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UN Peacekeepers Fathered Dozens Of Children In Haiti. The Women They Exploited Are Trying To Get Child Support.

JACMEL, Haiti — One evening last November, Jui opened Google Translate on her iPad and began drafting her first-ever message to her father.

“Hello, Dad,” she typed in Creole, the words appearing in Spanish on the right side of the screen. “I’m the daughter you abandoned.”

The 9-year-old told the United Nations peacekeeper from Uruguay who left her when she was barely out of the hospital that she harbored no hatred but was only searching for the answer to a single question: What did we do for you to treat us this way?

Nine months later, she keeps checking Facebook Messenger for a response from her father, Hector Dilamar Silva Borges.

His absence has hovered over her young life. For three years, she and her mother, Phanie, waited for their child support case to move through Haiti’s courts. Then in December, more than two years after the UN confirmed Borges is Jui’s father through a DNA test, a judge issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering him to pay $ 3,590 per month, a landmark decision with the potential to impact families around the country with similar cases.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Jui and her mother, Phanie

UN peacekeepers fathered dozens of children while they were stationed in Haiti between 2004 and 2017, often with women they were providing money and food to — behavior UN policy “strongly discouraged” because of the “inherently unequal power dynamics.” Initially deployed in response to a coup attempt and the ousting of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, their force grew following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. But none stayed long, and when their rotations ended, they abandoned their babies, leaving behind a generation of children born into a nation struggling to rebuild, with limited access to food, schooling, and healthcare.

Calls for the UN to dispatch new peacekeepers echoed across the world after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse threatened to send the country into turmoil — and before a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southern coast in August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying entire towns.

For some of the women in Haiti still seeking support from the peacekeepers who swept in a decade ago, the possibility of a new influx of them triggered resentment. All but one of their claims for child support from UN peacekeepers have stalled in Haiti’s courts. Lawyers representing the women said the UN and the peacekeepers’ home nations are withholding some of the documents needed to move forward, and that judges are reluctant to rule against an international institution or countries that are supplying Haiti with critical resources, including funding, training, and jobs that offer a path out of the country — or a handsome salary.

In response to questions for this story, a UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the organization has a zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, and said it engages with local communities to encourage individuals to come forward if they have claims, including through the recent distribution of 6,000 flyers on the issue in Port-au-Prince. The spokesperson said that the ruling in favor of Jui was “very important” and that the UN was ready to cooperate further with national authorities.

Uruguay’s office in charge of overseeing peacekeeper training and liaising with the UN, the Uruguayan National System in Support of Peace Operations, told BuzzFeed News that it has not received a notification about the ruling against Borges and that the country’s judicial system “does not permit in absentia convictions.”

The law firm representing Phanie and Jui, Port-au-Prince-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, initiated child support claims from UN peacekeepers on behalf of nine other families in 2017. It’s unclear how many such cases remain pending in Haiti’s courts.

“I had crossed my fingers to get this ruling because if there’s one, we will get more,” said Mario Joseph, the firm’s managing attorney. “It will open doors in other courts.”

Yet even that hope was limited. As of August, eight months after the ruling, Jui and Phanie have yet to receive a single dollar from Borges, who remains an active member of the Uruguayan navy and did not respond to a request for comment.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

A United Nations soldier keeps watch as earthquake survivors gather outside a food distribution point Feb. 8, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Since 1948, the signature blue helmets of UN peacekeepers have become common sights at the scenes of devastation and turmoil around the world. Those who don the organization’s uniform are typically members of their home nation’s military, which the UN reimburses with a fee for every person it enlists. Presenting themselves as an independent force that feeds the hungry and intervenes in genocides, peacekeepers developed credibility in most of the world as something of a moral compass for the global age. But evidence of abuse on several missions in recent years has tarnished their reputation, perhaps nowhere more than in Haiti, where peacekeepers were in charge of building shelters and distributing food after the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, killed more than a quarter-million people and flattened much the country.

Even as aftershocks continued to rumble, some peacekeepers began trading food for sex in the tent cities that sprang up to house the hundreds of thousands of displaced families and in the areas around the UN bases.

“I tried to point fingers as much as I could and sound the alarm,” said Lina AbiRafeh, a women’s rights activist who coordinated the UN gender-based violence response following the 2010 earthquake. She received reports of abuse and exploitation frequently and “acted on each report, through every channel available” but UN officials didn’t take them seriously or investigate them in a timely manner, she said.

Abuse and exploitation became common. Peacekeepers began “going to the beach, acting like tourists, drinking, chasing girls,” according to a study published last year by Stability: International Journal of Security and Development. Two of the study’s authors, Sabine Lee and Susan Bartels, oversaw a 2017 survey of approximately 2,500 Haitians. Of those, 265 said they had a child with a UN peacekeeper or knew of someone who did. Nearly half of the UN peacekeepers reported in the survey were from Uruguay and Brazil.

Of the 120 reports of sexual abuse or exploitation the UN says it has received in Haiti since 2007, it has opened 88 investigations and sent home 41 uniformed personnel, according to the organization’s database. Of those, 12 have spent an undisclosed amount of time in jail in their home countries, nine have been kicked out of their country’s military, and two have faced financial sanctions at home.

