How do you find an 'unseeable' black hole?

by U. Chicago, over 1 year ago

Astrophysicist Andrea Ghez discovered the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. Here, she explains the monster at the center of our galaxy.

UN Human Rights Chief Makes First Visit to Burkina Faso

over 1 year ago

The United Nations’ human rights chief has called for increased efforts to protect the vulnerable in Burkina Faso’s growing conflict with Islamist militants. Rights groups say Burkina Faso has struggled to uphold human rights during its long-running conflict with armed groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, held a press conference in Ouagadougou Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to Burkina Faso. It was the first time a U.N. human rights chief had visited the country. Her office said in October it was setting up a presence in the country to support the government. Bachelet noted the "challenging context," of a six-year conflict with armed groups linked to al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and local banditry. She cited allegations of summary executions, abductions, forced disappearances and sexual violence by violent extremist groups, local defense groups, national security and defense forces, among others. A woman who escaped the unrest told VOA earlier this year about how her husband was abducted one night from an internally displaced persons camp close to the town of Ouahigouya. Asked who took her husband, she said, “I don't know if they were volunteers or security, but I know they weren't terrorists.” She added, “The only thing I want right now is to be sure that nothing will happen to me and my family. The message I have for the government is to make sure that we stay alive, where we are now.” Burkinabe authorities did not respond to a request for an interview on this abduction. Rights groups have said that extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances by security forces are widespread in Burkina Faso, with hundreds of families having lost relatives Asked what the new U.N. human rights office could do to prevent attacks on the civilian population, Bachelet said this.  “We believe that these attacks must stop immediately. Those attacks against the population and the population must be protected … And today with the civil society groups they said justice is important. That is why we have said to the government that all perpetrators be brought to justice,” she said. So far, no one in Burkina Faso has been convicted of extrajudicial killings against civilians. Daouda Diallo runs the Collective Against Impunity and the Stigmatization of Communities, a Burkinabe human rights group. He told VOA it is important to respect the commitments of Burkina Faso at the regional and international levels because it has signed up to the universal declaration of human rights.  Most human rights abuses, however, are being carried out by armed groups, not security forces. Ousmane Diallo a researcher on Burkina Faso for Amnesty International says “the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has willfully targeted civilians and committed mass atrocities against them. I think one of the most symbolic cases was the attack on Solhan in June 2021.” At the beginning of June, Burkina Faso saw its worst terrorist attack on civilians since the conflict with armed groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State started. At least 138 people were killed in the village of Solhan.

Libya Court Reinstates Gadhafi Presidential Bid Amid Election Chaos

over 1 year ago

A Libyan court ruled on Thursday that the son of the late leader Moammar Gadhafi could run for president, his lawyer said, as arguments intensified over the conduct of an election aimed at ending a decade of turmoil. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi's appeal against disqualification for the Dec. 24 vote was delayed for days as fighters blocked off the court, one of several incidents that may foreshadow wider election unrest. In another incident on Thursday, the elections commission said armed men had stormed five election centers in western Libya, stealing ballot cards. Analysts fear a contested vote, or one with clear violations, could derail a peace process that this year led to the formation of a unity government in an effort to bridge the rift between warring eastern and western factions. A final list of candidates for the election has not yet been released amid a chaotic appeals process after the election commission initially disqualified 25 of the 98 who registered to run for president. Gadhafi, who was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in absentia in 2015 for war crimes committed during the failed battle to save his father's 40-year rule from a NATO-backed uprising, is one of several divisive candidates in the race. He is a figurehead for Libyans still loyal to the former government of his father, whose toppling and death in 2011 heralded a decade of strife. After his lawyer announced the decision, his supporters celebrated in the streets across Sebha, witnesses said. However, many other Libyans, including in the armed groups that hold the balance of power across swathes of the country, view his presence on the ballot as unacceptable after the bloody struggle to oust his father. The blockade of the Sebha court this week by fighters allied to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar indicated the potential chaos that the planned election could unleash with armed groups backing or opposing rival candidates. Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls much of eastern and southern Libya, is himself a candidate for the election. The LNA said the units allied to it had been protecting the court rather than blocking it.

