Canada joins U.S. and Allies in Beijing Olympics boycott.

By Rob Gillies, Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — Canada will join the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

The announcement came after the White House, the Australian government and the UK government confirmed diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Games in February to protest Chinese human rights abuses. China has vowed to react with “firm countermeasures.”

Trudeau said his government has been talks with allies about it in recent months.

“We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government,” Trudeau said. 

“They should not be surprised we will not be sending any diplomatic representation.

The diplomatic moves by Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia do not affect their athletes’ ability to compete in the games.

Rights groups have called for a fullblown boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, citing Chinese human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang province, which some have called genocide. They also point to Beijing’s suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong and a sweeping crackdown on dissent in the semiautonomous territory.

The White House confirmed Monday that it was staging a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming games and Australia followed suit Wednesday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it was “in Australia’s national interest.”

Relations between Canada and China have been poor since China arrested two Canadians in China in Dec. 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a U.S. extradition request. Many countries labeled China’s action “hostage politics, while China has described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to hold back China’s economic and technological development.

China, the U.S. and Canada essentially completed a highstakes prisoner swap earlier this year but the reputation of the Chinese government has been severely tarnished in Canada. 

“Concerns around arbitrary detention are real and shared by many countries around the world,” Trudeau said. 

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said more countries need to take similar action.

“It is important to send a strong signal to China, Joly said. “Human rights violations are not acceptable.”

The Holocaust as an underlying condition

By Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, Washington Post

In Israel, the pandemic takes an emotional toll on survivors of Nazi atrocities.

HAIFA, Israel — For 10 grinding months, Shimon Sabag has worked to keep the coronavirus from devastating one of Israel’s most vulnerable populations: the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors living out their final years in the Jewish state.

Now he’s worried about the pandemic endgame.

“This is the moment of truth,” Sabag said of the nail-biting contest between an exploding resurgence of covid-19 cases and Israel’s aggressive vaccination program. “Holocaust survivors see the finish line, but emotionally they are collapsing.”

In this hilly port city that is home to the country’s largest population of survivors, Sabag runs Yad Rosa, one of several private charities straining to ensure that lives that began in one mass tragedy don’t end in another.

Shimon Sabag founded Yad Rosa 20 years ago. The charity has been transformed by the pandemic. (Corinna Kern for The Washington Post)

Israel’s remaining 192,000 registered survivors are a community both revered and neglected. A quarter live below the poverty line, and the underfunding of programs meant to help them is a chronic scandal made worse by the country’s political and budget paralysis of recent years. A government report in October showed that only 30 percent of funds allocated for survivors had been delivered because of bureaucratic red tape.

The first Israeli to die of covid-19 was an 88-year-old Hungarian who had hidden out as an adolescent after his father was taken to Nazi Germany’s Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Since then about 5,300 survivors have been infected and 900 have died, according to government figures. But beyond the physical toll, this population of survivors — elderly, often isolated and haunted by memories — is uniquely at risk. The sudden closing of the country has made for a year of crisis for many of them.

“I haven’t been able to breathe the air for months,” Jenya Rosenstein, 85, said by phone from the cramped Tel Aviv apartment that now reminds her of Mogilev-Podolsk, the transit camp in Ukraine where she was beaten and burned as a child. “It is like I’m back in prison.”

Survivors have been eligible for the early rounds of Israel’s vaccine program, but many required special assistance to reach the inoculation centers. Yad Rosa’s staff drove 1,800 survivors to get their shot in just two weeks.

As Israel waits for immunity to build and the infection rate to wane, advocates worry that survivors are at the end of their emotional ropes.

Shutov, a Yad Rosa manager, delivers food to Holocaust survivor Yelena Samueleno, 92. (Corinna Kern for The Washington Post)

Recent research shows that while many survivors — a resilient group almost by definition — are holding up well, others are suffering higher rates of post-traumatic stress, loneliness and fear than the general population. A Bar-Ilan University study says that survivors who experienced tuberculosis, dysentery and other diseases that were rampant in the concentration camps are the most likely to be feeling anguish after months of isolation and watching their televisions repeat dire updates about the growing global death count.

“They’re returning back to memories of the ghetto, of the camps, of death,” said Isabella Greenberg, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of survivors who is seeing a spike of psychoses and cognitive decline among her patients. “Some of my patients feel that this is like Auschwitz.”

For Sabag, the pandemic has transformed the survivors’ support network he founded and has run in Haifa for 20 years. Yad Rosa maintains a complex of apartment buildings for about 100 survivors in central Haifa. Before the virus, it ran a common dining hall and social events that included a yearly beauty contest. The staff handed out 130 meals a day to survivors in the surrounding community.

When Israel’s first national lockdown was imposed in March, all the social contact ended. Foreign health aides fled the country, leaving patients with no help. Even those survivors strong enough to venture out were afraid of being infected on a bus or in a grocery store.

The panicked calls started immediately.

“They crashed our phones,” Sabag said in his new call center on a recent morning, recounting the chaos of the past months amid a cacophony of conversation and shouted consultations. “Coronavirus taught us to change quickly.”

The group dispatched a mobile dentistry van and began providing rides to doctor’s appointments for survivors afraid of riding the bus. The small call center staffed by 40 volunteers began to phone thousands of survivors a day, providing a moment of human contact and checking on their needs for food and medicine.

