Haiti: Gang violence leaves nearly 200 dead in a month

Heavily armed rival gangs began clashing and seizing territory in Port-au-Prince with new intensity in late April, forcing more than 16,800 people, including children, to abandon their homes and shelter in temporary accommodation. The flare in violence has spilled into dozens of neighborhoods, with hundreds of families caught in the crossfire.

At least 92 of the 188 people reportedly killed between April 24 and May 26 were non-gang members, with another 113 people injured, 12 missing and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to OCHA.

But given the restricted access to the districts where territorial clashes are ongoing, the office warned the number of people killed could be much higher.

The intensity and duration of the violence has wracked the country as it is still reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, and the power vacuum his killing has left behind. The UN Security Council, meanwhile, is preparing to debate the future of the UN’s longtime presence in Haiti, leaving a question mark over its mandate in the country.
Demonstrators protest against surging violence in Port-au-Prince earlier this month.
“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said earlier this month, urging the Haitian authorities to restore the rule of law and calling on the international community to redouble its efforts to prevent the situation from “spiraling out of control.”

Officials say that the scale of the gang violence has reached unprecedented levels. Testimonies collected and cited by Bachelet included beheadings, chopping and burning of bodies, and the killing of minors accused of being informants for rival gangs.

Gangs have also gang-raped children as young as 10, a tactic used to punish people living in areas under rival control, Bachelet said.

The clashes have forced 11 medical centers and at least 442 schools to close — with some burned down and burgled. They have also blocked the two main national roads connecting the capital to the rest of the country, restricting the movement of people and goods.

Haitian Prime Minister involved in planning the President's assassination, says judge who oversaw case

OCHA said that while the violence appeared to have subsided in the last few days, the situation still remained “highly volatile.”

The Haitian Prime Minister’s Office and Haiti’s Police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. However, Prime Minister Henry has repeatedly said that his government is working to create security in the country.

Haiti has been in turmoil for years, but the violence escalated dramatically since Moïse’s assassination on July 7, 2021.

Moïse’s killing plummeted the country into political chaos, with opposition groups refusing to recognize the appointment of the current Prime Minister, Ariel Henry. Henry had promised a quick transition of power and elections once he took office on July 20 last year, but has been unable to reach a political deal for the transition or a timeline for elections.

In addition to the security situation and political crisis, Haiti is also suffering from high inflation levels and food insecurity, with one in five children in the neighborhood of Cité Soleil, near Port-au-Prince, under the age of 5 suffering from acute malnutrition, according to the UN.

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Biden announces new rockets and munitions to Ukraine in op-ed

Writing in a New York Times op-ed, Biden said the US goal is “to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.”

He said the new shipment of arms would “enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

The officials said the systems that the US is sending Ukraine will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 49 miles. That is far less than the systems’ maximum range, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

The new security assistance package, to be announced officially on Wednesday, will also include air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank weapons, anti-armor weapons, artillery rounds, helicopters, tactical vehicles and spare parts to help the Ukrainians continue maintaining the equipment, the officials said.

Still, Biden sought to spell out clearly what the US aims in Ukraine were and was careful to note the US is not looking to directly engage Russia.

“We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow,” Biden said, roughly two months after declaring in Warsaw, Poland, that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”

The new security assistance comes as Russia has pummeled Ukraine in the east, where the country is outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian officials have said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded with world leaders for more arms and equipment.

CNN previously reported that US officials were debating for weeks whether to send Ukraine the advanced rocket systems, because they can strike so much further than any weapons they already have. The weapons’ long range, technically capable of striking Russian territory, raised concerns that Russia might view the shipments as provocative.

“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces,” Biden wrote in the op-ed. “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

Last Friday, a prominent Russian television host warned that the shipment of long-range rocket systems to Ukraine would “cross a red line” that would “provoke a very harsh response from Russia.” But the Biden administration made it clear that it would not send ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems system that can strike deep into sovereign Russian territory.

“I think where the US stands is wanting to provide all of the assistance that we can to the Ukrainians without escalating the situation to a point where the war spills over or, frankly, goes in a terrible direction,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said earlier Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the US has accepted some risk to its own readiness with the continued shipment of weapons from Defense Department inventories to Ukraine, Wormuth said, but not a risk that the Pentagon considers too high.

“We have really leaned in to trying to provide everything the policy makers deem essential to get to the Ukrainians. And we have taken some risk to our own readiness — not an unacceptable level of risk at all, but I think we will continue to do that,” she said while speaking at an Atlantic Council event about the Army’s role in the National Defense Strategy.

The President said that US officials “currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible.”

“Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences,” Biden wrote.

This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.

