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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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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 Salvadoran American’s memoir ‘comes full circle’ on a family history of violence, struggle

A Salvadoran American’s memoir ‘comes full circle’ on a family history of violence, struggle

By
The World staff

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Joyce Hackel

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Writer Roberto Lovato’s new memoir examines his family history between the US and El Salvador, shedding light on the stories behind gang violence and mass migration from Central America.

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Courtesy of Roberto Lovato

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In his new book, writer Roberto Lovato describes El Salvador as “a tiny country of titanic sorrows.” 

Roberto Lovato’s new book is out Sept. 1, 2020.

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Courtesy of Roberto Lovato

And those sorrows, especially in recent decades, have been tightly bound up with lives led thousands of miles to the north of the small Central American country in cities like San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Lovato’s memoir, out today, is called “Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas.” It traces his family’s history between El Salvador and the United States, examining intergenerational trauma and political forces that shape his own family’s story as well as those of tens of thousands of Salvadorans who have fled violence and warfare. 

Related: A brother and sister flee gang violence in El Salvador and start over in the US

Lovato is a Salvadoran American former gang member from San Francisco, who went to El Salvador as a young adult to join the guerilla movement in the civil war — and then began covering the brutality of El Salvador’s US-backed military government as a journalist.

He spoke to The World’s host Carol Hills about what he learned about himself, his family, and the connections between the US and El Salvador while writing the book.

Carol Hills: Roberto, this is a fascinating story of your own history and that of the two countries you’re rooted in, El Salvador and the US. You grew up in San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s, the child of Salvadoran immigrants. In your teens, you fall in with a group who call themselves Los Originales. Tell us about that period in your life. 

Roberto Lovato: I grew up working-class in San Francisco’s Mission District. We had a little group of us. We weren’t like a formal, hard-core gang. But some of us had low riders and we would do things like steal cars, deal drugs, do drugs or rob people. But we weren’t a hardened gang like you see today in terms of like Crips, Bloods or Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). 

This is all happening just blocks from the infamous Army Street projects in San Francisco. Local news described the neighborhood as “like a prison.” Sounds like a pretty rough place, huh? 

You know, as a kid, it was not just a rough place. It was a place where my friends and other people that I knew lived. There was violence and there was crime and everything. But there was also humanity — which tends to be forgotten. 

Related: Some Salvadoran migrants look to other nations for refuge as US tightens border

At the same time you were growing up, there was a brutal war going on in El Salvador. Its military was working hand-in-hand with death squads. And President Ronald Reagan was footing the bill and spreading fear about communism encroaching from Central America.  What did you and your friends think about that war in El Salvador? 

I would travel there pretty frequently because my father was a janitor with United Airlines and my mom was a maid with Hyatt Regency. So, we got discounted hotels and free airline tickets and there were military people everywhere. I was into GI Joe as a kid and Captain America. And I thought, “Wow, there’s some strange things going on.” 

Meanwhile, your father — you call him Pop — he’s shipping contraband and guns from San Francisco to El Salvador to anyone who could afford them. You write, “doctors, engineers and military types.” What did you and your family know about what your father did? And how did you make sense of it as a kid? 

I was too young to really understand crime and criminality and the way it’s constructed. And so I was initially scared because I heard my dad tell stories about men trying to pick him up and take him away to kill him. And, you know, he would go and find people to sell him guns and other contraband. And then he would take boxes to El Salvador, where he bribed military people and immigration officials would just let him bring the stuff in. And I thought, “Well, man, my dad’s got, like, this transnational operation going on.”

The 1980s was such a heady time in San Francisco’s Mission District. You describe Black power and brown power movements then, and the ripple effects of Latin American liberation struggles. And it’s the music of Mexican American guitarist and songwriter Carlos Santana that provides a soundtrack to this period of your life. For you and your Salvadoran American friends, what was Santana channeling through the Mission District? 

At that moment, Santana was channeling the electric currents cruising through San Francisco at the time of the hippies, of Chicano power, of Black power, Cesar Chavez marching down Bryant Street, including the political and revolutionary vibe that started coming here with Chilean and then Nicaraguan revolutionaries who came to San Francisco and established organizations and started being active at coffee shops and protesting in the streets. And eventually, after, like, 1979, a lot of Salvadoran revolutionaries came with them. So, I thought they were kind of scary, intense people at the beginning. Little did I know I would become one of them. 

So that’s the backdrop to your teenage years. In your 20s, you head off to wartime El Salvador and work for the rebels. It’s dangerous work. What made you take those kinds of risks? 

Being my father’s son, watching my father take risks transferring contraband and doing, like, the outlaw thing, it was not unnatural for me to take risks. And beyond that, I believed in what I was doing when I started realizing that people from the United States were going to El Salvador to either do solidarity work or, Ernest Hemingway or George Orwell, to see these people doing the same thing with El Salvador, which was a movement of its time in the 80s, was, for me, an inspiration. 

Related: ICE deported a trans asylum-seeker. She was killed in El Salvador.

All the while, you were researching Salvadoran history, especially the history of “La Matanza” or “The Massacre,” the landmark 1932 uprising when El Salvador’s military dictatorship slaughtered at least 10,000 people, many of them Indigenous. Lots of Salvadorans, including your own family, won’t talk about that horrible event or the fate of the country’s Indigenous. Why not?

La Matanza was, in fact, one of the most singularly violent moments in world history. It’s just an astonishing level of violence that any scholars of, say, the Holocaust or other acts of genocide will tell you that there’s a heavy silence that sets in in a population and in families. 

Well, you actually confront your dad about it. You ask him about La Matanza, that massacre in 1932, and he drops what you call an “emotional atom bomb.” Tell us about that conversation. 

I never knew why I was such a crazy kid that did the things that I did, whether it was as a youth with Los Originales, or whether joining the FMLN,  I just knew that I was kind of crazy. And then my dad told me something that explains a lot, not just of why I was so crazy, but I think it explains a lot of the history of why El Salvador is one of the most consistently violent places on Earth. 

And what is that that he tells you? 

He tells me that family members had witnessed La Matanza. He tells me things that just move my stomach and move my heart. And really that chapter in my life — it really closed the circle for me as far as my relationship to my father. You know, the arc in my story, like a lot of our stories, is love-my-dad, love-and-hate-my-dad, love-hate-and-then-rebel-against-my-dad-and-the-state, in my case, and then love-my-dad, again. 

And so that moment captures that. I go back and forth in time throughout the book so that the reader can hopefully experience a little bit of what I experienced living the life that I lived and not knowing why I lived that life until my father really brings it home for me. I just had to come full circle to my own home to realize that I didn’t have to travel the world to see the astonishing levels of poverty and trauma, that they were baked into my upbringing as a boy and as a young man, and that I didn’t know that I was carrying that atom bomb. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The international politics of COVID-19: Part II

The international politics of COVID-19: Part II

By
Sam Ratner

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron wrap up a joint press conference at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. 

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Andrew Harnik/AP

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

This week, Critical State finishes up its coverage of the journal International Organizations’ special issue on COVID-19 and its effects. More articles from the issue are forthcoming, but here it takes a look at political scientist Daniel Drezner’s article discussing COVID-19’s effects on the international system overall.

Related: The international politics of COVID-19: Part I

Political scientist Daniel Drezner predicts that COVID-19 will result in a greater entrenchment of existing international power structures.

Many have portrayed the COVID-19 pandemic as a system-altering shock — something that will leave the world forever changed. Drezner, however, gazes down from the heights of wherever it is that political scientists consider the basic interactions of states (Walnut Hill, in Drezner’s case) at a disease that has killed over half a million people worldwide and says, basically, “enh.” Rather than foreseeing a massive shift in the structure of international relations, Drezner predicts COVID-19 will result in the opposite: a greater entrenchment of existing international power structures.

To make his case, Drezner looks at the history of disease and world politics. What he finds is that while pandemics have caused major changes in international relations in the past — such as when the Antonine Plague of 165 AD ended the territorial expansion of the Roman empire or when smallpox and measles hastened the European genocide of native population in the Americas — those effects have lessened over time. Since Napoleon, developments in science and public health have increased the capacity of states to cope with pandemics and lessened their impacts on international politics. The influenza pandemic of 1918, for example, was basically forgotten in popular history until COVID-19, despite its massive demographic effects, because states had the ability to absorb the losses it produced. By the time SARS came around in 2003, it was contained quickly enough to barely be a blip on China’s remarkable economic expansion. 

Drezner sees that trend continuing today. Despite stumbles, some major, by both countries in their COVID-19 response, it does seem that the US and China will exit the pandemic as the most powerful players in the international arena, the same as they entered the crisis. Though the pandemic has upended the US economy, it has not appreciably diminished US economic power, which it has demonstrated through the Federal Reserve offering other central banks access to dollars and propping up liquidity within the US. 

While China has gained plaudits for controlling the virus before the US, its attempts to grow its international profile through international pandemic response have largely backfired, Drezner argues. The personal protective equipment and other material aid China has distributed to other countries has often been poorly made, and allegations that China bullied the World Health Organization into unduly praising its early pandemic response make both the country and the WHO look bad.

Indeed, the pandemic has not even produced a major shift in economic competition between the US and China.

Indeed, the pandemic has not even produced a major shift in economic competition between the US and China. Early in the pandemic, Drezner points out, the Trump administration pursued its trade deal with China rather than pressing China on public health cooperation. The resulting trade deal remains in place, even as rhetoric between the two countries has again grown heated.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that COVID-19 will cause a transformation of the international system on its own. Instead, like in so many crises, the default result will be increased power for those who already hold it. In this age, shaking up the balance of power requires political organization rather than simply waiting for nature to have its say.

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.

Megaprojects and austerity measures are transforming southern Mexico

Megaprojects and austerity measures are transforming southern Mexico

The country's economy is in a downward spiral as the coronavirus continues to spread.

By
Shannon Young

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Oaxaca’s landmark Santo Domingo church and the former convent that houses the state’s largest museum have been cordoned off as part of pandemic mitigation measures.

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Mexico is one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic. It has the world’s third-highest death toll, and its curve has yet to bend. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the economy is in a downward spiral. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not offered economic stimulus checks to citizens but has rebranded controversial infrastructure projects as jobs programs. Among them is the Trans-Isthmus Corridor. 

The sweeping, multibillion-dollar project — criticized by many local Indigenous communities in its path — calls for the expansion of two ports on Mexico’s southern Pacific and Gulf coasts and connecting them with a railway to carry shipping containers. A highway is also slated to run parallel to the tracks. There’s also a plan to connect refineries on both coasts via a pipeline. Finally, the president intends to lure manufacturers to the area by creating 10, tax-favored industrial parks.

“Budget is not an issue. The resources are there. It’s just a question of getting the job done, despite the pandemic.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador

“Budget is not an issue,” López Obrador said in a recent speech at Oaxaca’s Salina Cruz port, which he visited to supervise progress on its expansion. “The resources are there. It’s just a question of getting the job done, despite the pandemic.”

The port expansion is one of several ongoing projects that make up the Trans-Isthmus Corridor. The plan locally referred to as “the megaproject,” could totally reshape Oaxaca’s Isthmus region, a historic trading corridor, Indigenous heartland and home to one of the country’s most important biodiversity hot spots. As with the port project, the planned railway seeks to expand upon existing tracks. López Obrador cut the ribbon on the rail component in June, despite local pandemic restrictions on work and movement. 

Related: As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

But the megaproject is underway as several government agencies have been hit by a presidential decree issued in April that has slashed their budgets by 75%. The cuts, framed as an emergency measure to respond to the pandemic, have gutted environmental, cultural, science and arts programs and government bodies for women and Indigenous peoples.

Left off off the chopping block are numerous big-ticket projects, including a new Mexico City airport, a massive oil refinery and a tourist train circuit in the Yucatán Peninsula. Critics point out that many of the contracts for the projects are going to foreign firms or companies linked to Mexico’s politically connected billionaires.

López Obrador compares the Trans-Isthmus Corridor to a Panama Canal across dry land. He is not the first president to float the idea for a corridor. A canal-style project has been proposed on and off since an 1859 treaty between the US and Mexico, which was never ratified but would have given the US authority over the strategic strip of land. 

More recently, the project was dubbed “Plan Puebla Panama” but encountered fierce resistance from local communities and left-leaning opposition politicians. Ironically, Mexico’s center-left government is the political force closest to achieving the megaproject. 

