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US Considering Placing Restrictions On Visas For Ugandan Officials Over Anti-Gay Law 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that the United States is considering restricting visas for some Ugandan officials after the nation adopted what is being referred to as one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ laws. 

Blinken has stated that the US was “deeply troubled” by Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which had been signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni this past Monday. 

Same-sex relationships have been illegal in Uganda for a while now, however, this new law states that acts of “aggravated homosexuality and/or promoting homosexuality” will lead to a capital punishment of potentially 20 years in prison. 

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US President Joe Biden condemned the law as a “tragic violation of universal human rights,” and even threatened to stop providing aid and investing in Uganda, while urging the nation to repeal the measure. 

Blinken continued his statement to discuss how the US would “consider deploying existing visa restrictions tools against Ugandan officials and other individuals for abuse of universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.” 

“Washington will also help develop mechanisms to support the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals in Uganda and to promote accountability for Ugandan officials and other individuals responsible for, or complicit in, abusing their human rights.”

Adrian Jjuuko, the executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Fund, announced Monday that they would be filing a legal challenge with Uganda’s High Court, arguing the newest laws are “blatantly unconstitutional.” 

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“By criminalizing what we call consensual same-sex activity among adults, it goes against key provisions of the constitution including rights on equality and non-discrimination,” said Jjuuko.

Additionally, The European Union, United Kingdom, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, various human rights groups and LGBTQ+ organizations have expressed their disdain and shock at the adoption of the law. 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria released a joint statement with UNAIDS, as well as the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: “Trust, confidentiality, and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking healthcare.”

“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalization.”

“Uganda’s failure to safeguard the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is part of a broader degradation of human rights protections that puts Ugandan citizens at risk and damages the country’s reputation as a destination for investment, development, tourism and refugees,” Blinken said.

lgbtq

Ugandan Government Shuts Down LGBT+ Organization, Members Call The Move A ‘Clear Witch Hunt’ 

Uganda’s government this week decided to shut down operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a non-governmental organization that works on improving LGBT+ rights in the nation. The government released a statement in which they explained that the group was operating illegally in the country. 

Members of SMUG responded by calling the move a “witch hunt” against the LGBT+ community. 

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Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) said Friday the “group operated without being registered in the NGO Bureau.” The group initially tried to register in 2012, but was rejected “on grounds of being undesirable.”

SMUG members released a statement this past Friday stating that the choice to shut down the group’s operations was a “clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements.” 

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operation that seeks to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders, was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treating Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” the group stated

“The government should uphold their obligations to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.”

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Uganda is no stranger to anti-LGBT+ policies and laws. In 2009 the nation introduced an anti-homoseuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. Lawmakers in the country passed another bill in 2014 that replaced the death penalty punishment with a proposal for life in prison. 

That law was ultimately struck down, but lawmakers have attempted to reintroduce it in more recent years. 

Uganda is known as a socially conservative country, beyond just their restrictions to the LGBT+ community. In 2014 they introduced the Anti-Pornography Act which banned mini-skirts, and arrested victims who were subject to revenge porn. 

LGBT+ community members in Uganda face arrest, assault, and overall persecution for their identity.

Swarm of Locusts

China To Deploy 100,000 Ducks To Combat Swarms Of Locusts

When it comes to the detrimental effects of global warming on our planet, one of the most unexpected issues that needs combating is the plagues of locusts that are currently ravaging through the planet’s farmlands in countries such as Pakistan and Uganda.  Swarms of locusts are not uncommon in certain areas of the world, in fact, when they appear at their expected time in their expected numbers it actually benefits the planet and the species living in these areas.   

Most recently, Pakistan has declared a state of emergency regarding the swarms of locusts clouding the skies. Officials are stating that the numbers are the worst they’ve been in two decades for the country. This is a huge problem as locusts eat through vegetation so fast you can blink and an entire field will be cleared. Even a small swarm of locusts can eat enough food to feed over 35,000 individuals in just a day. 

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A single swarm of locusts can contain up to 150 million individual insects per square mile of farmland, where they like to feed the most. Some countries are attempting to combat the issue by using drones to spray pesticides amongst the plagues of locusts, and others are taking a more creative and predatory approach. 

China is looking to help aid Pakistan with this infestation problem by deploying 100,000 ducks to the country. Agricultural experts claim that a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts in a single day, and are much more effective, not to mention safer, than spraying pesticides from the sky and into the atmosphere.  

