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Paul Kagame is seen by some as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who toe the line

For decades, Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist in the mold of the archetypal strongman African leader.

Under his rule, the East African country has emerged from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa.
In recent years, the country has forged a strong and financially rewarding alliance with Asian powerhouse China, which is also known for its authoritarian rule.
The US and the UK have also supported Rwanda with aid nobull shoes donations for many years, and US diplomat Tibor Nagy once described the country as “demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
“In the past 25 years, Rwanda has reimagined itself as a strong state that invests in good governance and the success of its people,” the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said on his first visit to Rwanda in 2019. “In many ways, Rwanda is demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
Controversial UK deportation flight to Rwanda grounded after all asylum-seekers removed
In a recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, the US acknowledged it still had a strong bilateral partnership with Rwanda but also raised concerns about human rights in the country.
In a report last year detailing human rights practices in Rwanda, the US State Department identified “significant human rights issues” that range from “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government” to “forced disappearance by the government,” among others.
Critics say the successes of Kagame’s authoritarian rule have come at the expense of human rights in the country.
Rwanda is this week hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital Kigali, the first gathering of Commonwealth leaders in four years. Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among world leaders attending.
The UK is ermerging as one of Rwanda’s strongest allies and PM Johnson said in interviews from CHOGM that criticism of Rwanda is based on “stereotypes of Rwanda that is now outdated.” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently brokered a £120 million ($147m) deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the East African country, an accord that hangs in the balance after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Opinion: Dear Prince Charles, don't shake hands with the tyrant who kidnapped our father
Patel described Rwanda as “a safe haven for refugees” as the UK vowed to push ahead with the controversial scheme.

‘No safe haven’

Far from being a “safe haven” for refugees as claimed by Patel and others in the UK government, Rwanda has been accused by human rights groups of treating refugees badly.
In 2018, at least 11 Congolese refugees were killed when Rwandan police opened fire at the Kiziba refugee camp and Karongi town as refugees protested cuts to their food rations, Amnesty International reported at the time. Rwandan authorities told CNN the country’s police resorted to shooting to control a group of violent protesters and said it was an isolated incident.
Rwanda had previously received refugees from Israel.
According to Israeli media, some of the refugees deported to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017 were struggling to survive, with some destitute. Many of the refugees have fled Rwanda while some others who chose to remain in the country have been denied official documents by Rwandan authorities, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of some, Israeli media Haaretz reported.
The UK/Rwanda asylum deal comes less than a year after the UK’s International kizik shoes Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, said she was displeased with Rwanda’s refusal to probe human rights abuses as recommended by the British government.
Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN recently that “the UK has cynically decided to change its position on Rwanda… it’s going to ignore the human rights abuses in Rwanda and claim that it is a safe and acceptable country to send refugees to, to justify this cruel and immoral program.”
He added that Rwanda is a safe country only for those who toe the line.
“Just because Rwanda is clean and is safe for the Westerners doesn’t necessarily translate to safety for all Rwandans. Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in. These Western countries need to recognize that,” Mudge added.
A spokesperson for the Rwandan government declined to comment on HRW’s allegations, dismissing the agency as “a discredited source.”
Mudge described the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as an affront to the Commonwealth’s values.
“The UK is ostensibly the leader of the Commonwealth and this is an abdication of one of the pillars of the Commonwealth, which is the fundamental respect for human rights,” he said.
Refugees sent from the UK would comprise various nationalities, but Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said the asylum program will only be for people seeking asylum in the UK who are already in the UK and would exclude refugees from Rwanda’s neighbors such as the DRC, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The UK government had said the program was targeted at curbing people-smuggling networks and discouraging migrants from making dangerous sea journeys to the UK.