“This megaproject has a history,” said Bettina Cruz of the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, an Indigenous-led organization that opposes the Trans-Isthmus Corridor.

Oaxaca’s artisans take part in a protest outside the National Palace to demand the federal government help for the loss of jobs and decrease in their labor services, after the Mexican government declared a health emergency and issued stricter regulations to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mexico City, April 20, 2020.

Credit:

Henry Romero/Reuters

Cruz’s group says the project will pillage resources, displace Indigenous populations and reduce residents to a source of cheap labor while corporations profit. 

But organizing protests against it is tough during a pandemic. Mexico is approaching 50,000 government-acknowledged deaths from COVID-19. Oaxaca’s Isthmus region is under particularly strict lockdown measures due to the coronavirus, though construction on the corridor has been deemed essential work.

Related: US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

In addition, some view the megaproject as bringing economic stability to the region — which is hard to argue against at a time when the pandemic has battered Mexico’s economy. The latest push for it might succeed, especially because López Obrador has public support and an overwhelming majority in Congress.

This worries Cruz, who sees the Trans-Isthmus Corridor as connected to a larger network of megaprojects, including a hydroelectric dam project in Morelos, a new refinery in Tabasco and a tourist train circuit through Mayan lands in the Yucatán Peninsula. 

The projects are an “attempt to reorder territory in the southern region [of Mexico] for the benefit of — and control by — global and US financial interests.”

Bettina Cruz, Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory

Viewed as a whole, the projects are an “attempt to reorder territory in the southern region [of Mexico] for the benefit of — and control by — global and US financial interests,” Cruz said. 

López Obrador defends the project as a way to create thousands of jobs and close the economic gap between Mexico’s industrialized north and its cash-poor, agricultural south. He’s also in a hurry to get it done. 

“We can’t commit the heinous mistake of leaving works incomplete,” he said during his visit to Salina Cruz. He wants the city’s port dredged and expanded within three years, before the end of his term in office. 

“There shall be no pretexts of any kind — be they inclement weather or protests — that could lead to delays in the completion of these works,” he said.

Meanwhile, other government agencies face an uncertain future over deep budget cuts. 

Among them is the National Institute for Anthropology and History, or INAH, as it’s known by its Spanish acronym. It’s the guardian of Mexico’s ancient artifacts and cultural history — and it oversees Mexico’s world-famous pyramids and archaeological zones. 

“It’s catastrophic,” Gilberto López y Rivas, a longtime anthropologist and researcher with the antiquities agency, said of the cuts.

“The INAH isn’t just archaeology. We number around 900 researchers; archaeologists, cultural and social anthropologists, ethnologists, linguists, biologists, architects, restoration workers, forensic specialists … It’s a very wide range of research.” 

Some fear weakening the INAH could lead to looting at ancient sites and fuel antiquities trafficking. 

López Obrador’s administration rode to power in a historic landslide in 2018 on a wave of leftist, rhetorical rejection of the status quo. So, the cuts came as a shock to many. 

“This has been the big surprise,” López y Rivas said. “Two years later, unfortunately — for the country and for those who believed 30 million votes would change the direction past administrations were heading — what we have is a continuation in the very essence of what these past administrations represented.”

He says the administration’s dual discourse — the president often slams neoliberalism and conservatives in speeches while advancing free-market policies — helps to explain the devastating cuts to national programs that safeguard ecosystems, protect Indigenous rights, and keep the country’s history and culture alive.

“It requires not having a memory,” he said of the mental shift needed to accept the administration’s vision for the region. “It’s an induced amnesia that goes against history, culture, identity and the idea of collectivism.”

Family of Chinese pro-democracy activist held in secret detention calls for his release

Family of Chinese pro-democracy activist held in secret detention calls for his release

Ding Jiaxi had been on a collision course with the Chinese government perhaps ever since 1989 when he was a college junior in Beijing.

By
Rupa Shenoy

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Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China’s parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, June 30, 2020.

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Tyrone Siu/Reuters 

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Ding Jiaxi, a leader in the pro-democracy China Citizens Movement, believed it was possible to work inside China to convince people to push back against the government. But in December, as he was having dinner at a friend’s home, authorities burst in and arrested him and the others there.

“I didn’t know how to react. Somehow, I think we kind of knew that with what he was doing, that something like this was going to happen at some point.”

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

“I didn’t know how to react,” said Ding Jiaxi’s 18-year-old daughter, Caroline Ding, who at the time was a freshman at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “Somehow, I think we kind of knew that with what he was doing, that something like this was going to happen at some point.”

Related: China orders US to close its Chengdu consulate

Ding Jiaxi had been on a collision course with the Chinese government perhaps ever since 1989 when he was a college junior in Beijing. He spent three days and nights in Tiananmen Square as student protesters faced off against troops. But at the university, he also met his wife, Sophie Luo.

“I think of the story that she used to tell us, like, it was love at first sight. My dad walked into the room and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s the one,’” Caroline Ding said.

They married and had two kids. Ding Jiaxi put his activism aside and became a successful business lawyer in Beijing. But around 2010, Luo said he began reaching out to human rights activists.

“So, he always [had] this thinking to bring change to China,” she said.

Related: US orders China to close its consulate in Houston

Ding Jiaxi helped organize the first small meetings of the China Citizens Movement. Members were encouraged to use their rights as a citizen, as laid out in China’s constitution, to advocate for change within the existing political system. Ding Jiaxi collected 7,000 signatures for a petition that sought to reveal corruption. It called on top officials to disclose their family’s finances and assets. Luo said that’s when the government sent plainclothes officers to watch their house.

“At that time, I realized our life was really unsafe,” Luo said.

Caroline Ding remembers it, too.

“There would just be [police] sitting outside of our house. Every day I went to school, I would see him sitting there. I really trusted my dad and I thought he knew what he was doing, so I didn’t think it was that big of a problem.”

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

“There would just be [police] sitting outside of our house. Every day I went to school, I would see him sitting there,” she said. “I really trusted my dad and I thought he knew what he was doing, so I didn’t think it was that big of a problem.”

Her dad, though, knew that it was. Luo said Ding Jiaxi asked her to leave the country with the kids, so they wouldn’t get caught up in his battle with the government. Luo works for a global corporation that was able to relocate her to the US. She went to the US Embassy to get a visa.

“Then the next day, the policeman [came] to take him away from our house,” Luo said.

In 2013, Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for his work with the Citizens Movement. Luo knew she’d have more freedom to speak outside China, so she and the kids followed through with the plan to settle in the small town of Alfred, New York. Ding Jiaxi sent them letters.

Related: US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

“In those days, a letter from him was my nutrition for life,” she said.

Ding Jiaxi’s arrest and jailing was just the beginning of a widespread crackdown that drew international attention. In July 2015, hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists were detained and tortured in China. Still, somehow, Ding Jiaxi was released in 2016 and got a visa to visit his family in the US.

“I can see that in the two months he did all the chores at home and [wanted] to compensate what [had been] missing for the family, but I [could] see he still wants to go back,” she said.

Luo begged him to stay. But Ding Jiaxi said the US was too comfortable — and he felt restless. This is what people have a hard time understanding, why her husband would return to a place that is so dangerous for him, Luo said. 

“It’s not [everyone who] can understand. It took us, the family, a long time also to understand him. I just feel he was chosen by God to do something for China. So, although I feel painful, I still [sent] him back.”

Sophie Luo, wife of Ding Jiaxi 

“It’s not [everyone who] can understand. It took us, the family, a long time also to understand him,” she said. “I just feel he was chosen by God to do something for China. So, although I feel painful, I still [sent] him back.”

Ding Jiaxi returned to China in 2017 and continued his work with the Citizens Movement until December of 2019, when authorities picked him up again. Several of the activists he was arrested with have been released, but not Ding Jiaxi. His lawyer has been denied access to him. Luo hasn’t gotten any letters. They don’t know where he’s being held.

“Lack of human rights in China  — it’s a threat to the whole international society,” Luo said. “This kind of dictatorship is a kind of disease to society, to the whole international world.”

Luo said her goal is to free all those unlawfully detained in China, including her husband. She spends hours on the phone at night, talking to lawyers and calling Chinese authorities to try to get information.

Luo’s reached out to US congressmen, senators and the State Department for help, and said they’ve all been supportive — but the growing divide between the US and China makes Luo wonder what they can really do. Members of their local church in New York made videos to send a direct message to the Chinese government.

“We are angry in the United States about this, and we will stay angry,” one church member said in the video.

“No one should be detained or kept secretly hidden when they have done nothing wrong,” another commented.

A third added, “This is an absolutely unacceptable way for a government to treat one of its citizens.”

This week, Caroline Ding wrote an op-ed about her dad for the Tufts student newspaper. Unlike her mom and sister, who have green cards, Caroline Ding is a citizen, born when Luo was a graduate student in the US. So, she feels safe to speak out. But Luo doesn’t want to express the immense frustration of living a privileged American life while her father likely sits in prison.

“If we show our weakness, then the Communist Party is winning in a way because they want to see us crushed and sad, so we wouldn’t be able to do anything,” she said. “But I think the best thing we can do is just enjoy our lives here. Joy is the ultimate rebellion.”

And this is what her dad wanted — for them to be safe, so he could make the choice to fight. 

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

By
The World staff

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This Facebook Live discussion 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.

For the past four months, The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project has been following the stories of eight young Latino voters in different corners of the United States, reporting on the issues, influences, concerns and challenges driving Latino decision-making and turnout for the 2020 presidential election. It’s a collaboration with public radio stations across the US.

As part of this coverage, The World’s Daisy Contreras moderated a discussion on Latino Republicans and conservatism in the US with Geraldo L. Cadava, historian and author of “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.” It was a continuation of The World’s earlier conversation with Cadava on the Latino conservative vote.

There are two major assumptions about the Latino vote in the US: Latinos vote Democratic, and immigration is the most important issue for decision-making. That’s often not the case.

While the majority of Latino voters went for a Democratic candidate in the 2018 midterm election, about 30% of Latinos in the US backed a Republican candidate. Over the years, the percentage of Latinos who have voted for the Republican party has stayed pretty consistent.

But conservative Latinos are not a monolithic group, and they do not vote as a bloc. Factors such as country of origin, socioeconomic status and how many generations a family has been in the US could shape their political perspectives and priorities.

A US report shows big strides on human trafficking. Advocates say the message is misleading.

A US report shows big strides on human trafficking. Advocates say the message is misleading.

Advocates across the world warn that with the pandemic and economic downturn, there’s an urgent risk that more people will fall prey to human traffickers.

By
Rupa Shenoy

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Rohingya refugees who were intercepted by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency off Langkawi island, are escorted in their boat as they are handed over to immigration authorities, at the Kuala Kedah ferry jetty in Malaysia, April 3, 2018.

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This year marks 20 years since the US first made a historic commitment to ending modern slavery.

“We’ve accomplished so much in the last 20 years,” said John Richmond, US ambassador-at-large of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, during the June 25 release of the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Related: ‘American exceptionalism’: EU travel bans show US is abdicating global leadership, former CDC head says

“Our engagement on this has made a difference. This report and the US have made a positive difference.”

Every year, the US issues an annual report that ranks countries by their progress fighting human trafficking. Countries in the lowest category are restricted from receiving US aid.

The 2020 report lists 22 countries receiving improved rankings for their work on the issue over the past year.

“The department put this out on time without any delays in the midst of a global pandemic and that itself serves to show the priority this administration and the secretary has placed on this issue,” Richmond said, reminding the audience that President Donald Trump had also hosted a summit on human trafficking, and issued an executive order to combat online child exploitation.

But advocates across the globe warn that with the pandemic and economic downturn, there’s an urgent risk that more people will fall prey to human traffickers. They say the report is poorly timed, and counterproductive.

“At this moment, at the 20th anniversary, the State Department wants to tell a story of success and progress. And that’s just not the story that the data tell.”

Martina Vandenberg, The Human Trafficking Legal Center

“At this moment, at the 20th anniversary, the State Department wants to tell a story of success and progress,” said Martina Vandenberg, the founder and president of The Human Trafficking Legal Center. “And that’s just not the story that the data tell.”

Especially because right now, she says, the global pandemic is making more people vulnerable to human trafficking.

Related: As Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens, migrant workers are being dumped on the streets like ‘trash’

“So, what we’re seeing around the globe is people going into greater debt. People now trapped in countries to which they have migrated, but completely unemployed,” she said. “And the likelihood is that those people will be more vulnerable to indentured servitude and more vulnerable to forced labor when the world begins to open up again.”