The Inside Story-Nurses Fatigue TRANSCRIPT

over 1 year ago

TRANSCRIPT  The Inside Story: Pandemic Nursing Fatigue  Episode 16 – December 2, 2021    Show Opening Graphic:    Voice of CAROLYN PRESUTTI, VOA Correspondent:    Inside the front lines of the pandemic.   Overwhelmed by the unending number of the sickest -- and at times – the angriest of patients.   The world’s nurses find themselves running out of patience.         Mawata Kamara, National Nurses United Member:    If a nurse had to choose between you know, keeping her job and coming home, you know, with a broken jaw or coming home traumatized every day…      CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    With infections spiking …   and concerns about the Omicron variant …   Why are nurses burning out and checking out in record numbers?   We explore on The Inside Story: Pandemic Nursing Fatigue.        The Inside Story:    CAROLYN PRESUTTI:      Hi, I’m Carolyn Presutti reporting from Washington ---    I’m standing in the center here in the newsroom at Voice of America ---    For nearly two years, our office space has been mainly dark, as employees continue to work through a global pandemic, mainly from home.       In a few moments ---we’ll go inside a different group of workers --- the nurses who had to report to work on the pandemic’s frontlines.      But first --- a new coronavirus variant. It was initially identified in South Africa. The World Health Organization identifies it as a “variant of concern” and has named it Omicron, after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.      President Joe Biden has issued a travel ban for eight African nations. His top doctor, Anthony Fauci, says it will be two weeks before the U.S. can measure Omicron’s effect.       VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports on efforts to contain this new variant.         ARASH ARABASADI, VOA Correspondent:     Days after South African health officials announced the discovery of the latest coronavirus mutation, now known as omicron, travelers in Johannesburg say this feels like deja vu.          Lizette Buys, Traveler:    After being stranded for two years because of COVID and not seeing your family – my parents were deathly ill, you know – so I had to come back when the borders were open to come and see them and now only realize, well, it’s happening all over again.        ARASH ARABASADI:    Many countries have already started barring or restricting travel from southern African nations.        Dr. Joe Phaahla, South African Health Minister:    The reaction of some of the countries in terms of imposing travel bans and such measures are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization.        ARASH ARABASADI:    Dr. Phaahla called the travel restrictions “draconian.”     US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said travel restrictions won’t stop the virus’s spread as much as it will buy time to act.        Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden:    Utilize the time that you’re buying to fill in the gaps. And by time-biding, you learn more about the virus, you learn what its relationship is to the antibodies induced by the vaccines, and above all, you use this time to really, really put your pedal to the floor and get people vaccinated and get people boosted. It’s going to give us a period of time to enhance our preparedness.        ARASH ARABASADI:    Dr. Fauci went on to praise South African officials for their quick transparency in identifying and sharing details of the omicron variant. Fauci says it’s too soon to talk of lockdowns but urged booster shots and wearing masks.     Meanwhile, South African health officials continue studying the mutations against the efficacy of current vaccines. More than a dozen countries report at least one case of the omicron variant.     Arash Arabasadi, VOA News.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:      Overwhelmed with patients, limited staff, and exhaustion, the toll of the pandemic is hitting registered nurses the hardest, especially here in the United States.     As some are learning to cope with ongoing grief and mental health issues, others are leaving hospital bedsides - which is creating a work shortage.     I spoke with a few nurses about this crisis and their strategy to manage this problem.     When U.S. President Joe Biden stepped onto the tarmac in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he met Jen Partyka.      See the white note in her hand? She handed that to the president.       Jen Partyka, Registered Nurse:    I did feel like it was important that he understand that the nurses are not OK.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:  Partyka has been a nurse for 30 years.  During the pandemic, nurses have worked nonstop and are still stretched thin.  Partyka lost a colleague to suicide and has seen extreme exhaustion.         Jen Partyka, Registered Nurse:    We have been absolutely tapped. We have been, you know, fighting this fight. We did not expect it to go on so long.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    That has led to a nursing shortage.          Jen Partyka, Registered Nurse:    I've had a 50% turnover in the past year.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    The official recommendation is a 1 to 2 ratio of nurse to patient in the intensive care unit. Partyka says a nursing shortage is making it 1 to 3.         Jen Partyka, Registered Nurse:    That's the only way you get to go to ICU (intensive care unit) now is if you're really, really like the sickest of the sick, because there's no bed for you. So tripling those patients is incredibly dangerous.    CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    And that has led to burnout in the hospital emergency room.        Gi, Registered Nurse:    I was just crying so uncontrollably, and I couldn’t stop. It was a full-body cry.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Gi, who asks that we use only her first name, had a panic attack while on the job. It temporarily paralyzed her ability to speak and function.         Gi, Registered Nurse:    All of a sudden, I couldn’t fill out a simple form. My brain was not making connections in the same way.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    The nurse became the patient. She now sews scrub caps for health care workers as part of her recovery after spending a week at a psychiatric hospital for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Gi says she wasn’t the only nurse being treated there.      As if COVID isn’t enough, nurses here in Philadelphia and in several other U.S. cities face an onslaught of patients from another menace. The homicide rate is skyrocketing.     VOA spent several hours on the streets with Philadelphia police. This is a double shooting. Police regularly load victims into their cruisers instead of waiting for ambulances. Some weeks the slayings equal the number of COVID-19 deaths.        Alex Kaspin, Philadelphia Nurse:    Every single day is like combat levels of casualties coming through our doors.  CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Alex Kaspin works as a nurse at a Philadelphia hospital. After she developed a panic disorder, she was moved from the ER (emergency room) to a pediatric floor, which she said saved her life.         Alex Kaspin, Philadelphia Nurse:    There was a point in time where I felt like I was not present for my family.  I was giving my all to my patients, but I don’t think there was much left over for me.          CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    When medical work affects a nurse’s well-being, experts call it “compassion fatigue.” The U.S. health care system is fighting a nearly two-year battle with no ending in sight, as nurses leave hospital bedsides and emergency rooms for less stressful work. Many, carrying their guilt with them.         Alex Kaspin, Philadelphia Nurse:    One way or another, I would not be able to continue with this job. I loved being an emergency room nurse. I really loved being an emergency room nurse. I think it was my true calling.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:     The American Nurses Foundation surveyed nearly 10-thousand nurses in August.      34-percent said they were not emotionally healthy.      42-percent said they experienced some sort of trauma as a result of COVID-19.      Those numbers are significantly higher for nurses who work in the emergency room or intensive care units.      Among the many reasons: an increase in attacks against healthcare workers.      VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias has an inside look:         VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS, VOA Correspondent:       Clipped to his ID badge, nurse Benjamin Coe has something extra, a panic button.        Benjamin Coe, University of Missouri Health Care Charge Nurse:    I’ve only been physically assaulted by a patient twice, but every single shift that I’ve ever worked as a nurse, at least one patient is going to use curse words at me, is going to make violent statements towards me.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    Coe says the COVID-19 safety protocols aren’t always welcome.         Benjamin Coe, University of Missouri Health Care Charge Nurse:    They are taking out their frustration on visitor policies. And the vaccines and the treatments have just been so over-politicized that it is politics at this point that’s driving the problems.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    A September survey from National Nurses United shows that 31 percent of hospital nurses experienced workplace violence, up more than a third since March.    ICU Nurse Mawata Kamara says a national nursing shortage is partly to blame.                 Mawata Kamara, National Nurses United Member:    We have more people getting agitated for things like waiting long hours in the emergency room. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are other patients that are equally sick, and I can only dedicate a certain amount of time to this patient.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    After being assaulted, nurses can report what happened to supervisors or the police,    but they don’t always do so.  On social media, however, they are not so shy.       Sandra Risoldi, Nurses Against Violence Unite:     Nurses are afraid to report anything because of retaliation, because of feeling like they are going to be blacklisted. Or they’re told by the facility not to make a report because of patient satisfaction scores.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    That’s where accountability breaks down. No reporting means attackers can get off scot-free, explains Richard Mereu, of the Emergency Nurses Association.         Richard Mereu/Emergency Nurses Association:    We’re up to approximately 31 states that have felony laws. So, if you violently assault an emergency nurse, if you are convicted and it’s a felony, it’s generally a year of jail time or even more.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    A proposed law in the U.S. Senate would require employers to protect   nurses and others from reprisal for reporting abuse. It also mandates tailored prevention plans.     The Maryland Hospital Association represents 53 hospitals and seven health systems. In the last five years, its members have taken multiple steps to prevent workplace violence.   Bob Atlas, Maryland Hospital Association CEO:    More cameras, more actual security guards, sometimes with canine.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    But with all the politics in this pandemic, security only goes so far.        Bob Atlas, Maryland Hospital Association President & CEO:  The nature of health care in hospitals is such that you can’t eliminate the opportunity for harm. I mean, you’ve got to have caregivers and patients face to face.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    Nurses like Kamara want a seat at the table when hospitals plan for safety.         Mawata Kamara, National Nurses United Member:    Nurses don’t want to quit. But if a nurse had to choose between you know, keeping a job and coming home, you know, with a broken jaw or coming home traumatized every day, I think a lot of people would choose that peace of mind.        VERONICA BALDERAS IGLESIAS:    The more than four million registered nurses in the United States have shouldered a huge burden in the pandemic. A little help from their patients, they say, shouldn’t be too much to ask.     