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Roe v. Wade overturned: Will more Americans travel to Canada and Mexico for abortions?

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Roe v. Wade overturned: Will more Americans travel to Canada and Mexico for abortions?

After the ruling by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, will more Americans travel for abortions? Inequalities created by this controversial decision will be revealed at border points.

The ConversationJune 24, 2022 · 2:45 PM EDT

Anti-abortion demonstrators outside the US Supreme Court on the day the court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion laws. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights for Americans.

For the countries that share a border with the United States, what will be the impact for Americans who want to travel to Mexico or Canada to get access to abortions?

First, people will still need abortions and will seek them out. Abortion is a component of health care for people, along with other reproductive matters.

Second, abortion is a right, even if contested, and should be available without shame or risk.

Third, the ways in which Americans seek out abortion will be stratified, meaning achieved in different ways and according to a number of factors related to inequality. This will determine who crosses state or international borders to seek out abortions if unavailable in their own states.

This is the immediate and main outcome of the overturning of Roe v. Wade: a situation in which abortion is legal and accessible in some states and illegal and possibly criminalized in others.

People will still seek abortions

Nonetheless, people will continue to require abortion regardless of what state they live in. Evidence shows that abortion bans don’t stop the procedure, they just alter how people acquire them. They force people to find providers in other jurisdictions, to rely on medical abortion through internet sources — meaning that they’ll purchase online the medication that can induce abortion and administer it themselves — or to seek out clandestine or illegal and unsafe procedures.

It’s worth emphasizing that all sorts of pregnant people need and want abortions: young and old; poor and affluent; Black, Indigenous, racialized, white, people who are cisgender, transgender or nonbinary; nonreligious and religious; abortion-rights advocates and anti-abortion activists. Gloria Steinem’s research even revealed that anti-abortion activists who picket outside abortion clinics sometimes get abortions in the same clinics they are protesting.

With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and with access already seriously curtailed in many states, people have started to look to other jurisdictions for abortions.

Colorado, for example, reports a 1,000-per-cent increase in demand for abortion since the Texas abortion ban came into effect in September 2021. The law makes it almost impossible for people to access abortion in Texas.

By way of contrast, Colorado has guaranteed the right to abortion and made the state a safe haven for people throughout the US.

Abortion-rights demonstrators protest outside the US Supreme Court in Washington after the court issued a ruling that ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years. 

Credit:

Steve Helber/AP

State bans expected

In a post-Roe v. Wade political landscape, approximately half of American states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion.

This means people could travel to the remaining 25 or so states for abortions. But this isn’t so easy. Some states have already threatened surveillance and travel restrictions for the purpose of getting an abortion, and travel is expensive and invasive. Not all people will be able to pick up and leave for another state.

For people on the southern US border, Mexico will be a preferred option because they already cross the border regularly for medical and dental services or other kinds of exchanges and purchases.

Access to medical abortions is easy and cheap in Mexico, although there are reasons to be concerned about information and oversight. A medical abortion requires two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The first can be purchased in a pharmacy in Mexico; the second requires a prescription from a doctor.

There is concern that people will only acquire the first medication and forgo the second, and will not receive proper care for the entire procedure.

Slipping across the border into Mexico is familiar, anonymous, inexpensive, quick and carries with it no surveillance or judgment. This is a good option for many people, especially those who are poor, racialized and/or particularly vulnerable to state surveillance. But the removal of constitutional protections for abortion will create a stratified reproductive rights regime, in which people will be forced to make choices based on their social positions.

Travel across state borders might be easiest for the most privileged people who are the least concerned about state surveillance and control; these are people who are not poor, racialized, vulnerable or under threat.

Demonstrators hold coat hangers in the air as they protest outside of the US Supreme Court in May 2022. 

Credit:

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Travelling to Canada for abortions

Travel to Canada requires a passport, planning, time, money and medical management of the procedure. There are also relatively few abortion clinics in Canada, and there are concerns that they’re already at capacity and demand would soon outpace the ability to provide services.

Some of the states that would likely outlaw abortion — Michigan, North Dakota and Idaho among them — border rural parts of the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

This means demand might increase in the areas that are already struggling to provide abortion in underserviced and overstretched areas. And Americans who will pay out of pocket for abortions might increase wait times and further restrict access for rural, northern and Indigenous people.

The March for Life event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last May, organized by those opposed to abortion, also attracted abortion-rights protesters. 

Credit:

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Justin Trudeau’s government has welcomed Americans to Canada and ensured that Canadian Border Services will permit entry, but there are still a lot of important details to sort through.

Would people have to declare their intention to have an abortion or could they state that they were going to visit a reproductive health clinic? What level of deeply sensitive personal information needs to be revealed to the border services agent?

Who will come to Canada — which pregnant people — and why is a matter of speculation at this point. But we can be certain there will be an increase in demand from across the border, that it will put pressure on the Canadian system, that the drug combination used in medical abortions will be increasingly scarce or hard to access and that stratified reproduction rights will be revealed and replicated.

The Trudeau government has been impressive regarding its rhetorical commitments to feminist foreign policy, gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights at home and abroad, but has often failed to achieve gender justice.

With the reversal of Roe v. Wade, let’s hope Canada is ready to honor its commitments to reproductive health and rights for people on both sides of the border.

Candace Johnson is a professor of political science at the University of Guelph. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good. 

Mexico’s abortion laws have become more accessible

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Mexico's abortion laws have become more accessible

Mexico has slowly made reproductive health services more accessible over the last 20 years.

The WorldMay 24, 2022 · 1:30 PM EDT

A woman holds a banner reading in Spanish, "Legal, safe, and free abortion" as abortion rights protesters demonstrate in front of the National Congress on the "Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean," in Mexico City, Sept. 28, 2020. A delegation of US state legislators toured several Mexican cities during the third week of May 2022 to learn about the work of abortion rights activists and politicians when access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Mexico has slowly made reproductive health services more accessible over the last 20 years, largely because of changing political winds and women’s movements pushing for abortion access. The World’s Latin America correspondent Jorge Valencia reports. 

Mexico hit by year’s 1st hurricane as tropical storm season begins

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Mexico hit by year’s 1st hurricane as tropical storm season begins

Mexico this week saw the strongest hurricane ever to hit the country in May. Agatha, a Category 2 hurricane, pummeled the country’s southern Pacific coast, killing at least 10 people. The Atlantic hurricane season, which started on Wednesday, is expected to be more active than usual.

The WorldJune 1, 2022 · 4:15 PM EDT

This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Agatha, center, off the Pacific coast of Mexico on May 29, 2022, at 11:20 a.m. EDT.

NOAA via AP

Torrential rains and sustained winds over 100 miles per hour ripped through Mexico’s Oaxacan coast as Hurricane Agatha made landfall near Puerto Angel on Monday as a Category 2 gale.

Mudslides hit at least two highways and electricity was knocked from many communities. At least 10 people were killed and 20 disappeared, as of Tuesday, according to the Oaxacan state governor.

“It rained really hard on Monday morning,” said Carlos Sánchez, who runs a community radio station in the municipality of Juchitán, a couple of hours up the Oaxacan coast. “There were serious floods in homes in lower-lying areas.”

Related: More migrants are attempting to cross into the US via the perilous Rio Grande

Videos shared over social media show buildings destroyed, roads out and homes flooded with pools of water — with residents working to keep things dry.

Hurricane Agatha has been downgraded into a tropical depression, but it’s still expected to bring heavy rains to the Yucatán Peninsula this week. It’s also possible it may reform as a new storm in the Caribbean in the coming days, heading east toward Florida.

Agatha was the strongest hurricane to ever hit the country in May. It went from tropical storm to Category 2 hurricane seemingly overnight.

“It is unique. It is rare that we would see a storm form this early and intensify this quickly. But it’s par for the course that we’ve been seeing in the last few years, with this rapid intensification from initial growth to mature hurricane quickly.”

Jill Trepanier, Louisiana State University, geographer and hurricane specialist

“It is unique. It is rare that we would see a storm form this early and intensify this quickly,” said Jill Trepanier, a geographer and hurricane specialist at Louisiana State University. “But it’s par for the course that we’ve been seeing in the last few years, with this rapid intensification from initial growth to mature hurricane quickly.”

Related: ‘That news hit us like a bomb’: Asylum-seekers still in limbo after ruling to keep Title 42 intact

Trepanier said that there is one key factor driving the hurricane’s ability to get big fast: sea temperatures. They’ve been on the rise for decades. Now, of course, sea temperatures also fluctuate due to a number of factors, including weather phenomena like La Niña, which brings warmer water to the Atlantic and the Caribbean. That’s the case this year.

“The temperature right now, that I can see, is that the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean is about a half a degree to 2 degrees Celsius warmer than normal,” said Trepanier, while reviewing a Sea Surface Temperature chart updated daily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“But then, if you look at ocean temperature near the eastern seaboard, like New Jersey, the Carolinas, New York, because of the movement of the Gulf Stream, right now, it’s about 4 degrees higher than normal, Celsius. So, if a storm happens to make it up into that part, it’s going to intensify quickly.”

Related: Hundreds of feet in the air, Sonoran highliners face fears and find balance

Mexican meteorologist José Martín Cortés said that people need to be ready.

“All of the forecasts show that we are going to have above-normal tropical activity. A very active hurricane season,” he said.

If it is another above-average year, it would be the seventh in a row. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that six to 10 Atlantic hurricanes are expected this year, and half of them major ones.

Related: ‘It’s like cultural rescue’: Eelgrass festival in Mexico celebrates Indigenous Comcáac conservation efforts

“As always, if you live near anywhere in the tropics from the months of May until December, you should have your eyes in the sky,” Trepanier said. “Be aware of things like rapid intensification. Just because it forms really close to the coast does not mean that it will not have the energy available to turn into something fierce. It does not have to have a long life to become a Category 4 hurricane.” 

‘It’s like cultural rescue’: Eelgrass festival in Mexico celebrates Indigenous Comcáac conservation efforts

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>‘It’s like cultural rescue’: Eelgrass festival in Mexico celebrates Indigenous Comcáac conservation efforts

Seagrass is on the decline in the world’s oceans, but the Indigenous Comcáac people of northern Mexico have managed to protect 96% of the eelgrass that grows in their waters.

The WorldMay 23, 2022 · 2:45 PM EDT

The labor-intensive seagrass harvesting process has been perfected by the Comcáac people of northern Mexico as a traditional practice. 

Sam Schramski/The World

At a two-day festival on the coast of northern Mexico earlier this month, scientists, chefs and local residents gathered to celebrate eelgrass — a unique type of seagrass that grows in the Gulf of California. 

Seagrass is on the decline in the world’s oceans, but the Indigenous Comcáac people who live in the region have managed to protect the eelgrass that grows in their waters. 

"From my parents I learned about medicinal plants and the songs of plants, as well as about traditional foods."

Laura Molina demonstrates tortilla-making from ground eelgrass seeds

"From my parents, I learned about medicinal plants and the songs of plants, as well as about traditional foods,” said Laura Molina, who is Comcáac.

She remembers how her mom made tortillas out of flour ground from eelgrass seeds known as xnois in Comcáac language, a mix between wild rice and nori seaweed. 

Related: Indigenous communities score victories against two mining projects in Mexico

Laura Molina, who is Comcáac, remembers how her mom made tortillas out of flour ground from eelgrass seeds known, or xnois in Comcáac language. It tastes like a mix between wild rice and nori seaweed. 

Credit:

Sam Schramski/The World

Seagrass is getting a lot of attention these days because of its capacity to store carbon, estimated to sequester up to half the so-called “blue carbon” in the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems — putting it on par with global forests.

Ángel León, a Spanish chef and owner of Aponiente restaurant, has made it his personal mission to protect threatened seagrass beds off the Spanish coast. He's interested not only in the plant’s environmental benefits but also its culinary potential in the kitchen as a nutrient-rich superfood. 

León sent chef and ecologist Greg Martínez to the festival on his behalf to demonstrate his restaurant’s version of a xnois paella. 

Conservation biologist Juan Martín also represented Aponiente at the festival. He said the hope is that if seagrass becomes a sought-after superfood in Spain, it’ll be better protected there. 

“It's very nice that a guy with an apron, a cook, with dreams, has done this: given glamor to a threatened species which currently lacks it,” Martín said.

Seagrass is down about 30% globally since the late 1800s. Through León's restaurant and related nongovernmental organization, he has heavily financed seagrass restoration projects.

Related: Self-taught chef introduces rural Vermonters to traditional Thai cuisine

Chef and ecologist Greg Martínez demonstrates a version of a xnois paella. 

Credit:

Sam Schramski/The World

In the Mediterranean region, including Spain, eelgrass beds only cover an estimated half of their historic area due to coastal development and agricultural runoff.

In northern Mexico’s Comcáac country, however, locals have done a much better job of protecting eelgrass. In fact, satellite imagery indicates that the plant has remained intact in more or less the same patches for the last 20 years.

The festival was organized to call attention to Comcáac conservation efforts with interactive activities and cooking demonstrations held between Puna Chueca (a Comcàac community), and the town of Kino Bay, in Sonoro, Mexico. The Borderlands Restoration Network, the University of Artizona Southwest Center, the Eleventh Hour Project and Salarte all helped organize it. 

Gary Paul Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and writer who also helped organize the festival, thinks that the Comcáac people should earn money for their conservation work — much like certain landowners earn money for carbon credits when they preserve forests. 

Related: As Mexico's last glaciers melt, communities that depend on mountain springs scramble to find solutions

"The Comcáac have 96% of all the eelgrass habitat left in the Gulf of California. … They're the original stewards of most of the eelgrass left on the coast of Mexico today. That means that whatever they're doing has been more effective than their neighbors."

Gary Paul Nabhan, ethnobotanist and writer

"The Comcáac have 96% of all the eelgrass habitat left in the Gulf of California,” he said. “They're the original stewards of most of the eelgrass left on the coast of Mexico today. That means that whatever they're doing has been more effective than their neighbors."

The labor-intensive seagrass harvesting process has also been perfected by the Comcáac as a traditional practice. 