Vandenburg also takes issue with the US giving itself the highest possible ranking. Many advocates felt that the US deserved to be downgraded this year.

Jean Bruggeman is the executive director of Freedom Network USA. She says many of the president’s border and immigration policies increase wait times and denials, putting more people at risk for trafficking, including vulnerable populations, like LGBTQI people.

“I do not think that the United States is engaged in sustained efforts. And I think the report tells you that when they say that, you know, they maintained prosecution efforts, at best, they reduced efforts to provide protection. And the only prevention work they do is federal agency training, which is not actually prevention. It’s not actually changing the circumstances, which puts people at risk.”

Related: Options dwindle for Venezuelan migrants across Latin America during the pandemic

Neha Misra, a specialist at the Solidarity Center, a nongovernmental organization, says the report’s rankings have always been somewhat politicized, but this year’s takes it to another level. She questions, for example, the upgraded ranking of Saudi Arabia, and says it may lead that country to do less to combat trafficking.

“Even countries that don’t get US aid, reputationally, it meant a lot. It was embarrassing to be on [the] tier-three or the tier-two watchlist. And if the tier rankings don’t mean anything, then that reputational pressure is gone.”

Neha Misra, Solidarity Center

“Even countries that don’t get US aid, reputationally, it meant a lot. It was embarrassing to be on [the] tier-three or the tier-two watchlist. And if the tier rankings don’t mean anything, then that reputational pressure is gone.”

For survivors who are now in the fight against human trafficking, the report is disheartening, says Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman. He was kidnapped in Honduras as a child and smuggled into the United States by human traffickers.

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

Piraino-Guzman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in 2015.

“I’ll be honest with you. I think we need to stop pretending that we’re moving forward.”

If the US isn’t honest about the reality of human trafficking, he said, it’s not really serving the people who need help the most. 

Discussion: How the coronavirus crisis is exacerbating food insecurities and global inequities

Discussion: How the coronavirus crisis is exacerbating food insecurities and global inequities

Updated:

June 30, 2020 · 1:30 PM EDT

By
The World staff

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Even as some countries start to reopen, the world is far from safe from the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to rage. Two grim milestones have been reached, as the globe sees more than 10 million confirmed global infections and 500,000 deaths.

The United States remains the epicenter of the pandemic and cases are rising at an alarming pace in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas.

The pandemic has also exacerbated existing crises of food insecurity and health disparities. In the US, mass protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis continue to spotlight deep-seated inequities faced by communities of color — including access to affordable, nutritious food. Black Americans in particular have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Related discussion: How systemic racism intersects with the coronavirus pandemic

Globally, issues about potential disruptions in local food supply chains and prices have caused concern.

As part of our weekly discussion series on the global pandemic, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a conversation exploring the global food supply and inequities, presented with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Drawing on new US Census and other data, this discussion will explore public policy and actions needed to preserve access to US federal nutritional assistance programs. The panelists also will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the global food supply and nutritional quality, especially in low and middle-income countries, as well as strategies to minimize food system disruptions and ensure food access and nutrition during and after the pandemic.

Panelists:

David Bennell, manager, food, land and water/member relations, World Business Council for Sustainable Development US Inc.

Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Catherine Woteki, distinguished institute professor with the Biocomplexity Institute, University of Virginia; professor of food science and human nutrition, Iowa State University; and former undersecretary for the US Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area.

Reuters contributed reporting.

As Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens, migrant workers are being dumped on the streets like ‘trash’

As Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens, migrant workers are being dumped on the streets like ‘trash’

Human rights advocates say the migrants have little to no recourse, and that the situation is bound to deteriorate further as more people in the country cannot afford to pay domestic workers. The coronavirus restrictions also complicate matters.

By
Rebecca Collard

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Ethiopian domestic workers wearing masks sit together with their belongings in front of the Ethiopian consulate in Hazmiyeh, Lebanon, June 8, 2020. 

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Outside the Ethiopian Embassy in Beirut, a dozen women gather under a small overhang to shelter from the sun. Their suitcases and bags are stacked against the wall. On the ground sits a piece of cardboard with “we want to go home” written in their native Amharic.

Until a few weeks ago, most of the women were living and working inside Lebanese homes as cleaners or caretakers of children and the elderly. But in recent weeks, as Lebanon’s economic crisis worsens, around 100 Ethiopian women have been dumped at the Ethiopian Embassy by their Lebanese employers.

Human rights advocates say these women have little to no recourse, and that the situation is bound to deteriorate further as more people in the country cannot afford to pay domestic workers. The coronavirus restrictions also complicate matters.

For the past two years, Masaret Shefara, who is from Ethiopia, has been working in the home of a family in Beirut. She made just $150 per month before the crisis. A few months ago, the family said they could no longer pay her and dropped her off at the embassy with no money and no way home.

Related: Lebanon’s ‘two crises’: coronavirus and financial collapse 

“I just want to go to Ethiopia,” she said, washing her feet and a pair of white socks with a bottle of water while other women rifled through their luggage nearby.

Most of the women have little or no cash. Some don’t even have their passports: Under a sponsorship system for migrant workers, which is known in the Middle East as kafala, employers in Lebanon often take the women’s passports away. Many have been sleeping outside the embassy.

There are around 250,000 domestic workers in Lebanon, which has a population of 6.8 million. Foreign workers from Africa and Asia have long traveled to Lebanon to do domestic jobs, lured by the promise of US dollars — hard and valuable currency that most workers send home to their families. The artificial peg of the Lebanese pound to the US dollar allowed even middle-class Lebanese with relatively low salaries to afford live-in, domestic help.

An Ethiopian woman looks through her bags outside the Ethiopian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. 

Credit:

Rebecca Collard/The World 

But now, the Lebanese pound has lost three-quarters of its value against the US dollar.

That has sent the price of imported goods — which was already high — rising quickly. And it also means that employers like Shefara’s would now have to pay four times the amount in Lebanese pounds to get the US dollars they need to pay foreign staff. Lebanese pounds are useless in Ethiopia.

Employers say they simply can’t afford that.

Related: Foreign domestic workers stuck in Lebanon as economy spirals

Farah Salka, executive director of the Anti-Racism Movement in Lebanon, said the financial crisis has just brought attention to kafala, a racist system under which foreigners have been employed here for decades. Salka likens it to slavery.

“The sponsorship system allows you to employ a worker, they say, but basically it allows you to own a person in your house,” Salka said. “To make them work in whatever conditions you see fit.”

The kafala system ties a migrant worker’s immigration status to their employers as their sponsors.

Lebanese labor laws do not apply to foreigners hired under the kafala system, said Salka. That has left them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

“Most of these sponsors are getting rid of their workers literally as though they are trash.”

Farah Salka, Anti-Racism Movement in Lebanon

“Most of these sponsors are getting rid of their workers literally as though they are trash,” Salka said.

Many women are owed months of wages, and they have little recourse because they are in the country under the kafala system. Others have suffered forced confinement, physical and mental abuse — even rape. A 2008 Human Rights Watch report found that a domestic worker was dying every week in Lebanon — with suicide being the leading cause of death.

“Falling from high buildings,” a separate category, was the second.

“They need their money and they need to go back home,” Salka said.

But the Beirut airport is closed to regular traffic, due to COVID-19 measures. The women are stuck.

The World was not able to reach anyone at the embassy for a statement.

The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on June 12 saying “making the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 patients in Ethiopia, attendees come to understand that Ethiopian migrants should be helped where they are to minimize the risk of infection,” but advocates say there has been little help.

Related: How Lebanon’s ‘WhatsApp tax’ unleashed a flood of anger

Other women outside the embassy say they weren’t dropped here. Instead, they escaped from their employer’s house.

“I ran away here,” Asnagas Lelitho said. “I have my passport but no money.”

Lelitho hadn’t been paid in four months when she escaped and, like Shefara, she was only earning $150 per month. Minimum wage for Lebanese workers is around $450 per month.

Occasionally, people come by to try to lure the women to work in their homes, promising to pay in US dollars. No one is interested.

“I don’t want anything,” Lelitho said. “I just want to go to Ethiopia.”

Other Lebanese employers stop at the embassy to inquire about how they can send their domestic workers home. Some say they would never leave them outside the embassy.

“It’s terrible,”  said one man stopping to inquire. “They’re not animals.”

Former domestic workers from Ethiopia wait outside the Ethiopian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.  

Credit:

Rebecca Collard/The World 

Under increasing pressure, Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor has promised to prosecute the employers who left women in front of the embassy. Employers “who left migrant workers stranded in front of the consulate will be punished by law and will be placed on a blacklist that prevents them from hiring foreign domestic workers again,” Labor Minister Lamia Yammine said in early June.

Ethiopian Airlines have organized repatriation flights, but most have simply no way to get the money. And the women would have to self-quarantine for two weeks once they reach Ethiopia, likely at a hotel — another monumental challenge.

“It’s a disaster. They can’t stay. They can’t leave. They can’t work. They can’t pay.”

Farah Salka, Anti-Racism Movement in Lebanon

“It’s a disaster,” Salka said. “They can’t stay. They can’t leave. They can’t work. They can’t pay.”

Salka said it’s difficult to know how many women have been discarded by their employers with no way home, but it’s been hundreds this month alone. The majority are Ethiopian, but Lebanon also hosts tens of thousands more workers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and other African and Asian countries.

As the financial crisis worsens, more and more workers will be abandoned.

“What we are seeing at the Ethiopian consulate is only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come,” Salka said. “We are just at the beginning of the crisis. We haven’t even gotten midway yet.” 

Black history is ‘integral part’ of British culture, says Black Curriculum founder

Black history is ‘integral part’ of British culture, says Black Curriculum founder

What do students learn in the classroom about race and history? In the UK, an organization called The Black Curriculum has been pushing for Black history to be taught nationwide. 

By
Amanda McGowan

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A teacher reads children a story on the grounds of St. Dunstan’s College junior school as some schools reopen following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain, June 1, 2020.

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Simon Dawson/Reuters

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Last Friday, the US celebrated Juneteenth — the day in 1865 when the news that slavery had ended finally reached Texas, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Many Americans probably did not learn the history of June 19 in school. But the protests that came together after George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis have brought attention to the way racism impacts every aspect of society — including what students learn in the classroom about race and history.

This reexamination isn’t just happening in the US. In the UK, an organization called The Black Curriculum has been pushing for Black history to be taught nationwide, as well as creating lesson plans and leading student workshops and teacher trainings.

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

“In schools currently, the teaching of Black history is limited to Black History Month, which in the UK is in October,” said Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum

“What we see is a lack of narratives around Black people in Britain. That fundamentally is presenting a very false view of British history because we know Black people have been here since Roman times.”

Lavinya Stennett, founder, The Black Curriculum 

“What we see is a lack of narratives around Black people in Britain. That fundamentally is presenting a very false view of British history because we know Black people have been here since Roman times,” she continued.

The Black Curriculum has created lessons around a number of topics in Black history, including arts and culture, migration, law and the environment. 

    View this post on Instagram         

Our IGTV series, ‘Black British Women’ told the story of four inspirational women in Britain. 1. Olive Morris (top left) was a political activist, born in 1952 in Jamaica. Morris was an organisational and fighter against racism and sexism in the UK. 2. Lilian Bader (top right) was one of the first black women to join the British armed forces and was a Leading Aircraft-woman with the WAAF during WW2. 3. Mary Seacole (bottom left) was a nurse who greatly helped soldiers during the Crimean War. 4. Fanny Eaton (bottom right) is best known for her work as a model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood between 1859-1867. Did you enjoy our IGTV series? We now have a range of packages including podcasts, activities and animations available on our website! Visit www.theblackcurriculum.com/resources for more info🖤

A post shared by The Black Curriculum (@theblackcurriculum) on May 5, 2020 at 9:53am PDT

Stennett says some of those were inspired by things she learned from her own culture but were never discussed in a school setting. She points to the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the largest street parties in Europe, which was created by a Black woman named Claudia Jones who was born in Trinidad and Tobago.  

“I’m from a Jamaican background, and every year we have Notting Hill Carnival, and at home, we would play reggae music. So there were certain introductions in my personal life that I knew, in terms of my history and where it came from, but in terms of learning it at school there was no kind of introduction to that at all,” Stennett said. “That’s what our syllabus is about: It’s about bridging history with contemporary themes today.” 