With layoffs and school closures across Israel came a flood of volunteers. Idled contractors built food bank storage and did household repairs in survivors’ homes. Students were recruited to pay regular visits — distanced and masked — to “adopted” survivors. One student spotted a utility cutoff notice unopened on a table, and Yad Rosa was able to pay the bill.

Yad Rosa doubled, then quintupled, its capacity. With emergency funding from the New York-based Bnai Zion Foundation and other donors, the charity hired a caterer and began delivering more than 1,000, and now 2,000, frozen meals a day to apartments and senior centers around the city.

Paid contractors, along with volunteers from the army and police and ultra-Orthodox Jews who do community service in lieu of enlisting in the military, now make 4,500 phone calls a day, Sabag said. Clients who are sick or in emotional distress are called more than once.

When someone on the call list doesn’t respond, operators try a neighbor or family member, if there is one. If that doesn’t work, they dispatch a staffer on one of a fleet of scooters to check on the person. Staffers often find a senior who has fallen or needs emergency care.

On one wall of the call center, a widescreen monitor showed one such response unfolding in real time. A woman had called to say she was nearly out of food. Half an hour later, a staffer zipped through the city on a scooter, his ride captured on his body camera in dizzying high definition. It relayed his arrival at an apartment and the shaky gratitude of an elderly woman when he carried in a box of food: 14 frozen meals (chicken schnitzel, couscous, green beans) and 10 cans of tomatoes, spinach and other vegetables.

Yad Rosa staffers peered at the screen, checking the cluttered room for safety hazards or other potential signs of trouble. “This is a way for the whole office to see into their homes,” Sabag said.

Yad Rosa has also installed cameras in 120 homes, part of a pilot program for remote elder care that Sabag says could be rolled out to 30 new survivor support centers in Israel.

“What they’re doing is taking the technological advances that we’re using in many parts of our lives and using it to help the most vulnerable,” said Ari Lamm, CEO of the Bnai Zion Foundation, which supports Yad Rosa’s expansion plans.

So far, none of the Holocaust survivors who live in Yad Rosa housing have died of covid-19, although two others living in the surrounding community have.

For many, the hardest part is simply hanging on.

Renate Kaufmann, who opened her door to a Yad Rosa volunteer bringing a requested wheelchair, has been cooped up for months. The 83-year-old is eager to emerge but willing to wait, a lesson in patience she said she learned during two years of living in secret rooms and cramped hiding spaces in Nazi Germany.

“Who is safe?” she asked. “There is no safe place in this world.”

Russian parliament OKs New START nuclear treaty extension

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty, a fast-track action that comes just days before it’s due to expire.

Both houses of parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years, a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures in the next few days.

Speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting, Putin hailed the decision to extend the treaty as “a step in the right direction,” but warned of rising global rivalries and threats of new conflicts.

The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and Putin has to sign the relevant bill into law.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that the extension will be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes once all the procedures are completed.

The upper house speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said after the vote that the decision to extend the pact shows that Russia and the U.S. can reach agreements on major issues despite the tensions between them.

New START expires on Feb. 5. After taking office last week, Biden proposed extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.

Russia has long proposed prolonging the pact without any conditions or changes, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences.

The negotiations were also marred by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would follow the U.S. in pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities, to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

Before the Biden administration took office, Russia always had offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility that was envisaged by the pact at the time it was signed. But President Donald Trump charged that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage. Trump initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing bluntly dismissed.

The Trump administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.

Arms control advocates hailed the treaty’s extension as a boost to global security and urged Russia and the U.S. to start negotiating follow-up agreements.

Ryabkov said that Russia will count its Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty limits.

The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to a few existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the Sarmat, a prospective intercontinental ballistic missile now under development.

Ryabkov said that Russia is ready to sit down for talks on prospective arms cuts, noting that they should also involve non-nuclear precision weapons with strategic range.

US terrorism alert warns of politically motivated violence

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks.

The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4.

But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism.

The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups.

A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.”

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose.

“The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.”

The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues.

Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.

The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations.

SoHo Karen flees to California: Cheerleader, 22, grabs McDonald’s in a face shield near her family home after she ‘assaulted a black boy, 14, thinking he stole her iPhone’ in NYC

The woman dubbed ‘Soho Karen’ – Miya Ponsetto – has been seen for the first time since being named as the person who assaulted a 14-year-old black boy at a New York City hotel in a row over a phone.

