s seen the trailer and read about the plot.

Related: Thailand set to legalize LGBTQ unions, a rare step in Asia

“The law criminalizes LGTB [sic]. … Such things are classified under obscene, blasphemous, indecent. So, it’s not going to be passed for public viewing.”

Adedayo Thomas, executive director, National Film and Video Censors Board

“The law criminalizes LGTB [sic],” Thomas said. “Such things are classified under obscene, blasphemous, indecent. So, it’s not going to be passed for public viewing.”

    View this post on Instagram         

Can you guess what was happening here?😅 . Cc @equalityhub @kristigbemi @uyaiedu @uzoamaka_a @dynaziie #ÌFÈ #ÌFÈtheMovie #ComingSoon #BTS #ShortFilm #Naija #Storytelling

A post shared by ÌFÉ the Movie (@ife_movie) on Jul 6, 2020 at 6:25am PDT

For now, that’s OK with the “Ìfé” team; they’re planning a surprise release online. But Thomas said the NFVCB monitors streaming platforms, too, and “Ìfé” on the internet would also violate Nigerian law.

“So, if it goes [to an] online platform, the producers [and] those who act in it would be called for prosecution,” Thomas said. 

“Ìfé” producer Adie said she isn’t worried about the censors board.

“They don’t matter,” she said. “Because we don’t need them for anything. This is art, this is film. And there is no law that says that we cannot produce this kind of content.

The point of this kind of content, according to Adie, is to show that queer people exist in Nigeria, and lead full, complex lives that Nollywood films have not previously featured. 

“The whole essence of making this film is to really correct some of the wrong narratives that have come out of Nollywood,” she said.

A 2003 film called “Emotional Crack” is widely regarded as the first Nollywood movie to feature a lesbian couple. The film follows a relationship between a woman named Camilla and a married woman, Crystal.

“It was actually a nice film,” said Lindsey Green-Simms, an associate professor of literature at American University who has been researching LGBTQ representation in African films for the past decade. She added: “It ended with the death and psychotic breakdown of the lesbian character, but up until that point, it was a complex, emotional relationship.”

“Emotional Crack” has been criticized for suggesting that the character, Crystal, was only attracted to a woman because she was being abused by her husband. Critics also say that the violence at the movie’s end reinforces a homophobic stereotype. Green-Simms agreed that those negative stereotypes are prevalent. But, she said, “Emotional Crack” needs to be put in perspective.

“Especially in 2003, there was almost no representation of queerness in popular culture. … And even some of the films that are — hands down — stereotypical, homophobic films, they still worked to affirm the fact that there are queer people in Nigeria. And that, in and of itself, is groundbreaking.”

Lindsey Green-Simms, associate professor of literature, American University

“Especially in 2003, there was almost no representation of queerness in popular culture,” Green-Simms said. “And even some of the films that are — hands down — stereotypical, homophobic films, they still worked to affirm the fact that there are queer people in Nigeria. And that, in and of itself, is groundbreaking.”

While negative stereotypes dominate in the majority of Nollywood films, LGBTQ representation in Nigeria’s entertainment industry has expanded over the past 20 years. Both Green-Simms and Adie said this was most notable when LGBTQ organizations like the Initiative for Equal Rights began producing their own content that centered queer characters. 

The films — “Hell or High Water,” “Walking with Shadows,” and “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” to name a few — all featured gay men.

“But they haven’t been love stories,” Adie said. “They’ve been stories about the difficulties of being a gay man in Nigeria.” 

In contrast, “Ìfé”’s title translates to “love” in the Yoruba language. The film’s director, Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim, believes it will stand out from the rest.

“I think that anyone who’s watching it is definitely going to be surprised. Like, ‘ooh, nice. Two Nigerian women in love.’”

Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim, “Ìfé” film director 

“I personally haven’t seen any films like this from Nigeria,”  Ikpe-Etim said in a video posted on the film’s YouTube page. “So, I think that anyone who’s watching it is definitely going to be surprised. Like, ‘ooh, nice. Two Nigerian women in love.’”

With Kamala Harris, Americans again have trouble understanding what ‘multiracial’ means

With Kamala Harris, Americans again have trouble understanding what 'multiracial' means

While the debates about Kamala Harris’ multiracial identity may seem new, they echo the commentary and confusion faced by other high-profile mixed-race people in the US such as Tiger Woods.

