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Cannabis Sector Update: Key Highlights and Trends This Week

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Cannabis magnets are for sale at a cannabis (hemp) store in Aschheim near Munich, southern Germany, on February 22, 2024, one day ahead of a vote by the German parliament on the decriminalisation of cannabis. The German government approved a draft law in August 2023 legalising the purchase and possession of small amounts of cannabis for recreational use, despite criticism from opposition politicians and judges. The bill, which still needs to go through parliament, would allow adults to possess up to 25 grams (0.9 ounces) of cannabis and grow up to three plants for personal use. (Photo by Michaela Stache / AFP) (Photo by MICHAELA STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 23, 2023: Here are the top cannabis industry headlines making marijuana industry news globally and in the Caribbean and Latin America this week in less than 60 seconds:

Boxing legend Mike Tyson has called out President Jo Biden, demanding clemency for all federal marijuana offenders. Tyson is also a cannabis entrepreneur with his Tyson 2.0 brand.

Veterans groups and a group of law enforcement leaders are among those also urged President Biden to reclassify marijuana to a lesser status. The Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to issue a formal decision soon on lowering federal restrictions on cannabis, potentially in the coming weeks, sources say.

Jamaica Company, Pure Jamaican, has shipped it first Legal Export of THC to United States For DEA Testing. Pure Jamaican and its GMP-certified, licensed pharma manufacturer Seven-10 Pharmaceuticals are elevating Jamaica’s role on the global stage.

In a first step toward a broader legalization of cannabis, and after long delays due to strong opposition from lawmakers in the ruling coalition, Germany is set to approve the decriminalizing of cannabis for recreational use by parliament today, Feb. 23rd, paving the way to take effect on April 1 . Adn that’s no April Fool’s Day joke.

An eighth-grade student brought marijuana edibles to Kennedy Middle School in Germantown, Wisconsin, the principal said in a letter Thursday. According to the letter, the student distributed the edibles to other students on Thursday. The school said families of students who may have ingested them have been notified as police investigate.

A hemp store, which claims to be the largest in Germany, opened on Thursday in Aschheim near Munich, and offers its customers 1,000 different cannabis-based products on 800 square meters of space.

Bob Marley: One Love Sees Box Office Boost From U.S. And Canadian Viewers

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(L-R) Reinaldo Marcus Green, Audrey Marks, Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States, Ziggy Marley and Yvette Clarke, United States Representative, attend a special Washington, D.C. screening of "Bob Marley: One Love" at the Motion Picture Association on February 13, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 23, 2024: The movie “Bob Marley: One Love” continues to defy critics and low media ratings, capturing significant box office success, particularly in the U.S. and Canada.

(L-R) Reinaldo Marcus Green, Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, and Gregory Meeks, United States Representative attends a special Washington, D.C. screening of “Bob Marley: One Love” at the Motion Picture Association on February 13, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

To date, the film has amassed $85,088,180 worldwide, with $66,777,311 of that total coming from domestic audiences alone.

Since its debut on February 14, the movie has consistently topped U.S. box office charts. With a production budget of $70 million by Paramount Pictures, the film’s financial success is undeniable, marking it as a hit.

Globally, “Bob Marley: One Love” trails behind “The Beekeeper” and “Mean Girls” in terms of earnings. Despite this, the film has secured $29 million worldwide. In the UK, the birthplace of lead actors Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch, the film garnered $8,758,424 over a span of just two days (Feb. 16-18). Other countries showed varying levels of financial success during similar timeframes: France reported earnings of $5,028,611, Australia $1,332,737, the Netherlands $758,508, Portugal $337,786, Croatia $81,420, South Africa $69,510, and Iceland saw the lowest with $42,548. Unfortunately, box office figures for Jamaica were not available.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and co-written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, and Zach Baylin, the movie chronicles Bob Marley’s rise to fame in the 1970s until his death in 1981, offering an in-depth look at the legendary musician’s life and legacy.