First, seagrass collectors gather the tangled clumps of seagrass floating on the water's surface.

First, collectors gather tangled clumps of seagrass floating on the water's surface. They dry the eelgrass seeds. And then there’s toasting and milling. 

Credit:

Sam Schramski/The World

Then, they dry the eelgrass seeds.

"You have to beat it so that the seeds fall out of the shoots. And then later you can pick out all the little seeds, which you run through a sieve."

Comcáac leader Erika Barnett

Eelgrass laid out to dry. 

Credit:

Sam Schramski/The World

"You have to beat it so that the seeds fall out of the shoots. And then later, you can pick out all the little seeds, which you run through a sieve,” Comcáac leader Erika Barnett said. 

And then, there’s toasting and milling in another series of demanding steps historically done by hand. 

Erika Barnett toasting eelgrass seed during xnois festival cookoff in Kino Bay, Mexico. 

Credit:

Sam Schramski/The World

Barnett said that before the eelgrass festival, she was hesitant to process and cook with xnois because of the amount of work involved. But now, she said she might consider reviving the tradition. 

“My dad told me that he was 7 years old the last time he tried zostera marina,” she said, using the scientific name for eelgrass. “He said that he was very happy and proud of us for having done this important work; it’s like cultural rescue.” 

Related: Desalination brings fresh water — and concern — to an Indigenous village in northern Mexico

Whether Barnett collects the tangled shoots along the Gulf again, interest in seagrasses is likely to increase on a global scale. 

As the planet continues to warm, more people are trying to figure out how to boost the carbon dioxide sequestered in the world's oceans. Seagrass floats to the surface as a viable solution.

Esper tweeted about Trump’s idea to hit drug labs in Mexico

Former Pentagon chief Mark Esper, in his memoir, claims that in 2020, Trump was twice interested in the possibility of hitting drug labs in Mexico with Patriot missiles to destroy drug cartels

Donald Trump

Former US President Donald Trump has proposed launching missile strikes on targets in Mexico to “destroy drug labs.” This is reported by The New York Times with reference to the memoirs of the former head of the Pentagon Mark Esper, which will be published next week.

According to Esper, Trump twice asked him about this possibility in the summer of 2020. The ex-president was unhappy with the constant influx of drugs into the United States through the southern border and argued that “they [the authorities of Mexico] do not control their country” and wanted to destroy the drug cartels.

The former Defense Secretary writes that Trump, in response to Esper's objections, said: “We could just launch a few Patriot missiles and silently destroy the laboratories.” “No one will know it was us,” — he quoted Trump. According to Esper, the ex-president said that the US denied the impact.

The memoir also says that Esper considered resigning several times, but that Trump was “surrounded by so many sycophants and people whispering dangerous ideas to him” that he decided to stay in office to “make sure this didn't happen.”

One of the main campaign promises of Trump, who became president in 2016, was the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico (the wall with the neighboring country of the United States has been erected since the 1990s, by the time Trump was elected, its length was more than 1 thousand km. Trump wanted to increase up to 1,600 km (his administration built just over 700 km at a cost of $11 billion; Trump's successor Joe Biden suspended funding for the project) to stop the “powerful influx of drugs.”

In the summer of 2019, Trump imposed a 5 percent tariff on goods from Mexico, explaining this by the fight against illegal migration and drug trafficking.As the ex-president stated, 90% of drugs entering the States come from Mexico through the southern border. “80 thousand people died in the past [2018] year, 1 million lives were destroyed. <…>This went on for many years and nothing was done about it,",— he said.

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The ex-president came up with the idea of ​​imposing a $500 billion economic fine on Mexico for smuggling drugs into the US. In March 2019, Trump said that Mexico had lost control of the cartels, and called this country one of the most insecure in the world. In this regard, he began to consider the issue of recognizing Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, but later postponed it at the request of the President of Mexico.

Esper served as Minister of Defense since July 2019. In November 2020, a few days after the presidential election, NBC reported that he had prepared a letter of resignation. As noted by the channel, he has long been in a strained relationship with Trump. Esper was fired on November 9, 2020.

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Источник rbc.ru

Wasserman threatened NATO with the creation of a strait between Canada and Mexico

Photo: Gennady Cherkasov

Ukrainian erudite and journalist Anatoly Wasserman, who received Russian citizenship in 2016 and became a member of the State Duma, put forward a version of that , which abruptly stopped the NATO countries from sending troops to Ukraine after the start of the Russian special operation.

As he explained in an interview with the Ukraine portal, this was the reason for the use of the Kinzhal hypersonic missile by Russia. Recall that the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said at a briefing on March 19 that a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was destroyed with this weapon. According to Wasserman, this shelter was built during the Soviet era and was designed to withstand a nuclear explosion. It turned out that such shelters are useless against modern Russian weapons. After that, Wasserman noted, even theoretical talk about the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine stopped in NATO.

“By the way, Germany officially expressed concern about this. But they acted in this way to make them worry,” – Wasserman noted, adding that it is risky to go against a country with such capabilities.

“The fact that we are able to build the Stalin Strait between Canada and Mexico has been known for a long time,” Wasserman also said. At the same time, he stressed that now we have shown that we have enough opportunities to simply prevent the enemy from offering us a reason to build such a channel.

Источник www.mk.ru

Indigenous communities score victories against two mining projects in Mexico

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Indigenous communities score victories against two mining projects in Mexico

In recent months, top federal courts in Mexico have canceled two controversial mining concessions near Indigenous communities in Puebla state. About 100 Indigenous activists are now on a monthlong caravan to defend land and water rights across southern Mexico.

The WorldApril 6, 2022 · 2:15 PM EDT

"Water is for the people" reads a sign in defense of Indigenous land and water rights at a large gathering in Ahuacatlán, Puebla state, Mexico. 

Michael Fox/The World

When residents of the small Nahua community of Santa María Zotoltepec first heard about the proposed gold and silver mine about a decade ago, they were excited.

They thought about jobs and development in their area, nestled in the Ixtacamaxtitlán municipality’s highlands of Puebla state, Mexico.

Nearby were 7 million ounces of gold and 1.4 billion ounces of silver, according to mining company Minera Gorrión, a subsidiary of the Canadian corporation Almaden Minerals. The company promised that mineral extraction would bring benefits to the community — including 420 jobs and millions in local tax revenue.

Related: Desalination brings fresh water — and concern — to an Indigenous village in northern Mexico

“At first, you can’t imagine how excited we were. How this company was coming to bring us work. It’s going to change our way of life."

Raymundo Romano, Union of Atcolhua Ejidos and Communities

"At first, you can’t imagine how excited we were. How this company was coming to bring us work. It’s going to change our way of life,” said Raymundo Romano, from the Union of Atcolhua Ejidos and Communities.

But reality slowly set in. “We started to see that this project was not good,” Romano said. “The company was going to threaten our lives, threaten our water.”

After a seven-year battle led by Indigenous communities, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in mid-February to cancel Minera Gorrión’s mining concessions in Ixtacamaxtitlán because the company had failed to consult with local people on the mining project.

It was a huge victory for the community. 

A month later, in mid-March, another federal court canceled three more mining concessions in a different Puebla region, when it ruled that the Indigenous Masewal people had also not been consulted about the mining project with another company in their community. 

The two cases may set a precedent against potential mining exploitation in the future.

Related: The debate over deep-sea mining comes to a head

A sand mine in Zacatlan shows how arid and dry the landscape is there, as the region experiences drought. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

Protecting water and land rights

Mining requires tons of water — a resource lacking in a region recently plagued by drought. At least 20 municipalities in the region currently lack sufficient water supply.

Minera Gorrión had promised to build a new water reservoir for surrounding residents. But the mine would use an estimated 1.3 million gallons of water a day to process the gold and silver. 

Pristine hillsides were at risk. Community members feared their springs would be contaminated. They feared for the Apulco River, which runs from their mountain home, down to the Veracruz coast on the Caribbean.

So, in 2015, the community of Tecoltémic, which neighbors Santa María Zotoltepec, took the mine to court, winning an injunction. The mine appealed. The case rose in the courts. Communities marched and protested before the Supreme Court. 

“We could not be happier,” said Augusto Rodriguez, who lived near the mining project. “We were very concerned before, and now we are really relieved.”

Related: A forgotten mangrove forest around remote inland lagoons in Mexico’s Yucatán tells a story of rising seas

Indigenous activists in Puebla state stand in front of a colorful sign that reads "Today the fight is for our lives." 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

Both rulings are landmark cases for Indigenous struggles against mining in Mexico. 

“I dare to say that we are at the doorstep of a new paradigm in the relations of the judicial power with the rights of Indigenous people."

Yoatzin Popoca, lawyer, Mexican Center for Environmental Law

“I dare to say that we are at the doorstep of a new paradigm in the relations of the judicial power with the rights of Indigenous people,” said Yoatzin Popoca, a lawyer with the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, a nongovernmental organization that worked on the Masewal case. 

Related: Mexican communities manage their local forests, generating benefits for humans, trees and wildlife

'We have to unite'

Hundreds of Indigenous people in the highland town of Ahuacatlán celebrated these victories in late March. And about100 Indigenous activists on a monthlong caravan in defense of Indigenous land and water rights across southern Mexico made this one of their first stops. 

At least 30 different groups have signed on to the caravan, including the National Indigenous Congress and United Peoples of the Volcano and Cholulteca Region.

“This is the only way we can stop these megaprojects dressed up as development. … We have to build these networks. … We have to unite.”

María de Jesús Patricio, former  Zapatista presidential candidate

“This is the only way we can stop these megaprojects dressed up as development,” María de Jesús Patricio told a crowd at the launch in March. She’s the former presidential candidate for the Zapatista, a radical Indigenous social movement that rose up against the Mexican state in 1994.

“We have to build these networks,” she said. “We have to unite.”

Hundreds of Indigenous people in the highland town of Ahuacatlán celebrated recent court victories that canceled mining projects in their areas. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

For the next month, the caravan will be visiting communities in nine states that are also facing threats from mines, dams and other extractive industries. Ahuacatlán is a municipality that, in recent years, has been in the middle of plans for both mines and three hydroelectric dam projects.

“It’s good what the caravan is doing. … Because we are not fighting just for one person, but for all of us. We are fighting for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Those are the ones who will suffer even more.”

Santiago Pedro, small farmer who met with the caravan in Ahuacatlán

“It’s good what the caravan is doing,” said small farmer Santiago Pedro, who met with the caravan in Ahuacatlán. “Because we are not fighting just for one person, but for all of us. We are fighting for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Those are the ones who will suffer even more.”

In Ahuacatlán, they held religious ceremonies. They ate, sang and danced. They committed to stand up to attacks on their land. They also shared stories of hope, like those of the recent court victories.

"Water is the blood of the land" reads a sign at a community gathering of Indigenous people in Puebla state. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

An uphill battle

Those in attendance said they still face an uphill battle. Romano and others fear the companies will try to overturn the rulings. They say Mexico’s Mining Law itself needs to be changed to meet the environmental needs of Indigenous groups. 

Over 8% of Mexican territory is concessioned to mining.

“We are one of the top 10 producers of the most precious minerals in the world,” said Valentina Campos Cabral, director of Iberoamerican University’s Environmental Investigations Institute. Total mineral and mining production in 2020 was worth almost $14 billion.

Indigenous communities say they are going to be more united than ever.

“Everyone should know that the municipality of Ixtacamaxtitlán is against the projects that threaten our lives,” Romano said. “And that’s the way it’s going to be. Any other municipalities that need our support, you’ve got it.”

Ukrainian refugees rushed to the US through Mexico

The US government has not launched an official procedure for the resettlement of people from Ukraine

Hundreds of Ukrainians arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana to seek asylum in the United States, and more such people are expected. The other day, President Joe Biden said that America would accept up to 100 thousand Ukrainian refugees, but for now they have to get to the United States at their own peril and risk.

Photo: Global Look Press

The U.S. federal government has not yet given a timeline for resettling Ukrainian refugees—often a lengthy process—or details about where they will be resettled. It is unlikely that the United States will see a massive influx of Ukrainians on charter and military flights, as it did with Afghan refugees last year.

The number of Ukrainians seeking asylum on the US-Mexico border is growing every day. “Right now, there are about 1,500 Ukrainians in Tijuana,” Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for the Mexican border town, told CNN. “We have had a sudden influx in the last four days, mainly because after the conflict started we started seeing arrivals from March 11th, and since then the number of people arriving has increased significantly.”

Residing in Orange County ( California) Inna Levien is part of a group of volunteers leading efforts to help Ukrainians near the border. She told CNN that the number of Ukrainians has quadrupled in the past few days.

As Enrique Lucero told CNN, although he expects all migrants to enter the US, US authorities are in no hurry to process them, and therefore So many people have gathered this side of the border in Mexico.

“They process 100, 150 or even 200 a day, and it takes almost three hours to process them,” says Lucero. “That's why we see this mini-camp on the border.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is allowing Ukrainians to be exempt on a case-by-case basis from Trump-era pandemic restrictions that allowed the expulsion of migrants gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border and which continued to be used under the Biden administration. These restrictions will end on May 23, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday.

In the past two years, about 1.7 million migrants have been expelled by US authorities using these restrictions. But US officials made an exception for Ukrainians, writes The Washington Post.

A group of volunteers, made up of Californian mothers who met on social media, provided arriving Ukrainian families with essentials such as food, blankets, tents and toys to keep their children busy. According to Inna Levien, those refugees who have the financial means are encouraged to stay in hotels, which cost about $40-60 per night.

Volunteers also help by bringing people arriving at the border, to the list and assigning them a number so that they do not have to stand in line all the time while they are waiting to enter – after all, the waiting time can take more than 24 hours. .

But the city of Tijuana has also been instrumental in providing some relief, says Levien: Authorities have recently turned a bus station into a temporary shelter, and a network of churches has stepped up to help house families waiting to be processed by immigration authorities.

By According to Enrique Lucero, the city is also working on converting the sports facility into a temporary shelter. “We were told that about 500 migrants would arrive on the next flights, so during the day their number would increase to two thousand,” he said.

