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Post-electoral protests in Tegucigalpa on December 22, 2017.

Orlando Sierra / AFP / Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — It is going to be a painful year for Latin America.

By the time we hit 2019, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, and Costa Rica will have elected new presidents — with violence likely ahead of the vote, in many cases. Across the region, armies will increasingly supplant local police forces for domestic crime-fighting in what analysts say could lead to human rights violations. And economies in Latin America are expected to take a hit from US President Donald Trump’s policies, from both the US’s continued retreat from its trade agreements and its tightening immigration policies.

Latin America is “very tense,” Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America, told BuzzFeed News. “Political polarization in the region has intensified.”

In the coming months, hundreds of candidates across the region will make a bid for office, from local congresses to city hall to the presidency. Electoral violence has already erupted at all stages of the democratic process: in some countries, after polls have closed, in others, before campaign season has even officially kicked off.

In a preview of what is likely to come, more than a dozen protesters were killed in Honduras in November after a widely contested presidential election.

Despite the Organization of American States pointing out serious irregularities and concluding that it could not rule out recommending new elections, the US, Canada, Mexico, and other countries in Latin America recognized President Juan Orlando Hernández’s contentious victory.

“Recent events in Honduras have made clear to people throughout the region that electoral fraud is a real possibility, and that the US and international institutions are either less likely or less able to intervene or respond effectively,” said Thale.

In Mexico, where balloting for president and 628 congressional positions won’t open for another six months, at least six politicians were killed in recent weeks. Several political rallies in the capital city have ended with physical confrontations between supporters of two competing left-wing parties; during one earlier this month, a group of assailants threw eggs and chairs into the crowd of supporters of a local candidate. A reporter from La Jornada newspaper was injured.

Shortly after, Mexico City’s Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera called for parties to sign a “Civility Pact.” Seven of the 10 parties registered in the city signed the pact — though it’s not clear the truce will hold until Election Day.

Venezuela, where more than 120 people were killed during street protests last year, is also scheduled to hold presidential elections. Recent regional elections in the embattled country were clouded in fraud accusations, bolstered by a claim from the company that provided voting machines that the final count was inflated by at least one million votes. The government has banned several leaders of the languishing opposition from participating; they are still likely to call for protests if President Nicolás Maduro wins another term.

A demonstrator waves a Brazilian national flag in front of riot policemen during a protest outside the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 17, 2017.

Leo Correa / AFP / Getty Images

With nine months to go before presidential, state governor, and congressional elections, Brazil remains engulfed in the biggest corruption scandal in its modern history. Struggling to finance their campaigns after a ban on corporate donations, lawmakers in October instead set up a fund using taxpayer money to cover these costs. Irate citizens, calling for President Michel Temer’s resignation, have staged several street protests during which demonstrators have vandalized government buildings.

It’s not just that the political stakes are high; control over lucrative drug routes zigzagging several countries are also at play. In Mexico, “narcos choose and impose their candidates,” said Ulises Corona, a political expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “Whoever disagrees with their choice is offed.”

In the midst of these heightened tensions, governments have been deploying the military to perform domestic policing duties, a move which in Latin America has often led to increased repression and human rights violations.

After demonstrations broke out in Honduras last month following the election, the government declared a nation-wide curfew and sent soldiers to quash protests.

Mexican soldiers after a car bomb exploded early Friday in the northeastern city Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state on August 27, 2010.

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Also in December, Mexican lawmakers pushed through a controversial new security law formalizing the role of the military in the drug war and assigning it new powers. Soldiers have been deployed for domestic law-enforcement across the country since former president Felipe Calderón launched his offensive against drug cartels 11 years ago. Some civilians have paid a high price for the army’s presence: more than 385 soldiers were investigated for sexual assault, torture, homicide and forced disappearance between April 2007 and November 2017, following pressure from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.

“In a strict sense, a militarized system coopts individual rights,” said Corona.

Venezuela’s government regularly deployed the army to confront protesters last year. Empty tear gas canisters, fired by soldiers, became a normal sight on the streets of Caracas at the height of protests calling for elections and the release of political prisoners.

In September, Brazil’s government sent soldiers to quell burgeoning violence in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where its poorest citizens often crowd together in makeshift homes. It was a tacit acknowledgment that its “pacification” program, a security strategy to reign in crime in several favelas prior to its hosting the 2016 Olympics, had failed.