What’s troubling Brazil-Israel ties? Unpacking a love-hate relationship

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Israel and said it would not retract statements that the Israeli government calls “anti-Semitic” as a spat between the two countries escalated this week.

On Sunday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva compared Israel’s war on Gaza, in which nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, to the Holocaust, sparking outrage from Israel.

Israel declared Lula persona non grata on Monday, summoning the Brazilian ambassador and demanding that Brasilia retract the statements. In return, Brazil summoned the Israeli ambassador in Brasilia for a dressing-down on Monday while also recalling its envoy to Tel Aviv.

The tensions mark the latest chapter in a relationship between two countries more than 10,000km (6,200 miles) apart but bound by history dating back to the creation of Israel.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva compared Israel’s war in Gaza to the Holocaust at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia [Reuters]

What has Brazil’s position been on the war so far?

Brazil denounced the October 7 attacks on Israel, led by the Palestinian armed group Hamas, in which 1,139 people were killed and more than 200 people taken hostage.

However, the country has also been vocal about the war on Gaza, condemning Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians and on crucial infrastructure. Lula said last year that the death of thousands of children “is particularly shocking”.

At the United Nations Security Council, where it is a non-permanent member, Brazil has backed every single resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza although the United States has vetoed these moves.

In November after Israel eventually allowed a select number of foreigners, dual nationals and Palestinian patients to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, Brazilians were initially missing from the daily lists, sparking speculation that Israel was punishing Brazil for its diplomatic postures. Israel denied those suggestions.

When repatriation flights to Brazil finally started, Lula was at the airport tarmac in Brasilia to welcome Palestinian Brazilians as they landed.

For decades, Brazil has called for a Palestinian state to be created on the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, in which Israel seized the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Not really. In fact, Brazil had a role in the creation of Israel.

Brazil was the president of the UN General Assembly in November 1947 when the UN Partition Plan for Palestine was first presented to the body, and it played a significant role in seeing the plan adopted. The partition plan recommended the creation of a Jewish state in British-administered Mandatory Palestine.

Oswaldo Aranha, a one-time foreign minister of Brazil who was head of the country’s UN delegation, chaired the General Assembly and played a vital role in discussions of the partition plan. According to Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas, former Brazilian ambassador to Israel, Aranha realised on the day of the initial vote that the plan didn’t have enough support, so he cajoled speakers to prolong their addresses and run the clock out, eventually delaying the vote by two days, by which time, enough votes had been secured for the creation of Israel. Today, Tel Aviv and Beersheba have streets named after Aranha, and Jerusalem has a public square named in the Brazilian diplomat’s honour.

Brazil was also one of the first countries to formally recognise the state of Israel in 1949.

More than 100,000 Jewish people live in Brazil, making it the second largest Jewish community in Latin America.

Relations between Brazil and Israel soared to new heights under former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who proclaimed Brazil as Israel’s best friend. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Bolsonaro when he was president-elect in 2018, the Israeli leader was awarded a national prize previously presented to Queen Elizabeth II and US President Dwight Eisenhower.

Bolsonaro later sparked controversy when he signalled he might move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after a similar move by the US. In his 2019 trip to Israel, Bolsonaro visited the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, with Netanyahu. It is in Israeli-occupied territory in Jerusalem and is also known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. During that trip, Bolsonaro chose to announce a non-diplomatic trade mission in the city rather than a full embassy.

What other dips have there been in relations?

The current crisis isn’t the first time that Brazil and Israel have seen their relations spiral downwards.

In 2014, Brazil — then under Lula’s protege, President Dilma Roussef — criticised Israel’s violence against Palestinians and recalled its ambassador for diplomatic talks. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson responded by describing Brazil as a “diplomatic dwarf”, escalating tensions further.

