Monday, October 31, 2022

Peace Talks on Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict are Extended


This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows the airport in Bahir Dar, the capital city of the Amhara Region of northern Ethiopia on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. According to image analysis by armaments expert Wim Zwijnenburg of Dutch peace organization PAX, and and Justine Gadon of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the wingspan length, shape and other identifying details of the two smaller aircraft visible in the image are consistent with those of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Peace talks between warring sides on Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict have been extended into this week, while the country’s prime minister complained in comments broadcast Monday about “lots of intervention from left and right” in the process.

An official familiar with the arrangements for the talks confirmed that discussions continued in South Africa between Ethiopia’s federal government and representatives from the northern Tigray region. The first formal peace talks began last week.

The African Union-led talks seek a cessation of hostilities in a war that the United States asserts has killed up to hundreds of thousands of people, an estimate made by some academics and health workers.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, speaking to the China Global Television Network, said “we’re working towards peace” and asserted that Ethiopians can solve matters by themselves. “Of course, if there are lots of intervention from left and right, it’s very difficult,” he added. He also said Ethiopian forces were in control of the Tigray towns of Shire, Axum and Adwa.

Neighboring Eritrea, whose forces are fighting alongside Ethiopian ones, is not a party to the peace talks, and it is not clear whether the deeply repressive country will respect any agreement reached. Witnesses have told the AP that Eritreans were killing civilians even after the talks began.

The fighting, which resumed in August after a monthslong lull, has been marked by guerrilla-style warfare by Tigray forces and drone strikes by Ethiopian ones that witnesses have said have killed civilians.

According to analysis of satellite imagery taken by Planet Labs PBC of Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar airport south of the Tigray region on Oct. 21, by armaments expert Wim Zwijnenburg of the Dutch peace organization PAX and by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the wingspan, length, shape and other identifying details of two smaller aircraft visible are consistent with those of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone.

The United Nations-backed International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia has found evidence of the government using drones in the conflict “in an arbitrary and indiscriminate manner,” commission members told journalists last week.

The commissioners said they have not done a comprehensive analysis of where Ethiopia is obtaining the drones, but they said they had confirmed the drone used in a strike that killed people in a displacement camp early this year came from Turkey.

The commissioners also warned that “atrocity crimes are imminent” if there is no cessation of hostilities in a conflict with abuses documented on all sides.

Sheriff: ‘No truth’ in HBCU President’s Comments on Bus Stop

In this image taken from FOX Carolina livestream, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright speaks at a news conference Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Spartanburg, S.C. Wright said there was no truth to a historically Black university president's accusations of racial profiling in a recent bus traffic stop. (FOX Carolina via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina sheriff said a historically Black university president’s statement accusing law enforcement officers of racial profiling in a recent bus stop was “just false.”

Shaw University President Paulette Dillard wrote she was “outraged” after law enforcement officers in Spartanburg County on Oct. 5 stopped a contract bus transporting students from the historically Black university in Raleigh, North Carolina to a conference in Atlanta.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright emphasized at a Monday morning press conference that police officers stopped the unmarked, “Greyhound-like bus” with tinted windows because it had been swerving. The stop occurred as part of “Operation Rolling Thunder,” the department’s annual weeklong anti-drug campaign in which deputies and officers with agencies from around the state patrol the county’s highways.

Democratic members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation last week asked the Justice Department to investigate the incident.

Dillard wrote that the scene was reminiscent of the 1950s and ’60s: “armed police, interrogating innocent Black students, conducting searches without probable cause, and blood-thirsty dogs.”

“This behavior of targeting Black students is unacceptable and will not be ignored nor tolerated,” Dillard wrote. “Had the students been White, I doubt this detention and search would have occurred.”

Wright said that a student helped the driver answer officers’ questions and that none of the students were asked to leave the bus. A leashed dog “ran through the baggage,” turning up nothing illegal, according to Wright. Police body camera footage show officers searching several bags in the bus’ underbelly storage. The driver received a warning.

“I wish racism would die the ugly, cruel death it deserves,” Wright said. “If anything we’re ever doing is racist, I want to know it, I want to fix it and I want to never let it happen again. But this case right here has absolutely nothing to do with racism.”

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said the officers “didn’t do anything wrong” and could not have known the races of the people inside the bus when they pulled it over.

Mueller added that the leading cause of death in buses and commercial vehicles is driver fatigue. Interestate 85, the highway where officers stopped the bus, is a “deadly corridor,” according to Mueller.

“If my guys see a bus weaving in their lane, and they fail to stop it to check that driver to make sure they’re not too sleepy, then we could have a busload of Shaw students that was involved in a tragic traffic fatality,” Mueller said.

Body camera footage did not show any Shaw University insignia on the contract bus, which had the words “CHAUFFERED TRANSPORTATION” printed on its side. The Shaw University Communications Office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The traffic stop comes after an April incident in Georgia, where sheriff’s deputies pulled over the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team bus and searched it for drugs. Tony Allen, the president of the HBCU, said he was “incensed” and accused the law enforcement officers of intimidation and humiliation.

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is Black, said in May that deputies had found drugs on a different bus that same morning. The team’s chartered bus was stopped because it was traveling in the left lane, a violation of Georgia law, according to Bowman, who said deputies searched the bus after a drug-sniffing dog “alerted” alongside it. No one was arrested or charged and the driver received a warning.

Affirmative Action in Jeopardy After Justices Raise Doubts


People rally outside the Supreme Court as the court begins to hear oral arguments in two cases that could decide the future of affirmative action in college admissions, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The survival of affirmative action in higher education appeared to be in serious trouble Monday at a conservative-dominated Supreme Court after hours of debate over vexing questions of race.

The most diverse court in the nation’s history — among the nine justices are four women, two Black people and a Latina — is weighing challenges to admissions programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard that use race among many factors in seeking a diverse student body.

The court’s six conservative justices all expressed doubts about the practice, which has been upheld under Supreme Court decisions reaching back to 1978. The court’s three liberals defended the programs, which are similar to those used by many other private and public universities.

Getting rid of race-conscious college admissions would have a “destabilizing” effect that would cause the ranks of Black and Latino students to plummet at the nation’s most selective schools, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, said.

Following the overturning of the half-century abortion precedent of Roe v. Wade in June, the cases offer a big new test of whether the court, with its 6-3 conservative edge, will sharply steer the law to the right on another contentious cultural issue that conservatives have had in their sights for years.

The questions the justices offered further laid bare the stark ideological divisions on the court in an era of intense political polarization in the country.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s second Black justice, who has a long record of opposition to affirmative action programs and other conservative positions, noted he didn’t go to racially diverse schools, at one point saying, “I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means.” He also challenged defenders of affirmative action to “tell me what the educational benefits are.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative, pointed to one of the court’s previous affirmative action cases and said it anticipated a halt to its use in declaring that any classification based on race was “dangerous” and had to have an end point.

She was among several conservatives who pushed lawyers representing the schools and the Biden administration to venture a guess when that day would come.

“Your position is that race matters because it’s necessary for diversity, which is necessary for the sort of education you want. It’s not going to stop mattering at some particular point,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, who has long been skeptical of considerations of race.

Justice Samuel Alito likened affirmative action to a footrace in which a minority applicant gets to “start five yards closer to the finish line.” But liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic member, rejected that comparison saying what universities are doing is looking at students as a whole.

Likewise, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s newest justice and its first Black woman, also said race was being used among 40 different factors at the University of North Carolina as part of a broad review of applicants.

“They’re looking at the full person with all of these characteristics,” she said.