By Ruth Styles For Dailymail.com and Alan Butterfield For Dailymail.com

  • The woman dubbed ‘Soho Karen’ – 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto – has been seen for the first time 
  • She was named as the woman who assaulted a 14-year-old black boy at a New York City hotel in a row over a phone
  • Seen in exclusive DailyMail.com photos, she was seen making a quick trip to McDonald’s in Fillmore, California  
  • The 22-year-old has been laying low at her family’s $389,000 home in the small town of Piru, a small farming town approximately 30 miles north of LA 
  • Despite facing potential assault and attempted robbery charges in New York,  she appeared relaxed and was smiling broadly as she grabbed her orde 
  • On Thursday, DailyMail.com obtained police reports and court records bearing her name 
  • The records show Ponsetto was arrested on February 28, 2020, for public intoxication in Beverly Hills 
  • Ponsetto was arrested again near Calabasas for drunk driving on May 28 
  • New York City police have been searching for ‘SoHo Karen’ after she was filmed attacking Keyon Harrold Jr at the Arlo Hotel on Saturday 
  • The woman falsely accused Harrold Jr of stealing her iPhone, which was returned to her by an Uber driver moments after the scuffle
  • The boy’s family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump are calling for charges 
  • Police have not officially named her but sources confirmed it is Ponsetto 

Seen in exclusive DailyMail.com photos, the 22-year-old made a quick trip to a McDonald’s in Fillmore, California – her first outing since being unmasked as the woman who accosted Keyon Harrold Jr at the Arlo Hotel last weekend.

The 22-year-old has been laying low at her family’s $389,000 home in the small town of Piru, a small farming town approximately 30 miles north of LA.

Yesterday, her mother Nicole, 42, became angry when asked about her daughter and ordered a DailyMail.com reporter off the property while insisting she was not there.

But earlier today, a black-clad Ponsetto was seen leaving the home and heading to McDonald’s in a black Range Rover SUV.

And despite facing potential assault and attempted robbery charges in New York, the 22-year-old appeared relaxed and was smiling broadly as she grabbed her order.

Ponsetto’s reappearance comes a day after DailyMail.com revealed that she is also facing court proceedings in LA after being arrested for being intoxicated in public by Beverly Hills PD in February.

Her mother Nicole was also collared along with her on the same charge and hit with an additional count of assaulting a police officer.

Both women are due in court for a hearing on the case on January 28.

Ponsetto was arrested for a second time in May and charged with four counts of DUI. Court records show she pled guilty in September and faces a sentencing hearing on January 14.

The 22-year-old’s legal problems now look set to increase, with the NYPD considering bringing charges against her over the December 26 incident.

Cops confirmed on Tuesday that they are looking at a variety of options, including assault, grand larceny and attempted robbery.

Ponsetto shot to infamy after Keyon Jr’s father, Grammy-winning jazz artist Keyon Harrold, posted a video of the 22-year-old grabbing at the child while repeatedly accusing him of snatching her phone.

He captioned it: ‘On Saturday, December 26, the woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone,’ Harrison tweeted.

‘She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene.’

A second video released by the NYPD shows Ponsetto, who was swiftly dubbed Soho Karen, running at the child and grabbing at his waist.

Moments after the video ended, an Uber driver arrived with Ponsetto’s phone, which she had left in the vehicle.

Harrold, along with Keyon’s mother Kat Rodriguez and civil rights attorney Ben Crump are now urging officials to bring charges against her over the incident.

Ponsetto has denied assaulting Keyon and on Thursday, provided a rambling 20-minute phone interview to CNN.

In it, she claimed she was assaulted during the altercation with Keyon Sr. and his son, though failed to provide further details, including who allegedly assaulted her.

Her allegation has not been corroborated by investigators or any witnesses to the December 26 incident.

On Tuesday, NYPD confirmed they had identified the woman and may charge her with assault, grand larceny or attempted robbery.

The boy’s famous father, mother Kat Rodriguez and civil rights attorney Ben Crump are urging officials to bring charges against her over the incident.

The new footagereleased by NYPD casts new light on Saturday’s events in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in Manhattan.  

It shows four people – the woman identified as Ponsetto, Keyon, Keyon Jr. and another individual standing at the bottom of the stairs in the lobby.

Keyon Jr. starts to walk away in the direction of the hotel doors. 

At this point, the woman runs and grabs the 14-year-old around the waist, latching onto him as the boy’s father runs after them.

They pass through the automatic doors in the lobby as the boy tries to shake her off, turning around as she appears to tackle him to the ground.

A close-up of the woman’s face is shown with ‘wanted’ emblazoned across it as the police urge anyone with information about the woman’s whereabouts to contact the NYPD.

‘On Saturday, December 26, the woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone,’ Harrison tweeted. 

‘She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene.’  

After she eventually agreed to provide evidence to the network to support the claim, the woman, who lives out of state, reportedly stopped replying to CNN’s messages and calls. 

According to the woman – whose name was withheld by the network – the incident was spurred when she first demanded to see the hotel’s surveillance footage to try to pinpoint who may have taken her phone. 

After the request was denied, she reportedly then cornered someone else in the lobby to ’empty their pockets’, before turning her attention to Keyon Jr. 

‘That’s when everything got a little more serious,’ she said.  

It’s currently unclear when the alleged assault was purported to take place. The woman also provided additional information of events preceding and unrelated to the incident, which CNN said it has so far been unable to verify. 

Speaking out about her concerns over the possibility of facing charges, she said: ‘Of course I worry. That’s not who I am. I actually … try very hard to make sure that I am always doing the right thing.’

The woman added she is willing to cooperate with any police investigation, but says she has not yet been contacted by investigators, nor has she reached out herself. 

Harrold and Keyon Jr.’s mother, Kat Rodriguez, staged a rally in Manhattan on Wednesday alongside their attorney Ben Crump and Reverend Al Sharpton.

