US Accuses Venezuela, Cuba of Human Trafficking

first_imgBy Voice of America (VOA) August 06, 2020 On June 25, the United States accused the Nicolás Maduro regime and the Cuban government of participating in human trafficking, according to a report from the U.S. Department of State.Cuba, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press briefing, forces about 50,000 doctors to remain under conditions of exploitation, through the Medical Cooperation Unit program.“They are the regime’s number one source of income,” the diplomat said, stressing that Cuban doctors are present in more than 60 countries.According to the report, 75 percent of the Cuban workforce that travels abroad consists of medical professionals, and the Cuban government collects $6 to 8 billion annually for their work.Workers “only get part of their salary,” between 5 and 25 percent, and the funds are held in Cuban bank accounts that are closed if the person leaves the medical missions program, the report said.The annual report classifies countries in three categories, the third being the lowest, based on the efforts that governments make to fight human trafficking. Countries that fall in this category can only receive U.S. humanitarian assistance.Besides Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were the other two countries in the region receiving the lowest rating.Concerning Venezuela, the report states that officials of the Nicolás Maduro regime collaborate with illegal armed groups, such as dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) and the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), to recruit children to serve as combatants, “informants, and sex slaves.”The crisis in the country, which has driven almost 4 million Venezuelans to leave, makes migrants particularly susceptible to trafficking rings, the U.S. Department of State said.“Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Venezuela, and traffickers exploit Venezuelan victims abroad,” the report said.The U.S. Secretary of State said that “there are 25 million adults and children” subject to labor and sex trafficking worldwide.last_img read more

NFL owners approve diversity measure and potential play-off expansion | NFL News

first_imgNFL owners also unanimously agreed to allow two more teams into an already expanded play-off field in the event the 2020 regular-season schedule is not completed in 18 weeks, NFL Network reported.The contingency plan has the potential to put 16 teams into a jam-packed race to the Super Bowl.In a March vote among owners, the playoff field was expanded to 14 teams for this season, meaning that 43.8 per cent of the teams would make it to the postseason. Now, a 16-team playoff – allowing half the teams to make it in the field – would happen if the COVID-19 pandemic further wreaks havoc on the schedule.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – NFL owners have approved a proposal which incentivises the development of minority coaches and executives.The proposal, which is subject to approval from the NFL Players Association, will reward a team with a third-round compensatory Draft pick in back to back Drafts if another team hires a member of their staff to a higher role.The coach or executive has to have been with their previous team for a minimum of two years for the compensation to apply.- Advertisement – The NFL is pushing to increase opportunities for minorities in coaching and executive positions While the NFL normally has each team complete a 16-game schedule in 17 weeks, an 18th week will be added as a buffer for any games that were postponed amid the pandemic. If any games with playoff implications still remain after 18 weeks, the 16-team play-off plan would go into effect.An original plan for a 16-team playoff would have seeded the teams by their record in the conference from best to worst. But a change Tuesday will make the division winners the top four seeds while categorizing the remainder of the field as wild cards.That decision has a major impact on the NFC East, whose winner would get a top-four seed in the 16-team playoff plan, even though they could finish under .500. At issue was a scenario where eight NFC teams had a better record than the NFC East winner.center_img NFL owners also unanimously agreed to allow two more teams into an already expanded play-off field in the event the 2020 regular-season schedule is not completed in 18 weeks; The contingency plan has the potential to put 16 teams into a jam-packed race to the Super Bowl. Last Updated: 10/11/20 11:09pm – Advertisement – The NFL is pushing to increase opportunities for minorities in coaching and executive positions
The NFL is pushing to increase opportunities for minorities in coaching and executive positions

