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migrants

Death Toll In San Antonio Migrant Tragedy Continues To Rise

Efforts to identify the dozens of migrants found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio has proven to be a slow effort for officials, as many of the fatalities carry no — or in some cases, stolen — identification. Efforts to contact victims’ family members has also been difficult due to their remoteness.

Meanwhile, the number of total deaths has now reached 53, up from the initial 46 Monday. Originally, 16 people were hospitalized, with at least 13 in critical condition. 40 of the victims were male, while 13 were female.

According to officials, 37 of the victims had been potentially identified Wednesday morning. The victims’ suspected origins vary, with some from Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. The tragedy is now being called the deadliest U.S. smuggling incident in history.

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Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores explained the stage of identification is a “tedious, sad, difficult process.” Meanwhile, mourning the deaths, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg stated that the victims had families “who were likely trying to find a better life.”

“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy. This is a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before.”

President Joe Biden was equally horrified at the deaths, saying the situation underscores “the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.”

Stepping into the non-air conditioned trailer was sadly a fatal decision for the migrants, who were forced to endure the Texas weather that can reach up to highs of 100 degrees. The total group of 67, covered in steak seasoning to avoid authorities, was abandoned in the vehicle, where they proceeded to suffer from heat strokes and heat exhaustion.

While the truck has been registered in Alamo, Texas, it possessed fake numbers and plates. The road it was discovered on is referred to by locals as “lo boca del lobo,” which in English translates to “the mouth of the wolf” due to its remoteness.

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According to Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, the driver of the vehicle was apprehended after pretending to be one of the migrants, while two other men have been arrested. The road is located around 150 miles North of the U.S.-Mexico border.

CBP commissioner Chris Magnus previously warned that smugglers like those apprehended will continue to take advantage of desperate migrants for financial gain. Typically, migrants pay around $8,000 to $10,000 for transportation in tractor trailers and smaller vehicles.

“The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving,” Magnus explained.

“Our message to those who would try and gain illegal entry to the United States remains the same – don’t make the dangerous journey only to be sent back.”

At the end of 2021, over 1.5 million migrants had arrived at and crossed the border, the highest total in 20 years. It forced the U.S. border control to make 1.6 million apprehensions, a figure not seen since 1986. According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report, 239,416 migrants crossed over in May, a 2% increase from April. 25% of that group has attempted to cross more than once.

The risks that migrants take crossing the desert through scorching heat have costed heavy tolls. So far in 2022, 290 migrants have died attempting to secure access into the U.S. 2021 saw 650 deaths at the border, the highest number since the International Organization of Migration began tracking in 2014.

Travel Ban

US Lifts Pandemic Travel Ban For International Visitors 

This Monday the US lifted restrictions on travel from a long list of countries which will allow tourists to make long-delayed trips and reconnect with their family members living in the states, more than a year and a half since the pandemic began. Some of the countries included on the list are Mexico, Canada, and most of Europe. 

The US is now accepting fully vaccinated travelers at airports and land borders, fully removing all Covid-19 restrictions initially imposed during the last presidential administration. 

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The new guidelines allow air travel from previously restricted countries as long as the individual has proof of vaccination in addition to a negative Covid test. If an individual is traveling into the US by land, from Mexico or Canada, they’ll just need proof of vaccination, but no negative test. 

Airlines in general are preparing for an influx of travelers from Europe specifically as well. Data from Cirium, a travel and analytics firm, shows that airlines are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the US by 21% this month. 

The new guidelines will also likely impact the Mexico-US and Canada-US borders tremendously, as traveling back and forth between all three countries was a normalized means of travel pre-pandemic. 

These new guidelines will also ideally help improve local and state economies on the border. Malls, restaurants, and retail establishments in general have been devastated economically by the lack of visitors from Mexico and Canada. 

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There’s also a lot of personal motivation from Americans that have motivated officials to reopen the borders. So many families in the US were forced to stay away from their families due to pandemic restrictions and how far away they live.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.”

Airlines will require air travelers to verify their vaccine records and match them against their ID, and if they don’t, they could face up to nearly $35,000 in fines for every violation. Airlines will also be collecting information about passengers for contact tracing purposes.

CDC workers will be spot-checking travelers for compliance in the US as well. At land borders, Customs and Border Protection agents will be checking proof of vaccines, to ensure everyone’s information is legitimate. 

