Cartels use color-coded wristbands to avoid killing migrants “by mistake” – National & International News – WED 10Mar2021

A US border agent removes a color-coded wrist band from a four-year-old Honduran asylum seeker.

Cartels issue color-coded wristbands to migrants. House to vote on stimulus today. China, Russia to build lunar base. UK denies EU’s vaccine export ban claim. 


Cartels issue color-coded wristbands to migrants

Border agents and immigration officials have noticed a curious trend among migrants being smuggled across the border. Migrants of all ages are arriving with plastic wristbands of various colors, which they often discard as soon as they cross into the US.

Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection, says the, “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups”.

Central American migrants hoping to reach the US border may pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to escort them safely. The people smugglers, or “coyotes”, in turn have to pay cartels for safe passage through various cartel-controlled territories when moving people through Mexico towards the border crossings. When part of the journey is completed, the coyote and migrants then receive new bracelets of a different color to show they’re paid up for the next leg of the journey. The final bracelet, purple in some cases, shows that the migrant has paid for passage across a cartel-controlled border crossing.

Failure at any stage by the coyote or migrants to adhere to this makeshift accounting system can have deadly consequences. One coyote told reporters that the cartels “are putting these (bracelets) on so there aren’t killings by mistake”.  In January, 40 migrants were massacred in Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, TX.

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House to vote on stimulus today

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expects to being the $1.9T stimulus bill for a vote in the House today. The Senate already approved the bill over the weekend, so the next stop after the House is the president’s desk. The White House says Biden will likely sign it later this week after a final check.

Most expect the bill to pass in the House along party lines, as it did in the Senate. Republicans in both houses have staunchly opposed the bill, despite 60% support among their voters. Democratic voter support is even higher at 76%.

Republicans argue that the bill is too expensive and that the worst of the COVID crisis has passed. Recent polls suggest this is not the case for many Americans, financially speaking.

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China, Russia to build lunar base

China and Russia have agreed to build a research station either on the surface or in orbit of the moon. Neither agency offered a timeline for the construction of the base. The China National Space Administration said that the base would be open to use by other countries as well. The CNSA statement said that the base would carry out “scientific research activities such as the lunar exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification”.

Last month, probes from the US, China and the UAE all arrived in orbit of Mars within days of one another. This achievement, a first for China, signals the nation’s ambition to catch up to the technical achievements of the US. The announcement of the lunar base seems to echo this, since NASA announced plans last year to build a lunar base by the end of this decade.

China’s manufacturing has quickly achieved parity with other space exploring countries, but is well behind in innovation. The CNSA has worked extensively with Russia and other countries to kickstart its space propulsion program. China’s Shenzhou spaceships still closely resemble Russia’s Soyuz capsules.

But Congress has banned nearly all cooperation between CNSA and NASA. The US has repeatedly protested China’s policies encouraging technology theft and has concerns about the secretive, militaristic nature of China’s space program.

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UK denies EU vaccine export ban accusation

After the EU imposed vaccine export controls and blocked a shipment of vaccines to Australia, European Council President Charles Michel was “shocked” to hear the bloc accused of “vaccine nationalism”. In response, Michel accused the UK and US of imposing an “outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory”.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called Michel’s claim false. Raab wrote to Michel demanding that he “set the record straight”. He wrote that the UK “has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components”.

In response, Michel tweeted that there are “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines”, but did not elaborate.

The EU has faced criticism both for its comparatively slow vaccine roll-out and for its unilateral imposition of “export controls”. Most controversial of these was an override of Northern Ireland protocols in last year’s Brexit agreement. The proposed regulation would have allowed the EU to block vaccine transfers from Ireland to Northern Ireland. EU policymakers withdrew this proposal after an outcry.

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