The problem of peacekeepers sexually abusing or exploiting local women is not unique to Haiti — there have been 1,143 allegations since 2007, across at least a dozen countries, according to the database. But Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, has endured multiple scandals, including a sex ring in which more than 130 peacekeepers from Sri Lanka exploited nine Haitian children, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. It wasn’t until 2015 that the UN began requiring peacekeepers’ home countries to certify that deployed military personnel had no prior allegations of human rights violations, according to the UN spokesperson.

And it’s not just the UN: In 2011, senior staff at Oxfam GB failed to act on reports of its aid workers sexually abusing Haitian girls as young as 12. Several American missionaries have been jailed for sexually abusing children in Haiti.

The private struggles of the families abandoned by UN peacekeepers take place against the larger struggles of a nation that has suffered a seemingly unending string of tragedies.

Rose Mina Joseph, then 16, met Julio Cesar Posse, a 35-year-old marine from Uruguay, at a beach party in the southwestern seaside town of Port-Salut a few months after the 2010 earthquake. Posse pressured Rose Mina into sex, she said.

“I didn’t have an understanding of what I was doing,” said Rose Mina during an interview at her home this month. Under Haitian law at the time, it was considered statutory rape.

Shortly after, Rose Mina realized she was pregnant, and within months of her son Anderson’s birth, Posse returned home. Rose Mina depended on relatives to feed her newborn. Once, Posse gave her about $ 100 via a Western Union–like service. It was, she said, the only time he sent help.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Rose Mina Joseph and her son, Anderson Joseph

Posse was a member of the Uruguayan navy until 2018, navy spokesperson Alejandro Chucarro told BuzzFeed News. Carina de los Santos, legal adviser at the Uruguayan National System in Support of Peace Operations, said “severe sanctions restricting his freedom” were imposed on Posse, but that his withdrawal from the navy was unrelated to his paternity case in Haiti. She did not specify what the sanctions entailed. Posse did not respond to a request for comment.

Though the 2010 earthquake brought a range of international organizations to Haiti, their impact was often underwhelming, and at times damaging.

While Anderson was still breastfeeding, cholera, introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers via a sewage leak at one of their bases, became an epidemic, killing at least 10,000 people and making more than 800,000 ill. At the same time, international donations for reconstruction efforts began evaporating with no explanation: With the half a billion dollars the American Red Cross raised, it built only six homes, according to an investigation by ProPublica. A highly touted $ 300 million industrial park inaugurated by the Clintons and Sean Penn under-delivered, creating few jobs and drawing fewer tenants. Meanwhile, the Haitian government embezzled much of a $ 2 billion loan from Venezuela meant to be invested in education, health and social initiatives, and infrastructure, embroiling one administration after another in graft scandals.

In 2016, as Anderson prepared to enter kindergarten, Hurricane Matthew barrelled into Haiti, killing at least 1,000 people and destroying 30,000 houses along the southern coast — including his family’s. They were forced to move to a small hut along an unpaved road, a single room with cinder block walls and a corrugated tin roof.

In recent months, as Anderson finished fourth grade and the country navigated the aftermath of the president’s assassination, crime has risen sharply, as gangs have taken control of key transportation routes in and out of Port-au-Prince, forcing thousands of people to move elsewhere.

“Every day gets harder,” Rose Mina said in an interview this month, as she sat on the bed she and her son shared, wiping the sweat off his forehead as he napped beside her.

The only object linking him to his father — a photograph of Posse — lies tucked away in a suitcase in a corner of the room. She said she only takes it out when Anderson asks where his father is.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Becheline Appoliner, the mother of Dominic Antonio Cortez, whose father was a UN peacekeeper from Argentina

The newborns became toddlers, and the toddlers school children. Soon, they began asking questions.

Where is my father? Why don’t I look like the other kids?

Dominic Antonio Cortez’s tawny skin and the 2-inch-high nest of curls on his head stood out in stark contrast to the darker complexion and buzz cuts of the other boys in the neighborhood. At school, he said, classmates whispered about him behind his back and taunted him to his face, disparagingly calling him “Little Minustah,” after the name of the UN’s mission to Haiti: MINUSTAH.

“The teachers don’t like me,” he said. “Other children don’t want me in the school.”

The 9-year-old said he prefers to be at home, where he sleeps on a thin mattress he shares with his two siblings in the living room and often goes to bed with an empty stomach.

In a fit of anger, Dominic recently accused his mother, Becheline Appoliner, of preventing him from finding his father, and threatened to harm himself. The boy says he wants to be a UN peacekeeper when he grows up.

In 2011, Appoliner met Argentine peacekeeper Marcelo Cortez as she walked to a local market in Port-au-Prince, and he invited her out to Jet Set, a nightclub popular with foreigners, she said. Soon, he was spending time with her family and sleeping over in their home. When she told him she was pregnant, Appoliner remembers him being happy, but just two months later, when his rotation ended, he left Haiti and soon after, blocked her on Facebook. Cortez did not respond to a request for comment.

When Dominic was 3 months old, Appoliner said she went to one of the UN offices in Port-au-Prince, desperate for some financial help. They took down her information, but they did not follow up until Dominic was 7 years old, according to Appoliner.

