Afghan Biker Climbs Mountain for Education’s Uphill Battle

Farid Noori was teaching online from the United States to high school students in Kabul, Afghanistan, when a bomb attack started.

“At that very moment,” Noori said, “I had an online, remote class on Afghanistan’s environment with some of the school’s students. One of my students got injured. As days went by, the death toll climbed to 100, mostly schoolgirls, making this one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul’s history.”

At least 90 students were killed and 275 others were injured May 8 at Sayed Ul Shuhada high school, mostly girls and mostly Hazara, an ethnic minority often the target of Islamic fighters. Boys have class in the morning, and girls in the afternoon. The attack occurred around 4 p.m. as the girls were leaving school.

For Noori, who came to the U.S. for school, the attack was profound because it was an attempt to stymie advanced education.

Educated, competed in Vermont

Noori moved from Afghanistan on a high school scholarship in 2011 and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in economics. He discovered mountain biking while in high school and raced for Middlebury. Currently, he is a master’s candidate in business administration at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in Arkansas.

“It was an attack on education and Afghanistan’s future generation, particularly Afghan girls, attempting to stop them from going to school,” he said.

After the attack, there was national and international condemnation and heightened concern about the future for Afghan girls. Attempts were made to memorialize the victims, and the country came together in support and sympathy.

But the attack soon slipped from collective memory, a familiar pattern after repeated incidents of terrorism, he said. But society cannot afford to forget about this tragedy, he added.

“It was an attack on our brightest. And if, as ordinary citizens, we show that such barbaric acts of terrorism cannot be tolerated, that in response to such cruelties, we will double, triple our collective efforts to invest in the education of our children, then we will be sending a strong message to the terrorists behind this attack that our will and dedication to the future of our children is stronger than theirs,” he said.

More than violence

Noori said he wants Americans to know there’s more to Afghanistan than violence. To draw attention to Afghanistan, the education of its youth and its natural beauty, he rode 185 kilometers up Whiteface Mountain in New York state’s Adirondacks on Tuesday.

“It felt like [it was] a right of passage doing this ride because, you know, the challenge. I had a lot of time to think about them and that was the most incredible feeling, and it motivated me to push harder,” Noori said.

He rode 21 times up and down Whiteface Mountain to achieve the elevation of Afghanistan’s highest peak, named Naw Shakh.

It took 11 hours, 3 minutes to finish, raising nearly $9,000 of his $25,000 goal, crowdfunding under the title “Start Some Good, Education Will Prevail.” 

“An incredible day, the last four hours of which was in pouring cold rain,” Noori said. “But the amazing show of support from strangers and friends, and some who joined the ride, made the day go faster and easier.”

“It was a show of solidarity that meant a lot,” he said, thinking about those girls.

Symbol of overcoming challenges

Noori uses Naw Shakh, the 52nd-tallest mountain in the world that has been largely inaccessible to climbers because of Afghanistan’s political turmoil, as a symbol of overcoming challenges. He said it could become a tourism destination.

Noori has also encouraged biking in Afghanistan to empower Afghan youth “with the joy of riding and competing on mountain bikes.” He said the sport connects people across borders who  share a love of cycling, and he founded an organization — Mountain Bike Afghanistan — to foster that interest.

“We use the bike as a tool to bring joy and hope into the lives of Afghan youth and promote gender equality,” he said. “We believe the bike is the most effective tool for the emancipation of Afghan women and normalizing their freedom of movement in Afghan society. We organize events and provide equipment to get more Afghan women on bikes.”

In 2018, Noori and his team in Afghanistan launched the annual Hindu Kush Mountain Bike Challenge in response to the growing popularity of mountain biking among Afghan youth.

They kickstarted Afghanistan’s first official cross-country mountain bike race and kindled a culture of racing and community gathering. Hindu Kush is 805 kilometers of mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan into northern Pakistan and Tajikistan and is part of the Himalaya range of the world’s biggest, most challenging mountains, including the tallest, Mount Everest.

“Everyone concerned with peace and stability in Afghanistan has a responsibility to do more to show ongoing support to victims of such tragedies” as the attack on Sayed Ul Shuhada, Noori concluded.