The trend toward militarization has traveled across the Caribbean Sea. Earlier this month, Army Major General José Eugenio Matos de la Cruz, Deputy Minister of Defense for Military Affairs of the Dominican Republic, told Dialogo, a digital military magazine published by US military’s Southern Command, that the country’s armed forces “increasingly participate in the fight against drugs.”

One issue the region’s militaries will not be able to fix? The economy.

The Mexican peso — whose weakened state helped accelerate inflation in the country to its fastest rate in nearly 17 years last year, up to 6.77% — will face extraordinary pressure in the coming months both from looming elections and from uncertainty over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of Trump’s campaign promises.

The country’s economy could also take a hit from mass deportations of Mexicans, promised by Trump’s administration. Mexicans in the United States sent a record $26.1 billion home in the form of remittances between January and November 2017, up from $24.1 billion during the same period the previous year, which had set a new record.

A worker of an empty pharmacy is pictured in Caracas on May 30, 2016.

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Venezuela shows no signs of pulling out of its is economic spiral, with all indications that its decline is speeding up. Inflation is expected to surpass 2,300% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government, unable to provide basic medicines to hospitals, has offered pharmaceutical companies diamonds, gold and coltan in exchange for medicines, the Wall Street Journal revealed earlier this month. Venezuelan officials, including Maduro last year, continues to be slapped with additional sanctions from Trump regularly.

In Brazil, financial experts have warned that official corruption scandals could affect the country’s slow recovery from years of low growth. “While recent data suggest that the recovery could be somewhat stronger than expected, the fiscal situation and political noise prevent further optimism about growth,” stated an October report from BBVA bank.

As if to prove the region’s economic fears accurate, the US government announced on Monday that it was ending protection for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans under a humanitarian program known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The status had allowed the group to live and work in the US legally since 2001, when a pair of earthquakes devastated the country.

Salvadorans deported from the US upon their arrival in El Salvador on February 1, 2013.

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

Experts say many of these Salvadorans are likely to stay in the US illegally, moving from decent paying jobs to less stable ones. “They’re going to be working under the table,” said Thale. “It will result in diminished capacity to send remittances.”

This would have significant consequences for the Central American country, where remittances made up 17% of its economy last year.

Some experts fear that Trump might next turn his attention to the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA-DR, an agreement that removed regional barriers to trade, eliminating another source of support for the country’s economies.

And despite the distress it would cause the region, doing so would play well at home at a time when the president needs the support. “He can point and say, I did NAFTA and now I’m doing CAFTA,” said Thale.

“That scores him political points.”

Instagram: @omeryavuz0202

When Omer Yavuz snapped a photo of a young boy outside his gym on Jan. 2, he immediately realized it was a powerful, resonant image.

There was something harrowing in the way he stood still outside in the cold, staring in at the people working out at the Olympiat Sports Center in the southeast Turkish city of Adiyaman.

He wore flip-flops without socks in the winter, a ragged grey sweater and had hung a rickety shoeshine kit on his shoulder, indicators of the type of poverty that has become all too common in Turkey among Syrian refugees struggling to scratch out a living.

“It broke my heart and I wanted to share it with everyone,” Yavuz, a 28-year-old carpenter, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.

What followed was a rare upbeat story out of the Middle East, an example of social media bringing people together for a good cause rather than dividing people over politics.

The gym’s owner, Mustafa Kucukkaya, was so moved he asked Yavuz for the original picture, and reposted it to his own Instagram, asking for the public’s help in finding the kid. He himself came from a poor family, he later told BuzzFeed News, and had to work in a bakery as a child.

“If anyone knows this brother, please get in touch with us,” he wrote. “We know that feeling very well. He will have free access to our gym club for a lifetime."

The picture went viral across Turkish social media, with news organizations and individuals posting the image as well as Olympiat’s promise to help him.

The Turkish website Inci Caps tweeted out the evocative image with the caption “write something about this picture” to its 3 million followers. Hundreds responded with sadness and despair. “He should be in school,” said one commentator.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the boy in the city of 220,000 was on. After two days, a member of Olympiat spotted him working a sidewalk and coaxed him to the gym. “The boy had no idea that the photo had gone viral,” Kucukkaya said in a phone interview. “He learnt all about it at the club.”