‘When I saw this story, I thought about how I was one of those kids whose father never took him anywhere for Christmas, never had brunch with my father,’ Sharpton said. 

‘And for this black man to take his black son, put him in a hotel during a pandemic, and spend Christmas with him, raising him, and to be assaulted because of the color of their skin, I wanted to stand with this man and this woman who provided for their son, and they’re being criminalized for it. The arrogance and audacity of this woman.’ 

Harrold added that had he not come down into the lobby with his son when he did, something ‘could have gone very wrong.’

‘The idea of trauma goes above any charge that we may have…I bring my son places where he shouldn’t have to deal with injustices and shouldn’t have to be profiled,’ he said.

An emotional Rodriguez also spoke during the rally, taking her opportunity to let it be known she is unhappy with the way the hotel handled the situation, and also called on ‘SoHo Karen’ to be charged with assault.

‘All that we are asking is for the police to do the right thing, for the DA to do the right thing, to charge this woman with assault of a minor,’ she said. 

‘To the hotel, which I’m equally angry at, you are trained to use those tools. I called the hotel right after it happened, and I gave them a chance to make it right, and they didn’t. You know when they made it right? When my tribe, my community spoke up.

‘It breaks my heart that this is happening to our son. This incident could have been avoided in so many ways,’ she said. 

Crump, meanwhile, called the incident an example of ‘racial injustice’ – an all-too common narrative that ‘needs to change’.

‘Can you imagine what the narrative would have been if Keyon Harrold had not videoed the incident on his cellphone?’ Crump asked the crowd.  

Keyon Harrold Sr. then played a trumpet rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘We Shall Overcome,’ drawing applause and a few tears, according to ABC7.  

No decision has yet been made by either the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office or the NYPD as to whether the woman will be charged. 

Keyon Sr first shared footage of the incident on Instagram, writing that he and his son had left their room to get breakfast when they came into contact with the woman in the lobby. He said the woman had been staying at the hotel but had checked out three days earlier. 

It’s unclear what happened in the moments before he started filming, but in the video, the woman can be heard screaming at Keyon Jr., telling him to show her his phone. 

The one-minute-long video shows the woman and the hotel manager in the lobby with Harrold recording on his cell phone. 

‘This is my phone,’ Harrold’s son, who is not seen in the footage, is heard telling the woman and the manager.

‘You don’t have to explain nothing to her,’ Harrold tells his son.

The woman then points to the phone and tells the manager that the case is the same one that she has.

‘That’s mine,’ she tells the manager. She then tells the manager: ‘Get it back.’

Harrold responds to the woman, saying: ‘Are you kidding me? You feel like there’s only one iPhone made in the world?’

When the woman asks Harrold to see the phone, he replies: ‘No, get a life.’

Harrold then tells the woman that she should use the Find My app, which helps locate missing Apple devices.

The woman then tells Harrold that the Find My app can only be accessed through the phone.

The video then shows the manager approach Harrold’s son asking him to see the phone.

‘No, you can’t,’ Harrold tells the manager.

‘I’m the manager of the hotel,’ the manager tells Harrold, who replies: ‘I don’t care!’

During the exchange, the woman continues to encourage the manager to retrieve what she believes is her iPhone.

Harrold tries to plead his case, saying it wasn’t plausible that his son would have someone else’s phone since he just got to the lobby from the elevator.

‘Didn’t you see me just come downstairs out of the f***ing elevator?’ Harrold tells the manager.

The manager protests, saying: ‘I’m trying to help.’

Harrold replies: ‘My son has nothing to do with her.’

The woman once again repeats her demand to see the phone, saying: ‘No, he’s not leaving. Show me the proof.’

Harrold refuses and begins to walk away from the lobby toward what appear to be the elevators.

‘You better get on,’ Harrold tells the woman.

The woman, who appears to be highly distressed, walks toward Harrold and his son, saying: ‘No, I’m not letting him walk away with my phone.’

While the video is not clear, the woman appears to lunge toward Harrold and his son.

In the next frame, she is seen on the ground as the manager helps her back to her feet.

‘No, please get my phone back,’ the woman begs the manager.

The video clip ends with the woman once again approaching Harrold in an attempt to get the phone.

The Trumpeter said he suffered slight injuries in the incident though his son was not harmed. 

Keyon Jr. spoke alongside his father to ABC on Tuesday, telling the network he’s still ‘shell shocked’ over what happened. 

‘I don’t know what would have happened if my dad wasn’t there. These past few days, still kind of shell-shocked, but I’m hanging in there.

‘For me I was confused because I had never seen that lady ever and I didn’t know what to do in the moment. That’s why I was happy to have my dad here to help me,’ he said.   

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor De Blasio on Twitter called the incident ‘racism. Plain and simple.’

‘It would be horrific at any age, but it’s especially offensive that it happened to a child,’ he wrote. ‘To Keyon Harrold Jr. and his family: I am so sorry this happened to you.’

Amid the fallout, Arlo Hotels has also apologized for its role in the incident, saying its workers could have done better to ‘de-escalate the dispute.’

‘We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,’ a company statement said. 

‘In investigating the incident further, we’ve learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman’s conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence …. No Arlo guest – or any person – should be subject to this kind of behavior.’

Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump is leading the charge of outrage against the woman’s actions, and also called out the hotel for ’empowering’ her accusations by asking Harrold’s son to prove his innocence.

‘As this year of racial awareness is drawing to a close, it’s deeply troubling that incidents like this one, in which a Black child is viewed as and treated like a criminal, continue to happen,’ Crump said in a statement.

‘We strongly urge Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to bring assault and battery charges against this woman to send the message that hateful, racially motivated behavior is unacceptable,’ Crump added. ‘This is what it will take to drive change. We also call for a civil rights investigation into the Arlo Hotel for its implicit bias in its treatment of Keyon.’ 

Here Are Things Not to Put in Your Vagina

By Jen Gunter, NY Times

From yogurt to oregano oil to lemon juice (OUCH!), the internet is chock-full of suggestions and remedies for women’s sexual health.

June 11, 2018

People always want to know the most unusual object I’ve retrieved from a vagina.

I’ll never tell.

One, because the woman involved could recognize herself and feel betrayed. Yes, some items are that unusual.

The other reason is that the unfortunate sequence of events that ends with a visit to my OB-GYN practice or the emergency room is almost always the unanticipated consequence of sexual experimentation. Lots of objects seem sexually adventurous until the moment one realizes they are not. And realizes that they are stuck.

Sexual experimentation with household items is nothing new, though the nature of the object has changed slightly to match the times — think along the lines of a progression from a soda bottle to a diet soda bottle to an energy water bottle to a Kombucha bottle — over my 25 years of practice.

Another change I’ve noticed in that time is the increased touting of various “natural” and “ancient” vaginal remedies with household items. The reasons could range from “vaginal maintenance” (a term that, as an expert, I struggle to further qualify) to the treatment of yeast infections to contraception to improving sex lives.

There are two themes at play that seem simultaneously opposing yet complementary: that natural is best and that the vagina is so dirty, fragile or in need of nourishment (or all three) that it is one wrong pair of underwear or wet bathing suit away from complete catastrophe.

And this is how lemon juice (ouch), yogurt, garlic (double ouch), cucumber and oregano oil (super, mega ouch) are finding their way into vaginas worldwide. No, you are not reading a recipe for tzatziki sauce.

Many of these supposed natural therapies claim to have supporting science, although what is offered as proof is easily dismissed with a cursory knowledge of reproductive physiology. Lemon juice is recommended to acidify the vagina (it cannot). Yogurt is suggested because its bacteria could help repopulate the healthy, vaginal bacteria (commercial yogurts don’t have the right strains). Sea sponges are recommended for menstrual hygiene (testing has revealed they have bacteria and debris and they could introduce far more oxygen — a bad thing — into the vagina than a tampon or menstrual cup).

What is simultaneously fascinating and depressing is that these “newly discovered ancient therapies” are neither ancient nor effective. Instead they are the result of celebrity wellness sites, social media and even some doctors recycling material from health almanacs and digests that used to be found at the grocery store and repackaging their content under the guise of female empowerment.

What is science with its stodgy physiology and evidence-based medicine against the allure of the patient anecdote and the promise of a cure? Stories and confidence are what sells.

It’s possible that remedies like yogurt, garlic and so on were tried centuries ago as medicine, spermicide or sexual custom. But who cares if something was used historically if it has since been deemed ineffective or harmful? Blood letting for fever, mercury for vitality or syphilis, and animal dung as spermicide are all ancient medicinal practices, but that doesn’t mean we’re revisiting those therapies today.

In other words, all these so-called “ancient” sexual remedies were retired for a reason.

I get the allure. So many women are still uncomfortable speaking openly about genital health, and the internet offers privacy — not to mention community and validation. When all these needs are met, accuracy can seem secondary.

It is always best to see a health care professional for a diagnosis. We women do know our bodies, but there is so much crossover with symptoms that when women attempt self- diagnosis they are likely to misdiagnose more than 50 percent of the time. That’s worse than flipping a coin.

Researching symptoms and treatment options is always good, but to keep your internet hygiene in check (which requires far more effort than vaginal hygiene) these are the things that should send you screaming:

• Run if the therapy is said to be “proven.” The degree to which something is supposedly “proven” to treat a medical condition is inversely proportional to the number of studies supporting that claim.

• Run if something is being sold. Anyone selling a product is by definition biased, whether it is “Big Pharma” or “Big Natural.”

• Run if the recommendation is homeopathic products. A recent study tells us that doctors who recommend homeopathy are more likely to deviate from standard medical guidelines. In other words they are more likely to practice bad medicine.

• Run if the advice relies on testimonials. I would never tell my patient “Well Sarah S. said it worked for her!” Sarah S. is not the same thing as science.

• Run if it involves inserting food vaginally for health reasons. This is nonsense.

• Run if they recommend vaginal cleaning of any kind. For instance, I’ve been hearing about “vaginal steaming.” It’s well meaning, but woefully misinformed. If your bottom is sore, use a sitz bath.

It’s stunning that in this great age of information that can we have so much misinformation about our bodies and our sexuality. The internet has changed the speed at which we can acquire medical information, but certainly not the accuracy.

Dr. Jen Gunter is an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in California. The Cycle, a column on women’s reproductive health, appears regularly in Styles.

