Archive For October 17, 2021

Former President Bill Clinton released from the hospital

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Former President Bill Clinton released from the hospital

Former President Bill Clinton, standing with his wife, Hillary, and doctors, was discharged from UC Irvine Medical Center Sunday morning.

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton has been released from a California hospital where he was receiving treatment for a “non-COVID-related infection.” Clinton, 75, had been at the hospital since Tuesday.

A spokesman for Clinton, Angel Urena, tweeted a statement from Dr. Alpesh N. Amin, who had been overseeing the team of doctors treating the former president at the University of California Irvine Medical Center .

“President Clinton was discharged from UC Irvine Medical Center today. His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics,” the statement said.

Amin said doctors will continue to monitor Clinton’s progress.

On Friday, President Biden told reporters he had spoken with Clinton about his health over the phone.

“I wanted to see how he was doing. He’s doing fine. He really is,” Biden said. “He’s not in any serious condition.”

The president added that he hoped to have lunch with Clinton soon.

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Joy Crookes’ first album embraces power, heartbreak and racial justice

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Joy Crookes’ first album embraces power, heartbreak and racial justice

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with singer and songwriter Joy Crookes about her debut album, “Skin.”

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Haiti’s kidnapping crisis is plunging the country even further into turmoil

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Haiti’s kidnapping crisis is plunging the country even further into turmoil

A view down a busy street in Port au Prince, Haiti. Kidnappings in the country have already been worse in 2021 than years before.

Owen Franken/Getty Images

Owen Franken/Getty Images

The number of kidnappings in Haiti is increasing at an alarming rate. Still reeling from the chaos caused by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a 7.2 earthquake that, once again, decimated the country in August, Haiti’s economic and political turmoil has contributed to what some experts are calling a kidnapping crisis.

On Saturday, the latest high-profile kidnapping targeted a group of 17 missionaries, including children. The Ohio-based organization Christian Aid Ministries said the group was on its way home from helping to build an orphanage when they were taken.

U.S. officials have not commented on details of the incident, but the U.S. embassy in Haiti has been involved in the response.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” a department spokesperson said in a statement to NPR.

The kidnappings are typically conducted by the same gang

Widlore Mérancourt, the editor in chief of the AyiboPost and a Washington Post contributor, told NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday that kidnappings in Haiti are usually conducted by the same gang — and that the problem is only getting worse.

The group, called 400 Mawozo, is known for mass kidnappings in which they take groups of people from cars and buses. According to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, a group that monitors kidnapping in the country, 400 Mawozo is responsible for 80% of kidnappings in Haiti.

“The wave of kidnapping we are seeing in Haiti right now is the worst in the history of the country,” Mérancourt said. “It’s a very dire situation.”

“Kids, children are being kidnapped. Women are being kidnapped. Practically everybody. You see police officers being kidnapped. You see small merchants on the street being kidnapped,” he said.

Data from the consulting group Control Risks shows that in the first quarter of this year alone, kidnappings-for-ransom were up 150% from the same period in 2020. According to a United Nations Security Council report from last month, 328 kidnapping victims were reported to police in the first eight months of 2021, compared to 234 during the entirety of 2020.

What’s more concerning: the figures are likely an undercount. The number of kidnapping incidents is likely even higher, but people are often hesitant to report due to mistrust of authorities and fear of retaliation, according to Control Risks.

The data also shows though that gangs in Haiti tend to target local Haitians rather than foreign visitors. Nearly 95% of kidnappings in Haiti since 2018 have been Haitian citizens. But there have been cases of foreigners getting kidnaped in the past, including a recent instance in April when a group of Catholic clergy, that included two French nationals, were kidnapped.

Economic volatility has been fueling the problem

Mérancourt said most Haitians live with the fear of being kidnapped. In the capital city of Port-Au-Prince, he says the streets get quieter and less jam-packed by around 6 p.m., because few people want to be out in public. Some people, he said, are leaving the country altogether.

Those fears are likely compounded by the already existing economic and political crisis Haitians face. About 60% of the population is Haiti lives at or below the poverty line. The August earthquake destroyed schools, health facilities and water systems, leaving 800,000 people in need of humanitarian aid.

Kidnapping for ransom, then, leaves gangs with access to capital, even if it’s a relatively small sum. Mérancourt said sometimes gangs will kidnap less wealthy people and ask for $100 in ransom.

Additionally, Haitian police forces are under-equipped to cut down on gang violence. In some cases, the police forces are even linked with gangs and gang violence, an issue that fuels mistrust in reporting kidnappings to authorities in the first place.

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Hollywood crew members reach a tentative deal with major studios, averting a strike

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Hollywood crew members reach a tentative deal with major studios, averting a strike
The Hollywood sign above homes in the Hollywood Hills.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Hollywood crew members and major studios have averted a nationwide strike that would have shut down much of film and TV production. The tentative agreement must still be ratified by the union’s members.

According to IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the new three year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) includes giving a “living wage: for the lowest paid earners in the union, improved wages and working conditions for streaming, retroactive wage increases of three percent annually, increased meal penalties, daily rest periods of 10 hours, weekend rest periods of 54 hours” and “significant increases in compensation to be paid by new-media companies.” In addition, IATSE reports that union workers will get Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday added as a holiday. And the union says there are new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. On IATSE’s website, President Matt Loweb said, “This is a Hollywood ending. “

Earlier this month, crew members in the union IATSE, voted to authorize a strike if they couldn’t reach a deal with the AMPTP. They’d been negotiating over pay, work schedules and more since May. A strike would have effectively shut down much of the film and TV production in the country. The union announced today that they’ve reached a deal.

At issue were quality of life issues and the health and safety of those who work behind the scenes in the film and television industry. That includes cinematographers, lighting technicians, makeup artists and the food workers who feed the casts and crews.

In recent weeks, many have been sharing their stories on social media, where some have complained of grueling call times that cause sleep deprivation and little time to be with their families. Some were asking to be compensated more for productions that are streamed online and not released theatrically. They’ve been working with lower rates since 2009, when the streamers were just beginning.

The arts and entertainment industries have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. According to a recent report by Americans for the Arts, 63% of artists and creative workers were unemployed at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

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