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Sydney’s Coronavirus Lockdown Extended Another Month

The five million residents of Sydney, Australia will remain under strict lockdown orders for another four weeks as the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to rise.

The extension for Australia’s largest city was announced Wednesday when authorities in New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 177 new infections over a 24-hour period, slightly higher than the previous record of 172 new cases posted on Tuesday.

“I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality,” New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters during a news conference.

The latest outbreak has been traced to a Sydney airport limousine driver who tested positive for the delta variant after transporting international air crews in late June. At least 11 people have died as a result of the surge, including a woman in her 90s on Wednesday.

Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 through aggressive lockdown efforts, posting just 33,473 total confirmed cases and 921 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. But it has proved vulnerable to fresh outbreaks due to a slow rollout of its vaccination campaign, with only 13% of its citizens fully vaccinated.

In Japan, the Kyodo news agency is reporting that Tokyo, the host city of the pandemic-delayed Summer Olympics, recorded just over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, breaking the single-day record of 2,848 new infections posted on Tuesday.  Olympics organizers also confirmed 16 new coronavirus infections related to the Games on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 169.  The Japanese capital is under a fourth state of emergency that will remain in effect until August 22.

South Korea also reported a new single-day record of 1,896 infections on Wednesday, surpassing the 1,842 recorded last Wednesday. South Korea now has a total of 193,427 COVID-19 infections, including 2,083 deaths.

In the United States, President Joe Biden is expected to issue an order Thursday for all federal government employees to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular testing, according to anonymous administration officials. The president told reporters Tuesday the policy was “under consideration” during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates 1,700 medical centers and outpatient clinics for retired military personnel, became the first U.S. federal agency on Monday to impose such a demand on its employees, mainly on its health care providers.

The order would be part of a new overall strategy by the White House to encourage more Americans to get inoculated due to a steady rise of new infections, primarily among unvaccinated people, which has led to a repeat of hospitals overflowing with new coronavirus patients first seen at the start of the pandemic.

The latest figures from Johns Hopkins say 195.3 million people around the globe have been infected with COVID-19 since the first cases were detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, including 4.1 million deaths.  The United States leads both categories with 34.6 million infections and 611,288 deaths.  A total of 3,926,883,424 vaccine doses have been administered around the world. 

(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and AFP.)


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18 Workers Killed in India as Truck Rams into Bus

Eighteen migrant laborers sleeping on a highway in northern India after their bus broke down died when a truck rammed into the vehicle, police said Wednesday. 

At least 19 others were injured in the accident in Uttar Pradesh state, a senior police officer told reporters. 

Most of the passengers were returning home to the eastern state of Bihar after working in the states of Punjab or Haryana. 

The passengers got off the bus after its axle shaft broke and were sleeping next to it when a truck crashed into it from behind. 

Rescue workers retrieved some of the bodies from under the mangled double-decker bus. 

“The district administration and the police have launched a probe and we are ensuring that the wounded receive the best medical treatment that’s available,” said police officer Satya Narayan Sabat. 

India’s vast network of roads is poorly maintained and notoriously dangerous. 

About 150,000 people are killed each year in traffic accidents in India, according to the government. 

Among the main factors contributing to the high number of fatalities are excessive speeding and people not using seatbelts or wearing crash helmets. 

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Turkey’s Independent Media Brace for New Crackdown

Rights groups are voicing alarm over a Turkish official’s announcement of new legislation and controls on the foreign funding of social media in Turkey.

Dokuz8 Haber is one of many Turkish news portals that have launched on social media in recent years, offering independent journalism.  

Like many others, it receives support from foreign sources. But this month, Fahrettin Altun, the head of the Turkish President’s Communication’s Directorate, accused foreign-funded media organizations of acting as a fifth column in Turkey, undermining the government, he claimed, at the bidding of foreign powers.  

Dokuz8 chief editor Gokhan Bicici dismisses the allegation, saying the attack is a response to the portal’s success in challenging what he says is the government’s grip on media.

“Ninety percent of mainstream media outlets are in control of the government (under government control). But they are facing the fact that these media outlets (are) no more effective to have a control over (to control) the public opinion. They want to make legislation that directly targets independent and critical media organizations. They defend these regulations with the thesis (that) those media outlets are supported by foreign governments to have the support of society,” Bicici said.