Once a model, California now struggles to tame COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ambulances waited hours for openings to offload coronavirus patients. Overflow patients were moved to hospital hallways and gift shops, even a cafeteria. Refrigerated trucks were on standby, ready to store the dead.

For months, California did many of the right things to avoid a catastrophic surge from the pandemic. But by the time Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Dec. 15 that 5,000 body bags were being distributed, it was clear that the nation’s most populous state had entered a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis.

Now infections have been racing out of control for weeks, and California has routinely set new records for infections and deaths. It remains at or near the top of the list of states with the most new cases per capita.

Experts say a variety of factors combined to wipe out the past efforts, which for much of the year held the virus to manageable levels. Cramped housing, travel and Thanksgiving gatherings contributed to the spread, along with the public’s fatigue amid regulations that closed many schools and businesses and encouraged — or required — an isolated lifestyle.

Another factor could be a more contagious variant of the virus detected in Southern California, although it’s not clear yet how widespread that may be.

California’s woes have helped fuel the year-end U.S. infection spike and added urgency to the attempts to beat back the scourge that has killed more than 340,000 Americans. Even with vaccines becoming available, cases are almost certain to continue growing, and yet another surge is expected in the weeks after Christmas and New Year’s.

On Friday, the number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million, nearly twice as many as the No. 2 country, India, and nearly one-quarter of the more than 83 million cases globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In California, the southern half of the state has seen the worst effects, from the agricultural San Joaquin Valley to the Mexico border. Hospitals are swamped with patients, and intensive care units have no more beds for COVID-19 patients. Makeshift wards are being set up in tents, arenas, classrooms and conference rooms.

Hospitalizations statewide have gone up more than eightfold in two months and nearly tenfold in Los Angeles County. On Thursday, the total number of California deaths surpassed 25,000, joining only New York and Texas at that milestone.

“Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, who has pleaded with people not to get together and worsen the spread.

Crowded houses and apartments are often cited as a source of spread, particularly in Los Angeles, which has some of the densest neighborhoods in the U.S. Households in and around LA often have several generations — or multiple families — living under one roof. Those tend to be lower-income areas where residents work essential jobs that can expose them to the virus at work or while commuting.

The socioeconomic situation in LA County is “like the kindling,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California. “And now we got to the stage where there was enough COVID out in the community that it lit the fire.”

Home to a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, LA County has had 40% of the state’s deaths and a third of its 2.2 million cases. The virus has hit Latino and Black communities harder.

Cannon said there’s a moral imperative for people who can follow stay-home orders to help prevent spread that is harder to contain in other areas.

“What you can’t do is say to people, ‘Can you stop living in a house with eight other people, five of whom are working essential worker jobs?’” she said. “This is the structure that we can’t change in LA. This is, I think, contributing to why our levels have suddenly got scarily high and looks like they’re going to keep going up and keep staying that way.”

In March, during the early days of the pandemic, Newsom was hailed for issuing the nation’s first state stay-home order.

The Democrat eased business restrictions in May, and when a broader restart led to another surge, imposed more rules. In early December, with cases out of control, he issued a looser stay-home order. He also closed businesses such as barbershops and salons, halted restaurant dining and limited capacity in retail stores. The latest restrictions apply everywhere except in rural Northern California.

But Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious diseases professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that while the state managed to flatten the curve of rising cases, it never effectively bent the curve downward to the point infections would die out.

When cases rose in June and July, California was never able to do enough contact tracing to isolate infected people and those they may have exposed before they spread the disease — often unwittingly — to others, he said. And public health directives were never adequately enforced.

“What California did was to maybe delay the peak,” Riley said. Infections “really just never got low enough. And we started lifting the restrictions, and that just allowed the transmissions to just continue to increase. We never really saw a real decline.”

California’s health secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said if state and local leaders had not made difficult decisions early on that saved lives, the current surge might not be the worst the state has seen.

He acknowledged the exhaustion many people feel after enduring months of disruptions to their lives. Public health officials, he said, need to find a way to reach people who have given up or not followed rules on social distancing and masks.

Across California, local officials have reminded people that the fate of the virus lies in their behavior and asked for one more round of shared sacrifice. They reminded people that activities that were safe earlier this year are now risky as the virus becomes more widespread.

“You can practice safety and low-risk behavior from March to October. But all that is erased. Nothing matters except what you are doing to fight the virus right now,” said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of the Institute for Public Health at San Diego State University. “This pandemic is an ultra-marathon. In our culture, we are used to sprints.”

Each year 1,000 Pakistani girls forcibly converted to Islam

KARACHI, Pakistan, Associated Press (AP)

Neha loved the hymns that filled her church with music. But she lost the chance to sing them last year when, at the age of 14, she was forcibly converted from Christianity to Islam and married to a 45-year-old man with children twice her age.

She tells her story in a voice so low it occasionally fades away. She all but disappears as she wraps a blue scarf tightly around her face and head. Neha’s husband is in jail now facing charges of rape for the underage marriage, but she is in hiding, afraid after security guards confiscated a pistol from his brother in court.

“He brought the gun to shoot me,” said Neha, whose last name The Associated Press is not using for her safety.

Neha is one of nearly 1,000 girls from religious minorities who are forced to convert to Islam in Pakistan each year, largely to pave the way for marriages that are under the legal age and non-consensual. Human rights activists say the practice has accelerated during lockdowns against the coronavirus, when girls are out of school and more visible, bride traffickers are more active on the Internet and families are more in debt.