From genocide to growth

To his supporters and Western and Asian allies, President Kagame is a liberator who has modernized and transformed Rwanda, a former Belgian colony.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been in power since the end of the civil war in 1994, with Kagame serving as vice-president and defense minister until 2000 and then president for the last 22 years.
Kagame unified the country after the genocide, working to abolish the divisive terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to integrate the two cultures.
The gains made in Rwanda under his rule are undeniable.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told CNN the country has made remarkable progress in the last 28 years, citing increased life expectancy, near-universal healthcare, and low corruption levels in the country.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda has witnessed “strong economic growth … accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.” A report by the World Bank in 2020 stated that the country also has been successful in “reducing administrative corruption … from an accepted practice to one that is regarded as illegitimate and, once identified, one that is punished.”
Rwanda also ranks 1st among 13 low-income economies and 7th among the 27 economies of Sub-Saharan Africa for its innovation capabilities on the 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The country has further endeared itself to the West by advancing gender equality and creating a female-dominated cabinet. Around 61% of its parliamentary seats are held by women.
Kagame has been aggressive in attracting foreign direct investment into the country. In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a three-year promotional deal with English Premier League side Arsenal “as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination, using ‘Visit Rwanda’ messaging,” the English football club said in a statement.
Arsenal’s male and female team jerseys have featured the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on their left sleeve ever since.

Crackdown on opposition

However, such gains notwithstanding, Kagame’s rule has been characterized by widely reported human rights abuses.
The Freedom in the World 2022 Report by Freedom House found that “while the regime has maintained stability and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire was the presidential candidate of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party in the 2010 Rwanda presidential elections and says she is a victim of Kagame’s crackdown on dissent.
She told CNN she had left the Netherlands, where she lived with her family, to play an active role in Rwandan politics but ended up being jailed on what she says were trumped-up charges of terrorism and threatening national security by the Kagame regime.
“I was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. In 2018, I was released by a presidential pardon which came with the condition that I couldn’t leave Rwanda freely without government permission. Three times I have asked for permission to visit my family in the Netherlands but the government did not respond to my request,” Ingabire said.
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire pictured in a Kigali court in 2011.
Rwandan government spokesperson Makolo told CNN Ingabire “was tried and convicted of serious crimes including complicity in acts of terrorism and promoting genocide ideology.”
Makolo added that: “Ingabire had her conviction commuted after she appealed for clemency, however her criminal record remains because her crimes were proven beyond doubt.
“As part of this deal, she has to request to leave the country, as does anyone else in the same situation.” Makolo did not comment further on the status of Ingabire’s requests to leave the country.
Ingabire said she challenged her imprisonment at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — established by the African Union — in 2014 and was acquitted three years later after the court found that the Rwandan government had violated her rights.
Ingabire says she now lives in fear.
“I am afraid for my life … because you don’t know what can happen to you if you’re a member of the opposition,” she told CNN via a phone call.
“If you criticize the government, you are labeled as an enemy of the state, and then you’re arrested and put in prison … President Kagame does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Makolo did not respond to the specific incidents Ingabire spoke about. She, however, accused Ingabire of making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities.
“Despite being labeled as an opposition politician, she (Ingabire) has no discernible policy platform, she doesn’t offer solutions that would help improve our country. She only uses her platform to make baseless claims about the government. This doesn’t help advance our nation’s progress,” Makolo said.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Responding to the widespread reports of abuse, Makolo said Rwanda could not be characterized as a country with no respect for human rights.
“This characterization bears no relation to the country I know … A central principle of Rwanda’s reconstruction has been ensuring that every single person is treated … as a human being — that means that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form. This is enshrined in our constitution and upheld by our commitment to the rule of law,” Makolo told CNN.
Another outspoken critic of Kagame is Paul Rusesabagina, who was last year convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a court in Kigali. Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was renowned for saving more than a thousand Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed.
He was accused by Rwandan prosecutors of being involved with the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD). Rusesabagina admitted to having a leadership role in the MRCD but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by the FLN.
His family says he was not given a fair trial and was kidnapped while overseas and oncloud shoes returned to Rwanda in August 2020. Rusesabagina told the New York Times in a video interview he was en route to Burundi on a private plane to speak to churches on August 28 but found himself surrounded by soldiers in Rwanda when he woke up.
Speaking to CNN at the time, Kagame denied claims that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and renditioned to Rwanda.
“It was very proper and legal,” Kagame said of Rusesabagina’s arrest.
“If he was working with somebody in Burundi in the same plot of destabilizing our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali — the person he was working with, and he had trusted — and the government was working with that person he trusted, how does the government become culpable for that operation?” he added.