Veronica Balderas Iglesias, for VOA News, Washington.            CAROLYN PRESUTTI:      In the U.S., the vitriol and violent rhetoric is typically about wearing masks and getting vaccinated.      Debbie Moore-Black has worked as a registered nurse on the frontlines for three decades.      She says COVID-19 has been unlike any other health crisis in history, and not just for the sheer number of sick people.     Let Debbie tell you what she told us --- in her own words:         Debbie Moore-Black, Registered Nurse:      ‘You stupid ((expletive)).  You don't what you're talking about. You're nothing but a ((expletive)). You're the one giving the misinformation not me.’ It's like, ‘please I can't even   deal with you.’     Hi. My name is Debbie Moore-Black and I'm a registered nurse and I've been an ICU nurse  for 33 years and recently a behavioral health nurse at a local hospital in Charlotte North   Carolina.     When I graduated from high school in 1974, my mother pushed me out of the house and said I had to be a nurse.     And eventually I was pulled to the ICU one day and then I became dazzled by all of the   mechanisms involved in ICU and I was hooked. An ICU every day is totally different  and it's nonstop and there is no 15 or 30 minute break. It's 12 hours grueling.    When HIV came out we were scared to death. And in fact our E.R. usually admitted most HIV   patients to the intensive care unit. And we did gown and glove, and if you even got urine  on your forearm, you needed to be tested. We were that scared.     But you know, it took time to education that, you know, practice your washing your hands and   things like that.  But it certainly wasn't nearly as devastating or scary as COVID has been.    When covid came, the hospital was flooded with just covid and then your same day surgeries   were kicked to the curb planned surgeries even emergency surgeries. If Charlotte wasn't  open to those patients and they had to go to another city and some patients, if it were an   emergency surgery needed, did not make it to that next city.    And we were flooded in in every unit whether it's an intensive care unit or a coronary care unit, it was COVID, COVID, COVID wherever you went.     I also helped out at the front entrance of the hospital. And of course, they could not go  any further past our desk without a mask on, and we fortunately have public safety  there to really protect us because we had many patient family members who were very belligerent and they were saying, I'm not going to wear this ((expletive)) and ((expletive)).    And we had a lot of profanities coming our way, total disrespect to us, and and and they were   refusing but there was this incredible amount of ignorance.     ‘This is my rights.  You are infringing on my rights are not going to wear a mask of you're not   going to force me to get the vaccine’ even though these are the same people who have had   Smallpox vaccine and polio and and all of those other vaccines that their mama made  sure they got as a youngster.    ‘You should trust in God.  He's going to protect you’ and then go on and on and on.  And I just   stare that at them look toward the public safety They stand up and escort them out. I'm   66 years old, and you know I say my prayers, too, that I don't get COVID, because I could  be a target.    I wish people would respect science more than they respect social media, more than respect  their spiritual feeling that it's never going to happen to me.     A virus does not discriminate. It doesn't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat.  It cares if  you don't get a vaccination. It cares if you don't wear a mask.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    In that August survey by the American Nurses Foundation that we mentioned a bit earlier in the show, 50 percent said they are considering leaving the profession. Now that’s half the nearly 10-thousand nurses surveyed.     And it is putting patients at risk.      I spoke with several nurses who opened up about their difficult decisions to leave the hospital jobs they love – and where they think America’s healthcare industry is headed.     A veteran emergency room nurse we will call “Clara” is so worried about her profession that what she is about to say could get her fired.  Many months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Clara says hospitals are so short staffed that patients are dying in the emergency room who might otherwise be saved -- including one of her female patients.   “Clara” Registered Nurse:     Ultimately, by the time someone was able to get to her, she was at a point of disrepair, that's the best way I can describe that we weren't able to fix her. Then ultimately, she died. So that's, that's hard to … to carry.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Family members are sent to hospital parking lots for lack of space as the sick wait most of the day to be seen.         “Clara” Registered Nurse:    People are literally shoulder to shoulder, you could be sitting next to someone that is COVID positive and you're not. It could be 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 hours before you get that care that you need.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    You heard right.  She said up to 16 hours before any treatment.           Abigail Donley, IMPACT in Healthcare Founder:    It definitely is a crisis.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Abigail Donley left the hospital ICU earlier this year to create the advocacy group IMPACT in Healthcare to fight for policy change.  She spoke on Skype.                Abigail Donley, IMPACT in Healthcare Founder:    Nursing ratios are terrible, the workload has become unbearable, they are getting hit, verbally abused.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    The American Nurses Foundation says the pandemic is causing 9 out of 10 of nurses to think about leaving their hospital jobs.  Half say inadequate staffing is the main reason.  So where are they going?         Jonny, Nurse:     Travel nurse.       Clara, Nurse:     Travel nursing.      Abby, Nurse:     Travel nurses.        Michelle, Nurse:     Travel Nursing.       CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    “Michelle” doesn’t want us to say her real name because she is in the minority of nurses who are unvaccinated.  She left her hospital when a COVID vaccine mandate was introduced.  An agency hired her as a travel nurse to fly wherever she is needed for short contracts.            Michelle” Traveling Nurse:    I’ll literally be making in one week what it typically takes me a month to earn.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Nurse Jonny Sorber loves his New Jersey job and his colleagues. The nurse in the middle left for a travel nurse job in Alaska that pays $10-thousand dollars a week.            Jonny Sorber, Registered Nurse:    It’s just absurd.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    Yet tempting for Sorber and his young family.  Sorber says hospitals need to find a way to retain and lessen the stress on veteran nurses.          Jonny Sorber, Registered Nurse:    I think just higher pay -- at least something like higher pay, and there's always a shortage of nurses if you could like get the right amount of nurses so you don't actually have to work harder.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:      We asked the American Hospital Association about that idea -- higher pay and more nurses. They had no official comment but sent VOA a document asking Congress and the Biden administration to intervene -- to “use its authority to investigate anti-competitive pricing” from agencies hiring travel nurses.      But for now, some hospital nurses are at the point of complete exhaustion with “compassion fatigue” a lowered ability to empathize.   They were thrown into a pandemic war beyond their control and are still fighting … with ever-fewer staff.            Michelle, Travelling Nurse:       So just try to be kind. We want to do what's best for you. And where we're at right now in healthcare, is really scary.        CAROLYN PRESUTTI:    In our weekly spotlight on press freedom spotlight, we are concentrating on Mexico, where covering crime is dangerous for reporters.       Eight journalists have been killed in Mexico since March of 2020 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.      Even with state protections available, many Mexican reporters say they do not feel safe doing their jobs.       Reporting from Mexico from the U.S. southern border, Victor Castillo brings us one local journalist’s harrowing story of survival.          VICTOR CASTILLO, VOA Correspondent:     It was a day that crime reporter Jesús Humberto Gonzalez thought would be his last.          Jesús Humberto Gonzalez, Journalist:    Everyone thought I was dead, that's what still haunts me every day.                VICTOR CASTILLO:    The veteran journalist was on assignment, covering the discovery of dismembered bodies in a parking lot near Rio Bravo in Tamaulipas state, when he was suddenly confronted.          Jesús Humberto González, Mexican Journalist:    At least four vehicles with armed people intercepted me. They kidnapped me, took me to a cliff, put a gun to my head and literally pulled the trigger.      VICTOR CASTILLO:    The gun didn’t fire and Humberto González was eventually released.     But the memory of the day he was “levantado” -- a Mexican term for being kidnapped and beaten by members of organized crime - is seared in his memory.         Jesús Humberto González, Mexican journalist:    I believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, or war zones, are as dangerous as covering public security issues here. I imagine that is true not only in Tamaulipas, but also in Coahuila and Nuevo León.          VICTOR CASTILLO:    Humberto Gonzalez reported his case to a federal entity charged with protecting journalists and human rights activists, called the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.      Created in 2012, the entity offers safe houses and panic buttons to help protect social activists and journalists in a country where drug-related crime is rampant.                Enrique Irazoque Palazuelos, Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists:    We have more than 90 percent impunity, which evidently increases the desire of the perpetrators to continue committing offenses, to continue committing crimes and to continue committing human rights violations.          VICTOR CASTILLO:    On paper, the practical safety measures would seem to offer a solution.  Some 495 journalists are enrolled in the system. But critics say the body is ineffective.           Heriberto Deandar, Hora Cero:    It is evident that they are not well designed, it is evident that they lack criteria, it is evident that they lack resources.        Itzia Miravete Veraza, Article 19:    From 2009 to 2021 we have documented 141 cases of journalists killed in probable connection with their journalistic work.        VICTOR CASTILLO:    Overall, Mexico is ranked as the sixth worst country in the world for successfully prosecuting journalist murders, says the Committee to Protect Journalists. But even with a protection mechanism in place, many working in the media don’t feel safe.        Heriberto Deandar, Hora Cero:    I believe that not even companies can provide that type of protection, much less governments. Neither governments nor companies.      VICTOR CASTILLO:    For Humberto González, who still receives threats and says he is being watched, the protections offered by the mechanism does not bring peace of mind.        Jesús Humberto González, Mexican journalist:    If they want to kill you, they’ll kill you; I don’t see that there is justice in Mexico.          VICTOR CASTILLO:    Victor Castillo, for VOA News, Reynosa, Mexico.         CAROLYN PRESUTTI:      That’s all for now—just so you know --- this was my pre-pandemic desk in the VOA newsroom. I miss it.  Here’s hoping that we all will soon be able to return to our normal lives.         Meantime, follow me on Twitter at CarolynVOA for the latest on the pandemic and other news.   Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook at VOANews.     And stay up-to-date online at       For all of those behind the scenes who brought you today’s show, thanks for joining us. I’m Carolyn Presutti. I’ll see you next week for The Inside Story.     ###                