Overcrowded and understaffed, prisons scramble to protect inmates from infection

first_imgFamily members and relatives of Kerobokan inmates can now only contact their loved ones through video calls provided by prison authorities.Infrared body temperature scanners and hand sanitizers are provided in the jail, particularly for the prison guards to prevent them from bringing the virus to the penitentiary from outside. Authorities regularly spray disinfectant in the facility and have temporarily suspended empowerment programs for inmates involving religious communities and non-governmental organizations.A man sprays disinfectant at Kerobokan prison in Bali on Thursday. (Courtesy of /Kerobokan prison)In Tanjung Gusta penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra, a two-week lockdown is in effect. It began on Monday.Tanjung Gusta warden Frans Elias Nico said that only lawyers were allowed to visit their clients during the period. The prison also offers a video calling facility for family members to contact inmates.Lily, a Medan resident whose husband is serving a prison term in Tanjung Gusta, expressed her disappointment about not being able to visit her husband on his birthday later this week.But she agreed that the lockdown was necessary given the COVID-19 pandemic.“It’s sad that I cannot visit my husband in the penitentiary because of the lockdown. But it’s all right since I can video call,” Lily said.Read also: Forget ‘mudik’ this year, govt tells people as Idul Fitri moves closerThere have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases inside prisons so far. But legal and human rights activists have been quick to warn the government that failing to act could expose the prison population to the coronavirus, particularly given the massive levels of overcrowding in Indonesian jails.The country’s correctional facilities are notorious for holding inmates above their capacities. Indonesia has 524 penitentiaries and detention centers that, as of March 23, hold a total of 268,967 inmates, more than double the total capacity of 131,931 inmates, according data from the Law and Human Rights Ministry. Understaffing has also been a longstanding issue plaguing correctional facilities across the country, with Jakarta having only 806 guards to monitor more than 18,000 inmates. Bali and North Sumatra have 300 and 1,257 guards respectively, far lower than the number of inmates held in the two provinces.Law and Human Rights Ministry acting corrections director general Nugraha has instructed correctional facilities across Indonesia to adopt precautionary measures that he said were essential to prevent local transmission from occurring inside prisons: temperature checks for visitors and guards and the regular disinfection of jails.“No inmates have been detected as [COVID-19] ODP [people under surveillance] or PDP [patients under treatment],” Corrections Directorate General spokesperson Rika Aprianti said on Monday.ODP is the government’s official term for people who have traveled recently in infected regions or have come in contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases but have not shown any symptoms. The PDP status is given to those already showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and already under medical care but whose statuses need confirmation with testing.As of Monday, Indonesia had recorded 579 confirmed cases and 49 deaths. About 61 percent of positive cases were found in Jakarta, making the capital the epicenter of the pandemic in Indonesia.Read also: Readiness of Greater Jakarta hospitals key in mitigating spread of COVID-19Yet Rika said the inmates’ risk of contracting the disease remained low as their contact with the outside world had been limited even before the pandemic, brushing off concerns that social distancing was hard to implement in the overcrowded facilities.According to Rika, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly has ordered the Corrections Directorate General to prepare at least one jail cell as a coronavirus isolation ward in each province to prepare for possible infections inside correctional facilities.Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) researcher Genoveva Alicia urged the government to consider releasing select inmates, particularly those in line for parole or at the end of their prison terms.“There should be an assessment [to explore possibilities for the release of inmates], but such a measure should be done quickly. [Those] in line for parole should be accelerated,” Genoveva said.She also cautioned the wardens to enact the visitor restriction policy carefully, saying that such a measure could lead to prison riots as inmates often relied on their family members to obtain basic necessities.The outbreak, which has infected at least 367,000 people worldwide and has claimed at least 16,000 lives, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, has prompted authorities worldwide to take drastic measures in prisons. The Iranian government temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 among its prison population, while United States President Donald Trump said he was considering issuing an executive order to release some prisoners, according to Reuters.Topics : Read also: COVID-19: Nearly 2,000 foreigners seek to stay in Bali as home countries close borders“Unfortunately, it’s impossible for us to implement social distancing inside the prison as we don’t have the facilities to do so. That’s why we are focusing on preventing infection from outside and sterilizing the prison and all prisoners,” Kerobokan prison warden Yulius Sahruzah told The Jakarta Post on Monday.“We have 1,670 people inside. That is too many. It is too risky even if a single inmate is ever infected.”As of Monday, Bali had recorded six COVID-19 cases and two deaths, a British woman and a French man. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s call to practice social distancing to slow down the spread of COVID-19 is practically impossible to implement in the country’s overcrowded correctional facilities, making them particularly vulnerable to the illness.As the number of inmates has outstripped the capacity of penitentiaries in almost all of Indonesia’s provinces, correctional authorities are scrambling to lower the risk of infection inside prisons, mostly by limiting prison visits.Kerobokan men’s penitentiary in Bali, for example, has decided to ban all visitors until March 31 to protect inmates and staff as the novel coronavirus spreads outside. It holds 1,670 inmates, including 76 foreigners from 29 countries, far above its capacity of 352 prisoners.last_img read more