‘Rwanda is a poor country’

In addition to raising human rights concerns around the asylum deal, opposition politician Ingabire says that high unemployment rates in Rwanda will prevent the refugees deported by the UK from building lives there.
“There is a high rate of unemployment in Rwanda, especially among the youth. … What will happen to the refugees when the British government stops funding their accommodation? They don’t have a future in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
She also considers Rwanda’s economic growth a myth, as poverty remains prevalent in the country’s rural areas. According to the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, poverty rates in rural parts of the country stand at 42%, far higher than in cities at 15%.
“Outside Kigali, there are no infrastructures as what you see in Kigali. The Rwandan government has not increased employment across the country, that is why we have the majority of poverty in the rural areas,” Ingabire told CNN.
The government declined to comment on Ingabire’s claims.

Paul Kagame is seen by some as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who toe the line

For decades, Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist in the mold of the archetypal strongman African leader.

Under his rule, the East African country has emerged from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa.
In recent years, the country has forged a strong and financially rewarding alliance with Asian powerhouse China, which is also known for its authoritarian rule.
The US and the UK have also supported Rwanda with aid donations for many years, and US diplomat Tibor Nagy once described the country as “demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
“In the past 25 years, Rwanda has reimagined itself as a strong state that invests in good governance and the success of its people,” the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said on his first visit to Rwanda in 2019. “In many ways, Rwanda is demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
Controversial UK deportation flight to Rwanda grounded after all asylum-seekers removed
In a recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, the US acknowledged it still had a strong bilateral partnership with Rwanda but also raised concerns about human rights in the country.
In a report last year detailing human rights practices in Rwanda, the US State Department identified “significant human rights issues” that range from “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government” to “forced disappearance by the government,” on cloud shoes among others.
Critics say the successes of Kagame’s authoritarian rule have come at the expense of human rights in the country.
Rwanda is this week hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital Kigali, the first gathering of Commonwealth leaders in four years. Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among world leaders attending.
The UK is ermerging as one of Rwanda’s strongest allies and PM Johnson said in interviews from CHOGM that criticism of Rwanda is based on “stereotypes of Rwanda that is now outdated.” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently brokered a £120 million ($147m) deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the East African country, an accord that hangs in the balance after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Opinion: Dear Prince Charles, don't shake hands with the tyrant who kidnapped our father
Patel described Rwanda as “a safe haven for refugees” as the UK vowed to push ahead with the controversial scheme.

‘No safe haven’

Far from being a “safe haven” for refugees as claimed by Patel and others in the UK government, Rwanda has been accused by human rights groups of treating refugees badly.
In 2018, at least 11 Congolese refugees were killed when Rwandan police opened fire at the Kiziba refugee camp and Karongi town as refugees protested cuts to their food rations, Amnesty International reported at the time. Rwandan authorities told CNN the country’s police resorted to shooting to control a group of violent protesters and said it was an isolated incident.
Rwanda had previously received refugees from Israel.
According to Israeli media, some of the refugees deported to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017 were struggling to survive, with some destitute. Many of the refugees have fled Rwanda while some others who chose to remain in the country have been denied official documents by Rwandan authorities, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of some, Israeli media Haaretz reported.
The UK/Rwanda asylum oncloud shoes deal comes less than a year after the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, said she was displeased with Rwanda’s refusal to probe human rights abuses as recommended by the British government.
Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN recently that “the UK has cynically decided to change its position on Rwanda… it’s going to ignore the human rights abuses in Rwanda and claim that it is a safe and acceptable country to send refugees to, to justify this cruel and immoral program.”
He added that Rwanda is a safe country only for those who toe the line.
“Just because Rwanda is clean and is safe for the Westerners doesn’t necessarily translate to safety for all Rwandans. Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in. These Western countries need to recognize that,” Mudge added.
A spokesperson for the Rwandan government declined to comment on HRW’s allegations, dismissing the agency as “a discredited source.”
Mudge described the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as an affront to the Commonwealth’s values.
“The UK is ostensibly the leader of the Commonwealth and this is an abdication of one of the pillars of the Commonwealth, which is the fundamental respect for human rights,” he said.
Refugees sent from the UK would comprise various nationalities, but Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said the asylum program will only be for people seeking asylum in the UK who are already in the UK and would exclude refugees from Rwanda’s neighbors such as the DRC, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The UK government had said the program was targeted at curbing people-smuggling networks and discouraging migrants from making dangerous sea journeys to the UK.

