Immigrants who are permanent residents can now enlist in Canadian army
As it struggles with low recruitment numbers, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recently announced that immigrants who are permanent residents will now be able to enlist. According to the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia, a non-profit organisation of retired and active duty members of the CAF, permanent residents were previously only qualified under the Skilled Military Foreign Applicant (SMFA) entry programme, which was “open for individuals... that would reduce training costs or fill a special need... such as a trained pilot or a doctor.” The decision was made five years after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) declared that they will change their “outdated recruitment process” to allow permanent citizens who have resided in Canada for ten years or more to apply, CTV News reports. With only roughly half the candidates it needs each month to reach its target of recruiting 5,900 new members this year, Canadian Armed Forces raised the alarm in September about a serious recruitment shortfall that was preventing it from filling thousands of open positions. Read: 2 dead after all-night shooting rampage in Vancouver, Canada The military has not confirmed whether the new action was taken to increase recruiting, but Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, believes it makes sense. Leuprecht told CTV News: “In the past, the CAF has had the luxury of being able to limit itself to citizens because it has had enough applicants. This is no longer the case.” He argued that many other nations have been doing this for years, so hiring non-citizens is by no means a novel idea. Since Canadian citizenship is relatively simple to obtain for permanent residents, it’s not clear what significant incentive it would offer in the Canadian scenario, he said. “Countries such as France use military service as either a pathway to citizenship or an accelerated pathway to citizenship.” Read: Canada imposes new sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector, chemical industry Anita Anand, Canada’s Defence Minister, stated in March that the CAF must expand to fulfil international demands brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war.
Canada’s horrific knife rampage over as last suspect dies
The last suspect in a horrific stabbing spree that killed 10 and wounded 18 in western Canada is dead following his capture, and police hope the stunning end to a gripping hunt that stretched into a fourth day will bring some peace to victims’ families. One official said Myles Sanderson, 32, died from self-inflicted injuries Wednesday after police forced the stolen car he was driving off a highway in Saskatchewan. Other officials declined to discuss how he died, but expressed relief the final suspected killer was no longer on the loose. “This evening our province is breathing a collective sigh of relief,” Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan, said at a news conference Wednesday night. The other suspect, Sanderson’s 30-year-old brother, Damien Sanderson, was found dead Monday near the scene of the bloody knife attacks inside and around the James Smith Cree First Nation reserve early Sunday. Both men were residents of the Indigenous reserve. Blackmore said Myles Sanderson was cornered as police units responded to a report of a stolen vehicle being driven by a man armed with a knife. She said officers forced Sanderson’s vehicle off the road and into a ditch. He was detained and a knife was found inside the vehicle, she said. Sanderson went into medical distress while in custody, Blackmore said. She said CPR was attempted on him before an ambulance arrived, and emergency medical personnel then took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. “All life saving measures that we are capable of were taken at that time,” she said. Blackmore gave no details on the cause of death. “I can’t speak to the specific manner of death,” she said. But an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, earlier said Sanderson died of self-inflicted injuries, without giving any further details. Video and photos from the scene showed a white SUV off to the side of the road with police cars all around. Air bags had deployed in the SUV. Some photos and video taken from a distance appeared to show Sanderson being frisked. An independent investigation by members of Saskatchewan’s Serious Incident Response Team went to the arrest site and will review Sanderson’s death and police conduct. The federal public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, also stressed that the events will be investigated. “You