An acquaintance living near her in 2016, aware that she was no longer able to put Dominic’s older brother through school, suggested she reach out to a certain lawyer who might be able to help.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Mario Joseph, a human rights lawyer and managing director of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux

Soon, Appoliner found herself sitting across from Mario Joseph in his office, in an unmarked building along one of the capital city’s narrow, winding streets. By then, Joseph, along with the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, had grown accustomed to fighting the UN: They had filed a class action lawsuit in a US federal court on behalf of victims of the cholera epidemic, a case they lost when the court upheld the UN’s immunity from damages.

Joseph, 58, has worked some of the country’s most emblematic human rights cases, representing victims of the Raboteau massacre and of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. He grew up in a house with no electricity or running water and believes many of the injustices committed in Haiti are a result of racism and imperialism, endemic not just among the outsiders who interfere in the country, but within the Haitian government as well.

He took Appoliner’s case and began putting together a file for Cortez. In August 2016, Joseph’s law firm sent legal notifications to MINUSTAH informing them that they planned to file child support suits and requesting information on the alleged fathers, including about any investigations related to paternity cases by the UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit and the results of DNA tests, some of which had been submitted to the organization as early as 2014. The response, said Joseph, was opaque and incomplete. They did not provide details on internal investigations into the claimants’ cases or certification that the peacekeepers’ immunity did not prevent these cases from moving forward in Haitian courts.

In December 2017, Joseph filed claims on behalf of 10 women in courts across Haiti.

“They say they’re promoting human rights, yet they’re violating ours,” Joseph said of the UN.

A UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the organization has provided “documentation and information to the mothers as well as to the national authorities of Haiti,” and that 31 Haitian women and 36 children are receiving assistance that “varies in accordance to their individual needs” and includes funds for the upcoming school year.

The foreign ministry, which is the entity that corresponds directly with the UN, has kept Joseph on the sidelines, he said, including holding meetings with the women without having their lawyers present. Claude Joseph, who initially took over as prime minister after Moïse’s assassination and is now serving as foreign minister, declined an interview request from BuzzFeed News.

The women’s cases have largely stalled in their respective courts. Mario Joseph thinks part of the problem is that judges are reluctant to rule against the UN or its member countries because many of them have received training from the UN or are hoping to get a job there one day.

During an interview, Bernard Saint-Vil, dean of the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, initially said the fear of reprisals by the UN “may also be a factor” in the delay of these cases but then backtracked, saying judges must apply the law. Sitting in his office a few blocks from the National Palace, which was partially destroyed during the 2010 earthquake and never rebuilt, Saint-Vil clarified that pressure for the cases to move forward needs to come from the foreign ministry.

After nearly four years, only one judge — in the case of Jui — has issued a favorable judgment for a woman filing a child support claim against a UN peacekeeper. But because it is nearly impossible to enforce the ruling in Uruguay, Joseph said that all he can do now is tell other UN member countries about the ruling in hopes they increase diplomatic pressure.

Some of the women try to track down their children’s fathers themselves. On Feb. 8, 2020, Appoliner wrote to Cortez’s son, Jorge, on Facebook Messenger: “I’m an 8-year-old child. I want to meet Marcelo Antonio Cortez, my father.”

The following day, Jorge wrote back: “What do I have to do with this? Find him and write [to] him.”

A few weeks later, Appoliner messaged him again. “Your father had a child with me, look at the photo,” and attached a photo of Dominic. The following month, Jorge responded: “I spoke to him and he says you’re lying.”

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Appoliner’s text exchange with Jorge, Cortez’s son

Appoliner holds on to whatever hope she can. In her purse, she carries an old, weathered business card belonging to Carla Pessanha Loque, a former senior victims’ rights officer at the UN, even though she can’t remember the last time Pessanha picked up her call. Still, “I feel like it’s a support,” she said.

By early August, she was behind on rent and on the verge of getting evicted.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

The view from Omese’s apartment of Jalousie, known in the capital of Port-au-Prince for the painted homes of an overcrowded shantytown on the mountainside

Above the hills in Port-au-Prince, Jalousie looks vibrant.

The slum — nestled in the middle of Petionville, an upscale neighborhood where many diplomats live in villas hidden behind tall concrete walls — was painted by the government with pastel greens, purples, and pinks in 2013 as an attempt to improve the view for the wealthy surroundings. But behind the bright walls, little was done to improve sanitation, introduce running water, or provide more electricity for residents.

In a small, blue hut on one of Jalousie’s steeply sloping streets, Omése Théodore lives with her three children, each fathered by a different UN peacekeeper, she said.

In 2009, Théodore was studying communications in college and taking care of her first child, a son she says is from a Cameroonian peacekeeper who had recently left the country. When the earthquake hit, she lost her home and was forced to sleep on the street for a month.

With unemployment rates hovering above 50% and a toddler to raise, Théodore began “looking for someone else to help me with my child” with money for food and school. She found a Rwandan peacekeeper who offered her money “and a little something for the kid.” When he found out she was pregnant with his child, shortly after, he urged her to get an abortion, which is illegal in Haiti. A few months later and six months into her pregnancy, his rotation ended and he went home, said Théodore.

The following year, Théodore met another peacekeeper, from Benin. She became pregnant, he ordered her to abort, and she refused. This time, he threatened to shoot her, she said.

