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Controversial ‘Dollars for Passport’ Scheme Under Review

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St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris

by Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

The six-week-old government in the Eastern Caribbean twin island federation of St. Kitts and Nevis says it is planning a complete overhaul of its economic citizenship program through which foreigners can buy a local passport and citizenship through cash and investment projects because the system was badly abused by the previous administration.

The island, along with others such as Dominica and Grenada, has had its dollars for passport and citizenship scheme for decades, but recent events involving people who bought into the program, qualified to be passed off as citizens and abused it in North American have now forced authorities to rethink it altogether.

Newly minted Prime Minister Timothy Harris told the local Nation newspaper in the past week that authorities are poring over reports about the program since taking office after the mid-February general elections that got rid of the administration of controversial Prime Minister Denzil Douglas after close to 20 years in office.

Critics say that the program was badly supervised and monitored under Douglas, to the extent that Canada said that it was forced to kick St. Kitts and Nevis off a list of elite countries whose nationals could have entered Canada without a visa and extensive security checks. Canadian and American authorities had accused officials on the island of conducting lax due diligence investigations on the backgrounds of some of those who paid the $250,000 deposit to qualify and had made promises to invest in real estate and other projects.

“We at home are working posthaste to revamp the program to institute some control measures, which we think will reduce the incidence of risk to our program and to our partners internationally,” he said.”

Harris, a former finance minister who had turned against Douglas and formed his own Team Unity party that ousted his ex-boss, said that officials are studying a slew of investigative reports about the program and want to make it more efficient, transparent and good enough for external partners such as Canada.

“In December 2014, an independent investigation was done of the program. We are studying that report from a credible and respectable entity that has itself been involved in due diligence in relation to citizenship in relation to financial transactions, and they are looking at those recommendations and in a week or two, the cabinet will make a determination how we will proceed in light of those recommendations and in light of the other information that we have garnered from our interactions with developers in the program, service providers and, of course, with concerned governments.”

Canada has also expressed discomfort that passports obtained under the scheme did not show the original place of birth of a new holder or crucial information such as any change in birth name, allowing the carrier to evade background checks.

The result is that officials are moving to recall another set of controversially issued travel documents, diplomatic passports, issued in the past two and a half years, so as to amend them and comply with international guidelines.

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Activism

Young Adults Speak Out at Climate Adaptation Seminar

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.

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From top left: Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Skyler Kriese, Moiz Mir, Catherine Foster (Photo by Godfrey Lee)

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.
ARCCA is a coalition of the Local Government Commission and represents leading collaborative networks from across California that strive to build regional resilience to climate impacts.  ARCCA members work to enhance public health, protect natural systems, build economies, and create resilient, livable communities throughout California. 

ARCCA members effectively bolster their individual and collective efforts by sharing best practices and resources, identifying strategies to overcome key barriers and challenges, and conducting joint campaigns and projects.

ARCCA believes that the youth have been under-represented in the climate initiative. “It has become more apparent over the years that the youth, with their activism and experience, can have a pivotal role to play in our adaption to climate change. It is the goal of ARRCA, in their work in climate change, to expand the youth’s participation in their projects and actively include them in our leadership phases and decision-making processes,” said Catherine Foster, the moderator of the seminar, and ARCCA’s Climate & Energy Project manager, LGC.

Three college graduates who were involved in the environmental movement on their campuses spoke during the seminar.

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, and graduated as the first Black Valedictorian for the Class of 2021. She served and led many of the prominent campus environmental activism groups. “We all work with people who are different places, so recognize the gaps in your knowledge, and also what the other person does and does not know,” Wakeman said.

Skyler Kriese graduated from Santa Clara University in 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. She is a 2020-2021 CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow supporting Butte County Department of Development Services on three grant-funded, long-range planning projects. Following her service year, she will continue her studies at the University of Michigan, pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Kriese says that local governments need to identify environment justice communities and address environmental justice in their general plans. This is important so that processes and policies can begin to work and ultimately create healthier communities. 

Moiz Mir was the president of the Environmental Student Organization at California State University Sacramento from 2017–2019. As an intern at the Sacramento Mayor’s Office, he organized youth summits to include students’ voices in the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and served on the commission’s Community Health, Resiliency and Equity Technical Advisory Committees. 

Mir advocates building toward inclusivity, to reach out to a more diverse people in the work toward climate adaptation. 