According to The Washington Post, in March the United States pledged to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, but a way has yet to be found to bring them in directly, as there are no resettlement programs or visa channels. This led to the fact that more and more Ukrainians began to book flights to Mexico. They get to the border with the United States on foot, many carry children in strollers and drag suitcases.

On social networks and instant messengers, groups with thousands of participants now explain the process in Ukrainian: from major European cities, fly either to Cancun or Mexico City. Ukrainians do not need a visa to enter the country. From there, another flight to Tijuana.

About 300 meters from the US border, a small camp has grown up, where families sleep in tents and under tarps. It's the same tiny patch that has hosted refugees from all over the world in recent years: Central Americans who were part of the migrant caravans in 2018; Haitians and Cubans who arrived during the pandemic; Mexicans fleeing this year's surge in violence. But few refugees are processed by US authorities as quickly as those who arrived from Ukraine.

The federal government has not said when the official resettlement process will begin, but Ukrainian communities in such American cities, according to the Associated Press, like Sacramento and Seattle, are already mobilizing to provide food, shelter, and support to refugees entering the country through other channels, including on expired visas or through Mexico.

Источник www.mk.ru

Russians and Ukrainians attempt to flee to the US through Mexico

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Russians and Ukrainians attempt to flee to the US through Mexico

The number of Russians and Ukrainians attempting to enter the US from Mexico has increased in recent months. The pattern started months before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. 

The WorldMarch 21, 2022 · 3:00 PM EDT

A Customs and Border Protection officer stands at the entrance to the San Ysidro Port of Entry as a boy sings for change among the waiting cars, March 2, 2022, seen from Tijuana, Mexico.

Gregory Bull/AP/File photo

Dmitry Politov spent months planning for a beach vacation in Cancún, Mexico. He bought round-trip tickets from Moscow and paid for a hotel room. But when he arrived in Mexico last summer, he didn’t go to the beach.

Instead, he traveled to Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego, and never went back to Russia.

“I was scared for my life. … I would be in jail now.”

Dmitry Politov, Russian living in the US

Dmitry Politov now lives in Sacramento, California.

Credit:

Courtesy of Dmitry Politov

“I was scared for my life,” he said. “I would be in jail now.”

Politov, 29, identifies as a supporter of jailed Russian dissident Alexi Navalny.

He spent months carefully planning his escape and decided to seek asylum in the United States.

But due to the pandemic, the US had stopped processing asylum applications filed from any port of entry in March 2020, under a controversial health policy known as Title 42.

Related: Trump's hard-line immigration policies build on the history of former US presidents

That's why many asylum-seekers, including Politov, have decided to risk crossing the border without authorization to enter. 

Politov lives now in Sacramento, California. In a YouTube video, he describes his journey and confesses to nerves before crossing the border.

“The crossing can be very dangerous,” he said. “But I am free. America feels like home for me.”

Related: 'We have compassion for them': Romania is taking in thousands of Ukrainian refugees

The number of Russians and Ukrainians attempting to enter the US from Mexico has increased in recent months, according to data released by the US Customs and Border Patrols.

The pattern started months before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

More than 7,100 Russians crossed the border, without authorization, between October 2021 and February 2022 — that is 26 times more than the same period the previous year.

Ukrainians have also been crossing in greater numbers, with 1,300 asylum-seekers in the first five months of 2022, compared to 43 in 2021.

Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, attributes the spike to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased repression by the Russian government.

Related: ‘We have the means to support them’: Canada prepares to welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees

“We have seen the legal pathways for Russians and Ukrainians to come to the US narrowing over the past couple of years. And this may be why some are turning to the border. It's much easier for them to get permission to travel to Mexico.”

Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute

“We have seen the legal pathways for Russians and Ukrainians to come to the US narrowing over the past couple of years. And this may be why some are turning to the border. It's much easier for them to get permission to travel to Mexico.”

Bolter said the US consulate in Ukraine stopped processing tourist visas since the beginning of the pandemic. Vladimir Putin’s government has also increased prosecutions of Russian dissidents and members of the LGBTQ community in the last few years, she said.

Dmitry Politov tried crossing the border twice.

On his first attempt, he paid $1,200 to a smuggler who grouped him with six other people from Eastern Europe. But they were stopped right before the border and sent to a detention center. 

After he was released, a few days later, he gave it another try. He joined a group of five other Russians and purchased a truck for $2,000 from a car dealer in Tijuana. “This time we chose a better time for crossing the border,” he said. They crossed at about 2 a.m.

“It was easy,” he said.

This way of crossing the border is popular among Russian and Ukrainian citizens, according to Taylor Levy, an immigration lawyer who specializes in asylum-seekers at the US southern border.

“Because of operational staffing issues, Customs and Border Patrols do not always have sufficient agents to staff the car lines of all the ports of entry.  … They pretty much always have agents stationed in the pedestrian line, but not always stop all the cars before they touch US soil.”

Taylor Levy, immigration lawyer who specializes in asylum cases at the US southern border

“Because of operational staffing issues, Customs and Border Patrols do not always have sufficient agents to staff the car lines of all the ports of entry,” she said. “They pretty much always have agents stationed in the pedestrian line, but not always stop all the cars before they touch US soil.”

After a few asylum-seekers successfully used this method to enter the United States, she said, the idea spread through social media.

“Certain tactics become popular with specific ethnic groups,” she said.

Many Europeans also have the resources to pay for cars, compared to migrants from other nationalities, who enter by foot and use pedestrian lines, she said.

Related: US’ indefinite ban on Iranians drafted into Iran’s Revolutionary Guard continues to separate families

The number of asylum-seekers from Russia and Ukraine is likely to increase in the coming months as a result of the armed conflict, according to Erika Piñero, litigation and policy director of Al Otro Lado, an organization in Tijuana that works with migrants and refugees.

 “We saw Russians and Ukrainians being admitted kind of on an ad hoc basis. We saw some of them sleeping outside of the port of entry and waiting days to be admitted. So, there were really no clear guidelines, there is a lot of confusion.”

Erika Piñero, litigation and policy director, Al Otro Lado, Tijuana, Mexico 

“We are starting to see the first wave of people who are fleeing the conflict,” she said. “We saw Russians and Ukrainians being admitted kind of on an ad hoc basis. We saw some of them sleeping outside of the port of entry and waiting days to be admitted. So, there were really no clear guidelines, there is a lot of confusion.”

Eastern European nationalities only represent 2% of the total number of people who attempted to cross the border in February, according to CBP numbers. Hundreds of thousands of migrants from Central America and Haiti have been waiting for years at the US-Mexico border for a chance to be admitted, Piñero said.

She noticed this crisis has shed light on the disparate treatment of migrants by immigration officials depending on nationality.

Related: ‘Help wanted’: Immigrants find opportunities to learn English, get jobs amid labor shortage in New Hampshire

“What I have personally observed is that CBP tends to be more polite or tell [Europeans] to wait,” Piñero said. “They converse with them, treat them like human beings. But when we see Central American or Black migrants approaching the port of entry, they are told to leave, they are screamed at, they're told that they cannot access asylum at all, they are not told to wait.”

For immigration lawyer Levy, it is time for the Biden administration to end the Title 42 policy. 

Under the Biden administration, Human Rights First has documented over 8,000 cases of torture, rape and other violent attacks on people who have been expelled to Mexico from the US border due to the Title 42 policy.

“It's ultimately giving a lot of money to organized crime, giving a lot of money to the smugglers. It causes people to cross over and over again. It's causing parents to send their children across alone," Levy said.

Desalination brings fresh water — and concern — to an Indigenous village in northern Mexico

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Desalination brings fresh water — and concern — to an Indigenous village in northern Mexico

A lack of fresh water has plagued the Comcáac people of northern Mexico for generations. There’s new hope in desalination plants, but some worry about its impact on marine life.

The WorldFebruary 28, 2022 · 10:45 AM EST

People living in Punta Chueca, home to the Comcáac, have struggled with a lack of fresh water for generations. 

Michael Fox/The World

A lack of fresh water has plagued the Indigenous Comcáac people of northern Mexico for generations.

Roughly 3,000 Comcáac people live in two villages along the desert coast of the Gulf of California, in the Mexican state of Sonora — an expansive, dry desert landscape of dirt roads and huge green cacti. 

Last year, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to fund a new desalination plant that strips sea water of salt, providing more reliable access to fresh water. But some worry about its harmful impact on marine life.

Related: The case of the disappearing giant squid

“Water has been a huge problem. … I am 71 years old, 71 years suffering from the lack of water. Water. Water. Water. There is no water.”

Robert Molina Herrera, elder and teacher, Punta Chueca, northern Mexico

“Water has been a huge problem,” said Roberto Molina Herrera, an elder who lives in Punta Chueca, a small Comcáac village that has struggled with fresh water access for decades.

“I am 71 years old,” said Molina Herrera, who teaches traditional dance and song. “Seventy-one years, suffering from the lack of water. Water. Water. Water. There is no water.”

Related: The debate over deep-sea mining comes to a head 

The state government used to truck in water twice a week for years. But it was never enough. Then, about 25 years ago, a small desalination plant was built to remove salt from sea water, but the process only worked sparingly.

When the system broke down, residents lived without fresh water for weeks or months. 

That’s what happened last year. In the middle of the pandemic, the community went two months without fresh water. Some residents had to be treated for dehydration.

“They were terrible times. … We washed our dishes and our clothes with ocean water. We traveled to the closest town to fill up jugs with fresh water to bathe and drink. It was very hard.”

Alberto Mellado Moreno, esteemed community leader, Punta Chueca, northern Mexico

“They were terrible times,” said esteemed community leader Alberto Mellado Moreno. “We washed our dishes and our clothes with ocean water. We traveled to the closest town to fill up jugs with fresh water to bathe and drink. It was very hard.”

Mellado Moreno stands behind his home in Punta Chueca, northern Mexico. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World 

Community members demanded relief. Last October, López Obrador agreed to fund and build another, larger desalination plant in addition to the one built in 2000.

“I authorize the introduction of water for the Comcáac people,” he said. “The government will cover the cost,” said López Obrador in a televised address last November.

Today, two desalination plants now sit at the edge of Punta Chueca in separate, small concrete buildings. Fresh water is now running to almost every home.

“It’s already improving. … We have water. We can fill up our tanks and we can grab water to bathe.”

Juana Perales, resident, Punta Chueca, northern Mexico

One of two desalination plants helps provide fresh water to the residents of Punta Chueca.

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

“It’s already improving,” resident Juana Perales said. “We have water. We can fill up our tanks and we can grab water to bathe.”

Most families now have large plastic water containers outside their homes that they can fill up when the water’s running, which only happens for about half of the day — despite the two plants.

But not everyone is excited by these developments. 

Some community members protested López Obrador’s visit to the area earlier this month, carrying signs that read: “Don’t pollute the ocean,” and “water from wells, not the sea.”

Related: A forgotten mangrove forest around remote inland lagoons in Mexico’s Yucatán tells a story of rising seas

Some are worried that the new plant will contaminate the ocean and harm the sea life, which they depend on for food, income and tourism.

Their concerns are valid. For every liter of fresh water produced by a desalination plant, a liter of brine is made, which is usually dumped back into the ocean.

A 2019 UN study warned of the “profound impacts” of high concentrations of brine in seawater near desalination plants, which can cut oxygen levels and impact marine life. 

México has roughly 400 desalination plants, but lacks regulations on how to dispose of the brine.

Fisherman with their catch of the day in Punta Chueca, northern Mexico. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

“In developing countries, such as Mexico and others, where there is a lack of regulation, brine disposal can result in significant water quality impacts, as brine contains high salts which can harm sea life."

Gurpal Toor,  environmental science professor, University of Maryland

“In developing countries, such as Mexico and others, where there is a lack of regulation, brine disposal can result in significant water quality impacts, as brine contains high salts which can harm sea life,” said Gurpal Toor, an environmental science professor at the University of Maryland.

“Some desalination plants in the world also use some chemicals for pretreatment which can also contain heavy metals.”

Aaron Barnett, a 27-year-old fisherman in Punta Chueco, said he’s seen declining numbers of catch in recent years, but he doesn’t think the main problem is desalination.

“Yes, I am worried. I’m worried for the fish and the species. But there are other factors that have made our fishing decrease in recent years. Like, overfishing from people who are not from the tribe."

Aaron Barnett, fisherman, Punta Chueca, northern Mexico

Fisherman Aaron Barnett, 27, sits on a boat next to another fisherman. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

“Yes, I am worried,” he said. “I’m worried for the fish and the species. But there are other factors that have made our fishing decrease in recent years. Like, overfishing from people who are not from the tribe,” he said. 

Sonora state is the country’s top producer of fish. But catches are down anywhere from 10% to 40% across the state, according to the environmental watchdog group Oceana

Meanwhile, more than 10 million people in México lack access to fresh water.

Scientists say this is a growing problem for México, which is already one of the most water-stressed countries in Latin America. And global warming is expected to cause ever greater periods of drought and water shortages.

“The desalination plant is what we have for now, and it’s worth millions of pesos,” said community leader Mellado Moreno.

“Despite the difficulty of life in the desert, we should be fortunate. That’s life in the desert.”

More than 30 countries recommended their citizens to leave Ukraine

More than 30 countries have called on their citizens to leave Ukraine due to threats of “Russian invasion” Amid reports of an allegedly planned Russian invasion and rising tensions around Ukraine, more states are calling on their citizens to leave the country and refrain from traveling there

At least 34 states have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine or cancel planned trips to the country amid fears of a possible Russian invasion.

On the morning of February 13, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico issued such a call. The agency said in a statement that Mexicans who want to visit Ukraine for tourism or business purposes should abandon plans “because of the growing risk of staying there without the possibility of leaving,” and Mexican citizens who live in Ukraine and want to leave it, &mdash ; use “still available commercial routes”.

The day before, Italian Foreign MinisterLuigi Di Maio recommended that Italians return to their homeland in commercial vehicles and postpone trips to Ukraine. In addition, the authorities decided to recall non-essential staff of the embassy in Kiev to Italy. The diplomatic mission will continue to work as usual, he assured.