have questions. We have questions,” he told reporters during a Cabinet retreat in Vancouver, British Columbia, adding: “There will be two levels of police who will be investigating the circumstances of Myles Sanderson’s death.” His death came two days after the body of Damien Sanderson was found in a field near the scene of the knife rampage. Police are investigating whether Myles Sanderson killed his brother. Blackmore said that with both men dead, authorities will find it hard to figure out what set off the rampage. “Now that Myles is deceased we may never have an understanding of that motivation,” she said. But she said she hoped the families of the stabbing victims will find some comfort that neither of the Sandersons remains a threat. Read: Official: Suspect in Canada stab rampage died after arrest “I hope that this brings them closure. I hope they can rest easy knowing that Myles Sanderson is no longer a threat to them.” Some family members of the victims arrived at the scene Wednesday, including Brian Burns, whose wife and son were killed. “Now we can start to heal. The healing begins today, now,” he said. The stabbings raised questions of why Myles Sanderson — an ex-con with 59 convictions and a long history of shocking violence — was out on the streets in the first place. He was released by a parole board in February while serving a sentence of over four years on charges that included assault and robbery. But he had been wanted by police since May, apparently for violating the terms of his release, though the details were not immediately clear. His long and lurid rap sheet also showed that seven years ago, he attacked and stabbed one of the victims killed in Sunday’s stabbings, according to court records. Mendicino, the public safety minister, has said there will be an investigation into the parole board’s assessment of Sanderson. “I want to know the reasons behind the decision” to release him, Mendicino said. “I’m extremely concerned with what occurred here. A community has been left reeling.” The Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service said nine of those killed were from the James Smith Cree Nation: Thomas Burns, 23; Carol Burns, 46; Gregory Burns, 28; Lydia Gloria Burns, 61; Bonnie Burns, 48; Earl Burns, 66; Lana Head, 49; Christian Head, 54; and Robert Sanderson, 49. The other victim was from Weldon, 78-year-old Wesley Patterson. Authorities would not say if the victims might be related. Mark Arcand said his half sister Bonnie and her son Gregory were killed. “Her son was lying there already deceased. My sister went out and tried to help her son, and she was stabbed two times, and she died right beside him,” he said. “Right outside of her home she was killed by senseless acts. She was protecting her son. She was protecting three little boys. This is why she is a hero.” Arcand rushed to the reserve the morning of the rampage. After that, he said, “I woke up in the middle of the night just screaming and yelling. What I saw that day I can’t get out of my head.” As for what set off the violence, Arcand said: “We’re all looking for those same answers. We don’t know what happened. Maybe we’ll never know. That’s the hardest part of this.” Read: Stabbings in Canada kill 10, hurt 15; suspects at large Court documents said Sanderson attacked his in-laws Earl Burns and Joyce Burns in 2015, knifing Earl Burns repeatedly and wounding Joyce Burns. He later pleaded guilty to assault and threatening Earl Burns’ life. Many of Sanderson’s crimes were committed when he was intoxicated, according to court records. He told parole officials at one point that substance use made him out of his mind. Records showed he repeatedly violated court orders barring him from drinking or using drugs. Many of Canada’s Indigenous communities are plagued by drugs and alcohol. Myles Sanderson’s childhood was marked by violence, neglect and substance abuse, court records show. Sanderson, who is Indigenous and was raised on the Cree reserve, population 1,900, started drinking and smoking marijuana at around 12, and cocaine followed soon after. In 2017, he barged into his ex-girlfriend’s home, punched a hole in the door of a bathroom while his two children were hiding in a bathtub and threw a cement block at a vehicle parked outside, according to parole documents. He got into a fight a few days later at a store, threatening to kill an employee and burn down his parents’ home, documents said. That November he threatened an accomplice into robbing a fast-food restaurant by clubbing him with a gun and stomping on his head. He then stood watch during the holdup. In 2018, he stabbed two men with a fork while drinking and beat someone unconscious.