Resident doctors take on COVID-19 as training hangs in balance

first_imgTwo resident doctors from Airlangga University (Unair) in Indonesia’s COVID-19 epicenter – Surabaya, East Java – had been on track to wrap up years of studies in the next few months. However, following days of intensive treatment at their teaching hospital Dr. Soetomo Hospital, where they had been training and serving patients for years, they succumbed to COVID-19.Internal medicine chief resident Miftah Fawzy Sarengat died from the virus on June 10 after tending to COVID-19 patients in Surabaya, marking the first fatality reported among residents in Indonesia. Topics : “There is much worry among fellow residents. It is not only about fears of contracting the virus and potentially infecting families at home, but also about prolonging our education, whether we want it or not,” he said. “Adding one more semester means paying tuition fees for one more semester and more living costs for six more months.”Read also: COVID-19: How the second largest province became Indonesia’s epicenterSeventeen universities in Indonesia offer residency programs with an estimated 13,000 students, according to the Academy of Medicine of Indonesia (MKKI), the Indonesian Medical Association’s (IDI) council overseeing medical education.These residents are assigned to teaching hospitals, many of which are being used as COVID-19 referral hospitals. They work long hours with little to no pay, and when they do receive a salary it is way below the living wage.Indonesia’s university-based system for its residency programs meant that residents were considered university students who had to pay tuition fees, said MMKI chairman David Perdanakusuma.The fees range in the millions to the dozens of millions of rupiah, although there are scholarship options, with program duration lasting four to 12 semesters.This is in contrast to the hospital-based system applied in other countries, in which residents are considered workers who receive salaries throughout their training.”One of the ways to be able to survive being a resident is to be rich,” the Unair resident joked, adding more seriously that being a resident might not only lead to financial constraints, but also physical and mental issues.A 2011 research study that polled 117 University of Indonesia pediatric residents at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital in Jakarta found that 23.9 percent of students had experienced depression two weeks prior to their interviews. The study, published in Sari Pediatri, a journal from the Indonesian Pediatric Society’s (IDAI) publishing agency, also found that 59 percent of them had experienced depression more than once, with a majority of them relating it to their programs of study.As a result of the pandemic, some residents of pulmonology, internal medicine and anesthetics, among other fields, have been asked to directly tend to COVID-19 patients at ERs, wards and intensive care units under the supervision of specialist doctors.Hospitals and medical workers have had to limit services to non-COVID-19 patients, who have declined in number over virus fears, and reduce polyclinic activities and elective surgeries.This disrupted training among residents, as they were less exposed to cases that would help them meet the required competencies to complete their studies, David of the MKKI said. Less than a month later, on Sunday, pediatric resident Putri Wulan Sukmawati died from the virus, though Soetomo Hospital, also a COVID-19 referral hospital, insisted that she did not work in a COVID-19 isolation room and that the management was already “contact tracing internally”.center_img “At the hospital, there is no space that is safe from COVID-19. Even if we do not work in the COVID-19 [isolation] room, we can be infected by our colleagues,” an Unair resident who requested anonymity told The Jakarta Post on June 23.He said that, up until May, the teaching hospital had failed to provide enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents working in the emergency room, prompting them to rely on PPE donations. It was only in June, after reports caught the public’s attention, that the hospital allowed residents at the ER to ask for a new set of PPE for every four hours, he said. A resident at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, who wished to remain anonymous, said his teaching hospital of Saiful Anwar had seen a “boom” of COVID-19 patients, meaning there was a high possibility of prolonged training.”[Hospital] departments are now requesting for tuition fee relief […] We are certainly financially concerned because we rely on our own money and scholarships, and we cannot work [while taking residency],” he said on Sunday.Read also: Workers, volunteers involved in COVID-19 fight entitled to JKK benefits: Manpower ministerJoni Wahyuhadi, the president director of Soetomo Hospital and curative management head of East Java’s COVID-19 task force, told the Post on June 26 that the hospital made sure there was an adequate stock of PPE and that it was processing incentives for residents. He said it was restructuring its ER.At the time, he said nine residents were treated for COVID-19 at the hospital, with one admitted to the ICU. On Monday, Joni said one resident was treated for the disease at his hospital and three others at Unair’s infectious diseases hospital. Joni did not respond to questions on the total number of infections among residents.Unair has promised a 50 percent cut in tuition for residents providing care to COVID-19 patients. It has also waived their tuition while they take temporary leaves of absence from their study programs.Meanwhile, David said the government had now rolled out incentive policies for residents via teaching hospitals, which were expected to register residents with the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) to access the benefits.”There is a possibility for a hospital-based residency system. Consequently, there needs to be an adequate teaching staff and hospitals that meet the teaching requirements,” he said. “There also needs to be support [from policymakers] in the form of regulations and laws on the inception of hospital-based systems.”last_img read more