US Agrees to Force Migrants to Stay in Mexico While Asylum Claims Considered

over 1 year ago

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it will comply with a court order and reinstate a program to force migrants trying to reach the United States to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated. The protocol had been deployed under former President Donald Trump but abandoned as unworkable by Homeland Security officials under President Joe Biden. But in a turnaround stemming from the federal court decision, Homeland Security said it has been “working in good faith” to re-implement the program as the U.S. has been flooded this year with thousands of migrants, mostly from Central America, trying to cross the southwestern U.S. border from Mexico. Homeland Security said it had addressed “humanitarian concerns” raised by Mexico and shared by the U.S. and that it would restart the remain-in-Mexico program as soon as Mexico agrees to accept the return of the migrants. Under the new plan, the U.S. promised that asylum decisions would be reached within six months of an individual’s return to Mexico. The U.S. said the migrants would be able to meet with lawyers before and during their hearings on whether they will have to return to their home countries, where some migrants have contended they face persecution. Homeland Security said it will “exclude particularly vulnerable individuals from being enrolled” in the return-to-Mexico program. Before agreeing to comply with the court order, Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas had repeatedly argued that the Trump-era plan had “endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and failed to address the root causes of irregular migration.” Republican critics of the Biden administration claim it has been lax in dealing with the record number of migrants reaching the border and trying to enter the U.S., a potent political headache for Democrats as they try to retain their narrow edge in Congress in next November’s nationwide congressional elections. Now, however, Homeland Security said it would work with Mexico “to ensure that there are safe and secure shelters” for the migrants, that they have safe transportation to U.S. entry points and that they can seek work permits, get health care and other services in Mexico.

Expert: Too soon to say if Omicron is 'the next scary thing'

by Kat McAlpine-Boston, over 1 year ago

Will fears about the newly discovered Omicron variant pan out or is it just a lot of hype? Too early to tell, an expert warns.