Théodore went to the UN base in Port-au-Prince to ask for money for her children. The organization must provide “assistance and support addressing the medical, legal, psychological and social consequences directly arising from sexual exploitation and abuse” by UN personnel, according to a document from the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate. But Théodore and three other women told BuzzFeed News that they have only gotten limited and intermittent monetary support, including a one-time $ 1,500 housing stipend and about $ 660 for school every year.

Théodore said the organization only did DNA tests on two of her three sons, and that it has only released the results for one of those two. Through an Italy-based nonprofit, the UN sends money to help pay for her children’s food and schooling, but she said she hasn’t gotten any support since March. The UN told BuzzFeed News that it cannot address individual cases because of confidentiality issues.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Omése Theódore, with her children, Carl Michel Armand (left), Jacques Andre Theódore (center), and Jean Christ Theódore (right)

In recent years, the UN began to take steps to address the history of sexual exploitation among its ranks.

In 2019, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti organized a program in several cities in the country to raise awareness about sexual abuse perpetrated by its staff. Called “Theatre of the Oppressed,” it encouraged spectators to go onstage to offer solutions to the problem.

In 2020 — over a decade after Haitian women began reporting peacekeepers’ abuse — the UN approved a trust fund for survivors of sexual exploitation by its staff in Haiti. As of June, Uruguay and Brazil, the two countries with the most reports of sexual exploitation in Haiti, had not contributed any money.

The trust fund “is so poorly funded that it is an embarrassment to the UN,” said Paula Donovan, codirector of Code Blue Campaign, an organization that advocates for survivors of sexual abuse by UN personnel. She added that while the UN has encouraged troop-contributing countries to enforce child support legislation, it has stopped short of setting any requirements.

“It’s simply no longer standing in the way when women make paternity claims,” said Donovan.

The UN spokesperson said the organization calls “on those who fathered these children in Haiti to assume their individual parental responsibility toward them,” and that it has provided “several Haitian mothers with DNA test results.” The spokesperson added that the UN supports brokering agreements between the parents, though these are “not always possible as they depend on the cooperation of the father.”

Chucarro, the Uruguayan navy spokesperson, said the country adopted “a series of measures to implement the UN’s policy of zero tolerance on sexual abuse and exploitation” in 2003, and referred BuzzFeed News to the Uruguayan foreign ministry for answers to specific questions. The Uruguayan foreign ministry did not respond to a request for information.

During a recent afternoon, Théodore’s sons gathered in their living room, which was just big enough for two chairs, a dresser, and a small fridge. Jean Christ, 4, sat on his mother’s lap. Jacques Andre, who had just lost his third tooth, cheekily sang a song he heard on the radio. Eleven-year-old Carl Michel Armand held a sketchbook depicting the universe of “Macsi Puissant,” the superhero family he had created, giving each member a different power: one could make trees, another could put together robots, and a third one could muster enough electricity to power his house.

Whenever they were hungry, the three boys asked Théodore to search for their fathers.

The hip-height fridge was empty except for four tin containers filled with water.

Jessica Obert for BuzzFeed News

Jui plays piano at her home.

The videos Jui posts on TikTok usually show her singing or dancing in front of a mural painted by her mother, Phanie. They come from a family of artists and art lovers. Paintings by some of Haiti’s most famous oil masters lie stacked against the walls of their home. Édith Piaf and jazz often plays in the background. Jui is learning to play the piano.

But she doesn’t fantasize about becoming an artist when she grows up. Recently, Jui decided that she wants to be a nurse.

She believes that when he’s older, Borges, her father, will one day fall ill, and she wants to be the one to bring him back to health. She dreams of the moment when she’s working a shift at the hospital, and she sees her dad’s name on the list of patients. She has it all planned: When that happens, she’ll ask to be his nurse, go out to buy him the medicine he needs, and then watch him feel ashamed that he did not help her.

For now, the A-student studies extra hard in her science class, making sure to memorize which medicinal herbs treat what disease and how best to administer them. She takes long walks with her uncle at a nearby garden, where he teaches her about which leaves can be used to brew healing teas.

Jui still possesses the one thing she has from Borges: the $ 120 he gave Phanie before he left a decade ago, tucked underneath her pillowcase. ●

Read more here BuzzFeed News

‘EU trying to land-grab UK soil by back door!’ Furious backlash to Brussels plot

Amid the heightened tensions post-Brexit, Express.co.uk readers have expressed their fury over how the EU has treated Northern Ireland and its place within the UK. Amid the support for remaining part of the UK, readers expressed their fury over the Northern Ireland protocol and its damage to businesses in the country. One person said: “Remainers are claiming nobody cares about NI.

“Well, this proves yet again they are liars.

“The EU is trying to land-grab parts of the UK via the back-door.

“EU nearly caused a war with Russia trying to recruit Ukraine into the EU.”

A second said: “Funny how so many people just ignore and turn a blind eye to the poison within the EU.

“The Remainers never mention the debts of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Southern Ireland.”

A third said: “Just walk away Boris trade on WTO and the EU will soon come running to us.”

Another also criticised the EU and its alleged hatred towards the UK due to Brexit.

They said: “The EU fears how successful the UK can be, and they are literally quaking in their boots.

