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Border closures and strict lockdowns have led to a steep decline in the number of migrants coming from Central AmericaWhen Angelica turned 30, she realized there was no future for her in Honduras.Although she had a college degree, she was still living paycheck to paycheck and was stuck in a neighborhood of the capital Tegucigalpa ruled by violent gangs.So, after years contemplating migration to the US where she has relatives, she finally made arrangements to depart.â€śI didnâ€™t want to stay in a neighborhood where there are massacres or where the people lock themselves in their homes at six at night because the gangs impose a curfew,â€ť she said. â€śI realized I was more surviving than living.â€ťBut by the time she was due to start her journey north, Honduras had closed its borders and declared a state of emergency. She could no longer leave her city â€“ much less take a bus to northern Guatemala, to meet a coyote who would guide her through Mexico.â€śI had thought that only a hurricane could stop me,â€ť she said. â€śBut I hadnâ€™t thought of a pandemic.â€ťBorder closures and strict lockdowns prompted by the Covid-19 crisis have disrupted the migrant trail through Central America and Mexico, forcing some would-be migrants to postpone their journeys â€“ and stopping many others in their tracks.The result has been a deterrent more effective than any wall Donald Trump could build.Activists across the region have reported a steep decline in the number of migrants coming from Central America since the restrictions were implemented. One Mexican shelter near the Guatemalan border said it hadnâ€™t received a new arrival in a week.â€śThe crisis has facilitated Trumpâ€™s policies because [Central American] migrants canâ€™t even leave their countries,â€ť said Sister Nyzella Juliana DondĂ©, coordinator of a Catholic migrant aid organization in Honduras.El Salvador closed its borders on 11 March, and the governments of Guatemala and Honduras quickly followed suit. All three countries in the so-called northern triangle have since announced internal lockdowns of differing strictness.The three nations had recently signed â€śsafe third country agreementsâ€ť with the US government under which they agreed to increase enforcement on their borders, and receive migrants who had transited their country on the way to the US.Only Guatemala had begun to implement the new measures, but it announced on 17 March that it would suspend the deportations of Hondurans and Salvadorans from the US to its territory.But Guatemala and Honduras continued to receive deportation flights bringing their own citizens from the US â€“ despite concerns that the practice could accelerate the spread of the virus. In the past week, a migrant who was deported from the US to Guatemala was diagnosed with Covid-19 and a group of deportees to Honduras escaped from the shelter where they were to be quarantined. Guatemala has now requested that the US suspend deportation flights.Meanwhile, migrants who were already en route have been left exposed by the closure of shelters and the difficulties facing humanitarian organizations which would normally attend to them.â€śThey are in a vulnerable situation because the guidance is to stay at home â€“ but the migrants donâ€™t have homes,â€ť said DondĂ©, who mentioned a case of a large group of Haitian and African migrants who were detained after crossing into Guatemala from Honduras amid the lockdown. â€śNeither Honduras or Guatemala wanted to offer them a place to stay.â€ťMigrants who already had arrived to Mexico have been left in limbo by the US governmentâ€™s decision to immediately return all migrants from Mexico and Central America who cross into the country irregularly along the south-west border.When restrictions are eventually eased, a fresh surge in migration seems likely: multiple would-be migrants who spoke with the Guardian said it was only a question of when, not if, they would set out for the US.And the economic impact of the crisis may in turn cause others to migrate.. â€śBefore many people migrated because they lacked work and a dignified life,â€ť said Silva de Souza. â€śNow there will be many more.â€ťMigrants who have come from even farther afield, have no choice but to try to push on. Mohamed left Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, in 2018, following the well-trodden migrant path via Ecuador, Colombia and the jungles of Panama. He was burning through his savings and racking up debt, but making steady progress north.But he reached Guatemala just before the government announced a state of emergency which has made moving on impossible.â€śTravel has become very difficult,â€ť he said in a brief exchange via Facebook Messenger. But he was still determined to reach the US â€“ even if he now has to move more carefully â€“ traveling at night and avoiding large caravans. â€śWith Godâ€™s will, Iâ€™ll get there. I will build a life of opportunity.â€ť * Additional reporting by Joe Parkin Daniels
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New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park
