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Dec 04
Her eye on the news
‘No answers’

As a caravan of Latin American migrants seeking asylum and entry at the U.S. border continues to be met with indefinite delays, tear gas, and accusations from President Donald Trump claiming that they are mostly criminals or gang members, a new report has revealed the shocking magnitude of the risk faced by those who attempt to make the journey into the U.S. through Mexico. Over the past four years alone, The Associated Press has discovered, nearly 4,000 migrants have died or gone missing en route through Mexico — many at the hands of the same gangs that U.S. politicians like to claim the migrants are members of. Many more deaths, the AP reported, likely remain unidentified or unreported. And for Honduran mother Haydee Posadas, whose son disappeared en route to the U.S., it took more than seven years before she even knew for sure whether her son was dead or alive.

Posadas, a 73-year-old grandmother from Planeta in San Pedro Sula who is known as “Mama Hydee” to her local neighborhood, said her son Wilmer Gerardo Nunez first left for the U.S. in the 1990s at the tender age of 16 in an attempt to support the family after she lost her job at a factory. Nunez was deported twice from the U.S. but returned each time and eventually fell in love with a Mexican woman, Maria Esther Lozano, with whom he had a child, Dachell. But in 2010, with Lozano pregnant, Nunez was deported a third time. He returned home to Honduras to find that violence in the neighborhood, long overrun by dangerous gangs and seemingly governed by authorities with little regard for human life, had escalated to a shocking degree. At one point, Posadas said, one of her daughters was handcuffed to her house while men claiming to be police went inside and executed her grandson — apparently because they suspected him of involvement in a gang.

Nunez, Posadas said, was hoping to return to California and meet his new daughter when he set out for his fourth and final trip north. Facing threats from the local gangs — and with his ankle injured from fleeing the Zetas gang on a prior trip — Nunez took a shorter but more dangerous route to the U.S. border. Two weeks after he left, authorities discovered 72 corpses of migrants on a ranch in San Fernando, Mexico, near the Texas border. The Zetas, it was later revealed, had massacred the migrants after intercepting them and demanding that they join the cartel. Only one person in the entire group agreed to join the gang, according to an Ecuadorian who said he was one of just two migrants — the other being an unknown Honduran man — to escape the massacre.

Authorities released names of the victims — among them Posadas’ grandson and two neighbors who had been traveling with them — but Nunez was not among them. For years, Posadas engaged in a desperate attempt to find out whether her son was alive — was he the mysterious Honduran man that the Ecuadorian, now in hiding, had spoken of? Officials refused to confirm, deny, or even look into the matter. It wasn’t until 8 years later, when an Argentine investigative team exhumed the bodies at the ranch and arranged DNA tests, that Posadas finally had confirmation. Nunez, it turned out, had been one of the 72 who were killed. Almost as painful as the death of her son, she said, was “having to wait with no answers … like so many mothers who still have no answers about their sons.”

“My heart hurt so much … most of all because of the death he suffered, not even knowing who killed him, with his eyes blindfolded, hands tied,” Posadas told The Associated Press. “Why? Why, having the proof, did they hide it so long?”

Mexican officials have yet to publicly comment on what caused their failure to properly identify the bodies in the massacre. No one was ever convicted for the murder of the 72 migrants, and nine of the bodies remain unidentified.

Watch video of The Associated Press’ interview with Posadas below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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‘Unreal’

Soccer’s most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d’Or, had only been awarded to men for more than 60 years until Monday night, when 23-year-old Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg won the first ever Ballon d’Or for being the best female player in soccer. Unfortunately, the landmark moment was ruined almost instantly by the host of the evening, French DJ Martin Solveig, as he interviewed the young star following her remarkable achievement.

“Do you know how to twerk?” he asked.

“No,” said Hegerberg bluntly, before swiftly turning her back on the DJ. As the camera cut to the crowd, audience members — including male player Kylian Mbappe, the winner of the inaugural Kopa award for best young player — could be seen with their mouths agape in disbelief.

On social media, criticism was swift and furious as many accused the DJ of tarnishing the Ballon d’Or with misogyny by brazenly sexualizing Hegerberg on a night that was supposed to be about honoring her outstanding professional achievements.

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport,” wrote tennis star Andy Murray in an Instagram story. “Why do women have still have to put up with that shit? What questions did they ask Mbappe and Modric (this year’s winner of the men’s Ballon d’Or)? I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

“This is the crap female athletes deal with on a daily basis around the world,” added Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports contributor Grant Wahl in a tweet.

Asked about Solveig’s line of questioning after the fact, Hegerberg said that the DJ had later come up to her to apologize and that she hadn’t taken his comment “as sexual harassment or anything.”