Justice Elena Kagan, who was the first female dean at Harvard Law School earlier in her career, called universities the “pipelines to leadership in our society” and suggested that without affirmative action minority enrollment will drop.

“I thought part of what it meant to be an American and to believe in American pluralism is that actually our institutions, you know, are reflective of who we are as a people in all our variety,” she said.

The Supreme Court has twice upheld race-conscious college admissions programs in the past 19 years, including just six years ago.

But that was before the three appointees of former President Donald Trump joined. Jackson was chosen this year by President Joe Biden.

Lower courts have upheld the programs at both UNC and Harvard, rejecting claims that the schools discriminated against white and Asian-American applicants.

The cases are brought by conservative activist Edward Blum, who also was behind an earlier affirmative action challenge against the University of Texas as well as the case that led the court in 2013 to end the use of a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Blum formed Students for Fair Admissions, which filed the lawsuits against both schools in 2014.

The group argues that the Constitution forbids the use of race in college admissions and calls for overturning earlier Supreme Court decisions that said otherwise.

Colleges and universities can use other, race-neutral ways to assemble a diverse student body, including by focusing on socioeconomic status and eliminating the preference for children of alumni and major donors, Students for Fair Admissions argues.

Justice Neil Gorsuch pressed Ryan Park, a lawyer for North Carolina, on why colleges shouldn’t be forced to eliminate those preferences, “which tend to favor the children of wealthy white parents,” to see if it allowed them to increase diversity without considering race.

A college might end up with a more diverse student body, but “we just would have a crummy squash team and no art museum,” Gorsuch said.

In the Harvard case, lawyer Seth Waxman pointed to lower court findings rejecting claims that Harvard discriminates on the basis of race. Waxman said the school looks for many different kinds of diversity, including having oboe players for its student orchestra.

“We did not fight a civil war over oboe players,” Roberts countered, a sharp allusion to the nation’s long struggle with race.

The schools contend that they use race in a limited way, but that eliminating it as a factor altogether would make it much harder to achieve a student body that looks like America.

The Biden administration is urging the court to preserve race-conscious admissions. The Trump administration had taken the opposite position in earlier stages of the cases.

UNC says its freshman class is about 65% white, 22% Asian American, 10% Black and 10% Hispanic. The numbers add to more than 100% because some students report belonging to more than one category, a school spokesman said.

White students are just over 40% of Harvard’s freshman class, the school said. The class also is just under 28% Asian American, 14% Black and 12% Latino.

Nine states already prohibit any consideration of race in admissions to their public colleges and universities: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

In 2020, California voters easily rejected a ballot measure to bring back affirmative action.

Public opinion on the topic varies depending on how the question is asked. A Gallup Poll from 2021 found 62% of Americans in favor of affirmative action programs for racial minorities. But in a Pew Research Center survey in March, 74% of Americans, including majorities of Black and Latino respondents, said race and ethnicity should not factor into college admissions.

Jackson and Roberts received their undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. Two other justices went to law school there.

Jackson is sitting out the Harvard case because she was until recently a member of an advisory governing board there.

A decision in the affirmative action cases is not expected before late spring.

States Struggle with Pushback After Wave of Policing Reforms


FILE - Protesters kneel in front of New York City Police Department officers before being arrested for violating curfew beside the iconic Plaza Hotel on 59th Street, Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in New York. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The national reckoning on race and policing that followed the death of George Floyd -- with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck -- spurred a torrent of state laws aimed at fixing the police.

More than two years later, that torrent has slowed.

Some of the initial reforms have been tweaked or even rolled back after police complained that the new policies were hindering their ability to catch criminals.

And while governors in all but five states signed police reform laws, many of those laws gave police more protections, as well. More than a dozen states only passed laws aimed at broadening police accountability; five states only passed new police protections.

States collectively approved nearly 300 police reform bills after Floyd’s killing in May 2020, according to an analysis by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland. The analysis used data from the National Conference of State Legislatures to identify legislation enacted since June 2020 that affects police oversight, training, use of force policies and mental health diversions, including crisis intervention and alternatives to arrests.

Many of the accountability laws touched on themes present in Floyd’s death, including the use of body cameras and requirements that police report excessive force by their colleagues. Among other things, police rights measures gave officers the power to sue civilians for violating their civil rights.

North Carolina, for example, passed a broad law that lets authorities charge civilians if their conduct allegedly interfered with an officer’s duty. But it also created a public database of officers who were fired or suspended for misconduct.

In Minnesota -- where the reform movement was sparked by chilling video showing Floyd’s death at the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin -- the state Legislature enacted several police accountability changes, but they fell well short of what Democrats and activists were seeking.

The state banned neck restraints like the one used on Floyd. It also imposed a duty to intervene on officers who see a colleague using excessive force, changed rules on the use of force and created a police misconduct database.

But during this year’s legislative session, Democrats were unable to overcome Republican opposition to further limits on “no-knock” warrants even after a Minneapolis SWAT team in February entered a downtown apartment while serving a search warrant and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man.

In Minneapolis, voters defeated a 2021 “defund the police” ballot initiative that would have replaced the department with a reimagined public safety unit with less reliance on cops with guns.

Similar dynamics have played out in states as varied as Washington and Virginia, Nevada and Mississippi. And if the range of outcomes has varied as well, that comes as no surprise to Thomas Abt, a senior fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank.

“We’re in the midst of this extraordinarily painful, very formidable process,” Abt said.



Days before the first anniversary of Floyd’s killing, Washington’s Democratic governor signed one of the most comprehensive police reform packages in the nation, including new laws banning the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Police had argued that some of the reforms went too far and would interfere with their ability to arrest criminals. The pushback didn’t stop after the new laws went into effect.

“There’s just that atmosphere of emboldened criminals and brazen criminality, and people telling law enforcement, ‘I know that you can’t do anything,’ ” said Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Before the reforms, officers were generally allowed to use the amount of force necessary to arrest a suspect who fled or resisted.

Police had historically been allowed to use force to briefly detain someone if they had reasonable suspicion that the person may be involved in a crime. Under the new law, police could only use force if they had probable cause to make an arrest, to prevent an escape or to protect against an imminent threat of injury.

Police said the higher standard tied their hands and allowed suspected criminals to simply walk away when police stopped them during temporary investigative detentions.

Earlier this year, lawmakers rolled back some provisions, making it clear that police can use force, if necessary, to detain someone who is fleeing a temporary investigative detention. Police must still use “reasonable care,” including de-escalation techniques, and cannot use force when the people being detained are being compliant.

Some are pushing for additional rollbacks. In a video released last month, a group of sheriffs, police chiefs and elected officials urged people to call their legislators to ask them to lift some new restrictions on police pursuits. Some suspects are ignoring commands to pull over, they said, knowing police cannot chase them.

Current law prohibits police from engaging in a pursuit unless there is probable cause to believe someone in the vehicle has committed a violent offense or sex offense, or there is reasonable suspicion that someone is driving under the influence.

Carlos Hunter, a 43-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by police in 2019. His sister, Nickeia, said it was disheartening to see some of the laws amended after years of reform efforts.

“Any good the reforms that were in place did, they are going to try to undo in 2023,” she said. “They are trying to roll back every gain that was made.”



On paper, the police reforms passed in Nevada in 2021 appeared expansive.

The public would get a statewide use-of-force database with information on deadly police encounters. Law enforcement agencies were mandated to develop an early-warning system to flag problematic officers. And officers had to de-escalate situations “whenever possible or appropriate” and only use an “objectively reasonable” amount of force.