Related: Police reform requires culture change, not just diversity, advocates say

Stennett says learning this history in the classroom not only empowers students but also makes them excited to learn. 

“When you’re confronted with new knowledge it can make you uncomfortable. But at the same time if you’re learning about your own identity and your own culture, it’s really powerful.”

Lavinya Stennett, founder, The Black Curriculum 

“When you’re confronted with new knowledge it can make you uncomfortable. But at the same time if you’re learning about your own identity and your own culture, it’s really powerful,” she said. 

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– I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept 👇🏾 Angela Davis

A post shared by The Black Curriculum (@theblackcurriculum) on Feb 4, 2020 at 8:27am PST

Part of The Black Curriculum’s work recently has been to campaign for Black British history to be a nationwide requirement in schools. But Stennett says the organization received a response from the government Tuesday arguing that the national curriculum already provides teachers with the flexibility to teach Black history if they wish. 

Stennett said the response was disappointing, but that The Black Curriculum’s work would continue. 

“It just takes us back to why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Stennett said. “It’s really important that Black history’s not seen as an addition, but as an integral part of our culture. It’s British history. It’s not just for Black people and it’s not just about Black people. It’s about the nation and the future of Britain as well.”

Colleges brace for steep drop in international enrollment this fall

Colleges brace for steep drop in international enrollment this fall

By
Kirk Carapezza

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Northeastern University sophomore Pavithra Rajesh, 18, took the last three weeks of her spring classes online from her parents’ apartment in Bangalore, India. Like many international students, Rajesh says she is unsure whether she will return to Boston for classes in the fall.

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Pavithra Rajesh, a Northeastern University sophomore from India, frantically packed her bags and boarded a plane home when the college abruptly shut down in March.

“I’m a very careful planner. … So, telling me that within three days you have to figure out where you’re going to go, move things into storage, figure out how you’re going to do online classes from a country whose time zone is so different from the one I’m in right now — it was pretty nerve-wracking.”

Pavithra Rajesh, sophomore student from India, Northeastern University

“I’m a very careful planner,” Rajesh, 18, said. “So, telling me that within three days you have to figure out where you’re going to go, move things into storage, figure out how you’re going to do online classes from a country whose time zone is so different from the one I’m in right now — it was pretty nerve-wracking.”

Related: International students are in coronavirus limbo. So are universities.

Back home, Rajesh quarantined herself in her parents’ apartment in the southern city of Bangalore for 14 days. The journalism major and theater minor took her last three weeks of spring courses online. India is 9.5 hours ahead of eastern daylight saving time. 

“Every night I was up till almost 3 a.m., 4 a.m.,” she said.

Looking ahead to the fall, Rajesh and her parents worry about her returning to campus in just two months.

“I’d be transiting through three very crowded airports,” she said. “The US right now has quite a lot of cases. It’s pretty vulnerable.”

So are the finances for universities like Northeastern, where more than a third of all students come from abroad — many from India and China — with most paying full freight. Hundreds of thousands of international college students sent home this spring are still stuck there because of travel and visa restrictions. Major colleges in the Boston area, which were already losing enrollment because of the anti-immigrant political environment, are bracing for losing still more students this fall.

The Trump administration had already been tightening travel and visa restrictions on foreign students and workers. Now, both the federal government and the pandemic are preventing international students who aren’t already in the US from returning in time for the fall semester. That’s all leading to a lot of confusion and anxiety for students.

“The pandemic, as well as the political difficulties between China and the United States, has ushered in a period of enormous uncertainty.”

Bill Kirby, history professor of Chinese studies, Harvard University

“The pandemic, as well as the political difficulties between China and the United States, has ushered in a period of enormous uncertainty,” said Bill Kirby, a history professor who teaches Chinese studies at Harvard University. 

Kirby points to a recent study by the Institute of International Education that finds nearly 90% of colleges expect international enrollment to decrease next semester.

“And some 70% anticipate that some international students won’t be able to get to their campuses for in-person classes this fall,” said Kirby, adding that the virus and uncertainty on campuses are damaging the country’s global relationship with China, India and other countries.

“Parents always worry about the health of their children,” Kirby said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least some pause, even if the world were to open up immediately, about sending students to a place where the public health systems are clearly not as robust as they are in Europe or Japan or Korea.”

If international students take their studies and dollars elsewhere, that would have devastating effects on Boston’s economy.

“We are — particularly in higher education — in a highly globalized and interdependent world. This is the most serious thing that’s ever happened [to American higher education] without any question whatsoever.”

Phillip Altbach, founder, Center for International Higher Education, Boston College

“We are — particularly in higher education — in a highly globalized and interdependent world. This is the most serious thing that’s ever happened [to American higher education] without any question whatsoever,” said Phillip Altbach, founder of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.

“International students spend a lot of money in this area, not only the direct tuition cost for universities but also housing and other expenses that they have around town,” said Altbach.

International students contribute about $4 billion to the state’s economy each year, nearly a tenth of the more than $40 billion they spend in the entire US economy, according to the Association of International Educators. Colleges that are overly dependent on international dollars are going to take a big hit, said Altbach.

“In the Boston area, that includes, of course, Boston University and Northeastern particularly, but also smaller schools like the Berklee College of Music, Emerson [College] to some extent,” he added.

Students and researchers from other countries bring significant brainpower to their work in the US, Altbach said.

“If you look at Silicon Valley or the biotech industry here in Massachusetts, international students, scholars and high-skilled immigrants are a key part of the labor force for these industries, so it’s a huge hit and a terrible mistake for the country,” he said.

It remains unclear how many international students will want — or be able — to return this fall.

Related: What the US can learn from other nations with free college tuition

This month, Northeastern announced its Boston campus and dorms will reopen in the fall and students will have the option to take classes in-person, online, or a mixture of both. This summer, the university is surveying thousands of international students about their plans for the fall and developing online platforms for any students who see a delay in returning to Boston.

Sitting in her room in Bangalore, Rajesh says she’s eager to get back in the classroom.

“I don’t think anyone can say that online classes will ever match up to the worth of an in-person class,” she said. “For me, doing three weeks of online classes from India was hard for sure. I don’t think I could do that same thing for three months.”

Still, she’s skeptical about whether students packed into dorms would be willing to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks.

“There’s so many people, so little residence halls on campus,” she said. “I don’t really know how that is going to play out.”

Discussion: The Latino conservative vote in the 2020 election

Discussion: The Latino conservative vote in the 2020 election

By
The World staff

The World is hosting a Facebook Live on the Latino conservative vote titled. “The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election.”

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Graphic by Maria Elena Romero/The World

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This Facebook Live discussion 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.

When it comes to the Latino vote in the US, there are two major assumptions: Latinos vote Democratic, and immigration is the most important issue for decision-making.

While the majority of Latino voters went for a Democratic candidate in the 2018 midterm election, about 30% of Latinos in the US-backed a Republican candidate. Over the years, the percentage of Latinos who have voted for the Republican party has stayed pretty consistent.

But conservative Latinos are not a monolithic group, and they do not vote as a block. Issues such as the country of heritage, socioeconomic status and how many generations a family has been in the US could shape their political perspectives and priority issues.

Join us for a Facebook Live on the Latino conservatives on June 24 at noon Eastern time: “The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election.”

The World’s Daisy Contreras will moderate the conversation with Geraldo L. Cadava, historian and author of “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.” 

Stella Chávez, a reporter for KERA in Dallas and Daniel Rivero, a reporter for WRLN in Miami — two of the eight reporters of The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project — will be part of the conversation.

The US presidential election in November could be the first time Latinos are the largest minority group in the electorate. Young Latinos could swing the outcome of the election — if they come out to vote. That’s because approximately every 30 seconds, a young Latino turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote.

For the past four months, The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project has been following the stories of eight young Latino voters in different corners of the United States, reporting on the issues, influences, concerns and challenges driving Latino decision-making and turnout for the election. It’s a collaboration with public radio stations across the US.

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

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

By
The World staff

Producer
Carol Hills

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

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Courtesy of Mona Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like what? What would you add?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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

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

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

By
Mallory Falk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

‘We’re taking migrants off the street’

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

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

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

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

Leticia Chavarria, medical director at Hotel Flamingo 

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

A temporary safe haven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s grateful to them.

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

A place to wait and hope

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

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

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

That medical care includes two daily checkups.

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

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

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

Yuneisy Gonzales, volunteer doctor at Hotel Flamingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion: How systemic racism intersects with the coronavirus pandemic

Discussion: How systemic racism intersects with the coronavirus pandemic

By
The World staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters contributed reporting.

Why many in public health support anti-racism protests — with some precautions amid coronavirus

Why many in public health support anti-racism protests — with some precautions amid coronavirus

Many health care workers say the pandemic and systemic racism are intertwined. But they stress the need for people to take precautions as COVID-19 continues to spread.

By
Elana Gordon

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Visitors look at a memorial at the site of the arrest of George Floyd, who died while in police custody, in Minneapolis, June 14, 2020.

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Eric Miller/Reuters 

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Charles Agyemang, who specializes in ethnic and migrant health inequalities at the University of Amsterdam, has long studied how social factors impact health. Lately, he’s focused on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities in places like the UK, the US and the Netherlands.

So, when he saw the protests mounting across the globe in response to George Floyd’s death, including in his city — Amsterdam — he understood the public outcry.

He’d seen the disturbing images of what happened to Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

“I think that people do have a right to protest because I think that, personally, as a minority, seeing what is happening, not only as a minority, I mean, ordinary human beings seeing what is happening, is just not right.”

Charles Agyemang, University of Amsterdam

“I think that people do have a right to protest because I think that, personally, as a minority, seeing what is happening, not only as a minority, I mean, ordinary human beings seeing what is happening, is just not right,” Agyemang said.

That’s a position echoed by many health care professionals as thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks, from Philadelphia to Bristol, to demonstrate against police brutality and systemic racism. It may seem counterintuitive — large gatherings can be a recipe for new waves of the coronavirus — but many working in the medical field say racism and the pandemic are intertwined. 

Related: Sweden’s handling of coronavirus drives some people to relocate    

They also stress the need to take precautions to minimize the risks of attending big rallies.

“So, it’s a delicate balance I would say, that needs to be struck,” Agyemang said, emphasizing that it’s important for people who protest to try and social distance. “I think that something needs to be done. We know that, actually, discrimination also has a huge impact on health.” 

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner, says she wants to see equity and supports people’s right to protest.

“It has been really heartening to see the degree to which other countries have been protesting against racism,” she said. “My hope is that that will bring all of us, as a world, that much closer.”

At the same time, Barbot said she hopes that as people demonstrate, that they are doing it safely and reducing risks as much as possible. Her department shared tips early on and issued guidance.

That includes wearing a mask, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, maintaining as much social distance as possible, staying around people you know who don’t have symptoms, and finding creative ways to make noise — such as with noisemakers instead of shouting, which can generate viral particles, she said.

Related: ‘Travel bubbles’: Who’s in and who’s out of the plan to save global tourism

Barbot and others also worry about the law enforcement side of protests: tear gas and pepper spray can create more dangerous situations and increase the risks of the spread of the new coronavirus, as can being arrested and confined in close quarters.

Law enforcement officers don’t always wear masks.

She says people can also take action right after a protest or large gathering to help reduce the potential harms.

“We want people to make sure they wash their hands, make sure that they remove their face coverings in a safe way — which is you remove your face covering, you put it aside, then you wash your hands — because, you know, if individuals are going back to households where they have, let’s say, someone who is over 65, someone who may have an underlying condition, we don’t want them to take a risk in exposing their loved one to COVID-19,” Barbot said.

She recommends that anyone who went to a demonstration gets tested three to five days later.

“If there are any concerns about whether or not they may be developing symptoms, the best thing that they can do is to separate themselves until they get their test results or until at least 10 days have elapsed.” 

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City health commissioner

“If there are any concerns about whether or not they may be developing symptoms, the best thing that they can do is to separate themselves until they get their test results or until at least 10 days have elapsed,” she said.

Related: Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

Based on real-time hospital data so far, Barbot said the city has not observed an uptick in cases from when the protests erupted at the end of May. That might take a few more weeks to play out.

Last week, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, described protesting during the pandemic as risky and encouraged people to wear masks, but prefaced that by saying “almost everyone understands the need to be able to express your constitutional right, to be able to demonstrate in a peaceful way against something that is really a very important social issue.”

