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Days from reaching the U.S. border, migrants in caravan tell their stories



MEXICO CITY — The journey north for a group of Central Americans fleeing persecution and violence in their countries is nearing an end, after President Donald Trump’s tweets thrust the group into the international spotlight.

About 500 migrants, mainly from Honduras, are preparing to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border between Sunday and Tuesday, hoping they can claim asylum and begin building a new life.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an immigrant rights group led by volunteers, has been running these types of caravans for more than 15 years to help people escape from dangerous situations in their home countries and protect them as they travel.


The caravans had been relatively unknown to most Americans until Trump began tweeting about them earlier this month.

There are now about 800 migrants in the caravan. About half have decided to stay in Mexico and seek asylum there, while between 400 and 500 migrants will continue their journey and seek asylum in the U.S. The group is largely made up of mothers, children and young people who identify as LGBT.

This week, some of them shared their stories as the caravan paused in Mexico City, before embarking on the final leg to the north.

Mirna Lopez joined the caravan with her husband Magdel and her nearly 2-year-old son Joshua.

 Spouses Mirna and Magdel Lopez, both 20, and their nearly two year old son Joshua fled Honduras after two family members were murdered by drug traffickers. Once in the US, Magdel hopes to become an architect. Annie Rose Ramos / NBC News

Mirna and Magdel were fieldworkers in eastern Honduras, where they lived in a town so small that it didn’t have a school. After two of Mirna’s sisters were killed by narcotraffickers, the family decided to flee to a safer place.

Magdel dreams of becoming an architect. If the family is able to travel to the U.S., he hopes that his little experience in electrical repairs will help him get a job.

While uncertainty clouds the family’s future, Magdel is hopeful. When asked if he’s scared of his family being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, Magdel replied, “We have rights as humans to be safe, and I believe the troops at the border will respect that.”

The migrant caravan includes about 20 transgender people, and Alexandra Mejia is one of them.

 Alexandra Mejia, 29, was born a little boy ,but today, identifies as a woman. Mejia joined the migrant caravan after receiving rape and death threats for refusing to get involved with drug trafficking gangs in Central America. Annie Rose Ramos / NBC News

Alexandra, 29, was born in El Salvador’s capital city, where her transgender identity made her a target of persecution and harassment. Drug traffickers tried to force her into the business, she said, and when she refused, local gang members raped her and killed her father. The same gang members showed up at her father’s funeral to give her an ultimatum, she said.

They told her that if she ever set foot back in El Salvador, she would be dead within 24 hours.

Alexandra is now one of the hundreds of migrants hoping to stay in Mexico. She believes she has a good chance of qualifying for asylum.

Part of the reason Pueblo Sin Fronteras organizes these types of caravans is to guarantee migrants’ safety as they travel north.

That security was particularly important to Marlon Nolasco, 31.

 Marlon Nolasco, 31, fled Honduras and joined the caravan after gangs robbed all his money and cell phone at gunpoint. He figured it would be the safest way to travel to the U.S. Annie Rose Ramos / NBC News

When NBC reporters met him for the first time, he desperately asked if he could use their phones to call his wife and two children in central Honduras. Before joining the caravan, Marlon was robbed at gunpoint by gang members. He said they took all the money he was carrying, as well as his cell phone.

After that, he figured that it would be safer to travel in a crowd. He’s aiming to get to Colorado, where he hopes to reunite with his brother.

Juan Carlos, 23, who joined the caravan earlier this month, also started his journey alone before joining the caravan.

 Juan Carlos, 23, is traveling in the migrant caravan by himself, hoping to financially help his eight siblings living in Honduras who survive on less than $60 a month. Annie Rose Ramos / NBC News

Juan Carlos is from Honduras’ capital city, Tegucipalpa, where his family of eight brothers and sisters survives on less than $60 a month. Once in the U.S., he hopes to find work and send them at least $200 a month.

But unlike many in the caravan, Juan Carlos is not interested in seeking asylum at the U.S. border, because he doesn’t want to risk being turned away. Instead, his family paid $2,000 for a smuggler to sneak him across the border.

When asked if he was scared of the journey ahead, his response reflected the fears and hopes of many in the caravan.

He said he’s putting all his trust in God’s hands.

Annie Rose Ramos reported from Mexico City, and Nicole Acevedo reported from New York.


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German election frontrunner Olaf Scholz: Who is the man likely to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel? | World News



After 16 years of Angela Merkel in the chancellorship, Germany can be said to value leaders who are regarded as strong and steady.

It is something the leading contender in Sunday’s election, Olaf Scholz, is counting on as he bids to become the natural successor to the outgoing leader – despite being from a different party.

The pair know each other well – Social Democrat Mr Scholz has been Ms Merkel’s finance minister and vice chancellor in the uneasy “grand coalition” of conservatives and members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) she had to bring together to form a government in 2017.

Before entering government, when he was an MP, Mr Scholz was often seen around then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Pic: AP
Before entering government, when he was an MP, Mr Scholz was often seen around then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Pic: AP

The latest polls suggest Mr Scholz has come from behind in his bid to replace her, while the main conservative candidate Armin Laschet has fallen behind.

If Mr Scholz wins, it will be a vindication of his attempt to follow in Ms Merkel’s footsteps.

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Germany election: What’s at stake?

Although frequently labelled “boring”, the 63-year-old finance minister has been keen to present himself as a man of action who can be trusted to get things done.

And, despite promising continuity and stability, Mr Scholz has distanced himself from his former conservative partners in the coalition, claiming they are too cozy with business.

A lawyer by background, he is a widely experienced politician having served in some of the highest offices at local and national level.