The U.S. State Department this month declared Pakistan “a country of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms — a designation the Pakistani government rejects. The declaration was based in part on an appraisal by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that underage girls in the minority Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities were “kidnapped for forced conversion to Islam… forcibly married and subjected to rape.”

While most of the converted girls are impoverished Hindus from southern Sindh province, two new cases involving Christians, including Neha’s, have roiled the country in recent months.

The girls generally are kidnapped by complicit acquaintances and relatives or men looking for brides. Sometimes they are taken by powerful landlords as payment for outstanding debts by their farmhand parents, and police often look the other way. Once converted, the girls are quickly married off, often to older men or to their abductors, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Forced conversions thrive unchecked on a money-making web that involves Islamic clerics who solemnize the marriages, magistrates who legalize the unions and corrupt local police who aid the culprits by refusing to investigate or sabotaging investigations, say child protection activists.

One activist, Jibran Nasir, called the network a “mafia” that preys on non-Muslim girls because they are the most vulnerable and the easiest targets “for older men with pedophilia urges.”

The goal is to secure virginal brides rather than to seek new converts to Islam. Minorities make up just 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million people and often are the target of discrimination. Those who report forced conversions, for example, can be targeted with charges of blasphemy.

In the feudal Kashmore region of southern Sindh province, 13-year-old Sonia Kumari was kidnapped, and a day later police told her parents she had converted from Hinduism to Islam. Her mother pleaded for her return in a video widely viewed on the internet: “For the sake of God, the Quran, whatever you believe, please return my daughter, she was forcibly taken from our home.”

But a Hindu activist, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of repercussions from powerful landlords, said she received a letter that the family was forced to write. The letter claimed the 13-year-old had willingly converted and wed a 36-year-old who was already married with two children.

The parents have given up.

Arzoo Raja was 13 when she disappeared from her home in central Karachi. The Christian girl’s parents reported her missing and pleaded with police to find her. Two days later, officers reported back that she had been converted to Islam and was married to their 40-year-old Muslim neighbor.

In Sindh province, the age of consent for marriage is 18 years old. Arzoo’s marriage certificate said she was 19.

The cleric who performed Arzoo’s marriage, Qasi Ahmed Mufti Jaan Raheemi, was later implicated in at least three other underage marriages. Despite facing an outstanding arrest warrant for solemnizing Arzoo’s marriage, he continued his practice in his ramshackle office above a wholesale rice market in downtown Karachi.

When an Associated Press reporter arrived at his office, Raheemi fled down a side stair, according to a fellow cleric, Mullah Kaifat Ullah, one of a half-dozen clerics who also performs marriages in the complex. He said another cleric is already in jail for marrying children.

While Ullah said he only marries girls 18 and above, he argued that “under Islamic law a girl’s wedding at the age of 14 or 15 is fine.”

Arzoo’s mother, Rita Raja, said police ignored the family’s appeals until one day she was videotaped outside the court sobbing and pleading for her daughter to be returned. The video went viral, creating a social media storm in Pakistan and prompting the authorities to step in.

“For 10 days, the parents were languishing between the police station and government authorities and different political parties,” Nasir, the activist, said. “They were not being given any time… until it went viral. That is the real unfortunate thing over here.”

Authorities have stepped in and arrested Arzoo’s husband, but her mother said her daughter still refuses to come home. Raja said she is afraid of her husband’s family.

The girl who loved hymns, Neha, said she was tricked into the marriage by a favorite aunt, who told Neha to accompany her to the hospital to see her sick son. Her aunt, Sandas Baloch, had converted to Islam years before and lived with her husband in the same apartment building as Neha’s family.

“All Mama asked when we left was ’when will you be back?’” remembered Neha.

Instead of going to the hospital, she was taken to the home of her aunt’s in-laws and told she would marry her aunt’s 45-year-old brother-in-law.

“I told her I can’t, I am too young and I don’t want to. He is old,” Neha said. “She slapped me and locked me up in a room.”

Neha told of being taken before two men, one who was to be her husband and the other who recorded her marriage. They said she was 19. She said she was too frightened to speak because her aunt threatened to harm her two-year-old brother if she refused to marry.

She learned of her conversion only when she was told to sign the marriage certificate with her new name — Fatima.

For a week she was locked in one room. Her new husband came to her on the first night. Tears stained her blue scarf as she remembered it:

“I screamed and cried all night. I have images in my mind I can’t scratch out,” said Neha. “I hate him.”

His elder daughter brought her food each day, and Neha begged for help to escape. Although the woman was frightened of her father, she relented a week after the marriage, bringing the underage bride a burqa — the all-covering garment worn by some Muslim women — and 500 rupees (about $3). Neha fled.

But when she arrived home, Neha found her family had turned against her.

“I went home and I cried to my Mama about my aunt, what she said and the threats. But she didn’t want me anymore,” said Neha.

Her parents feared what her new husband might do to them, Neha said. Further, the prospects of marriage for a girl in conservative Pakistan who has been raped or married before are slim, and human rights activists say they often are seen as a burden.