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The world has been trying to master this limitless clean energy source since the 1930s. We’re now closer than ever

ITER’s fusion energy experiments will take place inside the vacuum vessel of a donut-shaped machine called a tokamak.

Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France — From a small hill in the southern French region of Provence, you can see two suns. One has been blazing for four-and-a-half billion years and is setting. The other is being built by thousands of human minds and hands, and is — far more slowly — rising. The last of the real sun’s evening rays cast a magical glow over the other — an enormous construction site that could solve the biggest existential crisis in human history.

It is here, in the tiny commune of Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, that 35 countries have come together to try and master nuclear fusion, a process that occurs naturally in the sun — and all stars — but is painfully difficult to replicate on Earth.

Fusion promises a virtually limitless form of energy that, unlike fossil fuels, emits zero greenhouse gases and, unlike the nuclear fission power used today, produces no long-life radioactive waste.

Mastering it could literally save humanity from climate change, a crisis of our own making.

Workers inspecting superconductors at ITER.

If it is mastered, fusion energy will undoubtedly power much of the world. Just 1 gram of fuel as input can create the equivalent of eight tons of oil in fusion power. That’s an astonishing yield of 8 million to 1.

Atomic experts rarely like to estimate when fusion energy may be widely available, often joking that, no matter when you ask, it’s always 30 years away.

But for the first time in history, that may actually be true.

In February, scientists in the English village of Culham, near Oxford, announced a major breakthrough: they generated and sustained a record 59 megajoules of fusion energy for five seconds in a giant donut-shaped machine called a tokamak.

It was only enough to power one house for a day, and more energy went into the process than came out of it. Yet it was a truly historic moment. It proved that nuclear fusion was indeed possible to sustain on Earth.

A view from the top of the tokamak chamber. The tokamak will ultimately weigh 23,000 tons, the combined weight of three Eiffel Towers.

This was excellent news for the project in France, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, better known as ITER. Its main objective is to prove fusion can be utilized commercially. If it can, the world will have no use for fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, the main drivers of the human-made climate crisis.

There has been a huge sense of momentum at ITER since the success in the UK, but the people working on the project are also undergoing a major change. Their director general, Bernard Bigot (pronounced bi-GOH in French), died from illness on May 14 after leading ITER for seven years.

Before his death, Bigot shared his infectious optimism for fusion energy from his sunny office, which overlooked the shell of ITER’s own tokamak, a sci-fi like structure still under construction.

“Energy is life,” Bigot said. “Biologically, socially, economically.”

Workers carry exhaust pipes away from the assembly hall. These pipes are used to expel exhaust from trucks that deliver the large components to the clean facility.

When the Earth was populated by less than a billion people, there were enough renewable sources to meet demand, Bigot said.

“Not anymore. Not since the Industrial Revolution and the following population explosion. So we embraced fossil fuels and did a lot of harm to our environment. And here we are now, 8 billion strong and in the middle of a drastic climate crisis,” he said.

“There is no alternative but to wean ourselves off our current main power source,” he said. “And the best option seems to be the one the universe has been utilizing for billions of years.”

Mimicking the sun

Fusion energy is created by forcing together two particles that, by nature, repel. After a small amount of fuel is injected into the tokamak, giant magnets are activated to create a plasma, the fourth state of matter, which is a bit like a gas or soup that is electrically charged.

By raising temperatures inside the tokamak to unfathomably high levels, the particles from the fuel are forced to fuse into one. The process creates helium and neutrons — which are lighter in mass than the parts they were originally made of.

The missing mass converts to an enormous amount of energy. The neutrons, which are able to escape the plasma, then hit a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy transfers as heat. That heat can be used to warm water, create steam and turn turbines to generate power.

This all requires the tokamak to contain serious heat. The plasma needs to reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. It begs the question: How can anything on Earth hold such high temperatures?

It’s one of many hurdles that generations of fusion energy seekers have managed to overcome. Scientists and engineers designed giant magnets to create a strong magnetic field to keep the heat bottled up. Anything else would simply melt.

What those working on fusion have been trying to do inside their machines is essentially replicate the sun. The sun is a perpetual fusion factory, made up of a gigantic burning ball of plasma. It fuses several hundred tons of hydrogen into helium each second.

Plasma is the stuff 99.9% of the universe is made of, including the stars, our sun and all interstellar matter. Down here on Earth, for instance, it’s used in televisions and neon lights, and we can see it in lightning and the aurora.

As awesome as that all sounds, generating fusion energy in itself isn’t actually the hard part, several experts at ITER said. Humanity has been pulling off nuclear fusion reaction ever since the invention of the H-bomb, after all. The main challenge is sustaining it. The tokamak in the UK — called the Joint European Torus, or JET — held fusion energy for five seconds, but that’s simply the longest that machine will go for. Its magnets were made of copper and were built in the 1970s. Any more than five seconds under such heat would cause them to melt.