Altun, in a statement, said new regulations would be introduced to monitor and control foreign funding of media.  

The announcement drew swift condemnation from rights groups.  

This year, the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, RSF, ranked Turkey 143 out of 180 countries in terms of media freedoms.   

The group’s Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu says foreign funding plays a key role for independent media because fear of government retribution deters many Turkish citizens and companies from giving financial support.  

“I am concerned because it has always been very difficult in Turkey to develop a local system for funding independent journalism projects. Many of the serious news portals are so dynamic thanks to international donor contributions. I think the government knows very well where to target,” Onderoglu said.

Turkish officials have also announced they are considering new legislation to punish disseminating so-called fake news on social media.  

Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst for Global Source Partners, says the threat of new controls coincides with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mounting political challenges.

“The main motivation is Erdogan’s approval ratings dropping as we speak. Erdogan understands one of the main pillars of his long reign is his ability is to control the news flow to the public. But social media, YouTube, and these alternative media (have) become the number one news source. And he is getting desperate; we have another COVID wave – I think it has started – and the economy is in a miserable condition, Yesilada said.

Turkey is scheduled to hold both presidential and parliamentary polls in 2023, although some observers see the increasing pressure on independent media as a sign that there could be early elections.  

But the government insists any new measures are aimed at only protecting the integrity of the media and will conform to international norms.


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Chinese Pair Outduels Russians to Win Mixed Team Pistol Gold

China’s Jiang Ranxin and Pang Wei out-dueled their Russian rivals in a riveting contest to secure gold in the 10-meter air pistol mixed team event at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. 

The Chinese pair scored a 16-14 victory against newly minted women’s Olympic champion Vitalina Batsarashkina and Artem Chernousov at the Asaka Shooting Range. 

Jiang and Pang, bronze winners in their individual events in Tokyo, overcame an 8-4 deficit to lead 14-10 before the Russians staged a comeback to level the scores. 

The Chinese shooters, however, held their nerve to reach the 16-point mark and claim gold. 

Russian athletes are competing in Tokyo under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) as part of sanctions for several doping scandals. 

Ukraine won the bronze medal match after Olena Kostevych and Oleh Omelchuk beat Serbians Zorana Arunovic and Damir Mikec 16-12. 

South Korean pistol great Jin Jong-oh will return empty-handed from his fifth, and possibly final, Olympics as his pairing could not get through the qualification round. 

The four-time Olympic gold medalist failed to qualify for the final of the men’s individual event on Saturday. 

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Protests Flare in Tunisia as Critics Accuse President of ‘Coup’

The United States and several other countries have called for calm in Tunisia after violent protests broke out following the suspension of parliament Sunday. Tunisia’s president invoked purported emergency powers to sack the prime minister following months of demonstrations over a worsening economic crisis. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

 Camera: Henry Ridgwell

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Weightlifter Diaz Wins First-ever Olympic Gold for Philippines

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made history on Monday when she became the first athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic gold medal. 

The 30-year-old Rio 2016 silver medalist from the southern city of Zamboanga realized her dream in the women’s 55kg class at the Tokyo International Forum, smashing her personal best to see off world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China who had to settle for silver. 

With Liao setting a target of 223kg, just four kilograms shy of her own world record, Diaz was faced with a final clean and jerk of 127kg to win — fully 5kg more than she had ever achieved in competition. 

With a massive effort she hoisted the huge Olympic-record weight and the tears of joy began to flow even before she dropped the bar to the floor after a triumphant effort. 

Liao took the silver, with Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo the bronze 10kg adrift of the top two. 

“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream, come true,” Diaz told AFP moments after the Philippines Air Force woman shed more tears on the podium as she saluted her flag and sung the national anthem. 

“I want to say to the young generation in the Philippines, ‘You can have this dream of gold, too,'” Diaz said. “This is how I started and finally I was able to do it.” 

Diaz was already assured a place in her country’s sporting folklore, alongside the likes of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, as the only woman from the sprawling archipelago ever to win an Olympic medal — her surprise silver five years ago breaking a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines. 

Diaz spent the last year and a half training in exile in Malaysia because of COVID restrictions, so dedicated was she to claim an unprecedented gold in her fourth and probably final Games. 

