India’s Rahul Gandhi supporters finish 5-month rally and march against increasingly nationalist state

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>India’s Rahul Gandhi supporters finish 5-month rally and march against increasingly nationalist state

Rahul Gandhi, head of India's opposition Congress party, started a unity march last September from the southern tip of the country, which ended on Monday. Gandhi is trying to drum up support for his party, opposition to the ruling BJP and, many observers say, trying to uphold democracy in the face of what's becoming an increasingly religious state.

The WorldJanuary 31, 2023 · 2:45 PM EST

India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, speaks at a public rally as it snows in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Jan. 30, 2023. India's main opposition Congress party ended a five-month cross-country unity march in disputed Kashmir on Monday with hundreds of members of various opposition groups joining in a public rally in freezing temperatures.

Mukhtar Khan/AP

Over the last five months, thousands of Indians have joined Bharat Jodo Yatra, or Unite India March, in a movement against the “politics of hate and division,” which some say are gaining force in India.

The 2,200-mile-long rally, crisscrossing the country from south to north, has been one of the most-ambitious political rallies since the country’s independence.

Rahul Gandhi, 52, the face of the Indian National Congress party, led the march that began in September of 2022 and ended on Monday in northern Kashmir. Gandhi — no relation to Mahatma Gandhi — is the biggest rival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The BJP thinks they can divide this country along religious lines, along its languages. This country cannot be divided,” Gandhi said shortly before he embarked on the long march from Kanyakumari on India’s southern tip.

Satish Kolkunda and his family joined the march on Oct. 30, bringing colorful posters and sandwiches as they met up with other marchers outside of their city of Hyderabad, in southern India.

“Why I started liking [Gandhi’s] leadership is, he’s truthful and honest,” Kolkunda said, adding that he was particularly impressed when, during a virtual meeting with party volunteers, Gandhi told them to question him if they thought he was wrong.

Satish Kolkunda and his family joined the march on Oct. 30, bringing colorful posters and sandwiches as they met up with other marchers outside of their city of Hyderabad, in southern India.

Credit:

Courtesy of Satish Kolkunda

Gandhi is trying to drum up support for his party and, according to observers, uphold democracy in India in the face of an increasingly religious state.

“In this market of hate, I am setting up a shop of love,” Gandhi said during a speech in December in Alwar, Rajasthan.

A ‘shop of love’ in a market of hate

Kolkunda said he has witnessed firsthand the divisions that Gandhi wants to overcome.

In a WhatsApp group of his school buddies, Kolkunda said, “We have a mix of Hindus, Muslims, Christians. And that divide, I see it.”

Hindu conservatives in the group removed its Muslim members, he explained, and verbally abused them.

“And these things are happening very frequently since 2014 [when Modi first became prime minister],” he said.

Modi’s government has long been criticized for policies that put minorities, especially the country’s 200 million Muslims, at a disadvantage.

“Authorities in India have adopted laws and policies that systematically discriminate against Muslims and stigmatize critics of the government. Prejudices embedded in the government of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass and attack religious minorities with impunity,” Human Rights Watch has said.

Ahead of general elections in 2024, the Congress party is positioning itself as an antidote to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist push.

Political scientist Zoya Hasan, professor emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said the march “has challenged frontally this idea that India is a Hindu nation. It has given people hope that there is still a place for an inclusive idea of India.”

However, some political scientists argue that the Congress party has not shied away from using religion to win votes and has itself, at times, espoused a soft brand of Hindu nationalism.

“Congress’s sustained move toward Hindu majoritarianism over several decades created fertile ground for the more extreme ideology of the BJP,” Kanchan Chandra wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2019.

Reviving the Congress party 

The response to the Unite India march, Hasan said, has exceeded expectations.

“There is an indication that Congress is serious, which was not the feeling that people would have had over the last nine years,” she said. The past few years have been among the most turbulent in its history as the oldest political party instrumental in India’s independence struggle.

Some of India’s most-famous prime ministers, including Gandhi’s father, grandmother and great-grandfather, belonged to the Congress party.

But Modi’s victory in 2014 shattered the party — it won only 19% of the vote, its worst performance in history. It didn’t do much better in the next election in 2019. Today, it only holds power in three Indian states, and Gandhi himself has never been very popular.

“The Congress faces a rather existential crisis,” political commentator Rasheed Kidwai said.

And so, the Unite India march is also being seen as a Congress party revival.

While it's too early to say whether the march will change people's perceptions of the Congress, it has succeeded in changing people’s perceptions about Gandhi, Hasan said.

“People like the idea of a leader going to the people, rather than people going to the leader and asking something from him or her.”

Gandhi’s physical image has also transformed — he’s sporting a disheveled, salt-and-pepper beard these days, a departure from his earlier clean-shaven look.

Kidwai, who noted that Gandhi’s popularity ratings in the past have usually been in the single digits, said that he has “shown a kind of deep mental strength and a kind of sense of spiritualism” during the march.

The Gandhi family has been criticized for controlling the Congress party for many years. In October, the party selected Mallikarjun Kharge as its president, the first non-Gandhi chief in 24 years. Hasan said that that appointment and the march indicate that “Congress is turning a page.”

Bolstering democracy

A fresh start for the Congress is not only crucial for the party but also for India’s democracy. Congress is the biggest opposition party in India. The BJP’s other opponents are smaller, regional parties. In recent years, a weak Congress party resulted in the opposition becoming fragmented, which has resulted in the weakening of India’s democracy.

“Democracy without competition and a democracy without opposition is no democracy,” Hasan said. “The ruling dispensation has shown little tolerance for dissent or for opposition and would ideally want, you know, a stage where there is just minimum opposition or you just have the formality of opposition.”

Kidwai said that the march “looks high on optics but low in substance” and whether it will translate into more votes remains to be seen. “People of India are very emotional [in] their voting behavior. So, if Gandhi can find some kind of traction on that count, then that will act as a game-changer.”

While the rally was important, Hasan said, what comes after it will be even more important.

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Wagner mercenary group recruits Africans held in Russian prisons

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Wagner mercenary group recruits Africans held in Russian prisons

In recent months, reports have emerged that at least two men, one from Zambia and another from Tanzania, were killed while fighting for the Wagner group in Ukraine. Wagner reportedly recruited the men from Russian prisons, promising them amnesty. 

The WorldJanuary 30, 2023 · 4:15 PM EST

People sit in an office in the PMC Wagner Center, which is associated with businessman and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nov. 4, 2022. The company has played an increasingly visible role in the fighting in Ukraine. 

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Nemes Tarimo died last October while fighting for Russia in Ukraine. His body arrived in his home city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last Friday.

Tarimo was in his early 30s. He’d traveled to Moscow from  Tanzania to study at the Russian Technological University.

The last time his cousin Rehema spoke to him was in March 2020.

“We talked more about his studies. Nemes went there [to] Russia just for studies,” she said from her home in Tanzania.

In recent months, reports have emerged that Tarimo, and another man from Zambia, were killed while fighting for the Wagner Group in Ukraine. Wagner reportedly recruited the men from Russian prisons, promising them amnesty.

Rehema, who didn’t share her last name, said that Tarimo had big ambitions — at one point, he ran for political office in his hometown. But in 2021, things took a different turn. Tarimo was arrested in Moscow on drug-related charges.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me anything about the situation,” Rehema said.

Rehema said she doesn’t know what happened to Tarimo after that. But court documents and media reports show that he was sent to prison. While there, he was recruited by the Wagner Group to fight in Ukraine, likely in return for amnesty.

The Tanzanian government confirmed last week that Tarimo died while fighting in Ukraine.

“We lost somebody … a very very important person in our family, because Nemes was very very kind and a loving person,” Rehema said.

Tarimo is not the only person from an African country that Wagner has recruited to fight in Ukraine.

Last week, the death of another man from Zambia made headlines. Twenty-three-year-old Lemekani Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering in Moscow when, he too, was arrested for drug possession.

While serving his 9 1/2-year sentence, Wagner recruited Nyirenda to fight in Ukraine. His funeral was held in Zambia last week.

Tarimo and Nyirenda were both recruited from inside Russian prisons. But there are reports that Wagner is also recruiting fighters from countries in Africa.

“Not only is Wagner recruiting individuals who want to sign up to earn money by working for Wagner in African states, but actually, they’re also bringing in prisoners, including rebels from the same groups that they’re actually helping to fight countries like the Central African Republic to counter the rebels,” explained Catrina Doxsee, associate director and associate fellow for the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Wagner has operated in Africa for years — in Sudan, Libya, Mozambique, and most recently in the Sahel region.

According to Paul Stronski, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Russia is seen as a friendly foreign power by some Africans.

“There’s a lot of anti-Western, anti-colonial legacies still there. Russia presents itself on the African continent as a noncolonial power,” Stronski said.

“We’ve seen conflicts for years in Africa, and the United States and Europe have not responded with the same urgency as they seem to be responding in Ukraine. Europe welcomed all these Ukrainians in 2022, but if you just look back — I think it [was] six years ago, 2016, 2015 — they weren’t so welcoming when people weren’t from Europe,” Stronski added.

In the past, Wagner recruits received some training before they were sent to the battlefields in Ukraine, but today, it is not clear if they get any training, given Russia’s demand for fighters, Doxsee said.

“The conditions in Ukraine for these recruits are horrible. We’ve long known that one of the appeals for Moscow in using private military companies rather than Russian soldiers is to have a force multiplier that can in some cases be used more as cannon fodder.”

Sometimes, they’re forced to stay on the front lines longer than the initial agreement.

Doxsee said there should be a public information campaign aimed at Africans and their governments detailing the realities of signing up with the Wagner Group.

That way people would understand better the risks involved.

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‘Ransomware Diaries:’ Going undercover with the leader of LockBit

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>'Ransomware Diaries:' Going undercover with the leader of LockBit

Jon DiMaggio, chief security analyst at Analyst1, spent more than a year inside LockBit private channels interacting with LockBitSupp and other members. He recently released a report called "Ransomware Diaries: Volume 1," that revealed how he infiltrated the group and what he learned while he was on the inside.

The WorldJanuary 30, 2023 · 12:15 PM EST

In this June 19, 2017, file photo, a person types on a laptop keyboard in North Andover, Massachusetts. 

Elise Amendola/File/AP

An unusual announcement appeared in Russian Dark Web forums in June 2020. Amid the hundreds of ads offering stolen credit card numbers and batches of personally identifiable information, there was a call for papers.

“We’re kicking off the summer Paper Contest,” it read. “Accepted article topics include any methods for procuring shells, malware and malware coding, viruses, trojans, bot development … monetization.”

Jon DiMaggio, chief security analyst at Analyst1, remembers seeing the ad when it first appeared and thinking to himself how odd it was to have some sort of academic call for papers pop up where cybercriminals tend to gather.

“They’re calling for papers, like, in the name of education of the criminal community," DiMaggio told the "Click Here" podcast. “As if they were helping out the young guys and gals coming up,” in the cybercrime world.

DiMaggio said that the summer paper contest was a strangely highbrow way to appeal to the vanity of a group that typically doesn’t get to claim much public credit for what they do: cybercriminals. 

That may partially explain why the contest ended up generating a huge amount of interest. The $5,000 cash prize for the best paper probably had something to do with it, too. But it wasn’t just the novelty of introducing a contest that made DiMaggio take notice — it was who was sponsoring the competition: a Russian ransomware gang called LockBit.

That contest was the first in a long list of initiatives, unrelated to the bread-and-butter running of a ransomware gang, that a hacker named LockBitSupp did over the past two years to professionalize the group, according to DiMaggio, who spent more than a year inside LockBit private channels interacting with LockBitSupp and other members.

“LockBitSupp considers himself to be like a CEO of a company,” said DiMaggio, who believes LockBitSupp is more than just a support person or administrator for the group as his moniker implies. 

This is just one of the insights from a new report called "Ransomware Diaries: Volume 1," released on Jan. 16, in which DiMaggio revealed how he infiltrated the group and what he learned while on the inside. "Click Here" was given an early look at it.

DiMaggio watched as LockBitSupp began upgrading the group’s infrastructure. He saw him recruit developers who were creating LockBit’s easy-to-use ransomware dashboards. He was privy to the group’s efforts to upend the traditional ransomware payment model by putting affiliates in charge.

LockBit's response on a Russian dark web forum after a DDoS attack on digital security giant Entrust.

Credit:

Courtesy of Jon DiMaggio/Analyst 1

LockBitSupp’s focus on professionalizing the group is part of the reason why LockBit has found such success in the cybercriminal world — the group accounted for 44% of the total ransomware attacks launched last year.

“He’s running it as a business and it’s why I believe that he spends so much time on criminal forums interacting and talking and being accessible,” DiMaggio said.

“He wants LockBit to be popular and easy to approach.”

Last year, the cybercriminal world was rocked by a researcher who released years of internal chat logs from the Russian ransomware group Conti. The chat logs came to be known as the "Panama Papers" of the ransomware world, because they gave observers an unfiltered look at how ransomware operations work.

DiMaggio’s report was a version of that. By sharing some of the chats he started and was privy to, he laid out how LockBit came to eclipse other ransomware operations — and what it plans to do in the future.

Do you speak German?

DiMaggio’s relationship with LockBit and its leader started with a failed job interview. It was 2020, and LockBit was looking for coders. They put up a job posting for affiliates and DiMaggio applied. He didn’t expect to get very far in the process. "I’m not a hacker," he said.

Even so, he did get a virtual interview and got as far as the LockBit assessment test. It was meant to measure whether an applicant really had the coding chops they claimed to have or were just "script kiddies" exaggerating abilities.

“The assessment test they gave me showed I wasn’t qualified enough,” DiMaggio said. “I didn’t expect to get through, but they did let me remain in their TOX channel,” which, it turns out, was a goldmine.

TOX is a peer-to-peer instant messaging service, a kind of encrypted Skype that many cybercriminals prefer. Much of the world’s ransomware negotiations happen on TOX. So, being in the TOX channel for LockBit allowed DiMaggio to be a kind of fly on the wall, watching cybercriminals at work and in the wild.

But DiMaggio wanted to be more than a fly on the wall — he wanted to engage. So, he baited LockBitSupp. “I asked him if he thought an account being used by another ransomware group had been compromised by the FBI,” DiMaggio said.

“I didn’t care what he said, but I saw it as an opportunity, because he seemed so paranoid about that taking place.”

DiMaggio was pretending to be one of LockBit’s affiliates, or subcontractors, and he told LockBitSupp that the affiliates could be in jeopardy, too.

“And he was like, you know, I prefer to have these conversations not on these forums, but on our own infrastructure,” and he asked DiMaggio (or at least who he was pretending to be) to move the conversation there. The only problem was, LockBit was a Russian ransomware gang, and DiMaggio didn’t speak Russian.

"So, I started off the conversation with German, and of course then he says, 'I don’t speak German,'" DiMaggio said. "But here’s the thing. All of them speak a little bit of English, because English speakers are their primary victims."

So, DiMaggio would often start conversations with ransomware actors with a ploy.

"I’m like, 'do you speak English,' type of thing. And they say, 'yes.' And I’ll say, 'OK, well why don’t we try to communicate in English then?'" he said. "And then, I just have to remember to make sure my English isn’t too good as I communicate, but it works. And, and that’s exactly what I did with LockBit."

Before he knew it, he and LockBitSupp were in the group’s private channel talking and, in some ways, LockBitSupp was exactly what DiMaggio was expecting. He was a guy who exaggerated his accomplishments and trash-talked other groups. Where he was different was in his sense that, in order for the ransomware industry to get “next level” it needed to be run more like a traditional business, and LockBitSupp had a plan to do just that.

“He constantly did things to get their name out there and then capitalize on the opportunity,” DiMaggio said.

Tattoo for $500

LockBit started with a logo. A few ransomware groups — like Vice Society — were experimenting with that. LockBit’s logo — a red, white and black retro-looking rendition of their name — started appearing on everything they touched: on their leaks website, letterhead, ransom notes, anything they sponsored.

Then they tried their hand at a little IRL branding. They began offering people $500 to $1,000 to tattoo the LockBit logo on their bodies.

“I heard that, I’m like, there is no way anyone is going to tattoo the name of a ransomware brand and their logo on their bodies,” DiMaggio said.

“And then people did. That’s just crazy to me.”

LockBit began offering people $500 to $1,000 to tattoo the LockBit logo on their bodies. The group's leader wrote in in a post: "All affiliates come and go, LockBit is eternal."

Credit:

Courtesy of Jon DiMaggio/Analyst1

Then LockBitSupp began working more strategically. He began studying the inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the ransomware business model, DiMaggio said. He began puzzling through what stopped the average hacker from launching successful attacks — and why they weren’t using LockBit.

LockBitSupp’s solution was something he called LockBit Red, publicly branded as LockBit 2.0. Think of it as ransomware made easy. If you weren’t a great coder and wanted to make some cash launching ransomware attacks, not a problem. LockBit 2.0 was essentially point-and-click.

They created a dashboard to help hackers keep track of all the ransomware they had released into the world, and then improved the encrypter so attackers could steal data faster. They even created push notifications that would alert attackers when a victim responded to a ransom demand.

He took what used to require weeks of being on a network and manually entering commands and writing scripts, and automated it with a graphical interface for everybody. LockBitSupp certainly wasn’t the first person to try this, but he was the first to do it this well. LockBit’s central management console incorporated all the disparate elements of a ransomware attack, and put it in one place.

“They made a process that was convoluted, slow and was putting data outside of their own control, and made it fast, efficient and going into their own infrastructure to use,” DiMaggio said.

Flip the script

LockBitSupp's game-changer was upending the ransomware payment system — one of the biggest problems in the cybercriminal world. The difficulty isn’t so much getting a victim to pay a ransom; that was comparatively easy. The issue was paying all the people who worked on the attack.

Traditionally, ransomware gangs use subcontractors or affiliates. Think of them as specialists — people who might be particularly good at searching for vulnerabilities or cracking into particular kinds of networks.

Each hacker would do the specific thing they’re good at then and collect that percentage of the ransom at the end, almost like an invoicing system. Given the business they’re in, it isn’t too surprising that a lot of the time they didn’t get the money that was owed.

“Not getting paid was a concern that was talked about a lot, and still is talked about a lot, on these criminal forums,” DiMaggio said.

So, Lockbit flipped the script, and put the affiliates in charge.

“You, as the affiliate, you do the negotiation and collect that money yourself and then you pay us our percentage,” DiMaggio said, which is how it worked. “Inherently, it gives them trust and removes that fear of getting ripped off.”

Once LockBit did that and upgraded their ransomware product, affiliates were banging down the doors to work with them. LockBit suddenly had more ransomware work than it knew what to do with, which goes a long way toward explaining why LockBit has been so formidable in the ransomware world today, and responsible for nearly half of all the ransomware attacks last year.