Shuttered Hong Kong Democracy Paper Wins Press Freedom Award

over 1 year ago

Jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the staff of his now-shuttered Apple Daily newspaper have been awarded a prestigious press freedom prize by the World Association of News Publishers. Apple Daily, formerly Hong Kong's most popular pro-democracy newspaper, collapsed in June after authorities froze its assets under a national security law imposed by Beijing to curb dissent. Lai, the paper's outspoken founder, and multiple senior executives and editors have been detained on "foreign collusion" charges over Apple Daily's support for international sanctions against China. Warren Fernandez, president of the World Editors Forum, said this year's Golden Pen of Freedom award highlighted the "fears and challenges" of journalists who face increasing curbs in Hong Kong, a regional media hub. "The jailing of a publisher, the arrest of an editor-in-chief and his senior colleagues, the shuttering of a newsroom, and the closure of a media title –- the 2021 Golden Pen award recognizes, and reflects on, all of these," Fernandez said at a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. Apple Daily was renowned for its acerbic criticism of China's leaders, and Beijing made no secret of its desire to see the tabloid silenced. Sebastien Lai, receiving the award on behalf of his father, said there will be "less and less people shining light in these dark corners" given Apple Daily's shutdown and the ongoing crackdown on journalism in the region. In a statement announcing the award, the World Association of News Publishers called Lai an "outspoken critic of Beijing's control over Hong Kong and a high-profile supporter of the pro-democracy movement." Established in 1961, the Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the defense and promotion of press freedom. In authoritarian China, all local media are censored and state-controlled, while foreign media face significant reporting hurdles and visa denials. Hong Kong has long served as a regional media hub, though it has tumbled down press freedom rankings in recent years as Beijing asserts greater control over the city. Suppression of local media has increased in the wake of huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago and the subsequent imposition of the security law. International media maintain a strong presence in the city, with organizations including the Financial Times, AFP, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg having regional headquarters in Hong Kong. But the security law and crackdown on dissent have rattled nerves. Last month, an Australian correspondent from The Economist was denied a visa — the fourth foreign journalist to be refused one without an explanation since 2018. The New York Times relocated its Asia news hub to South Korea last year, citing both the security law and multiple visa delays.

Freeze-dried vaccine could one day be used for COVID-19

by Charlotte Hsu-Buffalo, over 1 year ago

A new freeze-dried vaccine formula that looks a lot like green cotton candy has potential for use as a COVID-19 vaccine that wouldn't need refrigeration.

Voice assistants aren't great at giving quality health information

by Stanford, over 1 year ago

Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant answer health questions, but how reliable is the info? New research reveals room to improve.

US Jobless Benefit Claims Remain at Low Level

over 1 year ago

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation remained at a low level last week as employers retained their workers and searched for more as the United States continues its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department said Thursday that 222,000 jobless workers made first-time claims for unemployment compensation, up 28,000 from the revised figure of 194,000 the week before, which was a 52-year low. Even with the increase in claims last week, the figures from both of the last two weeks were well below the 256,000 total in mid-March 2020 when the pandemic first swept into the country and employers started laying off workers by the hundreds of thousands.   The declining number of claims for unemployment benefits shows that many employers are hanging on to their workers even as millions have quit jobs to move to other companies offering higher pay and more benefits.   Many employers are looking for more workers, even as about 7.4 million workers remain unemployed in the United States. There are 10.4 million available jobs in the country, but the skills of available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. In addition, many of the available jobs are low-wage service positions that the jobless are shunning.   U.S. employers added 531,000 jobs in October, the biggest monthly gain in three months and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6%. But the U.S. economy is still short more than four million jobs since February 2020. The November jobs figure is set for release on Friday. The U.S. economic advance is occurring even as President Joe Biden and Washington policy makers, along with consumers, voice concerns about the biggest increase in consumer prices in three decades and supply chain issues that have curtailed delivery of some products to retail store shelves.

Belarus Targets Journalists, Activists with Mass Raids

over 1 year ago

Authorities in Belarus raided the homes of dozens of journalists and activists Wednesday, according to a human rights group, in what appeared to be the biggest one-day crackdown on dissent in the past three months. Independent journalists, human rights advocates and activists in at least nine large Belarusian cities had phones and computers seized during the searches and were interrogated, the Viasna human rights center reported. In the capital, Minsk, authorities targeted 10 people accused of funding anti-government protests and spreading information deemed extremist. Some 300 chats on the popular messaging app Telegram have been designated extremist by authorities, and users of those chats can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, if charged and convicted. Freelance journalist Larysa Shchyrakova said she was brought in for questioning after an hours-long search of her home in Gomel, a city 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Minsk. Shchyrakova used to work with the Belsat TV channel, which authorities in Belarus have declared extremist. "I was being pressured to confess to funding the protests, but I refused to incriminate myself," Shchyrakova told The Associated Press by telephone. "They took my phone, audio and video equipment, which was still in my home after the two previous raids." Activists and journalists in Brest, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Grodno, Mazyr and other cities experienced similar raids and detentions on Wednesday. Leaders of regional branches of the United Civil Party, the oldest opposition party in Belarus, in Gomel and Rechytsa were targeted as well. "The new wave of repressions shows that the authorities in Belarus don't feel confident and are forced to tighten the screws because discontent in the country is growing," party leader Anatoly Lebedko told the AP by phone from Vilnius. "The situation with civic freedoms and human rights in Belarus is deteriorating rapidly, edging closer to the standards of North Korea," Lebedko said. The authoritarian leader of Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko, survived months of unprecedented mass protests prompted by his August 2020 reelection in a vote the opposition and Western countries denounced as a sham. Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, with police arresting more than 35,000 and beating thousands. Since last year's election, Lukashenko's government has shut down the majority of independent media outlets and rights groups. According to human rights advocates, 889 political prisoners, including top opposition activists, remain behind bars in Belarus.   

Austin, South Korean Counterpart Hold News Conference > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News

by DoD News, over 1 year ago

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook held a news conference in South Korea.