A year later, a lack of funding and a failure to follow through have blunted the impact of the reforms.

The database doesn’t exist yet. The early-warning system wasn’t clearly defined, so some police departments said they’ve made no changes. And many law enforcement agencies already had de-escalation language in their use-of-force policies.

While the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the state’s largest, had enacted reforms before the new laws, little has changed in the daily operations of smaller police forces.

Sheriff Gerald Antinoro of Storey County, an area outside of Reno with an Old West mining past, said his department regularly updated its use-of-force policy and had its own “fail safes” to identify troubled officers.

“If you want my opinion, mostly it was feel-good legislation that somewhere along the lines, somebody thought they were making a huge difference,” Antinoro said. “It’s fluff and mirrors.”

Others are even more blunt.

The reforms are “a waste of time” said Brian Ferguson, undersheriff for rural Mineral County.

“I think it’s a way for a politician to say they made a change,” Ferguson said. “It really hasn’t changed the way we’ve been operating.”

For this story, reporters at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University contacted the largest police departments in Nevada, as well as the sheriff’s offices for each of the state’s 16 counties. Of the eight agencies that responded, a few said they made small changes, like tweaking their use-of-force policies to align with the new law.

Nevadans’ pro-police “Blue Lives Matter” sentiment and intense lobbying by prosecutors and police unions made it harder to pass reforms in Nevada than elsewhere, said Frank Rudy Cooper, director of the Program on Race, Gender & Policing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The pared-down reforms still face obstacles.

The Nevada Department of Public Safety waited more than a year before it received funding in August to begin collecting use-of-force data from all law enforcement agencies in the state. An estimate prepared by the software developer projected that costs associated with the data gathering would top $85,000. Details will include type of force and whether the civilian had a mental health condition or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Other aspects of Nevada’s police reforms lack clear enforcement mechanisms. No one, for example, oversees setting standards for how departments identify problematic officers.

“We were able to get ourselves out of that one,” said Mike Sherlock, executive director of the Nevada Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, the state’s regulatory agency for law enforcement. Sherlock said the commission worried about the labor needed to keep track of officers and a lack of specifics about what defines problematic behavior.

Meanwhile, no state agency is charged with tracking whether departments have updated their use-of-force policies.

The Legislature’s leading reformer, state Sen. Dallas Harris, said she had to scale back the bills to get them passed. Ultimately, she said, it’s up to the public and the police departments themselves to make sure change happens.

“I’m in the Legislature,” Harris said. “There’s only so far our reach extends.”



In Mississippi, where 38% of the population is Black, there is little political appetite for police reform -- and Republican state Sen. Joey Fillingane is clear when he explains why.

“The general feeling among my constituents in south Mississippi is we need to support police and thank them for the job they’re doing because crime is on the rise and they are standing between us and the criminal element,” he said.

But there are some who see a need for action.

Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives when Floyd was killed. He watched as states around the country enacted a wide assortment of police reforms while no police accountability measures were approved in Mississippi.

“It’s disappointing,” Dortch said.

It is more than disappointing to Black people like Darius Harris who say their encounters with police are fraught because of racism.

For years, Harris would go into Lexington, Mississippi, four or five times a week, to visit his brother or go grocery shopping. These days, Harris said he goes 20 miles out of his way to buy food rather than set foot in the small city in the Mississippi Delta.

The reason, according to Harris, is that he is regularly targeted and threatened by Lexington police.

“It’s not worth the risk of being harassed,” said Harris, a 45-year-old construction worker.

Harris is one of five plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit that accuses the Lexington Police Department of subjecting Black residents to intimidation, excessive force and false arrests.

Harris and his brother, Robert, were arrested on New Year’s Eve in 2021 as they shot off fireworks at Robert Harris’ house. The brothers were arrested again in April and charged with “retaliation against an officer” after they spoke out against the police department at a meeting, according to the lawsuit.

Lexington’s population of 1,600 is about 80% Black. The lawsuit alleges that Lexington is “deeply segregated” and controlled by a small group of white leaders. Also named as a defendant is former Police Chief Sam Dobbins, who was fired in July after he was heard on an audio recording using racial slurs and saying he had killed 13 people in the line of duty.

Attorneys for Dobbins acknowledge in court documents that the former chief was recorded “saying things he should not have said,” but argue that he did not violate the constitutional rights of the Harris brothers and the other plaintiffs.

The new police chief, Charles Henderson, is Black. He denied any racial bias on the part of his officers.

“Our police, we’re not prejudiced,” he said. “We definitely don’t stand behind any kind of racial profiling.”



Virginia, once a reliably conservative state, flexed its then-new Democratic muscle after Floyd’s death, passing a sweeping package of police reforms. Among them: legislation banning the use of chokeholds and no-knock search warrants.

A key part of the reform package was a bill to set up a new statewide framework giving mental health clinicians a prominent role in responding to people in crisis -- rather than relying on police. The law was named after Marcus-David Peters, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in 2018 during a psychiatric crisis.

Advocates hoped the new law would minimize police participation in emotionally charged situations that they may not be adequately trained to handle and can end with disastrous results.

Five pilot programs began last year in various regions of the state, but some supporters of the law were disappointed when an amendment approved by the Legislature earlier this year gave localities with populations of 40,000 and under the ability to opt out of the system.

Peters’ sister, Princess Blanding, said the law she envisioned has been “watered down to the point that overall it is ineffective.”

The law allows each region to decide how to respond to mental health crises. “This lack of consistency is very dangerous and it could be the difference between life and death,” Blanding said.

Before the program began, police would be dispatched to respond to mental health emergency calls to 911. After the new system launched in December, lower-risk calls began to be connected to the regional crisis call center but high-risk calls continued to be dispatched to police.

Now, where the system is active, “community care teams” made up of police and mental health professionals (also known as co-response teams) are dispatched by 911 under certain circumstances, when available.

Under the new system, mental health calls are assigned levels of urgency:

--Those that do not require police investigation and are connected to the regional crisis call centers -- part of the 988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline -- for support and mental health referrals.

--Calls in which the risk is assessed as urgent and a community care team is deployed.

--High-risk situations, when police and other first responders are dispatched.

On a recent weekday, dispatchers at the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications Center received a call from a woman who said there was a schizophrenic homeless man screaming on her front porch. A co-response team made up of a police officer and a mental health clinician responded. The man told them he was trying to get out of the rain and didn’t mean any harm.

Another caller said someone told her to check herself into a mental ward. The dispatcher asked her if she was hurting anyone, including herself. “Nothing happened, but I’m going through a psychosis,” she said. The dispatcher transferred her to the 988 center.

The legislation allowing small communities to opt out was introduced by Republican lawmakers who said those localities worry they cannot afford to set up a new response system and to hire additional mental health workers. The General Assembly allocated $600,000 for each regional behavioral health authority in the state to implement the program, but some small communities say that is not enough.

Nine out of the 10 counties covered by the Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Services Board -- a sprawling area, roughly the size of the state of Delaware, along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay -- have decided to opt out, said Executive Director Linda Hodges.

“When this law was developed, they did not take these small rural communities into consideration,” Hodges said.

In the capital Richmond, John Lindstrom, chief executive officer of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, said he is encouraged by the early results of the co-response teams.

Between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30, when the first of two co-response teams was activated, there were 69 calls. None resulted in arrests, the use of force or injuries. Nine people were taken into custody for involuntary hospitalization, and 87% were given referrals to community mental health providers.