Hacking St. Mary’s

Last summer, Jon DiMaggio was in one of the LockBit chatrooms when members started crowing about its latest victim: a small Canadian town called St. Mary’s.

“The conversation was almost like high-fives and laughing at the victims themselves — poking fun at how easy it was to compromise,” DiMaggio said.

The hacker version of locker-room talk.

Attackers often go into these hacker forums and begin talking about what they just stole.

“They like to go through the data to find the, sort of, most embarrassing aspects of it … and share stuff,” said DiMaggio. “And it’s usually, it’s very much like an online bully — picking on the victim, talking trash as though it’s some big joke.”

But it doesn’t feel like some big joke on the other end.

“You feel like the world’s gonna end,” the mayor of St. Mary’s, Al Strathdee, told "Click Here."

“It’s like being robbed. … I felt like we were invaded and robbed and it was a smash and grab.”

Strathdee was thrice elected mayor of St. Mary’s, a town of about 7,700 in southwestern Ontario. It sits a couple hours south of Toronto and about three hours north of Detroit. Its claim to fame? Thomas Edison worked here as a boy on the rail line and its outdoor quarry is Canada’s largest outdoor swimming pool.

It was the last place one would expect Lockbit to set its sights on, though Strathdee said, these days everyone’s a target.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s more common than you think,” he said. “But at the time you think, you know, first of all, your first reaction is why us? And what happened?”

St. Mary's, a town of about 7,700 in Ontario, was a LockBit victim last year. Researcher Jon DiMaggio was in the group's channel when LockBit affiliates boasted about the attack.

Credit:

Ken Lund/Flickr

Back in July 2022, the city of St. Mary’s IT department was doing some routine maintenance and discovered some irregularities.

“They immediately isolated the system and unplugged the servers,” Strathdee said, adding that “our initial thought is that they didn’t even know they hit us.”

Those push notifications that LockBit launched so ransomware attackers could track their victims may have played a role in the St. Mary’s attack.

“We’re wondering whether they have systems that went back and told them that we had discovered them in our systems, or maybe an alarm went off,” he said, adding that the final report on the breach may tell them that for sure.

There was a ransom demand and city leaders thought about paying it, though he wouldn’t say how much it was. 

What Strathdee found stunning, after he did some reading about Lockbit, was that the group thought to strike his town. He was told that people could actually rent software from LockBit and take a cut, which means it could have been anyone,” he said. 

In other words, it may not have been LockBit itself that hacked them, but one of those affiliate groups. Strathdee said it is pretty clear to him that just about everyone is vulnerable and everyone has to prepare for ransomware attacks now.

“You know, you talk a lot about roads and sewers, and different things like sidewalks and things, as being infrastructure,” he said.

Cybersecurity is “becoming infrastructure as well, and we have to start thinking of it more. And we need to spend more money, a lot more money than we ever expected."

In a forum, LockBitSupp talks about his plans to outfox authorities and prevent them from identifying him as a leader of the gang.

Credit:

Courtesy of Jon DiMaggio/Analyst 1

LockBit 3.0

Jon DiMaggio's main question: Who does this kind of thing? Who thinks a hospital or a small city or school is a legitimate target?

DiMaggio used to do this kind of profiling and analysis for government intelligence agencies. After spending more than a year lurking in chat rooms, lobbing in questions and watching the interactions between LockBitSupp and others in the ransomware world, what he’s pieced together is that LockbitSupp is a white male in his mid- to late-30s living in Russia or Eastern Europe. He grew up poor, and that’s central to understanding him.

“He says that he was picked on for not having money and not having a lot of friends,” DiMaggio said. “So, because of that, this builds in these insecurities, and when you get a lot of success, that breeds a very strong ego.

DiMaggio said LockBitSupp sees himself as a prince of darkness, like a Batman villain bent on sowing destruction. It is why he is always escalating. For example, he wants to add Denial of Service attacks to the group’s ransomware menu. Because, LockBitSupp said in one chat, “DDoS attacks invigorate” him and “make life more interesting.”

But the thing about so-called supervillains is that, down deep, they have issues. For all their bravado, they’re a little insecure. And in Lockbit’s case — maybe less surprisingly — he’s super paranoid. That paranoia let DiMaggio get closer than he probably should have, and prevented LockBitSupp, DiMaggio said, from enjoying all the money he’s making.

“He can’t travel to places. He can’t go on vacation or leave certain areas of the world,” DiMaggio said. And because of all of this, he doesn’t seem happy.

A Telegram post and tweet from someone claiming to have hacked LockBit.

Credit:

Courtesy of Jon DiMaggio/Analyst 1

DiMaggio assumes once the report goes public, any personas he used to get close to LockBitSupp and his operation will be burned. But he maintains that the whole exercise was an important one, because security officials are so focused on the technical parts of ransomware, they forget that the people behind these attacks are only human.

Remembering that, he said, provides a roadmap on how to bring these groups down. DiMaggio said it would be easy to play on LockBitSupp’s paranoia and use information campaigns against him.

Which could explain why DiMaggio said his parting words to LockBitSupp would be this: “Watch your back. There’s researchers, there’s analysts, there’s law enforcement agencies and entire governments that are coming for you. Look over your shoulder. And when it’s hard to sleep at night,” DiMaggio paused, “That makes me smile.”

An earlier version of this story appeared on The Record. With reporting by Sean Powers and Will Jarvis.

Related: What comes after Hydra, the darknet marketplace that changed everything?

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Suicide bomber kills 34, wounds 150 at mosque in NW Pakistan

“MuiTypography-root-239 jss217 MuiTypography-h1-244″>Suicide bomber kills 34, wounds 150 at mosque in NW PakistanAssociated PressJanuary 30, 2023 · 9:00 AM EST

Security officials and rescue workers gather at the site of suicide bombing, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Jan. 30, 2023.

Zubair Khan/AP

A suicide bomber detonated explosives during crowded prayers at a mosque inside a police compound in Pakistan on Monday, causing the roof to cave in. At least 34 people were killed and 150 wounded, officials said.

Most of the casualties were police officers. It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled compound, which houses the northwestern city of Peshawar's police headquarters and is itself located in a high-security zone with other government buildings.

Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The main spokesman for the militant group was not immediately available for comment.

Pakistan has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their cease-fire with government forces. This was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.

More than 300 worshippers were praying inside the mosque, with more approaching, when the bomber set off his explosives vest. Many were injured when the roof came down, according to Zafar Khan, a local police officer.

Rescuers scrambled to remove mounds of debris from the mosque grounds to reach worshippers still trapped under the rubble, police said.

Meena Gul, who was inside the mosque when the bomb went off, said he doesn’t know how he survived unhurt. The 38-year-old police officer said he could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded.

Siddique Khan, a police official, said the death toll rose to 34, and the dead included Noor-ul-Amin, the prayer leader. He said the attacker blew himself up while among the worshippers.

Peshawar police chief Ijaz Khan said at least 150 were wounded. A nearby hospital listed many of the wounded in critical condition, raising concerns the death toll could still rise.

Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence, and the city has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.

The militant group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years. It seeks the stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that it has longed used as its base.

The group is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops pulled out of the country after 20 years of war.

The government's truce with the TTP ended as Pakistan was still contending with unprecedented flooding that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes, and at one point submerged as much as one third of the country.

Mohmand, of the militant organization, said a fighter carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Abdul Wali, who was widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, and was killed in neighboring Afghanistan’s Paktika province in August 2022.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing, and ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment for the victims. He also vowed “stern action" against those who were behind the attack.

Sharif traveled to Peshawar and visited the wounded at the hospital. His office said he would receive a briefing about the security situation in the northwest.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan called the bombing a “terrorist suicide attack" in a Twitter post. “My prayers & condolences go to victims families," said the ex-premier. “It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan is currently facing a severe economic crisis and is seeking a crucial installment of $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund — part of its $6 billion bailout package — to avoid default. Talks with the IMF on reviving the bailout have stalled in the past months.

Sharif’s government came to power last April after Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Khan has since campaigned for early elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a plot backed by the United States. Washington and Sharif have dismissed Khan's claims.

By Associated Press writer Riaz Khan. Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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A Chinese company strikes a deal with the Taliban to extract oil from Afghanistan

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>A Chinese company strikes a deal with the Taliban to extract oil from Afghanistan

Beijing signs onto a deal with the Taliban to extract oil from the north of Afghanistan. ​Graeme Smith, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group, discusses the implications of the agreement with The World's host Carol Hills.

The WorldJanuary 27, 2023 · 4:00 PM EST

A general view of Mes Aynak valley is seen some 25 miles southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2022. Buildings on top are offices of Chinese mining company MCC that won the contract to exploit the world's second-largest copper mine.

Shafiullah Zwak/AP/File photo

The Taliban has struck its first major deal with an international partner.

A Chinese company is investing more than half a billion dollars to begin extracting oil from the Amu Darya basin in the north of Afghanistan.

Graeme Smith, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group, discussed the implications of the deal from Dubai with The World's host Carol Hills.

Carol Hills: Graeme, why is Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Company investing so heavily in Afghanistan?Graeme Smith: Well, the Amu Darya Basin in the northwest of the country has real potential. There is apparently oil and gas there. Some of it's stretching apparently under the border into Uzbekistan. And so, it's one of the many things the Chinese hope someday to get out of the ground in Afghanistan, not just oil and gas, but also gold and copper and maybe iron ore. But the reality is that doing this is very, very difficult and expensive. And so, they say that they will start work, but very little has started so far.But I'm curious why China has decided Afghanistan. I mean, there's any number of places around the world where they could invest in oil and extracting oil. Why Afghanistan?You know, you're right. It doesn't make a ton of sense on the face of it, because just building infrastructure, for example, building the railways, the road links and everything that you would need to link Afghanistan to China would be tremendously expensive to build. China does have this vision for what they call the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that will, they hope, eventually stretch all the way across the Asian continent and make things like this somewhat more feasible. But right now, the maps of the BRI, those maps simply leave Afghanistan out. It's sort of a blank spot. And so, you can see that they are testing ideas for starting to fill that in and maybe to include Afghanistan.So, what benefit is there for the Taliban to do business with China? Is it just money or something else?Well, the Taliban are economically isolated by the Western world. This is really hard. If you are Kabul and you depend on imports to feed most of your country, most of the food consumed in the country is imported, and most of those deals are done in US dollars. And so recently, the Chinese foreign minister was visiting Afghanistan. People who were in that meeting told me that the Chinese said, "Hey, look, we understand you're having problems with the Americans. Why don't you try using our currency instead?" And the Taliban were interested in this idea. It's a little bit tricky, though, because there's not a whole lot you can do with Chinese currency except to buy Chinese imports. And Afghanistan does import a lot of goods from China, but it's a nascent relationship. I think there's a fair bit of mistrust on both sides. But they're testing it out.Now, not everyone in Afghanistan is happy about China's presence there. In September, ISIS-K, the Afghan ISIS affiliate, warned China against its "daydream of imperialism." What's ISIS-K's problem with China?This affiliate in Afghanistan that calls itself Islamic State-Khorasan Province. Over the years, it's had to absorb a number of different foreign militants, Uzbeks, a small number of Uyghurs. And so, they probably have some sympathies with the Uyghur militants who are still in very small numbers operating on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions against China. And so, that makes China very, very concerned about the emergence of ISIS-K.Does ISIS-K pose a security threat to Chinese nationals in Afghanistan?Yes. ISIS-K has launched a number of attacks recently that appear to be targeting Chinese diplomats and business interests.Of course, as you know, Afghanistan has been called the "graveyard of empires." Whether Chinese interests are imperialist, as ISIS-K is claiming or not, is there any risk of China having to devote its own security resources in Afghanistan, like the US before it?You know, it's a fascinating question. China, of course, has been very reluctant to deploy its own forces outside of its own borders. And I think, when you talk to Central Asia hands, that's always one of their, kind of, questions about whether or not someday China would get drawn into some kind of a mission in Central Asia to protect its own assets. I mean, it's a bit of a science fiction scenario at this moment, because they've been so cautious about making investments in Afghanistan. But I have to say, under the previous government, there were photographs circulating of Chinese military vehicles accompanying what was then Afghan security forces up in Badakhshan Province, the province that borders China, clearly inside Afghan territory. So, they have been taking these little baby steps across the border from time to time. And it would be interesting to see someday if that could be extended.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Related: ‘I am living through my worst nightmare’: Women aid workers in Afghanistan react to ban on employment

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Warsaw Ghetto’s defiant Jewish doctors secretly documented the medical effects of Nazi starvation policies

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Warsaw Ghetto’s defiant Jewish doctors secretly documented the medical effects of Nazi starvation policies

A researcher at Tufts University near Boston discovered an old book full of research on starvation written by Jewish doctors imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The ConversationJanuary 27, 2023 · 12:00 PM EST

The book includes haunting photos from inside the ghetto, along with its record of the medical effects of starvation. 

'Maladie de Famine," American Joint Distribution Committee

Eighty years ago, a group of starving Jewish scientists and doctors in the Warsaw Ghetto were collecting data on their starving patients.

They hoped their research would benefit future generations through better ways to treat malnutrition, and they wanted the world to know of Nazi atrocities to prevent something similar from ever happening again. They recorded the grim effects of an almost complete lack of food on the human body in a rare book titled “Maladie de Famine” (in English, “The Disease of Starvation: Clinical Research on Starvation in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942”) that we recently rediscovered in the Tufts University library.

As scientists who study starvation, its biological effects and its use as a weapon of mass destruction, we believe the story of how and why Jewish scientists conducted this research in such extreme conditions is as important and compelling as its results.

The clandestine project’s lead doctor, Israel Milejkowski, wrote the books’s foreword. In it, he explains:

“The work was originated and pursued under unbelievable conditions. I hold my pen in my hand and death stares into my room. It looks through the black windows of sad empty houses on deserted streets littered with vandalized and burglarized possessions. … In this prevailing silence lies the power and the depth of our pain and the moans that one day will shake the world’s conscience.”

Reading these words, we were both transfixed, transported by his voice to a time and place where starvation was being used as a weapon of oppression and annihilation as the Nazis were systematically exterminating all Jews in their occupied territories. As scholars of starvation, we were also well aware that this book catalogs many of the justifications for the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which made starvation of civilians a war crime.

This French translation was donated to the Tufts University library in 1948.

Credit:

 'Maladie de Famine,' American Joint Distribution Committee

A defiant medical record

Within months of their 1939 invasion of Poland, Nazi forces created the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. At its peak, more than 450,000 Jews were required to live in this small, walled-off area of about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) within the city, unable to leave even to look for food.

Although Germans in Warsaw were allotted a daily ration of about 2,600 calories, physicians in the ghetto estimated that Jews were able to consume only about 800 calories a day on average through a combination of rations and smuggling. That’s about half the calories volunteers consumed in a study on starvation conducted near the end of World War II by researchers at the University of Minnesota, and less than a third of the average energy needs of an adult male.

When the Nazis designated the district of the Warsaw Ghetto, it enclosed two hospitals, one serving Jewish adults and another for Jewish children. The hospitals were allowed to continue to treat patients with whatever resources they could obtain, but Jews in general were forbidden from conducting research. Nevertheless, starting in February 1942, a group of Jewish doctors in the ghetto defied their captors by meticulously and secretly gathering data and observations on multiple biological aspects of starvation.

Then on July 22, 1942, Nazi forces entered the ghetto and destroyed the hospitals and other critical services. Patients and some of the doctors were killed outright or deported to be gassed, their laboratories, samples and some of their research destroyed.

With their own demise approaching, the remaining doctors spent the last nights of their lives meeting secretly in the cemetery buildings, transforming their data into a series of research articles. By October, as they put the finishing touches on the book, about 300,000 Jews from the ghetto had already been gassed. The physicians’ own data showed that another 100,000 had been killed through forced starvation and disease.

With final deportations of the few surviving Jews underway and his own death imminent, Milejkowski wrote of the dark, yawning emptiness of the ghetto at that moment, and the horrifying conditions the doctors had labored under to conduct and record the research.

Milejkowski had words for not only the reader, but also his dear colleagues, many of whom had already been executed.

“What can I tell you, my beloved colleagues and companions in misery. You are a part of all of us. Slavery, hunger, deportation, those death figures in our ghetto were also your legacy. And you, by your work, could give the henchman the answer ‘Non omnis moriar,’ [I shall not wholly die].”

The team’s act of resistance through science was its way to wring something good out of an evil situation, to show the world the quality of the Jewish doctor, but mostly to defy the Nazis’ intent to erase their existence.

With death knocking on the door, the doctors smuggled their precious research out of the ghetto to a sympathizer who buried it in the cemetery of the Warsaw hospital. Less than a year later, all but a few of the 23 authors were dead.

Immediately after the war, the manuscript was dug up and taken to one of the few surviving authors, Dr. Emil Apfelbaum, and the American Joint Distribution Committee in Warsaw, a charity whose main purpose at the time was to help Jewish survivors. Together, they made the final edits and printed the six surviving articles, binding them into a book along with photos taken in the ghetto. Apfelbaum died just a couple of months before the final printing, broken by his years in the ghetto.

In 1948 and 1949, the American Joint Distribution Committee disseminated 1,000 copies of the French translation to hospitals, medical schools, libraries and universities across the US. It was one humble, crumbling copy of this book that waited to be “rediscovered” about 75 years later in the basement of a Tufts University library.

The book’s grim descriptions

Based on observations of thousands of deaths from starvation, this research from the Warsaw Ghetto provides insight into the biological progression of starvation that scientists now are just beginning to understand.

For example, many Warsaw Ghetto residents who died of starvation were otherwise free of disease. The ghetto researchers found that while an otherwise healthy body diminished through starvation apparently had a decreased need for vitamins, the need for certain minerals remained. They saw few cases of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), night blindness (vitamin A deficiency) or rickets (vitamin D deficiency). But they did see significant osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, as the body mined them for their stores of minerals.

When the doctors provided sugar to the severely malnourished, their energy-starved cells quickly absorbed it. This demonstrated that the ability to quickly absorb and use energy remained to the end, suggesting that energy was the single-most important factor in starvation, not other micro- or macro-nutrients.

Each of these observations invites us as scientists to explore further. And with these lessons we can hope to prevent deaths or long-term harm from starvation through better treatment for the severely malnourished.

As scientists studying starvation today, it would be unthinkable and unethical to starve people to learn how the human body adjusts and changes during the end stages of extreme starvation. Even if researchers go into a famine-stricken population to learn about starvation, they immediately treat the victims, erasing the very object of their research.

Partly as a result of the experience of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Geneva Conventions made intentional mass starvation a crime, further strengthened by a UN Security Council Resolution as recently as 2018. Nevertheless, this inhumane aspect of war remains to this day, as evidenced by current events in Ukraine and Tigray, Ethiopia.