Blinken Warns Russia of ‘Serious Consequences’ if Russia Invades Ukraine

over 1 year ago

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned his Russian counterpart Thursday of “serious consequences” if Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine and appealed to him to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the Eastern European countries. Blinken’s warning to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came before the two senior diplomats met in Stockholm and one day after Blinken declared the U.S. would “respond resolutely” to a Russian attack against Ukraine, “including with a range of high impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.” “The best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy, and that's what I look forward to discussing with Sergei,” Blinken said during a media briefing before meeting with Lavrov. Blinken said the U.S. would help Russia and Ukraine fulfill their obligations under a 2014 peace agreement aimed at ending the war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the eastern part of the former Soviet republic.  But “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences,” Blinken warned. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that Russia was prepared for talks with Ukraine. "We, as President [Vladimir] Putin has stated, do not want any conflicts." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call in Moscow with reporters that Ukraine’s “aggressive and increasingly intensive provocative action” along the border with Russia raises concerns over a possible flare-up of hostilities. “The probability of hostilities in Ukraine still remains high,” Peskov said. After Blinken’s meeting with Lavrov, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken “reiterated the United States’ call for Russia to pull back its forces and return to a peacetime posture and to adhere to the Minsk agreements and a ceasefire in the Donbas.” A senior U.S. official told reporters the meeting was “serious, sober and business-like.” The official said no agreements were reached in the talks, but the two sides agreed to continue dialogue. Blinken earlier expressed concern about what he called Russia’s “aggressive posture” toward Ukraine as he met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Kuleba said Ukraine would “continue to demonstrate restraint” while calling on allies to prepare potential actions that would make Russian President Putin “think twice before resorting to military force.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told members of the parliament Wednesday that direct negotiations with Russia were the only path to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.  Russia and Ukraine have each accused the other side of massing troops in the area along their shared border. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.  Speaking Wednesday in Moscow, Putin said his government would seek guarantees against NATO’s further expansion to the east and precluding deployment of weapons systems near Russia’s borders. Oleksandr Yanevskyy contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

People with anxiety, depression may use 'sextech' to ease distress

by Mary Keck-Indiana, over 1 year ago

People who report anxiety or depression are more likely to use "sextech," but not as a last resort. Instead, the technology offers a way to relieve distress.

Ugandan Troops Deploy in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

over 1 year ago

Ugandan troops stepped up their deployment in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, witnesses said, on the second day of an operation launched in cooperation with Kinshasa against the notorious ADF rebel group. "They are arriving aboard armored cars, with escorts from members of the local security services," Tony Kitambala, a freelance journalist based in North Kivu province, said at Nobili, on the border. Ugandan soldiers were seen crossing there into the DRC on Tuesday after their armed forces launched air and artillery strikes from Ugandan territory. The target is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group that has been blamed for massacres in eastern DRC and attacks in the Ugandan capital, and that the Islamic State group claims as an affiliate. Over the weekend, the DRC said through a presidential adviser that it approved a Ugandan offer to pursue the ADF on its soil, where the group has holed up since the mid-1990s. An aid worker in Nobili said that "airstrikes on ADF positions continued last evening" but the situation was calm on Wednesday. "This morning, the UPDF (Ugandan armed forces) has been reinforcing its troops with men, ammunition and military trucks," he said. DRC army spokesman Leon Richard Kasonga told reporters late Wednesday that "we bombarded terrorist camps in the forest." "We are on the ground for far-reaching operations," he added, without providing any details about the number of troops being deployed or how long the mission will last. A senior DRC military officer said Congolese troops were heading toward Beni, the capital of North Kivu province, from neighboring South Kivu. The bombardments aimed at several ADF positions in North Kivu and neighboring Ituri province to the northeast. On Tuesday, a Ugandan armed forces spokesman said that the bombardments had successfully hit their targets and that ground operations would hunt down "terrorists." Massacres and blasts The ADF was historically a Ugandan rebel coalition whose biggest group comprised Muslims opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The group established itself in eastern DRC in 1995, later becoming the deadliest of scores of outlawed forces in the troubled region. DRC's Catholic Church says the ADF has killed around 6,000 civilians since 2013, while a respected monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker, blames it for more than 1,200 deaths in the area alone since 2017. The Ugandan authorities have accused the ADF or a local group affiliated with it of carrying out or planning a string of attacks this year. On November 16, four people were killed and 33 wounded in twin suicide bombings in Kampala. Police blamed the blast on a "domestic terror group" that it said was linked to the ADF.  Since April 2019, some ADF attacks in eastern DRC have been claimed by IS, which describes the group as its Islamic State Central Africa Province offshoot. In March, the United States placed the ADF on its list of "terrorist" organizations linked to IS. Relief but concern Uganda's intervention has come despite a crackdown on the ADF by the Congolese armed forces, launched two years ago. That has been followed by a "state of siege" in North Kivu and Ituri since early May, under which senior civilian officials have been replaced by military or police. Residents said they welcomed the offensive against the ADF but hoped the operation would open the way to peace. "I am very happy at the arrival of the Ugandan troops in our country," said Nobili resident Jospin Dongo. Another resident, Mugisa Kitambala, said, "The main thing as far as I am concerned is that we have peace once more. "But they also have to tell us how long the mission will last and how many (troops) have entered so that at the end, we can know that they've gone home." The notion of Ugandan troops operating on DRC soil is controversial in a country where many recall the role of Uganda and Rwanda in stoking past instability in the east of the country. Denis Mukwege, the DRC gynecologist who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work helping victims of sexual violence in South Kivu, said the DRC-Uganda agreement was "unacceptable." There have been "25 years of mass crimes & looting of our resources by our neighbours," he said in a tweet. "Congolese, stand up, the nation is in danger!" Other prominent figures have questioned the lack of transparency behind the agreement, which was reached without consultation with parliament or even a statement by President Felix Tshisekedi to announce it. "Relationships between countries evolve," government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said Wednesday. "We understand our countrymen's concerns" but "have made the choice to move forward," he added.

