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Malaysia Turns Away 800 Boat People; Thailand Spots 3rd Boat

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An ethnic Rohingya woman carries her baby as she answers questions from UNHCR workers at a temporary shelter in Lapang, Aceh province, Indonesia, Thursday, May 14, 2015. More than 1,600 migrants and refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have landed on the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia in the past week and thousands more are believed to have been abandoned at sea, floating on boats with little or no food after traffickers literally jumped ship fearing a crackdown. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

An ethnic Rohingya woman carries her baby as she answers questions from UNHCR workers at a temporary shelter in Lapang, Aceh province, Indonesia, Thursday, May 14, 2015. More than 1,600 migrants and refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have landed on the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia in the past week and thousands more are believed to have been abandoned at sea, floating on boats with little or no food after traffickers literally jumped ship fearing a crackdown. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Eileen Ng and Thanyarat Doksone, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

 

LANGKAWI, Malaysia (AP) — Rohingya and Bangladeshis abandoned at sea by traffickers had nowhere to go Thursday as Malaysia turned away two crammed migrant boats and Thailand kept at bay a large vessel with hundreds of hungry people.

“What do you expect us to do?” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar said. “We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

“We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here,” he told The Associated Press. Four days earlier, about 1,000 refugees landed on the shores of Langkawi, a resort island in northern Malaysia near Thailand. Another 600 have arrived surreptitiously in Indonesia.

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha also made it clear that his government does not have resources to host refugees.

“If we take them all in, then anyone who wants to come will come freely. I am asking if Thailand will be able to take care of them all. Where will the budget come from?” Prayuth said. “No one wants them. Everyone wants a transit country like us to take responsibility. Is it fair?” he said.

Southeast Asia for years tried to quietly ignore the plight of Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya but finds itself caught in a spiraling humanitarian crisis that in many ways it helped create. In the last three years, more than 120,000 members of the Muslim minority, who are intensely persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have boarded ships to flee to other countries, paying huge sums to human traffickers.

But faced with a regional crackdown, the smugglers have abandoned the ships, leaving an estimated 6,000 refugees to fend for themselves, according to reliable aid workers and human rights groups.

“This is a grave humanitarian crisis demanding an immediate response,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of nonprofit human rights group Fortify Rights. “Lives are on the line.”

Despite appeals by the U.N. and aid groups, no government in the region — Thai, Indonesian or Malaysian — appears willing to take the refugees, fearing that accepting a few would result in an unstoppable flow of poor, uneducated migrants.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “alarmed by reports that some countries may be refusing entry to boats carrying refugees and migrants,” a statement from his office said Thursday. It said Ban urged governments in the region to “facilitate timely disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open in order to help the vulnerable people who are in need.”

Wan Junaidi said about 500 people on a boat found Wednesday off northern Penang state were given provisions and sent on their way. Another boat carrying about 300 migrants was turned away near Langkawi island overnight, according to two Malaysian officials who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press.

Meanwhile, a boat carrying 300 Rohingya was spotted at the Thai-Malaysian maritime border in Satun province, Thailand’s deputy government spokesman Maj. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

The Thai navy contacted the migrants, who said they “wanted to travel to a third country and asked for help in repairing their boat and asked for food and water,” Sansern said.

“None of them wanted to go to the Thai shore but wanted to travel to a third country,” he said. “Thai sailors have given them what they wanted by providing food and water for them. Currently, they are in the process of repairing the broken engine.” The repairs will finish tonight, he said.

Malaysia, which is not a signatory of international conventions on refugees, is host to more than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of whom are from Myanmar. More than 45,000 of them are Rohingya, according to the U.N. refugee agency, many more than almost any other country.

But because they have no legal status, job opportunities are limited. They also have little or no access to basic services like education and health care, and are vulnerable to arrests and deportation. A small number are resettled to third countries.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia accused Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia of playing “a three-way game of human ping pong.” At the same time, the three countries and others in Southeast Asia have for years bowed to the wishes of Myanmar at regional conferences, avoiding all discussions of state-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingya.

Denied citizenship by national law, members of the Rohingya minority are effectively stateless. They have limited access to education or adequate health care and cannot move around freely. They have been attacked by the military and chased from their homes and land by extremist Buddhist mobs in a country that regards them as illegal settlers.

Wan Junaidi, the deputy home minister, said it was time to put pressure on Myanmar to address the Rohingya crisis.

“You talk about democracy, but don’t treat your citizens like trash, like criminals, until they need to run away to our country,” he said.

Increasingly over the years, Rohingya boarding boats in the Bay of Bengal have been joined by Bangladeshis seeking an escape from poverty.

Their first stop until recently was Thailand, where migrants were held in jungle camps until their families could raise hefty ransoms so they could continue onward. The smugglers changed tactics after recent crackdowns and began holding people on large ships offshore.

Initially migrants were shuttled to shore in groups on smaller boats after their “ransoms” were paid. But as agents and brokers on land got spooked by arrests — not just of traffickers but also police and politicians — they went into hiding.

That created a bottleneck, with migrants stuck on boats for days and weeks.

___

Doksone reported from Bangkok, Thailand. Associated Press journalists Robin McDowell in Yangon, Myanmar and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Black History

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis Pioneered Diversity in Foreign Service

UC Berkeley Grad Continues to Bring International Economic Empowerment for Women

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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis (left) is meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was recently named as a distinguished alumna by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. 

She also has been honored by the U.S. State Department when a conference room at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia was named in honor of her service as director of the Institute. She was the first African American to serve in that position.

Davis, a graduate of Spelman College received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1968.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also a graduate of the School of Social Welfare, now chairs the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She praised Ambassador Davis as “a trailblazing leader and one of the great American diplomats of our time. Over her 40-year career, she had so many ‘firsts’ on her resume: the first Black director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first Black woman Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first Black woman to be named a Career Ambassador, to name just a few.

“She served all over the world, from Kinshasa to Tokyo to Barcelona, where she was consul general, and to Benin, where she served as ambassador,” Lee continued. “ I am so proud of her many accomplishments. She has represented the best of America around the world, and our world is a better place because of her service.”

During Davis’ 40-year career in the Foreign Service, she also served as chief of staff in the Africa Bureau, and as distinguished advisor for international affairs at Howard University. She retired in 2009 as a Career Ambassador, the highest-level rank in Foreign Service.

Since her retirement, Ambassador Davis has served as the chair (and a founding member) of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), an organization devoted to promoting women’s economic empowerment by creating an international network of businesswomen.

She also chairs the selection committee for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship at Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, where she helps to oversee the annual selection process. Finally, as vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, she participates in activities involving the recruitment, preparation, hiring, retention, mentoring and promotion of minority Foreign Service employees.

Gay Plair Cobb, former Regional Administrator of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in the Atlanta, and San Francisco offices, was Ambassador Davis’ roommate at UC Berkeley. Cobb said, “Ruth always exhibited outstanding leadership and a determined commitment to fairness, equal opportunity and activism, which we engaged in on a regular basis.”

Davis has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award, Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and Equal Employment Opportunity Award; the Secretary of State’s Achievement Award (including from Gen. Colin Powell); the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup; two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards; and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Middlebury and Spelman Colleges.

A native of Atlanta, Davis was recently named to the Economist’s 2015 Global Diversity List as one of the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life and is the recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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