Stabbings in Canada kill 10, hurt 15; suspects at large
A series of stabbings at an Indigenous community and at another town nearby in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan left 10 people dead and 15 wounded, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched for two suspects. The stabbings took place in multiple locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, police said. Rhonda Blackmore, the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP Saskatchewan, said some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects but others appear to have been attacked at random. She couldn't provide a motive. "It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” Blackmore said, adding there were 13 crime scenes where either deceased or injured people were found. It is among the deadliest mass killings in Canadian history. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020 when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. A man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto in 2019. But mass killings are less common in Canada than in the United States. Read: 2 dead after all-night shooting rampage in Vancouver, Canada Blackmore said police began receiving reports before 6 a.m. of stabbings on the First Nation community. More reports of attacks quickly followed and by midday police issued a warning that a vehicle reportedly carrying the two suspects had been spotted in Regina, about 335 kilometers (208 miles) south of the communities where the stabbings occurred. Police said the last information they had from the public was that the suspects were sighted there around lunchtime. There have been no sightings since. “If in the Regina area, take precautions & consider sheltering in place. Do not leave a secure location. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious persons. Do not pick up hitch hikers. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or info to 9-1-1. Do not disclose police locations,” the RCMP said in a message on Twitter. Doreen Lees, an 89-year grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car came barreling down her street early in the morning as her daughter was having coffee on her deck. Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help. But Lees said the man took off and ran after her daughter said she would call for help. “He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.” She said the man was by himself and "kind of a little wobbly.” “I followed him a little ways to see if he was going to be OK. My daughter said ‘Don’t follow him, get back here.’” Weldon resident Diane Shier said she was in her garden Sunday morning when she noticed emergency crews a couple of blocks away. Shier said her neighbor was killed. She did not want to identify the victim out of respect for his family. "I am very upset because I lost a good neighbor,” she said. The search for suspects was carried out as fans descended on Regina for a sold out annual Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Regina Police Service said in a news release that with the help of Mounties, it was working on several fronts to locate and arrest the suspects and had "deployed additional resources for public safety throughout the city, including the football game at Mosaic Stadium.″ The alert first issued by Melfort, Saskatchewan RCMP about 7 a.m. was extended hours later to cover Manitoba and Alberta, as the two suspects remained at large. Read: Canada protests sound common refrain: ‘We stand for freedom’ Damien Sanderson, 31, was described as five feet seven inches tall and 155 pounds, and Myles Sanderson, 30, as six-foot-one and 200 pounds. They may be driving a black vehicle. Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list last May that included Myles, writing that he was “unlawfully at large.” The Saskatchewan Health Authority said multiple patients were being treated at several sites. “A call for additional staff was issued to respond to the influx of casualties,” authority spokeswoman Anne Linemann said in an email. Mark Oddan, a spokesman with STARS Air Ambulance, said two helicopters were dispatched from Saskatoon and another from Regina. He said two carried patients to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, while the third carried a patient to Royal University from a hospital in Melfort, a short distance southeast of Weldon. “The attacks in Saskatchewan today are horrific and heartbreaking. I’m thinking of those who have lost a loved one and of those who were injured,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency. Deadly mass stabbings are more rare than mass shootings but have happened around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in China’s southwestern city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass stabbing at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men killed eight people in a vehicle and stabbing attack at London Bridge.
Doctor: Biden’s COVID symptoms ‘almost completely resolved’
President Joe Biden has improved enough from his coronavirus infection that he’s able to resume his regular exercise routine, according to an update Tuesday from his doctor. Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote in a new note that Biden’s COVID-19 symptoms “have now almost completely resolved,” and all of his vital signs are good. Biden took his fifth and final dose of Paxlovid, which is intended to prevent severe symptoms from COVID-19, on Monday night. Read: Biden’s COVID symptoms improve; WH says he’s staying busy Tuesday is Biden’s fifth full day of isolation, and he plans to test for the virus on Wednesday. If he tests negative, he will return to working in person. “The moment that he turns negative, he’ll return to work,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, during Monday’s briefing at the White House.