How a Supreme Court decision limiting access to abortion could harm the economy and women's well-being

over 1 year ago

Paris Archbishop Who Had 'Ambiguous' Relationship Resigns

over 1 year ago

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris after he admitted to an "ambiguous" relationship with a woman in 2012. Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit said in a statement Thursday that he offered to step down "to preserve the diocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust are continuing to provoke." The Vatican said in a statement that the pope accepted Aupetit's offer, and named Monsignor Georges Pontier to serve in the archbishop's place. The resignation comes amid great upheaval in the French Catholic Church. A shocking report in October found some 3,000 French priests had committed sexual abuse over the past 70 years, and last year, the pope accepted the resignation of a French cardinal in connection with the coverup of sexual abuse of dozens of boys by a predatory priest. Aupetit wrote to Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine saying he had a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman. Aupetit told Le Point he didn't have sexual relations with the woman. The article in Le Point relied on several anonymous sources who said they had seen a 2012 e-mail Aupetit sent by mistake to his secretary. Aupetit denied being the author of the email. Roman Catholic prelates take vows of chastity. At the time of the alleged relationship, Aupetit was a priest in the archdiocese of Paris. He became Paris archbishop in 2018. "I ask forgiveness of those I could have hurt and assure you all of my deep friendship and my prayers," Aupetit said in his statement. He said he was "greatly disturbed by the attacks against me." In an interview last week with Catholic radio Notre Dame, Aupetit said "I poorly handled the situation with a person who was in contact many times with me." Calling it a "mistake," he said he decided no longer to see the woman after speaking with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the then-Paris archbishop, in 2012. Only the pope can hire or fire bishops, or accept their resignations. At 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops. The pope has refused to accept resignations from other prelates caught up in scandals that many would see as more egregious.. The former archbishop of the French city of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, offered to resign in 2019 after a French court convicted him of failing to report a pedophile priest. Francis initially refused Barbarin's offer, but accepted it more than a year later. More recently, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, offered to resign over the Catholic Church's "catastrophic" mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases. Francis refused to accept it and Marx remains in office.

Sea otters demonstrate that there is more to muscle than just movement – it can also bring the heat

over 1 year ago

Female faculty of color do extra diversity work for no extra reward – here's how to fix that

over 1 year ago

School shootings are at a record high this year – but they can be prevented

over 1 year ago

Why COVID-19 must be included in safer sex messaging on college campuses

over 1 year ago

Use of HIV prevention treatments is very low among Southern Black gay men

over 1 year ago

Cambodian Leader Hun Sen Says Backs Eldest Son to Succeed Him

over 1 year ago

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the world's longest serving leaders after 36 years in power, on Thursday offered support for his eldest son as his potential successor and defended the idea of establishing a political dynasty. Hun Sen, who has presided over a broad crackdown on the opposition, civil society and the media in the Southeast Asian country that began in the run-up to 2018 elections, has in the past said he planned to rule until he felt he should stop. His son, Hun Manet, 44, a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and joint chief of staff, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. "I announce today that I support my son to continue as prime minister, but it is through an election," Hun Sen said in a speech in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk. Hun Manet also has a doctorate in economics from Britain's Bristol University and Hun Sen defended the idea of establishing a political dynasty. "Even Japan has its own dynasty, like (former prime minister) Abe. His grandfather was prime minister and he had visited Cambodia. Abe's father was a foreign minister and Abe was a prime minister," Hun Sen said. Hun Sen's Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since 1979, holds every seat in the 125-member legislature after the main opposition was dissolved ahead of the 2018 election, accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Western countries and human rights groups have long condemned Hun Sen for crackdowns on opponents, civil rights groups and the media. In June last year, Hun Sen said the ruling party would be a dominant force in politics for as long as a century, telling the opposition it should wait until the next life if it wants to take power.

Team creates new phase of matter, the 'time crystal'

by Taylor Kubota-Stanford, over 1 year ago

"Time-crystals are a striking example of a new type of non-equilibrium quantum phase of matter."

Victims of domestic abuse find no haven in family courts

over 1 year ago

The US biofuel mandate helps farmers, but does little for energy security and harms the environment

over 1 year ago

Biden to Announce New Restrictions as US Reports First Case of Omicron Variant

over 1 year ago

U.S. President Joe Biden is due to announce Thursday stricter coronavirus testing requirements for international travelers entering the country, an extension of mask requirements for people on planes, trains and buses, and a push to deliver millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other nations in the coming months. Biden is using an address at the National Institutes of Health to lay out his administration’s COVID-19 plans as the country heads into the winter months with its first confirmed case of the newly detected omicron variant. The White House said in a statement ahead of Biden’s remarks that travelers will be expected to be required to get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of their departure for the United States, a change from the current three-day policy. The rule will apply to both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. The mandate for wearing masks on public transportation and in airports was due to expire on January 18, with an extension expected to go into March. The White House statement said the Biden administration is pledging to deliver 200 million more vaccine doses abroad during the next 100 days.In the U.S., there will be public education and outreach efforts to encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as well as family vaccination clinics. Another part of the administration’s plan is to make at-home testing kits free for those covered by private health insurance plans.And for U.S. states that are experiencing a spike in infections, emergency response teams will be made available to help strained hospitals. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert and Biden's chief medical adviser, stressed the need for people to get vaccinated, including booster shots, as he spoke to reporters at the White House on Wednesday about the omicron variant. He said there are 60 million people in the United States who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine but have not, and that there is every reason to believe the rise in immune response provided by booster shots will help prevent severe disease if someone is infected by the omicron variant. “I think what's happening now is another example of why it's important for people to get vaccinated who've not been vaccinated,” Fauci said. The first confirmed U.S. case of someone infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been discovered in the Western state of California, U.S. health officials said Wednesday. The person returned to the U.S. from a trip to South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on Monday, Fauci told reporters. Fauci said the person had mild coronavirus symptoms, was self-quarantining and was improving. The person was fully vaccinated, he said, but had yet to get a booster shot. The omicron case adds the U.S. to the growing list of at least 24 countries where the variant has been discovered. The U.S. joins a growing list of nations that have imposed some form of travel restrictions or outright bans on foreign travelers since the omicron variant was first identified November 24 by scientists in South Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Japan is banning reentry of all foreign nationals with Japanese residency if they are traveling from South Africa or nine other southern African nations beginning Thursday. South Korea will require all arrivals to the country to quarantine for 10 days, and all travelers coming into the country will be tested for the omicron variant. Those rules go into effect Friday for two weeks. Along with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Nigeria also reported their first cases of the omicron variant. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday that a Saudi citizen tested positive after traveling from a country in north Africa, while Nigerian authorities say its first cases of omicron were detected in samples collected back in October from two travelers who had arrived from South Africa. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is recommending that people who are not fully vaccinated and who have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, that put them at increased risk of becoming severely ill or dying if they contract COVID-19 should postpone traveling to areas with high rates of community transmission. The WHO also declared that blanket travel bans imposed by countries will not prevent the global spread of the new variant but will instead "place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods." Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