U.S. Opens Mexican, Canadian Land Borders To Fully Vaccinated People

After over a year and five months of heavily restricted travel, the United States will begin easing bans by allowing fully vaccinated, nonessential travelers to cross into the country over the Mexican and Canadian land borders.

Details of the new policy were previewed to a number of reporters by senior administration officials, who chose to remain anonymous. The officials gave comments on the opening, saying that the vaccination requirements will ensure safety during travels.

“This is an important step that will further enhance the safety of international travel and the safety of Americans at home. These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Officials explained that the easing of nonessential traveling across borders will begin in early November, although a date was not specified. Unvaccinated persons can only enter if they have essential purposes.

The second phase of the rules will begin in early January 2022, which will see all travelers, whether essential or nonessential, require vaccinations in order to enter the country.

According to officials, the period between November and January should “provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers and others to get vaccinated, enabling a smooth transition to this new system.”

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While the current travel restrictions end on Oct. 21 as USA Today points out, there will be a new restriction placed leading up until the day in November that phase one begins.

While it isn’t know what vaccines will be permitted at the border crossings, USA Today gave a list of vaccines that are either U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) approved, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

These new travel rules also only apply to legal travelers. Illegal travelers who attempt to enter into the country will still be in violation of Title 42, which allows the U.S. to expel immigrants without allowing them a chance for asylum.

While the Trump Administration came under scrutiny for their use of Title 42, the Biden Administration has also enforced the law as recently as late September when thousands of Haitians congregated at the Texas border.

Officials explained that travelers via vehicle, rail, and boat will be asked by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their vaccination status, along with other typically needed admission documents. Officials also stated that COVID-19 testing will not be required for vehicle, sea, or rail assuming the passengers have their vaccination.

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The timing of these new protocols were likely influenced by the surrounding countries’ vaccine statuses. One official explained that both Mexico and Canada have high vaccination rates, as well as vaccine availability. Additionally, the official discussed about having both air and land travel approaches be “consistent.”

Right now, 38% of the total population in Mexico is vaccinated, while 52% have had at least one dose. Meanwhile, 72% of Canada’s population have reached full vaccination, while 77% have received at least one dose.

As CNN notes, the U.S. had been extending the restrictions on Canadian and Mexican border travel on a monthly basis since the pandemic accelerated back in March of 2020. Canada had previously announced that vaccinated U.S. citizens would be able to enter the country in early August. However, the U.S. remained noncommittal about border restrictions at that time.

Ironically, despite the United States’ reservations regarding opening Canadian borders to nonessentials, America currently has a lower overall fully vaccinated rate (57%).

Travelers from Mexico and Canada won’t be the only foreigners impacted by new protocols. Yahoo! Finance reported that starting in November, all international travelers must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test three days before a U.S.-bound flight. Additionally, unvaccinated Americans flying abroad will face stricter requirements.

Survey

Pew Survey Reveals Global Citizens’ Views on World Leaders

In the United States, the president’s approval rating is historically low, hovering at about 42% while his disapproval rating rarely falls below 50%. However, the opinion of the United States president held by people around the world is even lower, as a recent Pew survey shows that almost two-thirds of people surveyed in 33 countries express “no confidence” in President Trump, whereas just 29% of those surveyed express confidence in him. The results vary widely by country, but only a handful of countries, including Israel, India, the Philippines, and Kenya, have a majority of citizens who approve of the president. Unsurprisingly given the president’s rhetoric about building a wall on the southern border of the United States, a whopping 89% of Mexicans surveyed expressed no confidence in the president, and the president has similarly high disapproval ratings across much of Europe, in particular Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Interestingly, the percentage of global citizens Pew surveyed who approve of President Obama exactly matches the percentage of those surveyed who disapprove of President Trump at 64%.

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That being said, a majority of respondents surveyed worldwide, 54%, expressed favorable views of the U.S., whereas 38% had an unfavorable view. This suggests that people around the world separate their view of the president from their view of the country as a whole, perhaps reflecting a view that the presidency of Donald Trump is a fluke rather than a genuine reflection of the general attitudes of Americans. Trump ranked dead last among five of the world’s most influential leaders; by contrast, German chancellor Angela Merkel took first place, at a confidence level of 46%. Interestingly, none of the world leaders drew a global confidence level greater than 50%, suggesting that people around the world are skeptical of the world’s leadership as a whole.