ITER uses newer magnets that can last much longer, and the project aims to produce a 10-fold return on energy, generating 500 megawatts from an input of 50 megawatts.

Workers assembling some of the four poloidal field coils, which will make up part of the magnetic field cage necessary to contain the plasma. Each measures between 22 and 24 meters in diameter.

But ITER’s goal isn’t to actually use the energy for power but to prove that it can sustain fusion energy for much longer than JET was able to. Success here will mean commercial-scale machines can start generating fusion in the future.

While the sun fuses hydrogen atoms to create helium, the JET project used two hydrogen isotopes called deuterium and tritium, which ITER will also use. These isotopes behave almost identically to hydrogen, in terms of their chemical makeup and reactions.

Both deuterium and tritium are found in nature. Deuterium is abundant in both fresh and saltwater — the deuterium from just 500 milliliters of water, with a little tritium, could power a house for a year. Tritium is rare, but it can be synthetically produced. At the moment, only 20 kilograms of it exist in the world, and demand amounts to no more than 400 grams per year. But at a yield of 8 million to 1, only tiny amounts of both elements are required to generate a lot of fusion energy.

Tritium is an exceptionally pricey substance: a single gram is currently worth around $30,000. Should nuclear fusion take off, demand will go through the roof, presenting the world’s fusion masters with yet another challenge.

Workers preforming precision welding on superconductors during construction.

A 10 million-part project

From afar, ITER looks like a project ready to go. From up close, it’s clear it’s still a ways off.

The construction — across 39 building sites — is incredibly complex. The main worksite is a markedly sterile environment, where tremendous components are being put into place with the help of 750-ton cranes. Workers have already put together the shell of the tokamak, but they are still awaiting some parts, including a giant magnet from Russia that will sit at the top of the machine.

The dimensions are mind-blowing. The tokamak will ultimately weigh 23,000 tons. That’s the combined weight of three Eiffel towers. It will comprise a million components, further differing into no fewer than 10 million smaller parts.

This powerful behemoth will be surrounded by some of the largest magnets ever created. Their staggering size — some of them have diameters of up to 24 meters — means they are are too large to transport and must be assembled on site in a giant hall.

Given the huge number of parts involved, there’s simply no room for error.

Even the digital design of this enormous machine sits across 3D computer files that take up more than two terabytes of drive space. That’s the same amount of space you could save more than 160 million one-page Word documents on.

One of nine sectors of the vacuum vessel, which will soon be hoisted onto giant cranes for assembly.

Wartime nuclear fusion

Behind hundreds of workers putting the ITER project together are around 4,500 companies with 15,000 employees from all over the globe.

Thirty-five countries are collaborating on ITER, which is run by seven main members — China, the United States, the European Union, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea. It looks a little like the UN Security Council, though the late Bigot, among others, have tried hard to keep geopolitics out of ITER entirely.

But as Russia seeks to redraw Europe’s map with its war in Ukraine, and even challenge the post-war world order, there are concerns over the country’s continued role in ITER, and just as many over its potential exclusion.

Russia has been cut out of a number of other international scientific projects in the fallout of its war, but the European Commission has explicitly made an exception for ITER in its sanctions.

Part of this is because Russia is inextricably linked with not only the project but fusion energy historically.

The black platform in the lower part of the frame is the tokamak complex, a 400,000-ton edifice that brings together the tokamak, diagnostics and tritium buildings. The concrete structure behind it is the diagnostic building.

Countries began seeking fusion energy in the 1930s, building all sorts of machines over decades. But it was the tokamak, created in the Soviet Union, that proved most successful. In 1968, Soviet researchers made a huge fusion breakthrough — they were able to achieve the high temperatures required and contain the plasma for a sustained period, which had never been done before.

The tokamak became the machine to replicate. Even the word tokamak — a portmanteau for “toroidal magnetic confinement” — is from the Russian language.

Russia has also provided some of the most critical elements of the ITER project and is one of its main funders. The magnet for the top of the tokamak, for example, was made in St. Petersburg and waits there, ready to be sent to France, said ITER’s head of communications, Laban Coblentz.

So far, Russia’s involvement in the project hasn’t changed in any way, he said.

“ITER is really a child of the Cold War,” Coblentz said. “It’s a deliberate collaboration by countries that are ideologically unaligned who simply share a common goal for a better future.”

He pointed out that the seven main members have been through many tense events since ITER’s conception in 1985.

“Before anything around the latest Russia circumstances, that has to date never affected the collaborative spirit. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that ITER is a project of peace,” he said.