Though “Maladie de Famine” has never been totally lost or forgotten, the lessons from the doctors’ research have faded to semi-obscurity. Eight decades after the destruction that ended their studies, we hope to shine a renewed light on this work and its enduring impact on physicians’ understanding of starvation and how to treat it. The unique data and observations regarding severe starvation that the Warsaw Ghetto doctors, despite their own suffering, presented in this precious book can even now help safeguard others from that same fate.

Merry Fitzpatrick is a research assistant and professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University. Irwin Rosenberg is a professor emeritus of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good. 

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Pork paradigm shift: This high-end São Paulo restaurant features pig ears and tails

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Pork paradigm shift: This high-end São Paulo restaurant features pig ears and tails

In Brazil, eating pork used to have negative connotations. But A Casa do Porco, or The Pork’s House, in downtown São Paulo, has transformed pork into a gourmet food, kicking off a culinary trend throughout the country.

The WorldJanuary 27, 2023 · 1:00 PM EST

One of the main dishes at The Pork House includes a crunchy roasted pork with beans and fresh vegetables and is paired with the Brazilian national drink: caipirinha. 

Gisele Regatão/The World

On an unassuming corner in downtown São Paulo, Brazil, next to dilapidated houses and walls covered in graffiti, sits the 7th best restaurant in the world.

A Casa do Porco, or The Pork’s House, opened in 2015, and has since become a destination for people visiting the city.

In Brazil, pork used to get a bad rap. But the restaurant has transformed pork into a gourmet food, kicking off a culinary trend throughout the country.

Rueda (right) commands the staff of about 100 people at A Casa do Porco.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

One afternoon, three doctors from the state of Mato Grosso came on a gastronomic tour.

“Beyond the presentation, which is really cool, I liked the contrast of the ingredients,” Hyssam Hamida, one of the doctors, said.

Hamida and his two friends said they all agreed on one surprising dish: the ceviche of pig’s ear. It’s made with raw shrimp, sweet potato and seasoned with lime juice.

The ceviche of pork’s ear is served with raw shrimp, sweet potato and seasoned with lime juice. The pairing cocktail is pisco sour.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

It’s not an accident that A Casa do Porco is located in downtown São Paulo. Janaina Rueda, co-chef and co-owner of the restaurant, was born in a tenement a few blocks away. She started working when she was 11 and dropped out of school in seventh grade.

Rueda opened the restaurant with her then-husband, chef Jefferson Rueda, who used to be a butcher. They serve a high-end pre-fixe menu with the price tag: $46.

“If you are going to compare it with the other restaurants that made it to the list of the top 50 in the world, it’s the most affordable, by far,” she said.

One of the reasons is its location. Rents are cheaper in downtown São Paulo. It’s an area that fell into decline in the 1970s as industries and residents moved to other neighborhoods

But Rueda doesn’t like the claim that her restaurant is helping revitalize the area.

“I don’t like the word revitalization, because here there was always life, this area never stopped. What happened is that people started valuing it,” she said.

Rueda knows the area very well. As a teenager, she made chicken salad sandwiches to sell on the streets there. She then ran a food stand. She opened her first restaurant in 2008, Bar da Dona Onça, or Ms. Jaguar’s bar, which is her nickname — a nod to her feistiness.

Although, at 47, she’s a bit tamer, she said. “I’m now a jaguar that observes more, that’s more mature. I will only attack as a last resort,” she said.

Rueda has long dark hair, large blue eyes and a tattoo that imitates the skin of a jaguar covering her entire left arm.

Janaina Rueda, co-chef and co-owner of A Casa do Porco, was born in a slum tenement a few blocks away from the restaurant in downtown São Paulo.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

As a celebrity chef in Brazil, she also gives talks all over the world. A few years ago, she led trainings with hundreds of student chefs to teach them to use natural ingredients. “It was then that I understood my role as a cook,” she said.

A Casa do Porco seats 30 people outside and 60 inside. It’s always packed and people can wait for hours for a table. In a month, they serve about 15,000 people. 

“I use the pork from head to tail, that’s why the restaurant is so profitable,” Rueda said.

‘Our Latin Blood’

Janaina Rueda got divorced in 2021, but she and her ex-husband remain business partners. They create most menus together, and since the pandemic, she’s been the one leading A Casa do Porco.

The menu changes every few months. The current one is inspired by Latin American cuisine and is called “Our Latin Blood.” It has nine appetizers, four main dishes, one dessert, plus coffee. 

The first appetizer represents El Salvador, consisting of a flatbread made of rice, with ham and mozzarella. It’s then followed by a Colombian arepa, or corn cake, with pork tartare.

The current menu is inspired by Latin American cuisine and it’s called “Our Latin Blood.”

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

The main dishes include pork chops with a salsa made of blood sausage and a crunchy roasted pork with beans and fresh vegetables. Some of the pairing cocktails are the Cuban mojito, Peruvian pisco sour and the Brazilian national drink: caipirinha.

They also have a vegetarian menu. And everything comes from two organic farms they run in the countryside of São Paulo state: one that raises organic pork and another with organic fruits and vegetables.

At The Pork House, the philosophy is to use all parts of the pork and to mix unconventional ingredients.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

Luciana Barbo, a food critic based in the capital Brasília, said she will never forget the first time she ate at A Casa do Porco, a year after it opened. 

“My first experience was a paradigm shift, I went crazy,” she said. That’s because, she says, growing up, pork meat had a problematic image in Brazil. 

“In my childhood, in my science classes, we learned that pork meat was dangerous because it carried worms,” she said.

Barbo believes Casa do Porco changed that image and made pork a gourmet food all over the country.

“Here in Brasilia, we already had a bar also dedicated only to pork meat,” she said. She added that people now can find one of Rueda’s creations, pancetta with sweet guava, in bars in several cities across Brazil.

“They started a trend,” she said.

The restaurant seats about 60 people inside.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

Today, Janaina and Jefferson Rueda run four establishments downtown, including a hotdog kiosk and an ice cream shop. They are about to open a fifth, which will offer one different homemade dish a day for less than $8, called a merenda da cidade,” or “the city’s school lunch.”

Rueda said she hopes A Casa do Porco will stay open for many years to come.

“I want it to last for 200 years, I want my sons to be the chefs here, together with the team,” she said.

Her oldest, who is 17, is already working at A Casa do Porco as a cook.

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LGBTQ Russians are fleeing to Central Asia

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>LGBTQ Russians are fleeing to Central Asia

When Russia started drafting men to fight in Ukraine last fall, thousands fled to neighboring countries in Central Asia. The draft has been paused and some are returning home. But less so for members of the LGBTQ community, who say the government's increasing hostility has made Russia unsafe.

The WorldJanuary 27, 2023 · 12:15 PM EST

A woman walks past a billboard with a portrait of a Russian soldier awarded for action in Ukraine and the words "Glory to the heroes of Russia" in St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 3, 2023.

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP 

On a recent Saturday night, crowds of young people pack into an old theater in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where there’s a pop-up party for the LGBTQ community.

Below a DJ on the stage, friends and couples dance in the dim light under high ceilings painted with agricultural scenes from the Soviet era.

Events like these aren’t typical in Central Asia. It’s a region where talking about LGBTQ issues is often taboo. Recently, Kyrgyzstan’s government took away transgender people’s right to change their pronouns on official documents. In nearby countries, like Uzbekistan, being gay is a crime.

But that hasn’t stopped many LGBTQ Russians from migrating to Central Asia, where they don’t need visas to live long term. When Russia started drafting men to fight in Ukraine last fall, thousands fled to neighboring countries in Central Asia. Now that the draft is paused, some Russian men are going home.

But many people from Russia’s LGBTQ community aren’t returning. Their decision to stay put is partially the result of a wider crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia. Some people in this story didn’t want to use their names because they’re worried about being identified by Russian authorities.

One man in Bishkek, from Siberia, said that he, like many Russian LGBTQ people, always planned to leave the country someday. He dreamed of getting married in Portugal to his boyfriend, but now, he said, those plans are on hold.

“It’s much harder [for Russians] to get a Schengen visa [that covers 27 European countries] now, and we have no idea how that might change going forward,” he said.

For the moment, getting married abroad in one of the few countries that allows same-sex marriage for nonresidents, like Portugal, seems impossible.

He came to Bishkek because he participated in a military training program in school, similar to ROTC in the US. So, there was a good chance he would have been one of the first people called up to serve in Ukraine. He also encountered homophobia serving in Russia’s military.

“Soldiers can physically abuse gay people in the army, and it’s understood that there are no laws to protect your rights,” he said.

Many LGBTQ Russians say they feel safer in Kyrgyzstan because the country has far less restrictive laws against LGBTQ people, and there are more resources for the community. But they don’t plan to stay forever.

Inside a library in downtown Bishkek, students sit at tables studying French.

One of the students who takes classes there also left Russia to avoid the draft. He hopes to move to France someday, because he loves the language and culture. He would also like to settle in a country that is more tolerant to LGBTQ people, like France, and where same-sex marriage is legal.

“I’m tired of always holding back the way I want to express myself, because you have to think all the time about whether it’s safe or not,” he said.

Russia passed a law recently that makes any reference to LGBT issues in media, such as movies or books, a criminal offense.

Some Russian politicians and religious leaders say the new law is part of a larger battle with the West that’s playing out in Ukraine. They claim to be protecting Russians from Western values that promote LGBTQ rights and threaten traditional families.

The new legislation against so-called “LGBT propaganda,” along with another recent law that requires many Russian organizations who receive foreign funding to be labeled as “foreign agents,” have both made it much more complicated for prominent groups that defend LGBTQ rights in Russia to keep working.

The man in the library finds this aspect of the laws — linking someone’s sexual identity to the influence of foreign powers in Russia — particularly offensive.

“You can’t be gay just because that’s who you are [according to the law],” he said. “No, it’s because those bad Americans or Europeans somehow seduced you and affected your thinking.”

How exactly the new law will be implemented is unclear. But Polina, a woman who works with the Russian LGBT Network, a human rights organization, said it could have a disproportionate effect on women.

”If a woman in Russia with children starts a relationship with another woman, then she could potentially have her kids taken away,” Polina said.

In theory, the authorities, or an ex-husband, could use the law in court to accuse a  bisexual woman with children of subjecting her kids to illegal, LGBTQ propaganda.

But Polina also said that the law is inspiring change. Lots of Russians who never took part in activism before are getting involved. And although some activists are leaving Russia, she said that the majority stayed to continue their work.

For LGBTQ Russians who do want to leave, the closeness of Central Asia and the visa-free regimes in the former Soviet countries there makes the region one of their best options.

But the fact that countries like Kyrgyzstan have close relations with Russia also worries some people.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, because it’s possible that Russia might ask Kyrgyzstan to deport all Russian men back home,” said the man who previously served in Russia’s military.

Back in Russia, they could potentially be jailed for avoiding the draft. Many LGBTQ Russians are instead biding their time — waiting until they can emigrate somewhere safer.

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Blocking BBC documentary on Gujarat riots goes against India’s democratic values, journalist says

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Blocking BBC documentary on Gujarat riots goes against India's democratic values, journalist says

A new BBC documentary looking at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots has sparked controversy in India. The government is trying to ban it while students and activists are finding ways to watch it in defiance. Rana Ayyub, author of the book "Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up," discussed the situation with The World's host Marco Werman.

The WorldJanuary 26, 2023 · 3:00 PM EST

A security personnel speaks to people from inside the main gate of Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, India, Jan. 25, 2023.

Manish Swarup/AP

A new BBC documentary has sparked controversy across India.

The Indian government has tried to block the film “India: The Modi Question,” which looks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat, where he was the chief minister at the time.

Several students at Jamia Millia Islamia University were arrested ahead of the planned screening. And Jawaharlal Nehru University locked its gates and cut electricity at its New Delhi campus as students gathered for another screening there. When they tried to watch it on laptops and cell phones in defiance, they were attacked by a group of masked men throwing stones at them.

Rana Ayyub, author of the book "Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up," and an opinion columnist with The Washington Post, discussed the documentary and the situation with The World's host Marco Werman.

Marco Werman: Rana, what has the Modi government said about this new BBC documentary and its reason for censoring it?Rana Ayyub: Well, the Foreign Office, when questioned about the revelations made by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, on the Gujarat riots and his observations, has called the BBC documentary a propaganda by colonial minds, who are trying to discredit India and with the documentary. This is why the government of India has asked Twitter to remove Twitter accounts that have shared the link to the documentary. I have only seen the first part of the documentary. I have not been able to see the second part, because a couple of them have put out the links of the documentary, but each time they put out something, it is removed. The government has gone all out not just to censor the documentary, but stop, not just social media platforms, but any organization, any platform, any institution from publicly playing this documentary, and that goes against the very ethics of a democracy.For those of us who don't know much about what happened in Gujarat, take us back briefly to what did go on there in 2002, and what we know for sure about Modi's role during those riots.In 2002, Marco, about 60 Hindus were burned alive in a train, following which there was a decision made by the Modi government to take out the bodies in public. And over a week from that day, more than 1,000 Muslims were massacred. Mr. Modi was held responsible for, not just the lack of law and order, but the fact that the police did not act on time, that nothing was done to stop the attack on the Muslim community. Hate speeches were given in public by Hindu nationalists, and none of those hate speeches were stopped. The highest court in India, the Supreme Court, made an observation that Mr. Modi was like a modern day Nero, who looked the other way as innocent Muslims were massacred over a period of a week in Gujarat.Right. And at the time, Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, which is essentially the governor, right? So, the current battle over this documentary with the national government of Prime Minister Modi banning the film, they used a 2021 emergency law. Do you think the government's security concerns for not showing this film are legitimate?Why would a documentary done by BBC, or for that matter any publication, have to be censored? I think it is a right of every Indian to watch what it wants to. They are guaranteed that right by the constitution of this country, the right of every Indian to watch the documentary and decide for themselves what is right or what is wrong. The Indian government has used emergency powers to stop the screening of a documentary citing national security threats. So, I think this is a very exaggerated claim, especially vis-a-vis a documentary. And ironically, this is what normally happens when you censor something. It is broadly watched and discussed. This documentary is now being watched by almost every Indian who, initially, was indifferent or was not watching it.I would put to you, though, Rana Ayyub, and I know you haven't seen the second episode of this documentary, but it does have some shocking footage, people beaten and killed on camera. We have to ask, what is the purpose of that, if not to anger people. And if it has a potential to stoke tensions, doesn't the prime minister have a prerogative to try and maintain peace in his country?Very, very recently the Indian government actually sanctioned the release of a film called "The Kashmir Files," which has been called by many filmmakers as brazen propaganda of the Hindu right. Now, what happened in Kashmir, the attack on Hindus, was something that happened legitimately. But the movie, the way "The Kashmir Files" was made, was a very Islamophobic way that paints all Muslims as some kind of bloodthirsty villains. The prime minister of India, and this happened years ago, decades ago, but the prime minister of India and the home minister of India, not just endorsed the release of the film, but the prime minister went on record saying that no activist or no journalist should censor this film because it shows the reality of India. So, if it was really a law-and-order concern, then this is a pick-and-choose by the government of India, that it wants to show a certain documentary, but it does not want to show a certain [other] documentary.We need to point out as well that the battle over this documentary is just the latest incident of censorship in India. So, what does free speech and free press look like in your country right now?Well, in a country which calls itself the world's largest democracy, the prime minister of India has not taken a single press conference. One of the reasons why he did not give interviews was that he referred to journalists as "news traders." In a country where 220 million Muslims in the country are routinely under attack by Hindu nationalists; where Hindu nationalists are seen in the national capital taking violent calls for converting India into a Hindu nation; when the prime minister of the country, who is absolutely media savvy, who likes to tweet about everything, does not tweet to ask for an inclusive India, does not tweet for an end to violence, does not take a single press briefing, does not give interviews to mainstream media; when journalists in India are being silenced, I think press freedom, there is no such thing as press freedom in India.Rana, you are a fierce critic of Narendra Modi and how he sees democracy in India, but he's still extremely popular there. Swapan Dasgupta, an Indian politician who was in Modi's party and a former journalist, says in the documentary, "Our democracy may not be perfect, but it keeps on improving. And I think there's enough elbow room for everybody to have opinions, whether they are rational or otherwise." What is your reaction to that idea that India's democracy is improving and there's still room for lots of differing opinions?I really hope Mr. Dasgupta tries to see what's happening on the ground, because this is an idea of democracy that he believes is only on camera, but not otherwise. So, I need to understand what kind of a democracy it is when every day you see violence against the Muslim community in acts that are public? Hindu nationalists are on camera in the presence of police forces, giving hate speeches, asking for a genocide of Muslims. I am trying to understand what is the construct of this democracy when some of India's best-known student activists are behind bars for protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act, which is being brought by the Indian government, a discriminatory [law that] discriminates against Muslims in India. So, honestly, Marco, more than anybody else, I am looking for a semblance of democracy in this country, because I love this country more than I can ever speak about, because I have seen democratic values. And the reason why I, and many journalists like me and activists, are speaking about this, is because we are seeing an erosion of democratic values in a country, which is now heading toward what looks like a fascist state.

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

Related: 'India is a tinderbox': Religious tensions come to a boiling point after brutal murder of Hindu tailor

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Big tobacco is forced to pay for cigarette butt pollution in Spain, but smokers may soon be on the hook

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Big tobacco is forced to pay for cigarette butt pollution in Spain, but smokers may soon be on the hook

They’re tiny, they’re toxic, they’re everywhere. Cigarette butts are a huge source of pollution in Spain and lawmakers have said, enough. They're ordering cigarette makers to pay for the cleanup, but smokers worry they’ll end up footing the bill.

The WorldJanuary 26, 2023 · 11:30 AM EST

Antonio Trujillo holds a cigarette while resting on a bench, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Sept. 25, 2020.

Alvaro Barrientos/AP/File photo

More than a third of Spaniards light up on a daily basis. And when they’re done, many of their cigarette butts land in the street.

“Seven out of 10 cigarette butts in Spain get flicked to the ground,” said Rosa Garcia, the director of a nongovernmental organization called Rezero in Barcelona.

A lot of cigarette butts reach the coast when beachgoers drop them into the sand, she said, adding that more than 25% of the waste collected on Spanish beaches consists of plastic cigarette butts. 

The cost each year to remove the tiny toxic nubs around Spain totals hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Garcia. A Rezero study suggests that it breaks down to anywhere between $15 to $25 per person every year.

“And even if you don’t smoke, you’re still paying for that cleanup — through your taxes,” Garcia said.

A recent decision, however, changed all of that. Spanish lawmakers have said that enough is enough — they passed legislation this month that would require cigarette makers to pay for the cleanup, but smokers worry that they’ll end up footing the bill. 

