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UN: 357 Child Soldiers Released in C. African Republic

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In this Friday, May 11, 2012 file photo, a young South Sudanese soldier who appeared to be drunk reaches for a lighter for his cigarette at the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) headquarters in Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan. The U.N.'s top official for children and armed conflicts Leila Zerrougui said during a stop in Kenya on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 that the use of child soldiers and violence against children is commonplace in South Sudan's year of warfare. (AP Photo/Pete Muller, File)

(AP Photo/Pete Muller, File)

Krista Larson, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Armed groups in Central African Republic freed more than 350 child soldiers Thursday in the largest such release since the country became engulfed in sectarian violence in late 2013, the U.N. children’s agency said.

Three separate ceremonies took place near the town of Bambari, as children left the ranks of both a Christian militia and the Muslim rebel groups that once united to briefly rule the country.

Some of the children taken into the care of UNICEF were as young as 12, according to UNICEF Representative Mohamed Malick Fall.

“After two years of heavy fighting, the release of children by these groups — on the same day — is a real step toward peace,” he said.

The armed groups had agreed to the mass release of children earlier this month in the capital of Bangui. Amid the meetings, rival factions also agreed to lay down their arms though similar attempts at a cease-fire and disarmament process have been derailed by infighting.

Social workers will try to reunite children with relatives “when security conditions permit,” UNICEF said. Other children will stay with foster families until relatives can be found.

Tens of thousands fled Central African Republic to neighboring countries amid the violence, as Christian militias targeted Muslim civilians accused of having supported the brutal Muslim rebel regime. While the conflict was not religious in nature, it divided communities that had long lived together along sectarian lines.

Even after the mass release Thursday, UNICEF believes there are still more than 6,000 children among the fighters, including those being used as cooks and messengers. Girls and young women also have been forced into sexual relationships with rebels.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Port of Oakland Aims to Help Agriculture Producers Export Products More Quickly

“The Port — along with our federal and state partners — is ready to do everything we can to help provide room and relief to help our agricultural customers,” said Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan in a statement. The yard is just one step the Port is taking to help agriculture exporters who have had fewer containers in Oakland with which to export their products.

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The Port of Oakland and the Oakland skyline in the late 2010s. (Photo courtesy the Port of Oakland/Kelly Patrick Dugan)
The Port of Oakland and the Oakland skyline in the late 2010s. (Photo courtesy the Port of Oakland/Kelly Patrick Dugan)

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

The flow of agricultural exports may improve at the Port of Oakland after it sets aside quick-access space for containers, assists exporters, and if more cargo carriers restore service to Oakland, port officials said Monday.

Twenty-five acres will be used to operate an off-terminal, paved yard to store containers for rapid pick-up following their removal from chassis.

The yard, which may open in March, will allow trucks to turn around more quickly than is currently possible in the terminal. Agricultural exporters will also get help using the yard from state and federal agencies.

“The Port — along with our federal and state partners — is ready to do everything we can to help provide room and relief to help our agricultural customers,” said Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan in a statement.

The yard is just one step the Port is taking to help agriculture exporters who have had fewer containers in Oakland with which to export their products.

But it’s not entirely clear the yard will make a huge difference unless more ships stop at the Port to pick up the exports.

“We need the shipping companies to immediately restore the export lines from Oakland to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said.

Port officials have restored one key route to Tokyo and China. Also, four carriers have recently made Oakland their first stop en route from Asia. But that may not be enough to relieve the shortage of export containers in Oakland.

An import surge in the U.S. has ships waiting to offload cargo in Southern California. When they do, they offload cargo that would typically come to Oakland and then turn around and immediately go back to Asia.

The containers that could be used for exports never make it to Oakland.

Port cargo volume is typically 50% imports and 50% exports so usually enough containers exist at the Port.

Many agricultural exporters and meat producers prefer to ship their products through Oakland because it’s closer than other ports.

The container shortage has been a problem for a year. The problem recently prompted a meeting between farm producers, transportation executives and Port officials and resulted in the steps the Port is now taking.

A solution is important because the state’s agricultural export industry is worth billions of dollars.

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Bay Area

California Goes on Offensive as Omicron Variant Threat Grows 

“CA’s large-scale testing and early detection systems have found the Omicron COVID-19 variant in California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Dec. 1. “We should assume that it’s in other states as well. There’s no reason to panic — but we should remain vigilant. That means get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask indoors.”