That wasn’t all. The spokesperson taunted Brazil over its embarrassing 7-1 thrashing at the hands — or feet, rather — of Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, which Brazil was hosting. Israel’s assault on Gaza that year, he said, was “proportionate”. What was “disproportionate”, he said, was the semifinal score.

Brazil, alongside 28 other countries, voted for a UN Human Rights Council investigation into allegations of Israeli human rights violations in that offensive. An estimated 2,000 civilians were killed in that war.

In November last year, Israel irked Brazilian authorities when its foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, publicly said it helped Brasilia bust a Hezbollah ring planning attacks in the South American country. Mossad linked the planned attacks to the ongoing Gaza war, suggesting that Jewish lives in Brazil were under threat.

Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino did not deny the assistance but responded in an apparent rebuke that “Brazil is a sovereign country,” and “no foreign force orders around the Brazilian Federal Police”.

 

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Deadly collapse at illegal Venezuela gold mine

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

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The AI series: AI and Surveillance Capitalism

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

In the final episode of the AI series with Maria Ressa, we meet two women on the front lines of the battle to make artificial intelligence accountable.

Camille Francois is a researcher specialising in combatting disinformation and digital harms. Nowadays she is helping lead French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative on AI and democracy.

Nominated as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in AI, Meredith Whittaker has campaigned against surveillance and data bias. She is the president of Signal, a secure messaging app.

Camille and Meredith discuss the very real dangers unchecked AI poses to democracy and how to make technology fairer and more responsible.

 

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‘Divine justice’: How Hondurans are reacting to an ex-president’s US trial

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

New York City, United States – Bundled against the cold gusts of a New York winter, Cecilio Alfaro braved the morning rush to arrive at Manhattan’s Financial District just after sunrise at 7am on Tuesday.

A longtime United States resident, originally from Honduras, Alfaro wore a beanie hat patterned with the colours of the American flag. He was dressed for a once-in-a-lifetime trial, overseen by federal prosecutors.

The defendant in question was none other than former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who — after styling himself as a tough-on-crime conservative — now faces drugs and weapons charges.

Prosecutors accuse him of running a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” while in office, in which he accepted millions of dollars in exchange for facilitating cocaine shipments to the US.

The trial has captured public attention within Honduras and its diaspora, with observers like Alfaro seeing the hearings as a referendum on Hernández’s two terms as president.

“There’s so much evidence against” Hernández, Alfaro told Al Jazeera after making it past the tight security inside the Southern District Court of New York.

Climbing twenty-three stories, Alfaro joined dozens of journalists and curious citizens who packed the courthouse, glued to a closed-circuit video of the proceedings.

“The people suffered so much in Honduras,” Alfaro said. “There’s going to be justice, divine justice.”

Former President Juan Orlando Hernandez sits with his lawyer Raymond Colon in a courtroom sketch from February 20 [Jane Rosenberg/Reuters]

Hernandez’s divisive legacy

The trial is one of the most consequential in years for Hondurans, as it weighs the legacy of one of the country’s most divisive figures in recent history.

“The great majority” of Hondurans, radio journalist Pablo Zapata told Al Jazeera, “are really on the edge of their seats with this case”.

Commonly known by his initials JOH, Hernández came to power in 2014, campaigning on the promise of “una vida mejor” — a better life — for everyday Hondurans.

“Honduras is going through one of the most difficult periods when it comes to security,” Hernández said in his inauguration speech. At the time, the country faced high rates of crimes linked to drug trafficking.

Hernández pledged to address the problem through “mano dura” — or “iron fist” — policies. That included the deployment of military forces to the streets. “The party is over for criminals,” he announced.

But it did not take long for accusations of corruption and human rights abuses to pile up against Hernández’s administration.

Early in his tenure, in 2015, Hernández faced allegations he had siphoned money from Honduras’s Social Security Institute. Critics later blamed him for failing to protect public figures like environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated in 2016.

His reelection in 2017 was likewise tarnished by suspicions of electoral fraud.