“We’re not going to fix every bad outcome,” Lindstrom said, “but we want to further reduce them, to increase resources so people can have more confidence that if you call 911 or call 988 you’re going to get help, you’re not going to get hurt.”

EPA: Water in Mississippi’s Capital City is Safe to Drink


FIE - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba discusses elements of a coordinated response with federal agencies that he believes will help deal with the city's long-standing water problems, during a news briefing, Sept. 7, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. The beleaguered water system in Mississippi's capital city disrupted daily life for 150,000 residents for several days, but Jackson's water is now safe to drink according to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed Monday that the water in Mississippi’s capital city is safe to drink, after months of sampling at a treatment plant overwhelmed by August flooding that caused wide supply disruptions.

The beleaguered O.B. Curtis water treatment plant fell into crisis after the late summer flooding left 150,000 people without running water for several days. People waited in lines for water to drink, bathe, cook and flush toilets. The crisis also added to the rising costs for business owners already saddled with a labor shortage and high inflation.

The city had already been under a boil-water notice since late July because the state health department found cloudy water that could make people ill. But current water samples pass muster for safe consumption, the EPA said.

“Current sampling confirms water delivered from J.H. Fewell Water and O.B. Curtis Water Treatment is safe to drink,” said Maria Michalos, a spokesperson for the EPA, referring to the city’s two water treatment plants.

The agency encouraged Jackson residents to stay vigilant about updates and follow all future boil water advisories, as “localized issues” may resurface. It is not yet certain whether Jackson has too much lead and copper in its water. Sampling for lead and copper has been completed and results are expected in mid-November.

The sampling was collected during a series of tests over the last several months conducted by the EPA and the Mississippi Department of Health, said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

At a news conference, Lumumba said Monday that city officials had been informed that Jackson was “in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act,” the federal law that gives the EPA authority to set standards for drinking water quality.

Current samples indicate that Jackson’s water quality meets federal standards although testing is ongoing.

The EPA is coordinating with the city and the state health department to sample the water and “confirm drinking water delivered to customers meets Safe Drinking Water Act standards,” Michalos said.

Although water pressure was restored in the days after the late August crisis and a boil water notice lifted, many people still don’t drink the water and haven’t been doing so for years amid lingering distrust of the supply.

In September, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice said they were “prepared to file an action” against the city under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but hoped they could avoid a legal dispute by reaching an “enforceable agreement.” Federal attorneys said state and local officials “had not acted to protect public health.”

On Monday, Lumumba said negotiations between city attorneys and the federal government are continuing.

In response to a question about whether Jackson could still face legal action under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Michalos said the “EPA does not comment on ongoing enforcement matters.”

In an Oct. 20 announcement, the EPA said it was investigating whether Mississippi state agencies have discriminated against Jackson by refusing to fund water system improvements in the city, where more than 80% of residents are Black and about a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents Jackson, said the EPA civil investigation is expected to take about four months.

Lumumba also said the city is pressing ahead with plans to secure a private firm to operate the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant. Several firms have already toured the plant, Lumumba said. Even as the city looks to outsource the plant’s operations and maintenance to a private company, Lumumba has been adamant that ownership of the city’s water system should remain in public hands.

On Friday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves extended the state of emergency over the water crisis until Nov. 22. City officials aim to have a contract in place with a private operator by Nov. 17, Lumumba said.

Ex-Michigan Cop to Face Murder Trial in Killing of Congolese Man


Ex-Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr listens as Judge Nicholas Ayoub binds the case for trial at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. Schurr will face trial for second-degree murder in the fatal shooting Black motorist Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head on April 4. (Cory Morse/ Grand Rapids Press via AP, Pool)

A former Michigan police officer who shot a Black motorist in the back of the head will stand trial for second-degree murder, a judge said Monday.

Judge Nicholas Ayoub announced his decision after hearing testimony last week and seeing video about the death of Patrick Lyoya in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A jury will decide whether Christopher Schurr ’s use of deadly force was necessary “after a full and fair trial,” Ayoub said.

Lyoya, 26, briefly ran from a traffic stop then grappled with Schurr across a front lawn before the white officer shot him at point-blank range. The final moment last April was recorded on video by a man who was a passenger in the car with Lyoya.

Schurr repeatedly told Lyoya to take his hands off the officer’s Taser, according to video. The refugee from Congo was on the ground when he was killed.

Ayoub only had to find probable cause to send the case to the Kent County trial court, a low standard at this stage under Michigan law.

Grand Rapids police Capt. Chad McKersie testified Friday that Lyoya had gained an advantage over Schurr during an intense physical struggle. But the judge noted that McKersie was unsure whether Lyoya was trying to flee or to attack the officer.

So far “there is sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that (Schurr) did not reasonably believe that his life was immediately at risk,” Ayoub said.

Schurr’s attorney argued that the officer was defending himself and that Lyoya wouldn’t give up. A forensic video analyst, Robert McFarlane, testified that Lyoya failed to comply with 20 commands.

“He pushed. He shoved, popped his arms,” lawyer Matt Borgula said.

Schurr, an officer for seven years, was fired in June after being charged with murder.

A lawyer representing Lyoya’s family, Ven Johnson, said a trial will be a key step toward “obtaining full and complete justice.”

Grand Rapids, which has a population of about 200,000, is 160 miles (260 kilometers) west of Detroit.

Lyoya’s killing by an officer came after numerous others in recent years involving Black people, including George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning on race; Daunte Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis; Andre Hill, who was killed in Columbus, Ohio; and Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed in North Carolina.

Trump Organization Faces Criminal Tax Fraud Trial over Perks


FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. For years, as Trump was soaring from reality TV star to the White House, his real estate empire was bankrolling big perks for some of his most trusted senior executives, including apartments and luxury cars. Now Trump's company, the Trump Organization, is on trial this week for criminal tax fraud — on the hook for what prosecutors say was a 15-year scheme by top officials to hide the plums and avoid paying taxes. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, as Donald Trump was soaring from reality TV star to the White House, his real estate empire was bankrolling big perks for some of his top executives, including apartments and luxury cars.

Now Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, is on trial for criminal tax fraud — on the hook for what prosecutors say was a 15-year scheme by his most trusted lieutenant to avoid paying taxes on those fringe benefits.

In opening statements Monday, prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over the company’s culpability for the actions of Allen Weisselberg, who has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify as a star prosecution witness in exchange for a five-month jail sentence.

Later, another Trump Organization executive, senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney, walked a prosecutor through financial records, including Weisselberg’s payroll forms and ledger entries showing that the company paid for Weisselberg’s car leases. He will resume testifying Tuesday.

McConney, whom prosecutors say helped Weisselberg by misreporting his income to tax authorities, was granted immunity to testify last year before a grand jury and to testify again at the criminal trial. He said he appeared before the grand jury eight times on a variety of Trump-related matters.

The tax fraud case is the only criminal trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation of the former president and is one of three active cases involving Trump or the company in New York courts.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger argued in her opening statement that the Trump Organization — through its subsidiaries Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. — is liable because Weisselberg, the longtime finance chief, was a “high managerial agent” entrusted to act on behalf of the company and its various entities.

The company, she said, benefited because it didn’t have to pay Weisselberg and at least two other executives who received perks as much in salary and bonus pay — which for Weisselberg totaled close to $1 million a year.

The company also saved money when giving out Christmas bonuses by paying top executives as independent contractors through subsidiary companies, such as its golf courses and the ice rink it managed in Central Park, Hoffinger said.

“This case is about greed and cheating — cheating on taxes,” Hoffinger told jurors. ”(The Trump Organization) paid their already highly paid executives even more by helping them cheat on taxes.”