Inside the tokamak pit, a worker measures the connection between a cylindrical passage known as a feeder stub and the cryostat base, which helps keep the tokamak’s vacuum cool.

But Coblentz conceded that the war in Ukraine was “unprecedented” and that he couldn’t predict what it might mean for Russia’s future in ITER — something that will be a delicate issue for the next director general. Part of Bigot’s job was to coordinate the seven main members and their often-differing views on the handling of various political, ideological and economic issues.

When asked, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whether managing these differences got challenging, Bigot gave a wry smile.

“Now, that is truly no small feat,” he said.

“But our joint commitment remains as strong as ever. I can say that, from the beginning of my involvement with the project, daily politics has had virtually no impact on our endeavors,” he said.

“Each of the partners seems quite aware dropping the ball could easily mean the demise of the entire project. This, of course, is a tremendous responsibility.”

A winding stair case behind ITER’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in its 60-meter high assembly hall.

Geopolitics has always played a role in ITER. Just finding the right location for it took years and involved more than a decade of technical studies, political bargaining and diplomatic fine-tuning. France’s Saint-Paul-lez-Durance was finally made the official site in 2005 at a meeting in Moscow, and the agreement on construction was signed in Paris a year after.

As the diplomacy and technology fell in step, building began. In 2010, the foundations were laid, and in 2014, the first construction machines were switched on.

Time is running out

The scale and ambition of the ITER project may seem enormous, but it is, at the very least, a proportional response to the mess humans have made of the planet. Since 1973, global energy usage has more than doubled. By the end of the century, it might actually triple. Seventy percent of all carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are created through humans’ energy consumption. And 80% of all the energy we consume is derived from fossil fuels.

Now, the Earth is barreling toward levels of warming that translate into more frequent and deadly heat waves, famine-inducing droughts, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels. The impacts of the climate crisis are getting harder and harder to reverse as entire ecosystems reach tipping points and more human lives are put on the line.

A welder stands behind a protective shield at the lowest level of the ITER cryostat base.

The world is now scrambling to rapidly decarbonize and speed up its transition from planet-baking fossil fuels to renewable energy like solar, wind and hydropower. Some countries are banking on nuclear fission energy, which is low-carbon but comes with a small, but not negligible, risk of disaster, storage problems for radioactive waste and a high cost.

But there are serious questions about whether the world can make this green transition fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

That’s where fusion could be an 11th-hour hero — if the world masters it in time.

When the late physicist Stephen Hawking was asked by Time in 2010 which scientific discovery he would like to see in his lifetime, he pointed to exactly this process.

“I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source,” he said. “It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”

Part of the vacuum vessel, a hermetically sealed steel container that will house the fusion reactions and acts as a first safety containment barrier.

A new era

The experts working on nuclear fusion have overcome enormous challenges already, and so many, including Bigot, dedicated their entire careers to it and never saw it come into practical use.

Now commercial businesses are preparing to generate and sell fusion energy, so optimistic they are that this energy of the future could come online by mid-century.

But as ever with nuclear fusion, as one challenge is overcome another seems to crop up. The limited stocks and price of tritium is one, so ITER is trying to produce its own. On that front, the outlook isn’t bad. The blanket within the tokamak will be coated with lithium, and as escaped plasma neutrons reach it, they will react with the lithium to create more tritium fuel.

Time and money are always concerns for big projects, but “big” doesn’t even begin to describe the scale of ITER, which is truly one of the world’s largest and most ambitious international energy collaborations in history.

One day’s delay costs about a million euros, Bigot said.

The European Union is footing 45% of the project’s ever-mounting construction costs. All the other participant countries are contributing a little over 9% each, by rough estimations. Initially, the entire construction was estimated at around 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion). Right now, the total has more than tripled to around 20 billion euros.

Part of the cryostat for testing the poloidal field coils. The cryostat will help confine the plasma.

The 2001 predictions envisioned the first batch of plasma being produced in 2016, another missed goal. Some observers had considered the project dead in the water, but after Bigot took the helm, the project was streamlined and got back on track. Bigot had a reputation as a micromanager, Coblentz said, but that’s exactly what was needed to get this complicated project in order.

“When you got here, his car was in place at 7 a.m., and often here until 9 or 10 p.m. at night,” Coblentz said. “So you always had the impression that no detail was too large or too small for him to take seriously and be involved in.”

Though under his leadership, expectations and deadlines were also revised to be more realistic. First plasma is now expected in 2025, and the first deuterium-tritium experiments are hoped to take place in 2035, though even those are now under review — delayed, in part, by the pandemic and persistent supply chain issues.

Yet with one of the world’s biggest projects running behind time on his lap, Bigot remained passionate and optimistic about ITER’s potential until his last breath.