In court this week, US prosecutors described Hernández as a leader who used his position for personal gain, transforming Honduras into a “narco-state”. In one case, they allege he collected approximately $1 million from the Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in exchange for protecting the Sinaloa cartel.

Hernández has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers argued this week that he, in fact, stood up to drug trafficking.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Renato Stabile used his opening statement to tell the jury that many of the expected witnesses — former drug traffickers who claim to have been protected by Hernández — cannot be trusted because of their violent pasts, insinuating they had exaggerated or lied in exchange for reduced sentences.

“You’re going to hear from a lot of devils,” Stabile said.

Former President Juan Orlando Hernandez maintained relations with US presidents like Donald Trump while in office [Presidency Honduras/Reuters handout]

Critics questions former US support

Meanwhile, the US Justice Department, under President Joe Biden, has taken a strong stance against Hernández, officially labelling him a “corrupt and undemocratic actor”.

In February 2022, just weeks after he left office, Hernández was arrested at his home in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. Two months later, the former president was extradited to the US to face charges.

His fall from grace came after the US government pursued his younger brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, a congressional deputy.

In 2018, Tony was arrested in Miami for trafficking 185 tonnes of cocaine as well as firearms. Three years later, in 2021, a US court sentenced him to life in prison, the culmination of a trial that had also implicated the Honduran president.

But some critics, including Canadian human rights activist Karen Spring, see Hernández’s trial as a chance to demand accountability from the US as well. They accuse the US of complicity in the circumstances that led to Hernández’s presidency.

The US has an extensive, and controversial, history of involvement in Honduras — from its early 20th-century grip on the country’s fruit industry to its use of Honduras as base of operations during the Cold War.

In 2009, Honduras experienced a military coup d’état that resulted in Hernández’s conservative National Party taking back power. The US briefly suspended aid to Honduras in the aftermath — but that measure proved to be short-lived.

By the time Hernández was in office, the US saw Hernández as a key ally in expanding its “drug war” and stemming northbound migration. Under presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the US sent Honduras millions of dollars in military and security assistance.

All the while, Spring told Al Jazeera, Hernández was allegedly using military and police forces to protect drug traffickers.

She is part of “Putting the US and Canada On Trial”, a campaign scheduled to coincide with Hernández’s court case that seeks accountability for crimes committed in Honduras.

“The US and Canadian governments ignored warning signs that JOH was involved in organised crime for years,” Spring said.

“Instead, both countries continued to politically support JOH, describing him as a drug war ally, all while he trafficked narcotics using Honduran state security forces under his command.”

Honduras’s national and military police escort former President Juan Orlando Hernandez to the Hernan Acosta Mejia Air Force Base for his extradition on April 21, 2022 [File: Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters]

Problems persist into the present

Other activists and journalists see Hernández’s trial as a mirror for ongoing struggles within the Central American country.

José Luis Guillén, a TV journalist for TeleCeiba and Radio America, said the trial has generated intense scrutiny across all sectors of society, with high-profile witnesses expected to be called.

“It’s being talked about everywhere [in Honduras], not just in the government,” Guillén said of the trial. “Because it could implicate TV channels, business interests, gangs. It’s a daily conversation.”

Some critics have already singled out the Honduran news media’s role in the scandal.

Cristián Sánchez, a independent journalist living in Washington, DC, helps run the Pro-Honduras Network, a civil society organisation specialising in exposing corruption.

He said that, while the widespread press coverage of Hernández’s trial is welcome, it comes after years of silence from media outlets that failed to cover Hernández’s excesses. Some, he believes, may have been bought off.

“For years, it was prohibited to talk about Hernández in Honduras — above all, on corporate channels,” Sánchez said. “Juan Orlando financed many of these journalists to the tune of millions of dollars so they wouldn’t talk about him.”

Sánchez was quick to add, however, that the violence and human rights abuses that existed under Hernández persist into the present, despite Honduras having a new, left-leaning administration in power.