2 dead after all-night shooting rampage in Vancouver, Canada
A gunman who roamed for hours through a sleeping Vancouver suburb shot four people early Monday, two of them fatally, as he opened fire at a casino, a center for the homeless and other locations before being killed by police, authorities said. The attacks began in the wee hours in the bedroom community of Langley and continued until dawn, according to authorities, who initially suggested the shootings had targeted homeless people. The first shooting occurred at midnight at the casino, with more shootings at 3 a.m., 5 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. — including at a residential complex that provides support for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. The other shooting scenes were a bus stop and a highway, police said. Evidence of the all-night rampage was scattered around Langley, including an overturned bicycle spilling personal possessions onto a street and a shopping cart with someone’s belongings. Also read: 2 killed, 5 injured in shooting at Los Angeles park: Police Police sent a cellphone alert to residents at 6:20 a.m., saying they were at the scene of several shootings “involving transient victims," describing the gunman and asking people to “please remain alert and out of the area.” But by then, the gunman was already dead. Sgt. David Lee, a spokesman for homicide investigators, later told reporters that it was not yet clear if the victims were homeless. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an emergency response team confronted the suspect not far from a highway bypass where a man was found with a gunshot to his leg. That's when officers fatally shot the gunman, said Ghalib Bhayani, superintendent of the mounted police. Also read: Chief: 3 dead in Indiana mall shooting; witness kills gunman Police later identified the shooter as Jordan Daniel Goggin, 28, of Surrey, British Columbia. They are investigating the motive. Authorities did not know if the shooter and his victims were acquainted, Bhayani said. He told reporters that the suspect's death is subject to an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, a civilian-led police oversight agency. Besides the man with the leg wound, a woman was also wounded and was hospitalized in critical condition, police said. The shootings roiled Langley, a town of 29,000 about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Vancouver. The town features a variety of shops and restaurants and boasts almost 350 acres (142 hectares) of parks. Many residents moved to Langley for its less expensive housing and commute to Vancouver, the largest city in the province of British Columbia. Most of the shootings were in downtown Langley. One reported shooting was in neighboring Langley Township. After the shooting began, ambulances and police vehicles converged at a mall. The area was cordoned off with yellow police tape and a major intersection was closed. A black tent was set up over one of the crime scenes. A homicide team confirmed on social media that its investigators deployed to Langley to help. An unmarked police SUV at one of the shooting scenes, near a bus depot, had at least seven bullet holes in the windshield and one through the driver’s window. Mass shootings are less common in Canada than in the United States. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020 when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. The country overhauled its gun-control laws after an attacker killed 14 women and himself in 1989 at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college. It is now illegal to possess an unregistered handgun or any kind of rapid-fire weapon in Canada. To purchase a weapon, the country also requires training, a personal risk assessment, two references, spousal notification and criminal record checks.
Massive New Mexico wildfire grows, but Taos safe for now
Burning now for more than a month, the largest wildfire in the U.S. was spreading toward mountain resort towns in northern New Mexico on Wednesday, prompting officials to issue another set of warnings for more people to evacuate. “Day 36,” fire spokesman Bill Morse said at a briefing Wednesday night. “Ever since April 6, this fire has grown day by day by day.” Also read: Strong, swirling winds complicate New Mexico wildfire fight Meanwhile, a wildfire that erupted Wednesday afternoon in coastal Southern California raced through coastal bluffs of multimillion-dollar mansions, burning at least 20 homes, fire officials said. The flames were fanned by gusty ocean winds but they were dying down Wednesday night. No injuries were reported but several streets were ordered evacuated. The fire, which occurred in Laguna Niguel, was relatively small at about 200 acres (81 hectares) but the wind drove embers into palm trees, attics and dense, dry brush on slopes and steep canyons that hadn’t burned for decades, Brian Fennessy, chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, said at an evening news conference. Fennessy said climate change has made even small fires that once would have been easily contained into extreme threats to life and property throughout the West. As night fell, fire officials in New Mexico said the fastest-moving flames along the eastern front of the Sangre de Cristo range on the southern end of the Rockies were headed farther northeast — away from the area's biggest population center in Taos, a well-known tourist enclave 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of the Colorado line. “Currently no issues in the Taos area," fire operations chief Todd Abel said. “The fire is kind of wanting to move to the north and east a little bit. But we’re still going to pay close attention.” Some aircraft were able to fly to drop retardant on the blaze despite winds gusting in some areas in excess of 45 mph (72 kph). And some evacuation orders were relaxed along the southern flank of the fire near Las Vegas, New Mexico — more than 50 miles (80 km) south of the flames on the northern perimeter. Additional crews were on order to join the more than 1,800 personnel fighting the fire, and forecasters said conditions should be more favorable by the weekend if crews can hold their ground through another red-flag warning stretch into Thursday evening. On Wednesday, the most active part of the wind-fueled fire northeast of Mora was tossing hot embers farther into unburned territory giving the fire an even bigger foothold on the tinder-dry landscape. “Another hot, dry, windy day. No surprises there,” fire incident meteorologist Makoto Moore said at Wednesday night's briefing in Las Vegas. After growing more than 50 square miles (130 square kilometers) the day before, the fire had charred more than 370 square miles (958 square kilometers) by Wednesday morning. Evacuations were ordered for villages south of the resort town of Angel Fire east of Taos, where residents were told to also be packed and ready to go. The towering plume of smoke created by the raging wildfire could be seen hundreds of miles away Wednesday