Citizens of the world not only disapproved of President Trump as a leader, but also of many of the specific policies he has implemented or proposed. 68% of people in the survey disapproved of the president’s practice of putting tariffs on goods imported from other countries, and 66% of people disapproved of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords and its position in the fight against climate change more broadly. People also generally disliked the idea of building a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, as well as the country’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. In fact, the only policy that people more people approved of than disapproved of was the opening of talks between the United States and North Korea, though even in this case less than half, 41%, of respondents approved of it whereas 36% disapproved.

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The U.S. president was ranked more favorably in right-leaning countries than in left-leaning ones, which is unsurprising given that U.S. politics is generally further to the right than those of the rest of the world. In countries that have displayed authoritarian tendencies, like the Philippines and India, Trump had the highest approval rating. In general, men were more likely than women to have a favorable opinion of Trump. In Ukraine, a country which has become relevant to the United States in the wake of the scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment, 73% of people surveyed had a positive view of the United States, although just 46% of people had a positive view of Trump specifically. His popularity in Israel specifically likely has to do with his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem as well as his decision to terminate the Iran nuclear deal, which is unpopular in Israel.

Though the survey reveals broadly negative views of Trump around the world, the president’s approval rating has actually increased since 2017, when just 22% of respondents expressed confidence in Trump. Given the tumultuous nature of modern-day global politics, it’s difficult to predict how these numbers will change as time goes on.

Scientists

Scientists Happy To Relocate – Especially to North America

A recent survey from ResearchGate suggests that not only are scientists prepared to relocate for the best positions and research opportunities, they are more than likely to head to North America.

Thanks to the vital role that universities have when looking at scientific development, there are many leading scientists, as well as empower researchers, who are happy to move location in order to fulfill their career and research goals.

Any scientific research needs teams with the best academics around, making sure they continue to look further than what we already know, looking for new discoveries as well as more details well known. However to do this research teams not only require the best talent around, but they also need to retain it.

Scientific funding is often cut, especially in the current political climate around the world, and with uncertainties surrounding immigration policies it is easy to understand why there is so much negative commentary.

With this in mind, the ResearchGate survey looks at what is really required when researchers are looking at the academic job market. What do they require to maintain their institution’s strong teams while maintaining their journey of scientific discoveries?

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Ten thousand researchers, all at varying levels in their careers, were surveyed about what they believed their academic job market needs were. And by surveying researchers from across the world, this could well be the biggest survey of researchers in this area.

As with many industries, literal geographical boundaries are being removed. By interacting with other researchers around the world on a daily basis, it is becoming increasingly easier to solve scientific issues. With this knowledge, it is clear why so many scientists are happy to relocate if they were given a research opportunity that they felt was the right move for them. In fact, an amazing 70 percent surveyed would look at the options of working in a different country.

And with the world experiencing an era of political insecurity, it is surprising to see that this is not affecting scientists’ goals when looking at their research work.

Among the areas that scientists were happy to move to North America came out at the number one spot. This is a clear indication that the continent is a world leader in scientific research, regardless of the lack of understanding of the different governments’ attitudes to not only scientific funding, but also the confusing immigration policies. However, with many of the U.S. Nobel Prize winners being represented by immigrants, it is clear that whatever else is happening in the world, scientific research is not tied down by race issues.

Currently the visa application process to gain access to the U.S. can be quite intricate, with many employees finding it an obstacle when choosing where to relocate in the world. However, scientists have gone against this trend with the level of difficulty in applying for visas – along with relocation support – being voted as one of the least worrying aspects of relocation.

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Most researchers have an area of expertise that they hone in on, ensuring they continue to grow in their quest for further discoveries. This factor indicates the need to look for an “opportunity to work in an area of particular interest” when looking for a new position.

However it is not just discoveries that researchers are working towards. The need for their work to have some significance to the world, for their studies to lead to a discovery are also extremely important on the work wish list.

The study shows that researchers require the chance to “develop or contribute to new methods and techniques” as well as working towards their work making “an impact on the real world.”

It is also important to remember that although what a scientist will be doing is the main concern when looking for future posts, the work/home life balance – as well as a decent remuneration package – is also vastly important. Over half of all academics surveyed were in either a long-term relationship or married while 32 percent had children to consider.

Other factors that were taken into consideration were the actual location – 18% – as well as the salary – 21%, yet there were many other factors that would need to be considered, such as the benefits that were on offer to the employee. For example, those with children considered the family-oriented benefits such as whether childcare facilities were included or the level of parental leave.