By
Jennifer Ho

Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

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Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

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News that Sen. Kamala Harris was Joe Biden’s choice for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee drove speculation and argumentation about her identity. The big question appeared to be, “Is Kamala Harris truly African American?”

There were numerous articles and opinion pieces about: whether Harris can legitimately claim to be African American; the authenticity of her Black identity, if she has an Indian mother; what it means for her to be biracial; and other articles opining and speculating about her overlapping and complex racial, ethnic and even national identities.

Harris, the daughter of immigrant parents from Jamaica and India, identifies as Black/African American while also embracing her Indian heritage. Yet the questions in social media and news outlets swirling around her identities demonstrate a continued misunderstanding of race and mixed-race people.

‘ADOS’ criticism

While the debates about Harris’ racial identities may seem new given the recent media attention focused on her, they are similar to the commentary other high-profile mixed-race people have received.

When I did research for my chapter on Tiger Woods in my book “Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture,” I found much criticism of Woods’ calling himself “Cablinasian” (a word Woods made up as a teen to account for his Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian heritages) and for not solely identifying as Black. Several articles expressed confusion about his multiraciality – the uncertainty over the most accurate racial category to fit him into.

The discussions of Woods mirror the critiques of Harris.

The competing interpretations of Harris’ identity, as with Woods, seem to be a function of her multiple, intersecting identities (including race, class and gender) as well as the public’s deep discomfort with people who don’t fit into fixed boxes.

For example, some people want to disavow Harris’ Blackness because of her multiple ethnic and racial affiliations. Others claim her as Jamaican or Indian, which serves as evidence of her success as a member of an ethnic group or which celebrates a shared cultural connection with her.

Some see her Jamaican and Indian ethnicities as diminishing her claim to a Black American experience, unlike those who are known as “ADOS,” or American Descendants of Slavery. Because Harris’ ancestors do not include those who were enslaved in the US, concerns held by ADOS advocates focus on how neither she nor her family can know the deep historical pain of US anti-Black racism.

Embedded in this concern are echoes of the questions Black Americans face who have passed, who chose whiteness to escape slavery or leave the Jim Crow South, or those who choose multiraciality to flee the social stigma of Blackness. Questioning Harris’ bona fides to being a Black American is questioning where her loyalties lie.

Whither the one-drop rule?

There are political reasons why some may want to discredit Harris’ claims to Blackness, believing that saying she’s not truly Black means she shouldn’t be relatable to Black voters.

But the desire to see Harris as only Black or worries that she is not truly African American derive from the racist US past of the one-drop rule of racial impurity, which sociologist F. James Wood has described as the idea that “a single drop of ‘black blood’ makes a person a black.” That was an ideology from the majority of US history — from its founding through to the Jim Crow era — when race was firmly believed to be a matter of blood.

Scientists for well over half a century have disproven any link between race and genetics. Scholars have been writing and researching, for decades, about how race is a social construction rather than a biological absolute.

But in public discussion in the US, race is treated as an entity that can be measured and labeled. That is why people are questioning the validity of Harris’ African American identity. They believe that her racial affiliation can somehow be quantified and weighed on a scale of authenticity.

Underlying these questions of authenticity are questions of legitimacy. Multiracial people are constantly confronted by those who question their whole selves and their choice to authentically identify with multiple races. For these critics, to qualify for membership in a race or ethnicity means one must be 100% of that group. Anything less means you cannot be a real member of any given culture, ethnicity or race.

Yet the reality and experiences of multiracial people’s lives, like that of Harris, suggest that basic math cannot capture the realities of what it means to embody multiple races and ethnicities. As one subject of multiracial artist Kip Fulbeck’s photo installation of mixed-race Asian Americans in The Hapa Project states, “I am 100% Black and 100% Japanese.”

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Evolution of racial categories

Racial identity is not only about external features (eye shape, hair texture, skin color) and ancestral lines. It is about the cultural and social habits and rituals that people participate in as they claim their affiliations with ethnic and racial groups.

Being a graduate of @HowardU and a proud member of @akasorority1908 changed my life. Today, I’m excited to announce we’ve launched a national program to mobilize HBCU and Black fraternity and sorority members with our campaign. #ForThePeople pic.twitter.com/vY1oz7ihpj

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 19, 2019

The Indian food that Harris consumes speaks volumes about the ethnic influences she embraces, as does the Black sorority she pledged and the historically Black college she attended.