JUST IN: Brexit LIVE: City fightback as 7,500 jobs leave with India deal

In contrast, 29 percent claimed it was “very” important to them in a major boost to the integrity of the UK.

Of the 2,000 people asked, close to 65 percent of Leavers said it was important for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.

A further 49 percent of those who voted to Remain, said it was important to remain part of the UK.

The polling, commissioned by the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP), uncovers concerns the tensions could jeopardise the peace process and may contravene the Good Friday agreement which was instrumental in ending the Troubles.

Amid the issues caused by the Northern Ireland protocol, close to 60 percent of those asked said it was a threat to the peace and stability to Northern Ireland.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, who chairs the CBP, said the findings should be a wake-up call to Conservative ministers and MPs.

He said: “The polling shows that the British people understand that the NIP radically changes the status of Northern Ireland and is threatening its stability.

“Nobel peace prize winner and architect of the Belfast Agreement Lord Trimble has said consistently that the NIP breaches the principle of consent that the status of Northern Ireland cannot change without the consent of the people.

“Lord Trimble is an advocate of mutual enforcement as a solution which would guarantee the sovereignty of the UK and the integrity of the EU single market.”

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Clock’s ticking for California recall candidates trying to oust Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom claps at a press conference.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has collected big checks from unions and business groups — most recently $ 1.1 million from the California Building Industry Association. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

OAKLAND — A surprisingly early California recall election has Gov. Gavin Newsom looking to capitalize on his momentum and Republicans trying to catch up.

State officials have called the election for Sept. 14, and ballots will hit mailboxes weeks before then. The short timeline, enabled by Democratic allies of the governor, buoys Newsom’s prospects as he looks to convert a rebounding economy and stabilizing poll numbers into a vindicating victory. His conservative foes, on the other hand, have just two weeks to declare their candidacies and a tight window to cut into Newsom’s overwhelming fundraising advantage.

While the Democratic governor is riding a wave of political momentum, an extra-contagious coronavirus variant and a potentially devastating wildfire season threaten to derail that progress, adding additional pressure for a speedy vote. California is seemingly in perpetual crisis, so Democrats are looking to seize a quiet window when they can find one.

“When things are going well you want to get the recall over with as quickly as possible,” said Democratic consultant Roger Salazar, who advised former Gov. Gray Davis before Davis was ousted in the state’s only other gubernatorial recall. “Three months is a lifetime in politics, and you never know what could transpire,” so “you want to get the hazard behind you as quickly as you can.”

It has been clear for months that voters would decide Newsom’s fate in 2021 after anger over his Covid-19 restrictions led two million Californians to sign recall petitions. But the lack of an election date had cast lingering uncertainty over the contest even as both Newsom and Republican rivals have treated an eventual vote as inevitable. Until recently, conventional wisdom had been that the recall would occur in late October or November, the autumn window that voters are familiar with.

Republicans have struggled to gain traction and are well behind on fundraising while Newsom collects big checks from unions and business groups — most recently $ 1.1 million from the California Building Industry Association. Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner has continued to land national interviews, particularly on Fox News and other Fox-affiliated outlets. But she polled in fourth place among Republicans in May and lacks a voter base in California as a political neophyte, raising most of her money out of state.

GOP challengers have been attacking Newsom on California’s growing levels of homelessness, one of the governor’s biggest liabilities, according to polls. Businessperson and 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox has gone around the state with an 8-foot ball of garbage in an appeal to voters over visual blight resulting from people living along freeways and streets — an association that has drawn criticism already. Kevin Faulconer is campaigning on his own record as the former San Diego mayor, asserting that he reduced homelessness in his city and would increase shelters — alongside greater enforcement against public camping.

Meanwhile, the Delta variant’s rapid spread has prompted Los Angeles officials to recommend that vaccinated residents wear masks indoors, raising the specter of the kind of renewed restrictions should things get worse. If state leaders needed a reminder, the California State Capitol itself experienced a surge of seven cases since relaxing its guidelines — including two breakthrough infections of vaccinated individuals — prompting health officials to recommend that all lawmakers and employees get a Covid-19 test this week.

Rising temperatures, combined with a withering drought, have California bracing for a fire season that could again set new records for destruction. And the state’s energy grid operator is already invoking emergency powers to buy extra electricity supplies this summer so California avoids the blackouts that occurred last year.

Newsom and fellow Democrats, meanwhile, have never deviated from their central argument: The recall is a distraction, driven by national Republicans and allies of former President Donald Trump, that threatens to upend California’s progress on immigration, healthcare, gun control and other progressive issues.

“The eyes of the nation are on California,” said U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.). “People around the country are looking to us to see which vision of the future we choose.”

In a tumultuous election already marked by reversals of fortune for Newsom, even the process of picking a date became contentious and laced with partisan strife. The Democratic-controlled Legislature sped Newsom a bill this week that accelerated the election date by waiving a 30-day legislative review, spurring a backlash from Republicans who accused their counterparts of changing the process to Newsom’s advantage.

Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), a vocal recall proponent mulling a run himself, excoriated the “disturbing” decision to change the rules midway through a campaign to allow “an incumbent politician to retain his hold on power.” During floor debate, Kiley read aloud a prior tweet from state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), who was the most vocal about how Newsom could benefit from an earlier election.

