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‘We failed the test’ of COVID-19, says human rights champion

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‘We failed the test’ of COVID-19, says human rights champion

PARIS — Agnès Callamard is best known for her investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and has made a career uncovering extrajudicial killings.

The French human rights expert’s focus on rights abuses is taking on new dimensions as she assumes leadership of Amnesty International and turns her attention to what she says is one of the world’s most pressing issues — vaccine equity to end the coronavirus pandemic, which has eroded freedoms globally.

Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, arguing that governments have used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on human rights, whether or not that was the original intent. The wide-ranging report took particular aim at governments in Myanmar and Russia, among others, but also critiqued the use of coronavirus-related police powers in places like Britain and the United States against protesters.

The only way to end the virus — and the abuses that have accompanied it, primarily against the world’s most vulnerable — is to distribute vaccines globally and equitably, she told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“What we found is that the victims of COVID, whether it was in the UK, in France, in the US, in India, in the Middle East, in Brazil, those victims were primarily among the most disenfranchised and vulnerable groups,” she said. “As a global community, as a national community, we failed the test that COVID-19 represented.”

Callamard rarely hesitates to call out the powerful. In 2019, as a UN special rapporteur, she concluded there was “credible evidence” that Khashoggi’s killing was state-sanctioned. She also investigated the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and concluded it was unlawful. Earlier this week, she said there was a real risk that Russia was subjecting opposition leader Alexei Navalny to “a slow death.”

She said she will no longer lead her own investigations, as she has done for years for the UN — but will continue to call out human rights violations as she sees them. And the pandemic exposed plenty. Ending it, she said, will expose even more, especially among wealthy and powerful nations which have purchased more vaccines than they need.

“Not only do we buy everything, but on top of it, we stop others from being able to produce it. In the name of what? In the name of profit and in the name of greed,” Callamard said, referring to the European Union and US decision to block a proposal to relax intellectual property restrictions on patents related to coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

One of her proposals falls along the same lines as the Biden administration’s call this week for a minimum global corporate income tax. In a foreword to Amnesty’s report that she wrote before Monday’s announcement by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Callamard said the global taxation system had produced more losers than winners.

“Global taxation is a way of rebalancing equality,” she said. “It’s a way of ensuring that it is not always those who have the least who are requested to give the most.”

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Hester Ford, oldest person in America, dead at 116

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Hester Ford, oldest person in America, dead at 116

America’s oldest person has died, but she left behind quite a legacy — not the least of which are some 120 great-great-grandchildren.

Hester Ford, of Charlotte, North Carolina, died at the age of 116, according to WBTV.

Born in 1904 in Lancaster, South Carolina, Ford grew up working on a farm, planting and picking cotton and plowing the fields, the local station said.

In addition to her legion of great-greats, the matriarch had 12 children, 48 grandchildren and 108 great-grandchildren, according to the report.

Her precise age was unclear. One set of census records shows her birth as Aug. 15, 1904, but another set shows she was born in 1905. However, last year the Gerontology Research Group reportedly declared she was the oldest person in the US.

She died peacefully at home surrounded by family, her great-granddaughter said, according to the station.

“Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real-life experience of over 100 years,” Tanisha Patterson-Powe reportedly said. 

“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth. She has been celebrated all over the world by local governments, community leaders, social media, foreign dignities and presidents as a cherished jewel of society for holding the honor of being the oldest living person in America.”

Ford’s husband of 45 years died in 1963, a half-century ago, according to the report.

COVID-19 was not the church-going woman’s first pandemic; she also lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Ford ate half of a banana for breakfast every day, and when asked to the secret of her longevity last year, she said: “I just live right, all I know.”

Local county commissioners declared Sept. 1 as Mother Hester McCardell Ford Day in Mecklenburg County, in her honor last year.

“We are honored and we just thank God for the opportunity to celebrate her,” Mary Hill, one of Hester Ford’s 68 grandchildren said, according to the local station.

“She just continues to be a blessing to us. And she tells us all the time. You are here to be a blessing to someone else.”