Sweden decided to toughen recommendations against trips to Ukraine “due to changes in the security situation.” The authorities of Norway, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania, the Czech Republicand Slovenia have published a similar recommendation.

The authorities of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE and called on their citizens to leave the territory of UkraineKuwait. They were joined by Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Earlier, similar recommendations were issued by Jordan , Bahrain, Bahamas, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Qatar.

Video

One of the first who urged citizens not to visit Ukraine « due to the increased threat of Russian military operations and COVID-19, the United States has become. Their example was followed by Great Britain, Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Israel, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Japan, South Korea.

In addition, a number of states announced the departure from Kiev of diplomats who do not occupy critical positions. “RIA Novosti” announced the beginning of the evacuation of the Russian embassy, ​​however, the diplomatic mission said that it was operating as usual.

Several Western publications and agencies, including Bloomberg, Spiegel and Politico, reported that Russia plans to invade Ukraine 15&ndash ;February 16th. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for proof, saying there was “too much” in the information space. information about the upcoming war. Earlier, he called the departure of foreign diplomats a mistake, noting that Ukraine needs the presence of allies amid escalating tensions. Moscow insists that it does not intend to attack Kiev.

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Источник rbc.ru

US, Canada and Mexico to hold talks at the White House

“MuiTypography-root-228 MuiTypography-h1-233″>US, Canada and Mexico to hold talks at the White HouseThe WorldNovember 18, 2021 · 10:45 AM EST

President Joe Biden waves towards the White House balcony in Washington, Nov. 17, 2021.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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

US-Canada-Mexico
US President Joe Biden will host trilateral talks with Canada and Mexico on Thursday at the White House. While the neighboring allies have to discuss their significant differences on migration, climate and trade issues, the summit will have a strong focus on furthering economic cooperation. The US is a top trade partner for Mexico and Canada and both countries are concerned by the US’ “Buy American” provision, central to the US president’s agenda, and a proposed tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles in the US that will favor US-based car makers. Protectionist policies could keep Canadian and Mexican companies from lucrative contracts and the countries plan to argue for a level playing field to lure EV supply chain manufacturers.

Greece
A trial for a group of 24 volunteers who took part in search-and-rescue operations of migrants at sea on the Greek island of Lesbos has been adjourned shortly after opening, after a judge ruled that the local court was not competent to hear the case. The defendants, made up of Greek and foreign nationals, including Syrian competitive swimmer Sara Mardini, are facing a myriad of charges ranging from espionage and assisting criminal activity. Aid groups and human rights organizations have criticized the trial as being politically motivated and have called for all charges to be dropped.

Belarus
Hundreds of Iraqis have flown home from Belarus after nearly two weeks of tensions at the Poland-Belarus border. Some 2,000 people, mainly of Middle Eastern origin, were stranded at the border with security forces of both nations facing off. Belarusian state media reported that there were no more migrants at the makeshift camp along the border. At least 12 people died in the area. There were 430 Iraqis who registered for the repatriation flights, according to Iraq’s Consulate in Russia.

From The WorldMeet the 11-year-old on a mission to clean up the Seine

Alexandre de Fages de Latour and his son, Raphael, 10, are pictured near the Seine in Paris, where they fish out treasures — and junk.

Credit:

Rebecca Rosman/The World

Raphael has dedicated his free time to fishing waste out of the Seine in Paris using a magnetic rod. He's already managed to pull out 7 tons of waste including electric bikes, scooters, scrap metal and cellphones.

Go behind the scenes with one of our correspondents.

Shirin Jaafari, a correspondent with The World since 2015, traveled to Afghanistan in July 2021 to report on the quickly evolving situation as the US withdrawal process was underway.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting from Herat days before the Taliban overtook the city.

Putting together stories in hostile environments is time- and resource-intensive. Make a gift today to support the work of Shirin and others here at The World. Thank you!

Double Take

You've heard of online colleges, but what about an embassy on the metaverse?

Barbados says it will be the world's first country to establish a digital embassy in a 3D digital world hosted by Decentraland. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade struck the deal for the virtual embassy set to open in January 2022. 

In case you missed itListen: New Delhi struggles with smothering smog

Morning haze and smog envelops the skyline after air quality fell to hazardous levels in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2021.

Credit:

Altaf Qadri/AP

Soaring pollution levels in New Delhi, India, have prompted officials to indefinitely close schools and some coal-based power plants. We hear from a climate analyst about the health implications and causes of the smothering smog. And, the Biden administration has announced a major new investment in vaccine manufacturing, with an aim to help address global inequalities. But critics say it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Plus, since the 1950s, Mexican painter and intellectual Frida Kahlo has been revered as a feminist icon. One of her famous self-portraits just sold for nearly $35 million — more than any other work of art from Latin America.

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

A forgotten mangrove forest around remote inland lagoons in Mexico’s Yucatán tells a story of rising seas

A forgotten mangrove forest around remote inland lagoons in Mexico’s Yucatán tells a story of rising seas

Mangroves grow in saltwater along tropical coastlines, but scientists have found them along a river in Mexico’s Yucatán, more than 100 miles from the sea. Climate change explains their shift.

By
Sula E. Vanderplank

A stand of red mangroves in the calm, calcium-rich, fresh waters of the San Pedro Mártir River, Tabasco, Mexico. 

Credit:

Ben Meissner, CC BY-ND

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The San Pedro River winds from rainforests in Guatemala through the Yucatán Peninsula in eastern Mexico.

There, this peaceful river widens into a series of slow-flowing lakes. Along a remote 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch, thousands of red mangroves — trees commonly found along tropical coastlines — line the river’s banks and gentle waterfalls.

Unlike mangroves elsewhere, these trees grow in freshwater. This means that many other species can grow with them: orchids, bromeliads and other air and land plants that cannot tolerate the saline conditions where red mangroves are normally found. It’s a magical garden, and also a scientific puzzle: How did these mangroves come to be growing some 125 miles (200 kilometers) inland, 85 to 120 feet (25 to 37 meters) above sea level, in an entirely freshwater ecosystem?

I am part of a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Mexico and the US that sought to answer this question by comparing these trees to other mangroves across the broader Yucatán Peninsula region. We also analyzed sediment cores from the San Pedro River terraces, which showed strong indications that the sediments had been created in coastal areas.

We found that the mangroves of the river have been separated from coastal mangroves for around 120,000 years. This coincides with the Last Interglacial — a warm period between ice ages, about 125,000 years ago, when glaciers and polar ice caps melted almost entirely.

During that time, the Earth was even warmer than at present and sea levels were 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) higher. These mangroves’ ancestors were coastal trees that were left isolated as the planet cooled during the Wisconsin Glaciation — the last era when glaciers expanded across North America. As the glaciers spread, sea levels fell, exposing more land around them. Now, this unique forest, a footprint of the past, is at risk of deforestation and development that could prevent scientists from studying it for more insights into Earth’s climate history.

Fish and other aquatic life in the San Pedro Martir River in Tabasco, Mexico, amid submerged red mangrove roots. 

Credit:

Octavio Aburto, CC BY-ND

Mangroves and freshwater

The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is an iconic tree that is enormously important to commercial and artisanal fisheries around the world. Juvenile fish shelter among mangroves’ tangled roots, feeding and growing until they are large enough to avoid predators.

Our study focused on two inland lagoons created by giant cenotes — natural sinkholes in the Yucatan’s limestone bedrock — near the Caribbean coast. Red mangroves reproduce via seeds that germinate while they are still attached to mother plants, then drop onto a bank or into the water, where they float away and establish themselves on adjacent banks. This adaptation enables mangroves to spread along coastlines, even though saltwater is toxic to most seeds and makes germination very difficult.

We were fascinated to know how the San Pedro mangroves got there. Their seedlings couldn’t float upstream for so many miles, and the forest on the banks was large and well-established, which made it seem highly unlikely that an animal or human could have brought the seeds inland. To our knowledge, the San Pedro River mangroves are unique in existing so far from the coast.

Mangroves store 3-5 times more #carbon per unit area than other tropical forests. But 67% of global #mangroves have been lost. More and more countries understand their value for #ClimateChange mitigation & adaptation policies #NDCs @ThomsonFiji#WorldMangroveDay #RestoreWetlands pic.twitter.com/JHwmoMN6hy

— Martha Rojas Urrego (@martharojasu1) July 26, 2021Isolation and fragmentation

One way to determine where plants may have come from is to see whether they are genetically related to colonies of similar plants elsewhere in a region. So we conducted a genetic investigation that looked for single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or “snips” — differences in a single DNA building block between one plant and another.

We found that the closest relatives to the San Pedro River’s isolated mangroves were mangroves at the Terminos Lagoon on the Yucatán’s western coast, along the Gulf of Mexico. Mangroves from both river communities also were closely related to other coastal populations on the Gulf of Mexico. However, they were very distinct from other freshwater inland mangrove populations in cenotes on the Yucatán’s eastern coast along the Caribbean, and those populations are distinct in turn from other coastal mangroves.

We cored the largest mangrove trees at three sites, extracting pencil-shaped samples from their trunks that showed their growth rings, to get a sense of how long these trees lived — about 100 years — and how many generations of trees had lived there. Then we multiplied that figure by a mean genetic mutation rate to estimate how old the San Pedro mangroves were when they diverged genetically from other mangroves, and how long ago that divergence occurred.

We calculated that the San Pedro River and Terminos Lagoon mangrove populations separated genetically approximately 100,000 years ago. This supports our hypothesis that the San Pedro River mangroves are a relict from the last interglacial, some 120,000 years ago.

Our data also suggests that something drastically reduced the size of the isolated inland population of San Pedro River mangroves. This created what scientists call a genetic or population bottleneck, meaning that its gene pool became much smaller. As a result, the current population has a more unique genetic signature than mangroves elsewhere. Amazingly, this change was caused by just 30 feet (9 meters) of change in sea level.

What else does this unique forest hold?

Our discovery raises an obvious question: Which other species have been isolated in this unique ecosystem for the past 125,000 years? Are there insects? Fungi? We hope scientists who study other types of organisms will explore this area and look for more relicts.

But this special place is at risk. The region was systematically deforested in the 1970s as part of a development plan, but the banks of the San Pedro River escaped the bulldozers because the terrain was challenging. New threats loom today, such as a proposed 950-mile (1,529 km) train route that would carry thousands of visitors to Mayan archaeological sites.

Mayan river systems contain a wealth of cultural and biological riches. Now, we also know that the story of extreme climate change and sea level rise during the Pleistocene is recorded in the DNA of these plants.

They show how dramatically climate change could alter coastal ecosystems along the Gulf of Mexico and many other shorelines if nations do not take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. My colleagues and I believe the San Pedro River deserves protection as a testament to both resilience and adaptation in a changing climate.

Sula E Vanderplank is an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. This article is republished from The Conversation a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good.

Suicide bombings kill at least 37 at a mosque in Afghanistan

Suicide bombings kill at least 37 at a mosque in Afghanistan

By
The World staff

The scene after a bomb blast hits Shia community mosque in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15, 2021.

Credit:

Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

Afghanistan
A group of suicide bombers have attacked another Shiite mosque in Afghanistan — killing at least 37 people and injuring dozens of others — during Friday prayers in Kandahar in the south of the country. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, but a similar attack just last week on a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz was claimed by the ISIS-Khorasan group. Witnesses say a suicide bomber attacked  the entrance of the mosque, followed by two others inside the building. Journalists have posted photos and mobile phone footage on social media of the bloodied floor of the Bibi Fatima mosque.

Lebanon
The Lebanese government has called for a national day of mourning on Friday after heavy gun battles in Beirut left at least seven people dead as protests were taking place on the streets. Schools, banks and government offices were closed. Heavily armed militias had used automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the streets of the capital, reminiscent of the country’s 15-year civil war. Lebanon has been reeling from a humanitarian and  economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive Beirut port blast in August of last year.

Mexico
The Biden administration is planning to reinstate the controversial  “Remain in Mexico” policy in November, which was implemented during the Trump administration. The US Supreme Court upheld a decision made in August by the US District Court in Texas requiring the government to restore the policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Under the agreement, the Mexican government would have to accept the return of asylum seekers to its territory. “Mexico is a sovereign nation that must make an independent decision to accept the return of individuals without status in Mexico as part of any reimplementation of MPP,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The Trump administration returned more than 60,000 asylum seekers under the policy, requiring them to wait outside US territory as their claims were processed in US courts.

From The WorldNovelist Abdulrazak Gurnah: ‘Colonialism and its consequences are still with us’

Zanzibar-born writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for literature, smiles ahead of a press conference in London, Oct. 8, 2021. 

Credit:

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Last week was an adrenaline rush for novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah. Since his phone rang with the news that he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, he’s had a few quiet moments.

Gurnah joined The World’s host Marco Werman to talk about what motivates him to continue exploring the ongoing consequences of colonialism in his literary works, and the power of literature to help us understand the plight of the other.

UN court favors Somalia in maritime border dispute judgment

Fishermen set out for their day’s work in the Indian Ocean shortly after dawn in the former pirate village of Eyl, in Somalia’s semiautonomous northeastern state of Puntland, March 7, 2017.

Credit:

Ben Curtis/AP

The UN International Court of Justice ruled to split the disputed triangular maritime area — believed to be rich in oil, natural gas and valuable fisheries — in half. But Kenya has been clear that it would not recognize any judgment by the court.

Double Take

If you thought your alarm clock was startling, how about waking up to a meteorite crashing down onto your pillow?! Ruth Hamilton in Golden, British Columbia, woke up recently to the sounds of dogs barking. And, it was a good thing she did, because moments later, a charcoal-grey meteorite about the size of a melon crashed through her roof and struck her pillow … where she had just been sleeping.

A chunk of rock plummeted from space, tearing through a B.C. woman’s roof before coming to rest on her floral pillowcase, inches from where her head had been moments earlier. https://t.co/E4CzdW8lEg

— CBC News (@CBCNews) October 12, 2021In case you missed itListen: Violent clashes in Beirut over blast investigation

A Lebanese special forces soldier takes his position, as he points to his comrades to a position of a Shiite group sniper who was sniping at the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remaneh, in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 14, 2021. 