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In California, the Omicron variant was first detected in San Francisco on December 1.
In California, the Omicron variant was first detected in San Francisco on December 1.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Three days after Thanksgiving, Gov. Gavin Newsom went online to address the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, a version of the virus with at least 50 mutations, according to the World Health Organization.

Twenty-six of those mutations have never been detected before, scientists say.

“California is monitoring the new variant,” Newsom tweeted. “We will continue to be guided by data and science. Right now, the best way we know to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and get your booster. Go today. Don’t wait.”

The variant was first identified by a South African scientist and has since surfaced in several other Southern African and European nations and has now been detected in at least 16 states in the United States, including California.

In California, the Omicron variant was first detected in San Francisco on December 1.

Since then, Alameda County public health officials have confirmed five new cases with mild symptoms. All of them were people who attended a wedding in Wisconsin where they likely contracted the virus.

Newsom responded to the news with a tweet last Wednesday.

“CA’s large-scale testing and early detection systems have found the Omicron COVID-19 variant in California,” Newsom tweeted Dec. 1. “We should assume that it’s in other states as well. There’s no reason to panic — but we should remain vigilant. That means get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask indoors.”

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego), a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, said the state has taken several steps to protect Californians and contain the variant, including “doubling down on COVID-19 vaccination and booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective and free vaccines.”

Weber was speaking at a briefing organized for Black media on December 3. She said the California Department of Health is monitoring the presence of the variant throughout California and is partnering with the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support local public health departments and health care providers across the state.

“The state is also preparing to increase COVID-19 testing at airports across California for U.S. citizens and legal residents returning from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi,” she said. “These countries are where higher rates of Omicron have been observed and may shift over time.”

Last week, President Joe Biden also pushed for vaccines and boosters in preparation for this new variant on Twitter.

“As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises. For now, the best way to strengthen your protection if you’re already vaccinated is to get a booster shot, immediately,” Biden tweeted.

In a controversial move, Biden has issued a travel ban from eight African countries where the higher numbers of the variant have been reported.

“The WHO has identified a new COVID variant which is spreading through Southern Africa. As a precautionary measure, until we have more information, I am ordering air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries,” Biden tweeted.

This United States’ response has been met with some criticism from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” Ramaphosa said, arguing that the variant may have been detected in those countries, but there is no proof that it originated there.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Muslims in France Face Worsening Climate of Hate Under Leadership of President Macron

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

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A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.
A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.

By Larbi Ben Krima

Editor’s Note: We are accustomed to hearing travel advisories telling us to avoid countries in the midst of civil war or government repression. Last month a Muslim civil rights organization warned Muslims not to travel to a country that many consider to be the birthplace of liberty. The author of this article, a French citizen, explains how France has become an oppressive place for Muslims.

I was born and raised in France to an Algerian family. I, like millions of other French citizens, heard about colonization and the mistreatment it created. There was some progress made, and now, piece by piece, that is being erased.

One year ago, in October 2020, French President Macron decided to launch his 2022 re-election campaign with a speech targeting Muslim people. He used terrorism as an excuse. Everybody in France knew it was really about politics, although the citizens of the world did not know that.

Macron’s government followed up by dissolving organizations that had criticized his Islamophobic government.

Schools, humanitarian NGO’s, mosques, publishing offices, and civil right movements with Muslim participants have been shut down by a government looking for Far Right votes in the next election.

France is still pretending to fight for rights around the world, but these rights are never really applied to its Muslim citizens, who are always seen as a Fifth Column and who always have to prove that they are French enough.

Every Muslim act is seen as a danger to the country. It seems that Muslim prayers threaten the French republic; Muslim food is seen as a challenge to the religion of other French people; and Muslim clothes are seen as an attempt to change France’s way of life. Most religions have special foods, and prayers and clothing. Having these customs should not be made so difficult for us after all these years. What’s the big deal?

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

That may explain why this country, which refuses to take accountability for its colonial past, can’t accept the kids who are born and raised here.

Quoting the world-famous psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon, “It should not be said that such and such a country is racist, but there are no lynchings or extermination camps there. The truth is, all of this and something more is on the horizon.”

We can say that racism runs deep in France’s institutions and politics, cheered on by the media, with applause from a substantial group who likes what they are hearing.

This is a country where an openly racist media pundit has growing support in his campaign for president, just as Donald Trump did.

France, which always despised the USA, has now became one of the United States of Islamophobia, along with China and India.

A former great country, known for its ideals, France has used its former glory around the world. Recently, the world has come to know what a very small country France has actually become a country that should stop preaching to others what it obviously refuses to apply to itself.

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