For his part, land rights activist Yoni Rivas sees Hernández as merely the severed head of criminal structures that continue to operate in Honduras today.

Those networks “include bankers, politicians, and businessmen”, he told Al Jazeera in Tocoa, part of a region in Honduras where at least a dozen land and water defenders have been assassinated or forcibly disappeared over the past year.

Still, Rivas thinks Hernández’s trial will shine a light on the disgraced president’s legacy.

“The level of impunity that Juan Orlando generated, and the power he achieved through his allies, continue creating conditions of violence in Honduras. We’re still going to keep suffering violence here.”

 

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‘Disillusioned about China’, more Chinese aim for US via risky Darien Gap

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Necocli, Colombia – Shortly after 8am, about a dozen Chinese migrants rush out the doors of Mansion del Darien, a rundown hotel a few blocks from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and pile into three tuk-tuks waiting on the street.

“We’re full of Chinese people every day,” said the receptionist, Gabriela Fernandez, scurrying past the front desk with a clipboard in hand. “All the time, big groups of them are arriving and leaving together. It’s been like this for months.”

Behind her, signs explaining the hotel prices and policies are written in Mandarin. Pots of spicy instant noodles imported from China are for sale next to bottles of water. Payments via the Chinese social media app WeChat are accepted.

“They move along in their own separate world,” Fernandez said.

The group of middle-aged travellers, wearing hats and carrying tents and walking poles, are dressed for a trek. But not everything quite adds up. Many are wearing lightweight Crocs footwear, and their small backpacks are wrapped in plastic bags.

It is here in Necocli, a beach town near the border with Panama, that marks the starting point for crossing the Darien Gap, a region of dense and inhospitable jungle that has become a major migration route for those trying to reach the United States.

In 2023, more than 500,000 migrants crossed the treacherous Darien, which is the only overland route from South to North America, according to data collected by the Panamanian government. Just over 25,000 of those migrants were Chinese, making them the fourth largest overall nationality and the largest outside of the Americas to making the crossing.

“This is a new element that was not there in previous years,” said Giuseppe Loprete, head of mission in Panama for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN body that provides information for migrants crossing the Darien. “It’s a lot of people, and it’s a long way to come. For the smuggling networks, it’s big business.”

Chinese migrants – unlike many of the other most common nationalities in the Darien, such as Venezuelans and Haitians – often take special “VIP” routes across the jungle that are led by guides working for the Gulf Clan, Colombia’s largest drug cartel, and are quicker and less strenuous for higher prices than the most basic routes.

Through a combination of boat journeys, hikes and, in some cases, horseback rides either along the Caribbean or Pacific coast, they are able to make the crossing in a couple of days rather than the weeklong trip that cheaper routes usually take.

Traffickers in Necocli told Al Jazeera that while the cheapest routes across the Darien cost about $350, the more direct routes along the Panamanian coast through towns such as Carreto and Coetupo and arriving at one of Panama’s migrant reception centres cost $850.

A line of Chinese migrants waiting to depart on boats in Necocli [Peter Yeung/Al Jazeera]

But in some cases – with journeys to the island of San Andres, which is just a few hours by boat from Nicaragua – the price is as much as $5,000. It can bring in tens of millions of dollars per month for the cartel.

After all that spending, the migrants must head north through the rest of Central America, contending with corruption, theft and violence as they make their way to the US-Mexico border.

During a two-day visit in Necocli, Al Jazeera observed dozens of Chinese migrants preparing for the journey, including engineers, teachers and computer programmers.

Waiting on the beach to leave on a boat to Panama with a friend, Wu Xiaohua, 42, said he opted to take one of those quicker journeys because he is eager to arrive in the US and start work as soon as possible. Originally from Hunan province, Xiaohua moved to Shanghai to work as a taxi driver, but since the pandemic, life has been a struggle.