Despite language difficulties, the boy’s story trickled out. His name is Muhammad Hussein. He is 12 years old and a refugee from Syria. His family members earn money by selling scrap paper and metal they collect from trash bins. According to Kucukkaya, who visited Hussein's home, the family lives in great poverty. He didn’t learn whether Hussein goes to school, but said he doubts it. BuzzFeed News sought to contact Hussein, but neither he nor his family have a phone.

He was super psyched to be getting a gym membership — that usually costs $225 a year — for free.

”He was such a shy kid,” said Mahir Alan, a photojournalist who took pictures of the boy for the Dogan News Agency. “He was so surprised, and he didn’t expect anything like that. He said that he was always curious about gyms.”

Kucukkaya described him as “a lovable kid who knows how to have fun in difficult circumstances.”

In just a week, Kucukayya said Hussein has already lost weight. The boy is sticking to a special adolescent-friendly regiment heavy on cardio and light on weights. Hussein told Alan he was grateful for the chance to get in shape. "I was looking at the people exercising,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with the Dogan News Agency. “The sports club is a beautiful place.”

Instagram: @kucukkaya

Once Alan’s photos of Hussein working out in snazzy new gym clothes hit the internet, the rags-to-fitness story took on a life of its own, spreading beyond Turkey to a global audience. A BuzzFeed News correspondent’s tweet summarizing Hussein’s tale was retweeted more than 15,000 times and attracted over 40,000 likes.

Kucukkaya said he’s been inundated with calls from strangers seeking to help Hussein’s family.

“Some rich businessmen called,” he said. “A rich businesswoman from Ankara called and said she will send a package to his house. Even a person from Qatar called.”

Sen. Marco Rubio

Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

The US government is still baffled by the “perplexing” injuries resembling concussions affecting two dozen US diplomats in Cuba over the last two years, State Department officials told senators at a hearing on Tuesday.

But the agency pushed back against the idea, suggested by some scientists and amplified by Cuba, that the cause was psychological.

Medical tests showing concussion-like symptoms, ranging from recurring headaches to lost hearing and balance, “suggest this is not an episode of mass hysteria,” State Department chief medical officer Charles Rosenfarb said at the hearing.

“There is still much we do not know, including who or what is behind the injuries to our personnel,” the State Department’s Francisco Palmieri told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, chaired by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a critic of closer ties to Cuba. "We have not been able to identify who the perpetrator was, or the means of the attacks,” Palmieri said.

Although the State officials stopped short of describing the injuries as more than “mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions,” Rubio used sharp language and blamed a “rogue element” in Cuba, or perhaps Russia, for the attacks.

“People were hurt and the Cubans know who was responsible,” Rubio said. “They are just not telling us.”

Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal Ferreiro rejected the charges in a statement released late on Tuesday. "I categorically reiterate that the Cuban government has no responsibility whatsoever in the health conditions reported by U.S. diplomats," she said.

Starting in 2016, those two dozen US diplomats and their spouses in Havana reported the injuries, with news accounts blaming “sonic attacks” and reporting concussion-like symptoms, such as nausea, vertigo, and loss of hearing in one ear, among diplomats. The incidents led the US to cut its staff in half in Cuba last year and expel 15 Cuban diplomats, with State Department chief Rex Tillerson saying Cuba could have stopped “targeted attacks” on them.

Initially, in December of 2016, State Department security thought the attacks were just noises meant to annoy staff, State Department security official Todd Brown said at the hearing. The agency only began to take it seriously when more serious symptoms emerged, sending affected diplomats to an acoustic injuries expert at the University of Miami medical center in February.

Rubio criticized the State Department as being too slow to take the attacks seriously and for inadequate protection for diplomats today.

US Embassy in Havana.

Yamil Lage / AFP / Getty Images

Cuban officials have denied any responsibility for the injuries, which followed the reopening of diplomatic relations with the US in 2015. A University of Pennsylvania medical study of the diplomats’ injuries requested by the State Department has not been released to the public.

“Mission personnel describe a multitude of symptoms, many of which are not easily quantifiable and not easily attributable to a specific cause,” Rosenfarb said.

Descriptions of the precipitating event ranged from “a high pitched beam of sound” to an “incapacitating sound,” to a “baffling sensation” akin to driving with the windows partially open in a car, to just an intense pressure in one ear. Of the 24 affected diplomats and spouses, 10 have returned to duty, and all have recovered to varying degrees, some after therapy. Another eight diplomats have asked to return from Cuba because of the attacks.