Cigarette makers declined to speak to The World about their plans. But the most likely scenario is that they will reimburse individual town halls for the costs they already incur in street-cleaning. And smokers are worried that the companies might turn around and hike prices to compensate for the losses. 

Barcelona has issued fines, at least on beaches, charging about $33 for dropping a cigarette butt in the surf. And last year, the city even banned smoking there altogether.

The fine was minimal, but another city initiative could hit smokers harder.

Barcelona’s City Hall is proposing a 20-cent tax per cigarette butt — which would be another $4 per pack, essentially doubling the price — but consumers would get that money back if they turn in the butts. It’s a similar scheme to getting some money back for returning soda cans for recycling.

The logistics for carrying out such a plan are still unclear.

Questions remain as to where people would return the cigarette butts. One logical choice would be at one of Spain’s 16,000 state-licensed tobacco shops, called estancos. But one estanco operator, Dani Perez, said he wouldn’t even touch them.

“In terms of hygiene it’s disgusting,” he said. “I am not going to start counting cigarette butts that have been lying on the ground, or sucked on by others.”

Nor would he have the time to do it, he said.

Cigarette butts are also filled with toxic residue from the tobacco, making them virtually impossible to recycle.

“A single cigarette butt can contaminate up to 1,000 liters [264 gallons] of water,” Garcia of Rezero said. “They are chemical bombs.”

Some startups are experimenting with biodegradable cigarette butts. But as they decompose, they’d still be releasing the dozens of toxic chemicals injected into them.

As far as cleanup goes, tobacco companies have a couple of months to roll out their plans. 

Barcelona resident Andrés Conde, a 56-year-old who smokes, wonders just how companies like Winston, Camel and others will actually tackle the problem.

“What are they going to do, send brigades of tobacco employees moving down the streets of every single Spanish town?” he raised.

If they do end up passing the cost along to consumers, Conde said he knows what he’ll do.

“I won’t pay double for cigarettes,” he said. “That’s nuts. I’m going to emigrate to Latvia.” Conde normally spends his summers there — where, he said, no one would dare to even toss a cigarette butt to the curb.

And anti-smoking activists say there’s really only one longterm, viable plan: it’s not finding a way to deal with dropped cigarette butts, but getting people to quit smoking altogether.

Related: French nonprofit warns 'COVID waste' could harm the environment

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Peru protests reveal ethnic and regional divides 

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Peru protests reveal ethnic and regional divides 

More than 50 people have been killed in southern Peru in protests that broke out in December, and have resulted in street battles between police forces and largely Indigenous groups of protesters who have fought back with rocks, slingshots and homemade rockets.

The WorldJanuary 25, 2023 · 5:45 PM EST

Antigovernment protesters clash with police in Lima, Peru, Jan. 24, 2023. Protesters are seeking the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the release from prison of ousted President Pedro Castillo, immediate elections and justice for demonstrators killed in clashes with police. 

Martin Mejia/AP

After 17 protesters were killed in a single day in her region of Puno, Peru, Margarita Condori packed a suitcase, and traveled with dozens of her neighbors to the capital city of Lima.

On Tuesday, they joined thousands of Indigenous people from Peru’s southern highlands who marched through the city center to demand that the nation’s president resign.

“We feel like we’re living through a dictatorship,” Condori said. “We’re here to demand that they hold new elections, and change the constitution.”

More than 50 people have been killed in southern Peru in protests that broke out in December, and have resulted in street battles between police forces and largely Indigenous groups of protesters who have fought back with rocks, slingshots and homemade rockets.

President Dina Boluarte this week called for a truce. But few have listened to her pleas and continue to stage daily demonstrations in Lima, as well as roadblocks in rural areas that are also hurting the economy.

The protests have turned into a major challenge for Boluarte, who is Peru’s sixth president in as many years. And they highlight how the South American nation’s democracy has been afflicted by corruption scandals and congressional squabbles that have undermined trust in its institutions.

“Boluarte was imposed on us by Congress,” said Margarita Guzman, a resident of Lima who took part in Tuesday’ protest. “It’s like no one cares about our vote.”

The current wave of protests was unleashed by the removal in December of President Pedro Castillo, a leftist teacher and former union leader, who was popular among Indigenous people in Peru’s highlands.

Castillo was facing an impeachment vote in Congress, as well as several corruption investigations. So, in an effort to outmaneuver his political foes, he attempted to dissolve the Legislature and set up an emergency government that would rule by decree until new elections were held.

The military refused to support the move, and Peru’s top court said it was illegal. Within hours of announcing his plans to dissolve Congress, Castillo — an outsider with little experience in national politics — was arrested on rebellion charges and impeached and replaced by his vice president, Boluarte.

Castilllo’s removal was celebrated by his opponents in Congress, and it was largely accepted in Peru’s capital where many had been reluctant to vote for him in the 2021 election.

But it sparked large protests in cities located in Peru’s highlands, such as Cusco, Ayacucho and Puno where the bulk of his voters live.

The former schoolteacher hails from a small village in the Andes mountains and had promised to boost government spending in rural areas. Many members of Peru’s Indigenous minority see him as someone who was finally trying to stand up for them.

“Despite his corruption and his inefficiencies … he was still an Indigenous man from the northern Andes,” said Alonso Gurmendi, a Peruvian politics professor at Oxford University. “And that is important from the point of view of identifying with him in the most-excluded sectors of society.”

“Castillo in a sector of the country was still seen as the least bad of all alternatives,” said Will Freeman, a Princeton University scholar who is writing a book on anti-corruption strategies in Latin America.

“There’s an area of the country which typically leans left, which saw Castillo as a figure who might be involved in corruption, who might be an inefficient manager, but at least he wasn’t a businessman from Lima’s elite.”

After protests turned violent in Peru’s southern highlands, thousands of people from that region decided to travel to the nation’s capital to have their voices heard.

Milagros Rivera took a 16-hour bus ride from the province of Abancay where she’s a subsistence farmer. She said she felt cheated by Castillo’s removal.

“The state has always ignored us,” Rivera said. “We have bad hospitals, we have no schools, we don’t have proper roads to take our products to the market.”

The protesters from Peru’s Andes mountains have also been joined by some Lima residents who are appalled by the recent cases of police violence.

“I’m not from the left or from the right, and I’m not a Castillo supporter,” said construction worker Javier Puman, who carried a banner with a black ribbon on it. “I’m just here because the government is abusing our people, and we feel very hurt by what is happening.”

Boluarte has tried to make peace. In a press conference on Tuesday, she accused criminal groups of using the protests for their own benefit, as rioters in some parts of the country try to burn down government buildings where criminal records are held.

Boluarte also urged people in rural areas to stop staging roadblocks that are hurting sectors such as agriculture and tourism.

“Paralyzing transport, and creating chaos is not going to generate anything positive,” she said. “It’s not going to help us to recover from the economic losses we endured during the pandemic.”

Boluarte is trying to meet with local governors and mayors to discuss regional priorities and set out new development plans. But some say she needs to go further.

Gurmendi, the Oxford professor, said it's time for the government to set up town hall meetings with communities that have long been marginalized. These venues are known as cabildos in Peru, and they’re places where everyone can express their grievances.

“These protests can be demobilized by an act of contrition from the country’s elite,” Gurmendi argued. “To [admit] things haven’t worked. And we need to have a change in tune.”

While Peru has reduced its poverty rate by more than 25% since the 1990s and overcome problems such as hyperinflation and terrorist attacks, many Indigenous people are still finding it hard to access high-quality jobs and social services.

In the streets of Lima, some protesters said that they had lost faith in the current government’s ability to do anything meaningful for this minority, which makes up around a quarter of the nation’s population.

“We are going to be staging protests, until the president resigns,” said economics student Jose Raul Capablanca. “And until the people can choose their own destiny.”

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Court orders Canada to take back its citizens from camps in Syria

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Court orders Canada to take back its citizens from camps in Syria

A court in Canada has ordered the government to repatriate 23 of its citizens who have been detained in camps for suspected ISIS members and their families in northeastern Syria. If not challenged, this would be the largest repatriation of Canadians from Syria so far.

The WorldJanuary 25, 2023 · 4:15 PM EST

Kimberly Gwen Polman, a Canadian national, reads a letter at camp Roj in Syria, April 3, 2019. Polman came to the ISIS caliphate to join her new husband, a man she knew only from online. She was returned to Canada in 2019. Human rights advocates are working to help repatriate 23 Canadians being detained in camps in Syria.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP

When Alexandra Bain heard the news that the 23 Canadians detained in camps in northeastern Syria could be coming home soon, she was shocked and delighted.

“I am really, really happy for all Canadians,” she said. “Because the focus of the judge’s decision has implications for all Canadians. You have the right to return home.”

Bain heads a group called Families Against Violent Extremism, which has been working with families of a group of Canadians held in Syria for the past four years.

The 19 women and children as well as four men have been held in camps and prisons on suspicion of involvement with ISIS but none have been charged with a crime.

Their families filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government in 2021, arguing that it is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not repatriating their loved ones.

Since 2019, Canada has argued that it can’t take its citizens back from Syria because the detention camps there are too dangerous, and its diplomats are unable to travel there.

But last Thursday, the lawsuit was settled out of court, the families’ lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, told the CBC.

Greenspon did not respond to The World’s request for comment.

Bain said the judge’s ruling takes into consideration what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said — that a Canadian is a Canadian.

“He takes it back to the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Canadian constitution of 1867 and our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under section 6, which gives all Canadians the right to return to Canada,” Bain said.

Countries have been more accepting of bringing back women and children but not men. In this case, the federal court instructed the government to take the men back.

"The conditions of the […] men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate," the decision reads.

"There is no evidence any of them have been tried or convicted, let alone tried in a manner recognized or sanctioned by international law."

The government can appeal the decision. But if it stands, the Canadians are coming home.

The court order marks a significant victory for the families, said Letta Tayler of Human Rights Watch, and it could be a pivotal moment for similar cases elsewhere.

“This ruling could open the door for repatriations of all the men from Canada who are held in northeastern Syria, but also could set a precedent for other courts in other parts of the world to also tell governments they must bring home all their nationals,” she said.

Tayler said that there are still nearly 42,000 people from 60 different countries living in these camps, which are run by Kurdish authorities.

“So, this major step forward by Canada does not mean that this global detention crisis has been solved,” she added.

Tayler has documented conditions in the detention camps for her organization and she describes them as dire. In a report from last December, she said that hundreds of detainees have died from malnutrition, disease and violence. Children have died in tent fires, and they face threats of sexual harassment.

Last year, ISIS supporters stormed one of the prisons in northeastern Syria, prompting Kurdish authorities to respond.

It took 10 days of battle and the help of the US and British forces to take back control of the prison. More than 500 people were killed, including prisoners and several children.

Bain of Families Against Violent Extremism said it has taken Canada far too long to take action to bring back its citizens.

“I think it’s entirely political,” she said.

The repatriation of suspected ISIS families is controversial. Some argue that they must never be allowed back home. The UK, for example, has stripped the citizenship of one woman, Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria in 2015, when she was 15.

But human rights groups say governments should take responsibility for their citizens.

They say they should repatriate them, and prosecute those suspected of committing crimes.

"It's clear that the Canadian government has the ability to bring our Canadians home, and where there is evidence to believe they've committed an offense, charge them and prosecute them," lawyer Greenspon told CBC's Canada Tonight host Dwight Drummond.

According to Bain, this group returning to Canada will receive support from experts in child psychiatry. The children will be sent home with relatives: “the grandmothers and aunties and uncles or whoever is meeting them.”

“And then, the detainees will be dealt with by our security services and in the court,” Bain explained, adding that while the adults go through legal proceedings, they will likely be wearing ankle bracelets to monitor their whereabouts. Some might have to serve sentences, she said.

So far, no date has been set for their return.

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In Turkey, refugee children face hurdles to school enrollment

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>In Turkey, refugee children face hurdles to school enrollment

Many Syrian families in Turkey face school enrollment challenges due to a Turkish law that says no more than 30% of schoolchildren in a single class can be foreigners. Families in border cities like Gaziantep say their children are being turned away with few alternatives.

The WorldJanuary 25, 2023 · 1:15 PM EST

Syrian children who are refugees in Turkey face many barriers to learning. 

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

Warda Haydar was trying to enroll her daughter, Baylasan, for the fifth grade in a Turkish school, when the principal told her it would be impossible. 

He told the mother of two from Damascus, Syria, that the school already had “too many” foreign students.

“We begged him,” Haydar said. “My husband went to the school manager every day.”

The Haydar family’s school enrollment challenge stems from a Turkish law that says no more than 30% of schoolchildren in a single class can be foreigners.

Baylasan’s school is in Gaziantep, a Turkish city near the Syrian border, with a particularly high number of Syrian residents. According to the headmaster, this particular school already had too many non-Turkish students. 

Even though Baylasan had studied here for three years, she would now have to be bussed to a different school, in a neighborhood on the other side of town.

“She is the only Syrian student in her class,” Haydar said. “They placed one Syrian student in every class, and the rest are Turkish. The school is good, but the distance is long, which is the main problem.”

Haydar said that the long commute means her daughter returns well past 7 p.m. The bus drops her off in a neighborhood that her mother fears is unsafe for a 10 year old, alone, after dark. The school was supposed to provide free transportation, she said, but the bus driver soon started charging hundreds of liras per child — about a quarter of an average rent payment. He relented after parents protested, but the situation remains uncertain. 

Kids Rainbow is located in one of Gaziantep’s poorest neighborhoods, where many kids get pulled out of school to help their families. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

As the Syrian civil war enters its 13th year, more than half of the country’s population remains displaced. About 3.5 million Syrians have sought shelter in neighboring Turkey, which continues to struggle to accommodate them. About a third of Syrian children living in Turkey are not currently attending school, according to UNICEF. 

After an initial warm welcome to Syrian refugees, Turks slowly realized that the West would not accept large numbers of refugees from Syria, and ublic opinion soured toward new arrivals. 

Current government policies discourage Syrians from prolonged stays in Turkey. And bureaucratic hurdles make it difficult for Syrian families to attend schools, visit hospitals, or even travel without permission beyond the borders of provinces in which they are registered.

In this Thursday, June 2, 2016, photo, a Syrian refugee child works at a copper workshop in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey. 

Credit:

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Not every school enforces the 30% rule, but Türk Eğitim-Sen, a Turkish teacher’s union, has advocated for more schools to do so.

“If there are more than 30% of foreign students, it causes issues with a language barrier for both the teachers and the class,” said Bekir Avan, the head of Türk Eğitim-Sen’s Gaziantep branch.

In a survey last year, his organization found that out of 1,352 schools in the Gaziantep area, fewer than 40 schools enrolled a student body consisting of more than 30% of foreign students. But within those schools, as many as 80% of students in some classes are refugees.

“We have to consider the right to education for all students. The Turkish students and foreign students,” Avan said. “We’re very sensitive to this.”

At a community center called Kid Rainbow in Gaziantep, Syrian kids take a variety of classes held in a mix of Arabic, English and Turkish. Their learning programs are designed to help them better integrate into Turkish schools while still maintaining their mother tongue. 

Syrian filmmaker Mustafa Kara Ali and Hibah Jahjah, his wife, took over Kids Rainbow from a friend in 2020

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

Syrian filmmaker Mustafa Kara Ali and Hibah Jahjah, his wife, took over Kids Rainbow from a friend in 2020. They reestablished the project in one of Gaziantep’s poorest neighborhoods and run it entirely on international donations.

“We saw so many children out of school. Selling flowers, cleaning cars on the street,” Kara Ali said. “We’re not a school, just a safe place for children to play, do some activities.”

Hibah Jahjah interacts with children at Kids Rainbow, an alternative learning space. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

The program quickly grew beyond capacity, requiring a new building. Of the 120 students who regularly attend Kids Rainbow, a third are not attending school. Another 100 students, Kara Ali said, are on a waiting list.

After speaking to parents, Jahjah realized that many Syrian children were dropping out of school because their families’ residence permits are tied to another province, effectively barring them from local schools in Gaziantep. Others were bullied in class, making going to school unbearable. Still others had their own behavioral issues — many had lost family members or had traumatic experiences during the war.

“They feel excluded, like they don’t fit in,” Jahjah said. “Often they lash out. And once your kid hits a Turkish kid – or even the opposite – Turkish teachers say they’re no longer welcome in class.”

Hibah Jahjah says Syrian children who are refugees often feel excluded from society. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

A few months ago, after nearby schools began to implement the 30% rule, Kids Rainbow received a rush of new students.  

Jahjah said a lot of parents simply took their kids out entirely rather than have them bussed to other schools. Dozens of new students came to Kids Rainbow as an alternative, straining its capacity as a small nonprofit. 

Projects like Kids Rainbow are a band-aid, not a solution, Jahjah said. 

“We can’t give them any kind of certificate that they graduated,” she said. “All we can do is support them, and teach them, and try to make it a little easier.”

Mustafa Kara Ali plays a game with students at Kids Rainbow. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

Despite the hurdles, many of the students have enthusiastic ideas about their futures — to become a math teacher, a professional soccer player or a newscaster. 

Before afternoon classes, Jahjah leads the kids in a group game of “keep away,” with a rubber ball. Some stand off to the side, a bit wary. But eventually, everyone gets involved.

Her goal for Kids Rainbow is to be a place where kids feel safe, and wanted. And in that, she’s surely succeeded.

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Random rules: Part II

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Random rules: Part II

Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive this week into Ahrar al-Sham, one faction in the Syrian war, and the strategies it used to manage alliances among other rebel factions.

The WorldJanuary 25, 2023 · 3:00 PM EST

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, photo, a Free Syrian Army fighter from Shams al-Shamal heads to the front line in Kobani, Syria. 

Jake Simkin/AP

This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly foreign policy newsletter from Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

A rebel alliance can be self-explanatory, the purity of rebellion enough to cohere together a popular insurgent front. But, in the messiness of real life, the messiness of rebellion is a hobbling force, with ideological divisions keeping apart factions that should, by all appearances, be natural allies.

In “Same Same but Different? Ideological Differentiation and Intra-jihadist Competition in the Syrian Civil War,” Regine Schwab examines Ahrar al-Sham, one faction in the Syrian war, and what strategies it used to manage alliances among other rebel factions.

While violence is certainly one strategy rebel groups can employ against rival groups, it carries a high cost. For example, ammunition used against another rebel group can't be used to fight the government both groups seek to topple. After all, ammunition is a scarce resource. Moreover, killing fighters of another rebel faction also depletes strength.

“Differentiation also has consequences for other audiences such as local civilians, prospective recruits, and external supporters,” Schwab writes.