“There are major problems in our country’s economy,” he said. ‘We have no choice but to survive. That’s why we want to go to the United States.”

“Our requirements are very simple: We can afford medical treatment, have a place to live, our children can afford to go to school and our family can be safe.”

One migrant, Huang, who asked to share only her surname, said she left Beijing two months ago after China’s strict COVID-19 lockdowns ended her employment as a masseuse, leaving her barely able to survive day to day.

“I sold everything that I had,” Huang said. “We were treated like caged animals.”

Chinese migrants are led in a group to begin the trek [Peter Yeung/Al Jazeera]

The huge spike in Chinese people making the journey across the Darien – a journey now so popular it is known in Mandarin as “zouxian”, or walking the line — has been driven by the Chinese government’s COVID-19 lockdowns, increasingly rigid rule and the recent flatlining of China’s once-imperious economy.

“It’s down to political and economic uncertainties,” said Min Zhou, a professor of sociology and Asian-American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There has been a downturn in the Chinese economy. People have become unemployed, and there’s discontentment about the government’s tight policies.”

Ai Weiwei, a dissident artist and activist who fled China in 2015 due to repression, told Al Jazeera that the phenomenon is a sign of declining trust in the government.

“Normally in China, ordinary people are very reluctant to leave their homes,” he said. “This phenomenon of people going through the agony of climbing through the rainforest, dragging their children with them, is the first of its kind to be seen.”

‘Chinese migrants are particularly vulnerable’

More than 37,000 Chinese citizens were arrested for illegally crossing the southern border of the US in 2023, according to US Customs and Border Protection. That number is nearly 10 times the total in 2022 and  more than double that of the entire previous decade.

The journey from China can take months of cross-continental travel and can cost as much as tens of thousands of dollars. Many fly into Istanbul or Addis Ababa, which pose few logistical issues, and then onto Ecuador, one of the few Latin American countries that allow Chinese nationals visa-free entry. From there, the danger-filled, fraught journey to the Darien, and eventually to the US, is made largely overland.

“The Chinese migrants are particularly vulnerable,” Loprete said. “They are seen as more wealthy, and so they can be targeted. The language problem also means that if something happens, it’s more difficult for them to access medical attention.”

During the journey, Chinese migrants are often taken advantage of by traffickers, Loprete added. Beatings and robberies are also common in the lawless Panamanian side of the route.

A sign in Mandarin in Necocli [Peter Yeung/Al Jazeera]

The Chinese embassy in Panama did not respond to questions over whether it is supporting its citizens in the Darien but said in an emailed statement to Al Jazeera: “China firmly opposes and cracks down on any form of illegal immigration activity and actively participates in international cooperation in this field.”

According to Zhou, who is carrying out a research project on newly arrived Chinese migrants in Los Angeles, this wave of undocumented Chinese citizens is markedly different from the wave of migration in the 1980s and 1990s.

“They are now coming from all over the country,” Zhou said. “They are skilled. Some are college graduates.”

Some migrants interviewed by Zhou were misled to believe they could easily get a job for $10,000 in cash a month. However, the reality is that many are struggling to get jobs because employers are fearful of hiring undocumented workers.

“The experience is driving them crazy,” she said. “It’s giving them nightmares.”

Wang Sheng Sheng, a 49-year-old originally from the western province of Qinghai, said his decision to leave China came down to a variety of reasons.

After working both as a teacher and in public relations in the city of Guangzhou, he said he felt “it was not easy for me to speak freely” due to increasing crackdowns on university professors and independent organisations.

At the same time, Sheng, who has a 12-year-old son living in China with his ex-wife, believes that life in California could offer him better prospects to improve his living conditions, even if it means crossing the Darien, which requires scaling mountains, crossing powerful rivers and dodging armed bandits along the 115km (70-mile) route.

“I was forced to do this,” Sheng said while sipping a cup of tea at his hotel in Necocli. “It’s really difficult for most Chinese people to apply for a visa to America. But I feel disillusioned about China. That’s why we’re here in the jungle.”