Credit:

Hussein Malla/AP

Gunfire erupted on the streets of Beirut on Thursday, killing six people. The violence erupted when armed supporters of Shiite militant and political groups, Hezbollah and Amal, marched through a Christian neighborhood in protests against the judge presiding over the August blast investigation. And police say a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway Wednesday night in which a man is suspected of killing five people appears to be an “act of terror.” It’s the worst attack in Norway since Anders Breivik, the far-right extremist who killed 77 people in 2011. Plus, The World remembers Irish musician Paddy Moloney, master of the uilleann pipes, slide whistle and penny whistle, and co-founder of the Chieftains.

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

Mexico expels Central American migrants to rural Guatemala

Mexico expels Central American migrants to rural Guatemala

Mexico is forcing hundreds of migrants to the small border outpost of El Ceibo, Guatemala. Many are would-be asylum-seekers in the US.

By
Jorge Valencia

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Honduran migrants Bianca Emerita Galvan, 22, left, and Dani Omar Suazo, 21, holding their son 1-year-old sone Daniel Emir, arrive at El Ceibo, Guatemala, Aug. 12, 2021, after being deported by air from the US to Mexico and then shipped into Guatemala by land. The Central American migrants were expelled by the US after being denied a chance to seek asylum under a pandemic-related ban. 

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Santiago Billy/AP

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The town of El Ceibo is but a little speck along the Guatemala-Mexico line.

Retailers work at a handful of stores catering primarily to Mexican shoppers who cross the border on day trips, and farmworkers tend to bean and corn crops on the surrounding land.

Over the past month, though, El Ceibo, Guatemala, has been crowded with the daily arrival of buses full of migrants being expelled from Mexico.

Some are young mothers with small children, others are young men traveling alone. Some are fleeing poverty, others are fleeing persecution. Many were pushed out of the US into Mexico without their cases being heard, while the rest were taken into custody in Mexico.

As the Biden administration and their Mexican counterparts grapple with the Supreme Court’s order to reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands US asylum-seekers to wait out their cases south of the border, the Mexican government is quietly sending hundreds of Central American migrants every day to rural Guatemala.

The high court this week told the Biden administration that it’s violating federal law by trying to rescind the policy, which hasn’t been in effect since March 2020.

Meanwhile, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a news conference Thursday that Mexico helping the US on immigration “can’t go on forever.”

Most migrants arriving in El Ceibo find themselves lost in a small town surrounded by marshlands and hills. This week, they included Walter Videz, a 31-year-old salesman who said he fled his native Honduras because he couldn’t find work and could no longer afford to pay the extortion demanded by a local gang.

Videz said he had been taken into custody by Mexican immigration officials earlier in the day and immediately put on a southbound bus. He and the other migrants with him realized they were being dropped in rural Guatemala only when they saw a border sign — even though immigration officials told them they were taking them to Honduras, he said.

“They lied to us,” Videz said.

Videz said he hadn’t eaten in the 24 hours since he was detained, and that he didn’t have any money to buy food.

United Nations agencies and human rights organizations expressed concern this week over the new US measures leaving people stranded in Guatemala. Without screening migrants for their reasons for fleeing, the governments were potentially putting them at risk.

Click on the audio player above to hear more from the migrants passing through El Ceibo, desperately searching for a better life. 

Mexico sues US-based gunmakers over arms trafficking and gun violence

Mexico sues US-based gunmakers over arms trafficking and gun violence

By
The World staff

Handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

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John Locher/AP/File photo

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

Mexico
The Mexican government has sued several prominent US-based gun manufacturers, alleging that negligent practices on controls are contributing to the illegal flow of weapons across the border, into the hands of cartels in Mexico. The lawsuit, filed in US federal court in Boston where several of the gun companies are located, targets the gunmakers and distributors — not the US government — arguing that companies know their alleged lax practices contribute to the trafficking of guns to Mexico and fuel violence there. The impact this case could have is unclear. A 2005 US law shields gun manufacturers from most civil liability claims.

WHO
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has called for a moratorium on administering COVID-19 booster shots until more doses are available in countries with low vaccination rates. Germany has already announced plans to offer booster shots, while Israel, Russia, Hungary and France have already begun offering the doses to specific high-risk populations. Ghebreyesus made the appeal on Wednesday primarily to wealthier countries where the vast majority of vaccinations have been given, as the more contagious delta variant has left populations vulnerable.

Iran
Iran will inaugurate Ebrahim Raisi, an ultra-conservative judiciary chief, as the country’s next president on Thursday after eight years of Hassan Rouhani’s moderate administration. While Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holds ultimate authority, the president still has power over domestic matters, like the economy. Raisi is viewed by many as the start of a new harder-line era, as negotiations with the US over the nuclear deal appear stalled.

From The WorldRefugees in Maine find it harder to afford housing as remote workers move in

Hussein Albraihi sweeps the floor at a former church in Hallowell, Maine. A local nonprofit organization is converting the site into a six-bedroom apartment for a refugee family from Syria.

Credit:

Ari Snider/The World

As remote workers have flocked to previously under-the-radar towns, these places have become less affordable during the pandemic. The trend stretches across the US and it’s causing a housing crunch for refugees in Maine who can’t afford to live elsewhere.

With global warming, Emperor penguins will ‘have no place to breed’ says researcher

An Emperor penguin jumps out of the water. 

Credit:

Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons 

A new study says that if global warming continues at its current rate, more than 80% of Emperor penguin colonies will be gone in the next 80 years. Phil Trathan, who co-authored the study, joined The World’s host Marco Werman to discuss the plight of the penguins.

Double take

Did a mock life-size sumo wrestler on the course of the 14-jump Olympic equestrian course distract — or spook — horses during the qualifiers? Riders say, yes, it did. While most of the hurdles on the course are decorated with Japanese themes — kimonos, taiko drums and a miniature Japanese palace — none seemed to catch the eye of riders and horses more than the sumo wrestler at the 10th obstacle.

Night-mare: Riders say a life-size sumo wrestler positioned next to an obstacle on the Olympic equestrian course may have distracted several horses in qualifying for the individual jumping final. A few pairings pulled up short of the barrier. https://t.co/g2JoviXoet #odd

— AP Oddities (@AP_Oddities) August 4, 2021In case you missed itListen: Taliban militants attack Herat, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities

An Afghan security personnel takes a position during fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Herat province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2021.

Credit:

Hamed Sarfarazi/AP

For the first time since the 1990s, Taliban militants in recent days attacked the western city of Herat, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities. Fighting in the vicinity of Herat’s airport has grounded flights for several days. Also, Ethiopia has suspended aid operations with Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Council in its Tigray region, as hundreds of thousands of people there live under the threat of starvation. And one year after a deadly explosion in Beirut’s port killed 200 people and injured and displaced thousands, Lebanese citizens are still seeking answers — and justice.

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

First group of Afghans who helped American troops are flown to the US

First group of Afghans who helped American troops are flown to the US

By
The World staff

Inside of US visa’s center at Embassy of the United States of America is shown in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2021.

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Mariam Zuhaib/AP

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Afghans flown to US
The first flight of about 250 Afghans who helped American troops arrived in the United States. They include interpreters, drivers and others who helped the US military, and their family members. They will stay at a hotel at the Fort Lee Army base in Virginia for about a week for processing, after which they will be permanently resettled in the US. They’re the first of about 2,500 people chosen for resettlement under Operation Allies Refuge as the Taliban gains ground in Afghanistan. The other groups are expected to arrive roughly three days apart. And about 4,000 other Afghans whose applications still need approvals will be sent to third countries, possibly to Qatar, Kuwait, Kazakhstan or Kosovo.

Mexico referendum
Mexico will hold its first national referendum on Sunday to determine if former presidents can be put on trial for corruption while in office. It would prosecute the past five ex-presidents. The Supreme Court approved the referendum in October, which was put forward by current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Congress then backed the proposal. This is the first referendum to be overseen by the country’s electoral agency, INE, and the first official one to be held at a national level.

Electric vehicles
Joe Biden and major carmakers are negotiating a pledge to make electric at least 40% of all cars and SUVs sold in 2030, under the president’s climate goals. The push comes as UN climate talks are just over three months away. Meanwhile, the UK plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and hybrids by 2035, making cars become electric or use hydrogen fuel cells by 2050.

From The World
After raid and arrest, Russian journalist ‘will just keep doing my job,’ he says

Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of The Insider walks surrounded police officers and journalists, in Moscow, July 28, 2021. Police in Russia raided the home of the chief editor of an investigative media outlet that was recently designated as a “foreign agent,” the latest step by authorities to raise pressure on independent media ahead of the country’s September parliamentary election. 

Credit:

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

In Russia, the crackdown on journalism continues. On Wednesday, police in Russia raided the home of Roman Dobrokhotov, editor-in-chief of The Insider, an independent, investigative media outlet. Dobrokhotov told The World’s host Marco Werman that the real motivation for the police was that they likely wanted “to get access to my computers and telephones and know more about our investigations,” Dobrokhotov said.

“And the second reason is they just wanted to put some pressure. Of course, for me, it changed nothing. But for a young journalist, they can really be afraid that something like this can happen to them.”

Southern Spain’s green-belt project aims to stave off impending desertification

The region of southern Spain is facing desertification. 

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Gerry Hadden/The World 

Climate change affects different regions differently. While Germany has seen record floods, as much as 75% of Spain is in danger of becoming a desert. But, an ambitious green-belt project is working to counter desertification by creating a series of contiguous forests that would run for hundreds of miles across the country’s southern region.Bright spot

UNESCO has announced its newest World Heritage Sites. One of them is the oldest solar observatory in the Americas, found in the deserts of northern Peru. The site is called Chankillo, and it dates back to the year 230 BC. The physical structure functioned as a calendar, using the rising and setting arcs of the sun to define the time of year to within one or two days. And, it is the third site in Peru to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in just over a decade.

View of the Chankillo solar observatory near Casma, Peru, July 22, 2021.

Credit:

Janine Costa/AFP via Getty/File photo

In case you missed itListen: US mask policy falls in line with global recommendations

Pedestrians walk along Boston’s fashionable Newbury Street, May 2, 2021. 

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Steven Senne/AP

At this point during the pandemic, should people wear masks in public? After saying no in May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its stance and the reversal actually falls in line with much of the rest of the world. Also, since the 2019 revolution in Sudan, laws that restricted women’s dress and behavior have been abolished. But for many women, those political changes are not enough. And we hear from Roman Dobrokhotov, the editor-in-chief of Russian news publication The Insider, who was arrested Wednesday as part of the Kremlin’s crackdowns on individual journalists.

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

Mexico metro overpass collapses, killing 23 and injuring dozens

Mexico metro overpass collapses, killing 23 and injuring dozens

By
The World staff

Mexico City’s subway cars lay at an angle after a section of Line 12 of the subway collapsed, May 4, 2021.

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Marco Ugarte/AP

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

A section of a subway overpass of the Mexico City metro collapsed late Monday night, sending two cars of a passenger train onto traffic on a busy street below. The accident killed at least 23 people while 70 others were injured, and some are in serious condition, according to officials.

The accident in southeast Mexico City, one of the deadliest for the city’s busy subway system, happened on the Golden Line or line 12 inaugurated in 2012.

“A support beam gave way” just as the train passed over it, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said, adding that there will be an investigation into the causes of the accident.

The subway system in Mexico City, second-largest in the Americas, transports over 4 million passengers daily. It runs underground through more central areas of the city of 9 million people and on elevated concrete structures on the outskirts.

What The World is following

US President Joe Biden signed an emergency presidential determination formally raising the country’s cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 62,500 this year. The move comes after weeks of blowback by his party and refugee agencies for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by former President Donald Trump. Biden additionally said Monday that his administration intended to raise the number of refugees admitted next year to 125,000.

And, the COVAX program for COVID-19 global vaccine distribution for low- and middle-income countries is getting a boost from US biotechnology company Moderna following an advance purchase contract agreement between GAVI, Global Vaccine Alliance and Moderna for the supply of up to 500 million doses of the mRNA vaccine, with 34 million doses available late this year. The deal, which expands COVAX’s range of vaccines to eight, follows the approval of the Moderna shot for emergency use by the World Health Organization — a prerequisite for COVAX eligibility.

From The WorldThe Proud Boys right-wing group disbands in Canada

Organizer Joe Biggs, in a green hat, and Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, holding a megaphone, march with members of the Proud Boys, and other right-wing demonstrators, across the Hawthorne Bridge during a rally in Portland, Oregon, Aug. 17, 2019.

Credit:

Noah Berger/AP/File photo

In a statement, Proud Boys Canada announced that it was disbanding, and denied being a terrorist or white supremacist group. That announcement came after the Canadian government, in February, became the first country to designate it a terrorist organization.

“For some of [the members], being listed on the same group that lists al-Qaeda or the Islamic State was probably a wake-up call for them, and not something they wanted to be affiliated with,” said Jessica Davis, president of Insight Threat Intelligence, and a former senior strategic analyst with the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Coronavirus Conversations: Understanding and tracking ‘long COVID’

Medical personnel wheel a bed with a coronavirus patient in critical condition as they prepare to transfer the patient by ambulance to a hospital in Aachen, Germany, April 14, 2021.

Credit:

Francisco Seco/AP/File photo

Doctors around the world are working to understand “long COVID” — a lingering range of symptoms that persists in some people after they have initially recovered from COVID-19.

As part of The World’s regular series of conversations with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health about the pandemic, and as a special in our podcast feed, reporter Elana Gordon moderated a discussion with Dr. Andrew Chan who addressed long COVID-19.

Bright Spot

A farmer has inadvertently redrawn the border between Belgium and France. Annoyed by a stone in his tractor’s path, the farmer moved what turned out to be a marker for the Belgian-French border, causing a slight stir among the two countries.

Meanwhile, on the Belgian French border….https://t.co/Zb7aEqVmhs

— Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape) May 4, 2021In case you missed itListen: Two siblings at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, oceans apart

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a Kashmiri woman to test for COVID-19 in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir on Dec. 11, 2020. 