“Local civilians suffer from rebel infighting as they might get into the crossline or be consciously targeted. Hence, they should prefer nonviolent ways of managing conflict. When groups take a large ideological distance from each other, it is easier for prospective local and foreign recruits to choose their preferred group. While nonstate external sponsors might prefer to support the most radical rebel outlet, state sponsors often choose a more moderate option.”

In Syria, ideological differentiation proved a valuable strategy for Ahrar al-Sham, especially as ISIS occupied a radical extreme of the spectrum. For people looking to combat the Assad government but not driven to the same hardline rules and beliefs as ISIS, Ahrar al-Sham was a path into the fight.

In parsing out how groups occupy ideological space, Schwab sets out two axes: a territorial perspective and a social-political outlook. Territory ranged from national or those seeking to limit the war to smaller geographic confines, and transnational, like ISIS’s vision of Syria and Iraq as both under one rule. 

On the pragmatic end of the social scale, Schwab writes, “groups prefer integration with society and see fitna (civil strife) as detrimental to their cause. Hence, they are willing to work with actors that do not share their creed.” This is in contrast to purist groups, which took an expansive definition of takfir or declaring other Muslims "infidels."

Ahrar al-Sham was able, especially in 2013-2014, to differentiate itself from ISIS by emphasizing its nationalist credentials and broader ideological umbrella. However, this was not a particularly moderate vision, as al-Sham regularly proclaimed Afghanistan’s Taliban as the model for its desired program. Yet, those same moves left it vulnerable against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which after the fall of ISIS, was able to supplant Ahrar al-Sham as the main rebel force in the country.

“By analyzing the puzzling case of Ahrar al-Sham that emerged both as a winner and a loser of intra-jihadist competition in Syria, the paper finds that ideological differentiation is used when military constraints or ideological similarity preclude the initiation of violence against rivals,” Schwab concludes.

Related: Random rules: Part I

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Taiwan and China celebrate Lunar New Year amid vastly different COVID levels

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Taiwan and China celebrate Lunar New Year amid vastly different COVID levels

Taiwan has reopened to international travel, and has lifted some other restrictions, as people celebrate Lunar New Year with family and friends.

The WorldJanuary 24, 2023 · 3:00 PM EST

Many Taipei residents visit the city's historic Dihua Street to buy goods for the Lunar New Year.

Ashish Valentine/The World

At the Jiang household in Taiwan’s western city of Taichung, the Lunar New Year means hearty meals, gifts of hong bao — red envelopes with money inside — and long games of mahjong.

Jiang Du-Hsin, 86, said that being able to be together with family again this year for the holiday that started on Jan. 22, and will last until Feb. 1, has been an edifying experience.

“It’s good for us. It’s a tradition,” Jiang said. “All of us are very happy to be together.”

Jiang Du-Hsin, grandfather of the Jiang family (right), along with his wife, Bai Yue-Qin.

Credit:

Courtesy of Jiang Du-Hsin

Lunar New Year celebrations have kicked off in China, Taiwan and across the Asia-Pacific region.

In China, the holiday marks one of the world’s largest mass migrations, with many of the country’s 1.4 billion-strong population heading from cities back to their family homes. And it has public health experts fearing that China’s ongoing wave of COVID-19 could get much worse.

In Taiwan, however, cases of the coronavirus have been relatively low for a while, with many people feeling much safer celebrating the holiday there.

Jiang, who had COVID-19 about a month ago, said he's pleased with how Taiwan handled the pandemic. He’s 86, and has had four COVID-19 shots.

“More than 90% of our population has [COVID-19] injections,” Jiang said. “I don’t think that COVID-19 is a big problem for the Taiwanese people.”

Almost 9 out of every 10 Taiwanese people have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine — and about three-quarters have had at least one booster. Taiwan hasn’t faced the same concerns as in neighboring China, where the Lunar New Year travel comes amid lagging vaccination rates among the elderly.

Jason Wang, a health policy expert at Stanford University, said it’s unlikely that the health system in Taiwan will be overwhelmed.

“If somebody were to get COVID[-19] … you could just use telehealth and go to a designated pharmacy to get antivirals,” Wang said.

He said that the situation in Taiwan is also different from in China because of how it eased restrictions and reopened to international travel.

Lin Yu-San sells traditional snacks on Dihua Street. She says more people are visiting the street this year thanks to fewer concerns about COVID-19.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“Taiwan has had a checklist to manage the potential chaos of reopening,” Wang explained. “It was staged, phase-by-phase, to gradually relax restrictions.”

The process included waiting until vaccination rates were high enough, stocks of booster shots and antivirals were on hand, and the country had good levels of hospital and telehealth capacity.

Restricted travel

Even prior to the pandemic in 2019, travel between China and Taiwan was already restricted. As a result, even now, Taiwan isn’t seeing the same numbers of visitors from China as neighboring countries.

Given the rise in infections in China, Wang said that Taiwanese public health authorities are concerned about emerging new variants.

Many Taipei residents visit the city's historic Dihua Street to buy goods for the Lunar New Year.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“One of the things that Taiwan’s government has already done is to monitor travelers from China, and to study the variants of travelers from China, compared to travelers from elsewhere,” Wang said. 

But he added that Taiwanese officials haven't yet detected any variants of significant concern.

In a speech a few weeks ago, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen offered support to China in dealing with its new COVID-19 wave. 

A woman shops ahead of Lunar New Year on Dihua Street in Taipei, Taiwan.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“We are aware that the pandemic situation has recently become more serious in China,” Tsai said. “If need be, we are willing, out of humanitarian concern, to provide necessary assistance to help more people get through the pandemic and enjoy good health and peace of mind in the new year.”

Claire Hollants contributed reporting from Taichung.

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As COVID-19 cases ease up, people in Taiwan can finally travel to see family for the Lunar New Year

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>As COVID-19 cases ease up, people in Taiwan can finally travel to see family for the Lunar New Year

In Taiwan, cases of the coronavirus have been relatively low for a while, with many people feeling safe celebrating the holiday there this year.

The WorldJanuary 24, 2023 · 3:00 PM EST

Many Taipei residents visit the city's historic Dihua Street to buy goods for the Lunar New Year.

Ashish Valentine/The World

At the Jiang household in Taiwan’s western city of Taichung, the Lunar New Year means hearty meals, gifts of hong bao — red envelopes with money inside — and long games of mahjong.

Jiang Du-Hsin, 86, said that being able to be together with family again this year for the holiday that started on Jan. 22, and will last until Feb. 1, has been edifying after being kept apart during the pandemic.

“It’s good for us. It’s a tradition,” Jiang said. “All of us are very happy to be together.”

Jiang Du-Hsin, grandfather of the Jiang family (right), along with his wife, Bai Yue-Qin.

Credit:

Courtesy of Jiang Du-Hsin

Lunar New Year celebrations have kicked off in China, Taiwan and across the Asia-Pacific region.

In China, the holiday marks one of the world’s largest mass migrations, with many of the country’s 1.4 billion-strong population heading from cities back to their family homes. And it has public health experts fearing that China’s ongoing wave of COVID-19 could get much worse.

In Taiwan, however, cases of the coronavirus have been relatively low for a while, with many people feeling much safer celebrating the holiday there.

Jiang, who had COVID-19 about a month ago, said he's pleased with how Taiwan handled the pandemic. He’s 86, and has had four COVID-19 shots.

“More than 90% of our population has [COVID-19] injections,” Jiang said. “I don’t think that COVID-19 is a big problem for the Taiwanese people.”

Almost 9 out of every 10 Taiwanese people have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine — and about three-quarters have had at least one booster. Taiwan hasn’t faced the same concerns as in neighboring China, where the Lunar New Year travel comes amid lagging vaccination rates among the elderly.

Jason Wang, a health policy expert at Stanford University, said it’s unlikely that the health system in Taiwan will be overwhelmed.

“If somebody were to get COVID[-19] … you could just use telehealth and go to a designated pharmacy to get antivirals,” Wang said.

He said that the situation in Taiwan is also different from in China because of how it reopened to the public.

Lin Yu-San sells traditional snacks on Dihua Street. She says more people are visiting the street this year thanks to fewer concerns about COVID-19.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“Taiwan has had a checklist to manage the potential chaos of reopening,” Wang explained. “It was staged, phase-by-phase, to gradually relax restrictions.”

The process included waiting until vaccination rates were high enough, stocks of booster shots and antivirals were on hand, and the country had good levels of hospital and telehealth capacity.

Restricted travel

Even prior to the pandemic in 2019, travel between China and Taiwan was already restricted. As a result, even now, Taiwan isn’t seeing the same numbers of visitors from China as neighboring countries.

Given the rise in infections in China, Wang said that Taiwanese public health authorities are concerned about emerging new variants.

Many Taipei residents visit the city's historic Dihua Street to buy goods for the Lunar New Year.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“One of the things that Taiwan’s government has already done is to monitor travelers from China, and to study the variants of travelers from China, compared to travelers from elsewhere,” Wang said. 

But he added that Taiwanese officials haven't yet detected any variants of significant concern.

In a speech a few weeks ago, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen offered support to China in dealing with its new COVID-19 wave. 

A woman shops ahead of Lunar New Year on Dihua Street in Taipei, Taiwan.

Credit:

Ashish Valentine/The World

“We are aware that the pandemic situation has recently become more serious in China,” Tsai said. “If need be, we are willing, out of humanitarian concern, to provide necessary assistance to help more people get through the pandemic and enjoy good health and peace of mind in the new year.”
 

Claire Hollants contributed reporting from Taichung.

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Email AddressEmail AddressSubscribeI have read and agree to your Privacy Policy.Related ContentThe cheating scandal rocking the chess world These Indigenous female skateboarders are breaking stereotypes in BoliviaAfter years of conflict and rebuilding, Mosul University's Central Library marks new beginning  Ghana’s fantasy coffins: Fulfilling burial dreams one coffin at a time 

Chinese musician works to revive the gehu instrument

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Chinese musician works to revive the gehu instrument

Yuxin Wu, a second-generation gehu player at the Berklee College of Music, is on a mission to revive the Chinese string instrument with its unique vibrational sound.

The WorldJanuary 24, 2023 · 1:30 PM EST

Yuxin Wu plays the Chinese gehu string instrument. 

Courtesy of Yuxin Wu

The Chinese gehu instrument is slowly making a comeback after years spent in obscurity. 

The gehu was introduced in the early 20th century, when, after years of influence from Western orchestras, China outlawed Western music in favor of Chinese instruments. But by the late 20th century, the string instrument had nearly disappeared from Chinese ethnic orchestras, getting replaced, again, by the cello. 

An up-close image of the gehu string instrument. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Yuxin Wu

Now, the gehu is mostly used by musicians in the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and Yuxin Wu, a second-generation gehu player at Boston's Berklee College of Music, who is on a mission to revive it. 

"It doesn't have a very great or healthy industry environment," Wu said.

In China, there are not enough teachers for students to learn the instrument, so those looking to learn how to play the gehu are usually self-taught.

"I'm just trying to discover different styles and techniques on different kinds of stages and orchestras," Wu said.

The gehu has four strings, a fingerboard and a horizontal cylinder, and it’s played with a bow. Its sound is deep, bright, round and rich, with a wide range of notes.

As a relative of the stringed erhu instrument, it fills the need for a lower-pitched instrument in the orchestra.

"The principle of the vibration is quite different from the cello," Wu said. 

That’s because the instrument is wrapped in snakeskin, creating a vibrational sound that differs from the wood of a cello. The string vibrates through a barrel on the outer bridge that connects to the python skin on the inner bridge, amplifying the vibration. 

Wu said the gehu’s tone integrates with the Chinese orchestra better than the Western cello and double bass.

So far, Wu has incorporated the sounds of the gehu into both Western and Chinese symphonies, pop, jazz, and heavy metal bands. He hopes to create better education on the instrument, including how to play it, build it and maintain it.

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New Cate Blanchett film ‘Tár’ divides opinion among female conductors 

“MuiTypography-root-239 jss217 MuiTypography-h1-244″>New Cate Blanchett film 'Tár' divides opinion among female conductors The WorldJanuary 23, 2023 · 3:30 PM EST

Alice Farnham, one of Britain’s leading conductors, has seen the new Cate Blanchett movie, “Tár,” twice, the first time after the film’s lead actor asked her to watch it.

Blanchett plays the role of Lydia Tár, a world-class conductor appointed to lead a major ensemble in Berlin.

Farnham said that she thought that the film was fascinating, but the character of Tár is clearly fictional: “Lydia Tár [Blanchett’s character] is pretty monstrous but I don't know any female conductors like that, thankfully.”

Alice Farnham is one of Britain’s leading conductors.

Credit:

Maryam Barari

Blanchett is tipped to win her third Oscar for her performance in "Tár," but the film has divided opinion in the world of classical music and shone a spotlight on the continuing dearth of women leading major orchestras worldwide.

Marin Alsop, the world-renowned US conductor, has described the film as “offensive” and “anti-woman.” To finally have a female conductor played onscreen by an actor like Blanchett, and then, to see her depicted as an abuser, Alsop said, was heartbreaking to watch.

Blanchett herself has defended the storyline in press interviews following Alsop’s criticism. The actor said she expected the film to elicit a lot of strong responses from people but the movie "is a meditation on power, and power is genderless."

A dearth of women conductors

Farnham said that for herself, the movie is less about conducting and more a reflection on power and the abuse of it.

She said it’s hard to imagine “Tár” being made even 10 years ago because back then, no one would have believed a woman could be musical director of one of the world’s top orchestras. Farnham said that she is acutely aware of how things have changed for conductors over the last decade. And, she has just published a new book, “In Good Hands: The Making of a Modern Conductor,” on the subject.

Farnham started out in the early 1990s when there were only a handful of professional female conductors in Britain, including the likes of Sian Edwards and Jane Glover.

Twenty years later, Farnham realized, almost nothing had changed. A report in 2015 found that 1.4% of conductors leading professional orchestras in the UK were women. In the US, it’s no better.

For years, Alsop was the only female musical director among the 25 largest ensembles in the United States. When her tenure at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ended in 2021, that figure dropped to zero.

Later that year, Nathalie Stutzmann was appointed as the new music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, making her the second-ever female conductor of a major US ensemble.

The hurdles women conductors face

In 2013, Farnham decided to make an effort to address the problem, establishing workshops to encourage women to try conducting. She began mentoring young female conductors, including Galway-based musician Sinead Hayes. Today, Hayes leads the Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, a contemporary music group in Belfast, and she conducts classical music orchestras across Ireland.

Sinead Hayes leads the Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, a contemporary music group in Belfast, and she conducts classical music orchestras across Ireland.

Credit:

Neil Harrison

Farnham said that for some women, confidence can be part of the problem. Becoming a professional conductor is an arduous journey and mistakes are often highly visible because a musical director can only truly hone their skills in front of an orchestra and an audience.

Sometimes, Farnham said, this public humiliation can turn women off the idea of putting themselves out there.

Hayes, of the Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, said that she blames the gatekeepers — those who decide who gets selected for a music course, or later, who gets to lead an orchestra that will often make or break a conductor’s career.

Hayes said some gatekeepers see women conductors as a risky bet and resort to the stereotype of the male maestro. She has seen friends take time off to have children, and some managers see that as a potential loss of money for the ensemble.

But slowly, attitudes are changing, she said. Hayes has now developed her own teaching workshops known as the Sandbox Conducting Sessions to train the next generation of conductors in Ireland, regardless of gender, age or socio-economic background.

Philadelphia-based conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson is familiar with how gatekeepers can change the trajectory of a conductor’s career. In 2007, Johnson, who's African American, applied for the role of music director to a number of orchestras in the US.

Philadelphia-based conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson is shown from her time with the Sao Paulo Municipal Orchestra.

Credit:

Rafael Salvador

She wasn’t successful but after the audition, the chair of the search committee offered her some feedback.

“He said,‘You just don't look like what our orchestra expects the maestro to look like,’” she said. 

Johnson said that she was outraged but she now appreciates his honesty because it gave her the impetus to start her own orchestra. Today, Johnson leads the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia, with musicians from around the world.

She said that she believes that the diversity of her performers attracts a more diverse audience.

“Having Black conductors on the podium, having Latin women on the podium, having African American women on the podium, that sends the message that this music is for you,” she said.

Not the 'white guy in the tuxedo'

Johnson also conducts orchestras across the United States and Europe, but she said audiences can still appear taken aback when she walks up on stage. Particularly at opera performances where the orchestra and musical director are usually out of sight.

Johnson said when she goes up on stage for her final bow, the audience sometimes stops clapping because they aren’t sure who she is.

“I'm not, you know, the white guy in the tuxedo,” she said.

“They don't know who I am until they see the stick. And then they're like, ‘Oh, she was the conductor,’” Johnson said.

Farnham said that in spite of her efforts to encourage younger women to take up the baton, she is conscious of not being pigeonholed.

“Society often assigns you the role of nurturer when you are a female conductor,” she said, adding, “It's something I'm very mindful of but I still want to be taken seriously as a professional conductor as well, because after all that’s what I am.”

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This beloved Bollywood film gets a new life on Broadway

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>This beloved Bollywood film gets a new life on Broadway

The 1995 Bollywood film “Dilwale Duhania Le Jayenge,” or "DDLJ," is the longest-running film in India’s history, screening daily for 27 years. Now, the irresistible love story is heading to Broadway.

The WorldJanuary 23, 2023 · 2:00 PM EST

An audience watches actors Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol on the big screen.

Justin Nisly/The World

Every day, hundreds of people line up at an iconic single-screen movie theater in central Mumbai, not to see the latest blockbuster, but a beloved Bollywood classic released in 1995.

For 27 years, the Maratha Mandir theater has played “Dilwale Duhania Le Jayenge,” or “The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride,” daily at 11:30 a.m. for legions of adoring fans. Many Indians affectionately refer to the film as “DDLJ,” for short.

Fans line up to see "DDLJ" at this Mumbai theater. 

Credit:

Justin Nisly/The World

DDLJ is the longest-running film in India’s history. Celebrated for its likable main characters, picturesque international locations and depictions of a rapidly-modernizing India, the film quickly became a hit. Nearly three decades later, it’s these same qualities that draw people to the theater each day.

“Literally at home, I have already watched this movie almost 270 times,” moviegoer Sanket Salve said. He traveled seven hours by train to watch the film on the big screen, and was excited to laugh, clap and cheer along with hundreds of other fans.

Aside from a brief pause due to COVID-19, audiences have been coming each day to the theater to experience the joy and catharsis of this film. In mid-December last year, a sign in front of the theater said it had been running for 1,354 weeks and counting.

Two attendees show off their tickets. 

Credit:

Justin Nisly/The World

DDLJ tells the story of traditional, good-girl Simran, and Casanova-type, party boy, Raj. They fall in love while vacationing with friends in Europe, and must find a way to stay together, despite strong objections from Simran’s father. The movie turned actors Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan into superstars.