“I’m looking forward to going back home to the Philippines to be with my family because I really miss them,” she said, choking up once more with emotion. “I’m looking forward now to enjoy my life after so many sacrifices.” 

Diaz’s medal was just the 11th by the Philippines since they first took part in the Olympics in 1924, and now the only gold. 

Diaz became just the second athlete from her country to win multiple Olympic medals, joining swimmer Teofilo Yldefonzo who won bronze in the men’s 200m breaststroke in 1928 and 1932. 

She became a national hero for her exploits in Rio and her profile soared when she won Asian Games gold in Jakarta in 2018. 

But on that occasion China was suspended by the International Weightlifting Federation for multiple doping violations. 

China has been dominant since its return later in 2018 and has had it all its own way so far in Tokyo in the absence of fierce rivals North Korea. 

The first three weightlifting golds were all won by Chinese athletes — in the women’s 49kg through Hou Zhihui on Saturday and men’s winners Li Fabin (61kg) and Chen Lijun (67kg) on Sunday. 

Liao was gracious in defeat as the Chinese gold rush in weightlifting was halted in stunning fashion. 

“I really respect Diaz as an opponent because she did the best she could, in fact better than that and that is the ultimate,” Liao said. “She did a better job and it is nice for all the people that were supporting her.” 

Diaz, known as “Haidee,” has a huge social media following in her home country, which is set to grow. 

Internet platforms instantly turned her into the country’s top trending topic on Twitter as news of her win spread, upstaging President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation address. 

“Congratulations, Sgt. Hidilyn Diaz!” tweeted the Armed Forces of the Philippines where the weightlifter is enlisted.  

Vice President Leni Robredo said: “Big win for the Philippines!! Thank you for making us proud, Hidilyn.” 

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, congratulated Diaz “for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines.” 

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At Tokyo Olympics, Skateboarding Teens Blaze Trail for Women

On the Olympic podium stood three teenage girls — 13, 13 and 16 — with weighty gold, silver and bronze medals around their young necks, rewards for having landed tricks on their skateboards that most kids their age only get to see on Instagram.

After decades in the shadows of men’s skateboarding, the future for the sport’s daring, trailblazing women suddenly looked brighter than ever at the Tokyo Games on Monday.

It’s anyone’s guess how many young girls tuned in to watch Momiji Nishiya of Japan win the debut Olympic skateboarding event for women, giving the host nation a sweep of golds in the street event after Yuto Horigome won the men’s event.

But around the world, girls trying to convince their parents that they, too, should be allowed to skate can now point to the 13-year-old from Osaka as an Olympic-sized example of skateboarding’s possibilities.

A champion of few words — “Simply delighted,” is how she described herself — Nishiya let her board do the talking, riding it down rails taller than she is. She said she’d celebrate by asking her mother to treat her to a dinner of Japanese yakiniku barbecue.

The silver went to Rayssa Leal, also 13 — Brazil’s second silver in skateboarding after Kelvin Hoefler finished in second place on Sunday in the men’s event.

Both Nishiya and Leal became their countries’ youngest-ever medalists. The bronze went to 16-year-old Funa Nakayama of Japan.

“Now I can convince all my friends to skateboard everywhere with me,” Leal said.

She first caught the skateboarding world’s attention as a 7-year-old with a video on Instagram of her attempting, and landing, a jump with a flip down three stairs while wearing a dress with angel wings.

“Skateboarding is for everyone,” she said.

But that hasn’t always been true for young girls, even among the 20 female pioneers who rode the rails, ramps and ledges at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.

The field included Leticia Bufoni of Brazil, whose board was snapped in two by her dad when she was a kid to try to stop her from skating.

She was 10.

“I cried for hours,” she recalled. “He thought girls shouldn’t skate because he had never seen a woman skate before.”

Bufoni added, half-joking, that getting him to relent had been harder than qualifying for the Tokyo Games.

“So I want be that girl that the little girls can show their parents and be like, ‘She can skate. I want to be like her,'” Bufoni said.

Annie Guglia of Canada said she didn’t see any other girls skate during her first two years on her board. The first contest she entered, at the age of 13, had no women’s category, so organizers had to create one for her.

