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coronavirus – The New York Times

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Miguel Garcia, a 27-year-old volunteer leader in the Dominican Republic, had a job to do. He had 24 hours to get 32 volunteers scattered across the country to Santo Domingo, the capital. Several were about eight hours away in hard-to-reach communities.

“Panic took over, and I was just mindlessly doing things,” Mr. Garcia said. “It wasn’t until I came home to an apartment that needed to be packed that it all hit me. I showered in cold water for about 45 minutes and cried, overwhelmed by all of the people I needed to communicate with and say goodbye to.”

For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its operations, evacuating more than 7,000 volunteers from posts in more than 60 countries because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An independent agency of the U.S. government created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the corps sends volunteers abroad to help with social and economic development projects. They dig wells, teach in schools and train people in everything from sewing to healthy breastfeeding.

In an open letter, Jody Olsen, the director of the Peace Corps, said the move was meant to protect volunteers and prevent them from being stranded during the pandemic. Within hours, volunteers were packing their bags, saying their farewells and rushing to designated meeting places as airlines canceled flights and countries began closing borders.

In interviews, volunteers described shock, confusion and heartbreak as they arrived back home in the United States.

“The situation in Morocco went so fast,” said Elizabeth Burke, 54, who had been in the country for less than a year, teaching English and working at a sewing cooperative. “It went from Moroccans not being aware of the coronavirus and what was going on to a complete shutdown.”



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Trump to Open More Wildlife Refuge Land to Hunting, Fishing – NBC Chicago

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The Trump administration plans to open 2.3 million acres of land for hunting and fishing at more than 100 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries under a proposal unveiled Wednesday that is aimed at giving Americans more recreational access on public lands.

The plan earned applause from several hunting and fishing groups, but criticism from one conservation organization that called it “tone deaf” to focus on this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal would allow fishing for the first time at several national wildlife refuges, including San Diego Bay in California, Alamosa in Colorado, Bombay Hook in Delaware and Umbagog in Maine and New Hampshire and Everglades Headwaters in Florida, according to a list posted online.

It would also allow alligator hunting at three national wildlife refuges: Banks Lake in Georgia, Laguna Atascosa in Texas and Savannah in Georgia and South Carolina.

In Arizona, hunters would be able to go after mountain lions and mule deer at Cabeza Prieta and bobcats, fox, and mountain lions at Buenos Aires, both national wildlife refuges. In Oregon, migratory bird hunting will be allowed for the first time at Wapato Lake and Hart Mountain national wildlife refuges.

“America’s hunters and anglers now have something significant to look forward to in the fall as we plan to open and expand hunting and fishing opportunities across more acreage nationwide than the entire state of Delaware,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.

The plan was announced as part of the Interior Department’s annual review ahead of the upcoming hunting season, department spokesman Conner Swanson said.

Western Values Project director Jayson O’Neill criticized the timing of the announcement and other decisions the Trump administration has made that he contends damages public lands.

“Instead of responding to pleas by state and local officials for needed agency resources, assistance, and help during this generational pandemic, Secretary Bernhardt made a tone-deaf announcement that by no means could ever make up for the hunting opportunities and wildlife lost as a result of Trump’s deregulatory agenda decimating our public lands and environmental protections,” O’Neill said.

People will have 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam said in a statement the timing is perfect since Americans hunkered-down during the pandemic are looking for open spaces to recreate.

“As millions of people around the country feel trapped in their own homes due to the COVID-19 virus, having the opportunity to hunt and fish in the quiet of the wilderness or the tranquility of a lake is perhaps more important now than its ever been,” Putnam said. “There’s never been a better time to enjoy the solitude of our public lands and distance yourself from the crowds.”

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Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report from Washington.





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Speech #5: Why AIPAC is bad for U.S. Politics

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Congo president’s chief of staff arrested amid graft probe

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Vital Kamerhe, the chief of staff to the president of Congo, was arrested on Wednesday after testifying in an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of public funds, police said.

Kamerhe’s arrest was a blow to President Felix Tshisekedi, who took power in January last year after campaigning on promises to clean up corruption, which watchdog groups said flourished under his long-serving predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Kasongo Mwema, said he had no comment. “The president does not comment on the decisions of the justice system,” he said.

The arrest followed hours of testimony at the public prosecutor’s office. Outside, police used tear gas to disperse a large group of Kamerhe’s supporters and enforce a ban on meetings of more than 20 people in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

His supporters also protested in his hometown, Bukavu, in eastern Congo, where about 300 of them burned tires and blocked the road outside his party headquarters.

After the testimony, Kamerhe was driven by police to the Makala prison, Sylvano Kasongo, the police chief of the capital, Kinshasa, told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear how long Kamerhe would be held or whether he would be charged with a crime. Reuters was not immediately able to contact his lawyer. Kamerhe has denied all allegations of impropriety.

Tshisekedi has touted his efforts to root out endemic corruption in Congo, but activists have criticized his government’s spending on a $304-million public works program as lacking transparency.

Kamerhe, in particular, has faced scrutiny for his role in the spending on roads, bridges and social housing.

Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, right, attends a memorial service with Kamerhe, seated, on Feb. 1, 2018 in Kinshasa. Both Tshisekedi and Kamerhe have faced criticism over the government’s spending. (Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images)

Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party joined forces with Tshesekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) in the run-up to the December 2018 election. Tshisekedi promised to back the UNC’s candidate in the next election in 2023.

The arrest could cause the collapse of the coalition, but that may have already been in the cards, said Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group at New York University.

“The coalition was important ahead of the elections, but ever since he was inaugurated, there have been people around Tshisekedi pushing him to get rid of Vital,” Stearns said.
 



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