“Hydrogen fusion is a million times more efficient than burning up fossil fuels. What we are trying to do here is actually, really very much like creating a small artificial sun on Earth,” he said. “This fusion power plant will be in operation all the time. This sun, so to speak, will never set.”

Dusk falls over the ITER complex in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.

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Qatar Airways CEO defends 160 extra daily flights at ‘climate-neutral’ World Cup

Qatar Airways announced on Thursday it had partnered with regional carriers to allow World Cup ticket holders to fly into Doha and back from neighboring countries just for the day. Climate advocates say the decision flies in the face of the tournament’s sustainability goals.

“Please don’t believe people saying only negative [things],” Akbar Al Baker told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview on Monday, adding that he was confident the flights would be full.

“[We] have airplanes which have very low emissions compared to the normal aircraft most of the other airlines fly,” including long-haul flights, he said.

He did not elaborate on how the planes’ emissions would be lower than others, but the airline’s website says it uses “one of the youngest fleets in the sky” and has implemented 70 fuel optimization programs. Aviation is a major contributor to human-caused climate change. Qatar’s economy is oil-based and has one of the biggest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

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Before Thursday’s announcement, organizers had estimated a carbon footprint for the tournament of more than 3.6 million metric tons of CO2, more than half of which will come from traveling supporters. The emissions from the new daily flights — from Dubai, Muscat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait — will add to the current estimate.

In response to questions from CNN, FIFA said its previous carbon footprint estimate was published in February 2021 and that actual differences would be addressed once the tournament has concluded.

Qatar has said it will offset the emissions by “investing in green projects” — a common way for companies and people to cancel the impact of their footprint. Organizers have established a “Global Carbon Council” tasked with “identifying quality projects.”

Climate experts, however, have highlighted the limitations of offsetting programs, such as tree planting, arguing that they are overused and their impact sometimes overstated, to allow for business-as-usual emissions from burning fossil fuels.
The Official Emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is unveiled in Doha on September 3.
Carbon Market Watch published a report Tuesday that said the World Cup’s carbon credit plan supported projects with a “low level of environmental integrity” and had so far issued only 130,000 credits of the pledged 1.8 million. The World Cup is due to start in late November.

The Carbon Market Watch report also claims FIFA’s estimated carbon emissions for the tournament have been grossly underestimated, criticizing “the choice of accounting approach.”

Commenting on the report, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is responsible for the event, said it was “speculative and inaccurate to draw conclusions” on its commitment to carbon neutrality.

“The methodology used to calculate the carbon-neutral commitment is best in practice and was designed to be based on actual activity data, after the FIFA World Cup has concluded,” it said in a statement sent in response to CNN’s questions. “This will be published, and any discrepancies will be explained and offset.”

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FIFA also responded to the report and defended its own accounting method, saying it was based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used standard.

It added it had not “misled its stakeholders” and was “fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose on the economy, the natural environment and on people and communities.”

In a September press release, the Qatari organizers of the event said one of the advantages of hosting the World Cup was “the compact nature” of their country. The short distance between stadiums would negate the need for domestic air travel by fans and reduce the carbon footprint of the tournament. It went on to say air travel is “recognized as one of the world’s largest sources of carbon emissions.”

But there have been growing concerns that the small country of less than 3 million people may not be able to cope with so many fans. Flying spectators in and out in a day would alleviate the need for higher levels of accommodation.

Al Baker, however, said it was always the plan to run the extra flights to shuttle people in just for the day.

“His Highness the Emir always wanted to share the benefit of this tournament with all of our neighbors,” he said.

“It is feasible because, first and foremost, we have good state-of-the-art facilities. They process people very quickly. We have also brought in massive transportation facilities including the metro,” Al Baker said.

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Memorial Day: US will bring home and identify remains of unknown soldiers from only American cemetery in Africa

The announcement comes after the US and Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow the US to exhume the remains of unknown soldiers from the North African American Cemetery and repatriate them for identification and reunification with family members.

“We owe our fallen heroes and their families a profound debt of gratitude,” said the embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Natasha Franceschi. “Today’s historic agreement will ensure American service men and women who gave their lives to defend our freedom are recognized and honored for the ultimate sacrifice they gave to our country.”

The cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia, near the Mediterranean Sea is the burial site for 2,841 US service members from the North African campaign. The Wall of the Missing, a memorial wall bordering the cemetery, lists the names of 3,724 service members who went missing in action and have never been found.

It’s not clear how many sets of remains will be brought back to the US.

Attendees stand during the Memorial Day ceremony at the North African American Cemetery. Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerendei (front row, left) stands next to US Embassy Tunisia Chargée d'Affaires Natasha Franceschi.