Future of Fox Spring still unclear

first_imgThe fate of a state owned public water source north of Fairbanks remains in limbo.  The Fox Spring is a popular place for locals to get their drinking water, but the state wants to divest of the property to eliminate rising maintenance costs for the aging well.  Sale to a neighboring landowner is in the works, while a citizens group explores other options.Listen Now Fox Spring (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of TransportationThe deadline for public comment on sale of the Fox Spring is Friday. The Alaska Department of DOT spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the sale to a neighboring property owner is not a done deal in light of citizens fighting to preserve public ownership.”People have commented about the desire to keep this well open and available for public use and we are very committed to helping that happen,” Bailey said.Under state law, the closest neighbor, gets first right of refusal if land goes up for sale. Fox Spring neighbor Patrick Kohl said he’d rather the land and spring stay with the state, and is only interested in acquiring the property as a buffer for his land. He emphasizes that even if the sale goes through, he wants the water source to remain accessible to the public.”My neighbors use it here and I use it myself you know to get water,” Kohl said. “You know, as long as I can work out some kind of use that people are comfortable with, I have not problem with doin’ this.”The DOT resorted to private sale to Kohl after the North Star Borough and other public entities declined the Fox Spring. A task force, headed up by Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District is fighting to keep it in state hands.  Coordinator Joni Scharfenberg said the group wrote the Governor’s office seeking delay of the sale. She said they’ve been told the real estate transaction will proceed, but slowly, giving the task force time to work on public access options.”Trying to find out if this is or could be designated a historical site or a park some way and that way would be again a public entity,” Scharfenberg said.Scharfenberg said the task force is also investigating liability issues and ways to cover maintenance expenses.”People have suggested like a cooperative somehow,” Scharfenberg said. “Other people have suggested a membership. It was very interesting though when one of the public task force meetings was held, people said we don’t want people who can’t afford it to not be able to use it. So people were willing to pay but they weren’t going to make people who couldn’t afford it pay. But we don’t know how it’ll turn out in the end.”Scharfenberg said a similar public well in Salcha charges users 5 cents a gallon to cover maintenance costs. She said the task force is still trying to nail down exactly what annual expenses would be at the Fox Spring, where the well is expected to need work to maintain adequate water flow.last_img read more