Anyone confused about Kamala Harris’ multiraciality may recall that the US is a nation that was not built by a single ethnic or racial group.

Indeed, US land was taken from various Indigenous nations and built by the enslaved labor of people from multiple African nations and tribes for the benefit of others who hailed from a variety of European nations. And other immigrants from Latin America and the Pacific Rim settled in North America and made the US their home.

Harris, as the first US multiracial, multiethnic female vice presidential candidate, reflects the evolution of racial categories, which coincides with an ever-evolving understanding of race and racism in the 21st century.

Jennifer Ho is Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to unlocking ideas from academia, under a Creative Commons license.

A Paris neighborhood honors 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who died after COVID-19 bout

A Paris neighborhood honors 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who died after COVID-19 bout

By
Rebecca Rosman

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James Smurthwaite stands next to the obituary sign he made to honor his late neighbor Eugene Deutsch. 

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Le Chateau Landon is a quiet, nondescript brasserie in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, steps away from the Gare de l’Est railway terminal.

Not much about the black and red interior stands out. But the café has kept a steady clientele of regulars for decades — many of whom are older people.

In April, it lost one of its favorite regulars: A 92-year-old man named Eugene Deutsch who had survived the Holocaust, then a bout with COVID-19.  

Related: Coronavirus tears through Canada nursing homes

Deutsch was a neighborhood figure known for making the daily rounds at the local cafés and bakeries. He would have his morning coffee at Le Chateau Landon, followed by an afternoon Côtes du Rhône wine at the neighboring Le Cristal. In between, he would buy himself a fresh baguette — always bien cuite, or “well done.”

But when France went into lockdown in mid-March, this routine was upended. Deutsch’s health quickly deteriorated.

Philippe, the café’s owner, says that once the lockdown took effect, Deutsch “lost his taste for life.” It’s something he’s seen happen to many older people in the neighborhood. 

“[Older people] aren’t necessarily dying of COVID-19, but in a way, they’re dying because of it.”

Philippe, owner, Le Chateau Landon

“They aren’t necessarily dying of COVID-19, but in a way, they’re dying because of it,” he said.

Related: Isolation may be a greater risk than COVID-19 for Canada’s nursing homes

Deutsch was hospitalized shortly after the lockdown took effect. Neighbors say that he was diagnosed with COVID-19, but recovered and went home. He died a few weeks later from an unrelated health issue. 

He had lived in the same building for more than six decades. James Smurthwaite was one of Deutsch’s neighbors. 

“Imagine spending years spending 62 years somewhere and when you leave, it’s met with complete silence.”

James Smurthwaite, neighbor of the late Eugene Deutsch

“Imagine spending years spending 62 years somewhere, and when you leave it’s met with complete silence,” Smurthwaite says.

Related: Netherlands nursing home builds ‘glass cabin’ for safe visits

While they rarely exchanged more than simple pleasantries, Smurthwaite says he was deeply touched by Deutsch and wanted to do something to honor his memory. In late April, he attached an obituary to a tree in front of their building.

Deutsch was generally reserved and didn’t talk much about his personal life. But here’s what Smurthwaite was able to share.

Eugene Deutsch was born in Hungary in 1928. When he was a boy, he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, something he never spoke about after the war. In the 1950s he settled in Paris, where he worked as a security guard at a department store. Deutsch never married or had children, but he enjoyed being around others. 

Smurthwaite says that above all, Deutsch loved being outside and used to walk for miles every day.  

Smurthwaite hopes those reading the dedication he posted will spare a thought for the many older people now stuck inside, and who, like Deutsch, may never see a world post-COVID-19.

“With COVID[-19], this generation will know only their last days in this context and I think that’s devastating.” 

James Smurthwaite, neighbor of the late Eugene Deutsch

“With COVID[-19], this generation will know only their last days in this context, and I think that’s devastating,” Smurthwaite says.

Back at the café, the owner Philippe, who only goes by his first name, grabs a teeny tiny wine glass he keeps on a shelf behind the bar. It’s so small, they don’t actually make this kind of glass anymore. But he kept it for Deutsch.

“And now this glass is sad,” he says. “It’s a small souvenir of someone who I miss dearly…someone who was a pillar of the neighborhood.”