“I was just happy to get a dance and celebrate winning the Ballon d’Or, to be honest,” she said.

Solveig has since posted a video of himself apologizing for the incident on Twitter, suggesting that the criticism leveled at him comes “from a distortion of my English level and my English culture level” — a slightly bizarre justification, especially since he actually asked the offending question in French.

“I’m a little bit amazed by what I’m reading on the internet. I, of course, did not want to offend anyone. This comes from a distortion of my English level and my English culture level … I didn’t know this could be seen as such an offense especially if you consider the sequence in total where we ended up dancing to Frank Sinatra. This was a joke, probably a bad one, and I want to apologize for anyone I might have offended. Sorry about that.”

See Solveig’s apology below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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Young at heart

A Dutch “positivity guru” will have to remain young at heart — if not on paper, a court has ruled. The man, who sought to change his legal age because he identifies as someone 20 years younger, has seen his bid rejected after a court ruled that such a change would lead to “a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.” Emile Ratelband, 69, had argued that his official age was causing him to be discriminated against in the job market and on dating apps such as Tinder. Since people can change their legal gender or name, he told the court, changing one’s age so that it matched with how one identifies mentally should be permissible as well.

“When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car,” claimed Ratelband, characterizing himself as a “young God” who physically resembled a man decades younger. “I can take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

But in a press statement, Arnhem court explained that it had rejected his petition due to the complications that the ability to change one’s legal age would cause in other aspects of the legal system — particularly those that depend on one’s legal age, “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school.”

“If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless,” the court wrote. “Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly. But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

In response to the judgement, the positivity guru said that he was just the first of “thousands of people who want to change his age,’ and was characteristically optimistic in announcing his intent to appeal the ruling.

“This is great!” he said. “The rejection of (the) court is great … because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go in appeal.”

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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Sobering stats

U.K. social workers say they are alarmed by a sharp increase in the number of girls who have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation, with the number of reported cases doubling in a year.

According to The Guardian, an analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that female genital mutilation (or FGM) was reported in 1,960 social work assessments between 2017 and 2018, up from 970 cases the year before. The spike is thought to stem from better detection by social workers, but the number of girls who have been subjected to the practice is likely higher. FGM, which is often performed for social and cultural reasons, is typically carried out in secret and is difficult for authorities to track.

Additionally, the new analysis found that reports of child abuse linked to faith or belief is also on the rise, increasing by 12 percent since last year.

The LGA says that these figures testify to “pressure on children’s services,” stemming from a “£3 billion funding gap facing children’s services by 2025.” The association has called for more funding for children’s services and the National FGM Center, a U.K. organization that works with police, health and education officials to support women and girls who have experienced FGM, and to prevent new cases from occurring.

“[The new report shows] the worrying prevalence of FGM which is ruining lives and destroying communities,” said Anita Lower, the LGA’s lead on FGM. “At a time when they should be preparing for adult life and enjoying being young, no girl or young woman should be subject to the horrors of genital mutilation which is child abuse and cannot be justified for any reason.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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Reproductive wrong

A survey by the Illinois Department of Public Health has found that 5,528 women traveled to the state from other locations to seek out abortions — a statistic that reflects a worrying clamp down on reproductive rights in surrounding Midwest states, according to experts.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the number of out-of-state women who came to Illinois to terminate their pregnancies increased by nearly 1,000 in 2017, up from 4,543 women in 2016 to 5,528 last year. The spike may in fact be even higher; an additional 1,000 abortions were provided to women whose home states were not known.

The data does not reveal why these women traveled to terminate their pregnancies, but experts believe many of them were left with little choice due to restrictive abortion policies in other Midwest states.

Though southern states are often the focus of discussions about recent rollbacks on reproductive rights, the Midwest actually has the fewest abortion clinics per woman than any other region in the United States. Illinois is an exception to the rule; it has approximately one abortion clinic for every 120,135 women of child-bearing age. Wisconsin, by way of comparison, has just one clinic for every 423,590 women.

Iowa is another nearby state known for its efforts to roll back on abortion access. It unsuccessfully attempted to impose a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions, and a judge recently blocked lawmakers’ efforts to implement a “fetal heart beat law,” which would have banned abortions from about six weeks of pregnancy. As of 2014, 89 percent of Iowa counties did not have any clinics that provided abortions.

“When access to abortion is politically restricted, those who have the means to travel will do so, and those without means are left most vulnerable,” Becca Lee, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Tribune. “If someone can travel, they may be forced to take time from work, incur additional expenses, take time from family and make other sacrifices in order to access a safe, legal abortion procedure — and they shouldn’t have to.”

Read the full story at The Chicago Tribune.

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12.04.18

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