He first entered the German parliament at the age of 40 in 1998, and, amid spells of various lengths within the government of the city-state of Hamburg, has been high up in the federal government or SPD for the last 20 years.

Mr Scholz served as minister for labour in Angela Merkel's first cabinet after his appointment in 2007. Pic: AP
Mr Scholz served as minister for labour in Angela Merkel’s first cabinet after his appointment in 2007. Pic: AP

He was mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 but has also held the position of SPD chief whip, SPD deputy leader, and minister of labour and social affairs in Ms Merkel’s first government, as well as his current roles.

During the pandemic, Mr Scholz won praise from the International Monetary Fund for his measures, having ditched a balanced budget at home to protect the German economy and helped create the EU’s COVID recovery fund, despite Ms Merkel’s initial resistance.

Amid soaring German inflation and pressure from his conservative adversaries, he has been keen to keep the activities of the European Central Bank (ECB) separate to the government’s handling of the German economy, pointing to the need to respect the ECB’s independence, following the lead of his chancellor.

As mayor of Hamburg, one of the events Mr Scholtz presided over was hosting then prime minister David Cameron on an official visit to Germany just before a vital EU summit in 2016
As mayor of Hamburg, one of the events Mr Scholz presided over was hosting then prime minister David Cameron on an official visit to Germany just before a vital EU summit in 2016

He also cooperated with France to drive forward efforts to introduce a global minimum rate of corporate tax and new tax rules for tech giants.

His combination of prudence and vital assistance amid the crisis have paid off.

A snap poll after the last TV debate showed Mr Scholz won a clean sweep, despite conservative candidate Armin Laschet attacking his record on tackling money laundering.

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Is Germany as green as it would like to think?

From the moderate wing of his party and thoroughly versed in the realities of German government, if he wins he will set about the task of building a coalition, probably with the Greens, but perhaps of the grand coalition type that Ms Merkel has lived happily with repeatedly, alongside her CDU party.

During the COVID era, he has underwritten his left-of-centre credentials with a significant stimulus package but, in opposition to some on the left of his party – which is similar to the UK’s Labour movement – he wants Germany to rein in debt by 2023, reintroducing strict limits on federal and state government spending.

Olaf Scholz (L) is said to have won all three TV debates against the Greens' chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and CDU's candidate Armin Laschet. Pic: AP
Olaf Scholz (L) is said to have won all three TV debates against the Greens’ chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and CDU’s candidate Armin Laschet. Pic: AP

His claim to be as calm and collected as his potential predecessor may be on shakier ground than he admits, having shown a tetchiness in the past in his dealings with the media and rioters during the Hamburg G20 event, but he is adamant he is driven by pragmatism, not personality.

“I’m applying for chancellor, not to be a circus ringmaster,” he told women’s magazine Brigitte.

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Taliban prisons chief says the group will resume executions and amputations as punishment | World News



One of the founders of the Taliban has said that the group will resume executions and amputations as punishment.

Mullah Nooruddin Turabi warned the world against interfering in the plans, which come just weeks after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western troops.

Mr Turabi, who was chief enforcer of the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law when they last ruled the country in the late 1990s, said: “Everyone criticised us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments.

“No one will tell us what our laws should be.

“We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

Taliban fighters outside Kabul University, Afghanistan. Pic: AP
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. Pic: AP

Previously, convicted murderers were shot in the head by the victim’s family who also had the choice of accepting money and allowing the offender to live.

Convicted thieves had their hand amputated and highway robbers had a hand and a foot amputated.

Mr Turabi told the Associated Press that amputating hands “is very necessary for security”, adding that during the Taliban’s previous rule, such harsh punishments helped bring “complete safety” to the country.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday that the punishments “would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights”.

“We stand firm with the international community to hold perpetrators of these, of any such abuses, accountable,” he added.

“We are watching very closely, and not just listening to the announcements that come out but watching very closely as the Taliban conducts itself.”

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How popular is the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Taliban fighters have already revived an old punishment of public humiliation for men accused of small thefts.

At least twice in the past week men in Kabul have reportedly been put on the back of a pickup truck, their hands tied, and driven around the city.

But despite the revival of the old punishments, Mr Turabi insisted: “We are changed from the past.”

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Previously, the judiciary was heavily-influenced by hardline Islamic clerics but Mr Turabi said judges, including women, would adjudicate future cases.

He also said the Taliban would allow technology such as mobile phones, TV, photos and video “because this is the necessity of the people and we are serious about it.”

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Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou released after reaching agreement with US prosecutors | Science & Tech News



Huawei’s chief financial officer has reached a deal with US prosecutors that allows her to return to China.

Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei, has been in Canada since she was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018.

Her arrest followed an extradition warrant issued by the US for a range of charges relating to alleged breaches of sanctions against Iran.

But the deal means the US Department of Justice will drop its request to extradite her to the US and fraud charges against her will be dismissed in December 2022 – exactly four years after her arrest.

This will depend on her complying with certain conditions, including accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng’s defence lawyer Michelle Levin said she expected Meng to adhere to the conditions, adding: “We’re very pleased that in the meantime she can go home to her family”.

The details were confirmed during a court hearing, with Meng appearing via video from the Vancouver mansion where she was bailed after her arrest.

The court revoked all bail conditions, and Meng left for China shortly afterwards.

Before she left, Meng said: “Over the last three years my life has been turned upside down.

“It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and as a company executive.

“But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life.

“I will never forget all the good wishes I received.”

About an hour after Meng’s departure, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said that two Canadians arrested by Chinese authorities were also on their way home.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor had been accused of spying and were arrested in China in December 2018 – shortly after Meng was arrested in Canada.

Mr Trudeau said: “These two men have been through an unbelievably difficult ordeal. For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that.”

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