afternoon, but it was more unnerving for residents of Taos. “I think everyone is a little on edge,” Karina Armijo, a town spokeswoman, said Wednesday, adding that she's been busy fielding calls from people who are wondering whether it's still safe to visit. “It's hard to say what's going to happen a week from now versus three weeks from now — or even tomorrow.” Also read: New Mexico residents brace for extreme wildfire conditions In winter, the challenging ski slopes just north of town draw people from around the world. Just last month, the Taos ski valley hosted the World Pro Ski Tour’s championship races. Art galleries, adobe churches and a rich history of Hispanic and Native American culture are the attractions in warmer months along with the aspen-covered biking and hiking trails that traverse the region. The fire already has burned through a forested landscape held sacred by its rural residents, many losing homes that have been in their families for generations. Some residents allowed to return Tuesday and Wednesday found only charred rubble. Others were more fortunate as the flames skirted their homes. Firefighters were working to protect buildings around the towns of Mora and Holman and in smaller villages to the north, while authorities closed many roads in the area due to firefighting activity, smoke and fire danger. “This is tough firefighting business right here,” fire Incident Commander Dave Bales said in a briefing. “This is not easy, especially in the fuel types we're in, in the Ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, even down into the grass. When we can’t fly aircraft, when we can’t get people on the direct edge of the fire, when it’s spotting over us, that’s a huge concern for us.” A federal disaster already has been declared because of the blaze, which is partly the result of a preventative fire that escaped containment on April 6 after it was set to clear brush and small trees so they could not serve as wildfire fuel. That fire merged with another wildfire several weeks later. Crews also were battling a smaller fire near Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key government facility for nuclear research that has been tapped to ramp up production of plutonium components for the nation's nuclear arsenal. Most employees began working remotely this week as the lab and adjacent town prepared for possible evacuations as a precaution. Crews working that blaze have been using heavy machinery to clear out vegetation and build more fire lines in hopes of keeping the flames from moving closer to the community.
Strong, swirling winds complicate New Mexico wildfire fight
Strong, fast winds complicated work for firefighters in northeast New Mexico on Sunday as they battled two major blazes, though the rural area’s major population center appeared to finally be safe from the worst danger. “It’s been a challenging day. The winds have picked up; they haven’t let up,” fire spokesperson Todd Abel said Sunday evening. The rural area’s largest town — Las Vegas, New Mexico, population 13,000 — sits on the eastern edge of the fire area and appeared safe for now thanks to fire lines dug with bulldozers and other preparations over the past week. But the northern and southern edges of the blaze were still proving tricky for firefighters to contain, particularly given winds as fast as 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour), Abel said. The fire’s perimeter stretched more than 60 miles (96 kilometers) from Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the southeast flank to near Holbrook about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the Colorado line. The National Interagency Fire Center said early Sunday that more than 20,000 structures remained threatened by the fire, which has destroyed about 300 residences over the last two weeks. The fire center said full containment wasn’t anticipated until the end of July. The ferocious winds were expected to continue with little break Sunday night and at least into Monday. Strong, gusty winds are in many ways firefighters’ worst nightmare, especially in conditions so hot and dry as the crews in the Southwest have been battling since early April. In addition to fanning and spreading the flames, such winds ground airtankers and light planes that can drop water directly on the fire or lay down retardant ahead of its path to allow bulldozers and ground crews to dig firebreaks in places where there’s no highways or roads that can help stop the progression of the flames. In extreme conditions, like the ones in New Mexico, even the helicopters that typically can get up in the air — at least during the early morning hours before winds start to pick up in the afternoon — are grounded. That means they’re unable to gather intelligence about the overnight developments critical to making new attack plans or placing new orders for firefighters, engines and more aircraft from across the region where demand grows exponentially as summer nears and the more traditional fire season begins. Also Read: New Mexico residents brace for extreme wildfire conditions Aircraft were able to fly early Sunday but were grounded by early afternoon, Abel said. “It’s not good, obviously; it takes away a tool in our toolbox, but we’re not stopping,” said fire spokesperson Ryan Berlin. Firefighters prepared to protect homes if needed in several other rural communities along the state highway that connects Las Vegas to Taos, a small community popular for outdoor recreation activities like skiing. Officials repeatedly urged people to evacuate if they have been told to do so. “It’s a dogfight out there folks,” fire spokesperson Bill Morse said Sunday evening. As of early Sunday, the biggest blaze northeast of Santa Fe had grown to an area more than twice the size of Philadelphia. Thousands of residents have been forced to flee their homes. For now, the city of Las Vegas appears to be safe, said Berlin. Some residents of the area were able to return to their homes on Saturday, and some shops and restaurants had reopened. “We even started to repopulate a section of town already,” he said. “Our concern right now is on the southwest portion of the fire which the wind is helping us out, sort of, because it’s blowing the flames back into the fire.” But Wendy Mason with the New Mexico Forestry Division warned that “by no means” is anyone “out of potential danger.” Also Read: Wildfires tear across several states, driven by high winds “Just because the winds are coming from one direction doesn’t mean they can’t change direction so it’s better to be prepared and have residents ready to go,” she said. Nationwide, close to 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) have burned so far this year, with 2018 being the last time this much fire had been reported at this point, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. And predictions for the rest of the spring do not bode well for the West, where long-term drought and warmer temperatures brought on by climate change have combined to worsen the threat of wildfire.