“I don’t think anyone is pretending this is anything other than using the power of the governor’s current office to try and beat back a threat to that power,” Kiley said in an interview. “The recall is ultimately a response to the corruption of our politics,” he added, “and the response we’re now getting from our politicians is to be even more corrupt. So it just feeds into the rationale for this movement coming together in the first place.”

Democrats were unmoved by Republican complaints.

“They demanded an election, and we are delivering an election — apparently, more efficiently than they would like,” said Glazer, a former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown. “Their complaints are crocodile tears.”

Another potential benefit to Newsom from the Sept. 14 election date: It falls weeks before Newsom would have to act on hundreds of bills sent at the end of the legislative session. He can avoid political blowback by holding those bills in abeyance.

Democrats have projected confidence about the date, with Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia arguing on a Friday call that “whether it happens in September or happens later, it would be defeated.” But the all-mail election means ballots will land in mailboxes by mid-August, increasing a sense of urgency. While Democrats have the overwhelming numerical advantage, polls show conservatives are more motivated to vote.

“This election is just a few weeks away,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), urging Newsom supporters Friday to communicate with voters. “The risks of low turnout, the risks of an uninformed electorate,” Chiu added, “could be catastrophic for our state.”

Candidates and party leaders aren’t the only ones scrambling.

An organization representing local elections overseers had exhorted Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis not to set an election before Sept. 14, arguing any earlier would make it logistically impossible to train poll workers, secure voting places and locate enough paper for ballots. While Kounalakis said in a statement that the date “provides the time needed for officials to prepare and inform voters,” county overseers will have a slim margin for error.

Making their task even more daunting, Newsom has signed a law requiring elections officials to mail every eligible, registered voter a ballot. The full list of names that will appear on ballots won’t be available until 59 days before the vote, which is the filing deadline for prospective candidates. And because there are no limits on how many people can run in the recall, those ballots could be quite long.

“We still have the concerns on the supply chains for the ballots and the envelopes, plus being able to secure the locations that we need,” said Sutter County Registrar of Voters Donna Johnston, head of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. “It will still be a crunch.”

Meanwhile, Newsom is facing a surprise headache. A filing error by a campaign attorney means that Newsom may not have his party preference listed on the ballot. Newsom’s attorneys are going to court to change that — setting Newsom against Secretary of State Shirley Weber, whom he appointed months earlier to great fanfare. A filing from Newsom’s team this week argued that leaving off his party designation would be “fundamentally unfair” to the governor and “lead to absurd results.”

Newsom’s team is due in court next Friday, a week before the cutoff to make ballot changes.

Author: Jeremy B. White
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After reports of dysfunction in the vice president’s office, the administration is trying to stop a drama-filled narrative from taking hold

Two people close to Harris’ team said some individuals inside the vice president’s office are frustrated with what they see as a dysfunctional operation that has been at times waylaid by internal conflict. Some of that ire is directed squarely at Harris’ chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, those people said. Another source close to the staff said there were “challenges and struggles” and heard complaints about Flournoy from staff, but denied it amounted to dysfunction or that the tensions were directly Flournoy’s fault.
Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary to the vice president, told CNN in a statement that Harris’ focus remains on her work.
“The Vice President and her office are focused on the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda to build an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down, to making sure racial equity is at the core of everything the Administration does, to combatting the existential threat of climate change, and to continue protecting the American people from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Singh said.
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said, “I will say that the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the President of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great supportive team of people around her. But other than that, I’m not going to have any more comments on those reports.”
Still, conversations are now underway in the West Wing about how to better support Harris’ team, one source close to the White House said.
That help from the West Wing is a sign that the spiraling narrative could start to affect Harris, who is considered the next in line to lead the Democratic Party — with a potential for a presidential run coming as soon as 2024 if President Joe Biden decides not to seek reelection. Biden has said he does intend to run.
Top White House officials and aides to the vice president went on the record to defend Harris and Flournoy, calling reports of infighting and dysfunction overblown or simply untrue. And Harris’ outside allies and advisers — like influential adviser Minyon Moore and Democratic strategist Bakari Sellers — quickly took to Twitter, looking to drown out the criticism.
On Friday, Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, a longtime friend of Flournoy, said in a statement to CNN: “Vice President Harris and her team are off to the fastest and strongest start of any Vice President I have seen. She’s Delivering for the American people on immigration, small business, voting rights, and economic growth. The President’s trust and confidence in her is obvious when you see them in the Oval Office together.”
“The results speak for themselves: a decline of border arrivals from the Northern Triangle, improved vaccine equity, and increased economic opportunities for women. Anyone who has the honor of working closely with the Vice President knows how her talents and determination have made a huge difference in this Administration already,” Klain’s statement added.
As the frustrations bubbled to the surface this week and damage control commenced, the full-court defense also served to amplify the clear concern inside and around the Biden administration about the drama unfolding in Harris’ office. The latest reports are seen as part of a pattern of stories about staff infighting and low morale, which have followed Harris from her Senate office to her presidential campaign and now to the vice presidency.
One administration official described the current efforts by the West Wing as an attempt to help with any issues any staff might be facing.
“Ron, Anita (Dunn), Cedric (Richmond), others, have certainly expressed their solidarity with our team, internally and externally,” the administration official said.
But some of those efforts actually helped solidify reports of staff discontent. Rather than denying the existence of complaints about morale inside Harris’ office, Dunn — a White House senior adviser — told Politico the complaints were “not anywhere near what you are describing” and acknowledged that there “may be people whose feelings were a little hurt on her staff” after many staffers weren’t told of her trip to the southern border ahead of it being announced publicly.
The departure of Harris’ top two advance officials has also served to compound a chaotic narrative, even though some officials insisted the pair had always planned for early exits from the administration.
It does not help that Harris has come under fire for multiple missteps in her first few months in office, starting after just a few weeks when she gave an interview to a West Virginia TV station that angered crucial moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who hails from the state. That tension reached its apex last month during her first international trip as vice president, a two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico, during which she likened not going to the border to also not having visited Europe.
“I, and I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making,” Harris said with a laugh to NBC’s Lester Holt when pressed about the fact that she hadn’t visited the US-Mexico border.
The trip to El Paso, Texas, last week was without incident and some people close to Harris called reports alleging dysfunction overblown. But others told CNN that the office is rife with frustration and occasional infighting.
“I think everybody is just feeling overwhelmed,” a source close to the White House said of the dynamics in the vice president’s office.
“It’s a tough place, obviously,” the administration official said, not just of the vice president’s office but of all administration jobs, which operate at a high level of stress and pressure. “But for the most part, people are focused on the mission.”
That official contended that Flournoy has been asset to Harris as her chief of staff, and a source close to Flournoy credited her with keeping Harris’ circle tight, saying her role “is to be the gatekeeper, it is to keep the principal on task and it is to be the person that is the last voice before the principal’s make the decision, so in that regard, she is doing the job that she’s supposed to be doing.” Some of the complaints voiced in media reports alleged that Flournoy has limited access to Harris too much.
“There’s not infighting between the teams,” the administration official said. “The office is united together as part of the larger goal of the OVP. People are working together to make sure that she is executing on like the tasks she’s been assigned.”