Rights Group Says Myanmar Forces Purposely Killed Protesters

over 1 year ago

The killing of at least 65 protesters in Myanmar’s biggest city on March 14 this year was planned and premeditated, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice, a rights watchdog said in a report released Thursday. Human Rights Watch accused security forces of deliberately encircling and using lethal force against crowds in Yangon’s working class neighborhood of Hlaing Tharyar that were demonstrating against the military’s Feb. 1 seizure of power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. “Soldiers and police armed with military assault rifles fired on trapped protesters and on those trying to assist the wounded, killing at least 65 protesters and bystanders,” said the New York-based organization. The military-installed government, which imposed martial law in the area after the violence, has described the protesters as “rioters” who burned down garment factories and blocked firefighters. Human Rights Watch said no action is known to have been taken against any members of the security forces. No government official was immediately available for comment. Human Rights Watch’s Myanmar researcher Manny Maung told The Associated Press the security forces’ actions “constitute the crime against humanity of murder.” “Ultimately, the responsibility lies in the command structure, and whoever was responsible for ordering the crackdown and implementing the crackdown is responsible,” she said. In her opinion, that would be the Yangon regional military commander and the city’s police chief. “It’s necessary to make sure that such figures are made aware that they can be tried and held to account at a later time,” she said. Human Rights Watch said it based its findings on interviews with six witnesses and analyses of 13 videos and 31 photographs of the violence posted on social media. “We can prove, through testimonies and digital forensics, that in videos posted by security forces, and images that show security forces pointing their weapons – assault rifles and automatic weapons - against civilians, that this was planned and coordinated,” Manny Maung said. The report mentions a video posted on TikTok by a police officer that shows riot police preparing to advance on protesters. “As they discuss the weapons they were going to use, one officer says to the others, ‘You guys will handle Hlaing Tharyar.’ Another replies: ‘I will show no mercy for these people,’” it says. In the months immediately following the army’s takeover, largely peaceful demonstrations nationwide were met with increasingly brutal suppression by the security forces. In response, some protesters began using homemade weapons in self-defense. “Some protesters used weapons, such as rocks, slings, and Molotov cocktails, in response to the security forces firing on them, but no security force casualties were reported,” the report cited witnesses as saying. Human Rights Watch urged the international community to “respond to ongoing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Myanmar by supplementing, strengthening, and coordinating international sanctions against the junta leadership and military.” The United States and other nations already maintain diplomatic and economic sanctions. Since the army’s takeover, at least 1,300 protesters and bystanders have been killed, according to a detailed tally kept by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which documents political repression. “The point is that violations are continuing,” said Manny Maung. “The point of raising this now is to prove that whatever happened even nine months ago is still important because we can and we will hold these people to account and we can prove that they did this with intent.”

Taliban Decry UN Deferral on Who Will Represent Afghanistan

over 1 year ago

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban criticized the United Nations Thursday for postponing a decision on who would represent the country at the world body. “This decision is not based on legal rules and justice because they have deprived the people of Afghanistan of their legitimate right,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s permanent representative-designate to the U.N., said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We hope that this right is handed over to the representative of the government of Afghanistan in the near future so that we can be in a position to resolve issues of the people of Afghanistan effectively and efficiently and maintain positive interaction with the world,” Shaheen wrote. The U.N. Credentials Committee, which approves each member state’s representation, held closed-door discussions Wednesday on the requests by the Taliban and military junta ruling Myanmar to replace the envoys of the governments they had ousted. “The committee has decided to defer its decision of the credentials in these two situations,” Swedish U.N. Ambassador Anna Karin Enestrom, who heads the nine-member committee, told reporters following members' closed-door discussions. The decision means the Taliban and Myanmar’s junta will not be allowed to represent their countries for now at the United Nations. The Islamist Taliban seized power in mid-August from the Western-backed previous Afghan government as the United States and allied troops withdrew from the country after two decades of war. Myanmar’s military junta seized power in a coup in February.    Neither regime has received international recognition as both are considered pariahs by the world at large. The international community is pressing the Taliban to install an inclusive government and protect rights of women as well as Afghan minorities. The interim all-male Taliban government mostly consists of members of the hardline group and some of them are on U.N. sanctions lists. The hardline group dismisses criticism of its government as unjust and calls it representative of all Afghans. The United States and European countries imposed stringent economic sanctions on the Taliban after they took control of the country and blocked the group’s access to billions of dollars in Afghan foreign assets. The punitive action has plunged Afghanistan into economic upheavals, worsening a humanitarian crisis that stems from years of war, poverty and a prolonged drought. The lack of legitimacy recognition of the Taliban government is hampering global efforts to send urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the country where the U.N. estimates nearly 23 million Afghans will suffer from acute hunger this winter.

US Calls on Russia to Cool Tensions with Ukraine 

over 1 year ago

A top U.S. defense official says Washington will not be alone if it needs to take action in response to Russia’s massive troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.  Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials, said Thursday that while he would not speculate on how Washington will respond to Russia’s provocations against Ukraine, Moscow should know the U.S. will not be alone.  “Whatever we do will be done as a part of an international community,” Austin said during a news conference with his South Korean counterpart, further calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “lower the temperature in the region.”  “The best case, though, is that we won't see an incursion,” the U.S. defense secretary added, noting Russia’s “substantial” troop presence in the border areas is only part of the problem.  “We also see troubling rhetoric, rhetoric in the info space,” Austin said. “We've heard President [Volodymyr]Zelenskiy expressed concern about efforts to undermine his administration.”  U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting with NATO counterparts in Latvia Wednesday, warned the U.S. was preparing to ratchet up economic sanctions against Moscow, if needed.  “We've made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past," he said.  Blinken is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later on Thursday in Stockholm.  Ukrainian officials have said Russia has positioned at least 90,000 troops along the border and in Crimea, which Moscow seized illegally in 2014.  But Russian officials have accused Ukraine of conducting its own military build up.  Earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin also repeated concerns about U.S. and NATO exercises in the Back Sea, and warned NATO against installing what he described as “strike systems” on Ukrainian soil.  "What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way,” he said at an investment forum in Moscow. “We can do that now."  Information from Reuters was used in this report. 

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