“We are unable to state whether the injuries will result in long term damage,” Rosenfarb added.

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico noted that Canada, which reported at least one diplomat with similar injuries in 2016, has not withdrawn its staff from Havana, and did not kick out any Cuban diplomats, pressing officials on whether Tillerson’s decision had benefited the US or Cuba. (Later in the hearing, Rubio followed this line of questioning, suggesting the attacks were meant to drive a wedge between US and Cuban reconciliation efforts, which has, in fact, been their result.)

Over the weekend, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the US had found no evidence of an attack on its diplomats in Cuba, according to the Associated Press. The FBI has not released its report on the injuries, made after repeated inspections of the diplomats’ residences. State Department officials refused to comment on the report at the hearing, suggesting it would be discussed at a later, classified hearing.

Acoustics experts consulted by BuzzFeed News said that a silent “sonic” attack on the diplomats — suggested in some news reports — was physically impossible. Cuban scientists last month declared that a “collective psychogenic disorder,” or mass hysteria, explains the injuries, according to Science magazine. They ascribed the noises heard by injured diplomats to cicadas.

Alternate explanations for the injuries have ranged from mass hysteria to poison to tropical illnesses, but this is all speculative, experts say, until more information is publicly released. Aside from the claims of mild brain injuries, where the evidence has not been released, "symptoms like fatigue and memory loss are among the most commonly reported in outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness, while vertigo and partial deafness are common," medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew told BuzzFeed News by email.

Questions about whether Russia was somehow responsible for the attacks were deferred by State Department officials to the future classified hearing.

LINK: The Secret Cuban Weapon Blamed For Hurting US Diplomats Sounds Unlikely, Experts Say

LINK: US Expels Cuban Diplomats Over Unexplained Illnesses In Havana


Fire and Fury is the hot fire book by Michael Wolff about the Trump White House currently topping just about every best-seller list out there.

But Fire and Fury is also a book by a Canadian professor about Allied bombing in Germany during World War II. And it's seeing a surge in sales, likely thanks to people who think they're about to get a book about American politics.

Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942–1945 was released back in 2008 by Randall Hansen, the interim director at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

It's edged back into three of Amazon's best-seller categories. On the overall best-seller list, Hansen's book is at No. 723, a far cry from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House's No. 1 spot.

Amazon

Still, Hansen's book appears to be enjoying a boost due to its similar name, despite being a decade old.

Hansen's book was published by Anchor Canada, part of Penguin Random House. BuzzFeed Canada has reached out for comment.

Amazon

Confused readers or not, Hansen seems to be having a great time with the whole thing.

He told CBC News that he won't know the full extent of his sales bump until his next royalty cheque comes in, but his sales don't really matter.

"What I hope will happen is that at a moment in which we have this demagogue, this unstable demagogue, in the White House threatening war, the people who read my book will reflect on the morality of war and above all the horrific consequences of war for civilians," he told CBC.

"And if that happens this will not only have been fun, it would’ve been worth it."

John Macdougall / AFP / Getty Images

European diplomats have expressed fears to BuzzFeed News that action on climate change will fall short at this year's G20 summit because the host, Argentina, doesn't want to upset US president Donald Trump.

They also worry the host is planning to sidestep a debate on another thorny issue, multilateral trade – the set of principles and rules that the world’s governments adhere to, and that underpin multilateral global trade – for the same reason.

When Argentine officials presented “issue notes” at a meeting in Bariloche in mid-December outlining the agenda for this year’s G20 summit to emissaries from the two dozen participating governments, a number of key issues were missing from their presentations. According to two diplomats present, those were “climate change”, “Paris Agreement”, “protectionism”, and the “multilateral trading system.”

As the G20 host, Argentina sets its priorities for the summit and coordinates how the overall agenda is structured. But the overall content has to ultimately be agreed, and negotiated, by all members during the year-long process.

Two European diplomats who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said they were left dismayed and disappointed after seeing the notes – and with a sneaking feeling that Argentina would be looking for an unambitious consensus on climate action by simply avoiding the topics that put the Trump administration at loggerheads with the other 19 governments throughout 2017.

The diplomats said the Trump presidency was such a disruptive force that it was creating new dynamics between countries, and causing the world’s governments to forge new alliances on the global stage.