Credit:

Dar Yasin/AP

Two doctors, siblings, one in India and another one in the US — at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 — are finding ways to support each other, despite challenges. A landmark trial involving tech giant Apple gets underway in the US, just days after European regulators accused Apple of breaking EU competition rules. And a quieter revolution is playing out in Myanmar, one that is mostly happening indoors.

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

Thousands of medical workers left behind in Mexico’s vaccination program 

Thousands of medical workers left behind in Mexico’s vaccination program 

As governments the world over prioritize medical workers for vaccines, thousands in Mexico’s private health care sector say they’re being passed over.

By
Jorge Valencia

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A nurse shows an elderly man a syringe prepared with a dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, before he is inoculated at the Americas Cultural Center in Ecatepec, Mexico, April 3, 2021.

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Ginnette Riquelme/AP

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Dr. Maria José Diaz thought she’d be among the first to get a shot.

Diaz, a family physician with a private practice in Mexico City, had been treating patients who tested positive for COVID-19 for months when the Mexican government gave the country’s first vaccine against the coronavirus to a nurse in late 2020.

So, as she and her secretary strapped on N95 masks and goggles for work every day, Diaz figured they would soon be called on to be inoculated against the virus. Almost five months later, the call still hasn’t come. 

Related: Honduras and other countries at the ‘back of the line’ in global vaccine distribution

As governments the world over race to vaccinate their populations — prioritizing medical workers — thousands of doctors, nurses and other personnel working in Mexico’s private health care sector say they’re being passed over.

“I’m no longer sad. I’m angry.”

Dr. Maria José Diaz, physician in Mexico City

“I’m no longer sad. I’m angry,” Diaz said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of private practice physicians crowded near the entrance of the naval academy in Mexico City, demanding to get a dose of the vaccines stored inside. Most were turned away, because the country’s vaccine schedule prioritized health care workers in the public sector.

Related: Russia expands ‘soft power’ in Latin America with Sputnik vaccine

In mid-April, Hugo López-Gatell, known as the country’s coronavirus czar, said the health care workers who needed to be protected were being protected.

The Mexican government designated public hospitals as the official COVID-19 treatment facilities since early in the pandemic, but private health care providers have also become important front-line workers, said Dr. Malaquías López-Cervantes, a former federal health official and a public health professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Mexican political leaders are disregarding recommendations from the World Health Organization and their own scientists, López-Cervantes said.

“What we have in Mexico is not a plan for vaccination, but just a collection of ideas that come out of political convenience. It’s pretty disorganized.”

Dr. Malaquías López-Cervantes, former federal health official and public health professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico

“What we have in Mexico is not a plan for vaccination, but just a collection of ideas that come out of political convenience,” López-Cervantes said. “It’s pretty disorganized.”

In response, a group of private-sector physicians began a list in March of medical workers waiting for a vaccine. By mid-April, they’d collected more than 31,000 names, said Dr. David Berrones, an ophthalmologist in San Luis Potosí.

There is no central registry of private-sector medical workers, but Berrones said he believes the list he has helped compile represents only a small fraction. In some cases, doctors are traveling to the United States, where anyone over the age of 16 can now get a dose, he said.

Related: Mexico’s COVID-19 wards are full. Many patients who can’t get oxygen die at home.

“Even that’s unfair, because not everyone can afford to travel,” Berrones said.

Diaz and her office assistant in Mexico City can’t, either. They’re both younger than 40, which, under the country’s sluggish rollout, means they likely won’t receive a dose until the end of the year — at the earliest.

Diaz said she believes the government skipped over them for political reasons. Mexico will hold congressional elections this June, and many doctors say they believe President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to make a show out of beginning vaccinations for the next priority group — the elderly.

Diaz, and many other private medical workers, have taken part in civil disobedience by shutting down streets. Diaz said she will continue to stage protests until the government gives them the protection they need to do their job.

“I’ve been closing streets with many of my colleagues so people realize that this problem exists,” she said.

An increase in migration: A view from Juárez, Mexico

An increase in migration: A view from Juárez, Mexico

Producer
Amanda McGowan

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Migrant teens line up for a class at a “tender-age” facility for babies, children and teens, in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, in San Benito, Texas 2019. With its long-term facilities for immigrant children nearly full, the Biden administration is working to expedite the release of children to their relatives in the US.

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Eric Gay/AP/File photo

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Along the US-Mexico border, the number of migrants trying to enter the United States is increasing dramatically. Most are being turned away by the US in the name of COVID-19 health precautions.

At the same time, the Biden administration is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the United States. Host Marco Werman speaks with Enrique Valenzuela, who works for the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, near the Texas border.

TRANSCRIPT:

Marco Werman:
Along the US Mexico border, the number of migrants trying to enter the United States is increasing dramatically. Most are being turned away by the US in the name of COVID-19 health precautions. At the same time, the Biden administration is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the US. Enrique Valenzuela has a unique view of the situation. He works for the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, which borders Texas. Valenzuela joins us from Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso. Enrique, you’ve worked on the ground, have seen these swings for years. What are you seeing now? What’s different today?

Enrique Valenzuela:
We’re receiving a lot of people that are being sent back to this border because of this Title 42. It’s not a migration policy, but it is a health policy, we understand. Because of, well, of course, the pandemic of COVID-19. And at this point, we are receiving a large number of people that are arriving here and that need well, humanitarian assistance, of course.

Marco Werman:
Title 42 invoked by Trump is still being used by Biden, correct?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Yes, yes, yes. Actually, it’s still operating at this point. People that cross the border — and even if that they are seeking some kind of international protection as asylum, they are being sent back. Either if they’re from Central America or elsewhere or Mexican, even. They are all being sent back.

Marco Werman:
You’ve been encountering, Enrique, these people in Juárez after they’ve been sent back from the US border. What have those meetings been like?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Well, when we receive these large numbers of people, of course, they are very disappointed. We see sad faces. We see people that did not expect to be returned to Mexico at some point. Because they arrived here for some reason hopeful that they would be received in the US. And well, after they see that this wasn’t the case and that this didn’t didn’t happen, well, the first thing we tell them is that this is not the time to come to this border and to try to get to the US. Because ultimately a pandemic is going on. And there are some measures that have been taken by the US government.

Marco Werman:
Enrique, you say it’s not the time, but a lot of those people have heard from sources not terribly reliable, in many cases human smugglers, that the border is open — that President Biden is different from President Trump. So are you surprised by this? Did you think things would change with Biden in the White House?

Enrique Valenzuela:
I think many people were hopeful since they knew that the election was won by President Biden. At some point, of course, people were tricked into thinking that the US opened its doors all the way to people seeking international protection. But (the) thing is, it’s important for people to know that this is not the time. And if anybody is taking advantage of the situation, such as smugglers telling them that, ‘OK, this is now the time.’ Well, they’re making a business out of this. It’s important for people to know, no, this is not accurate.

Marco Werman:
Migrants are being told to wait in Mexico. They’re being told to not come now. But can people wait?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Oh, I’m not sure many people can wait. For example, a large number of people that we have received just lately, a lot of them said, ‘well, we’ll stay here just to wait.’ And they ask us constantly, ‘when will the border, when will they open?’ And we have to say, as it is, we have no idea. We do not know. This does not depend on a decision that is to be taken on this side of the border. And also, of course, it depends on the situation with the pandemic.

Marco Werman:
Enrique Valenzuela is a coordinator in Chihuahua state for the Mexican government’s migration efforts. He’s been speaking with us from Ciudad Juárez.

Dual citizens in Mexico seek vaccine options in the US as rollout lags

Dual citizens in Mexico seek vaccine options in the US as rollout lags

Mexico's vaccine rollout has been slow and cumbersome. Mexican residents with US citizenship, permanent residency or valid visas are starting to take matters into their own hands.

By
Shannon Young

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Nurse Ana Arteaga prepares to administer a shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Juan Manuel Herrera Espinosa, 63, inside a rural home in Porto Las Cruces, Cuajimalpa, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Feb. 18, 2021. Mexico City’s health department is sending teams of medical workers to give in-home vaccinations to seniors unable to reach vaccination centers.

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Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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Keeping up with Mexico’s COVID-19 news means watching lots of videos of high-ranking officials receive vaccine shipments on airport tarmacs. But the attention given to vaccine arrivals contrasts with rollout logistics. 

Related: Mexico’s COVID-19 wards are full. Many patients who can’t get oxygen die at home.

Thousands of public-sector medical workers have been waiting longer than the advised 21 days for their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and many in private practice continue to wait at the back of the line. 

Mass vaccinations of people over the age of 60 started last week, but the process has been slow and haphazard. Mexican residents with US citizenship, permanent residency or valid visas are starting to take matters into their own hands.

“Both of my parents are doctors,” said Alfonso, who asked to use his first name only to protect his parents’ identities.

His parents live in a city that borders California, and his mother, who has diabetes, is now watching for when the age eligibility limits drop on the other side. 

At 62, his mom should qualify now in Mexico based on her age, but the federally managed vaccines aren’t available nationwide. Meanwhile, she stopped seeing patients in March to reduce her risk of exposure. 

“My mom … she works for the Simi Pharmacies, which are these medical consultations next to these very popular generic pharmacies. And she hasn’t received any notices of her vaccine.”

Alfonso, whose mother seeks a vaccine for the coronavirus

“My mom … she works for the Simi Pharmacies, which are these medical consultations next to these very popular generic pharmacies. And she hasn’t received any notices of her vaccine.”

Alfonso’s father lucked out. He works at ISSSTE, a public institution, and received his first dose more than a month ago. He is scheduled to get his second dose on Tuesday.

But many others are not so lucky. 

“I know of two neighbors on my block in Mexicali that have crossed the border into the US to get the vaccine,” Alfonso said. “They’re both older than 65, and they were both able to do it because they’re either US citizens or green card holders. Right now, the land border is closed for Mexicans, but US citizens and US green card holders can cross.”

The contrast in vaccine rollout speeds between the two nations can be especially striking along the border. About 2 million people have completed their two-dose vaccine regimens in the state of California, dwarfing the total number of vaccine doses applied nationwide in Mexico.

“I think that, contrary to what’s happening in other countries, a problem that we have in Mexico is that the application of vaccines is very centralized.”

Alejandro Cano, an independent data analyst

“I think that, contrary to what’s happening in other countries, a problem that we have in Mexico is that the application of vaccines is very centralized,” said Alejandro Cano, an independent data analyst who keeps a close eye on Mexico’s pandemic response.

He said with vaccine shipments coming in, the bottleneck is due to the clunky bureaucratic rollout. 

“One of the things that is most maddening about the way they’re doing things in Mexico is that right now, it’s not possible to forecast when your turn is going to be to be vaccinated,” Cano said.

Unlike other countries, Mexico’s federal government hasn’t delegated authority to the states or tapped into preexisting structures used for other vaccination campaigns. 

Cano said the selection of vaccination sites further complicates the effort because “rather than vaccinating everybody above a certain age nationwide, they have chosen to only vaccinate in only a few municipalities,” which adds to the overall uncertainty.  

Related: Experts concerned Mexico not taking enough COVID-19 precautions

Mexico-based US citizens and green card holders are also contemplating vaccine-motivated travel beyond the US-Mexico border. 

Mexico is home to the largest population of US citizens living abroad with an estimated 1 million. Many live in the interior and are members of binational families.

“My mom is originally from Florida, and my parents met in college in Florida, and later moved back to Mexico,” said Sofia Diaz.

Her family visits Florida frequently, where they also own a home and pay taxes. Her parents hadn’t really thought about getting vaccinated in the US until a chance opportunity arose during her grandfather’s vaccination appointment in Miami.

“He had the last appointment of the day,” Diaz said. “And my mom was waiting for him in the waiting room and a nurse came out and said, ‘If any of you here without an appointment would like a vaccine, we have some doses left over that we cannot keep.’”

Her mother raised her hand, got vaccinated and returned to Mexico. When Diaz’s mother had to return to Florida for her second dose, her father went along to get vaccinated there, as well.

“We did want to take advantage of this opportunity, first of all, because we weren’t sure when we were going to get the vaccine here in Mexico,” she said. “Second of all, we didn’t know which vaccine we were going to get.”

Mexico has started using AstraZeneca to vaccinate persons over 60 and plans to incorporate other brands as they become available. A SinoVac shipment recently arrived — complete with an airport tarmac ceremony — and the government has also made agreements to obtain millions of doses of the CanSino and Sputnik V vaccines from China and Russia. None of those brands have emergency approval in the US.

Related: South Africa changes course on vaccine rollout after disappointing study

Residency requirements for vaccine eligibility vary across states. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that vaccines there are for Texans only, while California and Arizona have been more flexible. Florida has recently moved to require proof of residency at vaccine sites. But many dual citizens, green card holders and even vacation homeowners can point to valid US addresses and show in-state driver’s licenses. 

Diaz said that while the increased availability in the US may lead to some degree of medical tourism, most people weighing the option are US taxpayers or frequent travelers.

“I do think that at least the large majority of the people that are crossing over to get vaccinated are people that have a lot of interaction with the US,” she said. “It’s in the best interests of the US to have those people vaccinated to the medical standard of the US.”

The Biden administration seems to have reached a similar conclusion and is working with its foreign counterparts to vaccinate foreign-born essential workers at consulates. 

After all, it’s a basic tenet of herd immunity theory — mass vaccination of individuals is an investment in the protection of society at large. Plus, the pandemic has already shown that viruses don’t stop at international borders.

Freezing temps wreak havoc on utilities in US and Mexico

Freezing temps wreak havoc on utilities in US and Mexico

By
The World staff

Christine Chapman, center, sets down an empty canister to exchange for a full propane tank outside a grocery store, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas, Texas.

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The polar vortex, a swirling mass of cold air that usually spins around the Arctic, is wreaking havoc across areas of Mexico and the US. It’s overwhelming power grids and leaving more than 100 million people in the US under some type of winter weather warning on Wednesday.

