Rose Heights Church aids travel to freedom for displaced Ukrainians


TYLER, Texas (KETK) — “God, we thank you so much that we never have to spend another night in a bomb shelter. God, thank you so much that we never have to hear an air raid siren again,” said Ukrainian Field Coordinator for Serving Orphans Worldwide, Coleman Bailey.

This is the prayer a refugee child gave after they were rescued from the war-torn country of Ukraine. Bailey has been in Ukraine since a couple of days after the Russian invasion and helping refugees escape from hostile conditions.

“You just saw people just immediately leaving destruction during the first days of the war. They were just breaking down and just seeing firsthand the actual physical destruction on the land. It’s a pretty horrific scene,” said Bailey.

Serving Orphans Worldwide works with 64 orphanages around the world. Five of them are located in Ukraine. The one located in Mariupol unfortunately had been blown up.

“We’ve already moved thousands of people outside of the country and we are hoping to bring a few more to the U.S,” said Bailey.

With the help of Rose Heights Church making new homes for refugees in East Texas, the church gave them a warm welcome into the congregation Sunday morning while presenting them with Tyler’s famous roses. Development Director for the organization shared a special message as young Ukrainian men fled the country with families.

“One of the folks on the team was a 17-year-old boy named Daniel. The border agent actually ended up being from Tyler, Texas. She looked over the paperwork at the border in California and said, ‘Wow! You’re going to Tyler, Texas. That’s my hometown! Welcome to America!’”, shared Reece Anderson. He was granted the approval of a two-year visa.

Serving Orphans Worldwide expects to transport another 73 refugees to resettle in Tyler once they obtain visas.  

If you are interested in aiding Ukrainian refugees, go here: https://soworldwide.org/



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Freedom Rider, Big & Rich, walking tours & egg hunt fun ahead


FRIDAY

Freedom Rider opens at Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Catch this play on Festival Stage at Alabama Shakespeare Festival on Friday through April 24. In May 1961, four young students join others aboard a southbound bus in Washington, DC, to challenge segregated spaces in interstate travel. They ended up changing themselves and the nation forever. Inspired by real events, this powerful play — sometimes funny and ultimately uplifting — celebrates the heroic and watershed journey of these young people. Get tickets at asf.netALSO: Step onto the bus yourself for the opening weekend of Freedom Rider, when an authentic 1960s Greyhound bus visits ASF, brought to you by the Freedom Rides Museum. MEET A FREEDOM RIDER SATURDAY: On Saturday, ASF will have Freedom Rider Dr. Bernard Lafayette as a guest speaker at this weekend’s Insights, “Courage to Act.” Join after the Saturday matinee of Freedom Rider for a talkback with Lafayette and Judge Tiffany Johnson-Cole. No ticket purchase necessary to attend the talkback.

Go see Belle at Capri Theatre

Go catch “Belle” Friday through Sunday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Capri Theatre, 1045 East Fairview Ave., Montgomery. In this anime, Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone. Tickets are $10 for non-members, $4 for children 12 and under.

SATURDAY

Explore the Art of the Black Belt: Greensboro, AL

Join Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts on April 9 at 8 a.m. for Explore the Art of the Black Belt: Greensboro, AL. This new travel series exclusively for MMFA members invites you on day long excursions to discover the unique and historic arts and artists of the Black Belt region of Alabama. Each journey will offer a fresh perspective by tour guide Kay Sasser Jacoby to experience art, culture, history, architecture, and much in-between. The cost of each excursion is $150 and includes transportation, tours, guides, tips, morning coffee and breakfast treat, catered seated lunch, and refreshments on the ride back to Montgomery. The luxury coach will depart the Museum at 8 a.m. and arrive back at the Museum around 5 p.m.  https://mmfa.org/travel/explore-the-art-of-the-black-belt/

Big & Rich to Perform at Wind Creek Wetumpka

Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Wetumpka is proud to announce Big & Rich featuring Cowboy Troy will be performing at the Wind Creek Wetumpka Entertainment Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through ticketmaster.com or Essentials gift shop, located inside Wind Creek Wetumpka. Big & Rich are America’s Technicolor cowboys, brothers-in-arms in service to the creed that great music has no boundaries. Individually, John Rich and Big Kenny are first-rate musicians, songwriters, producers, entertainers. Together, they are one of the most truly original musical forces ever unleashed on a welcoming world. Big & Rich have made a career of being relatable and musically relevant since exploding into the public consciousness in 2003 as the rarest of breeds — true country music game changers. With 2004’s triple-platinum “Horse of a Different Color,” they were able to tap into the best strands of a wide spectrum of popular music, filter them through their pens and voices and produce a sound that is instantly recognizable, if not classifiable.

Getaway Cruise on the Harriott II riverboat

Come watch the sunset on the Alabama River aboard the Harriott II Riverboat on Saturdays this spring. The Getaway Cruise is a great way to get your weekend started. During this two-hour cruise, they offer live entertainment, a full bar and the Wheel House Grille offers a variety of meal selections for purchase. Don’t miss the boat. Inside general admission seating is located inside one of our two climate-controlled decks, Outside patio seating is located on the outside top deck and is first come first serve to seat. Patio seating is not handicap accessible. Please purchase boarding tickets before purchasing an Add-On Package. 

April Walking Tours

As part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours, they will offer free, guided tours of Montgomery’s downtown historic district. These walking tours are set for 10 a.m. on April 9, 16, 23, and 30. Some of the stops along the tour include the Court Square Fountain, Rosa Parks Statue and Bus Stop area, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and the State Capitol. Contact Jennifer Grace at 334-262-0013 for more information. 

SUNDAY

The Master’s Easter Egg Hunt

The First Methodist Church of Millbrook is hosting an Easter egg hunt festival on Sunday for children who are in the forth grade or younger. The games during the festival will have a golf theme The Master’s Easter Egg Hunt. The event will be at the church, 3350 Edgewood Road, from 4 – 6 p.m. The 17 fun games will all have prizes leading up to the 18th game — the egg hunt.  There will also be food trucks at the site.

TUESDAY

Second Tuesday: Artmaking:

Join Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts on April 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. for Second Tuesday: Artmaking with special guest William Lawson of Montgomery Therapeutic & Recreation Center.  He will introduce aids, tips, and ideas for working with individuals who have physical or cognitive challenges. This will be a great opportunity for anyone who loves to make art and those who work or live with individuals that need extra support.

Zach Williams in concert at MPAC  

Christian artist Zach Williams is in concert Tuesday at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre at 7 p.m. His powerful and poignant journey spans how a boy with a storybook childhood filled with wonderfully nurturing parents, a strong and supportive grounding in the church, and a warm and loving local community was seduced away by the illusion of rock stardom, and the drug and alcohol excesses that can so often accompany that lifestyle. mpaconline.org/events

WEDNESDAY

Thirsty Turtle Jam/Round table style

Wednesday, April 13, 7-9 p.m. at the Thirsty Turtle in Millbrook, 4884 Main St. Grab your friends and family and make plans to attend the Turtle Jam every Wednesday! The fabulous Alex Walker is leading an all-genre open jam for all musicians and music lovers! Musicians just need their instrument, mic and cord.



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NPS Just Added These 16 Locations To The National Underground Railroad Network To Freedom


Joining more than 700 locations across the country, the National Park Service has added 16 new listings to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Each played an important role in the history of freedom seekers who escaped slavery and those who assisted in the effort.

The additions come as the National Parks Service (NPS) celebrates the 200th birthday of Harriet Tubman, the person most associated with the Underground Railroad.

“It’s fitting to welcome new additions to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom as we celebrate Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday,” Diane Miller, national program manager of the Network to Freedom, said in a release. “Like Harriet Tubman, the freedom seekers and allies highlighted in each Network to Freedom listing remind us of what can be accomplished when people take action against injustice.”  

New Listings

  • Marianna Expedition on Santa Rosa Island (Florida)
  • Winterset Cemetery (Iowa)
  • Dinsmore Homestead (Kentucky)
  • LeCompte Plantation (Louisiana)
  • Emmanuel Prudhomme Plantation (Louisiana)
  • Mass Escape at Mackall Plantation (Maryland)
  • Port Tobacco Jail Sites (Maryland)
  • St. Stephens A.M.E. Church Cemetery, Unionville (Maryland)
  • Robert Gould Shaw 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial (Massachusetts)
  • Elijah Fish and George Taylor Burial Sites at Greenwood Cemetery (Michigan)
  • Huntoon-Van Rensalier Underground Railroad Site (New Jersey)
  • Presbyterian Plane Street Colored Church (New Jersey)
  • Rev. Robert Everett and Family Gravesite, Capel Ucha Welsh Congregational Church Cemetery (New York)
  • Spring Grove Cemetery (Ohio)
  • Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center (Ohio)
  • Destination Freedom Underground Railroad Walking Tour (Pennsylvania)

“Each listing holds a unique part of the Underground Railroad story, and we look forward to working with members to amplify the power of these places,” Miller said.

The Network to Freedom is meant to honor, preserve, and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight.

“Through its mission, the Network to Freedom helps to advance the idea that all human beings embrace the right to self-determination and freedom from oppression,” the NPS says. 

It was created in 1998 through legislation by Congress. Sites that can prove their significance and earn a majority vote by members of a review committee are accepted into the network, according to Miller.

“We are empowering communities and descendants to tell their stories,” Miller told Capital News Service.

The network contains a mixture of both public and private sites, with many offering experiences and opportunities to explore.

The network also has a virtual passport, allowing visitors to collect stamps as they go through various experiences.

For more travel news, check out our recent coverage:



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Canada Protests Sound Common Refrain: ‘We Stand for Freedom’ | Michigan News


By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, TED SHAFFREY and KATHLEEN FOODY, The Associated Press

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — Canadians who have occupied downtown Ottawa, disrupted travel and trade with the U.S. and inspired copycat protests from New Zealand to the Netherlands sound a common note when asked about their motivation: Decisions about their health shouldn’t be made by the government.

“We stand for freedom,” said Karen Driedger, 40, who home-schools her kids and attended protests in Ottawa and Windsor. “We believe that it should be everyone’s personal decision what they inject into their bodies.”

The refrain isn’t new to a pandemic-weary world, two years after the COVID-19 virus prompted curfews and closures, mask mandates, and debates over vaccine requirements. Still, the timing of the protests has raised some eyebrows, since they began just as many of the toughest pandemic-era restrictions were being lifted across Canada, the U.S. and Europe; experts say antipathy toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a significant underlying force.

The in-your-face protests that have fueled frustrations around the country and world have been aided by publicity and support from far-right and anti-vaccine groups. And influential Americans such as former U.S. President Donald Trump and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk have rallied behind the protesters.

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Most Canadians have been supportive of the pandemic restrictions, which health officials have stressed are necessary to protect the public from a virus that has killed at least 5.8 million people globally. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the United States.

Trudeau has labeled the protesters a “fringe,” and authorities have braced for violence because some have expressed hope that the rally will become the Canadian equivalent of last January’s riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

The Canadian “freedom convoy” was announced last month by a group founded by a QAnon conspiracy theory supporter and other organizers, and includes the ex-leader of Alberta’s far-right Maverick Party.

Protesters who spoke to The Associated Press this week defended their actions and argued that they represent many more frustrated residents.

Don Stephens, a 65-year-old retired graphic designer, said he’s come into Ottawa twice to show support for protesters there. He views them as representatives of a “silent majority that had been longing to have their voice heard.”

Mat Mackenzie, a 36-year-old trucker from Ontario, said he’s been among the protesters in Ottawa for 15 days, feeling “a duty” to show his opposition. Citizens should be in charge of making decisions around masks, vaccines and other COVID mitigation efforts, not government officials, he said.

“I can tell you 90% of truckers here are likely vaccinated. We’re here for freedom of choice,” Mackenzie said. “And that’s what we’re here to fight for.”

Michael Kempa, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are two faces of the protest. It isn’t just about vaccine mandates and other COVID restrictions; organizers have said they want to oust Trudeau’s Liberal government and be part of forming a new one, he said.

“In many ways, the friendly face protesters are acting as the foot soldiers of the organizers,” Kempa said. “We are seeing a huge amount of misinformation. People who are legitimately angry are being manipulated by the protest leadership.”

Many Canadians have been outraged over the crude behavior of some demonstrators. Some urinated on the National War Memorial and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while others carried signs and flags with swastikas and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement, sparking widespread condemnation.

The images of protests across Canada have ignited copycats elsewhere.

In Paris, police prevented a threatened blockade of the French capital on Saturday. But a few dozen vehicles were able to disrupt traffic on the famed Champs-Elysees, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.

“The convoys are for the restoring of our liberties,” said Pierre-Louis Garnier, a 64-year-old who attended a protest in Paris on Friday to welcome an anticipated convoy that never materialized.

In the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles, some waving Canadian flags, have descended on The Hague, the historic Dutch parliamentary complex.

“We are living now in police state,” said Hans Evenstain, a 76-year-old protester said Sunday. “That’s not a good life anymore. We want to move freely and that’s why we are here for us and for our children and our grandchildren.”

In Belgium, federal police were urging people to avoid Brussels on Monday, when a convoy is expected to gather in the country’s capital, and the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union.

In the New Zealand capital of Wellington, authorities have turned to blasting Barry Manilow songs and the 90s dance hit “Macarena” on loop to break up a convoy of protesters encamped outside Parliament this week.

In Windsor, where protesters had blocked the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge that is a crucial conduit for the auto industry in both the U.S. and Canada, police moved to end the demonstration Sunday, arresting about a dozen protesters and beginning to tow vehicles.

Before Sunday’s crackdown, the shutdown often had the feel of a block party.

Protesters milled about, carrying Canadian flags affixed to the ends of hockey sticks while music blared and food was handed out. They put up signs bearing slogans such as “Freedom Is Essential,” “Say No To Mandatory Vaccines” and “End Mandates.”

Troy Holman, a 32-year-old Windsor resident who has been at the protest every day since its start on Monday, said he believes the government overreached with its COVID-19 restrictions, which negatively impacted his wife’s small business.

“If we weren’t doing something such as this, no one would pay attention to us,” he said Friday. “Unfortunately, we have to be here, because this is what’s going to get the attention of the government.”

Shaffrey reported from Ottawa and Foody reported from Chicago. Associated Press reporters Rob Gillies in Toronto, Elaine Ganley in Paris, Thomas Adamson in The Hague and Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Ottawa police expect another 24 hours of traffic disruptions, demonstrations from ‘Freedom Convoy’ rally


As demonstrators protesting COVID-19 restrictions remained on Parliament Hill Sunday night, city officials are urging people to avoid non-essential travel downtown and work from home if possible on Monday.

Elected officials, business owners, and residents are expressing frustrations with the ongoing traffic disruptions, fireworks and constant horn honking as the “Freedom Convoy” ends a second full day in downtown Ottawa.

“We’re making progress, there’s no real clarity yet,” said Chief Peter Sloly, adding police have been communicating with the core organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” and “those we can reach.”

“I think the only thing we can say for sure we’re still going to be dealing with some level of traffic disruption and demonstration over the next 24 hours.”

Ottawa police and the city of Ottawa are urging people to avoid non-essential travel on Monday, especially in the downtown core.

“If you work in the downtown core, please plan to work from home if possible,” said police Sunday evening.

The Ottawa Carleton District School has closed Centennial Public School on Monday due to the ongoing protest, while the Centretown Community Health Centre and the University of Ottawa –Minto Sports Complex Vaccination Clinic will also be closed.

Ottawa police say “several” criminal investigations are underway in relation to incidents on Saturday, including “threatening/illegal/intimidating behaviour to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle.”

At 7 p.m. Sunday, hundreds of people remained on Parliament Hill and along Wellington Street, while hundreds of trucks remained parked throughout the downtown core and along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.  The sounds of truck horns and fireworks could continue to be heard for a third night.

Ottawa police estimate the price-tag for policing the demonstration is more than $800,000 a day.

Earlier in the day, a large crowd had gathered on Parliament Hill to protest the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the borders and other public health restrictions, but the crowd wassmaller compared to yesterday.

While police have said they don’t know when the protest will end, rally organizer Tamara Lich told a gathering on Parliament Hill Sunday morning that, “We are not leaving until all of you and all of your kids are free.”

“We are not leaving until you can open up your businesses, we are not leaving until you can hug your best friend, we are not leaving until you can go see your parents in a long-term care facility, and for your children to have a birthday party. This ends now, and we’re going to do it peacefully.”

The Canada Unity website says it will begin hosting speaker events in Confederation Park on Monday.

There is also plans for a “Maskless Shopping”, with the website saying, “We need about 1,000 people .. maybe more.”

The “Freedom Convoy” protest has seen thousands of truck drivers and their supporters fill Parliament Hill and streets in downtown Ottawa, denouncing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and calling for an end to the restrictions 22 months into the pandemic.

Throughout the weekend, people have carried Canadian flags and signs around downtown Ottawa saying “Make Canada Free Again!”, “No More Vax Pass”, “We Support Truckers”, “Freedom to Choose”, “Freedom Not Fear”, and “Freedom for All.”

A few protesters were seen carrying flags and signs with hateful imagery such as a swastika. Several people carried large flags with “F*** Trudeau” or wore or carried signs that featured a yellow star.

A counter protester outside Parliament Hill held a sign saying, “Vaccines Save Lives.”

The Rideau Centre closed its doors for the day on Sunday, The LCBO closed several outlets in the downtown and Glebe neighbourhoods. Police also set up barricades to block vehicle access to the National War Memorial after several vehicles parked there on Saturday.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, police said it was “very aware” of complaints relating to parking, idling, noisemaking and other inappropriate behaviour.

“At this time, due to safety concerns, management of the protest and traffic must take precedence,” said police.

  • Ottawa police say the priorities for the rally include:
  • Management of traffic issues (including gridlock)
  • Keeping peace and order
  • Protecting monuments
  • Addressing threatening and/or high risk behaviour. 

Ottawa police reported no incidence of violence or injuries so far during the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration in downtown Ottawa. Police told CTV News Ottawa Sunday morning that no arrests were made Saturday or overnight.

“Large crowds remained in the downtown core throughout the night and were actively managed by police. Officers encountered several challenges with demonstrators, including sporadic road blockages by trucks, which officers worked to clear. These high-risk situations were de-escalated and resolved with no arrests,” police later said in a news release.

Thousands of people and vehicles filled the streets of downtown Ottawa on Saturday, forcing the city of Ottawa to declare, “Streets in the downtown core are closed due to gridlock. There is no more room for vehicles.”

Motorists are being asked to avoid travelling into the downtown core due to the number of vehicles already in the area.

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News on Saturday that it was time for the protest to end.

“My message, again, is clear – You’ve been here, you’ve made your point, you’ve protested, you’ve disrupted a lot of communities – the ByWard Market, Centretown and so on in our city – it’s time for you to go back to your home,” said Watson on CTV News Channel. “Because we have to start rebuilding our economy because COVID-19 has been devastating to a lot of small businesses.”

Ottawa is the final stop of the Freedom Convoy, a cross-country journey to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Hundreds of convoy participants arrived on Friday, while the main convoys from eastern and western Canada rolled into town on Saturday.

Frustrated residents

As the protest continued on Parliament Hill, elected officials and residents expressed frustration by the disruption to their lives in their neighbourhoods around the downtown core.

The sounds of fireworks and truck horns continued through the night and into the morning, and vehicles remained parked on many streets.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney is asking police to remove vehicles from Queen Elizabeth Driveway and residential areas.

“Centretown residents have had enough. All-night honking; music; swastikas; public urination & defecation,” said McKenney on Twitter. “I have asked @OttawaPolice remove protestors from the QED & out of all residential areas. Residents deserve peace and relief from these disgusting acts.”

Coun. Jeff Leiper says vehicles have parking on streets in his ward, located several kilometres from Parliament Hill.

“After a chaotic protest arrival, I hope that security forces now have a much more complete understanding of who’s involved, their numbers, locations and tactics. I would like to see clear efforts to contain and conclude this demonstration,” said Leiper on Twitter.

“Everyone wants to see this end safely, but we do want it to end. The incidents downtown we witnessed yesterday make clear the lack of moral authority on the part of participants to claim legitimate protest rights.”

Leiper says he has seen video of a protester driving on a Parkdale Avenue sidewalk and received reports of aggressive behaviour in Westboro.

“Residents are angry, and demonstrators’ behaviours are only exacerbating that anger. There is no win here for demonstrators if the protest continues as it has.”

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, officials say police and city staff are “very aware” of complaints about parking, idling, noisemaking and other inappropriate behaviour.

“Due to safety concerns, management of the protest and traffic must take precedence. These matters will be responded to as resources become available,” said police.

INTERPROVINCIAL BRIDGES

Ottawa police say the Alexandra and Portage bridges, connecting Ottawa and Gatineau, are closed to vehicle traffic today.

The Champlain Bridge is open, and there are lane reductions on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

Police say the Chaudiere Bridge is open for health care and essential workers only.

“Be prepared to show identification,” said police. “If you are neither, do not use the bridge.”

ROAD CLOSURES

Many streets in downtown Ottawa are also closed to vehicles, with only one lane open for emergency vehicles.

You could see traffic impacts on:

  • Wellington Street
  • Queen Street
  • Metcalfe Street
  • O’Connor Street
  • Lyon Street
  • Kent Street
  • Sir John A Macdonald Parkway
  • Queen Elizabeth Driveway
  • Laurier Avenue and Elgin Street around Confederation Park

What is the Freedom Convoy?

The Freedom Convoy is calling for the end of vaccine mandates in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On January 15th, a small team of Alberta truckers, their family members and friends, came to the decision that the Government of Canada has crossed a line with implementing Covid-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates,” said a statement Wednesday on the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page.

“As of today, we now have the support of millions of Canadians from across the country.”

The list of demands includes the federal and provincial governments terminating the vaccine passports and all other “obligatory vaccine contact tracing programs”, and terminate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The protest was initially sparked by outrage over a vaccine mandate imposed this month on cross-border truckers, but has since garnered support from anti-vaccine mandate groups.

In a statement on Friday, the Freedom Convoy organizers urged participants to “treat all police officers with respect” and “do not make any type of threat.”

“If we keep calm and show love and support for one another, many things will happen. We will eventually cause the government to reverse its policy on Covid passports and vaccine mandates as the UK has recently done,” said Facebook post.

With files from CTVNews.ca writer Christy Somos 





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CA bans travel to 18 states over religious freedom laws


California Democrats wanted to send a message when they passed a law five years ago banning taxpayer-funded travel to states that allow businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.

California leaders took a stand, but they didn’t discourage Republican states from adopting those so-called religious freedom laws.

Since then, California has banned state-funded travel to 18 states, with a total population of 117 million people. That’s a little more than a third of the nation’s overall population.

You can’t drive across the country without passing through at least one state on the list.

The latest addition came in late September, when Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a ban on state-funded travel to Ohio over a new state law that lets doctors cite their moral or religious beliefs in denying care to a patient.

“Ohio’s decision to condone attacks on the health of its nearly 400,000 LGBTQ+ residents was widely opposed by the state’s medical community. It’s plain that this law only serves to discriminate,” said Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, who wrote California’s travel ban law. “We will never put Californians at risk of falling victim to the same toxic standard by supporting the use of taxpayer dollars for travel in places where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is the law of the land.”

California passed its travel restrictions in 2016 in response to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which made it easier for people to demand exemptions from anti-discrimination laws by allowing lawsuits that challenge them on the basis of religious belief.

Businesses groups condemned the Indiana law, and then-Gov. Mike Pence later signed an amendment that was intended to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Today, California does not ban state-funded travel to Indiana.

While the California travel ban law was intended to put pressure on conservative-leaning states not to pass anti-LGBT laws, in practice several of those states have gone ahead with such laws and California’s banned state list has grown considerably.

One state, North Carolina, was added to the list after lawmakers in that state passed a bill prohibiting transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity. Though North Carolina has since repealed that law, it remains in the banned list because of a law prohibiting cities and universities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws.

Other states on the banned travel list include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

All of the states on the travel ban list voted for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Republicans have full control of state government in almost all of them, with the exception of Kentucky and North Carolina, which have Democratic governors.

California still allows state-funded travel to the following states which voted for Trump: Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.

The California law has exemptions for serious government business, such as law enforcement, tax collection, and those traveling for training events required for grants from the ban.

It is unclear how much of an impact the travel ban will have on college sports.

The University of California said in a statement that it “remains committed to promoting principles of equity and inclusion, and has been implementing AB 1887 in good faith by prohibiting the use of state funds to support travel to banned states.” Its schools continue to travel to states on the banned list when they use money raised from donors.

As for the California State University system, the chancellor’s office said in a statement that campuses have been informed of the addition of Ohio to the list of states banned under AB 1887.

“Athletic teams may still travel to an affected state in order to participate in an athletic competition as long as the team is in compliance with California state law and ensures that no state general fund dollars or tuition and fee revenue are used,” the CSU said in a statement. “Some teams may choose to travel to a banned state to comply with a contractual obligation reached before the law went into effect, or simply under the spirit of competition and the experience gained by competing against the best athletes in the nation.

This story was originally published October 4, 2021 1:46 PM.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.





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Passport Power Ranking Records Widest Ever Gap in Travel Freedom


LONDON, Oct. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The latest results and research from the Henley Passport Index show how proliferating barriers to entry over the past 18 months of the pandemic have resulted in the widest global mobility gap in its 16-year history, with passport holders from top ranking Japan and Singapore able to travel visa free to 166 more destinations than Afghan nationals, who sit at the bottom of the index with access to just 26 countries without requiring a visa in advance.

Based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the index, which ranks all of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, shows that countries in the global north with high-ranking passports have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19-related travel restrictions, while many countries with lower-ranking passports in the global south have relaxed their borders without seeing this openness reciprocated. This has created an ever-widening gap in travel freedom even for fully vaccinated travelers from countries at the lower end of the passport power ranking who remain locked out of most of the world.

Unique research and expert analysis commissioned by leading international residence and citizenship by investment advisory firm Henley & Partners indicates that this gap is likely to increase, as pandemic-related restrictions become entrenched and amplify the already significant global mobility divide between advanced and developing economies. Japan, which shares top spot on the index with Singapore due to their visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192, currently bars almost all foreign nationals from entry. Germany, which sits alongside South Korea in joint-2nd place with a visa-free/visa-on arrival score of 190, currently restricts nearly 100 countries from entry.

At the lower end of the index, Egypt, ranked 97th, currently has no travel restrictions in place, yet its citizens can access just 51 destinations around the world without acquiring a visa in advance. Similarly, Kenya, which ranks 77th, has no travel bans in place, yet its passport holders can access just 72 destinations visa-free.

Covid an excuse for curbing visitors from global south?

Commenting in Henley & Partners’ Global Mobility Report 2021 Q4, Prof. Mehari Taddele Maru from the United Nations University Institute says “the global north has been enforcing aggressive migration containment strategies for some time now through the rigid application of border controls, undermining the movement of persons in various ways. Covid-19-associated travel restrictions are new additions to the toolbox of migration containment instruments employed by the global north to curb mobility from the global south.” 

Recent adjustments to the Covid-ban policies of the UK and the US, which share 7th place on the index with a visa-free score of 185, have done little to alter what experts perceive to be growing inequalities when it comes to travel freedom and access. Nor has their refusal to recognize vaccines administered across Africa, South America, and South Asia. Although the US has now opened its borders to all fully vaccinated travelers, the UK’s recent revision of its ‘red list’ still excludes fully vaccinated travelers from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, India, and South Africa.

Commenting on these latest developments, Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, insists that “if want to restart the global economy, it is critical that developed nations encourage inward migration flows, as opposed to persisting with their outmoded restrictions and exclusive approach to the rest of the world.”

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Living, partying and travelling with COVID. Aussie expats shed light on their summer of freedom


A sweaty, heaving dance floor, crowds of strangers pressing up against each other fighting to get a drink at the bar – without masks.

This is the level of “normal” Sybella Stevens returned to in Berlin after holidaying in Portugal and Italy earlier this month.

The 35-year-old decided to stick out the pandemic in Germany where she has been living since 2014, despite fears of an uncertain separation from her family in Sydney when the pandemic struck.

“It was a really tough decision because everything was so scary and unpredictable. I was on the verge of coming back,” she said.

Now, having been fully vaccinated since July, she is among the Australian expats who are living what’s been dubbed the ‘hot vax summer’. 

She is having the kind of highly anticipated post-lockdown summer of freedom, filled with chance encounters, reconnections, restaurants and parties, that Australians on the east coast are dreaming of.

Sybella Stevens takes a selfie on a bridge overlooking the canal in Venice.
Ms Stevens endured seven months in lockdown but has been able to travel Europe over summer with a COVID pass. (

Supplied

)

“Life is a lot more normal. In Lisbon, you just showed your COVID pass and it was all very relaxed. It was the same in Venice and Rome,” Ms Stevens said.

“It was very swift; everywhere you went they would just scan your QR code to validate it and then you would go through.”

European member states are allowing travellers to enter with a digital EU COVID Certificate, which serves as proof that a person has been vaccinated, recently received a negative COVID test, or is protected against the virus after being recently infected.

This was Ms Stevens’ ticket out after enduring a rough Berlin winter in a lockdown which stretched on for seven months with infections in the tens of thousands.

“Not only were you living a restricted life in an ugly city, where you couldn’t do the things you were there for, but you could also get COVID. There was a genuine fear,” Ms Stevens said.

“Going on a holiday was the best thing in the world. It recharged me after lockdown.

A chalkboard sign 'geimpft, genesen, getestet'.
Germany’s “3G rule” — translated as vaccinated, recovered, tested — outlines who can enter public venues.(

Pixabay: Gerd Altmann

)

An explosion of rapid testing

The 3Gs strategy – Geimpft, Genesen oder Getestet (vaccinated, recovered or tested) — is also the model Germany has relied on for bars and restaurants to reopen, and gigs and festivals to go ahead over summer.

While masks were still mandatory in most situations, testing had become equally prolific, with pop-up sites on street corners, shopfronts and at venue doors, Ms Stevens said.

Rapid antigen testing, which returns a result in under 30 minutes, has been enough for most venues to allow entry. 

The more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which take around 24 hours for a result, are required for travel.

Australia continues to rely primarily on the “gold standard” PCR tests, as rapid tests are considered less reliable and still subject to strict conditions hindering widespread use. 

“Rapid testing is one of the additional strategies we have to look at, particularly when we’re not having a COVID-zero viewpoint or even suppression to really low levels,” Peter Collignon, professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, said.

“Having said that, people need to realise that they’re not foolproof.”

A line of people outside a Berlin nightclub against a grafitti-covered wall.
Berlin’s nightclubs have been able to reopen over summer but mask mandates apply for the unvaccinated. (

Supplied: Jascha Mueller-Guthof

)

He added that rapid testing was useful while you’re waiting for people to get fully vaccinated, especially in enclosed spaces like bars and planes. 

“While they may miss some cases equally they pick up cases … That means at least those people are kept away from others.” 

Last week, Health Minister Greg Hunt said rapid antigen tests would “play a big part in Australia’s pathway out of lockdown”.

He said the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved 28 rapid tests and the next step will be to consider how they can be made easily accessible for workplaces and use at home.

Partying like it’s 1999

In early August, the German government teamed up with scientists from Berlin’s Charite hospital for the “Clubculture Reboot” pilot scheme to see whether PCR tests could also be used to fully revive Berlin’s iconic nightlife and keep clubbers safe.

Around 2,000 clubbers, who were not required to have been vaccinated, were let loose maskless across six venues over a weekend after returning a negative PCR test.

A week later they were tested again and no new infections were recorded as a result of the event.

Pamela Schobess, chairwoman of ClubCommission Berlin who carried out the trial, said in a statement that the method offered a real opportunity to open clubs “even if incidences and hospitalisations rise sharply in autumn”.

A dark crowded dance floor with laser lights streaming through the space.
Nightclubs have reopened in Berlin, despite Germany having a vaccination rate of around 62 per cent. (

Supplied: Jascha Muelller-Guthof

)

However, the rules around testing continue to shift as Chancellor Angela Merkel pushes to increase vaccination rates to provide “protection for everyone”.

Around 66 per cent of the German population has received one vaccine dose and 62 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Ms Stevens learned first-hand last week that there are new privileges for fully-vaccinated clubbers to get a more authentic experience.

“People who were unvaccinated could be there if they had a negative test, but they had to stay outside in a separate area.

“I was given a wristband to go inside and there was not one person wearing a mask,” she said.

Holidaying ‘like COVID never existed’

Jessica Wong faced a similar lockdown experience in London.

She said being crammed into small sharehouse apartments with “no proper light or gardens” for most of last year was “brutal”.

The 32-year-old had been back in Australia just before the borders closed but returned to London where she had been living for four years due to work.

“Maybe in retrospect, I think I should have stayed in Australia. Especially through last year,” she said.

Jessica Wong and her friends sit on a rooftop in Mykonos with the sun setting over the Mediterranean.
Ms Wong (far right) and her friends were able to travel to Mykonos with vaccine passes and negative PCR tests. (

Supplied

)

“There wasn’t one or two COVID cases here – there were thousands.

“So many people had been touched by death from COVID in some way that they were really grateful to have vaccines available.”

At the first chance she could, Ms Wong left London for a holiday in Greece.

While getting in and out of the UK was a “logistical nightmare,” she said once arriving in Mykonos “it was like COVID never existed”.

“I went to Mykonos the first week it dropped its rules and put music back on … When I was watching my friends and everyone at the parties it was like they had never heard music before. It was so nice to see,” she said.

A group of people stand on a dancefloor with their hands in the air
Britain celebrated its “Freedom Day” on July 19. (

AP: Alberto Pezzali

)

Britain has recorded one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the world for its population size, but also has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

There have been no rules set for vaccine passports to attend pubs, bars and clubs, and the government has backflipped on plans to introduce them in the future.

Ms Wong says generally people respect mask wearing and testing in workplaces to protect those who can’t be vaccinated, but she is worried about the winter.

“It still feels like everything is temporary,” she said. 

Professor Collignon said Australia would be watching closely to see what happened in the US, Canada and Europe over winter.

He believes Australia is well placed going into summer and is optimistic vaccination rates will keep climbing.

“I think we’ll probably get higher vaccinations in Australia than the UK without the 50,000 deaths they had,” he said.

“I think we’ve been fortunate to not have had much spread of COVID.”

Living with COVID and catching it – twice

For Yasmin Bright, who was initially stuck in Colombia before living out most of the pandemic in a “tiny jungle town” in Mexico, her experience took a different turn.

The 38-year-old caught COVID-19 in Colombia despite being under a strict lockdown where she “didn’t see the night sky for three months”. 

When initial attempts to get a flight back to Australia caused too much stress she decided to stay and move to Sayulita on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

“COVID ripped through there pretty early, but when everyone got it and recovered it was life as normal after that,” she said.

“There wasn’t really restrictions. There were no masks, there was indoor dining and yoga classes. Everything was just like normal.”

Vaccinations were only available for Sayulita residents, so when the tourist town was struck by Delta Ms Bright contracted COVID-19 again. 

This month she has been visiting friends in the US with her COVID-19 recovery status making her eligible to travel for up to 90 days. 

Yasmin Bright sits at a bus stop with the words Las Vegas written above it.
Ms Bright has been taking international flights out of Mexico by showing proof of recovering from COVID. (

Supplied

)

“I’m able to board an international flight in Mexico,” she said.

“You can show a proof of recovery from COVID. And that’s like showing your proof of vaccination for travel.”

Despite her experiences, Ms Bright says she’s still uncertain about whether to come back to Australia. 

“I want to see my family and friends in Australia. But at the same time, I don’t want to fly into Australia and be locked down in the same situation that I was in 12 months ago,” she said.

“A lot of the world is open … you can fly to Europe, you fly to the US and South America. Australia just seems like it’s a little stuck in the past.”

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Covid-19 live updates: ‘Dramatic deterioration’ in information access due to pandemic, press freedom watchdog says – The Washington Post



Covid-19 live updates: ‘Dramatic deterioration’ in information access due to pandemic, press freedom watchdog says  The Washington Post



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Denby Fawcett: A Vaccination Passport Would Mean Freedom, Not Oppression


If you ask me, the issuance of COVID-19 vaccination passports cannot come soon enough.

I embrace the idea of the opportunity to travel again with a health “passport”  —  a government issued card or smartphone app offering proof of COVID-19 vaccination — instead of having to  scramble for another virus test with a Q-tip shoved up my nose, or worse, having to endure quarantine in some sleazy hotel.

This has been a long year. Everyone is looking for the chance to break out. I see a vaccine passport as a ticket to freedom.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the architect of Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, said in a phone interview Monday that he sees the potential for a virtual vaccine passport or an inoculation card to be rolled out for arrivals to the islands as early as the summer.

That would be a godsend to travelers and local residents, weary and frustrated by having to scramble to find often expensive “trusted partners” to administer COVID-19 tests.

It would allow travelers to Hawaii with proof of vaccine to bypass the state’s pre-travel testing and quarantine requirement.

The state is also working with the Biden Administration to establish a national standard for vaccination passports.

Gov. David Ige’s office says, at Ige’s request, the White House will be briefing the National Association of Governors Tuesday on the latest information on President Biden’s effort to establish a national standard for proof of vaccination credentials.

Anti-vaxxers can flip into a tizzy at the mere mention of allowing vaccinated people holding passports to travel seamlessly to the neighbor islands, then, when feasible, across all the different states and eventually internationally.

A recent Civil Beat story on vaccination passports sparked a heated debate, with passport critics slamming the idea as unconstitutional, asserting that they should not be denied travel rights because they opt not to get vaccinations for a variety of reasons, including religious and health objections.

The salient fact to remember is such passports when they become available would be optional, not a mandate to force people to get vaccinated to travel.

For those who refuse to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated for health reasons, versions of the passport under consideration would allow people to show they have tested negative for the virus.

A vaccination passport would make travel easier by giving passport holders the ability to skip quarantine and pre-travel testing regulations just like the Global Entry program allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to get through U.S. Immigration and Customs faster.

An inoculation card is not a new idea. For years I remember carrying a yellow international vaccine card to show I had received shots against diseases like yellow fever and cholera as required by certain countries in Africa and Asia.

COVID-19 Vaccination card.
A COVID-19 vaccination card could be a ticket to freedom to travel. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The difference is now the card would be electronic instead of paper. It would be like an airline boarding pass and use a secure QR code that could be stored in a smartphone or printed out.

To be successful, such vaccine credentials would have to meet medical privacy concerns and be available to anyone who wants one, with a paper version available to people who do not have smartphones.

In come countries and states, vaccination passports are under development not just for travel but also for entrance into stores, gyms, restaurants and large sports and entertainment events.

New York launched digital passes Friday to allow holders to download proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get into art, entertainment and sports events in places like Madison Square Garden or Times Union Center in Albany.

Israel’s vaccine pass was launched last month to allow inoculated people to go to hotels and gyms.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency — the lead agency for a program for Hawaii — says different options for vaccine passports are still under discussion with no starting date yet.

The main concern here is finding a way to create a passport that offers verifiable proof of vaccination.

“We want to make sure we maintain the safety efficacy of our current Safe Travels program,” HI-EMA spokesman Douglas Carroll wrote in a text message Thursday.

State Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char agrees that verification must be assured.

“The challenge is to find a mechanism that would prove that someone has been vaccinated,” Char said in a briefing to state lawmakers Thursday.

Char told lawmakers, “We’re in conversations right now looking at various commercial entities that could help to do that for Hawaii, to create some sort of passport system where they can validate, in conjunction with some sort of registry, that a person has been vaccinated.”

Dose #1 of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in syringe during press event held at Queen's Medical Center. December 15, 2020
Documenting vaccinations is nothing new. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Private companies including CommonPass, VeriFLY and Clear are working to come up with passports.

“At some point a passport program will come. There is a lot of optimism,” Char said.

But there are other issues, lots of them.

New York Times columnist Max Fisher called the vaccination passport issue “Covid’s Next Political Flashpoint.”

The issue he raises is that health passports will create a divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated; the privileged with passports will enjoy multiple benefits while poor people and minority groups  — often vulnerable people who have suffered most during the pandemic — will be left out.

“Granting special rights for the vaccinated, while tightening restrictions on the unvaccinated, risks widening already-dangerous social gaps,” Fisher writes.

Another issue with passports allowing travelers to skip testing and quarantine is uncertainty about how long travelers’ immunity will last, and if the vaccinations will stand up to new and more contagious variants of COVID-19; also, if vaccinated people who develop an asymptomatic infection can pass it on to others while they are traveling.

However, there was welcome news Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a new clinical trial has found the Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations are highly effective at blocking symptomatic and asymptomatic infections of the virus, making the vaccinated unlikely to transmit it to other people.

Yet another issue is that with the many different companies and agencies rushing to come up with their own passport programs, it will be difficult and take time to come up with a single vaccine passport that will be accepted everywhere in the world.

Some in Hawaii also worry that without time to make tourism less invasive, the ease of traveling with a vaccination passport will speed a return to the overbooked, overcrowded tourism residents endured before the pandemic when the islands were flooded with more than 10 million tourists a year.

Still, the vaccination passport idea is one I continue to embrace for the hope it offers us to finally get up and go where we want and how it they will help speed a return to normal life for all of us.

For critics who worry that issuing vaccine passports is a taking of our rights, I say it is a granting of freedom.





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