Author: Jasmine Wright, Jeremy Diamond and Arlette Saenz, CNN
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Transit Agencies Are Trying Everything to Lure You Back

Last week in Washington, DC, the board of the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority did something almost unheard of: It offered riders more service for less money.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, as plunging ridership brought on financial woes, the agency reduced the area’s subway and bus service. Now it has promised to ramp up buses and trains on weekdays, weekends, and late at night, with some bus lines operating even more often than they did before the pandemic. Riders, meanwhile, will pay a flat $ 2 fee on weekends instead of a fare based on how far they travel, they won’t have to shell out for bus transfers, and they’ll get a break on weekly bus passes. The plan will “better meet the needs of existing riders, reflect new travel patterns and lifestyle changes, as well as attract returning and new customers,” the Metro head said.

Those new travel patterns remain unclear. But officials in Washington and elsewhere are mulling the roles that buses, subways, and trains will play in cities transformed by a year-long public health crisis. They want to win riders back—and they’re willing to try a few out-of-the-box strategies to do it.

Agencies in Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas, the San Francisco Bay Area, and New Orleans are offering reduced fares or free rides, temporarily, to lure people back onto transit. Others are considering abolishing fares altogether. Los Angeles is exploring a 23-month pilot that would give students and low-income residents free rides. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority scrapped fares in March 2020 and doesn’t plan to bring them back. “The return on investment for empathy, compassion, for social equity, far outweighs the return on investment for concrete and asphalt,” Robbie Makinen, the agency’s CEO, told Stateline last week.

Others are taking aim at an even more sacred cow: rush hour service.

Historically, briefcase-toting, laptop-schlepping commuters have been transit’s primary target audience. So public transit was designed to accommodate their needs. Commuter trains, traveling between suburbs and downtown business districts, ran more frequently during rush hour. Agencies purchased more buses and subway cars to handle rush hour crowds, and sometimes paid drivers extra just to pop in for a few hours during peak travel times. They created park-and-ride services, to help people who drove part of the way to work but didn’t want to deal with traffic in dense cities.

Now the future of rush hour is complicated. Big employers like Apple, Amazon, and American Express have said they’ll continue to allow workers to telecommute a few days a week, even after most are vaccinated and offices have reopened. On average, that will mean smaller peak-hour crowds. Meanwhile, planners have noted increased interest in off-peak service since the mid-aughts, and have begun to redesign service to make it more useful to people doing shift work, running errands after school, or traveling to social occasions.

Agencies are using the murky period of pandemic recovery to usher in schedule changes. In Los Angeles, officials for Metra, the local commuter rail, said this month they would test new schedules that “step away” from the pre-pandemic, rush hour norm, “in favor of a more balanced approach” that spaces trains more evenly throughout the day. In Boston, officials in April went ahead with pre-pandemic plans and began running more frequent commuter trains outside the schedules of the 9-to-5ers. It’s part of a bigger vision to transform the system into a more equitable regional rail network that serves more than the traditional office worker. Off-peak riders are more likely to be immigrants, women, people of color, and lower income. The pandemic, as the local advocacy group TransitMatters has observed, may have given the local agency the “political space” to make long-planned changes. There are fewer people now to complain that operators took away their specific train.