College student Akshata Pawar said that she loves “the romance, the songs that this movie has given to all of us. They are just, wow,” noting the chemistry between the two stars.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol have gone on to work in several other classic films together, but DDLJ is arguably the most beloved.

A changing India 

In addition to its charismatic young stars, the film is known for capturing the Indian zeitgeist in the mid-1990s – from fashion trends to its inclusion of the Indian diaspora.

Rajinder Dudrah, a cultural studies professor at Birmingham City University in England, said that DDLJ “encapsulates India on the verge of change — technologically, economically, culturally, but also India on the verge in relation to its NRI [Non-Resident Indian] population.”

Moviegoers take a selfie with the iconic DDLJ poster. 

Credit:

Justin Nisly/The World

By this time, many people with NRI status were living across Europe and North America. They could identify with the tension of remaining true to traditional Indian roots, while also exploring the world.

And for those in India, the scenes set in Europe fed into growing middle-class aspirations.  

“You didn’t have to be uber-rich, you didn’t have to be highly rich, but you could be rich in a middle-class or upwardly mobile way to have these fantasies of wanting to go abroad,” Dudrah said. “And DDLJ certainly helped with those aspirations and those fantasies.”

From hit to classic

In today’s context, some of DDLJ’s scenes read as outdated and even patriarchal, like when Raj tricks Simran into believing they slept together. When she dissolves into tears, he assures her that her respect and honor remain intact — because nothing happened between them.

Many other scenes capture a blossoming romance filled with light-hearted bickering and pranks. 

Moviegover Jeevan Kattamuri said that his favorite song is also the most well-known: “Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam,” which describes the “crazy” feeling of falling in love.  

Perhaps the most memorable sequence comes at the end of the film. After it appears that Simran’s father will never approve of them as a couple, Raj boards a train to leave. Simran begs her father to let go of her wrist so that she can join him.

And just as it seems that all hope is lost, Simran’s father relents, saying: “Ja Simran, Ja. Jee Le Apni Zindagi,” or “Go, Simran, go. Live your life.”

Simran races after the moving train. The music pulses until their hands clasp together and Raj pulls her to him.

According to the theater’s executive director Manoj Desai, a key part of the film’s longevity is the ticket prices. Only 30 to 40 rupees, or .37 to .50 cents. For three hours of epic romance, it’s a steal. And Desai has no plans to end the run.

“[As long as] the public comes like this, I’ll keep running this,” Desai said. “We don’t bother for, you know, profit.”

The Maratha Mandir theater can seat hundreds. 

Credit:

Justin Nisly/The World

 A new life on stage

DDLJ might have even more international fans. The film’s director, Aditya Chopra, has adapted the story for the American stage, calling it “Come Fall in Love: The DDLJ Musical.” After an extended run at the Old Globe theater in San Diego, California, the team aims to move to Broadway soon.

Back in Mumbai, the matinee screening of the film will keep running at the Maratha Mandir. So, there are plenty more opportunities for moments like this one between Pawar and her college friend.

“She was laughing, she was screaming with me,” Pawar said. “We were dancing! We danced, we danced. We loved it.”

They said they would try to come again the very next day.

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Lights out in Pakistan as energy-saving move backfires

“MuiTypography-root-239 jss217 MuiTypography-h1-244″>Lights out in Pakistan as energy-saving move backfiresAssociated PressJanuary 23, 2023 · 10:00 AM EST

Shopkeepers and workers wait for electric power at a market following a power breakdown across the country, in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 23, 2023.

K.M. Chaudary/AP

Much of Pakistan was left without power Monday as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the country's economic crisis.

It all started when electricity was turned off during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel across the country, officials said, leaving technicians unable to boot up the system all at once after daybreak. The outage was reminiscent of a massive blackout in January 2021, attributed at the time to a technical fault in Pakistan's power generation and distribution system.

Many major cities, including the capital of Islamabad, and remote towns and villages across Pakistan were in darkness as authorities struggled to make even partial restorations of the power supply.

As the outage continued into Monday night, authorities deployed additional police at markets around the country to provide security.

The nationwide electricity breakdown left many people without drinking water as pumps powered by electricity failed to work. Schools, hospitals, factories and shops were without power amid the harsh winter weather.

Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir told local media Monday that engineers were working to restore power across the country and tried to reassure the nation that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours.

According to the minister, electricity usage typically goes down overnight during winter — unlike summer months when Pakistanis turn to air conditioning, seeking a respite from the heat.

“As an economic measure, we temporarily shut down our power generation systems" Sunday night, Dastgir said. When engineers tried to turn the systems back on, a “fluctuation in voltage" was observed, which “forced engineers to shut down the power grid" stations one by one.

Dastgir insisted the outage did not constitute a major crisis and that electricity was being restored in phases. In many places and key businesses and institutions, including hospitals, military and government facilities, backup generators kicked in.

By late afternoon Monday, Dastgir told reporters at another press conference that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered a probe into the outage.

“We are hoping that the supply of electricity will be fully restored tonight,” he said, adding that everything was being done to achieve this.

Karachi, the country's largest city and economic hub, was without power Monday, as were other key cities, such as Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore.

In Lahore, a closing notice was posted on the Orange Line metro stations, with rail workers guarding the sites and trains parked on the rails. It was unknown when the metro system would be restored.

Imran Rana, a spokesperson for Karachi's power supply company, said the government's priority was to restore power to strategic facilities, including hospitals and airports.

Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org said network data showed a significant decline in internet access in Pakistan that was attributed to the power outage. It said metrics indicate that connectivity was at 60% of ordinary levels as many users struggled to get online Monday.

Pakistan gets at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while nearly 27% of the electricity is generated by hydropower. The contribution of nuclear and solar power to the nation's grid is about 10%.

Pakistan is grappling with one of the country's worst economic crisis in recent years amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. That has compelled the government to order shopping malls and markets closed by 8:30 p.m. to conserve energy.

Talks are underway with the International Monetary Fund to soften some conditions on Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout, which the government thinks will trigger further inflation hikes. The IMF released the last crucial tranche of $1.1 billion to Islamabad in August.

Since then, talks between the two parties have oscillated due to Pakistan's reluctance to impose new tax measures.

By Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed. Jon Gambrell in Dubai, UAE, contributed to this report.

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Shakira’s latest hit slamming her ex breaks records for Latin artists on YouTube

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Shakira's latest hit slamming her ex breaks records for Latin artists on YouTube

Shakira's release this week shot up to the top of the charts. It's a scathing breakup song with her ex: Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué.

The WorldJanuary 20, 2023 · 3:15 PM EST

Shakira poses for portrait photographs for "Elvis" at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, May 25, 2022.

Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP/File photo

Shakira is turning her recent breakup into a plentiful source of inspiration and commercial success.

The Colombian singer has teamed up with Argentine producer Bizarrap for her latest hit — a visceral, scathing diss track about the infidelity of her ex-partner, former soccer player Gerard Piqué.

The song, simply titled “SHAKIRA BZRP Music Sessions #53,” debuted at the top of the charts upon its release on Jan. 12.

With more than 50 million views on YouTube within the first 24 hours, it became the biggest-ever debut for a song by a Latin artist in the platform’s history.

Shakira wrote on Instagram that she didn’t expect the record to go straight to No. 1 — especially at her age of 45 and while singing in Spanish.

“I want to embrace millions of women who revolt against those who made us feel insignificant.”

Singer Shakira in Instagram post

“I want to embrace millions of women who revolt against those who made us feel insignificant,” she posted.

The lyrics, coming out as a spontaneous rant, are notably unambiguous about the reasons behind Shakira’s recent break with Piqué, the father of her two sons, after a 12-year relationship.

“I was out of your league, that’s why you’re with someone just like you,” Shakira sings in the chorus.

“I’m worth two 22-year-olds,” she croons, slamming the former FC Barcelona player for cheating on her with a younger woman. And she adds: “You traded in a Ferrari for a [Renault] Twingo. You traded in a Rolex for a Casio.”

Mockingly, the singer makes plays on words with the names of her ex and his new lover. Shakira even refers to the tax fraud case for which she will stand trial in Spain this year, and which could carry a prison sentence for failing to pay 14.5 million euros in income taxes ($15.74 million): “You left me with your mom as a neighbor, the press at my door and a debt with tax authorities.”

Such directness comes in contrast to Shakira’s previous lyrics, which used to be private and more generic, journalist Nuria Net said.

“Now, it feels more personal,” said Net, who is co-founder of the podcast studio La Coctelera music.

“What people are kind of shocked [about] is that she would name names, that she would be so specific with the jabs,” she said.

Producer Bizarrap deserves much credit, too, journalist and culture critic Yeray Sánchez Iborra said, for imbuing the song with his trademark blend of hip-hop beats, electronic sounds and an easy-to-sing-along chorus.

“Bizarrap is on a roll: Whatever he touches, he turns into gold,” Sánchez Iborra said. “He probably is the most influential producer in the world at the moment.”

Along with commercial success, the song has also attracted great controversy.

Venezuelan artist Briella has accused Shakira and Bizarrap of plagiarizing the chorus of her song “Solo Tú,” released last June.

Shakira was also criticized for being too harsh on Piqué and his girlfriend, and for using a platform as powerful as her music to diminish a younger woman.

While Piqué hasn’t explicitly commented on the song, he appeared to be doubling down on the spat by driving to work in a Renault Twingo, and by announcing a partnership between Casio and the Kings League, his latest sports venture.

To journalist Net, this hints that the public row between the two celebrities may be premeditated.

“What people are not realizing is that they're both benefiting from this.”

For a star of such caliber as Shakira, everything is strategized and calculated, Net said.

Shakira, who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, began recording her own songs as a teenager in the early 1990s.

Net, who grew up in Puerto Rico, remembers hearing Shakira’s early records at the time, like her album "Pies Descalzos," which stood out in a pop landscape dominated by “manufactured stars.”

“She was someone our age, a young woman speaking about heartbreak, and love, and about her aspirations and dreams, so that was super refreshing,” Net explained. “She was a revelation across Latin America.”

The singer-songwriter eventually turned into a pop star reaching for a larger audience, and began recording versions of her hit songs both in Spanish and in English.

“Nowadays, you don’t need to sing in English anymore. “But in the late ‘90s, in order to cross over to new markets, you needed to sing in English.”

Nuria Net, journalist

“Nowadays, you don’t need to sing in English anymore,” Net said. “But in the late '90s, in order to cross over to new markets, you needed to sing in English.”

In 2005, the album “Fijación Oral/Oral Fixation” featured the songs “Hips Don’t Lie,” one of her biggest hits to date, as well as “La Tortura,” a collaboration with Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz, with reggaeton-inspired rhythms.

“She was one of the first pop artists to jump on the reggaeton bandwagon when it wasn’t fashionable,” Net said. “So, she’s been at the forefront of that.”

Eclecticism became a staple of Shakira’s brand as an artist. Shakira, whose dance moves were inspired by her Arab roots, became a defining figure of a globalized music market.

Net sees Shakira as the biggest female Latin star in music over the past 30 years.

“There hasn't been another figure like her since,” she said.

In 2010, Shakira released her soccer anthem “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” and performed at the opening ceremony of the South Africa World Cup.

She also met Piqué, who at 23 took the trophy home with Spain and became one of the most-famous soccer players on the planet.

Shakira eventually moved to Barcelona, where Piqué spent most of his professional career at a club level before retiring last fall.

The singer said in a recent interview with Elle magazine that one of the two had to make a sacrifice, and that she put her career on the back burner for their family. 

Still, over the past decade, Shakira continued to rack up commercial success, with star collaborations with Carlos Vives, Maluma or the Black Eyed Peas, and performing at the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show. However, Net described her artistic output as “creatively dry.”

Shakira’s latest work, though, may signal a shift.

The Bizarrap session is the latest in a trilogy of breakup songs made in collaboration with younger Latin artists, including “Te Felicito” with Rauw Alejandro, and “Monotonía” with Ozuna.

Nuria Net said Shakira hasn’t been this openly vulnerable for a long time.

“It does [take] me back to her beginnings when she was a singer-songwriter, a teenager, writing songs with her guitar,” Net said.

Shakira, herself, acknowledged feeling more creative in the Elle interview, and described making new music and working on her upcoming album amid heartbreak as therapeutic.

“Writing music is like going to the shrink, only cheaper,” she said.

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Caregivers in Ghana work to demystify autism and push for inclusion

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Caregivers in Ghana work to demystify autism and push for inclusion

Developmental brain disorders are rarely discussed in Ghana. A lack of adequate awareness and facilities for early diagnosis makes it tough to manage. And children with special needs often face discrimination in terms of inadequate health care, education and social engagement.

The WorldJanuary 20, 2023 · 2:00 PM EST

Instructor Akua Amoako Yeboah with a child at the early intervention center. 

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Maame Appiah started to notice something unusual about her 3-year-old toddler when he was just a baby. 

Breastfeeding was a challenge: “He couldn’t even suckle. He had breathing issues,” she said. 

Doctors later diagnosed her son with cerebral palsy — a condition that affects a child’s brain and impacts the ability to control muscles in the body. He was also diagnosed with autism, a complex neurobehavioral disorder. 

Developmental brain disorders are rarely discussed in Ghana. A lack of adequate awareness and facilities for early diagnosis makes it tough to manage. And children with special needs often face discrimination in terms of inadequate health care, education and social engagement.

Appiah sought help for her child — including prayer camps — to no avail. Over time, she was able to move past her grief and find the support he needs. Today, her son receives various therapies once a week to help him develop the skills he needs to thrive.

There are thousands more stories like Appiah’s across Ghana.

Ama Boatemaa lives with her 19-year-old child with autism in Obom-Kojontor, an Accra suburb. She said she had to defy her husband just to keep her daughter alive. 

“My husband kept insisting that he’s been to so many spiritual homes where he’s been told that our daughter is a marine spirit. He once suggested we poison or kill the child. When I refused, he got very angry and abandoned us,” she said.

Boatemaa has single-handedly fended for her daughter. She said that transportation to and from the hospital or school has been the most challenging. Some drivers refused to pick her up because her daughter drools profusely. Eventually, her daughter dropped out of school. 

"Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is against you," Boatemaa said.

Shifting the narrative on autism

Mary Amoah Kufour, whose 20-year-old daughter has autism, is determined to change the narrative for children with special needs and their caregivers. 

Like many parents of autistic children, Kufour said she was in denial for years when she learned her daughter had autism. She already had two boys without any disabilities. 

In 2016, Kufour founded Klicks Africa Foundation, a center for early intervention and support for children under the age of 5 as well as young adults on the autism spectrum. 

"Sometimes, I see myself as somebody who gave birth in the past 20 years and the child never grows," she said.

Her daughter needs 24/7 support, from bathing and eating to directing her on daily tasks.

Mary Kufuor, founder of Klicks Africa Foundation, stands by a portrait of her autistic daughter, Nana Yaa. 

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

The abilities of people on the autism spectrum can vary and evolve over time. Some can live independently while others have severe disabilities that require lifelong care and support.

Kufour encourages parents and caregivers to focus on creating opportunities for children with autism to thrive. 

"It is OK to cry, but you don't need to wallow in your own pity for long."

According to UNICEF, nearly 240 million children with disabilities face barriers to basic needs including nutrition, health and education. 

The country’s 2016 inclusive education policy aims to increase access for children with disabilities in public schools. But the government has yet to fully implement it. 

Instead, parents must enroll their children with special needs in learning centers that can cost more than $3,000 per year — a cost-prohibitive fee for most families. 

Kufour is able to accommodate families with highly subsidized rates through donations and personal funds. 

She said she’s on a mission to demystify autism and advocate for all children with disabilities. The majority at her center have autism while others have Down syndrome or undiagnosed, developmental delays. 

Learning and thriving

At the center, instructors use everyday routines to teach communication and social skills. Students attend daily therapy sessions and visit with a neurodevelopmental pediatrician.

Instructor Akua Amoako Yeboah said that early intervention is critical for achieving certain milestones. Some children who began with various challenges are now seeing improvements.

Therapy sessions ongoing at the early intervention center at Klicks Africa Foundation. 

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Elyse Aba Acquah, 16, is on the autism spectrum. Her instructors said she has shown significant improvement with her communication and comprehension skills. 

"They teach me how to write. I can write my name, alphabets and subtraction, numbers and we do addition and subtraction, too," she said.

Elyse Aba Acquah, 16, is on the autism spectrum.

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Children with special needs are routinely left out of mainstream education. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the education gap. 

A 2021 UNICEF report reveals that children with disabilities have 42% fewer chances of achieving foundational literacy skills. The probability of never attending school is 49% higher for them. 

Kufour spreads awareness about these challenges by livestreaming with her 400,000 Facebook followers. She said she is already seeing a shift among parents and caretakers. 

"We've made a lot of impact out there," she said. "But, we have a long way to go."

Visibility and representation

Kufour is not alone in her advocacy efforts for children with autism. 

Model and actor Afi Antonio created Mr. & Miss Autism Ghana, a pageant initiative that promotes social inclusion for youth with autism. 

The project is a confidence-booster for parents and their children alike. Antonio said that she hopes that the pageant will open more opportunities for the youth.

“It’s been my prayer that corporate institutions or someone will use them as brand ambassadors so that people can see them on billboards and [on TV],” she said. 

Afi Antonio (left) stands next to the winners of the 2022 Mr. and Miss Autism Ghana Pageant. 

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Kufuor said that with increased awareness and support, all children with special needs can lead full lives. Her daughter has already started showing interest in fashion and hopes to pursue a career in modeling. 

“Inclusive education cannot be preserved for those who can afford it,” she said, adding that all children deserve to reach their full potential.

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Tanks for Ukraine are ‘ready to go’ when Germany and US strike a deal, retired Navy Adm. says

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Tanks for Ukraine are 'ready to go' when Germany and US strike a deal, retired Navy Adm. says

As Germany faces mounting pressure to supply tanks to Kyiv for the ongoing war in Ukraine, retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis talks with The World's host Marco Werman about what the delivery of heavy weapons could mean for the war.

The WorldJanuary 19, 2023 · 3:30 PM EST

Denmark's military officers stand next to a Leopard 2A7 tank at the Tapa Military Camp, in Estonia, Jan. 19, 2023.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

Germany has faced mounting pressure to supply Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv as the war in Ukraine rages on — or to clear the way for other countries, such as Poland, to deliver German-made Leopards from their own stocks.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plans to host a regular coordination meeting of Ukraine's Western allies at the United States' Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.

Western leaders have been cautious in their approach to Ukraine’s repeated requests over the past few months for heavier vehicles, including Leopard, as well as American Abrams tanks.

Meanwhile, Berlin has said that it will send its vehicles only after the US sends its tanks.

The World's host Marco Werman speaks with retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, who is the former NATO supreme allied commander, about how a delivery of tanks would make a difference.