The record-breaking winter temperatures, part of a pattern of extreme weather caused by climate change, have left people from Minnesota to Mississippi to northern Mexico with rolling blackouts to ease the burden on strained utilities. Mexico gets as much as 60% of its power from cheap natural gas via pipelines in Texas that have now been shut off.

And the polar vortex is not just causing usually cold temps in North America. On the other side of the Atlantic, people have been out skating on Amsterdam’s frozen canals. The once-in-a-decade snowfall in Athens led to the creation of a snowman near the Pantheon while kids played in the snow in the streets.

“There are lots of factors that drive winter weather, but it does look like the warming of our planet is one of them,” reporter Carolyn Beeler told The World’s Marco Werman

Beeler suggested the science of why the polar vortex gets disrupted isn’t settled. “It’s always hard to prove cause and effect,” she said. “There is evidence to suggest that warming is making the jet stream more wavy … more likely to get that cold air [to] escape down south.”

What The World is following

Peruvian prosecutors are investigating the use of “courtesy doses” of China’s Sinopharm, which were used to vaccinate top government officials, including former President Martín Vizcarra, before the vaccine was approved by regulatory agencies in Peru. The scandal has involved more than 480 public officials and has led to the some resignations. Vizcarra, who was ousted by Congress in November last year over corruption allegations, said he did not jump the vaccine line but got it as part of a trial. This has been denied by trial managers at a Peruvian research institution.

And, Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the Libya uprising that led to the overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Libya has become one of the most intractable conflicts in the region, along with Yemen and Syria. Many though, hope an interim government tasked with taking Libya through elections later this year can lead to a unified nation.

From The WorldHundreds of Black families in Brazil could be evicted to make way for space base expansion

Leandra Silveira’s family was relocated from their ancestral home on the northeast coast of Brazil to Pepital agrovila, a government-built village, when she was a young mother of three.

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Michael Fox/The World

In the early 1980s, in the final years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, hundreds of Black families were removed from their land to make way for the construction of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center.

Today, hundreds more could be evicted to make way for the launch site’s expansion as part of a 2019 agreement between Brazil and the United States. The treaty grants the US permission to launch nonmilitary and commercial rockets from Alcântara.

New novel offers a window into Turkey’s insular Rum community

Food is the core of Anastasiadou’s novel, “A Recipe for Daphne.” One character, a baker, spends months trying to resurrect an Ottoman-era recipe that represented harmony between the region’s diverse ethnic and religious groups. Today, a bakery in the Çukurcuma neighborhood makes a fresh batch of sesame-encrusted rings of bread, called simit. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World 

Nektaria Anastasiadou’s “A Recipe for Daphne” passes as a light, escapist novel with a love story. But the author hopes her book offers a window into Istanbul’s insular Rum community — a group of only a few thousand people in Turkey who still trace their ancestry back to the Byzantine Empire.

Bright spot

Experts at Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden in the UK are waiting for a rare cactus to bloom — and they have set up a livestream for all of us to see it. The white nocturnal bloom of the moonflower cactus, which produces a sweet fragrance, is expected to open around 9 p.m. GMT in the next few days. The blossom dies by the time the sun rises the following day so keep your eyes on the livestream.

In case you missed itListen: France’s Marine Le Pen attempts to remake her image

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, wearing a protective face mask, stands at the statue of Joan of Arc during a ceremony, May 1, 2020 in Paris.

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Thibault Camus/AP

Politician Marine Le Pen is the face of the far-right in France. But, for the past few years, she’s been trying to remake her image and recast her National Rally party away from its extremist roots. And, a resistance is taking root after more than two weeks since Myanmar’s military detained elected officials and seized total power in a coup. Also, for many Polish Americans, Fat Tuesday goes by another name — Paczki Day.

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Mexico’s COVID-19 wards are full. Many patients who can’t get oxygen die at home.

Mexico’s COVID-19 wards are full. Many patients who can’t get oxygen die at home.

In many cities across Latin America, including Mexico City, patients with the coronavirus are struggling to receive vital medical oxygen to stay alive. Many who couldn’t find space in overflowing emergency rooms are dying at home.

By
Jorge Valencia

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People wait in a long line at an oxygen distribution warehouse near downtown Mexico City.

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Daniela Trejo Rodriguez took time off from her job as a phone customer service representative on a recent Thursday to get oxygen for her 60-year-old father, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus. 

She waited in a long line at an oxygen distribution warehouse near downtown Mexico City to refill two tanks. But it wasn’t enough. Three days later, her father suffered respiratory failure — a fatal symptom of the disease — and died.

Tejo Rodriguez said she wouldn’t wish any of this on anyone, and she hopes people will wear masks and practice social distancing.

“I hope they never have a relative get sick because it’s a really awful situation.” 

Daniela Trejo Rodriguez, daughter of man who died of COVID-19

“I hope they never have a relative get sick because it’s a really awful situation,” she said.

In many cities across Latin America, including Mexico City, patients with the coronavirus are struggling to receive vital medical oxygen to stay alive. Many who couldn’t find space in overflowing emergency rooms are dying at home.

Related: COVID-19 deaths among tribal elders threaten cultural loss

In Mexico, which has the third-highest COVID-19 death rate on the planet, government officials are begging private citizens who are hoarding unused tanks to turn them in. Thieves have stolen tanks from delivery trucks and hospitals. And the market and black-market price for oxygen is sky-high, with retailers recently asking for $1,000 per tank — almost 150 times the country’s daily minimum wage, according to a Reuters report

All five members of Trejo Rodriguez’s family — her parents and two siblings — had tested positive for the coronavirus after showing symptoms in January, but her father was the only one who, after two weeks, had not recovered.

Trejo Rodriguez said her father earned a living taking care of cars on the street for tips and worked until he got sick.

Related: Immigration rights activists call on Biden to end private detention

Her family became concerned once her father’s blood oxygen level fell below 89%, then below 81%, then lower, she said. The recommendation is to seek medical assistance for anything below 90%. 

When the family called an ambulance, they were told all public hospitals were virtually full, she said. That’s when they decided to keep her father at home. Extended family members found two oxygen canisters for the family to borrow and two more to rent.

But getting oxygen isn’t easy.

Related: The winding journey to reunite families separated at the US border

Day or night, there are as many as 80 people in line at the warehouse where Trejo Rodriguez waited over two hours on a recent Thursday. And, it’s similar or worse at four government-run sites as well as the few dozen operated by private companies in Mexico City, where more than 20 million people live.

Karla Dominguez was in the same line as Trejo Rodriguez at the downtown-area warehouse that day. She was looking for an oxygen tank for her husband’s uncle. Other family members had also fanned out across the city with no success. She lamented the price-gouging and thefts that have become more common as a result of the scarcity.

“I don’t wish any ill on anyone, but what comes around goes around.”

Karla Dominguez, who has a family member needing oxygen

“I don’t wish any ill on anyone, but what comes around goes around,” Dominguez said.

Toward the back of the line, Alejandro Amaro waited to refill two canisters. Amaro’s brother and father had tested positive for COVID-19, but it was his 82-year-old mother who needed the oxygen, he said.

Related: Why Biden’s day one promise to end ‘Remain in Mexico’ program may go unfilled

He said his mother had needed three refills per day over the previous week, so he and other family members were taking turns visiting the medical oxygen facility. He said he had already stood in line 15 to 20 times himself.

“We have to keep fighting,” Amaro said. 

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

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

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

By
The World staff

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

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Carolyn Kaster/AP/File photo

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

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

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

What the world is following

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

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

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

Mourners demanded that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visit them in person in the aftermath of the brutal attack.

 

 

Credit:

Asef Ali Mohammad/The World

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

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

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

In Canada, Syrian refugee kids find belonging through hockey

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

Bright spot

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

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

Credit:

ESA/Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser

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

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

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Nicholas Bamulanzeki/AP

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

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Why Biden’s day one promise to end ‘Remain in Mexico’ program may go unfilled

Why Biden’s day one promise to end ‘Remain in Mexico’ program may go unfilled

On the campaign trail, candidate Joe Biden pledged to end the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" program on day one. But the president-elect has walked back that promise in recent weeks.

By
Monica Campbell

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In this Aug. 30, 2019, photo, migrants, most who were returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, receive bottles of water given by volunteers in an encampment near the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. 

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Veronica G. Cardenas/AP

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As US President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, questions are growing about how and when his administration will unwind one of the Trump’s administration’s most controversial immigration programs known as “Remain in Mexico.”

The program, created in January 2019 and officially called the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration court cases instead of waiting for decisions from within the US, which can take months or years to resolve. Of the hundreds of immigration policy restrictions the Trump administration has introduced, MPP has been among the most effective at keeping out asylum-seekers.

All told, more than 69,000 people have been turned back at different points along the US-Mexico border since the program took effect, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse project. They include people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children, including infants. 

On the campaign trail last year, Biden pledged to end the Remain in Mexico program on day one. During an October 2020 presidential debate with Trump, he denounced the program for making asylum-seekers sit in “squalor on the other side of the river.” 

“It will get done, and it will get done quickly. But it’s not going to be able to be done on day one.”

President-elect Joe Biden

But the end of MPP may not come as soon as many had hoped. In late December, President-elect Biden walked back that promise when asked about the program during a press conference: “It will get done, and it will get done quickly,” he said. “But it’s not going to be able to be done on day one — lift every restriction that exists and go back to what it was 20 years ago and all of a sudden find out we have a crisis on our hands that complicates what we were trying to do.”

Trump officials have said the program is meant to deter people from abusing US immigration laws — for example, by presenting false asylum claims. The program has also kept asylum-seekers in Mexico more hidden from view, and it has stopped the crowding of US Border Patrol holding cells. Images of crowded facilities have shocked many people in the United States in recent years. 

Related: At US-Mexico border, asylum seekers watch election returns for sign of change

With eight days left in his presidency, Trump visited south Texas on Tuesday to tour the border wall, one of his signature initiatives. 

Imelda Lemus, left, and her daughter Nidia, asylum seekers from Guatemala, have stayed in a small pup tent in Matamoros, Mexico, for the last 15 months.

Credit:

Courtesy of Imelda Lemus

Imelda Lemus, who said that she was forced off her farm in Guatemala by an armed group, is one of thousands of asylum-seekers currently waiting out her asylum case on the Mexico side of the border, often in volunteer-supported, unofficial refugee camps. For more than 15 months, she has slept with her 12-year-old daughter, Nidia, in a small, green two-person pup tent. 

“We can see the United States,” she said.

Lemus is in Matamoros, Mexico. Texas is across the Rio Grande river. 

Other asylum-seekers have stayed for months in shelters, often run by charities or religious groups. Some have also managed to rent rooms. 

Each situation brings its risks. It is hard to social distance during a pandemic in a crowded shelter. There are also the risks of being extorted for cash by organized criminal groups who control parts of Mexico, especially certain areas along the US-Mexico border. 

Related: US deportation flights risk spreading coronavirus globally

Estuardo Cifuentes, an asylum-seeker from Guatemala, rented a small room in an area of Matamoros, a city where drug cartels have a heavy presence. Every Friday evening, for months, he said he was extorted by an armed individual or group. 

“They came to my home armed and I paid them $75 a week,” Cifuentes said. “It’s frightening but that’s the reality here.”

Cifuentes, who said that he fled his country because he faced violence for being gay, has since found a safer area to live in Matamoros, thanks to help from a charity. In March, he has a scheduled hearing for his asylum case. He hopes Biden may speed things along, but he is also prepared to wait. 

“I’ve waited this long,” Cifuentes said. “I will wait longer.”

He is also considering options, including seeking refuge in Europe, if it looks like he might have to wait in Mexico much longer. 

A recent report by Human Rights Watch found that people placed in the MPP program faced “rape or attempted rape and other sexual assault, abduction for ransom, extortion, armed robbery, and other crimes committed against them.”

That violence extends to children. The report added: “Most of these kidnappings involved multiple victims and included at least 38 children.” 

Before MPP was introduced, asylum-seekers were generally allowed to enter the US to wait out their asylum proceedings, although many still faced long waits since the Trump administration came into power. Once in the US, asylum-seekers have been held in immigrant detention facilities and, perhaps, may have a bond hearing. Or, they could be released from custody and be fitted with an ankle monitor that allows immigration officials to track their movements. 

Some immigration policy experts said Biden might be hesitant to approve any quick changes, such as fast-tracking the adjudication of the MPP cases. 

“We have to address future flows that might be triggered by these decisions. There is always a concern that an action will produce a reaction in migration flows,” said Cris Ramón, an independent US-Mexico policy analyst. 

Charlene D’Cruz, an immigration lawyer working in Brownsville, Texas, understands this, but said there is no time to waste. 

“Let them go to their families. … Allowing them in would restore some of that humanity. That is completely and entirely possible.”

Charlene D’Cruz, immigration lawyer in Brownsville, Texas

“Let them go to their families,” she said, referring to asylum-seekers who have relatives in the United States awaiting them. “Let’s take away this huge bottleneck at the border. These are not people just coming in that are not reported in the system. They’ve been fingerprinted. They’ve even gone to court several times. Allowing them in would restore some of that humanity. That is completely and entirely possible.”  

In mid-December, Cruz said, she was on a call with advocates like herself and members of the Biden-Harris transition team working on immigration issues. 

“I heard that, yes, they’re trying to reach out to people like me and other groups,” Cruz said. “But I didn’t hear any specifics and we are just days away from the transition.”

In late December, some asylum-seekers showed their frustration with the prolonged waits in Mexico. Dozens of people, many from Cuba, protested at a bridge that connects the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez with El Paso, Texas. “We simply want to request, peacefully, asylum from within the US,” one Cuban man said.

US border officials in riot gear shut down the bridge.

Imelda Lemus said there are no easy days in her camp. 

“It can be freezing at night,” she said. She gathers water in a bucket and relies on donated food and portable toilets. 

“We’re all hoping for a miracle,” Lemus said. 

Her daughter has not gone to school in over a year. However, there are efforts to fill in the gaps. Volunteers from Texas and Mexico hold classes. And at least one asylum-seeker, a woman camped near Lemus, is teaching English to her fellow migrants, hoping to give people a running start when — or if — they are allowed into the United States.