Ukrainian refugees at camp in Mexico City await US action
On a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital, some 500 Ukrainian refugees are waiting in large tents under a searing sun for the United States government to tell them they can come. The camp has only been open a week and 50 to 100 people are arriving every day. Some have already been to the U.S. border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun, anywhere they could find a ticket from Europe. “We are asking the U.S. government to process faster,” said Anastasiya Polo, co-founder of United with Ukraine, a nongovernmental organization, that collaborated with the Mexican government to establish the camp. She said that after a week’s time none of the refugees there “are even close to the end of the program.” The program, Uniting for Ukraine, was announced by the U.S. government April 21. Four days later, Ukrainians showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border were no longer exempted from a pandemic-related rule that has been used to quickly expel migrants without an opportunity to seek asylum for the past two years. Instead, they would have to apply from Europe or other countries such as Mexico. To qualify people must have been in Ukraine as of Feb. 11; have a sponsor, which could be family or an organization; meet vaccination and other public health requirements; and pass background checks. Also Read: Civilians rescued from Mariupol steel plant head for safety Polo said U.S. government officials had told her it should take a week to process people, but it appeared like it was just beginning. Some of the first arrivals had received emails from the U.S. government acknowledging they received their documents and the documents of their sponsors, but she had heard of no sponsors being approved yet. “These people cannot stay in this camp, because it is temporary,” Polo said. More than 100 of the camp’s residents are children. Nearly 5.5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded its smaller neighbor on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Giorgi Mikaberidze, 19, is among the waiting. He arrived in Tijuana April 25 and found the U.S. border closed. He complained that the U.S. government had given so little notice, because many people like himself were already in transit. He went from being just yards from the United States to some 600 miles (966 kilometers) now. When the U.S. government announced in late March that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, hundreds entered Mexico daily as tourists in Mexico City or Cancun and flew to Tijuana to wait for a few days – eventually only a few hours – to be admitted to the U.S. at a San Diego border crossing on humanitarian parole. Appointments at U.S. consulates in Europe were scarce, and refugee resettlement takes time, making Mexico the best option. Traveling through Mexico was circuitous, but a loose-knit group of volunteers, largely from Slavic churches in the western United States, greeted refugees at the Tijuana airport and shuttled them to a recreation center that the city of Tijuana made available for several thousand to wait. A wait of two to four days was eventually shortened to a few hours as U.S. border inspectors whisked Ukrainians in. That special treatment ended the day Mikaberidze arrived in Tijuana. “We want to go to America because (we’re) already here, some don’t have even money to go back,” he said. Mikaberidze was visiting relatives in Georgia, south of Ukraine, when the Russian invasion occurred and was not able to return. His mother remains in their village near Kharkhov in eastern Ukraine, afraid to leave her home because Russian troops indiscriminately shoot up cars traveling in the area, he said. “She said it’s a very dangerous situation,” said Mikaberidze, who traveled to Mexico alone. Also Read: Evacuation of civilians from Ukrainian steel plant begins The Mexico City camp provides a safe place to wait. It was erected inside a large sports complex, so Ukrainians could be seen pushing strollers with children along sidewalks, playing soccer and volleyball, even swimming. However, the refugees have been warned that while they are free to leave the complex, no one is responsible for their safety. Iztapalapa, the capital’s most populated borough, is also one of its most dangerous. The Mexican government was providing security at the camp with about 50 officers, Polo said. The Navy had also set up a mobile kitchen to provide meals. She said they felt safe inside the camp, but were asking the government about the possibility of moving the camp to a safer area. Mykhailo Pasternak and his girlfriend Maziana Hzyhozyshyn, waited at the entrance to the complex Monday afternoon. Both suffering from an apparent head cold, they planned to move to a hotel for a day or two to try to get some sleep and recover before returning to the camp. Pasternak had left the U.S. to help Hzyhozyshyn get in. The two had spent several days in Tijuana before flying to Mexico City and arriving at the camp Sunday. The couple stood out on the streets of Iztapalapa and appeared to be withering under the relentless sun. The couple had known each other for six years. “She’s my love,” Pasternak said.