Marco Werman: Admiral James Stavridis, what kind of impact will this decision make?Adm. James Stavridis: A huge impact for several reasons. First of all, the Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers, many, many thousands probably, were destroyed. So, Russia is tank- and armored-personnel-carrier poor at the moment. Number two, if Russia mounts a spring offensive using these newly mobilized foot soldiers, infantry, those are very juicy targets for tanks and armored personnel carriers.So, Germany is facing a lot of pressure this week to send tanks to Ukraine. Why is the German-made Leopard tank especially wanted in Ukraine?First, because it's a pretty heavy tank. It's not quite as big as the Abrams tank. The Leopard is a big, strong, tough tank, but it's relatively simple to operate, compared to, for example, an Abrams. And, most importantly, it's widely distributed across the native nations. Germany has exported many of these to the Baltic states, to many former Warsaw Pact countries. So, there's a lot of expertise, training, a lot of inventory, and therefore, they are highly desired by the Ukrainians. They're in theater, they're ready to go, not a lot of training required.Well, yesterday, German officials said they won't send Leopard tanks unless the US sends Abrams. What do you make of that?I think it's part of an ongoing conversation. And at the end of the day, I would guess that our German colleagues will say, "You know, we would like to put the Leopards out there." And part of this, by the way, is for the Germans to give permission to the other European nations who hold these Leopard tanks to give them, as well as some German Leopards, I think that the Germans ultimately will acquiesce in a deal where we, the US and the Canadians, put a large number of armored personnel carriers. They provide the tanks. That's a pretty good deal.Well, the US is providing Ukraine with other heavy-duty weapons of war. Why is the US hesitant to provide tanks?What has held us back, not only not an obvious military need, which is emerging now, but secondly, we have always in this conflict, tried to use the minimal amount of weapons systems so that we could avoid escalating the war and leading to a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. But I think we hit the point now where the tanks are a necessity, given where we are in the battle.Yes so, why would a tank specifically imply a greater involvement in the war than, say, the Patriot missile system?Marco, I don't think it does. And this has been, I think, kind of a false assumption out of the West. It was taken out of an abundance of caution. I understand that. I think it made a higher degree of sense, say, 10, 11 months ago, when you could have envisioned an outcome where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin got knocked back, then we had a negotiation, we could avoid an escalation. I think we're past that point now, unfortunately. And therefore, yeah Patriots, yeah tanks, I would say, yeah fighter aircraft. That's the next conversation that's going to happen.Can you talk more about that? I mean, that seems a really deep commitment in this war.We are at the point where the Western side needs to say to itself, "Are we going to give the Ukrainians control over their skies?" And to do that, we've already provided surface-to-air missiles. We provided the Patriot batteries, we provided drones. The one big thing we haven't given them is combat aircraft. And by providing them, say MiG-29s, which the Poles own and operate and are willing to give to the Ukrainians, who've been trained in flying those specific airframes, we should do that, in my view, because that will further shut down Vladimir Putin's options. Right now, he's using air control in order to strike Ukrainian targets, and all over Ukraine. And there are war crimes against the electric grid, the water supplies, against civilians in apartment buildings, aircraft could help stop that. We ought to provide them those aircraft.But, I mean, any of these options, starting with a tank deal, would you see that as another step closer to direct war between Russia and NATO?No, I don't think it significantly elevates the chances, because you still don't have NATO soldiers, sailors, airmen actually conducting the combat. These are still Ukrainians conducting the combat. And, as you postulated a moment ago, in the end, giving a Ukrainian a rifle is merely a matter of degree in how you're attacking Russian forces, than giving them a Patriot missile or a tank. So, I think the earlier ideas of doing this in a very measured, incremental way, I think that's fading as we look at Russian intransigence, Russian war crimes, very clear intent of Vladimir Putin to continue to prosecute this unjust war. And don't forget that Putin could stop this tomorrow. It's this idea that somehow we're provoking Russia, which is kind of magical thinking. It's Putin that's invaded here. We need to give the Ukrainians what they need to stop it.So, Admiral, as he said, that the German Leopard tank doesn't require a lot of training. It's already in-theater. If a deal is struck, some kind of agreement between Germany, the US and Ukraine, how soon could you see delivery of these tanks' deployment into the battlefield?Days, and certainly within weeks. This is primed, ready to go. And by the way, my contacts in European militaries, there is a great deal of enthusiasm for getting these weapons in the hands of the Ukrainians. It's a political decision that needs to be made.I mean, in a modern war where we've seen drones play such a key role, remotely operated, does it surprise you, that this historical piece of equipment, like a tank, is so important right now?It doesn't surprise me. And the logical question would be, well, what happened to all of those Russian tanks a year ago? Because a lot of them were destroyed by drones. That's why this marriage of an old weapon, the tank, with these new weapons, the drones, I think is going to be very powerful against the Russians.

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

Related: How well is the grain deal working for Ukraine?

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‘Art is the answer to all this’: This Brazilian artist went from fighting fires to uplifting Black portraiture

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>‘Art is the answer to all this’: This Brazilian artist went from fighting fires to uplifting Black portraiture

Growing up in Brazil as a Black man, Dalton Paula said he missed seeing people who looked like him on movies and TV. At 40, he now creates paintings, photos and installations about Black communities. In 2021, he and his partner also turned their home into an art school called Sertão Negro, or Black Hinterland.

The WorldJanuary 19, 2023 · 2:30 PM EST

Dalton Paula’s garden is filled with trees and plants that he considers sacred. 

Gisele Regatão/The World

Brazilian artist Dalton Paula’s home studio door is always open, but visitors must first walk through a green corridor he planted himself. 

“These gardens have sacred plants,” he said. “The idea is that this is a space that welcomes, that protects.”

Growing up in Brazil as a Black man, Paula said he missed seeing people who looked like him on movies and TV. At 40,  he creates paintings, photos and installations about Black communities. 

His works have been acquired by major art institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Art Institute of Chicago.

At Sertão Negro, artists cultivate seeds and reuse water from the rainfall.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

Paula lives on the outskirts of Goiânia, the capital of Goiás state. He shares his home with his partner of 14 years, film professor Conceição de Maria Ferreira da Silva. In 2021, they turned their home into an art school called Sertão Negro, or Black Hinterland.

“This is a Quilombo, a space that is based in the Afro Brazilian universe and considers the soil and the plants sacred,” he said. Traditionally, Quilombos are settlements created during colonial times by people who'd escaped enslavement. 

Sertão Negro offers a wide range of classes like pottery and capoeira, movie screenings and access to a library with more than 1,000 books. 

Dalton Paula sitting at his workstation inside his home/studio/art school Sertão Negro.

Credit:

Gisele Regatão/The World

The school also hosts an artists' residency and sells their work. Paula is now building three bedrooms that will house future artists. They will pay for the residency and that income will help finance the school. 

Sertão Negro employs nine people, including three artists who also work as assistants. 

Artist and assistant Lucelia Maciel is currently working on a sculptural project. She said that Sertão Negro taught her the business side of running a studio. She enjoys working with other artists and getting Paula’s feedback, but he can be tough sometimes. 

“He is demanding,” she said. “An expression that he uses a lot is: ‘Think about layers, bring more layers.’” 

Lucelia Maciel is one of Dalton Paula's assistants and she also produces her own work, like these sculptures of lamps with tiny busts of people from her home state of Bahia.

Credit:

​​​​Gisele Regatão/The World

A chemist, a firefighter

Paula has been making art since he was a teenager, but he first went to college to study chemistry. And for 12 years, he worked full-time as a firefighter. When he began his visual arts studies at the federal University of Goiás, he worked the night shift.

“I would rescue people who had been shot, stabbed, injured in car crashes. And then I would study, like a zombie, falling asleep,” he said.

His firefighter colleagues became some of his first clients. 

His inspiration for the school comes from the idea that art is a tool and that the role of the artist is to respond to the world, referring to the recent vandalism of government buildings by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro. 

“In this moment, with the attacks, art is an answer to all of this,” he said. 

As a Black man, he said he is often seen as a threat. To capture this experience, he created a photo performance, standing in front of walls with his eyes or head covered. In 2011, that work was selected for the group show “Rumos Artes Visuais,” organized by Itaú Cultural in São Paulo.

His big break came in 2016 when he was invited to present at the prestigious São Paulo Biennial

Two years later, he started visiting Quilombo communities in his state. He now photographs current residents and paints their portraits using research about those who lived in the same areas in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

“Esperança Garcia (18th century),” 2022, by Dalton Paula.

Credit:

Courtesy of Dalton Paula

“He takes the history and he takes the photographs and he matches them. So, he gives these people who were never photographed, or drawn, an identity,” said Carolyn Alexander, owner of the Soho gallery Alexander and Bonin, which represents Paula in New York.

The intricate, layered portraits use gold leaf for hair. Each painting costs $25,000.

Alexander first met Paula at an art fair in Brazil in 2018 and invited him to New York for a residency in 2020. The pandemic limited Paula’s plans, but he produced a lot of art and sold six paintings to the city's Museum of Modern Art.

“I personally knew that Dalton Paula was somebody who I wanted to be in a life-long relationship with,” said Thomas Jean Lax, a curator at MoMA specializing in Black art and performance who orchestrated the purchase.

Lax first encountered Paula’s work in early 2020, when he visited studios and museums in Brazil. He said he appreciates that, with these paintings, Paula is imagining who his subjects could have been.

“That dimension of the unknown, of embracing the unknown, is really important not only for his work, but also gives Black artists the full range of possibilities as we bear witness to the things that they have made,” he said.

Paula’s latest piece is a commission from Pinacoteca de São Paulo, a museum devoted to Brazilian art. The installation is called “Cotton Route,” featuring several bottles and jars covered in white, cotton canvas with painted images that are displayed on several draped altars. 

“I found all of this kind of enigmatic,” said Caroline Paz, a graduate student in cultural criticism who visited the show in early January.

The installation speaks to the economic and cultural impact of cotton production in Brazil and the US. 

Paz said the work holds important symbolism for Black people like her.

“Many are still on the margins, it’s a constant struggle. But it’s very important to know that we have here, today, the work of someone who can show his art to the world, particularly because he is a Black artist,” she said.

Dalton Paula’s partner Ceiça Ferreira (right) and other artists and employees at Sertão Negro often eat lunch together.

Credit:

​​​​​Gisele Regatão/The World

Paula is now working on several new projects, including a series of paintings of Black children. And he and his partner are planning on having a child. 

“My partner says that I passed through the ‘dreamline’ many times, and I grabbed dreams of those who didn’t want many dreams,” Paula said, laughing.

A few of these projects use materials that Paula has never worked with before.

“I’m always doing this exercise — when something is very set — I create new challenges for myself. And that’s the work of a lifetime, the work of an artist,” he said.

The exhibition at Pinacoteca closes at the end of January. 

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Museum exhibit highlights New York’s sacred spaces

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Museum exhibit highlights New York’s sacred spaces

The “City of Faith” museum exhibit looks at the New York City's religious roots and immigrant experience, with a special focus on the South Asian community after 9/11. Curator Azra Dawood tells The World what inspired her and why such a discussion is important.

The WorldJanuary 19, 2023 · 2:00 PM EST

Exterior of the Museum of the City of New York, with a promotion for the "City of Faith" exhibition currently on display, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Sara Hassan/The World

New York City is known for its Broadway musicals, Wall Street, the Yankees and its happening nightlife. There’s something, though, that people don’t generally associate with the Big Apple — religion. A new museum exhibit highlights sacred spaces in a city that’s often seen as broadly secular.

Azra Dawood, an architect, historian and curator, designed “City of Faith: Religion, Activism and Urban Space” an exhibition currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York through Sept. 18. It takes a deeper look at the city’s religious roots alongside its immigrant experience, with a focus on the South Asian community following the attacks of 9/11.

“New York is as religious as part of the Bible Belt, with the difference being the city's specific demographic makeup,” Dawood said during a panel discussion at the museum about the exhibit in December.

Matthew Engelke moderates a panel discussion for "City of Faith" exhibit with speakers Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, Hussein Rashid and exhibition curator Azra Dawood, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

As an architectural historian, Dawood said she looks at built environments through the lens of religion and race, as well as the themes of empire and philanthropy. In the past, her work has focused on Protestantism, so she wanted to take discussions on religion and race in a different direction with this exhibit.

"What we're seeing in the history of the city is a series of communities arriving or growing in number.”

Azra Dawood, curator, "City of Faith"

“The city's 'fathers’ favored Protestantism. Later, when Catholic and Jewish communities arrived and grew in numbers, they, too, had to make space for themselves, and they too, had to struggle,” she told The World.

“It's a very well-documented struggle for both communities. And so, I think what we're seeing in the history of the city is a series of communities arriving or growing in number.”

Visitors examine the displays at the "City of Faith" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

She explained that Muslims have been in New York for hundreds of years, but that the Muslim community also had to make space for themselves. That process hasn’t been easy, especially in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which directly targeted New York.

The Muslim community has faced challenges such as police surveillance, racial profiling and hate crimes. Attacks on members of the community even spilled over to others perceived to be Muslim, including Sikhs and Hindus. One example was Sunando Sen, a Hindu immigrant from India, who was killed in 2012, after being pushed in front of an oncoming subway train.

A display at the "City of Faith" exhibit discussing the sacred elements within a city that's often seen as broadly secular, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

“I think it's really poignant to look at this part of New York City,” said Shelley Yu, a Columbia University student who visited the exhibit.

“I had never known of this incident before, and to hear it being explained so poignantly, it was very touching and very sobering to hear.”

That story was conveyed through a video presentation, with images on one screen and simple white text on another black screen that explained one line at a time how the incident and trial unfolded.

It's part of an entire multimedia, sensory experience that includes photos, audio recordings, poetry, artwork and even a scent installation.

A combination of musk, frankincense, sandalwood and rose greets visitors as they enter. The sweet fusion of fragrances — ones that are often found inside mosques — was designed by the Brooklyn-based perfumer and author, Tanaïs.

In another interactive display, visitors encounter a set of bright, red folders mounted on the wall, each with a phrase written on top that’s connected to the 9/11 aftermath, such as “Blanket Surveillance,” “Repercussions” or “History Repeating.”

The folders contain files that people can pick up and read through.

One of the displays of the "City of Faith" exhibit that represents the diffiuclties for immigrants, mainly in the South Asian community, after the attacks of 9/11, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

“Being part of a marginalized identity means that your body becomes political in and of itself, and that makes you have a heightened visibility,” said Grey Bakwin, an architecture student from Barnard College, who also visited the exhibit.

"I think it's incredibly important for the history of the city to be talked about and discussed and displayed."

Grey Bakwin, architecture student, Barnard College

“And then, at the same time, being pushed and peripheralized means that there's less visibility. I think it's incredibly important for the history of the city to be talked about and discussed and displayed.”

A range of immigrant experiences

“City of Faith” includes a range of religious immigrant experiences, like the ones Dawood mentioned.

A map of Jewish heritage sites and institutions across New York, called "What is a Jew: From Emma Goldman to Goldman Sachs," on display as part of the "City of Faith" exhibit, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

It incorporates a map of Jewish heritage sites and institutions across the city, along with an image of a 19th-century Catholic school. 

To this day, there are many churches nestled throughout New York. The most famous might just be the towering St. Patrick's Cathedral, found in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

There are also the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Times Square and the Trinity Church Wall Street in the financial district.

Business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was a big contributor to the city’s religious architecture. One example is the Riverside Church near Columbia University. 

People likely don’t know that the iconic Rockefeller Center was, at one point, Dawood said, supposed to include religious space.

“There was a chapel planned for the very top of the building,” she explained. 

Image of a 19th-century Catholic school on display at the "City of Faith" exhibit, New York, Dec. 1, 2022.

Credit:

Sara Hassan/The World

Even though it was never built, “this idea that there was a chapel right at the top of this real-estate venture is very interesting.”

Dawood’s career has taken her back and forth across continents. She earned a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent a year teaching architecture at the University of Houston. She also taught in her hometown of Karachi, where she worked with Pakistan’s first female architect, Yasmeen Lari, during a summer internship at the Heritage Foundation. Lari has been recognized for her extensive humanitarian work and Dawood said it was meaningful to be working for someone like her, who helped her see her own hometown in a new way.

“You develop a connection with the city, and [you learn] more about [it] in a way than you would if you simply grew up there,” she said.

Seeing things from different perspectives, she said, is also a key message that she’s trying to convey in “City of Faith.”

Related: New exhibit shows how Islamic art influenced French luxury jewelry maker Cartier

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Lula empowers Brazil’s Indigenous peoples with their own ministry. But environmental protection remains a key concern.

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Lula empowers Brazil's Indigenous peoples with their own ministry. But environmental protection remains a key concern.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has made good on a series of campaign promises to defend the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples. He already signed an executive order to relaunch a billion-dollar Amazon fund, where foreign governments can contribute to forest protection, among six other orders.

The WorldJanuary 19, 2023 · 11:00 AM EST

Felled trees on Karipuna territory in the Amazonian state of Rondônia.

Michael Fox/The World

When Indigenous activists, leaders and allies gathered on Jan. 2, at Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, it was finally time to celebrate.

This was an agency that had previously protected Indigenous rights and native land, but which, under former President Jair Bolsonaro, had been defunded, gutted and turned against them.

“It’s so great to be back here. We haven’t had a meeting here for a long time,” the new director Joenia Wapichana told a packed crowd. "And let’s remember,” she added, "from now on, the National Indian Foundation will be named the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples."

Wapichana was Brazil’s first Indigenous lawyer and its first female Indigenous lawmaker. She was elected in 2018, and served in Congress over the last four years.

She said that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had invited her personally to head the agency as its first Indigenous director.

“It will be a challenge,” she said. But Wapichana will have help.

FUNAI will now fall under the jurisdiction of Brazil’s first Indigenous People’s Ministry, led by prominent Indigenous activist Sonia Guajajara

Brazil's President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds the hand of the his newly-named Minister of Indigenous Peoples Sonia Guajajara, during a meeting where he announced the ministers for his incoming government, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 29, 2022.

Credit:

Eraldo Peres/AP/File photo

Guajajara was Lula's first cabinet minister to be sworn in on inauguration day, and wore a feather headdress, carrying an Indigenous shaker in her right hand. Lula embraced her when she reached the podium.

"It’s a moment of such great emotion,” she said in her first speech to supporters. “I’ve been telling a lot of people that I've never felt this excited. Never in my life.”

Challenges facing the ministry

Indigenous territories have been devastated in recent years by fires, clear cutting, mining and logging. Amazon deforestation is at a 15-year high. More than half of the destruction in recent years has been on conservation areas and native territories.

A tree stump on Indigenous land in the Amazonian state of Rondônia.