The outcome of this survey appears to be that while researchers are looking to make a positive change to the world, to work together on an international scale and to bring their levels of expertise to the areas that would benefit from them the most, they are also requiring the right level of remuneration, seeking a relocation package that not only offers all of the aforementioned, but provides them with the right balance on keeping both work and home life happy.

Mexico

Mexican Community Being Built Using 3D Printer

A neighborhood in Mexico is being built for families who are currently living on $3 per day, thanks to a 3D printer. Two houses have already been created using an enormous 3D printer in a poverty stricken area of Mexico, making them the first houses in the new neighborhood. However, developers are saying the houses are not prototypes and that they are planning on replacing the current, rickety structures that residents had previously used to build their homes – such as wood or metal – within the next twelve months.

Tabasco in Mexico is a seismic zone, prone to flooding and earthquakes and therefore need structures that can stay upright during an earthquake, and dry during the torrential rains.The community is being built by New Story and their co-founder and CEO Brett Hagler, who told CNN:

“These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income … and they’re living on about an average of $3 a day. They’re living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for months.”

A non-profit whose aim is to help families in need of a home, New Story has already built over 2,700 dwellings in Mexico and South America since Hagler co-founded the company in 2014. However, this is the first project they have opted to use 3D printing for all the properties.

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Partnering with ICON and ÉCHALE has enabled them to work on the ambitious project. The project is using 3D printing robotics that were developed by construction technology company ICON. Mexican non-profit ÉCHALE have been working to locate the families who will eventually live in the properties and therefore have taken their input to help the design of the building.

The printer is a staggering 33-foot and “prints” a concrete mix to build the walls, layer by layer. As the mix hardens while it’s drying it can take around 24 hours – over a couple of days – for two homes to be built. This is nearly twice as fast as a New Story home is built using normal techniques. New Story says that since the mix is stronger than concrete, the foundations are reinforced, helping the properties to stand up to any seismic activity.

Each 500-square-foot home will have a flat roof and curved walls, with a living room, kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. However, the two homes already built are still empty as it would not be safe for residents to live in the construction area. It is unclear as yet how much each house will cost however New Story is keen to work with families, potentially charging them around 20-30 per cent of their income. Many residents in Tabasco just want the opportunity to own something in their own community.

Austin based company ICON took over three years to create a printer that would be able to sustain this type of project, and this printer – named Vulcan II – is perfect for the job. Although in this project the printer is concentrating on two 500-square-foot homes simultaneously, it has the capacity to build one 2,000 square foot house. It can also build walls that are 28 feet wide and nearly 9 feet tall.

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In the last year alone the speed in which the printer works has become a lot faster. In March 2018 ICON announced they had built a three bedroom house in 48 hours. Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON explained:

“It’s 10 times better than where we were a year ago. I am so proud. It is so rare that the most in need of our sisters and brothers globally get first access to advanced technologies and breakthroughs in materials science. We think part of what 3D printing allows us to do is to deliver a much higher-quality product to the housing market at a speed and price that’s typically not available for people in low-income housing. It is a house that anyone would be proud to live in.”

However getting the printer away from the lab and actually getting it into the construction site was a hard task thanks to some harsh weather conditions. Although the company used a standard shipping container to move the printer to site, border authorities asked many questions when they say it.

Ballard confirmed that the printer had arrived at the height of summer, at the beginning of the rainy season, therefore creating even more logistical issues for the company. With muddy roads, floods and high humidity Ballard says he realized how lucky we are in America.

Cruise Ships

Two Cruise Ships Collide, Injuring Six

The last thing you’d want to experience when vacationing on a cruise is an accident that stops the festivities and puts people in danger. But that’s exactly what happened to passengers on two cruise ships which collided today off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, injuring six. Fortunately, nobody sustained any serious or life-threatening injuries, and both ships were deemed to be seaworthy despite the damage, meaning passengers are able to complete their cruise as scheduled. The collision of the two ships, the Carnival Glory and the Carnival Legend, was captured on video and frightened passengers, who heard the sound of cracking and shattering glass and were told to evacuate rooms close to the scene of the accident. Indeed, as can be seen in the video, much of the Carnival Legend’s dining hall was destroyed in the impact, though fortunately no one was directly struck by the colliding ship. One passenger was hurt while rooms were being evacuated, though, and five more passengers arrived at the Carnival Glory’s medical center for evaluation, having sustained minor injuries.