Emergency declaration for multiple wildfires in New Mexico
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed emergency declarations as 20 wildfires continued to burn Sunday in nearly half of the state’s drought-stricken 33 counties. One wildfire in northern New Mexico that started April 6 merged with a newer fire Saturday to form the largest blaze in the state, leading to widespread evacuations in Mora and San Miguel counties. That fire was at 84 square miles (217 square kilometers) Sunday and 12% contained. An uncontained wind-driven wildfire in northern New Mexico that began April 17 had charred 81 square miles (209 square kilometers) of ponderosa pine, oak brush and grass by Sunday morning north of Ocate, an unincorporated community in Mora County. Meanwhile in Arizona, some residents forced to evacuate due to a wildfire near Flagstaff were allowed to return home Sunday morning. In Nebraska, authorities said wind-driven wildfires sweeping through parts of the state killed a retired Cambridge fire chief and injured at least 11 firefighters. Also read: Wind will be a force to reckon with on Southwest wildfires Winds and temperatures in New Mexico diminished Saturday but remained strong enough to still fan fires. Dozens of evacuation orders remained in place. Fire officials were expecting the northern wildfires to slow Sunday as cloud and smoke cover moves in, allowing the forests to retain more moisture. But they added that the interior portions of the fires could show moderate to extreme behavior, which could threaten structures in those areas. More than 200 structures have been charred by the wildfires thus far and an additional 900 remain threatened, Lujan Grisham said. Fire management officials said an exact damage count was unclear because it’s still too dangerous for crews to go in and look at all the homes that have been lost. “We do not know the magnitude of the structure loss. We don’t even know the areas where most homes made it through the fire, where homes haven’t been damaged or anything like that,” said operation sections chief Jayson Coil. Some 1,000 firefighters were battling the wildfires across New Mexico, which already has secured about $3 million in grants to help with the fires. Lujan Grisham said she has asked the White House for more federal resources and she’s calling for a ban of fireworks statewide. “We need more federal bodies for firefighting, fire mitigation, public safety support on the ground in New Mexico,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough summer. So that’s why we are banning fires. And that is why on Monday I will be asking every local government to be thinking about ways to ban the sales of fireworks.” Wildfire has become a year-round threat in the West given changing conditions that include earlier snowmelt and rain coming later in the fall, scientist have said. The problems have been exacerbated by decades of fire suppression and poor management along with a more than 20-year megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change. In Arizona, two large wildfires continued to burn Sunday 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Prescott and 14 miles (22 kilometers) northeast of Flagstaff. Coconino County authorities lifted the evacuation order Sunday morning for residents living in neighborhoods along Highway 89 after fire management officials determined the Flagstaff-area wildfire no longer posed a threat. The fire near Flagstaff was at 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) as of Sunday with 3% containment. It forced the evacuation of 766 homes and burned down 30 homes and two dozen other structures since it began a week ago, according to county authorities. Also read: 5,000 under evacuation orders as New Mexico wildfire rages Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared the fire a state of emergency Thursday for Coconino County to free up recovery aid to affected communities. The wildfire near Prescott began last Monday and was at 4.8 square miles (12.4 square kilometers) and 15% contained as of Sunday morning as helicopters and air tankers dropped water and retardant to slow the fire’s growth. The cause of the wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona remain under investigation. Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials said John P. Trumble, of Arapahoe, was overcome by smoke and fire after his vehicle left the road Friday night because of poor visibility from smoke and dust. Trumble, 66, was working with firefighters as a spotter in Red Willow County in the southwestern corner of the state and his body was found early Saturday, authorities said. Wildfires were still burning Saturday night in five Nebraska counties. The Nebraska National Guard deployed three helicopters and several support trucks to help battle the blazes.