For more information on ARCCA and their upcoming seminars, go to https://arccacalifornia.org/embedding-equity-in-adaptation/ 

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African American News & Issues

Gwen Berry: “Activist Athlete” Tokyo Olympics 2021

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

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Gwen Berry, Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Gwen Berry is headed to Tokyo representing the United States at the 2021 Olympics in the hammer throw, a track and field event.

Berry, a two-time Olympian, was also in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  She was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1989 and is 32 years old.

On June 26, 2021, while qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in Eugene Oregon, Berry was surprised to hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the U.S. National Anthem being played.

On the podium she turned away from the flag and draped her “Activist Athlete” tee-shirt over her head.

Berry said: “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose. . .. I was pissed to be honest.”

Berry said she was told that the athletes would be on the podium before or after the playing of the national anthem.

“That’s what they’ve done the whole trials” Berry said.

Texas Republican politicians Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Dan Crenshaw called for Berry to be removed from the USA Olympic team as she was unpatriotic.

Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic decathlon winner in 1976 and candidate for California governor on the September 14th Newsom recall election in a statement said Berry’s actions were “disgusting” and to “stay out of politics” and not use the Olympic stage “for your own political gain.”

Berry responded: “I say Caitlyn Jenner does not know how it feels to be a Black person in American who’s representing a country [that] has literally done nothing for Black people in America.  She needs to do her research and understand the history in America before she says anything like that.

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

In June of 2020, the USOC supported peaceful protests and condemned “the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans.”

Berry tweeted “I want an apology letter. . . mailed . . . just like you and the IOC MAILED ME WHEN YOU PUT ME ON PROBATION. . . stop playing with me.”

Berry added to The Associated Press: “The anthem doesn’t speak for me.  It never has. . ..  I am here to represent those . . . who dies due to systemic racism.  That’s the important part.  That’s why I’m going.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “[p]art of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals.  And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

The 2020 Summer Olympics delayed because of the pandemic will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

The New York Times, CNN, and Wikipedia were sources for this story.

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City Government

City Officials Encourage Residents to Get Vaccinated to Combat COVID-19 Variants

San Francisco, along with all Bay Area counties, is seeing trend of rising COVID-19 cases due to delta variant

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Nurse administers a vaccine photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute via Unsplash

San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, and the Department of Public Health (DPH) encouraged residents to get vaccinated as the delta variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain in the United States and California.

This variant spreads more easily than the original virus and poses new risks to communities in San Francisco. Vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness and death.

Over the last three weeks, all Bay Area counties have seen at least a doubling of new COVID-19 cases, causing concern that unvaccinated people are more at risk than ever.

“Vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible, is our best defense against COVID-19, the delta variant, and the harm it can do to our communities,” said Breed. “In particular, the Black community has the lowest vaccination rate compared to the citywide rate, which means more people who are already struggling with significant disparities in this City might get sick.

“While we beat back three surges in San Francisco, the delta variant brings new challenges that will continue to increase the disparities we see in communities of color. We need everyone to do their part to get vaccinated and encourage their friends and family to do the same,” Breed said.

San Francisco’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in low case rates and hospitalizations, and relatively high vaccination rates, with 83% of the eligible population with at least one dose and 76% of the eligible population fully vaccinated as of July 13.

Over the week ending July 7, for which there is full data, average daily new cases have increased four-fold to 42 new cases/day from a low of 9.9 cases/day on June 19.  Forward-looking data through July 12 indicates that new cases will increase to at least 73 cases/day, a seven-fold increase since June 19.

“As we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections are not distributed evenly throughout all neighborhoods and communities in San Francisco,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of Public Health. “Our focus and work to achieve vaccine equity and access continues in partnership with the communities that are most impacted. Get vaccinated – hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are preventable through vaccines.”

Those who are not yet vaccinated should continue to follow the health precautions that work to help curtail the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent new variants from emerging: wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you have to go outside; stay at least six feet away from others; when able choose outdoor settings versus indoor; and wash your hands frequently after touching your face or touching shared objects. People who develop or show any symptoms should get tested, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“Bayview Hunters Point is still one of the hardest hit areas with COVID-19 infections, particularly in the African American community. With the new delta variant that is more transmissible, it is critical that our community gets vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Walton, president of the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco continues to make vaccines accessible to all residents through sites located in neighborhoods and through mobile vaccine efforts.  In the Bayview, the Southeast Health Center at 2401 Keith St. is offering vaccines – no appointment needed – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Vaccines are also available at 1800 Oakdale, with drop-ins available on Fridays and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, visit sf.gov/getvaccinated.

The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communications provided this story.

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