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

Indigenous peoples blame Bolsonaro for pushing for Amazon development and empowering illegal land grabbers.

Nowhere is this clearer than on Karipuna territory in the Amazonian state of Rondônia.

Walking through the jungle a few months ago, Chief André Karipuna pointed out the latest destruction of Indigenous land.

"This was all just burned," he said, staring out over the charred remnants of a once-pristine stretch of jungle. "You can still see the smoke. Less than a week ago, this was all green forest."

Chief André Karipuna points out destruction of Indigenous land in the Amazonian state of Rondônia.

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

But Lula has promised to stop the land invasions and the deforestation.

"The Indigenous peoples need to have their land demarcated and free from the threats of illegal and predatory economic activities,” Lula said during his inauguration speech.

“They're not obstacles to development. They are guardians of the rivers and forests and a fundamental piece of the greatness of our nation."

André Karipuna said he is excited about Lula’s victory, but concerned for what lies ahead.

"The invasions are really advanced,” he said. "We are hopeful that they'll be able to remove these invaders. But there's a lot to be resolved."

Destroyed trees in the Amazonian state of Rondônia, Brazil.

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

That's why the new Indigenous leaders in Lula’s government are hoping to take action — and fast. 

At the top of their agenda is restructuring the new agencies, removing land invaders and demarcating new Indigenous land, something Bolsonaro refused to do.

Meanwhile, this month, the Brazilian government is expected to recognize 13 new Indigenous territories.

"This is a moment to rewrite the history of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil."

Ingrid Sateré Mawé, Indigenous rights defender

"This is an historic moment,” said Indigenous rights defender Ingrid Sateré Mawé. "This is a moment to rewrite the history of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil."

They have a long way to go, but Indigenous leaders say now, like never before, is a moment of relief, of celebration and hope, for them and for the protection of the Amazon rainforest. 

Related: Lula vows to end illegal mining in the Amazon. But legal mining is more complicated.

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What’s behind the exodus of Cubans?

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>What's behind the exodus of Cubans?

It’s the largest single wave of Cuban migrants since Fidel Castro’s revolution in the 1950s.

The WorldJanuary 18, 2023 · 4:45 PM EST

Cuban migrant Mario Perez holds his wife as they wait to be processed to seek asylum after crossing the border into the United States, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona.

Gregory Bull/AP

Yaniel, a 38-year old taxi driver from Havana, has tried to leave Cuba for the US three times by sea — in homemade, wooden boats.

Yaniel asked that his last name not be used since it’s illegal for Cubans to try to leave the country this way.

“We build boats in hidden places, and we don’t tell anyone about our plans,” he said, not even family members. 

In the past year, hundreds of these boats have been leaving from the shores of Cuba, which sits just 90 miles south of Florida’s coast. Others have been taking charter flights to Nicaragua, which is the only country in Central America that doesn’t require a visa for Cubans. And from there, they travel north into Mexico, toward the US border. 

Nearly a quarter of a million Cubans have arrived in the United States in the last year. It’s the largest single wave of Cuban migrants since Fidel Castro’s revolution in the 1950s.

“It is an unprecedented exodus of Cubans that we are seeing,” said Mariakarla Nordase is the director of the Cuban program at the Washington Office for Latin America.

She said that life in Cuba has been difficult for a long time, but things got worse after the pandemic and two hurricanes hit the island.

“Cuba is facing its worst economic crisis in decades or even worse than the 1990s special period.”

The tourism industry is one of the main sources of income for Cuba. But it has been devastated in recent years and hasn’t been able to rebound.

Yaniel, the taxi driver, said it’s hard to make a living in Cuba.

“Everything is expensive and scarce,” he said. Roads are in terrible condition, and that takes a toll on his taxi.

A single tire costs about $120, he said, and that’s about three months of his salary.

Mario Caceres, a software engineer who works in a restaurant in Santiago de Cuba, said his monthly salary is enough for about two weeks’ worth of expenses. He and his wife are selling pizza slices at home to make ends meet.

“Education doesn’t have any value in Cuba,” he said. “Even educated people are still poor.”  He said he would like to leave the country and have the opportunity to advance his career. 

Caceres said that there are daily power outages that last between 4-6 hours. Sometimes, the restaurant where he works has to close, and he makes less money. 

US sanctions on Cuba are also having an impact. The Trump administration imposed a “maximum pressure” policy. 

Direct flights to Cuba were canceled for several years. Remittances from abroad were halted. The US Consulate in Cuba was closed for a few years, blocking legal pathways for migration. All of this has put pressure on Cubans to leave, according to Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC.

“So, on one hand, you have a closure of the legal options. And then, last year, Nicaragua began to allow people to travel from Cuba and it opened up a way for people to come very easily to Nicaragua and then onward to the US border; this is all happened at a time where people really want out.”

President Joe Biden has made some changes recently. US Consulate services in Havana resumed two weeks ago. Direct flights were restored. The ban on remittances was lifted. And there’s a new legal way for Cubans to come to the US. 

They can get a work permit if they pass a background check and find a sponsor. 

Yaniel, the taxi driver, said that he’s heard about people offering to be a sponsor for Cubans. But they’re asking for up to $10,000.

So, he said that he’s helping to build another wooden boat to try and leave the country — for the fourth time.

“I have no hope,” he said. “There’s no future in Cuba.” 

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This orphanage in Ghana provides hope — and acceptance — to children living with HIV

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>This orphanage in Ghana provides hope — and acceptance — to children living with HIV

Motherly Love Orphanage was founded by Rev. John Azumah 14 years ago. The pastor, who also has HIV, founded the home to provide hope and fight against the stigma faced by HIV-positive orphans. 

The WorldJanuary 18, 2023 · 4:30 PM EST

Isabel, 14, lives with a dozen other children with HIV in a 2-story apartment in Kwabenya, a densely packed neighborhood on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana. Her last name is being omitted to protect her identity as a school-aged child. 

A good Samaritan brought her to the home when she was just 5. Her parents died of AIDS in 2013. Extended family members feared contracting the virus and rejected her. 

She said life has been good so far at Motherly Love Orphanage, a home founded by Rev. John Azumah. The pastor, who also has HIV, founded the orphanage 14 years ago to provide hope and fight stigma against orphans living with HIV. 

Here, Isabel gets her essential needs met. She also completed basic education and hopes to enter high school next year.

“I want to be an air hostess,” she said. “I want to see how other countries are doing so that I can compare it to my country and maybe see if we can also improve our country, too.” 

Isabel and Rejoice are both orphans living with HIV at the Motherly Love Orphanage.

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Globally, 2.7 million children are living with HIV. The infection in children occurs most often during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding. Without effective treatment, more than half of all babies born with HIV die before their second birthday.

Close to 15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS-related causes. Three quarters of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, where communities often refuse to accept them, especially if they are HIV-positive.

In Ghana, there are over 230,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. 

Opening doors for children with HIV 

Azumah has been living with HIV for 22 years. When he received his HIV diagnosis in 2000, he said he thought he was going to die. He confided in his senior pastor. 

Azumah said he was excommunicated by the church after his head pastor announced his HIV status to the entire congregation. His family experienced immense stigma. Shopkeepers wouldn’t even sell to his children. 

“Those days, whenever my children went to even buy foodstuff, people said there was AIDS on the money because it’s being handled by an AIDS patient. So, you see, the stigma was very bad,” he said.

Rev. John Azumah, now 50, has been living with HIV for 22 years. He founded Motherly Love Orphanage 14 years ago to provide a loving home for orphaned children living with HIV. 

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

When Ghana’s Aids Commission reached out to him in 2010 to do advocacy work on a nationwide campaign, his life's mission formed. People started reaching out to him about HIV-positive orphans who were abandoned by their relatives.

That’s when he decided to open a home for them. 

One-of-a-kind care

Motherly Love is a rare refuge in Ghana.

“Many people keep knocking at our door but we have limited accommodation,” he said, adding that it’s hard to reject children who may otherwise die on the streets. 

But the challenges are plenty. Azumah gets antiretroviral drugs from the government for free, but“They don't take only antiretrovirals. We take other essential medicines like immune boosters, vitamin C, blood tonics … So these medicines are expensive.” 

And as a nongovernmental organization, he still has to pay for food, housing (the building is rented), and private schooling, while donations have slowed during Ghana’s economic downturn. 

State neglect

Today, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, many high-income countries are cutting back on aid and resources for HIV/AIDS. 

Ghana’s AIDS Commission said it has serious financial challenges and continues to engage partners on how to provide better support to orphaned children living with HIV. 

Child rights advocate Lilipearl Baaba Otoo lauds Azumah’s intervention.

"The state [is] supposed to be responsible for these children," she said, adding that she is pushing for better policies.

“The painful reality is that there are more of these children on the streets. Yet, most orphanages in this country often don't want to accept them after knowing their HIV status. I believe this is discrimination [and] it is unacceptable…” she said. 

Child rights advocate Lilipearl Baaba Otoo. 

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

Penelope Mawuenam Agbai works with the West Africa AIDS foundation.

Credit:

Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman/The World

AIDS agencies worldwide have formed a global alliance to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment by the end of the 2030, among other aims. 

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said the alliance must work to ameliorate the inequality that children with HIV experience. 

“With the science that we have today, no baby should be born with HIV and no child who has HIV should be without treatment. … We will not allow this shameful and avoidable injustice to continue,” she said.

Hope for acceptance 

Back at the Motherly Love Orphanage, the children continue to thrive and hope to contribute to a society that will embrace them.  

Rejoice, 16, plans to attend high school next year and hopes to be a nurse one day. 

“I want to help those who are sick and give them medicine and take care of them,” she said.

Azumah said he really has just one wish: “My joy will be that if tomorrow, I am no more, a home will be built for these children,” he said. So they’ll one day be able to say, “This is my home … I am going to where no one will stigmatize me, and I am accepted.”

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Random rules: Part I

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Random rules: Part I

Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive this week into the role of sharia in northern Nigeria.

Inkstick MediaJanuary 18, 2023 · 1:45 PM EST

Muslims in Nigeria attend Eid prayers at the Kofar Mata prayer ground in Kano Nigeria, Sunday, May 24, 2020. 

Photo/AP

This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly foreign policy newsletter from Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

In 1999, northern states within Nigeria adopted “full sharia,” or Islamic religious law, an action possibly made to deliberately delineate the country’s Muslim north from its Christian south. Every law can be open to interpretation in ruling, execution, and standards for evidence, and the sharia adopted is not different. Where there is a dispute over interpretation, there is a discourse, and while dominant traditions and legal schools largely held sway, the debate created room for alternate expressions of religious reasoning.

In “Northern Nigerian intellectuals, Sudan, and the ‘eclectic style’ in contemporary Islamic thought,” Alexander Thurston examines a pair of thinkers actively involved and engaged in this discourse.

“Eclecticists cross or blur boundaries between sectarian camps, even as they may have their own enemies and rivals,” Thurston writes. “Within politics, eclecticism carries advantages and disadvantages for its bearers, sometimes facilitating their access to non-Muslim institutions and forums, but simultaneously exposing eclecticists to charges of heterodoxy and inauthenticity.”

While doctrinaire intellectuals abound, firmly adhering to their respective schools of thought, the experience of intellectual debate, practice, and implementation can’t be contained in a single school. Thurston notes that, while the Sunni and Shi’a divisions in Islam persist, increasingly, Muslims across the world identify as “just Muslim,” a category that includes over one-fifth of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa.

The presence of this laity, of believers in faith broadly rather than expressly tied to a specific school of thought or doctrinal tradition, can create room for eclecticists. In his article, Thurston focuses on two specific eclectic thinkers: Aminu Ismaʿil Sagagi and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, both from Kano, Nigeria, who attended Sudan's International University of Africa in the mid-1990s, and who have public writings on the role of sharia in northern Nigeria.

Like Islamists, with whose thoughts both men are deeply familiar, these eclecticists ask how to create a just Islamic society by using the tools of the state and the law. Yet, “eclecticists deconstruct, rather than objectify, notions such as ‘sharia,’” Thurston writes.

“The eclecticists' emphasis on exploring political possibilities rather than championing established political programmes recalls the notion of ‘post-Islamism,’ (Bayat 2013),” which eludes to the frustration-driven search for an Islamic political framework beyond the horizons of the Muslim Brotherhood and its peers.

Some of this broader deconstruction can be attributed to the intellectual climate of the International University of Africa, which attracted students from a range of traditions and actively featured a curriculum drawing beyond just the set texts of any given school of Islamic jurisprudence. It meant an expansive engagement with Islamic intellectuals and writers like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, and Antonio Gramsci.

When considering Sanusi’s thinking, Thurston writes: “A central component of this framework is the idea that Islamic movements and institutions are historically conditioned rather than universally replicable.” Sanusi noted that, while sharia interpretations were expansive and progressive at the time they were first implemented, returning to the original implementation of the laws misses what was so powerful about them in the first place.

While neither of the scholars featured set out a dominant path in Islamic thought within Nigeria, both demonstrate that intellectual debate over the nature and implementation of religious law is alive and well, and capable of accommodating more perspectives than just the narrow tenets of long-established schools.

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy analysis from the staff at Inkstick Media. Subscribe here

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Afghan women say they are ‘dying in slow motion’ after killing of former female MP

“MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Afghan women say they are ‘dying in slow motion’ after killing of former female MP

Mursal Nabizada, who decided to remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in 2021, was killed by gunmen on Jan. 15, along with her bodyguard. A friend and former colleague of hers, Fawzia Koofi, speaks with The World’s host Marco Werman about her Nabizada and the ongoing plight of women in the country.

The WorldJanuary 18, 2023 · 3:30 PM EST

A Taliban fighter stands guard as people wait to receive food rations distributed by a South Korean humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2022.

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP/File photo

More than a year after taking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban continue their drive to erase women from public life. Among their latest efforts: barring women from working in national and international nongovernmental organizations.

In response to that decision last month, several major international aid agencies suspended their operations. In addition, even the most powerful women in Afghanistan fear for their lives, and for good reason.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, a former legislator was shot and killed in her home in the capital Kabul, along with her bodyguard. Mursal Nabizada was one of the few women who served in parliament and decided to remain in the country after the Taliban took power in August of 2021.

Fawzia Koofi served with Nabizada in Afghanistan's parliament. They were friends as well as colleagues. Koofi spoke to The World's host Marco Werman from London about Nabizada and the ongoing plight of women in the country.

Marco Werman: Ms. Koofi, first of all, our condolences to you. Fawzia Koofi: Thank you. These are hard days for everyone in Afghanistan.Well, I'd like to hear from you as a friend and colleague of Mursal Nabizada, just more about her. What sort of person was she? She was young when she ran for parliament in 2018, and she was very passionate about her country and about her work. She was very ambitious. She wanted to serve the communities and be connected with the communities. And this was one of the reasons that, despite all the risks, she chose to stay in Afghanistan.Were you two in touch in recent months?Yeah, she recently texted me after the Taliban ban on women working with NGOs and the UN, requesting to see if there are possibilities for her to leave the country. She was working with an NGO, and after the ban, it was not possible. So, her message was that "it's getting too much. I want to leave now."Did she express worries about her own safety, about living in Afghanistan with the Taliban in charge?Not about her safety. Everyone in Afghanistan is unsafe. Women are more unsafe because of their work and because of the fact the Taliban don't like them, even if they are female students or female teachers or female leaders, they don't like them. So, every woman in Afghanistan is unsafe. She was more worried about her dreams that were shattered and her work that was no longer possible. Unlike many others who are in contact with me, they tell me that they know they might not survive the day that they start. Every Afghan woman who contacts me now, they tell me that for them [that they are dying] in slow motion. Because if you live, and you're not recorded as a human being, you're literally dying in slow motion.So, I understand that Mursal Nabizada was offered a humanitarian visa and could have left the country long ago after the Taliban took over in 2021. She did not, though. I'm just wondering if you have any insight into her decision to stay.Well, I think initially, she tended to believe the Taliban's promise in terms of supporting women's rights. So, like many others who actually were trapped into this narrative the Taliban created, which was Taliban 2.0, pro-woman, etc. So, I think she wanted to give it a chance. But in reality, this is a narrative the Taliban created, and we and our international friends tend to believe it. It was a failed and false narrative.Fawzia you, yourself, survived at least two assassination attempts. So, you're well aware of the dangers in Afghanistan, and especially what women face, given what you call the failed and false narrative of Taliban 2.0. What are you saying to other women you speak with who are still in Afghanistan?Well, I feel very bad for not being able to be with them. But I know that even if I was in Afghanistan, I [wouldn't be] able to do much, because I was already under house arrest when the Taliban came. And I didn't want to leave. So, I don't have words when they text me messages or voice messages full of pain and sorrow and emotions asking me to help them leave the country, especially after the Taliban's two recent bans on women [attending] university and banning women from NGOs. I think literally that was the last nail in the women's rights coffin. So, everyone wants to leave and there are some who are more at risk, especially my female colleagues, politicians, who are in Afghanistan. Some of them are in Pakistan and Iran. And they are desperate, they are asking me to support them. So, one of Mursal's colleagues texted me the day before yesterday, the same day that she was killed, and said, "Ms. Koofi, is there a way for me to get out? Who knows? Probably the next would be me." But the fact is that we can't get 35 million people out, right? So, we need to really look beyond humanitarian aid and humanitarian visas, and see how politically we can create an alternative for the Taliban, so the Taliban are stopped and they do not last very long. And finally, they agree for a political settlement.So, because of that move by the Taliban banning women from working for NGOs, some aid groups have quit their operations in Afghanistan, which, of course, has its own counterproductive consequences. What do you think humanitarian groups should do when it comes to dealing with the Taliban?Well, I think it was the right decision to [end] some of this humanitarian aid, because how can your taxpayer's money go to a group excluding women from the offices? It was difficult for these humanitarian organizations to reach women across Afghanistan, in terms of the recipients. So, I think it was a good decision. As much as it's difficult and challenging, and I know that economically people are suffering, but I think it was the right decision to do so.Ms. Koofi, is there a memory about Mursal Nabizada that you've been holding on to in recent days that you'll keep with you moving forward?Yeah. When she was elected in 2018, she actually contacted me and she said, "I would like you to mentor me." And it was very sweet. When you hear that from somebody, it indicated the legacy, but also, you know, her passion to really be meaningfully involved in politics and try to do things for our country.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Related: ‘I am living through my worst nightmare’: Women aid workers in Afghanistan react to ban on employment

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Email AddressEmail AddressSubscribeI have read and agree to your Privacy Policy.Related Content ‘I am living through my worst nightmare’: Women aid workers in Afghanistan react to ban on employmentTaliban: Assailants attack hotel in Afghan capital Kabul'We are erased': The fight to reopen girls secondary schools in Afghanistan continuesAfghanistan marks 1 year since Taliban seizure as woes mount