If New York City wasnâ€™t under a strict stay-at-home order right now, protesters might be marching along Central Park. Thatâ€™s where an evangelical Christian organization called Samaritanâ€™s Purse is preparing to open a makeshift COVID-19 ward. The 60-bed emergency field hospital is composed largely of tarp-wrapped tents and will function as a respiratory unit servicing overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital.Some New York residents have criticized Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s presence, citing their spotty record in the field and expressing fears that the conservative religious groupâ€™s beliefs could even open the door to substandard care or discrimination. City Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted he was â€śvery concernedâ€ť about the operation and was sending people from his office to monitor Samaritanâ€™s Purse.As a result, conservative Christians exploded on social media, citing the controversy as further proof that their faith is under attack by intolerant liberals and coastal elites who care little about human life.Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, tweeted, â€śCultural decadence is allowing intersectionality to determine the acceptability of emergency response.â€ť And Peter Hasson, a Catholic editor for conservative news site The Daily Caller, tweeted, â€śIf youâ€™re getting mad at the people taking care of the sick during a pandemic, maybe consider the fact that youâ€™re not the good guy in this story.â€ťAs my therapist often reminds me, the human brain is capable of understanding that two things can be true at the same time. In this case, a person can believe that the brave doctors and nurses currently deploying to Central Park to help combat this terrible virus are brave and necessary and also believe that the organization chosen to manage the work of these doctors and nurses is deeply problematic. Holding both of these ideas in your mind at the same time doesnâ€™t make you a bad person; it demonstrates that youâ€™re a thinking person. Weâ€™re in the midst of a public-health crisis and must take an all-hands-on-deck approach to caring for the sick.And upon closer inspection, New Yorkers have plenty of good reasons to feel uncomfortable about this new coronavirus hospital.Of chief concern is the person overseeing the Central Park ward: Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s president and CEO Franklin Graham. He is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump who has a surprisingly long history of controversial comments and hate speech.Graham seems to harbor a special level of disdain for followers of Islam, which he characterizes as a â€świcked and evil religionâ€ť that encourages adherents to beat their wives and murder their disobedient children. In 2015, he recommended banning all Muslims from immigrating to America and suggested our government treat them like the Japanese and German during World War II. As rationale, he argued that Muslims have â€śthe potential to be radicalizedâ€ť and participate in â€śkilling to honor their religion and Muhammed.â€ťThatâ€™s the man running Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s coronavirus hospital, so yes, Muslim New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.Grahamâ€™s hate speech is also often aimed at LGBTQ people. He has called same-sex marriages â€śdetestableâ€ť and has drummed up fear toward gays and lesbiansâ€”whom he believes should burn in hellâ€”by claiming they want to â€śdrag an immoral agenda into our communities.â€ť In an article that has mysteriously disappeared from the Decision Magazine website, Graham wrote that the architect of the LGBTQ rights movement was â€śnone other than Satan himself.â€ť And when Vladimir Putin initiated a violent crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia, it sparked a wave of beatings, abduction, public humiliation and other forms of violence against sexual minorities there. Graham responded by praising Putinâ€™s policy, lauding the authoritarian leader for â€ś[protecting] his nationâ€™s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.â€ťGiven such history, it makes complete sense that Mount Sinai Hospital asked Samaritanâ€™s Purse to â€śsign a written pledge to treat all patients equally.