A Trump Organization lawyer, Michael van der Veen, countered that the Weisselberg had gone rogue and betrayed the company’s trust. Weisselberg concocted the scheme without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge, cheated on his personal income taxes and lied to the company about what he’d done, van der Veen said.

“This case is about individual, personal greed and the abuse of trust necessary to feed that greed. Allen Weisselberg is a man who has fallen to that greed,” van der Veen said.

“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” he said.

Weisselberg has pleaded guilty to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. His Manhattan apartment, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, and his grandchildren’s school tuition were all paid for by the company. His son and another Trump Organization executive also received off-the-books compensation, prosecutors said.

When they say the Trump company, “what they really mean is Allen Weisselberg did something illegal with the intent to benefit Allen Weisselberg, his buddy or his son,” another company lawyer, Susan Necheles, told jurors.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million and could face difficulty in securing new loans and deals. Some partners and government entities could seek to cut ties with the company. It could also hamper its ability to do business with the U.S. Secret Service, which sometimes pays the company for lodging and services while protecting Trump as a former president.

Neither Trump nor any of his children who have worked as Trump Organization executives are charged or accused of wrongdoing. Trump signed some of the checks at the center of the case, but Necheles said evidence will show he knew nothing about the scheme.

The Trump Organization is the entity through which Trump manages his many ventures, including investments in golf courses, luxury towers and other real estate, his many marketing deals and his TV pursuits.

Prosecutors have said they expect to call 15 witnesses, including Weisselberg, McConney and other Trump Organization officials. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan said he expects the trial to take at least four weeks.

Aside from the criminal case, Trump and the Trump Organization are defendants in a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who alleges that Trump and the company inflated his net worth by billions of dollars and misled banks and others for years about the value of various assets.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for Thursday.

Meanwhile, in the Bronx, jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in a lawsuit brought by protesters who say they were roughed up by security guards outside Trump Tower. The former president gave a deposition in that case last year.


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Antibody Treatment Tested as New Tool against Malaria


This 2014 photo made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a feeding female Anopheles funestus mosquito. The species is a known vector for malaria. The parasitic disease killed more than 620,000 people in 2020 and caused 241 million cases, mainly in children under 5 in Africa. (James Gathany/CDC via AP)

Research in Africa found a one-time dose of an experimental drug protected adults against malaria for at least six months, the latest approach in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease.

Malaria killed more than 620,000 people in 2020 and sickened 241 million, mainly children under 5 in Africa. The World Health Organization is rolling out the first authorized malaria vaccine for children, but it is about 30% effective and requires four doses.

The new study tested a very different approach — giving people a big dose of lab-made malaria-fighting antibodies instead of depending on the immune system to make enough of those same infection-blockers after vaccination.

“The available vaccine doesn’t protect enough people,” said Dr. Kassoum Kayentao of the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies in Bamako, Mali, who helped lead the study in the villages of Kalifabougou and Torodo.

In those villages during malaria season, other research has shown, people are bitten by infected mosquitoes on average twice a day.

The experimental antibody, developed by researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was given by IV — difficult to deliver on a large scale. But the encouraging findings bode well for an easier-to-administer shot version from the same scientists that’s in early testing in infants, children and adults.

The U.S. government research was published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a medical meeting in Seattle.

The antibody works by breaking the life cycle of the parasite, which is spread through mosquito bites. It targets immature parasites before they enter the liver where they can mature and multiply. It was developed from an antibody taken from a volunteer who received a malaria vaccine.

The research involved 330 adults in Mali who got either one of two different antibody doses or a dummy infusion. All were tested for malaria infection every two weeks for 24 weeks. Anyone who got sick was treated.

Infections were detected by blood test in 20 people who got the higher dose, 39 people who got the lower dose and 86 who got the placebo.

The higher dose was 88% effective, compared to the placebo. The lower dose was 75% effective.

Protection might last during the several months of a malaria season. The idea is to someday use it alongside other malaria prevention methods such as malaria pills, mosquito nets and vaccines. Cost is uncertain, but one estimate suggests lab-made antibodies could be given for as little as $5 per child per malaria season.

Lab-made antibodies are used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19, said Dr. Johanna Daily of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study.

“The good news is now we have another, immune-based therapy to try to control malaria,” Daily said.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Fragments of Drones Used by Kiev in Terror Attack in Sevastopol Raised to Surface

Marine drones that attacked Sevastopol were launched from the sea coast near Odessa, the Russian defense ministry said

© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. Fragments of drones used by the Kiev regime to stage a terror attack in Sevastopol have been spotted and raised to the surface, the Russian defense ministry said on Sunday.

"Following the October 29 terror attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet and civil ships used to ensure security of the ‘grain corridor,’ fragments of naval unmanned aerial vehicle used by the Kiev regime under the supervision of representatives of the United Kingdom have been spotted and raised to the surface," it said.

Marine drones that attacked Sevastopol were launched from the sea coast near Odessa, the Russian defense ministry said.

"Specialists of the Russian defense ministry jointly with representatives from other state agencies examined Canadian-made navigation modules of the marine drones. Based on the results of data retrieved from the navigation receiver’s memory, it was established that the marine unmanned aerial vehicles had been launched from the coast near Odessa," it said.

One of the drones that attacked Sevastopol might have been launched from a civilian vessel shipping agricultural products from Ukrainian ports, the Russian defense ministry said. "According to specialists, it [the launching point within the ‘grain corridor’ in the Black Sea] may mean that this vehicle was launched from a civilian ship chartered by Kiev and its western sponsors to export agricultural products from Ukrainian seaports," it said.

Marine drones that were launched from the coast near Odessa flew along the grain corridor and then turned toward a Russian naval base in Sevastopol, the Russian defense ministry said.

"It has been established that the marine unmanned aerial vehicles were launched from the coast near Odessa. The marine drone flew in the security zone of the grain corridor and later changed the route toward a Russian naval base in Sevastopol," it said, adding that the coordinates of the movement of one of the marine drones that attacked Sevastopol "indicate a launch point in the waters within the security zone of the grain corridor in the Black Sea.".

Ukrainian special operations forces training center near Ochakov hit by Russian forces

According to the Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov, Saturday’s terror attack in Sevastopol was engineered under the direction of British specialists in the city of Ochakov

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. Russian aviation, missile and artillery troops delivered a strike at a training center of Ukrainian special operations forces near Ochakov in the Nikolayev region, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday.

"A strike was delivered at a training center of special operations forces of the Ukrainian army near the city of Ochakov in the Nikolayev region," he said, adding Russian forces hit a Ukrainian army communications center near the settlement of Belyayevka in the Kherson region, a munitions depot near Kupyansk in the Kharkov region, 68 artillery units at firing positions, manpower and weapons in 189 locations.

According to the ministry, Saturday’s terror attack in Sevastopol was engineered under the direction of British specialists in the city of Ochakov.

Russian Envoy Appalled by US’ Reaction to Terror Attack on Sevastopol Port

Anatoly Antonov noted the absence of signs of condemnation of the "reckless actions of the Kyiv regime" by Washington

WASHINGTON, October 30. /TASS/. The reaction by US authorities to a terrorist attack on the port of Sevastopol is appalling, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said on Saturday, answering questions by the media.

"Washington's reaction to the terrorist attack on the port of Sevastopol is truly outrageous. We have not seen any signs of condemnation of the reckless actions by the Kiev regime. Instead, all the indications that the British military specialists were involved in organizing today's massive strike with the use of drones, are disregarded," the envoy said as quoted by the embassy’s press service.