The Allied taking of Tunisia provided a foothold for the invasion of Europe during World War II. Despite early successes for German and Italian forces, the Axis powers lost their grip on Tunisia against the Allied forces, who were better supplied. By the summer of 1943, the Allies had taken Tunisia, driving out what remained of the Axis forces.

The North African American Cemetery, for service members who perished in the campaign, was founded in 1960, but the US was never able to exhume and attempt to identify the remains of unknown soldiers.

The newly signed memorandum of understanding will finally allow the US to begin the often-difficult process of exhuming the remains and identifying them. The embassy did not say how soon that would begin.

An official from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency also attended the signing ceremony. That agency’s mission is to recover American military personnel and identify them using a combination of forensic science technology and military records.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, emphasized the deep and unwavering commitment to honor the sacrifice of service members.

“When choosing between what is easy and what is right, let us live by the example of our fallen warriors,” said Austin. “And when those values that we hold dear are put to the test, let us live by the ideals that they gave their lives to defend.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to make clear it is unknown how many sets of remains will be brought back to the US.

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Hurricane Agatha: Agatha downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall in southern Mexico as a Category 2 storm

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph with some higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.

Agatha made landfall Monday afternoon, just west of Puerto Angel, packing 105 mph winds, according to the hurricane center.

All hurricane warnings were discontinued, but tropical storm warnings remained in place from Puerto Escondido to Salina Cruz.

Agatha, the first hurricane of the eastern Pacific season, had rapidly intensified in the eastern Pacific Ocean and was nearing major hurricane status as it approached the southern Mexican coast Sunday night.

The storm is expected to continue weakening and dissipate by Tuesday afternoon, but “could produce life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides over southern Mexico through Tuesday,” the hurricane center said.

The heaviest rain was set to fall in the state of Oaxaca, where up to 16 inches was forecast, with isolated areas of 20 inches possible.

The remnants of Agatha are expected to head out into the Caribbean Sea and are now at a 50% chance of redevelopment in the next 5 days.

Forecasters are watching for development near the Yucatan Peninsula late this week

Agatha’s remnants may contribute to the gradual development of a tropical system in the “far southwest Gulf of Mexico around mid-week or in the northwest Caribbean by the latter part of this week,” according to the National Hurricane Center’s Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook. “Regardless of development, locally heavy rains will be possible across southern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize through the week,” the center said.

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Cuba anti-government activists face trial

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo Perez, known as “Osorbo,” are both members of the San Isidro Movement, a group of artists and activists who have clashed with Cuban officials over government censorship.

Both men appeared in the music video for the opposition song “Patria y Vida,” which means “homeland and life” in Spanish, a searing critique of the Cuban government.

Osorbo, who rapped in parts of the song, shared two Latin Grammys that “Patria y Vida” won in 2021.

The Cuban government so far has not commented on the trials, but previously said both men are agents of the United States, paid to disrupt the social order on the communist-run island.

Per activists, Otero Alcantara faces charges of defamation of public institutions and national symbols, contempt and public disorder while Osorbo is being tried for disrespect and resisting authority.

Both men have said they are being unjustly persecuted for attempting to peacefully protest against government censorship.

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In an audio message that activist Claudia Genlui distributed on social media purportedly of Otero Alcantara speaking from prison, the artist says Cuban officials have told him he will not face prison time if he chooses to go into exile.

“In the country I dream of,” Otero Alcantara said in the audio message, “the children of Cuba will not have to emigrate and will be able to fulfill their goals on the island or return whenever they wish.”

Osorbo was arrested in May 2021 following several confrontations with police and, according to activists, faces up to ten years in prison.

Otero Alcantara was arrested in July 2021 during widespread protests across Cuba where thousands took to the streets decrying the lack of food, medicines and civil liberties.

Cuba blamed the US government for creating the unrest.

According to activists, Otero Alcantara faces up to seven years in prison.

On Monday there was a heavy police presence outside the court where activists said the men were going on trial.

Cuba's anti-government protesters sentenced up to 30 years behind bars

Police manning barricades blocked the street outside the court, preventing international journalists and diplomats from several European countries from reaching the building.

Trying the men could create greater dissent among Cubans.

After Otero Alcantara was detained following a hunger strike in 2020, hundreds of artists and students staged a sit-in at the Ministry of Culture. Cuban officials quickly released Otero and claimed he was part of a US “soft coup” against the island.

Following the July 2021 protests, the Cuban government has tried hundreds of demonstrators, the most widespread prosecutions since the beginning of the island’s revolution.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between leaving their own country or facing abusive criminal charges for which they should not be prosecuted or imprisoned in the first place,” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement on the two activists.