 

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From Pop-Up Success To Brick-and-Mortar Dream: Caribbean Chef Jhonny Reyes

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Caribbean heritage Chef Johnny Reyes

News Americas, SEATTLE, Washington, Fri. Feb. 23, 2024: Caribbean heritage chef Jhonny Reyes, with nearly two decades of experience in the culinary world, has always aimed high in his career, seeking more than just working for others. As he puts it to Eater Seattle, the journey is about “creating a space where you’re the boss.” This spring, Reyes takes a bold step forward, opening his restaurant, Lenox, in the heart of Seattle’s Belltown, where the Jerk Shack once stood.

chef-johnny-reyes
Caribbean heritage Chef Johnny Reyes

At Lenox, Reyes infuses his Puerto Rican heritage and New York experience into a menu that celebrates a blend of Nuyorican and Caribbean flavors. His pop-up, also named Lenox, gave a glimpse into his creative culinary world, offering dishes like ropa vieja reimagined with smoked brisket and a Caribbean twist on the fried chicken sandwich. Local Seattle ingredients add a Pacific Northwest flair, like using Q Bakery’s banh mi bread for a Cuban sandwich that nods to the traditional Cuban water bread.

Reyes’s path to Lenox has been filled with notable experiences, from his time at the acclaimed JuneBaby to overcoming the hurdles of the pandemic and significant industry shifts. His resilience and innovation have even led him to win on Food Network’s Chopped and to participate in Alex vs. America.

With an expected opening in mid-May, Reyes is eager to showcase his full culinary vision at Lenox, featuring smoked meats, wood-fired dishes, a curated cocktail menu, and a diverse array of plated offerings. He aims to create a dining experience that resonates with Seattle’s food enthusiasts.

Located at 2510 First Avenue in Belltown, Lenox represents more than a restaurant for Reyes; it’s the realization of a dream where his culinary roots and innovative ideas can flourish. Follow Lenox on Instagram for the latest updates and prepare to experience Reyes’s passion for food in every dish.

U.S. Pledges $200 Million To Support Security Mission In Haiti Amid Crisis

blinken-brazil
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, during a news conference following the G-20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. The first major ministerial meeting of Brazil's Group of 20 nations presidency ended with no shortage of talk about ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East but little progress toward resolving them. Photographer: Lucas Landau/Bloomberg via Getty Images

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Feb. 23, 2024: The U.S. government has announced plans to allocate $200 million in support to the Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS) in Haiti, aiming to enhance the operational capabilities of the Haitian National Police. This initiative, outlined by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, focuses on providing aid in planning, intelligence, communications, airlift capacity, and medical services.

The announcement was made during a ministerial meeting between the United States and Brazil, held on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The session aimed to foster collaboration for the successful launch of the MSS mission in Haiti, addressing the critical situation marked by severe gang violence and instability.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakes hands with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on February 21, 2024. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Brazil on Tuesday for his first trip to the South American nation, arriving amid a diplomatic spat after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva enraged Washington ally Israel by comparing its Gaza campaign to the Holocaust. (Photo by EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images)

With Brazil’s Undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ambassador Gisela Padovan, and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed delivering opening statements, the meeting underscored the dire need for international solidarity with the Haitian populace and its law enforcement.

The dialogue also featured contributions from representatives of Kenya and Haiti, who emphasized the pressing necessity for robust global support. Additionally, nations including Benin, Canada, France, Germany, and Jamaica pledged their financial, personnel, and material support for the mission, complementing the establishment of a United Nations Trust Fund designed to facilitate further contributions.

Haiti is currently grappling with a humanitarian crisis, with gangs controlling approximately 80% of Port-au-Prince. January reports indicated over 1,100 individuals affected by killings, injuries, or kidnappings. The rampant violence has severely disrupted trade and aid delivery, leading to widespread access issues to essential resources such as food, water, healthcare, and electricity. This crisis has left many Haitians consuming only one meal per day, with three million children in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.