Talk on future of grain deal to be possible after Black Sea attack details are clear

This total outrage violates all the terms that were earlier agreed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. Any talk about further steps on the Ukraine grain deal will be possible only after all the circumstances of Ukraine’s attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet ships are clarified and the UN Security Council holds a meeting on this topic, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said on Sunday.

"First of all, it is necessary to clarify all the circumstances of what happened. This total outrage violates all the terms that were earlier agreed. So, probably, only after all the details are clear. You know that Russia has called a UN Security Council meeting. This problem will be the focus. So, after it, we will be able to say what out further steps will be," he said.

Russia to have contacts with Turkey, UN on grain deal soon - senior diplomat

Andrey Rudenko called for refraining from anticipating possible developments

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. Russia will have contacts with Turkey and the United Nations on the Ukraine grain deal soon, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said on Sunday.

"We will have contacts both with the United Nations and Turkey, as participants in the Istanbul deal. These contacts will take place in the near future," he said.

According to Rudenko, any talk about further steps on the Ukraine grain deal will be possible only after all the circumstances of Ukraine’s attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet ships are clarified and the UN Security Council holds a meeting on this topic.

"First of all, it is necessary to clarify all the circumstances of what happened. This total outrage violates all the terms that were earlier agreed. So, probably, only after all the details are clear. You know that Russia has called a UN Security Council meeting. This problem will be the focus. So, after it, we will be able to say what out further steps will be," he said.

He called for refraining from anticipating possible developments, saying he has no information about further stay of the Russian personnel at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul. "We have announced the suspension of our participation in the deal, not the withdrawal, but suspension," he added.

The Russian defense ministry said on Saturday that following a terror attack committed by the Kiev regime "with participation of specialists from the United Kingdom against Russian Black Sea Fleet and civilian ships engaged to ensure security of the grain corridor, the Russian side is suspending its participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of food from Ukrainian ports." According to the ministry, Kiev used nine drones and seven autonomous marine unmanned vehicles. All of them were downed.

Russian Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev said that Russia, including with Turkey’s participation, is ready to supply up to 500,000 tons of grain to the poorest countries in the next four months free of charge.

Women’s Clinic in South Sudan a Casualty of Distracted World


Expectant mothers sit on the floor as they wait to attend a monthly checkup at the Mingkaman Reproductive Health Clinic in the village of Mingkaman, Awerial County, in the Lakes State of South Sudan Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. In a country with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates, the small clinic dedicated to reproductive health care for more than 200,000 people is about to be shut down - just one casualty among many in developing countries as humanitarian donors are stretched by one crisis after another. (AP Photo/Deng Machol)

MINGKAMAN, South Sudan (AP) — In a country where the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, a small clinic dedicated to reproductive health care for more than 200,000 people is about to be shut down. The worried-looking mothers know too well what might happen next.

“If the hospital closes, we will die more because we are poor,” said one expectant mother who gave her name only as Chuti. She was attending a monthly checkup at the Mingkaman reproductive health clinic in this town on the White Nile River, and it might be her last.

The United Nations has said it intends to end the clinic’s operations by December because of a lack of funding from European and other supporters. It is just one casualty among many in developing countries as humanitarian donors have been stretched by one crisis after another, from COVID-19 to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.N. would not say how much it costs to run the clinic.

A loss like the clinic is of critical importance for people in places like Mingkaman, which along with the rest of South Sudan has struggled to cope with the aftermath of a five-year civil war, climate shocks like widespread flooding and lingering insecurity that includes shocking rates of sexual violence.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has said the war in Ukraine has led to a dramatic cut in funding for emergency medical care for people who have been sexually assaulted. “It’s not that sexual violence ebbs and flows, it’s going on all the time, largely unseen,” commissioner Barney Afako said. The commission also has asserted that the government has failed to invest in basic services like health care.

This reproductive health clinic in the capital of Awerial county in central South Sudan serves a community largely of people displaced by the civil war and the floods. It is where women who once gave birth at home now come to deliver their children. It is also where women who are assaulted come for care.

The maternal mortality rate in South Sudan was 789 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019, according to the World Health Organization. That’s more than double the rate in more developed neighboring Kenya, according to U.N. data, while the U.S. rate was 23 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 250 women give birth in the Mingkaman clinic every month, said Teresa Achuei, the site manager with the organization IMA World Health, which runs the facility. She said she knew of only three women who have died while giving birth in the community, all of them outside the clinic.

Now, she said, hundreds of women could be at risk. “Our aim, our mission, is to reduce maternal mortality rate. Every woman should deliver safely. If the facility closes, there will be many deaths in the community,” she told The Associated Press during a visit in mid-October.

The clinic was founded in 2014, the year after South Sudan’s civil war began. Set up in tents as a temporary way to serve people displaced by fighting, it remains makeshift but works around the clock.

It is a center of activity in Mingkaman, a community on one of South Sudan’s muddy main highways without reliable electricity and running water. The military is present to respond to flares of violence. Many women support their families by collecting firewood from the nearby forest to sell or work in modest local hotels.

Multiple women expressed concern about the clinic’s coming closure.

“It will be worsening for us because it was helping us,” said Akuany Bol, who delivered her three children there. She looked miserable while waiting for a midwife to examine her child.

Andrew Kuol, a clinical officer, said the facility receives an average of 70 to 80 patients per day. It often admits 20 patients a day, or twice the number of beds.

Some women must be treated on the ground.

Kuol said the clinic faces shortages of medicines including malaria drugs, post-rape drugs, antenatal drugs and others, again because of waning donor support.

The nearest hospital is in the city of Bor in the neighboring state of Jonglei, where the clinic’s more complicated cases are sent. Getting there is complicated, too. With no bridge between the states, it can take an hour for a boat to cross the Nile.

As in much of South Sudan, travel is challenging. And current circumstances mean few of the people here can easily relocate for health care or anything else.

“These (displaced people) are not going anywhere because there is still insecurity and also the flooding,” said James Manyiel Agup, the Awerial county director for health here in Lakes state. He urged the U.N. partners to continue supporting the facility to save lives.

Death Toll from Mogadishu Car Bomb Attacks Hits 100

By Xinhua

Oct 30, 2022 11:03 PM

Twin car bomb explosions targeting Somalia's Education Ministry building in the capital Mogadishu on Saturday killed at least 100 people and injured more than 300 others, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said on Sunday.

The fatalities are likely to rise, Mohamud told media after visiting the bombing site on early Sunday.

Several government offices, hotels and restaurants are situated near the bombing site.

An unspecified number of people, including journalists and police officers were among the casualties, Sadiq Dudishe, spokesperson of the Somali Police Force, said earlier.

The Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab extremist group, which often targets the capital and controls large parts of the country, claimed responsibility.

Somalia Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, while condemning the attack, said such action by Al-Shabab won't stop the government's commitment to eradicating terrorism in any form.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia in a statement called for sustained military operations against the insurgents, so as to suppress surging terror attacks in the country.

The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia tweeted it "wishes a speedy recovery for those injured, and stands resolutely with all Somalis against terrorism."

The blasts came as the Somali president and leaders of the federal member states, including security officials, were meeting to discuss ongoing offensive operations against al-Shabab.