Jamie Slaughter-Acey, a social epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, is also concerned about new outbreaks of the coronavirus, but that didn’t stop her from visiting the spot where Floyd died, with her 6-year-old daughter.

“It had tables in front of it, and it was like hand sanitizer stations. There are messages about trying to be as safe as possible,” Slaughter-Acey said, adding that it was emotional for her. “All along that you see people in the community celebrating the life of George Floyd and paying their respects to George Floyd.”

It might at first seem counterintuitive that public health leaders around the globe would not only support people demonstrating during the pandemic, but might even take part, despite knowing the health risks. 

Related: What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

Uchechi Mitchell, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said racial inequities are closely connected to the pandemic and how it’s playing out across the globe.

“I don’t want it to come off as though the public health profession doesn’t care as much about the coronavirus pandemic.”

Uchechi Mitchell ​​​​​​, University of Illinois in Chicago

“I don’t want it to come off as though the public health profession doesn’t care as much about the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Mitchell is one of more than 1,200 public health professionals who signed a petition supporting protests against racism. The petition also included suggestions for how to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Even the World Health Organization has come out in support of a global movement against racism. For many public health experts, like Mitchell, these dual efforts are one and the same.

“Nobody’s ignoring the fact that we have this virus that’s plaguing our communities. But this is a pandemic, it starts and kind of has an end,” Mitchell said. “Whereas racism has been here for generations upon generations upon generations, and we’re still fighting for this end.”

Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

In mid-April, reports of “imported cases” of COVID-19 from abroad stoked fears and prejudices in the country.

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Rebecca Kanthor

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Women wearing protective face masks are seen in a bus, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, June 9, 2020. 

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Aly Song/Reuters 

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Four years ago, JC, a teacher and poet from Mississippi, moved to China with her husband and two children on a grand adventure. Now, she teaches literature to high schoolers in Guangzhou.    

“It was going to be an opportunity for us to, I mean, essentially experience the American dream that’s easier to find in other places than it is in America,” JC said.

Related: A massive Asian drug bust has stirred a fentanyl mystery

But she says life has changed amid the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-April, reports of “imported cases” of COVID-19 from abroad triggered a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment across China, especially toward black people. 

‘We’ve paid our rent, we have legal status in the country and yet we’re being evicted and given an hour to leave’ – the words of members of the #African community in #Guangzhou pic.twitter.com/rqIKmSC70z

— Black Livity China (@BlackLivityCN) April 9, 2020

JC, an African American, was among those targeted in Guangzhou as fears of the coronavirus being brought in by foreigners escalated.

“It was scary here for a while. People made it very clear that they were fearful of us and didn’t want us around. People were being harassed and people were being turned away at restaurants, or people would go to restaurants and everyone would get up and leave. You know, just very dehumanizing things.”

JC, African American woman in China

“It was scary here for a while,” said JC, who asked that her full name not be used for privacy reasons. “People made it very clear that they were fearful of us and didn’t want us around. People were being harassed and people were being turned away at restaurants, or people would go to restaurants and everyone would get up and leave. You know, just very dehumanizing things,” she said.

JC and her family stayed indoors to keep safe.

Related: America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

Another African American woman living in Guangzhou says she’s had similar experiences in the wake of the virus.

Six years ago, BR, from Philadelphia, who also asked not to disclose her full name, moved to the city for a short-term teaching job and wound up staying. She built up her own educational consulting business and brought over her 9-year-old nephew whom she takes care of.

After a year, she stayed on.

“I was just thinking that there was nothing in America for me.”

BR, African American woman in China

“I was just thinking that there was nothing in America for me,” she said.

China offered them something else.

But China has its own brand of racism — one that’s mixed with waves of anti-foreigner nationalism. JC and BR say that they sometimes get stared at on the streets, or people move away from them on the subway. There is hiring discrimination that favors white foreigners over Asian or black people.

As the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic, fear of the virus being brought back into China from abroad made things much worse for foreigners, especially black foreigners. There were reports that a Nigerian patient in Guangzhou had attacked someone and that created a panic.

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

Black people were targeted, no matter their nationality. They were refused taxi rides, banned from supermarkets, forced to quarantine in their homes, hospital isolation rooms, or even sleep on the streets after being kicked out of their apartments.

Around this time, BR saw a viral video shot at a McDonald’s where she’d sometimes eat. An employee was holding up a sign that said, in English, “black people are not allowed.” BR sent the video to a Chinese client with whom she was friendly.

The woman’s reply saddened BR.

“What she said was, ‘Why are you always upset about these things?’ At that point, I just felt like I didn’t have an ally.”

One day, BR and other foreign teachers were blocked from leaving the campus where they were working and living.

“The guard just held his hand up, like, ‘Stop. No, you can’t pass.’ Even with all of my [documents], the university said I needed to leave — I just couldn’t do it.”

After a Chinese colleague intervened, all of the others stopped were able to leave except BR, the only black person among them. She was stuck on campus for weeks until the guards finally let her out. The reactions she got at that point surprised her.

Related: Concerns of structural racism ‘deeply existential,’ UN special rapporteur says

“I went out and people were nice to me, and I was like wow, this is amazing. So, now, when I go out, like, if I go out to walk the dog, the workers and everyone [are] smiling and coming over to talk to me. Where before, they were running away from me.”

The change started happening in response to outrage from African governments concerning “ongoing forceful testing and quarantine and maltreatment of African Nationals in China in general and in Guangdong Province in particular.”

News reports were broadcast around the world, and African governments confronted the Chinese government about the situation. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any racial discrimination, but the Guangzhou Office of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that businesses should treat all people equally, and they set up a hotline for foreigners. For example, if someone called the hotline to complain that they’d been turned away at a store, authorities would show up to resolve the problem.

According to JC, that statement and follow-through on the policy changed things.

“That only needed to happen for about a week before people started to chill. You know, you start serving some consequences for this, and this stuff stops.”

JC, African American woman in China

“That only needed to happen for about a week before people started to chill. You know, you start serving some consequences for this, and this stuff stops.”

Of course, discrimination hasn’t really stopped in Guangzhou, a city of 13 million people. But what BR found most disturbing was that people could change so abruptly in how they treated her, shunning her one day and welcoming her the next.

“I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. I don’t know who I’m going to face or what mood they’re going to be in that day based on what’s going on,” she said.

More recently, anti-racism protests have rocked the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Chinese state media is giving extensive coverage to violent protests roiling cities across the United States, while the unrest has also featured widely in Chinese social media.

BR and JC are watching closely. So are the Chinese people around them. After what BR went through, she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about what’s going on in the US.

JC and her students, on the other hand, are talking openly about the protests.

“I’ve definitely been grieving, on the verge of tears. Not able to sleep. It’s been hard. But my goodness, I have drawn so much energy from my students. The outpouring of love that I got from those students was tremendous,” she said.

She feels some guilt that she’s not in the US where she’d be protesting. But she’s found a sense of purpose in China.

“I have to remind myself there is pain all over the world. There’s misunderstanding all over the world. There’s racism all over the world; wherever you are, you can do work toward that because it’s everywhere.”

JC, African American woman in China

“I have to remind myself there is pain all over the world. There’s misunderstanding all over the world. There’s racism all over the world; wherever you are, you can do work toward that because it’s everywhere,” she said.

All in all, “I do feel safer outside of the US than I do at home. I feel safer in China — because no matter what anybody thinks, back at the end of the day, they can’t shoot me for it. And I can’t say that for living in the US,” JC said.

For BR, the past few months have changed everything. Now, she’s trying to figure out where she and her nephew can go next.

“We feel like we don’t have a home. Here is not that comfortable right now or maybe it hasn’t been for a while. And then also we can’t really call America home anymore, either. So, it’s just like, where do you go?”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

"If you want to change, it has to start with an acknowledgment," says Stan Henkeman, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.

By
The World staff

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Ariel Oseran

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A member of South Africa’s opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), leads chants during a protest against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and Collins Khoza, who died after a confrontation with South African security forces enforcing the nationwide coronavirus disease lockdown, outside the US Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, June 8, 2020. 

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Protests against police brutality and racism are erupting all over the globe. That includes in some African nations, where thousands have been calling for justice for George Floyd.

In South Africa, it’s a reminder of its own complicated history of police violence. Twenty years ago, the end of apartheid was marked by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was set up by the South African government after decades of institutionalized racism under apartheid. The commission gave thousands of people a chance to testify to the racism they experienced or perpetrated. 

At the funeral Tuesday for George Floyd, the black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas called for reconciliation for black people in the US. 

South Africa’s commission was headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“We are a wounded people, because of the conflict of the past,” Tutu said at the commission’s first meeting. “No matter which side we stood, we all stand in need of healing. We on the commission are no super-human exceptions.”

Stan Henkeman is the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. He spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about what the US might learn from South Africa as it reckons with centuries’ worth of racial discrimination and inequality.

Related: South Africa’s imperfect progress, 20 years after the Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Marco Werman: Coming out of apartheid in the early 1990s, there were so many raw emotions after years of oppression. There was the specter of South Africa falling apart, even a race war. How did South Africa even get people to agree that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the right way to go? How do you get people — black, white, different social classes — to buy into this?

Stan Henkeman: I think the first thing to say is that there was the [Nelson] Mandela factor. And Mandela proved to be the one person that every South African, irrespective of their background, was able to identify with. The second thing is to understand that the majority of South Africans are not white. And so you can imagine the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was very appealing to them because there was so much suffering. And people just saw this as an opportunity to expose what had been happening, but also to close a chapter, a painful chapter of honesty. 

Having said that, the buy-in from the white community was not as enthusiastic. In fact, there were a number of white people who saw this as a witch hunt. 

So how did you approach that imbalance? And did you eventually get more buy-in from the white population of South Africa?

You know, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an outflow of an act of parliament to promote national reconciliation. White people, generally, even though their political parties agreed to it, were still skeptical. But as the commission progressed, the fact that it was transparent, it was on TV screens on a daily basis — I think that kind of helped make people understand that this is a genuine attempt to try and understand what happened.

Related: Concerns of structural racism are ‘deeply existential,’ UN special rapporteur says

And what were the stated objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission once it started? 

The process was quite organized. There were three aspects to the commission. The one committee was the committee that investigated gross human rights violations. And the emphasis was on gross human rights violations because you can imagine every disadvantage South African had their human rights violated. Then there was a second committee that looked at the issue of amnesty, and that was always going to be a thorny one. And then the third committee had to look at reparations.

My sense is that the whole process was very highly charged and was very emotional for a lot of people, almost like a confessional of sins and victimization. Was there a prosecutorial aspect to any of this?

The only committee that kind of acted like a court was the amnesty committee. And what was really interesting was the fact that people who applied for amnesty did not have to do a public apology. I imagine that angered a number of people, but the idea was a way to get people to come and tell their side of the story. More than 7,000 people applied for amnesty, but only 1,700 received amnesty. Now, this is where a question comes in about prosecutions. And this is one area where I think that many South Africans would say we have failed because the prosecuting agencies did not follow through on the thousands of people who did not qualify for amnesty.

Related: 20 years on, South Africa’s remarkable constitution remains unfulfilled

The world looks at South Africa today, and apartheid, they see, is over. But now there is a profound class difference in South Africa that isn’t all about race. When you look at that reality, do you think it’s a failure of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

It is a bit unfair to blame the TRC for the problems of our country. I think the first thing we need to say about the TRC is that it was not going to be the silver bullet that’s going to solve the problem and that’s going to reconcile the country. It was the beginning of a process. And if you listen to people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others, that’s exactly how they understood it. Sadly, the rest of the country didn’t necessarily understand it in the same way.

If we look at the young people today, especially black, young people who are still experiencing the struggles of poverty, unemployment, and exclusion that their parents went through, they are extremely critical of the TRC. In fact, they call the TRC a whitewash of white atrocities.

I’m curious to know, Mr. Henkeman, as you look at what’s going on here in the US, what would you say America has to reckon here and what can Americans learn from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

You know, if you want to change, it has to start with an acknowledgment. And I think that that’s probably where America has to start. Acknowledge the pain, how that pain gets transmitted generationally. And what happened to somebody in the 60s or even earlier affects young people today. And once that acknowledgment happens, then there should be a conversation. I’m not sure whether the US is ready for that conversation, because in South Africa, we have a black majority government. So there is a level of openness.