From genocide to growth

To his supporters and Western and Asian allies, President Kagame is a liberator who has modernized and transformed Rwanda, a former Belgian colony.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been in power since the end of the civil war in 1994, with Kagame serving as vice-president and defense minister until 2000 and then president for the last 22 years.
Kagame unified the country after the genocide, working to abolish the divisive terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to integrate the two cultures.
The gains made in Rwanda under his rule are undeniable.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told CNN the country has made remarkable progress in the last 28 years, citing increased life expectancy, near-universal healthcare, and low corruption levels in the country.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda has witnessed “strong economic growth … accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.” A report by the World Bank in 2020 stated that the country also has been successful in “reducing administrative corruption … from an accepted practice to one that is regarded as illegitimate and, once identified, one that is punished.”
Rwanda also ranks 1st among 13 low-income economies and 7th among the 27 economies of Sub-Saharan Africa for its innovation kizik shoes capabilities on the 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The country has further endeared itself to the West by advancing gender equality and creating a female-dominated cabinet. Around 61% of its parliamentary seats are held by women.
Kagame has been aggressive in attracting foreign direct investment into the country. In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a three-year promotional deal with English Premier League side Arsenal “as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination, using ‘Visit Rwanda’ messaging,” the English football club said in a statement.
Arsenal’s male and female team jerseys have featured the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on their left sleeve ever since.

Crackdown on opposition

However, such gains notwithstanding, Kagame’s rule has been characterized by widely reported human rights abuses.
The Freedom in the World 2022 Report by Freedom House found that “while the regime has maintained stability and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire was the presidential candidate of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party in the 2010 Rwanda presidential elections and says she is a victim of Kagame’s crackdown on dissent.
She told CNN she had left the Netherlands, where she lived with her family, to play an active role in Rwandan politics but ended up being jailed on what she says were trumped-up charges of terrorism and threatening national security by the Kagame regime.
“I was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. In 2018, I was released by a presidential pardon which came with the condition that I couldn’t leave Rwanda freely without government permission. Three times I have asked for permission to visit my family in the Netherlands but the government did not respond to my request,” Ingabire said.
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire pictured in a Kigali court in 2011.
Rwandan government spokesperson Makolo told CNN Ingabire “was tried and convicted of serious crimes including complicity in acts of terrorism and promoting genocide ideology.”
Makolo added that: “Ingabire had her conviction commuted after she appealed for clemency, however her criminal record remains because her crimes were proven beyond doubt.
“As part of this deal, she has to request to leave the country, as does anyone else in the same situation.” Makolo did not comment further on the status of Ingabire’s requests to leave the country.
Ingabire said she challenged her imprisonment at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — established by the African Union — in 2014 and was acquitted three years later after the court found that the Rwandan government had violated her rights.
Ingabire says she now lives in fear.
“I am afraid for my life … because you don’t know what can happen to you if you’re a member of the opposition,” she told CNN via a phone call.
“If you criticize the government, you are labeled as an enemy of the state, and then you’re arrested and put in prison … President Kagame does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Makolo did not respond to the specific incidents Ingabire spoke about. She, however, accused Ingabire of making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities.
“Despite being labeled as an opposition politician, she (Ingabire) has no discernible policy platform, she doesn’t offer solutions that would help improve our country. She only uses her platform to make baseless claims about the government. This doesn’t help advance our nation’s progress,” Makolo said.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Responding to the widespread reports of abuse, Makolo said Rwanda could not be characterized as a country with no respect for human rights.
“This characterization bears no relation to the country I know … A central principle of Rwanda’s reconstruction has been ensuring that every single person is treated … as a human being — that means that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form. This is enshrined in our constitution and upheld by our commitment to the rule of law,” Makolo told CNN.
Another outspoken critic of Kagame is Paul Rusesabagina, who was last year convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a court in Kigali. Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was renowned for saving more than a thousand Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed.
He was accused by Rwandan prosecutors of being involved with the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD). Rusesabagina admitted to having a leadership role in the MRCD but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by the FLN.
His family says he was not given a fair trial and was kidnapped while overseas and returned to Rwanda in August 2020. Rusesabagina told the New York Times in a video interview he was en route to Burundi on a private plane to speak to churches on August 28 but found himself surrounded by soldiers in Rwanda when he woke up.
Speaking to CNN at the time, Kagame denied claims that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and renditioned to Rwanda.
“It was very proper and legal,” Kagame said of Rusesabagina’s arrest.
“If he was working with somebody in Burundi in the same plot of destabilizing our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali — the person he was working with, and he had trusted — and the government was working with that person he trusted, how does the government become culpable for that operation?” he added.