“[Argentina’s] desire to keep a consensus results in a tendency to try and side-step difficult issues such as the Paris Agreement and the future of the multilateral trading system,” one of the officials said.

At the meeting in Bariloche, a US official read out prepared remarks to underline the Trump administration’s support for an energy transition, and to help countries, especially emerging economies, along this path as long as any measures adopted cover a diverse portfolio of fuels, including “clean fossil fuels”.

“The US intervention was a bit of a buzzkill,” the diplomat said. “Their argument is that there shouldn’t only be a focus on new energy sources, but also [a focus] on the importance that ‘clean’ fossil fuels continue to have in light of low prices and the access this means for poorer countries.

“Basically, the US says it recognises the overall goal, reducing emissions, cleaner lands, water, and so on, but wants to do it their way.”

An Argentine government source told BuzzFeed News that in the G20 agenda, climate issues will be treated in “a manner that emphasises the continuity of dialogue and the search for common ground, with a focus on sustainable finance and promoting adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events.”

“The Climate Sustainability working group will address issues that feature in the Paris Agreement, like NDCs [nationally determined contributions],” the source said.

Fundamental differences between the Trump administration and the rest of the world’s advanced economies over trade and especially climate change were laid bare at a string of international meetings last year, including at the G20 in Germany and the G7 in Italy.

The US was often left isolated at these meetings after officials from the Trump administration repeatedly questioned some of the basic principles that have underpinned decades of international relations – and the contrasts were put on record in the summits’ conclusions.

Now the choice facing the world’s most powerful governments will be whether to continue to highlight these important differences or seek instead a watered down compromise with the US.

BuzzFeed News understands that the aim of the Argentine presidency is to seek a consensus around its three priorities for this year’s G20 – the future of work, infrastructure for development, and a sustainable food future – with topics such as “climate sustainability” and gender equality permeating all three.

The rationale is that an attitude that carves out the US's differing point of view isn't sustainable in the long term. But European diplomats are sceptical about the feasibility of the Argentine approach.

“The tactic may well keep the US on side, but it will not work for Europe’s governments,” one senior European diplomat told BuzzFeed News.

Argentina’s decision to separate energy and climate working groups, which prepare the ground for the agreement that leaders then sign up to at the end of the year-long process, is one example where European governments feel there will be a lack of concrete progress.

“This [separation] means you will have meetings on different dates, at different locations, and energy ministers negotiating without climate and environment ministers present,” the diplomat said.

They added: “The net result would be that while the energy agenda will show some continuity with the previous summit, for example on energy efficiency and renewables, there is a problem with the climate agenda. It’s minimal, not very ambitious, and deals more with adaptation, for example to extreme weather events, than with mitigation and phasing out carbon emissions on a more aggressive timetable.”

The official predicted that a need to add bite to climate action would come to a head before the 20 leaders meet in Buenos Aires on 30 November: “The Europeans, including the UK, are determined to keep pushing this, and there will be a showdown between August and November.”

Argentine president Mauricio Macri

Laureano Saldivia / AFP / Getty Images

Although climate change remains the issue where there are the biggest differences between the US and everyone else, trade follows immediately afterwards.

Argentina’s presentation on trade avoided references to contentious issues such as the “multilateral trade system”, which has long underpinned global trade, and “protectionism”, which international forums pre-Trump historically rejected in all its forms. The presentation focused instead on trade in agriculture and a “new industrial revolution”.

Referring to the presentation, a European diplomat noted that “they [Argentina] cannot simply ignore the issue of reinforcing and improving the multilateral trade system”.

Argentine officials reject suggestions that the host country is shying away from placing multilateral trade high on the agenda, pointing to the G20 vision document that states: “Trade is an engine of growth, but fair trade is an engine of development, which requires fair global institutions and clear rules. We need a rules-based system that is strong and WTO-consistent at multilateral, regional, bilateral and national levels.”

An Argentine government source told BuzzFeed News: “President [Mauricio] Macri at the opening ceremony was forthright in emphasizing the importance of multilateral trading systems. The fact that Argentina intends to hold a trade ministerial (which Germany didn’t) points to the importance the government places on international trade.”

Still, a second European diplomat said: “Argentina is deluding itself if it thinks it can avoid this debate by hiding the card on another table. The leaders will want to reaffirm these principles when they meet.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 2017.