â€ťSome conservative Christians have dismissed this as harassment, claiming that a scenario in which evangelicals discriminated against gays and lesbians is ridiculous to imagine. But our fair city has a long memory. We remember all the gay men who fled communities across America where evangelicals pastors condemned them as â€śabominationsâ€ť and found safe harbor in New York. We remember that when masses of them contracted HIV/AIDS and filled our hospital beds, evangelical preachers on TV called it Godâ€™s judgment. We remember Jerry Falwell and the religious right lobbying against HIV research and relief in the '90s, leading to untold deaths.All this occurred in my lifetime, and I am only 37. So please pardon New Yorkers if they feel uneasy, given American evangelicalsâ€™ often-unacknowledged track record coupled with Grahamâ€™s comments, and want to take some minor precautions to ensure all citizens are protected. Gay, lesbian, and transgender New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.Even some conservative Christians whoâ€™ve acknowledged the disturbing nature of Grahamâ€™s comments have attacked Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s critics for intolerance. Anyone should be able to help anyone in this time, the argument goes. Itâ€™s wrong to prevent people from serving the sick. I totally agree; but Samaritanâ€™s Purse does not. The organization is requiring that all personnel serving in its pop-up hospital be Christians who agree to Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s 11-point â€śStatement of Faith,â€ť which includes the beliefs that non-Christians will burn in hell and that same-sex relationships are sinful.Itâ€™s unsurprising, if lamentable, that a Christian aid group would turn away a Buddhist doctor looking to help its efforts. But if a lung doctor shows up in Central Park with the knowledge and experience to save lives, she could be sent home if she happens to be a liberal Episcopalian who voted for Hillary Clinton and supports marriage equality.If it is wrong to quibble over who is fit to help save lives in the middle of a crisis, then we must admit that Samaritanâ€™s Purse is no better than its critics.Â The groupâ€™s defenders are correct, however, that the organization has laudably worked to meet emergency needs in crisis regions since its founding. They have accomplished much good in places like Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, and Darfur. But their record is not unblemished, and many in the humanitarian world have questioned the quality of some of Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s work.After USAID gave Samaritanâ€™s Purse a large grant to help victims of the earthquake in El Salvador, they were disturbed to learn that the Christian group â€śblurred the lines between church and stateâ€ť by using funds to evangelize victims instead of just help them. An official with Samaritanâ€™s Purse dismissed the criticism by claiming, â€śWe are first a Christian organization and second an aid organization.â€ťThat wasnâ€™t the first time such blurring occurred, however. During the first Gulf War, respected U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf publicly criticized the group for trying to coerce American troops serving in Saudi Arabia to covertly distribute Arab-language Bibles under the guise of humanitarian work. And Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s popular â€śOperation Christmas Childâ€ť has recently been drawn fire when people learned that the holiday shoeboxes given to poor children in non-Christian families around the world were stuffed with Christian evangelism materials.The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they donâ€™t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organizationâ€™s makeshift hospital.â€śThis is what Samaritanâ€™s Purse doesâ€”we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesusâ€™ Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus,â€ť Graham declared in a press release announcing the ward.None of Samaritanâ€™s Purseâ€™s detractors have argued that the Central Park ward should be shuttered or that the organization be barred from offering care. And no one is casting aspersions on the many courageous health-care professionals who will put their lives at risk when this hospital opens. Most agree with the letter from Mount Sinai staff and doctorsâ€”at least one of whom is LGBTQâ€”that concerns about Samaritanâ€™s Purse, while valid, must be set aside at the moment because â€śthe higher mission at present is to preserve human life.â€ťTo this, I say â€śyes and.â€ť New Yorkers can admit that Samaritanâ€™s Purse should have a role to play in this vital work, and they can also acknowledge the many valid reasons that might make vulnerable and marginalized residents a little more than nervous.â€”Jonathan Merritt is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishingâ€”And How We Can Revive Them.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. 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Japan Timeline and Information
910 AD Fujiwara no Asatada, a Japanese poet, designated one of the 36 Immortals was born.
1596 AD there was an earthquake in Japan; several cities made ruins, and thousands perished.
1792 AD - in Kyushu Island, Japan: collapse of old lava dome during eruption of Unzen volcano caused avalanche and tsunami that killed an estimated 14,300 people. (Most were killed by the tsunami.) Japan's greatest volcano disaster.
1896 AD - an earthquake and tidal wave killed 27,000 in Sanriku, Japan
1923 AD - in Japan: magnitude 8.3 earthquake destroyed one-third of Tokyo and most of Yokohama. More than 140,000 killed.
1995 AD - a magnitude: 6.9 earthquake hit Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, Japan
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