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Gina Tron’s ‘Employment’ turns the 9-5 grind into poetry

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Gina Tron's 'Employment' turns the 9-5 grind into poetry

Gina Tron has held plenty of jobs. She has worked at a Walmart, a PetSmart, and a small-town newspaper. She has been a waitress; she has worked at a CBS affiliate, Lifetime, and a media job at a TV station that was owned by the Catholic Church. These days, she writes, primarily about murder, for Oxygen. 

So it’s entirely fitting that her most recent book — her sixth — is a collection of poems called “Employment.” “Nobody wants to grind for the man, but most of us have to,” read the press materials. “Gina Tron has clocked into a lot of nonsense which has luckily led to undeniably relatable poems recalling the details of making other people money in order to survive.” 

The poems touch on the dark side of many of the jobs she has held; of sexism and corruption, sexual harassment, boredom, and plain old poor management. (The book’s dedication page calls out all the “sh–ty a– bosses I had” while also thanking the ones who were cool and supportive.) 

“I also make reference to the arrest of my boss for child pornography while working at the Diocese of Brooklyn television station, which occurred when I was there and the hypocritical reactions to that,” she says. (“Emergency meeting is called/and the big, big-big He/who owns us/yet is still part of the flock, above most/He is being arrested on child porn distribution charges /after those Thai trips.”) 

For someone who has done a lot of longform reporting, poetry is a refreshing change in format. 

“Poetry really lets you address stuff that is less complicated than journalism or memoir. It’s more abstract and you don’t worry as much about consequences,” she says. “With this, I can go wild.” 

Of her job at a CBS affiliate: “He uses a clipboard as a paddle/upon my rear end/I say to myself, it didn’t end in the fifties/this is real and now/I didn’t think/I guess I do now/fine I get it/this isn’t a show/He says, don’t worry I didn’t enjoy it/when I order Him to stop” 

And murder reporting? 

“I love it,” she says. “It’s not for everyone, but I’ve been fascinated with true crime. I try my best to make it a bit more victim focused, and not as much about the killers.”

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Sheriff and his beloved K9 die on same day

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Sheriff and his beloved K9 die on same day

A retired Ohio sheriff and his tiny, crime-fighting, K-9 partner will be buried together after dying on the same day.

Former Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland, 67, and Midge, 16 — a drug-sniffing Chihuahua-rat terrier mix certified by the Guinness World Records as the world’s smallest police dog in 2006 — both died on Wednesday.

Midge passed away at home, possibly of a broken heart, just hours after McClelland lost his battle with cancer at the hospital.

The dynamic duo were inseparable, whether they were collaring suspects or out on the town at parades and police functions.

Midge was remembered paws-humously as a rock star who would delight everyone she met — except the drug dealers the terrier-mix terrorized.

When the top cop was doing paperwork, Midge would sleep in a miniature dog bed next to his desk, making his office a very popular spot on school field trips.

Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand recalled escorting the crime-fighting team in a golf cart at the county fair. It was a slow ride, as people flocked to the petit police pooch.

“He used to joke that people would see him in a parade in a car and would say, ‘Hey, there’s Midge and whatshisname,’” Hildenbrand told the Associated Press. “I think she was more popular than him.”

“It was like bringing Elvis Presley to the midway,” retired Lt. John Hiscox agreed.

It was McClelland, a 44 year veteran of the force, who decided that Midge would make an unlikely, but ideal, drug-sniffing dog.

Unlike large and aggressive canines like German shepherds or bloodhounds, Midge — the runt of her litter — could fit into tight spots like under vehicles, which she would search without tearing up upholstery or leaving muddy footprints.

The pair were guests on daytime talk shows and featured in magazines like Playboy until their joint retirement — when Midge would join McClelland and his wife on cross country road trips in an RV.

“He spent 44 years protecting people in this county and, quite frankly, he loved his job, every minute of it,” Hildenbrand said. “I thought he’d never retire.”

McClelland and Midge now have a new leash on the afterlife. They will be buried together, family members said.

With Post wires

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