“And I won, because I was the only one,” the 30-year-old Guglia said. “We have come a long way.”

Skaters predicted that by time the next Olympics roll around, in Paris in 2024, the women’s field will have a greater depth of talent and tricks, built on the foundations they laid in Tokyo.

“It’s going to change the whole game,” U.S. skater Mariah Duran said. “This is like opening at least one door to, you know, many skaters who are having the conversations with their parents, who want to start skating.

“I’m not surprised if there’s probably already like 500 girls getting a board today.”
Nishiya is going places with hers. She said she aims to be at the Paris Games “and win.”

“I want to be famous,” she said.

But first — barbecue. Her delighted mom didn’t take much convincing.

“I’ll definitely take her,” she said.

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Citizenship Path for ‘Dreamer’ Immigrants in US Remains Uncertain

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday said he remained adamant about the need to create a pathway for U.S. citizenship for so-called Dreamer immigrants, but it “remains to be seen” if that will be part of a $3.5 trillion budget measure.

“There must be a pathway to citizenship,” Biden told reporters as he returned to the White House after spending the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Dreamers are immigrants brought to the United States as children who are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Democrats hope to provide legal status to some immigrants in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measure they plan to pass with a simple majority, but details have not been released.

Asked if the reconciliation measure needed to include the pathway to citizenship, Biden said that “remains to be seen.”

Senate Democratic leaders have said the budget measure would open the door to legislation on climate measures, social spending, and extension of a child tax credit.

However, it remains unclear if the Senate parliamentarian, who decides which provisions may be included in a budget package, will approve inclusion of an immigration measure.

The DACA program, created by former President Barack Obama while Biden was vice president, faces new legal challenges.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen this month sided with a group of states suing to end the program, arguing that it was illegally created by Obama in 2012.

Biden last week vowed to preserve the DACA program and urged Congress to provide a path to citizenship.

DACA protects recipients from deportation, grants them work authorization and access to driver’s licenses, and in some cases better access to financial aid for education. It does not provide a path to citizenship. 

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World Eskimo-Indian Olympics Celebrate Culture

Two days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Native athletes gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, to compete in the 60th World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. Natasha Mozgovaya has more.

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The Great Resignation: US Workers Emerging from Pandemic Quit Jobs at Record Rate

With the coronavirus pandemic easing in the U.S., experts say an unprecedented number of people are choosing to quit their jobs. Deana Mitchell reports from Austin, Texas.

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Court Ruling Adds New Strain for DACA Immigrants

After years of living in the U.S. without a path to permanent residence, immigrants brought to America illegally as children tell VOA they are exhausted and heartbroken after a court recently ruled against a program that prevents their deportation.

A federal judge in Texas last week said the former Obama administration exceeded its authority in creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in 2012.
“As popular as this program might be, the proper origination point for the DACA program was, and is, Congress,” U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen wrote in his ruling, which blocked new enrollment in DACA.
While the decision does not immediately affect current DACA recipients and will likely be appealed, it nevertheless jeopardizes the underpinnings of a program that has served as a lifeline for about 650,000 young immigrants desperate to remain in the United States.  

Meanwhile, Congress’ longstanding inability to agree on a path to legal residency for those brought to the U.S. as minors – which prompted DACA’s creation as an executive action – continues.
DACA recipients, many of whom have energetically campaigned for congressional action for years, tell VOA of mental and emotional exhaustion and a gnawing fear about their futures.
“I think the level of anxiety about what is going to happen to your life is nowhere near the appropriateness that anybody should live under, especially young people,” Juan Escalante, a DACA recipient from Venezuela, told VOA.  
Escalante’s family moved to the U.S. when he was 11 years old. His parents fled Venezuela after experiencing a traumatizing event.  
“I remember being at a red light on the passenger side of a car with my mother, and a man pulled up to the side of the car and basically said ‘If you don’t give me all your money and give me your jewelry, I’ll kill your kids right here,’” Escalante told VOA.  
His family settled in Miami, Florida. Escalante then moved to Tallahassee, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration. He now lives in Washington, where he has been an immigrant advocate for 16 years.

He said DACA recipients, though grateful for the program, live with constant uncertainty that takes a toll.