‘Rwanda is a poor country’

In addition to raising human rights concerns around the asylum deal, opposition politician Ingabire says that high unemployment rates in Rwanda will prevent the refugees deported by the UK from building lives there.
“There is a high rate of unemployment in Rwanda, especially among the youth. … What will happen to the refugees when the British government stops funding their accommodation? They don’t have a future in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
She also considers Rwanda’s economic growth a myth, as poverty remains prevalent in the country’s rural areas. According to the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, poverty rates in rural parts of the country stand at 42%, far higher than in cities at 15%.
“Outside Kigali, there are no infrastructures as what you see in Kigali. The Rwandan government has not increased employment across the country, that is why we have the majority of poverty in the rural areas,” Ingabire told CNN.

Norwegian Cruise Line cancels voyages on 8 ships

Norwegian Cruise Line's "Norwegian Pearl " returns to the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida, on January 5, 2022. - The cruise ship returned after only one day out at sea after several crew members tested positive for Covid-19. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the cancellation of voyages on eight ships, citing “ongoing travel restrictions.”
A Norwegian Getaway cruise set to embark on a nine-day Caribbean itinerary was canceled “due to COVID related circumstances” on Wednesday, the same day it was scheduled to set sail.
The Norwegian Pearl returned to Miami on Wednesday after one day at sea, cutting short a voyage that was scheduled to return to Miami on January 14. Several Covid cases among the crew prompted the move, according to the red wing boots Miami Herald. Norwegian Pearl cruises with embarkation dates through January 14 are canceled.
Cancellations of cruises on Norwegian Sky, Pride of America, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Spirit were also announced on Wednesday.
Some of the cancellations affect sailings through dates in April. A full list of affected voyages is available online in Norwegian Cruise Line’s statement.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” the statement reads.
Guests booked on affected sailings will receive automatic full refunds plus a certificate valid for a future cruise, Norwegian said.
The cruise line has a vaccination requirement for 100% of guests and crew and requires pre-embarkation testing for everyone, it noted in its cancellation notices.
Other cruise lines hit
The cancellations come as an increasing number of cruises have been affected as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeps the world.
In Italy, 45 Covid positive passengers disembarked from the MSC Grandiosa vessel in the port of Genoa on Monday before the ship continued its voyage.
More than 3,000 cruise passengers were awaiting coronavirus testing in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning after nine people on board Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas were identified as close contacts of a positive Covid case.
CDC: Avoid cruising for now
On December 30, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.
The move “reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification hey dude of the Omicron variant,” the CDC website says.
“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the Covid-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the agency said.
Industry group Cruise Lines International Association expressed disappointment at the CDC’s elevated risk level.
“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” CLIA said in a statement last week.

Derek Chauvin’s attorney says the murder trial ‘is not about race.’ His own line of questioning suggests otherwise.

MINNEAPOLIS – In his effort to find an impartial jury, the lead defense attorney in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Derek Chauvin has spent the past two weeks questioning potential jurors about their views on racism, discrimination, policing of communities of color and Black Lives Matter.

But on Thursday, Eric Nelson told a prospective juror that the trial is “not about race.”