Philippe Wojazer / AFP / Getty Images

One consequence of the Trump presidency, according to the European diplomats, is the emergence of new dynamics, and alliances, between the world’s governments.

“French, EU and Chinese officials used the meeting in Argentina to voice concerns about Trump’s tax reforms", a diplomat said. "Officials also discussed whether the G20 was the right place to debate differences they had at the World Trade Organisation. On free trade, China and Europe are allied against the US. While on steel and excess capacity, the US is allied with the EU against China.”

“However,” they added, “the problem with the US is that it’s not a multilateral approach but always ‘America first’. And there is a constant threat of unilateral action [against China] that would hurt the EU, Canada, Mexico and others.”

“China takes a ‘wait and see’ approach," the same diplomat went on to say. "They wait for the US to speak first, and try to avoid any clashes. Beijing is looking to exploit the situation by taking on a leadership role despite a tainted CV on trade that has protectionism in its DNA. They are one of the world’s biggest polluters but their commitment [to fighting climate change] seems sincere.”

BuzzFeed News understands that at the mid-December meeting in Argentina, Chinese officials spoke up for multilateralism, claiming that “no country was an island in a globalised world”.

“Meanwhile, [French president Emmanuel] Macron is determined to become the ‘leader of the free world’,” the same diplomat chuckled, referring to the December climate summit hosted by the French president as well as his push to make multilateralism the central theme of this year’s Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development meetings.

Ludovic Marin / AFP / Getty Images

Elsewhere, officials described broad support among the G20 members towards less divisive issues such as the future of work, cybersecurity, financial inclusion, remittances, development in Africa, counterterrorism, anti-corruption, infrastructure, and Antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

However, the same diplomats noted a reluctance among some officials, and the US above all, to expand the G20 agenda to include new topics such as marine waste, obesity, and other health-related issues.

“The US sees the healthcare debate in the context of Obamacare,” one of the two European diplomats told BuzzFeed News.

“At the meeting, a US diplomat noted that it’s not the responsibility of governments provide healthcare to the entirety of their populations and any work on universal health care should respect differences in provision and the role of the private sector,” the diplomat said.

The second official noted a reticence on Argentina's part to take on new issues without majority support from members.

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau, who is hosting this year's G7.

Fred Dufour / AFP / Getty Images

According to the two European officials, Canada, which is hosting this year’s G7, is likely to face a similar balancing act to Argentina.

Reports in Bloomberg suggest the US is already fighting against references to climate change in the new NAFTA deal the Trump administration is renegotiating with Canada and Mexico.

“They [Canada] will probably focus heavily on practical issues such as oceans, coastal towns, and extreme weather events, and, despite gender equality being one of their priorities, could try to keep controversial discussions about sexual reproduction rights off the leaders’ table,” one of the diplomats told BuzzFeed News.

The US was against defining sexual and reproductive health as a right as part of last year’s G7 process, arguing that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning or sexual and reproductive health care”.

A Canadian government insider with insight into the country’s preparations for the G7 told BuzzFeed News: “Canada will be bringing a lot of the tactics adopted during NAFTA renegotiations to the G7: ‘clear focus, don’t rise to the bait, ignore the outbursts’.”

The source went on to say: “Canada will not go head-to-head with the US because it would be like arguing with a toddler, and they don’t abide by the process. The [Canadian G7] presidency will be focused on concrete outcomes.”

Canada’s priorities for the G7 include advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and “working together on climate change, oceans, and clean energy”. The G7 summit is also seen as an important stepping stone to a major women’s rights conference Vancouver is hosting in 2019.

A European diplomat said: “Italy and Germany had an ‘easier’ task because the US was still developing its positions, and in many cases these were incomplete or didn’t exist at all. For Canada and Argentina it will be more difficult as the US positions have firmed up.”

Lainey Carmichael (left) and Roz Kitschke with celebrant Jason Betts.

Rodney Croome

As the sun rose on Tuesday morning, Roz Kitschke and Lainey Carmichael said their vows in the backyard of their home in Franklin, Tasmania.

It was a picturesque scene: a dam visible in the background of the seven-acre property, the brides and their families and friends gathered on the grass.

"We set up beautiful tents and lights and love hearts," Carmichael told BuzzFeed News. "It just looked magical."