Friendship and Courage: Young Chinese Volunteer Shares Stories of Helping Local Children in Lebanon, African Countries

By Ji Yuqiao

Oct 30, 2022 06:25 PM

Editor's Note:

Young Chinese people in the new era are confident, aspirational, and responsible. With a global vision, they stand at the forefront of the times ready to fully commit to a more global outlook. As a group with a strong sense of motivation, young Chinese people accept and quickly respond to the world's trending schools of thought. Some members of China's Generation Z have begun to practice the tenets of their "global citizen" identity and use their thought processes and actions to influence the society.

The Global Times has therefore launched a series of introductory stories to China's Gen Zers who are interested in different global topics, such as environmental protection, equality, and employment issues, and invites them to share their stories, sentiments, and ideas on social media platforms.

In this installment, we met two young Chinese YouTubers based in Africa and have been making videos to show life on the continent to the Chinese audience, as well as introducing China to African friends to promote understanding between China and Africa."Every time when I arrive at the school in Lebanon, children would run toward me with smiles and give me hugs, and after school, they would scramble to invite me to visit their homes. These scenes comfort my heart till today."

Jiang Danni from East China's Zhejiang Province recalled her experience of volunteering in an education project in schools in Lebanon and countries in Africa with the Global Times, noting that she is willing to return and spend time with her students as the job offers happiness and help to local children. 

The 24-year-old volunteer, who is known online as Danni, has recorded happy moments with her students on her phone and uploaded a series of video clips on China's popular video sharing platform Bilibili. Each of these videos has attracted the attention of thousands of Chinese netizens who are curious about her unique experiences as an international volunteer.

Unstoppable steps

After graduating from university in 2020, Danni chose to work in Africa for a year and then journeyed to seven countries including Tanzania and Kenya.

A primary school in Uganda put her travels on pause. The primary school is built on a hillside, and is characterized by its colorful and jovial students. The school's walls are painted orange, the roof is sky blue, while the children's uniforms are a bright green. Danni said that she had a peaceful time getting to know the children at the school.

She was assigned to teach children grades one to four. Danni set up diverse kinds of classes for her students, including Chinese language learning, cooking, and manual training.

Danni would cook traditional Chinese cuisines such as fried eggs with tomato and buns in class, and also taught children to speak Putonghua. "Their smiling faces gave me energy and I enjoyed spending beautiful moments them," she told the Global Times.

Danni also tried to care for the students during her volunteer experience. While staying at a preschool in Mafinga, Tanzania, with a total of 40 children below 5 years old, she was responsible for preparing lunch for them.

The preschool is so far from town and needed one to pass through a large eucalyptus forest and cornfields before taking a bus and commuting for more than half an hour to get to the school. To prepare a delicious lunch for Spring Festival celebrations, Danni raised over 1,000 yuan through social media platforms and went to the local town to purchase enough ingredients to make nearly 200 buns. She spent the rest of money buying study materials for the kids. 

The satisfied smiles on the children's faces while eating the buns moved Danni, creating cherished moments that encouraged her to continue to find meaning in volunteer works in different places. 

In 2022, Danni arrived in Lebanon and became a voluntary teacher at a local school through a non-governmental organization. This time she taught arts and crafts to her students, while her colleague Jacob from Germany was in charge of theater lessons.

At the school, Danni initiated beautiful friendships with children who would rush to give her a hug or small presents such as a candy every morning, and would invite her to their homes.

She included some interesting activities in her teaching such as paper cutting and the making of paper ice cream in class. Some of her students had strong hands-on and drawing capabilities and could complete the handicraft works rapidly, while some needed a bit help. The good thing is that they all worked hard and enjoyed the creative process.

Many Chinese netizens have posted messages in Danni's Bilibili account and encouraged her to upload more videos sharing her experiences as an international volunteer. Some of them admired Danni's courage and joyous time with her students.

Danni said that she has considering joining some international organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund to further develop her aspiration to help others as a lifetime career and gain more skills of organizing events to benefit people and society. 

Young Chinese people have been maintaining enthusiasm and becoming volunteers in other countries to help those in difficulties while improve themselves.

The Chinese government also encourages international volunteer activities and some Chinese organizations have been organizing many more related events to provide such a platform for young people.

According to a survey report about international Chinese volunteers in 2021, Chinese volunteers have had a positive impact in the course of their work, including improving China's international image and brining real change to local residents.

Since 2020, Chinese youth's interest in international volunteer activities has increased, according to a report published by Baidu. The report said that the search frequency of the words "volunteer service" has increased by 79 percent year-on-year. 

Nguyen Phu Trong Visit Highlights Inter-party Exchanges, Closer Cooperation: Expert

By Yang Sheng

Oct 31, 2022 12:52 AM

China Vietnam Photo: VCG 

At the invitation of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and president of China, the visit by Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC), to China from Sunday to Wednesday, is expected to further deepen the China-Vietnam relations that are guided by the special ties between the two socialist ruling parties, and will boost regional economic recovery and integration while further consolidating peace and stability for the region, said experts.

The Vietnamese leader's visit is his first foreign trip since being re-elected CPVCC general secretary in January 2021 and the first by a foreign leader to China after the conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the CPC. Chinese analysts said this reflects that Vietnam and the CPV regard China as a priority in their diplomatic policy. 

Some Western media have hyped "frictions, disputes and competition" a lot between China and Vietnam, but Nguyen's visit proves that the West fails to understand why the two communist parties of two important socialist countries can keep developing ties and also handle their frictions and disputes peacefully, said experts, noting the Western media have always made mistakes in understanding China's ties with its neighbors.

Besides this visit, China will receive a series of important visits by other foreign leaders from different countries around the globe. According to the releases made by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will pay an official visit to China from November 1; Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan will pay a state visit to China from November 2 to 4; and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will pay an official visit to China on November 4Comrades and partners 

China and Vietnam are two socialist countries and the ruling parties of the two countries have deep and long-standing relations with revolutionary tradition built in the era they fought side by side against foreign invaders and colonialists, so the bilateral ties of the two countries are always guided by the inter-party relations between the CPC and the CPV, said analysts. 

Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that "China and Vietnam are comrades, neighbors, partners and friends. The two countries have many similarities - led by the communist parties with the faith to serve the people and implementing the diplomatic policy based on autonomy and independence."

As the two socialist countries, both decided to pursue reform and opening-up in the 1970s and 1980s, and both achieved fast development and greatly improved the livelihoods of their peoples. So the CPC and the CPV have many opportunities for cooperation and exchanges, to better improve the governance of the socialist market economy and the party's construction in the fields like anti-corruption and strengthening party's leadership in the country's governance in all aspects, said some experts.  

The successful governance of the CPC in China and the CPV in Vietnam proves that socialism that keeps up with the times is vibrant and that communist parties are able to deliver modernization and development to their countries, said analysts. They provide more stability and certainty when compared with Western political systems.  

Apart from the inter-party relations between the CPC and the CPV, the two countries are also neighbors that naturally share many common interests. According to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), the visit by the CPV's leader is also expected to deepen trade ties. 

China has remained Vietnam's biggest trade partner, while Vietnam has continued to be the sixth largest trade partner of China, and the biggest in the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical upheavals in the world, the VNA reported.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade, China has been Vietnam's biggest importer with a turnover of some $55.9 billion, up 37 times from the figure in 2002.   

Notably, the group of processed and manufactured goods makes up 77.6 percent of Vietnam's total export value to China. Meanwhile, machines and production materials account for up to 94.15 percent of Vietnam's import revenue from China. Over the past two years, the bilateral trade still exceeded $100 billion despite impact from the pandemic, the VNA reported. Under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), China has cut tariffs for more than 8,000 items imported from Vietnam, including farm produce. 