Now, whether they listen to us is another story, but at least there’s a willingness to have the conversation. I’m not sure how successful that will be in the States, because you can bring all the changes that you want, but if there’s no shift in attitude, in [the] worldview that we hold about other people, in people’s place in society — if that doesn’t shift, you know, you can make all these cosmetic changes, you will just have a perpetuation of the status quo.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

By
The World staff

Producer
Amanda McGowan

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US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents look at migrants who crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, to turn themselves in to ask for asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Sept. 18, 2019.

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Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters 

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On Thursday, the Trump administration issued a proposal that would dramatically reshape the asylum system in the United States.

The proposal includes a number of changes that would make it more difficult for applicants to gain asylum in the US — including changing which applicants would get asylum hearings in the first place. 

Applications based on people fleeing gangs, terrorists, “rogue” government officials or “non-state organizations” would no longer be recognized, meaning that those fleeing persecution from organizations like ISIS would not qualify for protection.

Last July, the Trump administration established another set of rules — requiring migrants fleeing their homelands to apply for asylum in one of the first countries they pass through. 

Related: Pandemic disrupts remittances, leaving immigrants’ families without lifelines 

Currently, asylum claims have essentially been halted by border closures after Donald Trump declared a public health emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Luis Cortes-Romero is an immigration lawyer in Seattle. He spoke with The World’s host Marco Werman about the potential impact of the proposal. 

Marco Werman: How sweeping of a change is this, Luis, to our existing asylum system? And what was your reaction to the proposal?

Luis Cortes-Romero: This is a humongous structural change to the already very limited rights that asylum-seekers have. It does a lot to turn away recent arrival asylum applicants but also does a lot to erode the rights for people who are already in the United States who may want to seek asylum in the future.

Related: Greece’s new asylum law ‘poses continuous traps’ for refugees 

So, what are the details? How exactly would these proposed changes make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum in the US?

It provides a lot of barriers and hurdles to even apply, and it makes it significantly easier and streamlined in order to deny their application. Let me give you some examples to be concrete: One of the things the proposal does is makes it so that anybody who has spent more than 14 days in any other country before coming to the United States … would be banned then from applying for asylum here. So, that applies to a lot of the Central American migrants or people who come from South America, [for] whom oftentimes, it takes them a month to get here.

Related: Migrants struck in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus

Right — I was going to say, if you’re on foot, 14 days — that’s pretty much that, right?

Yes, that’s that. It becomes a nonstarter for a lot of the migrants. Moreso for the recent arrivals, there’s an initial process called a credible fear process, where an officer will just determine kind of at first glance whether you have a credible fear of being persecuted in your country, and if so, then you can go ahead and apply for asylum with an immigration judge and the immigration court. The standard to be able to pass a credible fear interview is now significantly higher. And then even if you make it, the immigration judge now has the authority to completely deny your application without even a hearing if the immigration judge sees that he’s not likely or she’s not likely to grant the application.

Related: How the US immigration system nearly tore this LGBTQ couple apart  

We also need to discuss DACA here — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors to remain here to study or work. If the Supreme Court rules against DACA — we’re still waiting for some decision — could these new changes impact DACA recipients who try to seek asylum in the US?

One-hundred percent. If the Supreme Court strikes down DACA, what the heads of the Department of Homeland Security have made clear is that they do plan to place DACA recipients into removal proceedings, the process it takes for someone to be ultimately deported. That typically goes with a hearing before an immigration judge. The one lifeline that DACA recipients could have had to try to save themselves in removal proceedings is now being not only structurally changed but gutted from all its due process rights. So, ultimately, the consequence will be that once DACA recipients are placed in removal proceedings, the ability to fight your case to stay here now is significantly diminished from an already limited basis.

Related: Trump ended DACA. This woman is suing to stop him.

You yourself are a DACA recipient. You were also part of the legal team that argued to the Supreme Court for DACA’s continuation. How are you seeing this raft of restrictions once you look at the sum total?

Certainly, it’s going to be met with a lot of legal challenges because the fundamental notion that the United States has is the ability to be heard and the ability to have a fair proceeding. So, we think there’s going to be a lot of legal challenges, you know, challenging the stripping away of the basic due process rights that asylum-seekers might have, which ultimately may include DACA recipients in the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Trump administration proposes more hurdles for asylum-seekers; Amazon halts police use of facial recognition technology

Trump administration proposes more hurdles for asylum-seekers; Amazon halts police use of facial recognition technology

By
The World staff

Migrants are seen outside of tents at a migrant encampment where more than 2,000 people live while seeking asylum in the US, in Matamoros, Mexico, April 9, 2020.

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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

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

The Trump administration is proposing an overhaul of the asylum system that would make it much harder for applicants to win protection in the US. If enacted after public comment, the changes would streamline the asylum process by enabling lower-level asylum officers to throw out applications they deem “frivolous” — preventing applicants from having their claims heard in full court proceedings. Read the 161-page proposal here.

The narrowed grounds for asylum claims proposed by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security would no longer recognize applications based on people fleeing gangs, terrorists, “rogue” government officials or “non-state organizations.”

For now, asylum claims are essentially halted with US borders closed under provisions of the public health emergency Donald Trump declared in March amid the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed changes come on top of another set of rules the administration established last July — requiring migrants fleeing their homelands to apply for asylum in one of the first countries they pass through. 

What The World is following

Amazon said Wednesday it plans to halt sales of its facial recognition software to police for a year. The technology has been widely criticized as being used by law enforcement to unfairly profile people of color. Teleconferencing company Zoom has been called out for suspending an account belonging to a group of US-based Chinese activists who held an event on the platform to commemorate the 31st anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown. Also, Apple removed the podcasting app Pocket Casts from its Chinese App Store at the request of the government.

On Wednesday, Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo, reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths for the second day running. The infections and high death tolls come as the government started allowing many businesses to reopen. The virus has disproportionately struck Brazil’s poor, largely neglected favelas. But activists in the favelas are organizing their own fight.

From The WorldLatino groups fight voter suppression efforts as US election nears

A voter casts a ballot at the Flushing Volunteer Fire Department in Flushing, Ohio, on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012. 

Credit:

Matt Sullivan/Reuters

Approximately 32 million Latinos are expected to be eligible to vote in the general election this November, making them the nation’s largest minority voter group, according to the Pew Research Center. But there are numerous efforts to suppress Latinos and black voters underway across the country — particularly as white Americans make up a declining share of the US electorate. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting this election cycle, advocacy groups worry it could get worse.

Toronto’s first black police chief resigns

Mark Saunders, then the deputy police chief, speaks at a news conference in Toronto, Canada, Feb. 24, 2015.  

Credit:

Aaron Harris/Reuters 

With just eight months to go in his term as chief of the Toronto Police Service, Mark Saunders seems to have surprised everyone by abruptly resigning — without fully explaining why. Activists say the Toronto police chief helped maintain the status quo. But after George Floyd’s death, Saunders declared that incremental change was no longer enough. He knelt with protesters in the street. And by stepping away from his position, some say he has left an opening for possible change.

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

Morning focus

Marmite, the company that makes a — love it or hate it — spread from yeast extract, announced that because of the shortage of brewer’s yeast due to the coronavirus, it’s now only producing the 250-gram jar. A serious situation for Marmite lovers.

Hi Tim, due to brewers yeast being in short supply (one of the main ingredients in Marmite) Supplies of Marmite have been affected.

As a temporary measure we have stopped production of all sizes apart from our 250g size jar which is available in most major retailers.

— Marmite (@marmite) June 10, 2020In case you missed itListen: Global movements to end systemic racial discrimination

A man raises his fist over a crowd of demonstrators during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, June 7, 2020.

Credit:

Juan Medina/Reuters

Wednesday on The World, we’ll check in on global movements to end systemic racial discrimination. First to Toronto, Canada, where the city’s first black police chief resigned abruptly — months before he was supposed to and without explanation. And, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the US Embassy in Madrid over the weekend to commemorate the life of George Floyd. But, they were also protesting the racial inequalities in Spain. Also, as lockdowns were lifted in China, worry spread about imported cases from abroad. Black people were targeted, leading some African Americans in Guangzhou to question whether they could stay.

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

Latino groups fight voter suppression efforts as US election nears

Latino groups fight voter suppression efforts as US election nears

Numerous efforts to suppress Latinos and black voters are underway across the country — particularly as white Americans make up a declining share of the US electorate. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting this election cycle, advocacy groups worry it could get worse. 

By
Daisy Contreras

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A voter casts a ballot at the Flushing Volunteer Fire Department in Flushing, Ohio, on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012. 

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Matt Sullivan/Reuters

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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.

In the fall of 2018, Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, then a senior at Dodge City High School in Kansas, joined friends at parent-teacher conferences in registering people to vote in the midterm election.

Then someone asked to check their voter registration status online. Rangel-Lopez glanced at the polling location address and noticed something was off.

“What popped up was not the civic center — which is where people would normally vote here in town — but instead of that, was the expo center, which is located outside of city limits,” he said. 

It wasn’t a mistake. The Ford County Clerk had, in fact, moved Dodge City’s only polling location, which serves 13,000 voters. The county said the move was due to construction. But with the midterm elections only four weeks away, many were skeptical of the reason. 

Rangel-Lopez said he worried what changing the polling location would mean for the Latino vote in his city. Dodge City is 60% Latino, with many working in the meatpacking plants there. 

“This would further decrease Latino turnout and put Latinos in a place where, even if they wanted to go out and vote, it would be so inconvenient and out of the way.”

Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, resident, Dodge City, Kansas

“This would further decrease Latino turnout and put Latinos in a place where, even if they wanted to go out and vote, it would be so inconvenient and out of the way,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Kansas sued the Ford County Clerk for changing polling locations at such short notice, citing violations to Dodge City voters’ constitutional and civil rights. Rangel-Lopez became a plaintiff in the case, representing Latino voters in Dodge City who were afraid to lose their jobs if they spoke up. A federal judge dismissed the case. 

Related: The key to winning the Latino vote in 2020? Latinas.

But what happened in Dodge City is one example of suppression of Latinos and black voters underway across the country — particularly as white Americans make up a declining share of the US electorate. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting this election cycle, advocacy groups worry it could get worse. 

Approximately 32 million Latinos are expected to be eligible to vote in the general election this November, making them the nation’s largest minority voter group, according to the Pew Research Center. Eligible Latinos will surpass eligible black voters for the first time. Civic engagement and civil rights groups are working to make sure Latinos have access to the polls. 

State governments keep people from voting in many different ways, said Arturo Vargas, president of NALEO Educational Fund, a group focused on Latino civic engagement. Examples include requiring voters to have certain photo IDs or purging voter rolls.

“And then there are unintentional ones that result in discouraging voters, for example, cutting down on early voting period so that there is less voting,” he said.

These tactics have intensified since 2013. In a landmark Supreme Court case that year, Shelby County v. Holder, the court removed key voter protections contained within the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court sided with a lower court’s decision that some of the protections were outdated — though opponents argued that removing them would pose barriers for minority voters in states with a history of discrimination. Under the decision, local and state governments no longer need federal approval to pass voting or election laws. 

The original law was put in place to ensure black voters were not denied their right to vote. And without federal oversight, local governments may adopt restrictive voting practices, Vargas said. 

As a result, he said, more lawsuits aiming to overturn these practices are expected in the lead-up to November.

“There have been some states where we have been successful in trying to get some of these voter suppression policies and practices withdrawn.”

Artuto Vargas,  president, NALEO education fund

“There have been some states where we have been successful in trying to get some of these voter suppression policies and practices withdrawn,” Vargas said. 

Groups such as the ACLU and LULAC are leading the charge to ensure minority voters have fair access to the polls. 

LULAC, the oldest known Hispanic organization in the US, was a co-plaintiff in the Dodge City case in 2018. It also filed a lawsuit last month against Texas officials, arguing the state’s vote-by-mail policies violate the Constitution.

To vote by mail in Texas, people must be disabled or serve in the military, or over 65 years of age. The argument for these restrictions is that voting by mail should only be available to voters who are physically unable to get to the polls, explained Domingo Garcia, LULAC’s national president. 

Related: Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren’t sure.

But that holds back some voters — including minority and younger voters, Garcia said. And now, with the coronavirus, groups like LULAC argue there is even more reason to allow for a vote by mail.

“I don’t know if la abuelita or la tía, grandma or grandpa, you know, aunt and uncle, are they going to risk their lives to go wait an hour, two hours, three hours to vote?” he said. 