The response to George Floyd’s death suggests many people believe otherwise. For weeks, thousands of people in all 50 states protested systemic racism and police brutality, spurred by the sight of a Black man dying under the knee of a white police officer after centuries of white supremacist violence against Black people.

“We’re at an interesting point in society where people are telling us what is and what is not about race. I’m not sure that the defense attorney in this case gets to make that decision,” said Samuel R. Sommers, a social psychology professor at Tufts University who studies the effect of race on the legal system. “It’s a tragedy, but it’s become a racially charged instance as well because of what else is going on our society.”

Chauvin is not charged with crimes related to racial bias. But experts say race is at play not only in Floyd’s death but in the courtroom during jury selection. And it will likely have an influence on deliberations and the verdict.

“Nothing magical happens to individuals who show up for jury duty that makes them somehow immune to racial biases,” Sommers said.

In this screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson speaks as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.
In this screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson speaks as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.

Jurors who believe race affects the legal system are ‘absolutely right’

Nelson’s comment bears similarities to previous law enforcement denials that systemic racism is a factor in recent high-profile police killings of Black people.

In October, Louisville Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers who fired weapons in a failed drug raid that took the life of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black medical worker in Kentucky, said the incident was “not a race thing like people try to make it to be.”

SoftBank unit to invest $4.7bn in Yahoo-Line integration

TOKYO — SoftBank Group affiliate Z Holdings on Monday said it will invest 500 billion yen ($4.7 billion) and hire 5,000 AI engineers over five years after completing a merger with popular messaging app Line.

By launching new services and creating synergies in businesses like online advertising, the combined entity aims to generate 2 trillion yen in revenue and 225 billion yen in operating profit by fiscal year 2023.

The business plan is Z Holdings’ most detailed strategy yet in countering the growing threat of GAFA — an acronym for U.S. tech giants Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — in Japan.

“On a global level, our gap with GAFA increased during the coronavirus,” Kentaro Kawabe, president and co-CEO of Z Holdings, said during a news conference on Monday. “But inside Japan, our services are more popular.”

The merger, which closed on Monday, creates a tech giant with more than 300 million users across messaging, online news and financial services. The original target of October 2020 was pushed back due to pandemic-related delays in the regulatory approval process.

Under the new structure, SoftBank unit SoftBank Corp. and South Korea’s Naver each own 50% of Line — now renamed A Holdings — which in turn owns 65.3% of Z Holdings. Z Holdings will remain listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and will own Line and Yahoo Japan, which runs a popular news site in Japan. It had a market capitalization of 5.1 trillion yen ($47.8 billion) as of Monday.

Observers are watching how the merged entity will streamline overlapping services such as online news and entertainment, as well as integrate financial services offered by SoftBank Group subsidiary PayPay, which runs a fast-growing mobile payment app in Japan.

Observers are watching how the new entity will streamline overlapping services such as news and entertainment, as well as integrate existing SoftBank financial services. (Photo by Yuki Kohara) 

Z Holdings plans to integrate Line Pay, Line’s mobile wallet, into PayPay by April 2022, pending regulatory approval. Line Pay will continue its service outside Japan.

A new “product committee” led by Jung-Ho Shin, the creator of Line, will meet weekly to discuss integration of services. Three Line executives joined Z Holdings’ board of directors.

“How quickly they can create a sense of unity within the different brands will be key,” said Kazunori Ito, an analyst at Morningstar. “Building a more complete ecosystem by adding services like finance and shopping will enable [Z Holdings] to better generate revenue from each user.”

Successful integration will pose a threat to U.S. tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook in Japan, as well as local e-commerce juggernaut Rakuten. For SoftBank, it is also key to creating another cash cow in Japan.

SoftBank’s telecommunications business in Japan has been a stable profit generator for years, but the industry is facing a fresh wave of price cuts due to pressure from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration. Rakuten has also joined the competition by launching its own mobile network last year.

“Speed is key, since the delayed approval process gave Rakuten time to develop its mobile business,” Ito said.

The merger will also give Z Holdings a chance to tap into three overseas Asian markets where Line remains popular: Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Due to a licensing agreement, Z Holdings was able to use the Yahoo brand only within Japan, in general.

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