“The ducks are biological weapons, while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number. Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences claimed

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Lu went on to explain how within the coming months the Chinese government will begin trial runs of duck deployment as a means of combating the locust issue. After they test how well the ducks do in western Xinjiang, they will be sent to Pakistan; specifically the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab, where the locusts populations are the highest. 

On paper, bringing a locusts predator to them to combat overpopulation sounds like a smart idea, however, there are still concerns, the main one being that the arid desert environment in Pakistan is not equipped to handle ducks, who rely heavily on water. 

“Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high. Although ducks have been used against locusts since ancient times, their deployment hasn’t yet entered the government assistance programme and is an exploratory method,” said Zhang Long, a professor from China’s Agriculture University. 

The United Nations reports that this heavy infestation was likely caused by the 2018-19 cyclone season in the areas that are being affected. Heavy rainfall in arid environments creates the perfect breeding ground for locusts, so when climate change causes natural disasters, such as cyclones, to become more frequent and intense, and unprecedented amount of locust breeding is the result. 

Currently parts of China, the Middle East, South Africa and South America are trying to deal with these “unprecedented” swarms of locusts clouding their skies and consuming their resources, only time will tell if the world’s troops of ducks can actually help.

Africa

East Africa Coping With Famine Threat Thanks To Locust Infestation

East Africa has been enduring one of the largest infestations of locusts that the continent has ever seen. The swarms recently made it to the countries of Uganda and Tanzania, which is posing a major threat for the people living in those regions. Africa has already been trying to get this year’s extreme locust season under control, as it’s posing a major hunger threat for the millions of people living throughout the eastern part of the continent. Now, with both Uganda and Tanzania under that same threat, a new sense of urgency is sweeping Africa. 

Tanzania has been detecting, and anticipating, that the locusts would migrate to their neck of the woods eventually, so in preparation government officials from the country hired three planes to spray pesticide throughout the region; pesticides have been the most effective means of combating the locust issue in the past for other residential areas of Africa. Uganda has also begun implementing similar measures throughout the areas of their country where locusts are beginning to overpopulate. Both countries have also mobilized thousands of troops to help as well. 

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“We are using motorized sprayers, a drone and manual sprayers. They [locusts] are spreading like wildfire, so they are a real, major threat. The outbreak in east Africa is the most serious in decades and has already devastated crops across a swath of Kenya and Somalia,” Stephen Byantwale, the commissioner for crop protection at the ministry of agriculture, said.

As Byantwale stated, this outbreak is the worst Africa has seen in a long time, and like most natural disasters that have grown exponentially in intensity throughout the past decade, the reason is climate change. For this locust outbreak specifically, experts believe that the swarms are due to climate conditions created by a large cyclone that hit Somalia in December 2019. The cyclone would have brought on extremely heavy rains in an otherwise arid desert environment, creating the perfect breeding environment for the locusts. 

This is a problem because swarms of locusts are massive in size; this year one swarm in Kenya was 30 miles long by 25 miles wide. Experts state that even a small swarm of locusts can eat enough food to feed over 35,000 people in a day. A lot of the territories that the insects are travelling to are also occupied by certain extremist groups, making it near impossible to spray large blocks of land with pesticides via aircraft. Because of this, and the fact that meteorologists are predicting even more rainfall for east Africa within the next few weeks, scientists are worried that the locust swarms could multiply up to 500 times if not properly taken care of. 

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Scientists are also concerned with South Sudan and their recovery from the ongoing infestation, as Sudan in general is already facing a major hunger problem. A single swarm of locusts can contain up to 150 million individual insects per square mile of farmland. This is a major issue especially for South Sudan where over 20 million people were already facing the threat of famine. 

These “plagues” of locust aren’t uncommon in Africa, however, how frequent and long the periods of infestations are lasting, is. In east Africa specifically, there have only been six major locust plagues since the 20th century. The most recent being in 2003 and 2005; and again, the cause is due to an increase in natural disaster and climate conditions that allow for locust breeding to occur.

“We know that cyclones are the originators of swarms – and in the past 10 years there’s been an increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean. Normally there’s none, or maybe one. So this is very unusual. It’s difficult to attribute to climate change directly, but if this trend of increased frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean continues, then certainly that’s going to translate to an increase in locust swarms in the Horn of Africa.” said Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.