Peaceful ties despite disputes

For some time, some Western media and observers have tried to hype the disputes and competition between China and Vietnam. The US in the past few years has also tried to rope in Vietnam to join the US strategy to contain China, but the Nguyen's visit just once again proves that the West has failed to understand and interpret the ties between China and its neighbor, said analysts.  

The CPV also set ambitious "centenary goals" at its report for the 13th CPV National Congress in 2021 - to make Vietnam a developing country with a modern industry base and upper-middle income by 2030, the centenary of the CPV; to make Vietnam a high-income developed country by 2045, the centenary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.    

Zhao Weihua, director of Center for China's Relations with Neighboring Countries of the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, said the CPV clearly understands that a peaceful and stable bilateral relationship with China will be crucial in the realization of Vietnam's two "centenary goals."

Unlike the US which is obsessed with containing others' development and always makes decision based on zero-sum and Cold War mentality, China won't treat Vietnam's development as a threat, and won't be jealous of the legitimate achievements of other countries, said experts, stressing that Chinese modernization will be realized together with its partners' modernization, because China and its partners, including Vietnam, are making efforts to form a community with a shared future and without zero-sum confrontation.

Xu said China and Vietnam do have issues, such as maritime disputes in the South China Sea, but ties between the CPC and the CPV can help the two countries to better manage the differences and handle the disputes peacefully.

More importantly, the CPC and the CPV both face the ideological threats from the West, such as the "peaceful evolution" and "color revolution," so the two parties share demand to discuss about how to better safeguard the security of socialist political systems and the political security of the ruling parties, said a Beijing-based expert on international relations who asked for anonymity.

Additionally, Vietnam in recent years is seeking to play a more important role in the ASEAN, so the development of China-Vietnam relations will also help China to further boost the economic recovery and integration for the whole region, and to further consolidate the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, to withstand the interference and interruption from external forces, said the expert. 

Western Criticism on Russia Pulling Out of Grain Deal "Beating Around the Bush"

Sanctions caused much greater threat to global food safety than suspension of the deal

By GT staff reporters

Oct 30, 2022 08:20 PM

A UN official inspects the Barbados-flagged ship "Nord Vind" coming from Ukraine loaded with grain and anchored in Istanbul, on October 11, 2022. Photo: AFP

Western countries' criticism toward Russia over its halting of the grain deal is "beating around the bush" as they ignore the fact that the Western sanctions on Russia have posed a greater threat to the global food market, and their fueling of the conflict has caused an escalation, Chinese experts said on Sunday after Western countries condemned Russia's suspension of the grain deal with Ukraine as unwarranted.

On Saturday, Russia's Defense Ministry announced that it was suspending the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports, citing a Ukrainian "terror attack" against ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels involved in ensuring the security of the grain corridor, RT reported.

Ukrainian authorities neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attack, but called Russia's decision to suspend the grain deal "primitive blackmail," RT reported.

The breakthrough deal between Moscow and Kiev was reached in Istanbul in July with mediation by the UN and Turkey. It aimed to unlock agricultural exports via the Black Sea from Russia and Ukraine, which had come to a halt due to the conflict between the two countries. The deal was praised as critical for easing the global food crisis and helping the world's poorest nations to avoid starvation, reported RT.

Soon after the news was announced, US President Joe Biden denounced Moscow's decision as "purely outrageous," claiming it would "increase starvation." 

"There's no merit to what they're doing. The UN negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it," Biden said.

The European Union on Sunday also urged Russia to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the vital grain export deal. "Russia's decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risk the main export route of much-needed grain and fertilizers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine," EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.

The West has deliberately ignored that attacks on civilian infrastructure have greatly increased since the attack on the Kerch Bridge earlier this month, Li Ziguo, a senior research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times. Li noted that Russia's action is believed to be a response to attacks on ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels.

In this scenario, all sides involved, especially the West, should refrain from adding fuel to the fire, Li said.

The Russian government alleged that UK operatives helped plan the drone attack on its fleet at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea on Saturday, Russia's TASS quoted the Russian Ministry of Defense as saying. The UK Defense Ministry denied Moscow's claims.

Speaking to reporters, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on Sunday that "Washington's reaction to the terrorist attack on the port of Sevastopol is truly outrageous." He added that the US refrained from condemning "the reckless actions of the Kiev regime," RT reported.

Experts said that Russia's pulling out of the deal will have more impact on Central and Eastern Europe, as well as African countries.

After it halted the deal, Russia, with Turkey's participation, is poised to deliver free of charge up to 500,000 metric tons of grain to the poorest nations in the coming four months, Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said on the Rossiya-24 news channel on Saturday.

The West always blames Russia as being a cause of the global food crisis, which is a typical excuse and throwing mud at Russia, so they should ask themselves the question, what does Moscow gain from disturbing the global food market? Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Li pointed out that the direct impact of the conflict on the global food crisis cannot compare with the damage caused by sanctions Western countries slapped on Russia. "The sanctions mean Russia failed to import the fertilizers and seed it needed, which is a deeper reason for the global food market price spike, and a bigger threat for global food safety," Li said.  

Europe Naïve to Believe There Could Be a United Front with Washington

By Global Times

Oct 27, 2022 09:44 PM

US Europe Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

A Washington Post report on Wednesday, entitled "European allies worry US could dial back support for Ukraine," said that US allies in Europe are increasingly concerned that the "united front" of the West against Russia's military operations in Ukraine could "quickly unravel if Republicans are victorious in next month's midterm elections."

According to a poll from Morning Consult released on Monday, only 29 percent of Republican respondents say they think Washington has a responsibility to assist Kiev. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy warned on October 18 that Republicans will not write a "blank check" for Ukraine if they win back the House majority.

Judging from the current situation, the Democrats will lose the majority of the House of Representatives, Lü Xiang, an expert on international relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Lü said that if the Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives in the November 8 midterms, there will be an evident adjustment of Washington's policy toward Ukraine. And after the midterm election, US aid to Ukraine will pare back or be heavily reduced.

The frequent change in US foreign policy is increasingly evident to the international community. The fundamental reason lies in the structural contradictions of the US political system. The two parties represent different interest groups, and each election is essentially a change in the dominant interest group, noted Lü. Such a political system can sometimes work as a correction mechanism. However, with the relative decline of the US, all-round deep-rooted contradictions in fields such as the economy, politics, and cultural identity have been exposed, and it is difficult for the US to devote sufficient resources to support its global hegemony, which makes it difficult for the US to maintain a consistent foreign policy.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing issues, the uncertainty and frequent change in US foreign policy has brought huge policy risks to all European countries, as most of them tend to depend on the US for security. As the Ukraine crisis remarkably impacts the security framework of Europe, it is normal to see European countries express concern over the US' potential move to reduce its support to Ukraine.

The Ukraine crisis provoked by the US has heavily undermined the European countries, with the eurozone's inflation rate hitting a record high and the energy crisis getting worse. As winter is just around the corner, many European countries are now worrying about heating. If the US remarkably cuts its aid to Ukraine, Europe will undoubtedly have to bear more.

The US has entrapped its allies or made them suffer heavy losses, especially European ones, many times. The rift between the US and Europe and the US crises of confidence among European countries have already been there. The US-Europe divisions and disputes will become increasingly apparent due to US policy inconsistency. 

After the midterm elections, if the US does drastically cuts support to Ukraine, it is believed that the rift will further widen, and the crisis of confidence will further deepen. Europe still needs to maintain independence and autonomy, and cannot rely too much on the US. Heavy reliance on the US in policy means disaster for Europe, and independence will bring the possibility of a benign future for Europe.