Secretary Blinken highlighted the U.S’ commitment to mitigating violence and improving living conditions in Haiti, citing over $300 million provided in humanitarian aid over the past three years. Efforts include substantial support for the Haitian National Police, sanctions, and visa restrictions against those fueling the violence.

Blinken appealed for increased international cooperation in bolstering the Haitian National Police’s ability to restore security, facilitating the effective delivery of aid. He emphasized the importance of establishing a stable, democratic order in Haiti through inclusive political processes, urging Prime Minister Henry and other stakeholders to prioritize governance that genuinely represents and serves the Haitian people.

Legal Battle Over Prince Harry’s US Visa Set To Unfold This Week

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Luisana Lopilato, Michael Bublé and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Invictus Games One Year To Go Winter Training Camp at Hillcrest Community Centre on February 16, 2024 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 22, 2024: Prince Harry, once again, finds himself thrust into the spotlight, this time facing a legal battle over his US visa status. The controversy stems from revelations in his memoir, where he openly discussed his past experimentation with drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, magic mushrooms, and ayahuasca.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (L) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (R) attend Invictus Games Vancouver Whistlers 2025’s One Year To Go Winter Training Camp on February 15, 2024 in Whistler, British Columbia. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security, (DHS), is facing pressure to disclose whether Prince Harry disclosed this information on his immigration forms from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization. The lawsuit will be heard in federal court in D.C. before Judge Carl J. Nichols. It has left many questioning the integrity of the immigration system and the treatment of high-profile individuals.

The Heritage Foundation says it wants to uncover the truth behind Prince Harry’s visa application. Their argument is straightforward: either Prince Harry concealed his drug use, potentially receiving preferential treatment, or he disclosed it, raising questions about why he was granted a visa despite his admission.

At the heart of this legal dispute lies the question of whether Prince Harry received special treatment during the visa application process. The Heritage Foundation contends that the American public has a right to know whether DHS officials afforded Prince Harry preferential treatment, especially given his status as a public figure. However, the DHS maintains that Prince Harry’s visa status is private information exempt from disclosure, raising concerns about government transparency and accountability.

U.S. immigration authorities take a firm stance against drug-related activities due to their potential impact on public health and safety. The visa application forms, such as Form DS-260 for immigrant visa applicants, explicitly ask about any history of drug use or drug-related offenses. Chapter 8 of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Policy Manual on Drug Abuse or Drug Addiction clearly states: “Applicants who are found to be drug abusers or addicts are inadmissible. Drug abuse and drug addiction are current substance-use disorders or substance-induced disorders of a controlled substance listed in Section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association or by another authoritative source as determined by the Director.”

When applying to live in the United States, applicants have to tick “yes” or “no” to the question “Are you or have you ever been a drug abuser or addict?”.

As the court prepares to hear arguments from both sides, the implications for Prince Harry’s visa status and future plans remain uncertain. The outcome of this case could potentially jeopardize Prince Harry’s residency in the United States and impact his aspirations for American citizenship.

Moreover, it sheds light on broader issues within the immigration system, including the treatment of high-profile individuals and the need for greater transparency and oversight.

Regardless of the court’s ruling, the controversy surrounding Prince Harry’s US visa status underscores the need for reform within the immigration system.

Transparency, fairness, and accountability must be prioritized to ensure that ALL immigration applicants are treated equally under the law. As the legal battle unfolds, it serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by both applicants and immigration authorities in navigating the complexities of the immigration process.

It is imperative that these issues are addressed to uphold the integrity of the immigration process and ensure equal treatment for all individuals, regardless of their status or background.

Judge Nichols will release a written ruling within weeks of the hearing this Friday.

Felicia J. Persaud is the publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com, a daily news outlet focusing on Black immigrant issues.

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