Neha’s family, including her aunt, all refused to talk to the AP. Her husband’s lawyer, Mohammad Saleem, insisted that she married and converted voluntarily.

Neha found protection at a Christian church in Karachi, living on the compound with the pastor’s family, who say the girl still wakes screaming in the night. She hopes to go back to school one day but is still distraught.

“At the beginning my nightmares were every night, but now it is just sometimes when I remember and inside I am shaking,” she said. “Before I wanted to be a lawyer, but now I don’t know what I will do. Even my mama doesn’t want me now.”

Chilling video captures Russian dancer killed by masked assassin

By Yaron Steinbuch, NY Post

A 30-year-old accomplished Russian dancer was gunned down in Moscow in what is being investigated as a “contract killing” after reportedly having an affair with a wealthy politician, according to a report.

Natalia Pronina — who won international dance competitions, including in the UK — was shot twice in the chest by the masked assassin outside her apartment building near the Akademicheskaya train station, East2West News reported.

She was targeted as she returned home from a choreography session, according to the news outlet.

Chilling surveillance footage captured the moment the striking brunette saw her killer approach from the shadows before he opened fire from close range.

He dropped the gun and fled, according to local reports. The video has not helped investigators track down the shooter, police sources said.

Pronina was rushed to a hospital, where she underwent surgery, but died two hours later, East2West News reported.

“She had no enemies, I can say with absolute certainty,” her friend Valeria told the tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. “Only one of her admirers could be behind this because of jealousy.”

A former dancing colleague, Anzhelika, said that “Natasha not only danced beautifully, she is a real beauty. Men always clung to her and it is possible that one of the rejected fans could have killed her.”

Another theory being investigated is that the former nightclub performer had an affair with a wealthy politician whose wife discovered the secret relationship, according to East2West.

The husband, believed to be a member of parliament, was trained in martial arts, according to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

“They had been dating until this summer, when the MP’s wife learned about the affair,” according to the report, which said the dancer had faced “threats” from the wife.

The masked killer — dressed in a hoodie and wearing glasses — used a non-lethal self-defense gun that was redesigned to fire real bullets for the hit, according to East2West.

Pronina’s boyfriend Alexander Kravchenko, 33, has denied any involvement in the murder and said he was working in Yalta in the Crimea at the time, the Sun reported.

He also claimed she had a stalker and separately that she had a £6,000 — about $8,000 — debt that she had to repay.

Pronina, a “master of sport” in ballroom dancing, formed her own team to perform at VIP parties and elite clubs, including striptease, the outlet reported.

Anzhelika said her former colleague “was not the type who dreams of a white dress and a bunch of kids.”

“Her work was her life. She earned well, she could afford a lot,” she said.

“Last year, she definitely traveled four times to Milan, where she also had fans. But this year, due to the pandemic, she did not fly anywhere,” she added.

Loujain al-Hathloul: Saudi woman activist jailed for five years

Reuters

Loujain al-Hathloul was detained in 2018

A prominent Saudi female activist, who campaigned for women’s right to drive, has been sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, has already been in a maximum security prison for two and a half years.

She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contacts with organisations hostile to Saudi Arabia.

International human rights groups have repeatedly called for her release.

But on Monday, the country’s Specialised Criminal Court, which was set up to try terrorism cases, convicted her of various charges including trying to harm national security and advance a foreign agenda.

It sentenced her to five years and eight months in prison. Two years and ten months of the sentence are said to have been suspended.

She and her family have denied all charges. They have also said that she has been tortured in jail – accusations the court dismissed.

• Saudi Arabia’s human rights problems that won’t go away

• Activist ‘offered freedom if she denies torture’

• How Saudi’s ‘new direction’ is changing life for women like me

Hathloul was detained just weeks before Saudi women were finally allowed to drive in 2018 – the cause she championed.

Saudi officials insist her detention has nothing to do with that issue.

Saudi women hit the road

Hathloul’s family says she was held incommunicado for three months following her arrest, and that she was subjected to electric shocks, whippings, and sexual harassment. They also allege that she was offered freedom if she agreed to say she was not tortured.

Human rights experts have said her trial did not meet international standards.

In November, Amnesty International condemned her transfer to the Specialised Criminal Court, saying it exposed “the brutality and hypocrisy” of Saudi authorities.

The case is seen as further damaging the reputation of Saudi Arabia’s controversial de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MBS.

He has led a programme of reforms, including lifting the ban on women driving, in a bid to open up the conservative kingdom to investment.

But he has also been condemned for the continued crackdown on rights activists, as well as the Saudi authorities’ role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Loujain Al-Hathloul is now even more famous for her incarceration than she was for her bold activism in the campaign for the right to drive.

She has come to symbolise the human rights abuses that stubbornly cast a long shadow over Saudi Arabia’s drive for economic and social reform – while it keeps an increasingly tight rein on political dissent.

When Joe Biden takes over as US president, he is expected to take a tougher stance on human rights violations.

But Saudi officials insist they will continue to chart their own course. The Kingdom believes its role as the world’s top oil exporter and regional power player matter to the international community above all else.

Al-Hathloul’s sentence, including years of suspended and already-served time, mean she and other activists could be freed in the new year.

That may help ease pressure on a Kingdom, which also does not want to be seen as bending to the dictates of others.