Latino voters historically prefer to vote in person, Vargas said. But he also doesn’t see an option but to expand access to voting by mail as the general election nears. 

“Latinos are much less likely to have had experiences voting by mail than non-Latinos,” he said. “So, unless voting by mail arrangements aren’t accompanied by very robust public education campaigns to adequately educate Latino voters about how to vote by mail, this may actually erect more barriers to people being able to vote.”

In late May, a US district judge moved to allow voting by mail for people concerned about the coronavirus. But an appellate panel put that on hold days later. 

Garcia says he likes to focus on small wins. LULAC’s next target state is Arizona, he added.  

“I keep thinking that mañana things will be better for Jose and Maria on Main Street, and for Billy Bob and Mary Sue on Main Street. ”

Domingo Garcia, national president, LULAC

“You know, I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “I keep thinking that mañana things will be better for Jose and Maria on Main Street, and for Billy Bob and Mary Sue on Main Street. ”

Another win can be traced to the Dodge City case. It took two years, but the city now has three polling sites.

Rangel-Lopez, the plaintiff, who is now 19, is glad to see that but says voter suppression elsewhere is real.

“I’m very worried about what’s going to happen,” he said. “And there needs to be a lot more attention to this issue than what we’re currently giving it.”

This year, Rangel-Lopez will vote for the first time in a presidential election. He’s been reflecting on his achievement as a high school senior two years ago with the legal case over polling sites.

“You are never too young to be politically active or to affect change in your community, in your state or nationally,” he said.

Rangel-Lopez learned that lesson. Now, he wants to make sure other young people learn it, too.

The power of protest: Part II

The power of protest: Part II

Critical State looks at the power and impact of protests over time. As today’s protesters lay out their demands for public safety systems that severely curb police capabilities for violence, economists Jamein Cunningham and Rib Gillezeau offer insight into the stakes of their struggle.

By
Sam Ratner

Protesters rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, May 31, 2020. 

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

Last week, Critical State’s Deep Dive looked at some of the electoral effects of mass protest.

Related: The power of protest: Part I

This week, Deep Dive digs into the research on one of the apparent mysteries of the past couple weeks: Do American police forces respond to protests against police killings by increasing their violence against civilians? Or does it just seem that way because of the unending stream of videos and reports of police violence against protesters?

paper from last year by economists Jamein Cunningham and Rob Gillezeau in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology offers a jarring answer to that question. Cunningham and Gillezeau looked back at earlier waves of protest against police violence in the 1960s and 70s, testing the effects of those actions on police killings in the years that followed.

Related: World responds to protests sparked by George Floyd’s death

They started by collecting a dataset of all the protests and riots (what Cunningham and Gillezeau call “racial uprisings”) by black Americans that took place in the US between 1964 and 1971, mapped down to the county level.

Related: Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

Their data includes over 700 uprisings in that seven-year period, which gives a sense of the level of upheaval in the US during that time. With a list of counties that experienced uprisings and the year the first uprising in each county took place, Cunningham and Gillezeau could begin researching how those uprisings — often a direct result of police violence against civilians — affected subsequent police killings.

In the first three years after a county experiences a racial uprising, police killings of both white and non-white civilians jump.

The effect, it turns out, was to increase those killings. In the first three years after a county experiences a racial uprising, police killings of both white and non-white civilians jump, and by similar amounts.

Related: In France, the killing of George Floyd invokes the memory of Adama Traoré 

The average county that had an uprising saw police kill between 2.2 and 2.4 more white people in the three years following the first uprising than in the average county that had no uprising, and the increase in killings of non-white people was between 1.4 and 3.1 in the same time frame.

That might be surprising, given that the uprisings themselves were largely the result not of generalized police violence, but of specifically anti-black police violence. If police are not just violent but racist in their violence, why would killings of white people spike alongside killings of non-white people?

Related: ‘No justice, no peace’: Thousands in London protest the death of Floyd

Well, the data doesn’t stop three years from the first uprising. When Cunningham and Gillezeau looked at a wider timescale — the 15 years from the first uprising in a county — they found that the effect of killings of white people subsided over time.

In 15 years, an uprising predicted that police would kill an additional 3.8 to 6.6 white people beyond what would happen in an average county with no uprising, and the biggest effect was in the first three years. For non-white people, though, the effect of the uprising never really went away. In the 15 years following the first uprising, police in a post-uprising county killed an average of between 9 and 15.1 more non-white people than their brothers in blue from non-uprising counties.

Expressing displeasure with police violence without limiting police ability to mete out further violence is likely to lead to more civilian death.

Cunningham and Gillezeau make no claims about the mechanism that causes police killings to rise after uprisings, but it is clear from their data that expressing displeasure with police violence without limiting police ability to mete out further violence is likely to lead to more civilian death.

As today’s protesters lay out their demands for public safety systems that severely curb police capabilities for violence, Cunningham and Gillezeau offer insight into the stakes of their struggle.

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.

In France, the killing of George Floyd invokes the memory of Adama Traoré

In France, the killing of George Floyd invokes the memory of Adama Traoré

George Floyd’s killing sparked protests across the world. In France, it reignited calls for justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old French Malian man who died in police custody almost four years ago.

By
Lucy Martirosyan

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Assa Traoré, sister of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old, black Frenchman who died in 2016 during police detention, poses during an interview with Reuters in Beaumont-sur-Oise, near Paris, June 7, 2020. 

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The death George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man killed by a white police officer on camera late last month in Minneapolis, has sparked protests in cities across the world, including Amsterdam, Seoul and London.

In France, Floyd’s death has reignited calls for justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old French Malian man who died in police custody in a Paris suburb almost four years ago.

Over the weekend, more than 23,000 people across France continued to pay homage to both Traoré and Floyd, denouncing systemic racism and police brutality in a dozen cities including Lyon, Lille, Nice, Bordeaux and Metz. Fearing violence, French police banned protests in front of the US Embassy and on the Champ de Mars lawns in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Saturday.

Related: Protesters worldwide face controversial police tactics

French President Emmanuel Macron asked Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to accelerate propositions for improving France’s police code of ethics. It’s a request Macron said he’s been demanding since the gilets jaunes or “yellow vests” protests against pension reforms in January.

In a press conference on Monday, Castaner announced that French law enforcement would abandon the policing technique known as le plaquage ventral, or “ventral plating,” a method of forceful detainment that involves “the strangulation” of the neck. Castaner also said he would request the suspension of officers involved in suspected racism, referring to an investigation into racist messages allegedly exchanged by police officers in a private Facebook group of nearly 8,000 members.

For the first time since Traoré’s death in 2016, Macron also asked Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet to look into the case.

Related: Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

During last Tuesday’s protests in Paris, Assa Traoré, Adama Traoré’s older sister, drew parallels between Floyd and her brother, saying the two black men died the same way in the hands of police.

“Tonight, this fight is no longer just the fight of the Traoré family, it’s everyone’s struggle,” Assa Traoré said. “We are fighting for our brother, in the US, George Floyd, and for Adama.”

The French capital alone garnered support from crowds of more than 20,000 people, defying a ban on large gatherings during the country’s COVID-19 state of emergency. 

On the same day, June 2, Castaner defended the police, criticizing peaceful protests that turned violent. In a tweet, he said that violence has no place in a democracy. And he congratulated the police for “their control and composure.”

La violence n’a pas sa place en démocratie.
Rien ne justifie les débordements survenus ce soir à Paris, alors que les rassemblements de voie publique sont interdits pour protéger la santé de tous.
Je félicite les forces de sécurité & secours pour leur maîtrise et leur sang-froid.

— Christophe Castaner (@CCastaner) June 2, 2020

A protester is detained during a banned demonstration in memory of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black Frenchman who died in a 2016 police operation which some have likened to the killing of George Floyd in the United States, on the Place de la Republique in Lille, France, June 4, 2020. 

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Since her brother’s death, Assa Traoré launched Truth for Adama, an organization that has been trying to prove that Adama Traoré died by asphyxiation at the hands of the French police.

Related: The parallels of police violence in the US and around the world 

On July 19, 2016, French gendarmes — a military force within law enforcement in France — stopped Adama Traoré as he was riding his bike with his brother on the streets of Beaumont-sur-Oise. Adama Traoré, who didn’t have his identification card on him, ran away fearing arrest. Identity checks are part of legislation in France to clamp down on illegal immigration, and police are known to abuse this practice against any person of color in Parisian suburbs. 

Officers chased him down and forcibly detained him. While transported to the police station, Adama Traoré’s condition worsened. He died that evening in police custody while his family was waiting for him at home to celebrate his 24th birthday.

A French court ruled that the gendarmes had no involvement in Adama Traoré’s death and that he died due to underlying health conditions and heart failure.

While the officers involved in the case were exonerated this month, a new, independent report requested by the Traoré family released last week said he died by “positional asphyxiation” — contradicting the original autopsy.

Yassine Bouzrou, the lawyer representing the Traoré family, said that the police used the ventral plating technique where, Bouzrou says, three officers pinned him down onto his stomach with their full weight on top of him — totaling 551 pounds.

Related: ‘No justice, no peace’: Thousands in London protest

“When he was arrested, it was extremely violent. He was crushed by the weight of police officers on top of him. … [Adama Traoré] said he couldn’t breathe.”

Yassine Bouzrou, lawyer, France

“When he was arrested, it was extremely violent. He was crushed by the weight of police officers on top of him,” Bouzrou said. “[Adama Traoré] said he couldn’t breathe.”

Adama Traoré’s death resonates especially with black French people and Maghrebis — North Africans — living in Parisian suburbs who say they feel targeted by police.

“The way people are treated at the banlieue [suburb], it’s like a map,” said Franco Lollia, an Afro Caribbean activist with the Brigade for Anti-Negrophobia in Paris, through an interpreter. “You could compare it to redlining in the United States.”

Redlining was banned more than 50 years ago in the US, but reports say that it reinforced segregation and economic disparities that persist in these cities today. 

According to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, young black or Arab French people living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in French cities are more likely to be stopped by the police, suggesting that the gendarmes and police in France engage in racial and ethnic profiling.

Related: Human rights should be ‘top value,’ says Ukraine’s former police chief

Lollia, who founded his group in 2005, says there is a psychological, implicit bias that exists against people of color in Parisian suburbs, which ultimately perpetuates systemic racism.

When Adama Traoré died that summer nearly four years ago, his death became a rallying call in the suburbs of Paris against police brutality. That July, in 2016, protests lasted for several days in the French capital, with some violent clashes between civilians and police. People in France were starting to make connections to the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, Lollia said, drawing parallels to Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Eric Garner, who also said, “I can’t breathe.”

A protester holds a sign during a banned demonstration in memory of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black Frenchman who died in a 2016 police operation which some have likened to the death of George Floyd in the United States, on the Place de la Republique in Lille, France, June 4, 2020.

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Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Lollia connected Traoré’s case to that of Floyd, — but with one major distinction.

“What happened to George Floyd was on camera. What happened to Adama was not on film. … So, if I may say so, they didn’t get the chance to get the death on video. This is how cynical the situation gets for us to prove our innocence. It has to be taped.”

Franco Lollia, activist, Brigade for AntiNegrophobia, Paris, France

“What happened to George Floyd was on camera. What happened to Adama was not on film,” Lollia said. “So, if I may say so, they didn’t get the chance to get the death on video. This is how cynical the situation gets for us to prove our innocence. It has to be taped.”

Bouzrou agrees that there are many similarities between the two cases.

“The first point in common is that both [Floyd and Traoré] died by the ‘ventral plating’ technique, with police officers on top of their backs,” Bouzrou said. “Three police officers were on top of Floyd. And three gendarmes on top of Adama Traoré. The second point in common — they both said they couldn’t breathe. The third point in common is that, in both cases, the first [autopsy] claimed that they died because of a heart attack — Traoré and Floyd. [Fourth,] thanks to independent reports, the real cause of death was found — that is to say, the death was caused by the arrests.”

And finally, Bouzrou said, Adama Traoré and George Floyd were both victims of being black men.

Meanwhile, France’s Police Union official, Yves Lefebvre, insists the two cases are different. According to the BBC, he warned that France’s banlieues were like a pressure cooker, “ready to explode.”

Even though this new report supports Assa Traoré’s claim that her brother was killed by officers, Bouzrou is not hopeful.

Ultimately, he says, President Macron has supported the Paris prosecutor’s office that first suggested Adama Traoré died because of preexisting conditions.

“For us, this position is political because it comes from Macron,” he said.