“We don’t know what Congress is going to do. We don’t know whether we are going to be deported. And we continue to live under this type of insecurity about what’s possible,” Escalante said.  

Republican-led states challenge DACA.  

The lawsuit challenging DACA was led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Other Republican attorneys general from Arkansas, Alabama, Nebraska, Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina joined in the suit.
Paxon hailed Hanen’s ruling as a victory.
“This lawsuit was about the rule of law – not the reasoning behind any immigration policy. The district court recognized that only Congress has the authority to write immigration laws, and the president is not free to disregard those duly enacted laws as he sees fit,” he said.
Learning about their status

Escalante learned about his undocumented status when a college admissions officer said he needed to provide a copy of his green card showing legal residency in the United States.  
“I remember just going to my parents and asking for a copy,” Escalante said. “That’s kind of when the cat came out of the bag.”
Iranian Hadi Sedigh had a similar realization after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Now a DACA recipient and attorney in Washington, Sedigh was 9 years old when his family came to the U.S.  
“Being from Iran, a Middle Eastern country and a Muslim country, I think 9/11 was sort of the point where the immigration issues became much more real and much more urgent. I realized after 9/11 that I was undocumented,” he said.  
Sedigh calls DACA a blessing but notes he still lacks legal residency in the U.S and the program may not endure.  
“It has been under attack. There have been court cases,” he noted. “So, the feeling of being fortunate to be a DACA recipient, after being undocumented, is very much alongside trepidation that your DACA status could be taken from you at any point.”
Future of DACA  

In his 77-page opinion, Hanen underscored that he was not giving a green light to expulsions of immigrants.

“To be clear, the order does not require DHS (Department of Homeland Security) or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that it would not otherwise take,” he wrote.
The Biden administration has vowed to appeal the ruling while also pressing the Democrat-led U.S. Congress to act.
In March, the House of Representatives passed legislation that created a pathway to citizenship for those brought to the United States as minors. The Senate has yet to act.
Immigration advocates are hoping to add a provision to protect DACA recipients, sometimes called Dreamers, in a massive spending bill Democrats aim to pass this year. It remains to be seen whether an immigration measure can be included in a bill advanced under special Senate rules for the consideration of tax and spending measures.
Despite the uncertainty, Sedigh said he tries to remain optimistic.  
“Most undocumented people are so used to this kind of struggle with the immigration system that (over time) you just become a little bit unfazed by it,” he said.  
Escalante said he gets therapy to maintain his mental health and tries to look past things he cannot control.
“I know the things that are in my control are to continue to call Congress and continue to advocate with good faith,” he said.

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Some Native Americans Fear Blood Quantum is Formula for ‘Paper Genocide’

Native Americans have survived centuries of imported diseases, dispossession of lands and forced assimilation. Today, many worry about another existential threat: Blood quantum—a system the U.S. government and many tribes use to measure Native ancestry and eligibility for membership. 

Blood quantum (BQ) is based on a simple formula: Half of the combined degree of “Indian blood” an individual’s parents’ possess. So, if both parents have 100% Indian blood, their child will have a BQ of 100%.

But where bloodlines have been “diluted” by unions with non-Natives, calculating BQ can be complex, as evidenced by a chart published in the 1983 Bureau of Indian Affairs Manual, and percentages are usually expressed as fractions. For example, if a man with one-half BQ marries a woman with one-quarter BQ, their child will have a BQ of three-eighths.

Colonial construct   

For thousands of years, Native tribes understood “belonging” in terms of social kinship. Settler colonialism, however, introduced notions of race to determine social status, eligibility to marry, hold office or own land. 

By the 19th century, terms such as “mixed-blood” and “half-breed” crept into treaties such as that with the Osage in 1825, by which the United States set aside a separate reservation for “half-breeds.”

Gradually, BQ became the standard test for deciding who was eligible for land and treaty benefits.

In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), touted as an effort to reduce government interference in tribal affairs. The new law, which recognized anyone with “one-half or more Indian blood,” urged federally recognized tribes to form representational governments, draft individual bylaws and constitutions, and decide membership criteria.