Honduras ex-president Hernández extradited to US
Honduras extradited former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States on Thursday to face drug trafficking and weapons charges in a dramatic reversal for a leader once touted by U.S. authorities as a key ally in the war on the drugs. Just three months after leaving office, a handcuffed Hernández boarded an airplane with agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration bound for the United States, where he faces charges in the Southern District of New York. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Hernandez “abused his position as President of Honduras from 2014 through 2022 to operate the country as a narco-state.” In court documents, U.S. prosecutors alleged Hernandez was involved in a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” that moved more than 550 tons of cocaine to the United States. He was charged with participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, possession of machine guns and destructive devices and conspiracy to possess machine guns and destructive devices. Prosecutors charge that Hernandez received millions of dollars from drug cartels, including from notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. They allege he used the money to finance his political campaigns and engaged in voter fraud in the 2013 and 2017 Honduran presidential elections. Also Read: US asks Honduras to arrest, extradite ex-President Hernández “In return, drug traffickers in Honduras were allowed to operate with virtual impunity,” Garland said. “We allege that Hernández corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country — including parts of the national police, military and national Congress.” Hernández was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa in February at the request of U.S. authorities. He was shackled and paraded in front of journalists, a sight many Hondurans never imagined seeing. Honduras’ Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a judge’s decision in favor of extradition. “Drug trafficking fuels violent crime and addiction; it devastates families, and it ravages communities,” Garland said. “The Justice Department is committed to disrupting the entire ecosystem of drug trafficking networks that harm the American people, no matter how far or how high we must go.” Hernández has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. In a video message released Thursday, he said, “I am innocent; I have been and I am being unjustly subjected to prosecution.” He has said he is the victim of drug traffickers he extradited who are now lying to seek revenge. Henry Osorto Canales, a retired National Police commissioner who is now an analyst, said that while the extradition was an embarrassment for Honduras, it was also a historic day. “This is a start because it has begun with the largest political piece that the country had and logically the rest of the pieces are going to fall, at least those closest (to Hernández),” Osorto said. U.S. prosecutors have spent years building cases from low-level drug traffickers and local politicians to organized crime bosses who used their political connections and ties to drug trafficking cartels in Colombia and Mexico to move tons of cocaine to the United States. Many of them testified about making payments to Hernández or one of his brothers, also a politician. Hernández’s brother Tony Hernández, a former congressman, was sentenced to life in prison in the same U.S. court on essentially the same charges. Juan Orlando Hernández took office in January 2014 and held the presidency until this January, when Xiomara Castro was sworn in as his replacement. Castro campaigned on rooting out Honduras’ corruption and Hernández was seen as the largest target. On Wednesday, Honduras’ Supreme Court denied an appeal from the former chief of the National Police, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, better known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger.” He was arrested after Hernández at the request of U.S. prosecutors on similar charges and is expected to be extradited in the coming weeks. Also Read: Pulisic, Steffen, Robinson start for US vs. Honduras U.S. prosecutors allege Bonilla assisted the movement of tons of cocaine through Honduras, working with Hernández and his brother Tony Hernández, both co-conspirators in the case in the Southern District of New York. Hernández’s transport via helicopter under heavy guard from the police base where he was held to the airport Thursday was covered live by local television outlets. Some Hondurans stood outside the airport’s perimeter fence to catch a glimpse of the former president boarding the plane with U.S. authorities. When Hernández’s plane took off some were seen jumping in celebration. Thousands of their countrymen emigrated from the country during Hernández’s administration, often shouting “Get out JOH!” using his initials as they walked north. They frequently complained of a lack of job opportunities and gang violence.