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The patients at this New Zealand rehab center aren’t people — they’re penguins

(CNN) — Sassy, hardy, and vicious: that’s how yellow-eyed penguins are fondly described by the people who spend their days working with them.

“(They) aren’t as cute and cuddly as they look,” says Jason van Zanten, conservation manager at Penguin Place in the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. “They can give you a really hard slap.”

Locally called hoiho, which means “noise shouter” in Māori, the yellow-eyed penguin is the largest of the penguin species that live and breed on New Zealand’s mainland.

But its population has fallen dramatically in the past 30 years due to increasing threats from predators, climate change and disease. “In the last 10 or so years, we’ve lost about three-quarters of the population,” says van Zanten.

Now, conservationists are rallying to save the species. Penguin Place — where van Zanten works — provides a place for hoiho to rest and recuperate while nearby, The Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin treats those with serious injury and disease.

These penguin havens are racing against the clock to save the rapidly declining population — and give the “noise shouters” a fighting chance at survival.

The yellow-eyed penguin — known as hoiho which means “noise shouter” in Māori — is the largest of the penguin species that live on New Zealand’s mainland. But in recent decades, hoiho numbers have plummeted. Now, conservationists are racing to save these rare birds from extinction.

Penguins in rehab

While Penguin Place is a refuge for all sick and starving birds, including other penguin species, hoiho make up the majority of patients passing through, says van Zanten.

The center was founded in 1985 when local farmer Howard McGrouther fenced off around 150 acres of his land to create a reserve for the eight breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins that nested on his property.

McGrouther “set up the bones of the rehabilitation center,” and also started replanting native trees that were previously cleared for agriculture, says van Zanten, who began working at the center as a laborer, cutting grass and doing maintenance, and now oversees operations. The center was funded entirely by tourism until the Covid-19 pandemic, when it had to close to the public and was granted government funding through the department of conservation, says van Zanten.

Starvation is a big problem for hoiho, with around 80% of the penguins arriving at the center underweight, says van Zanten. Commercial fishing — which has resulted in some penguins ending up as bycatch — has reduced the availability of the small fish and squid the penguins feed on, and fluctuating sea temperatures due to climate change have altered the distribution of their prey.

“They do like it to be a little bit cooler, and with our rising temperatures, they are getting stressed out a lot more and overheating,” says van Zanten.

A mystery disease

Aside from starvation, many hoiho arrive at the Penguin Place with disease and injury — and that’s where The Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin, which specializes in native species, steps in.

On land, hoiho are hunted by mammals including dogs, stoats and foxes which can leave them or their chicks seriously wounded, while in the water, sharks and barracouta, a predatory fish with razor sharp teeth, often inflict “horrific injuries,” says Lisa Argilla, a senior wildlife vet and director of The Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin.

Hoiho typically stay at Penguin Place for around two weeks, to rest, recover and fatten up before returning to the wild.

Hoiho typically stay at Penguin Place for around two weeks, to rest, recover and fatten up before returning to the wild.

Ben Foley / CNN

Hoiho also suffer from various diseases, including avian malaria and dermatitis, which the hospital can treat with antibiotics. Additionally, avian diphtheria has ravaged the hoiho population in the past 20 years: it causes lesions, similar to ulcers, in the bird’s mouth and makes it difficult for them to eat, ultimately leading to starvation.

And now there’s another new, unknown disease affecting hoiho chicks. Tentatively referred to as “red lung”, the disease causes respiratory problems, according to Kate McInnes, a threatened species veterinarian at the department of conservation in New Zealand.

Cases started appearing five years ago but “there’s been a significant increase over the past two (years)” says McInnes. She adds that the disease doesn’t appear to be infectious, but researchers are still trying to determine the cause.

If chicks arrive at the hospital already sick with the mystery illness, Argilla says they can’t be saved. But Argilla and her team have found a solution: hand-rearing chicks at the hospital.

“If we get them at a certain age, when they’re very young, we can actually prevent them from getting this disease,” she says. The chicks are taken from their nests shortly after hatching, and are reunited with their parents in the wild after 10 to 14 days.

For sick and injured birds, The Wildlife Hospital sends them to Penguin Place after treatment, where they recover before being released back to the wild, says Argilla. “It’s exciting for us to know that what we are doing is actually making a difference.”

A chance to bounce back?

Back at Penguin Place, the hoiho are kept in small enclosures with rocks, wooden blocks and shelters. They are put on an intensive feeding program to fatten them up before release, and fed fish twice a day.

Most birds stay in the center for around two weeks before they are released into the reserve where they can mate and nest, says van Zanten, adding “the more they’re in the wild, the better for them.”