As for Assa Traoré and her family, Bouzrou says they won’t feel justice is served for Adama Traoré until people fight for it.

“We have to fight and denounce this judicial scandal,” Bouzrou said.

America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

On Saturday, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

By
Jason Strother

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Protesters in Seoul, South Korea, rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement on June 6, 2020. 

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Calls for racial justice in the US are compelling some South Koreans to point out xenophobia in their own country and reexamine decades-old tensions between black and Korean communities.

On Saturday, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first public showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Marchers held signs in Korean and English with slogans denouncing racial discrimination while some of the event’s expat participants chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

Related: US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

Even though South Korea is largely ethnically homogenous, it has a growing and diverse immigrant community. And as that population increases, some worry that widely held suspicion toward foreigners could incite the kinds of abuse seen in other, more multicultural parts of the world.

“Racism happens here in Korea. Whether they are from China, black or other immigrant workers, they are mocked and looked down on.”

Shim Ji-hoon, protest organizer

“Racism happens here in Korea,” said Shim Ji-hoon, who organized the weekend protest. “Whether they are from China, black or other immigrant workers, they are mocked and looked down on.”

Speaking to the crowd over loudspeakers, Shim says he worries that if these concerns aren’t addressed soon, “what happened to George Floyd could happen here, too.”

Demonstrations across America, as well as in cities such as London, Paris and Sydney, have highlighted the injustice felt by many black or other minority communities in those countries. But for many South Koreans, the protests and reports of coinciding violence and vandalism echo previous unrest that put the African American community at odds with the Korean diaspora in the US.

Resentment held by some Koreans toward black Americans can be traced back to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted following the police beating of Rodney King and the subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the incident, some observers say.

Michael Hurt, who lectures on cultural theory at the Korea National University of Arts, says during that time, many South Koreans watched lopsided television news reports about the damage inflicted on Korean American business owners in LA without much discussion of the underlying causes of the riots.

“Back then, Korean media tended to be much more ethno-nationalist. The news tended to heavily lean on how does this affect Koreans who own businesses that were destroyed.”

Michael Hurt, Korea National University of  Arts

“Back then, Korean media tended to be much more ethno-nationalist,” he said. “The news tended to heavily lean on how does this affect Koreans who own businesses that were destroyed.”

Hurt explains Korean reporters omitted the views of African Americans in their coverage.

“You might want to interview a black person, but that didn’t happen in ’92,” he said.

A demonstration in Seoul called out racial injustice in the US and xenophobia in South Korea, June 6, 2020. 

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Jason Strother/The World 

South Korean media still report on how the present-day demonstrations impact Korean-owned businesses in the US.

But Hurt says, unlike coverage from nearly 30 years ago, journalists now are offering more context in their dispatches from US cities and doing an overall better job explaining the history of American racism for Korean audiences.

Related: Protesters worldwide face controversial police tactics

And because South Koreans now consume more media from around the world, Hurt says they’ve been made more aware of black culture and social justice issues.

“There’s a broader exposure and a more sympathetic view these days,” he said.

Despite these advancements, some watchdog agencies say more improvements are needed to reduce prejudice toward all minorities in South Korea.

A survey released earlier this year by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that seven out of 10 foreign residents say they have experienced some form of discrimination. And in a 2018 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns over the safety of asylum-seekers, marriage migrants and immigrant laborers living in South Korea.

Foreign athletes have also reportedly been victims of racist hate mail and death threats, including two US-born black basketball players.

Foreign nationals account for nearly 5% percent of South Korea’s total population of approximately 52 million, according to government data.

In light of the ongoing racial justice protests, some South Koreans are reflecting on what they can do to make a difference.

Related: Former CIA analyst sees parallels between Trump protest response and social unrest abroad

Lee Sa-rang, who works for an education consultancy that helps college students enter US schools, says it’s time for Koreans “to take a stand.”

“I think Korea, because it’s so homogeneous, it’s easy to stick out if you’re different. Just calling out the elders in my family who make racist remarks” is one small way to fight racism.

Lee Sa-rang, who works for an education consultancy

“I think Korea, because it’s so homogeneous, it’s easy to stick out if you’re different,” the 32-year-old said, adding, “Just calling out the elders in my family who make racist remarks” is one small way she has found that she can fight racism.

Ko Na-eun, a 17-year-old high school student, says she and a friend plan to open a booth in Seoul to provide information about George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“If they [Koreans] are more aware of what’s happening in the US, I feel like it would help them reflect on what they’ve done in the past when they saw foreigners in Korea,” she said.

Ko, who returned to Korea this year after her Connecticut boarding school was closed due to the coronavirus, says some Koreans have prejudices too, and some don’t understand why they should care about the racism experienced by African Americans.

Related: Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

But protesters in the US have found an unexpected ally in South Korea: K-pop superstars.

Bands like BTS have joined the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing messages of support on social media.

우리는 인종차별에 반대합니다.
우리는 폭력에 반대합니다.
나, 당신, 우리 모두는 존중받을 권리가 있습니다. 함께 하겠습니다.

We stand against racial discrimination.
We condemn violence.
You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.#BlackLivesMatter

— 방탄소년단 (@BTS_twt) June 4, 2020

BTS has also donated $1 million to help BLM demonstrators and called on fans to match the group’s contribution.

There’s a cultural connection here, says Bernie Cho, who heads the DFSB Kollective, a music promotions agency in Seoul.

“With a lot of Korean music artists, there’s a deeper respect of the importance and impact that black culture has had on not only their personal but professional lives.” 

Bernie Cho, DFSB Kollective

“With a lot of Korean music artists, there’s a deeper respect of the importance and impact that black culture has had on not only their personal but professional lives,” Cho said.

K-pop fans from across the globe have also hijacked racist hashtags on Twitter by overwhelming these threads with videos of their favorite performers. 

Rianne, a 25-year-old protester who only wanted her first name used, joined Saturday’s demonstration in Seoul. She says that as a black woman from California, she has experienced similar forms of racism in Korea as she has in the US, such as people uninvitingly touching her hair.

But she says she gives Koreans a little more leeway for these kinds of acts than she would for people back home because of the two countries’ very different histories.

She says she was very happy to see so many people expressing concern for African Americans at the rally.

“I am so glad that people came together for this cause,” she said. “It’s not just an American issue; it’s global, and we need to fight together.” 

US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

International human rights advocates observing how the US is handling the protests have said the US may be violating international law. The World spoke to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard on the use of force by US police.

By
The World staff

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Stephen Snyder

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A Seattle police officer wears a “mourning band” for fallen officers over his badge, obscuring the badge number, as Seattle police guard the department headquarters downtown during a rally and march calling for a defunding of Seattle police, in Seattle, Washington, on June 3, 2020.

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In cities across the United States this past week, protesters have been confronted by police carrying shields and batons and hulking armored vehicles that might look to some people like a scene straight out of a war zone.

Widespread protests against racial inequalities and excessive use of force by police following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis with a white policeman’s knee on his neck have revived a debate about equipment and tactics used by police around the United States that critics say should be confined to a battlefield. Meanwhile, international human rights advocates observing how the US is handling the protests have said the US may be violating international law in its sometimes violent response. 

Agnes Callamard is the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as well as the director of Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University. She led the definitive investigation into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Callamard joined The World’s host Marco Werman from outside Avignon, France. 

Related: Former CIA analyst sees parallels between Trump protest response and social unrest abroad

Marco Werman: Madame Callamard, civil rights groups are now suing the Trump administration for violating the constitutional rights of demonstrators. You’ve been watching events on the streets of the US this week from France. Are you seeing violations of international law? 

Oh, yes, I have. At least on the basis of the videos that I have watched and the reporting that I have read, there appears to be repeated violations of international law — in particular of two principles that should guide the use of force by police in terms of handling protest: necessity and proportionality. I have seen misuse of so-called “less-lethal weapons” from rubber bullets to batons to tear gas. I have seen the use of “less-lethal techniques,” which have become very harmful, if not lethal, in at least the case of Mr. Floyd. So yes, unfortunately, at the moment, based on what we can watch on our screen and what we can read in our newspaper, there is a pattern of violations committed by police force in handling the protest. 

Related: Tear gas has been banned in warfare. Why do police still use it?

So you’ve noticed the tear gas and the rubber bullets. How do police assaults on reporters in Minneapolis and Washington, DC, not to mention attacks on demonstrators — how do those compare with what we see in other countries? 

Look, the one thing I should say is that unfortunately, the US does not stand out when it comes to those forms of violations. The scale of those violations is unusual, but the nature of the violation is not. So throughout 2019, I have received countless allegations of similar misuse of tear gas or rubber bullets in other contexts, including in Europe, in Chile, in the Middle East. So from that standpoint, unfortunately, there is a global phenomenon of police misusing so-called less-lethal weapons in ways that are either making them lethal or making their use so indiscriminatory that it amounts to a violation. 

So what or who are the authorities internationally and what are they thinking about how to respond to what’s happening in the US? 

First of all, in the US and globally, I will say there is an increasing awareness within the international community, the human rights community, and also the police community, that the so-called less-lethal weapons are no panacea. There is a reasonable factor as to why we need them, because they give police a range of options in terms of handling difficult situations. And that is something that is welcomed. 

We certainly do not want the police to have only recourse to a firearm when confronted with a difficult situation. So the range of options that those less-lethal weapons constitute is welcome. But in order to meet their purposes, which is to police in an effective and safe fashion, they have to be used to properly. And what we are seeing is the repeated misuse, the absence of proper guidelines and regulations, legal frameworks which are enshrining excessive use of force and impunity. That is particularly the case in the US because of the qualified immunity doctrine which is applied to police officers. This is why I and others have called for an end of the doctrine. That will be of first essential step towards addressing the systemic impunity that is attached to excessive use of force. The second is proper regulations regarding those the less-lethal weapons. And the third is proper training attached to those less-lethal weapons.  

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

Was the US sleeping through China’s rise?

Was the US sleeping through China's rise?

If the US can’t take care of itself in times of major crisis, how exactly is it supposed to “beat” China in global competition?

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Laicie Heeley

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Chinese and US flags flutter near The Bund, before US trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China, July 30, 2019.

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US officials blast Apple for not unlocking Pensacola gunman’s phones

US officials blast Apple for not unlocking Pensacola gunman’s phones

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Lydia Emmanouilidou

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The main gate at Naval Air Station Pensacola is seen on Navy Boulevard in Pensacola, Florida, March 16, 2016.

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US officials on Monday announced that data retrieved from the cellphones of a Saudi military trainee who opened fire at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, in 2019 reveals the gunman had longtime ties to the terrorist group, al-Qaeda.

In their announcement, FBI and US Justice Department officials blasted Apple, the maker of the gunman’s phones, for refusing to help them unlock the devices and accused the company of slowing down the investigation.

Related: Facebook will pay $52M to US content moderators for trauma on the job. What about its international contractors?

The identified gunman, Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, was fatally shot by authorities after killing three US sailors and injuring eight others at Naval Air Station Pensacola during the December 2019 attack.

As part of the investigation that ensued, investigators obtained court orders to search the dead gunman’s phones, but were not immediately able to gain access to the password-protected devices.

“We received effectively no help from Apple.”

Christopher Wray, FBI, director

“We received effectively no help from Apple,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray, who went on to applaud federal agents for coming up with their own way to break into the phone.

But the monthslong effort “seriously hampered this investigation,” he added.

Related: Twitter and Facebook are collaborating to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Is it enough?

In a statement to The World, Apple denied accusations that it didn’t help investigators.

“Apple responded to the FBI’s first requests for information just hours after the attack on December 6, 2019 and continued to support law enforcement during their investigation,” the company said. “We provided every piece of information available to us, including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts, and we lent continuous and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York over the months since.”

“The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security.”

Apple has long resisted calls by US and other officials around the globe to change its encryption software and create a backdoor that law enforcement can use to access phone data during investigations. In a 2016 interview with ABC News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said creating such a tool would be the “software equivalent of cancer.”

“In cases like this, where the user is a terrorist, or in other cases, where the user is a violent criminal, human trafficker, or child predator, Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security and is, in my judgment, unacceptable.”

US Attorney General William Barr  

“In cases like this, where the user is a terrorist, or in other cases, where the user is a violent criminal, human trafficker, or child predator, Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security and is, in my judgment, unacceptable,” US Attorney General William Barr said at Monday’s press conference. 

In its statement, Apple said “there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.”