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As of yet, it is unclear exactly what led to the collision, which occurred around 10 a.m. this morning as one ship was maneuvering to dock and ran into the other ship which was already docked. For now, Carnival officials have advised the ships’ passengers to spend their day in Cozumel as they continue to assess the damage to the ships and manage the aftermath of the accident. According to passengers of the Carnival Glory who spoke with CNN about the incident, high winds and ocean currents were factors that led to the crash, though a full investigation has yet to be completed. While passengers who were close to the point of collision screamed as they witnessed the frightening event, most of each ships’ passengers barely noticed the crash, describing it as feeling like the boat had been jolted by a large wave. Carnival has not yet said whether it would compensate the customers who underwent the frightening ordeal for its mistake.

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While incidences like this are rare, particularly as technology and safety standards have evolved, passengers of cruise ships do occasionally find themselves in the middle of accidents that at best put a damper on their vacation and at worst threaten lives. While today’s collision is relatively minor, all things considered, more serious events have taken place on cruise ships in the past. Everybody knows that the Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg over a century ago, but this is not the deadliest accident on a cruise ship in history; that would be the destruction of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, which was built by the Nazis and was sunk by torpedoes fired from a Russian submarine in 1945, killing over nine thousand passengers. More recently, a generator fire left the Carnival Triumph without electricity for days, disabling the boat’s sewage system and causing the ship’s passengers and crew tremendous stress. And in 2012, the Costa Concordia, which had room for 4,200 guests, sank after hitting an underwater rock, killing 32 passengers. 

WhatsApp

Hackers Target Government Officials Using WhatsApp

Facebook is embroiled in controversy in the aftermath of the company’s decision not to remove political advertisements that contain falsehoods, drawing criticism from politicians and the general public alike for being complicit in spreading misinformation. The social media platform is no stranger to controversy of this sort, as many critics have called out the company for failing to mitigate the impact of foreign interference in elections and for failing to adequately safeguard its users’ privacy, among other concerns. Most recently, the news organization Reuters reported that hackers have been using WhatsApp, a messaging application owned by Facebook, to attack government officials. 

According to Reuters, an internal investigation conducted by WhatsApp revealed that a “significant” portion of the victims were high-profile government and military officials, many of which were allies of the U.S. As government officials from the United States and around the world have been known to use WhatsApp to communicate sensitive information, the WhatsApp hacks pose a significant risk to domestic and international security. In response to the attacks, WhatsApp sued the Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group, alleging that they created and sold a hacking platform that allowed their clients to hack the cellphones of at least 1,400 users between April and May of this year. The total number of affected users is unknown, but is likely to be much higher than the 1,400 users mentioned in the lawsuit.

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It’s not clear as of yet who was directly responsible for initiating the hacks, but NSO sells spyware exclusively to government customers, suggesting adversaries of the U.S. may be responsible. Known victims include officials in the United States, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan, and India. While most of the victims have not disclosed the fact that their security may have been compromised, some Indian nationals have publicly alleged they were among the targets of the attacks, including journalists, academics, and lawyers.

NSO has denied any wrongdoing, and has said that it is “not able to disclose who is or is not a client or discuss specific uses of its technology.” Instead, NSO claims that its products are intended only for catching terrorists and other criminals. However, experts doubt this claim, as they suspect products developed by NSO have been widely used for more nefarious purposes.

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WhatsApp has notified victims that they had been hacked, and checked their list of known victims against law enforcement requests for information relating to criminal investigations, but found no overlap between the two sets of data. Instead of relying on spyware like that developed by NSO Group, WhatsApp encourages governments to submit requests for information to the company through an online portal they maintain. Though WhatsApp provides its users with end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the sender and recipient are able to read the contents of messages, the company nevertheless cooperates with governments for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

As of 2015, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging application, as it allows users to send text messages, media, voice messages, and make Voice over IP calls, among other features. The app is available around the world, and is particularly popular in countries other than the U.S. Facebook purchased WhatsApp in February of 2014 for $19 billion, representing the social network’s largest acquisition to date. Due to the app’s ability to enable secure, private communication between individuals, the app is banned in China, a country with strict restrictions on speech. WhatsApp has been the subject of criticism for multiple reasons, including its use by terrorist organizations like the Islamic State, as well as the prevalence of scams and malware throughout the app.