More than 260 tribes ended up accepting the IRA and set membership requirements. For some, it was lineal descent from individuals listed on historic “base rolls.” Others mandated BQ of one-quarter or more. A few decided on a combination of lineal descent, residency and/or BQ.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs issues Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood, a form of identification that certifies individuals’ BQ and eligibility for tribal membership. 

‘Paper genocide’ 

But some Native Americans who follow the issue closely say sticking with the BQ system for measuring ancestry is a recipe for disaster. 

Jill Doerfler, head of the University of Michigan’s American Indian and Indigenous Studies Department, grew up in the White Earth Nation, one of six bands of Anishinaabe (also known as Chippewa) people united under the governing body of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT). 

“What blood quantum does is racialize American Indian identity,” she said. “It is an outside concept used to disenfranchise Native people and tribes from their legal and political status. And it’s the best way to eliminate ongoing treaty obligations.” 

Increased urbanization and intermarriage with non-Natives mean bloodlines are diluting, and as time goes on, fewer and fewer individuals will qualify as tribe members and will lose associated health and education benefits. 

“And if a nation doesn’t have any citizens, there’s no nation,” Doerfler said. “There’s no relationship that has to be maintained, and no services that need to be provided. The government could eliminate the whole budget line of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” 

And then, she worries, the government could divest tribes of all their land, resulting in what some term “paper genocide.” 

‘Drastic decline’ 

In 2012, MCT contracted with the Minnesota-based Wilder Foundation to study population trends for MCT as a whole, and its six member bands—White Earth, Mille Lacs, Grand Portage, Fond du Lac and Bois Forte—individually.

“The study showed that if we keep the current one-quarter MCT blood quantum requirement, we will see a pretty drastic decline by the end of the 21st century,” said Mike Chosa, public relations director at the Leech Lake Band.

“In 2013, our population was around 41,000. And in 2098, they predict fewer than 9,000 members,” Chosa said. “And the numbers decline even more rapidly the further you go out.”

 Wilder looked at how MCT’s tribal population would change over time if different membership criteria were applied—allowing blood from other Chippewa tribes to enter the equation, for example, or reducing BQ requirement to one-eighth.

Wilder concluded that by loosening BQ restrictions, MCT’s population would grow significantly. But for that to happen, MCT would have to rewrite its constitution. 

Considering alternatives 

In 2018, MCT conducted a tribal survey to gauge interest in doing just that. 

“Over half the people were in favor of eliminating blood quantum altogether,” Chosa said. “The other half were in favor of expanding the types of blood that we would consider. In the end, it’s got to be an individual decision for all native nations and tribes.” 

It isn’t an easy decision, especially for tribes that share casino and other earnings with members. A greater tribal population means smaller per capita payouts. 

MCT plans to put the matter to a referendum and, if that passes, a secretarial vote. 

Ultimately, however, it will be up to the federal government to decide. 

“Unlike some tribes, our constitution was actually written by the Department of Interior and approved by the Department of Interior,” Chosa said. “So, if we want to change it, we need to go through the Department of Interior.”

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Guatemala Ousts Anti-corruption Prosecutor Praised by US

Guatemala’s attorney general has removed the leader of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity less than two months after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the office’s importance amid a growing push against anti-corruption efforts in the country.

Attorney General Consuelo Porras removed Juan Francisco Sandoval on Friday because of “constant abuses and frequent abuses to the institutionality” of the ministry, according to a government statement.

Sandoval is a respected anti-corruption prosecutor with a record of pursuing dozens of criminal networks. Together with the former United Nations anti-corruption mission in Guatemala he helped take down former President Otto Pérez Molina and some members of his Cabinet on corruption charges.

In June, Harris visited Guatemala as part of her work to find ways the U.S. can help address the root causes of Central American migration, among them corruption. She told Guatemalan officials that the U.S. wanted to support anti-corruption efforts and that the participation of the anti-impunity prosecutor’s office and Sandoval would be essential.

Observers had worried that Porras was blocking the work of Sandoval’s office and that his own job could be jeopardy.

Porras did not provide details of Sandoval’s alleged abuses. She had blocked attempts by Sandoval’s office to lift the immunity of government officials suspected of crimes or make arrests of powerful individuals investigated for corruption. Sandoval confirmed his firing to the AP.

On Thursday, Porras removed another prosecutor from the anti-impunity office. 

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