Author: Aarian Marshall
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Putin accuses US of trying to contain Russia ahead of Biden summit – 'They have issue'

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, the Russian president said relations between Washington and Moscow are “extremely low”. “We don’t have any issues with the U.S.” he said.

“But it has an issue with us. It wants to contain our development and publicly talks about it.

“Economic restrictions and attempts to influence our country’s domestic politics, relying on forces they consider their allies inside Russia, stem from that.”

The comments come as Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden prepare for a summit on June 16 in which they will discuss arms control, the Covid-19 pandemic, global conflicts and climate change.

He added: “You know what the problem is? I will tell you as a former citizen of the former Soviet Union.

“What is the problem of empires — they think that they are so powerful that they can afford small errors and mistakes.

“But the number of problems is growing. There comes a time when they can no longer be dealt with.

“And the United States, with a confident gait, a firm step, is going straight along the path of the Soviet Union.”

Relations between the US and Russia have plummeted in recent months after both countries exchanged blows over the expulsion of diplomats.

In addition, the US accused Russia of interfering in US presidential elections, which Moscow has denied.

READ MORE: Mike Pompeo claims secretive military activity uncovered at Wuhan lab

He added: “I don’t expect any breakthrough results”.

The upcoming summit between the world leaders is set to be held in Geneva.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

'You can’t live your life trying to make the world happy!' David Haye on Harry and Meghan

Champion boxer David Haye, 40, has weighed in on Megxit, which saw Meghan Markle, 39, and her husband Prince Harry, 36, quitting their lives in the Royal Family in favour of a move away to America with their son Archie. The couple then stunned the world with their revelations about their negative experiences as Senior Royals in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
It comes after David, who currently manages fellow boxer Dereck Chisora, shared his joy over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tying the knot in 2018, branding the wedding a defining moment for Britain.

When quizzed on what he thought about Harry and Meghan’s explosive chat with Oprah, David admitted that although he hadn’t had a chance to watch it yet, he felt the couple couldn’t live their lives trying to please everybody.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, David said: “I haven’t seen it, it’s one of those things that I’ve been meaning to watch. 

“I’m going to watch it when I’ve got some time. 

READ MORE… Anita Rani’s ‘under wraps’ evening with Meghan and Harry

He said: “To have someone of colour entering the Royal family is amazing. I never thought I would see that happen in my lifetime.

“But society is diverse and that should be reflected everywhere, in the workplace, in schools, in sport and in the Royal family. It is nice to see, as a mixed race man.

“I think it’s great Meghan is from a mixed family. My dad is from Jamaica and my mum is English.

“I honestly haven’t heard one person say a negative word about the wedding.

“Maybe 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago there would have been a few raised eyebrows, but now society is so multi-cultural, the world is changing.”

Speaking about the televised royal wedding back in 2018 to The Mirror, he added: “It felt natural and it felt right, and it was amazing to see everyone celebrating. 

“For me Harry and Meghan got everything just right. It was lovely to see.

“It was also heart warming to see the reaction of everyone. We have already welcomed Meghan to our Royal family and taken her to our hearts.

“I didn’t cry when I watched it, but I did have a warm smile on my face. I am even more proud to be British now.’’

The Black Mask Company, founded by David Haye, launches rainbow mask to thank our NHS heroes, get yours at www.theblackmaskcompany.com/products/rainbow-mask

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Celebrity News Feed

WhatsApp in Pink? Why trying to change the colour of your app could have dire consequences

WhatsApp has stuck with its trusty trademark shade of green for years. But if you’re not a fan of the colour, it might be tempting to click a link from a friend or colleague inviting you to switch to WhatsApp In Pink.

As the imaginative name suggests, this claims to be a version of the world’s most popular messaging service with the green expunged and replaced with a vibrant shade of pink. Unfortunately, this is not a new colour option for WhatsApp users. Instead, it’s a scam designed to wrestle complete access to your smartphone from you.

With access to everything stored on your device, hackers could steal contact information for friends and family – allowing them to send them the link and continue to spread WhatsApp Pink, copy photos and videos from your device, siphon credit card information and other personal details, and much more.

WhatsApp users have highlighted the new scam to bring awareness to the ploy, which is currently being used by cyber crooks worldwide. The link sends users to a webpage to download an APK to their smartphone. APKs are the file used to package Android apps. While it’s possible to download apps from the web to your Android phone, most security experts warn against this practice unless you really know what you’re doing – or who you’re downloading from.

While Google scans every Android app uploaded to its Play Store for malware (and even then, some scam apps manage to slip through the net!), anyone can upload a fraudulent app to the web without any checks – and start sending out the link to unsuspecting users. And that seems to be exactly what has happened with the WhatsApp In Pink attack.

Hellish WhatsApp attack is stealing credit cards from your friends

Internet security researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia highlighted the latest scam, posting on Twitter: “Beware of WhatsApp Pink!! A Virus is being spread in WhatsApp groups with an APK download link. Don’t click any link with the name of WhatsApp Pink. Complete access to your phone will be lost.”

Unfortunately, for fans of pink, WhatsApp doesn’t allow users to customise the green shade of its messaging app. While you can set custom background images for your chat windows, and choose between a light and dark theme for the entire app… there’s still plenty of green elements to be found within the service.

This article originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed