"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."
On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.
For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.
<p>Indeed, this case reflects the full scope of complexities underpinning contemporary Rwandan politics and society.</p><p><strong>Paul Kagame: A "benevolent dictator"</strong></p><p>Much of Kagame's worldview was formed during his formative years growing up in a Ugandan refugee camp. An ethnic Tutsi, Kagame was one of hundreds of thousands who fled during the country's decades-long civil war to escape violent attacks by the Hutu-led government.</p><p>In the waning days of the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Rwandan genocide </a>— during which Tutsis were systematically raped, tortured and murdered by their Hutu neighbors, and some 1 million Rwandans were killed — Paul Kagame commanded the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP), a Tutsi militia that eventually ended the Hutus' murderous campaign, emerging as the most powerful political force in post-conflict Rwanda. Kagame became president in 2000.</p><p>Since then, Kagame has been credited with overseeing a period of stability and economic prosperity after one of the world's bloodiest conflicts, but <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/kagame-african-leader-obama-shouldnt-invite-109677" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">critics</a> accuse him of widespread <a href="https://vimeo.com/107867605?utm_campaign=5370367&utm_source=affiliate&utm_channel=affiliate&cjevent=20b86c22fdb411ea82be007f0a240611" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">human rights abuses.</a></p><p><strong>Internal perceptions</strong></p><p>While many Rwandans revere Kagame for his role in ending the conflict and then putting Rwanda on the map as one of the <a href="https://qz.com/africa/1783714/african-economies-to-watch-in-2020-debt-and-climate-crisis/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">fastest-growing</a> economies in Africa, and one of the best places to do business in the world (in the <a href="https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/media/Annual-Reports/English/DB2019-report_web-version.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Bank's 2019 "Doing Business" report </a>it ranked 29th out of 190 countries), he is also widely viewed as a <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/kagame-african-leader-obama-shouldnt-invite-109677" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">strongman</a> known for suppressing dissenting views and creating an atmosphere of growing mistrust and fear.</p><p>Indeed, politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances of high-profile <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rwandas-opposition-rattled-by-killings-and-disappearances-of-members/a-50596049" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">political opponents </a>in the years since Kagame took power are well documented, while <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/28/rwanda-repression-across-borders" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">human rights groups</a> have long denounced arbitrary arrests and torture of Rwandans who dare to criticize the government.</p><p>Many Rwandans also lament the concentration of power amongst a small group of political elite who are loyal to the president. Kagame's <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/world/africa/rwanda-elections-paul-kagame.html?_r=0" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reelection</a> in 2017 — when he claimed to have reaped a fanciful 99 percent of the vote — was seen by many as a sham, reflective of the oppressive political environment the RFP has cultivated. Importantly, this contested election came just two years after Kagame held a referendum overriding term limits that would allow him to stay at the helm until 2034. (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/26/it-looks-like-a-gameshow-russias-pseudo-vote-on-putins-term-limits" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Vladimir Putin </a>seemed to find this move inspiring, following suit this year.)</p><p><strong>External perceptions</strong></p><p>The international development community, and much of the West, have lauded Kagame for steering the country through a period of profound economic growth that's lifted at least 1 million people out of poverty. Meanwhile, Kagame's focus on expanding female representation in politics — over <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/8/feature-rwanda-women-in-parliament" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">60 percent</a> of the country's lawmakers are women — has also endeared him to leaders in Europe and the US. (When <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-42834308" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">US President Donald Trump </a>met with his Rwandan counterpart in 2018, he praised Kagame's "absolutely terrific" leadership and said: "It's a great honor to have you as a friend." )</p><p>Additionally, the Kagame government's focus on promotion of new technologies and environmental policy (in 2019, Rwanda became the first African country to introduce a complete <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/blogs/11156/34-plastic-bans-in-africa/#:~:text=Rwanda%20is%20a%20shining%20star,sale%20of%20plastic%20carrier%20bags.&text=In%20October%202019%2C%20Rwanda%20became,on%20all%20single%2Duse%20plastics." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ban </a>on all single-use plastics) has led to strong partnerships with economic heavyweights like Germany. The two countries recently created a <a href="https://www.volkswagen-newsroom.com/en/press-releases/first-for-africa-volkswagen-and-siemens-launch-joint-electric-mobility-pilot-project-in-rwanda-5510" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">joint pilot project </a>to introduce electric cars to Rwanda, with plans to expand the electronic automotive industry throughout the region.</p><p>To be sure, while some Western leaders have condemned Kagame for his human rights record in the past — with Washington going so far as to <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-rwanda-usa/u-s-cuts-military-aid-to-rwanda-over-congo-rebel-support-idUSBRE86K0AY20120721" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">cut </a>military aid to Rwanda in 2012, citing the government's support for violent militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — most have been willing to look the other way because of the country's economic potential. (In the late1990s, leaders including US President Bill Clinton and the UK's Tony Blair repeatedly praised Kagame's leadership as visionary.)</p><p><strong>A complex legacy</strong></p><p>Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer, philosopher and dissident, once said: "The battle between good and evil runs through the heart of every man." While Paul Kagame has pioneered reforms that have helped stabilize a war-torn country, many believe that his oppressive tactics have led to continued pain and suffering, <a href="https://theconversation.com/rwanda-cant-achieve-reconciliation-without-fixing-its-democracy-94925" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">making it hard </a>for Rwanda's post-genocide society to fully heal.</p>
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Hard Numbers: Latin America tops COVID death rates, disasters hit Asia, India slims labor laws, Taylor verdict sparks unrest
September 24, 2020
7: Among the 10 nations showing the highest COVID death rates per 100,000 people, seven are in Latin America. Weak health systems, frail leadership, and the inability of millions of working poor to do their daily jobs remotely have contributed to the regional crisis. Peru tops the global list with nearly 100 fatalities per 100,000 people. Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia are also in the top 10.
