The Refugee Caravan

Last week, we noted that a “refugee caravan” made up of hundreds of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — many of them unaccompanied children — are walking through Mexico toward the US border. Along the way, activists are coaching them on how to apply for political asylum in the US. President Trump has heard the news. Last weekend, he tweeted this: “Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW.”


The Mexican government said Tuesday it will disperse the Refugee Caravan, but that it would issue one-year humanitarian visas to the most vulnerable members of the group. Others can submit applications within the month to stay in Mexico. The rest must leave the country within 20 days.

Trump tweeted yesterday that “The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border.” But this drama is not finished; some migrants say they’ll continue on toward California.

Look at this problem from various angles.

From Trump’s point of view: If the president sent a message that anyone fleeing violence in Central America will be given sanctuary in the US, the US would face a tidal wave of asylum seekers. (Cue the obligatory Angela Merkelreference.) Trump also knows, probably because he’s been told, that the centrality of border security for many of his diehard backers ensures that an influx of Honduran migrants would dismantle his political base overnight. He also wants to make clear that Mexico can’t ignore its own laws on migrants crossing its borders to reach the US.

From Mexico’s point of view: Mexico doesn’t want a “giant scene at the border.” Its government understands all too well the violence these migrants are trying to escape. (2017 was the most violent year of crime in Mexico since government began keeping records in 1997.) But it is legally bound to enforce its own immigration rules, and its government is still trying to strike a deal on renegotiation of NAFTA, with much less leverage than Trump has. Forcing the US president into a political crisis won’t help.

From the migrants’ point of view: High-powered weapons continue to flow from the US into Mexico and Central America, helping criminal gangs outgun police, killing civilians caught in the crossfire, and pushing rates of violent crime higher than just about anywhere else on Earth. There are many reported cases of children forced to choose between joining a gang and death for their entire families. If people can’t be safe in their own communities, they will seek safe haven where they can find it.

How many of these people will reach the US border? Stay tuned.

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.