As the world’s only solitary species of penguin, hoiho are antisocial and don’t like to nest within sight of their neighbors — sometimes even abandoning their eggs if they spot another penguin, says van Zanten. To make them feel more secure, Penguin Place has scattered little A-frame wooden houses across the reserve, hidden beneath the shade of trees and bushes near the beach.

Penguin Place offers tours of the reserve to visitors through camouflaged, hand-dug tunnels, so that tourists can spot the hoiho in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

Penguin Place offers tours of the reserve to visitors through camouflaged, hand-dug tunnels, so that tourists can spot the hoiho in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

Ben Foley / CNN

While there’s always a risk when removing animals from the wild, McInnes says a hands-on approach to conservation is necessary: “If we don’t interfere, a large number of those chicks will die.” She anticipates an increase in breeding pairs returning to the beach over the next year or two, as a result of the interventions.

And van Zanten is optimistic that the species can bounce back. Penguin Place boasts an extremely high success rate: more than 95% of the 200 to 300 birds that come to the center every year are released back to the wild, he says. Last year the center achieved a personal best, with 99% of birds released, giving hope for this critically endangered bird.

“The work we are doing is absolutely critical for these (penguins), and their survival here on the mainland,” says van Zanten.

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Colombia elections 2022: Presidential vote headed for a runoff

With 98% of the votes counted, early results showed left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro with just over 40% of the votes, the populist former mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernandez with 28%, and right-wing candidate Federico “Fico” Gutierrez with 23%.

Petro and Hernandez are now expected to face each other during a second round of voting on June 19th.

Petro casts a ballot at a polling location during the first-round presidential election in Bogota, Colombia, on Sunday, May 29, 2022.
Rodolfo Hernandez leaves a polling station after voting in presidential elections in Bucaramanga on Sunday, May 29, 2022.

Polls closed late on Sunday with no major reports of violence or unrest.

“We have one of the oldest democracies in this hemisphere. We have one of the most solid democracies and it becomes solid because every four years we make an orderly transition,” outgoing president Ivan Duque said on Sunday.

The vote took place in one of the most turbulent times in Colombia’s modern history, with the country plagued by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, social unrest and a deteriorating security situation.
Colombia's presidential election: A rattled country looks left, but will voters make historic pivot?

Duque’s own approval rating is currently at a low, with his tenure marred by his administration’s handling of police conduct, inequality, and clashes between organized criminal groups.

Popular discontent has placed the left in sight of the presidency for the first time in the country’s history. Still, the preliminary results represent of a setback for the 62-year-old Petro — a former guerrilla fighter and mayor of Bogota — who had been widely regarded as a leading candidate.

If elected next month, Petro would become Colombia’s first leftist leader; his running mate Francia Marquez would also become the first Afro-Colombian to hold executive powers. Petro has proposed a radical overhaul of the country’s economy to combat one of the highest inequality rates in the world.

Meanwhile Hernandez, 77, has appealed to centrist voters with a unique social-media campaign. The self-proclaimed “King of TikTok” declined to participate in several televised debates and gave few interviews to foreign outlets — although he did appear on CNN, wearing his pajamas, saying that he was a “man of the people.”

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Jerusalem, Israel: Violence erupts during controversial flag march

Crowds waving Israeli flags set off from Damascus Gate — the main entry to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City — dancing and chanting “the nation of Israel lives” and “death to Arabs.”

Israeli police in riot gear blocked surrounding streets, forcibly removing Palestinian protesters from the route.

Seventy-nine Palestinians were injured in Jerusalem by rubber bullets, sound grenades and pepper spray, he Palestinian Red Crescent Society said, and one protester was shot with live fire.

Twenty-eight people were evacuated to the hospital following clashes with Israeli security forces and Israeli marchers, according to the agency.

At least 163 Palestinians were also injured in the West Bank. At least 11 of those injuries were caused by live bullets, according to the Red Crescent.

More than 50 people have been arrested and detained for involvement in incidents of riots and assaulting police officers, Israel’s police said in a statement Sunday.

Israeli army soldiers take aim during clashes with protesters following a demonstration to denounce the annual "flag march," on May 29, 2022.

Five police officers were lightly injured in the various incidents and needed medical treatment, the police also said. Over 2,000 police officers and volunteers had been deployed throughout Jerusalem.

The flag march is an annual parade where mostly nationalist Jewish groups celebrate Israel gaining control of the Western Wall during the 1967 Six-Day War and capturing East Jerusalem, placing the entire city under Israeli control.

The march has also been a flashpoint with Palestinian residents of the Old City in previous years.

Reporting contributed by CNN’s Atika Shubert, Abeer Salman and Lauren Izso in Jerusalem and by Celine Alkhaldi in Amman.

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