<p><strong>2: </strong>Two policemen were <a href="https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/breonna-taylor-announcement/h_acb84c21640413159d4c915dd56e4734" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">shot</a> in Louisville, Kentucky during protests and riots over <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/us/breonna-taylor-officer-indicted.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">a grand jury's decision not to press charges</a> against police officers for the killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was shot to death in her own home during a botched drug raid in March.</p><p><strong>80: </strong>Among people around the world affected both by natural disasters <em>and</em> COVID-19 this year, 80 percent live in the Asia Pacific region, according to a<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/24/asia-pacific-hardest-hit-by-covid-19-climate-related-disasters" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> new report </a>from the Red Cross. India and Bangladesh suffered the most, as floods, storms, and the pandemic affected some 40 million people in the two countries.</p><p><strong>4:</strong> India's dozens of famously confusing and conflicting labor laws have been <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-22/india-s-lower-house-of-parliament-passes-key-labor-reform-bills" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">slimmed down</a> to just four in a historic new reform. The new laws significantly expand labor rights and protections, while also giving companies more flexibility to hire and fire employees. Critics <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/9/24/why-indias-new-historic-labour-laws-may-not-work-for-workers" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">say</a> that because the new laws apply only to firms with more than 300 people, the measures do nothing to help hundreds of millions of informal workers who toil for off-the-books cash either alone or at smaller companies.</p><p><br/><br/></p><p><br/><br/></p><p><br/><br/></p>
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September 24, 2020
The United Nations marks its 75th anniversary this year amid the greatest global crisis since its founding. The UN's head of global communications Melissa Fleming explains the goals of this General Assembly, and how a renewed commitment to cooperation among nations could help eradicate COVID-19.
What We're Watching: Bibi's COVID scheming, Mexico probes sterilization claims, Cyprus blocks Belarus sanctions
September 24, 2020
Bibi's COVID scheming: With coronavirus cases spiking, Israel has imposed a second nationwide lockdown, the first developed country to go back to draconian measures of this kind since the spring. The controversial decision, which came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, represents a certain failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, in which Israel emerged as a global case study in how not to reopen after the initial lockdowns. Polls show that two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bibi's handling of the crisis. Many critics suspect the second lockdown — which bans large public gatherings — isn't only about flattening the curve, but about quelling the anti-Netanyahu protests that have gained steam throughout the country in recent months. This all comes as the Israeli government faces an unprecedented crisis: it has failed to pass a budget in two years and its economy is in free fall, sparking fears of another election by year's end (the fourth in less than two years).
<p><strong>Mexico investigating forced sterilizations claims:</strong> The Mexican government says it has <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-54265571" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">opened an investigation</a> into allegations that Latin American women, including several Mexicans, had undergone forced sterilization and other unwanted gynecological procedures while interned at a US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in the US state of Georgia. The allegations stem from a <a href="https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/OIG-ICDC-Complaint-1.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">whistleblower complaint</a> released last week by a nurse who works there, which says that hysterectomies (the removal of at least part of the uterus) had been performed on several women at the facility without their consent. The whistleblower also alleges "jarring medical neglect" of detainees and calls out one specific doctor who she labels "the uterus collector" because of his insistence on "taking everybody's stuff out." Meanwhile, Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed disgust at the allegations — which ICE vehemently denies —and said Mexico would not hesitate to take legal action against the US if the allegations are proven true. More than 170 members of the US Congress have also <a href="http://jayapal.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DHS-IG-Letter-9.15.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">called </a>for an immediate probe.</p><strong>Why is Cyprus blocking EU action on Belarus</strong>? All EU member-states but one have reportedly agreed on a package of economic sanctions against officials in Belarus, where dictator Alexander Lukashenko has brutally cracked down on weeks of protests over his rigging of the presidential election last month. Who's the one? The small <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/21/eu-fails-agree-belarus-sanctions-cyprus-blocks-plan" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">island nation of Cyprus</a>, which says it won't approve the Belarus measures unless Brussels <em>also </em>imposes sanctions on Turkey over its <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/08/28/the-new-great-dangerous-game-in-the-eastern-mediterranean/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">continued energy drilling</a> in eastern Mediterranean waters that Cyprus' main patron, Greece, claims as its own. Cyprus says it supports sanctions against Belarus in principle, but that the EU has to follow through on its <a href="https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/18/cyprus-holding-up-eu-sanctions-on-belarus-over-bloc-s-stance-on-turkey" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">unrelated pledge </a>to pressure Turkey to stop drilling and resume direct dialogue with Athens. Since sanctions like the ones prepared against Belarus require unanimous support from all 27 member states, one veto is enough to sink them. In a sign of growing frustration over the deadlock, Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, recently called for an end to that unanimity rule. In the meantime, who will fold first: Cyprus or Brussels? Alexander Lukashenko is watching as keenly as we are.
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