‘We could crush this outbreak’ with mass vaccinations, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

'We could crush this outbreak' with mass vaccinations, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

The United States' top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns the COVID-19 death toll could rise in the next few weeks. But mass vaccination will bring the end of the pandemic.

Producer
Elana Gordon

By
The World staff

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House, Nov. 19, 2020.

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Some major news today in the fight against the coronavirus: President-elect Joe Biden said he’ll release all the doses of the vaccine in the United States when he takes office. 

It’s a strategy with some risk: The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were designed for two doses. But with so much of the supply currently unused, Biden is essentially betting that with his plan, the country can get more people vaccinated and have enough to go around for a second dose.

Biden’s decision comes a day after another grim milestone of more than 4,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the US in a single 24-hour period. The US death toll for the entire pandemic has surpassed 365,400. And the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns the next few weeks are only going to get tougher.

Fauci will be part of the Biden administration team in charge of managing the pandemic. He spoke to The World’s host Carol Hills about how he sees a way forward to manage the pandemic and why it’s so hard to get politicians and citizens to take it seriously.

Related: The key to overcoming vaccine hesitancy? Deep listening, tailored messaging.

Carol Hills: Dr. Fauci, you’re scrupulous about staying out of politics, but we’ve all observed how our broken politics have stunted the US’ ability to control the coronavirus. How do you, a public health official, see a way forward to manage the pandemic when we cannot get citizens to really understand the problem?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, you know, there’s politics, but there’s also divisiveness in society. That’s something that’s going to take a while to correct. Obviously, we’ve got to keep politics out of public health measures. There’s no place for that. They do nothing but interfere.

But we have a lot of work ahead of us to get the country together and pulling together in an effort to end this outbreak and just put aside things like the politicization of wearing of masks and doing other public health measures.

WHO director Tedros Ghebreyesus said this week that the world “has entered a new phase of the pandemic where solidarity is needed like never before,” that we’re in a race to save lives right now. What does that mean to you and how do you assess this period we’re in?

I think we were in this period all along. Whenever you have a global pandemic, you have to have solidarity between countries because what affects one country in one part of the world, when you’re dealing with a communicable disease that has a high degree of efficiency and transmitting from person to person, you have to have interconnectedness with regard to cooperation, collaboration and solidarity, because viruses, particularly viruses like SARS-CoV-2 that are spectacularly efficient in their ability to transmit, they don’t know borders at all. So, since they don’t know borders, we sort of have to act like we don’t know borders and we’re all in this together.

Related: An immunologist answers three questions about the COVID-19 vaccine

Can we vaccinate our way out of this pandemic?

The answer is yes — just the way we have vaccinated our way out of multiple public health threats such as smallpox, polio, measles and a number of others. So when you’re dealing with communicable diseases, infectious diseases, very often the gold standard of how to really crush these outbreaks is by getting a safe and highly efficacious vaccine. We are very fortunate in that we already have two and likely we’ll have more than that — vaccines with a very high degree of efficacy. The Moderna and the Pfizer products are 94-95% efficacious.

So if we get, and I’ve made an estimate, it’s purely an estimate, about 70-85% of the population vaccinated, I believe we would have what’s called an umbrella or a blanket of herd immunity over the country. And if the rest of the world does that, we could crush this outbreak. Absolutely. Vaccine is the answer. Until we get a vaccine, we must concentrate very, very clearly on the public health measures that we talk about all the time: namely, uniform wearing of masks, keeping physical distancing, avoiding crowds in congregate settings, particularly indoors and washing your hands frequently. That should be the bridge to the vaccine. But if we can get the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated, we can put an end to this outbreak.

The vaccine rollout in the US has been off to a slow start in so many areas. What do you see as being the biggest holdup?

Well, I think there are a number of things that are going on. Right now, we are still in the very early stages. Whenever you introduce a massive program, the likes of which we’ve not had before, namely vaccinating essentially all of the country or the overwhelming majority of the country with a brand-new vaccine program, that, not surprisingly, can get off with some bumps in the road and some hiccups. Having said that, that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to do better. We must do better. What I’m saying is that let’s give it a week or so into January to see if the process can catch up with the pace that had originally been put forth.

Another key feature of the US health system is this kind of state-level versus federal and then local. And in terms of vaccine delivery, the Trump administration has left it up to the states to sort out the vaccine delivery. Is that the right way to proceed? And do you see that changing under a Biden administration?

Yes, no doubt it’s going to change because in the discussions that I’ve had in my new role of being part of the COVID[-19] team and the general public health team of the Biden group, is that we will have a much more close interaction between the federal and the state level in the sense of planning together, as well as implementation and support.

Right now, the issue that is confronting us is that we need to more efficiently get vaccines into the arms of people. We have more vaccine distributed than we’ve actually put into the arms of individuals. We need to do better with the doses we have.

 

When it comes to who gets a vaccine, in Nebraska, the governor initially said that undocumented immigrants would not be included in plans to vaccinate workers at meatpacking plants. What are the repercussions of bringing immigration status into vaccine eligibility and priority?

From a public health repercussion, you got to get people vaccinated. It doesn’t matter who they are. If you’re in the country, you’re a threat of getting infected yourself and of transmitting the infection. So there’s no room for any withholding of vaccines for people because they’re part of the population that we’re dealing with.

Do you see any successful models from elsewhere in the world that the US could emulate?

Well, I don’t think so, because no one has yet gotten into this in a really large, meaningful way. This is really quite unprecedented. There have been situations that — if you go historically, not as an example of what other countries are doing, because each country is different, depending upon the size and the health system…for example, those countries that have national health services where everything is interconnected, it can generally be much easier to implement something like this. But if you go back in history and look at times when we’ve had to do mass vaccination programs, there likely could be some lessons learned there.

There is a very interesting historical story about that. In 1947, we had someone visit Mexico as a tourist and then come back to the United States having contracted smallpox in Mexico — came back to New York City, and actually infected a bunch of people. They were 12 hospitalizations and two deaths. New York City, in response to that, did a massive vaccination program. And in a three-week period, they vaccinated 6,350,000. And within two weeks, they vaccinated 5 million people just in New York City. Of note, I was a 6-year-old boy who was one of those 6,350,000 people that were vaccinated in New York. So, if New York City can vaccinate 6,350,000 people in three weeks, and that’s only one city, then we can go back and get some lessons learned, how that was done, and get it done country-wise.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

England to enter third lockdown; Mexico approves Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine; Saudi Arabia ends embargo with Qatar

England to enter third lockdown; Mexico approves Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine; Saudi Arabia ends embargo with Qatar

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The World staff

A man crosses the street backdropped by the Royal Exchange in the City of London financial district in London, Jan. 5, 2021, on the first morning of England entering a third national lockdown.

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Matt Dunham/AP

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

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a strict new national lockdown starting midnight on Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the country struggles to cope with a surge in cases and a new, more contagious variant of the virus. Warning that the coming weeks in the UK would be the “hardest yet,” Johnson mandated a lockdown that won’t be reconsidered until at least mid-February.

Despite the dire news, Johnson added he believed the country was entering “the last phase of the struggle” but that hospitals were buckling under the increased COVID-19 caseload more than at “any time since the start of the pandemic.”

And, health authorities in Thailand are warning of a new spike in cases across the country with the government declaring 28 provinces, including Bangkok, as high-risk zones.

What The World is following

Following a recent approval in the UK, health officials in Mexico on Monday approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use and will now begin a slow rollout of its inoculation campaign. Argentina and India have also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

And, the yearslong tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia appears to be easing. Qatar’s ruling emir arrived in Saudi Arabia this week, following an announcement that the kingdom would end its embargo and open up airspace and its land border with the small Gulf state. The decision to open borders is the first major step toward ending the diplomatic crisis between the Arab states.

From The WorldLatino communities targeted by disinformation ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoffs

Volunteers assemble signs before a rally for Democratic US Senate candidate Jon Ossoff and former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro in Lilburn, Georgia, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. 

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Jeff Amy/AP

With Georgia’s Senate runoffs set for Tuesday and control of Congress in the balance, the stakes are high. And, just like with the presidential election, there’s concern about mis- and disinformation targeting the state’s voters — including its growing Latino community

A recent report by Avaaz, a global civic organization, warned of 20 Facebook pages spreading a disproportionate amount of misinformation about Georgia’s elections. Two of the flagged pages were in Spanish and made inaccurate claims of large-scale voter fraud.

A year after the killing of a top Iranian general, US-Iran tensions remain high

A woman holds a poster showing Gen. Qasem Soleimani, right, head of Iran’s Quds force and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, during the procession to commemorate the first anniversary of their killing by a US drone strike in Baghdad, in Najaf, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

Credit:

Anmar Khalil/AP 

Last January, the US killed Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. A year later, tensions between the countries are high once again.

Bright spot

A new Icelandic tourism campaign wants people to stop compulsively checking their social media feeds for bad news and instead turn toward “joyscrolling” — which, by their definition, means enjoying soothing videos, music and images from Iceland.

You doomscroll through 22.7 meters of bad news a day. Try joyscrolling, instead. #Joyscroll #LooksLikeYouNeedIceland

— Inspired by Iceland (@iceland) December 8, 2020In case you missed itListen: Tensions high one year after US attack that killed Iran’s Soleimani

People pass by posters of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center left, head of Iran’s Quds force and fighters killed in fighting during the anniversary procession in the cemetery in Najaf, Iraq, Jan. 4, 2021.

Credit:

Anmar Khalil/AP

It’s been one year since the US killed Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone attack in Iraq. And, on the campaign trail, Democratic candidate Joe Biden said he would end a Trump administration program that makes asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border wait out their court cases in Mexico. President-elect Biden has walked back the timeline of his promise. So what’s next? Also, in the US, hairy crabs are seen as a menace, but in China they are a delicacy — and lately, they are selling big.

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

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

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Adam Wernick

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

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Courtesy of the National Park Service

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

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

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

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

RelatedUS border fence skirts environmental review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mallory Falk

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

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Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

‘We’re taking migrants off the street’

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

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

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

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

Leticia Chavarria, medical director at Hotel Flamingo 

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

A temporary safe haven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s grateful to them.

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

A place to wait and hope

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

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

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

That medical care includes two daily checkups.

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

Credit:

Paul Ratje/KERA News

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

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

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

Yuneisy Gonzales, volunteer doctor at Hotel Flamingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico raise alarm as US storm season approaches

Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico raise alarm as US storm season approaches

On Easter Sunday, dozens of tornadoes tore across Southeastern US, killing more than 30 people. The deadly cluster of storms coincided with waters in the Gulf of Mexico that were three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the long-term average.

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Adam Wernick

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Hurricane Michael in 2018. Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico helped turn the hurricane from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm in just 24 hours.

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NASA/Joshua Stevens

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As storm season begins in the southeastern US, scientists are casting a wary eye on the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Science links above-average sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico to larger tornado clusters and supercharged hurricanes in the southern and southeastern United States. The tornadoes that hit the southeastern US on Easter Sunday, resulting in over 30 deaths, came as water in the Gulf of Mexico was running three degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the long-term average.

Tornado season in the US generally runs from March through June and hurricane season follows right on its heels. Warm waters in the Gulf provide “a basic fuel” to these massive storms, explains atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished scholar at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and a faculty affiliate with the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

RelatedWarming ocean waters turned Hurricane Michael into a superstorm

“Warm, moist air wants to rise, and as it rises, the moisture condenses [and] creates extra heating — we call it latent heating — in the atmosphere,” Trenberth says. “All of this convection in the atmosphere moves heat from lower levels into the upper part of the atmosphere and then it gets transported by the jet stream and the circulation to other parts of the world. Some of it can actually radiate to space. [Storms are] one way the atmosphere responds.”

Different types of atmospheric disturbances tap into this heat, but essentially “they’re all trying to move the heat away, in some sense,” Trenberth explains. “It depends quite a bit on the nature of the disturbances — whether there are a lot of, say, individual thunderstorms, or whether there are these larger supercell complexes that can indeed trigger major tornado outbreaks.”

In 2017, similarly warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico led to disastrous consequences, as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all caused massive destruction. In 2018, one of the hotspots in the global ocean was off the east coast of the Carolinas, Trenberth notes. Hurricane Florence developed in this area, producing 30-40 inches of rain and catastrophic flooding.

RelatedScientists pinpoint link between climate change and Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall

A lot can happen between now and the start of hurricane season to change the current conditions in the Gulf, but if storms moving toward the US encounter the right environment, they could again become exceedingly dangerous.

Trenberth says the lack of preparedness for the novel coronavirus that he is seeing in the US and around the world is “really dismaying,” and has a parallel in the realm of storm preparedness.

“The big warning sign was in 2005, with Katrina, Wilma and Rita. … The concern was certainly there. What has been disappointing, from my standpoint, is how little preparedness seems to have developed.”

Kevin Trenberth

“The big warning sign was in 2005, with Katrina, Wilma and Rita — all these Category 5 storms that occurred then,” he says. “I went to some meetings, which had heads of states of some of the islands in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico…and, correctly, they were very concerned about two things: the rise in sea level, and stronger hurricanes. So, the concern was certainly there. What has been disappointing, from my standpoint, is how little preparedness seems to have developed.”

Hurricane Harvey in 2017 highlighted this problem, Trenberth points out: “The total lack of adequate drainage systems, building in wrong places and building structures that weren’t prepared in Southern Texas,” he says. “The lack of preparedness in Puerto Rico was astounding, appalling. … The warnings have been there. Why isn’t there more effort to prepare for the sort of thing scientists have more or less guaranteed, but can’t say exactly when?”

“Once global warming is here with us, no vaccine is going to be developed that will make it go away.”

This is the paradigm for global warming, Trenberth warns. Global warming is coming, but there is one crucial difference between global warming and a deadly virus like COVID-19. Unlike a virus, for which we can ultimately develop a vaccine, “once global warming is here with us, no vaccine is going to be developed that will make it go away.”

“So, I think this is a warning sign,” Trenberth says, “and I certainly hope the governments around the world and the peoples around the world can take account of that.”

This article is based on an interview by Steve Curwood that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.