The proceedings kicked off around 5:30am, a schedule based on a rather practical, and very Australian, concern.

"It was mainly for the heat, to be honest!" said Kitschke. "We knew the weather would be cooler."

But the symbolism of the sun rising as they were finally able to join millions other married couples around Australia wasn't lost, either.

"New day, new era," she said.

Rebecca Hickson and Sarah Turnbull got married in Newcastle on Tuesday.

Dan Himbrechts / AAPIMAGE

January 9 marks a new normal in Australia: It's not the first day same-sex marriages are recognised, but it is the first day that most couples could actually tie the knot, after waiting out a standard 30-day notice period for marrying in Australia.

A small number of couples were granted waivers to hold their weddings early due to international travel or illness, meaning the very first same-sex weddings were conducted before Christmas.

But for most, Tuesday marked the end of the 30-day notice period. Some couples got in as soon as they could by holding midnight weddings, saying "I do" just as the clock ticked over into the new year.

Craig Burns and Luke Sullivan were married just after midnight in Tweed Heads, NSW.

Instagram: @sarahmayalexander_celebrant

Teegan Daly and Mahatia Minnieco were married after midnight in Melbourne.

Instagram: @christianmarcphotography

Kelly and Sam Pilgrim-Byrne married just after midnight in Perth outside the WA parliament.

Instagram: @tim4perth

Gillian Brady and Lisa Goldsmith held one of the first same-sex marriage ceremonies in Western Australia at The Court hotel in Perth.

Matt Jelonek / Getty Images

Some of the couples marrying on Tuesday – such as Melbourne's Ron van Houwelingen and Antony McManus – had married each other before, in civil or non-legally binding ceremonies.

After becoming engaged in 2014, Kitschke and Carmichael held a civil ceremony in South Australia.

"To us that was our wedding," Kitschke said. "We thought that was all it might ever be. We hoped like everyone else the rest might follow through–"

Carmichael finished her sentence: "–but we never put any energy into when it would happen, because who would have known, right?"

One stranger was among the guests at the early morning do in Tasmania: longtime marriage equality campaigner Rodney Croome. Carmichael said they didn't know Croome, but felt it was important to invite him "after everything he'd done".

"He was so grateful that we’d [invited] him – but we felt like he’d done something for us! All the years of fighting, he deserved it."

Croome, who was also invited to give the wedding toast, said it was a "privilege" to attend the ceremony.

"I've been to weddings of gay friends in New Zealand and in the British Consulate in Sydney and it was so wonderful to attend a wedding at home here in Australia," he said.

"Roz and Lainey's marriage marks the start of a new chapter in their lives and also a new chapter in the life of the nation."

History made, Kitschke is looking forward to living as part of a happily married couple "like everybody else in Australia".

"Like we always were," Carmichael added.

And their immediate plans?

“We’re off to drink more champagne!”


Thailand's prime minister, retired general Prayuth Chan-ocha, pictured here on the far left next to Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, has held power in the country since a military coup in 2014.

Thailand's prime minister, retired general Prayuth Chan-ocha, pictured here on the far left next to Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, has held power in the country since a military coup in 2014.

Afp Contributor / AFP / Getty Images

The country is set to hold its first democratic election since the coup in November, but there are doubts that the military in Thailand will relinquish power, and the junta has been cracking down on political dissent, including on the media.

At an event to reportedly promote Children's Day in Thailand, the prime minister took the extraordinary step of having an aide wheel out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Prayuth to stand in and answer the questions of reporters.

A literal two-dimensional politician.

"If anyone wants to ask any questions on politics or conflicts, ask this guy," Prayuth said.

"If anyone wants to ask any questions on politics or conflicts, ask this guy," Prayuth said.

NBC/BuzzFeed News

And then, he was gone.

And then, he was gone.

NBC/BuzzFeed News

Journalists were said to be a little confused, but some people took the opportunity to have a photo with the cardboard PM.

Journalists were said to be a little confused, but some people took the opportunity to have a photo with the cardboard PM.

NBC

AP reports it isn't the first time Prayuth has taken an unusual approach to dealing with the media, claiming he had "fondled the ear of a sound technician", thrown a banana peel at a camera man, and threatened (jokingly) to execute any journalist critical of his government.

A woman sits before her earthquake-destroyed house in Armenia, El Salvador.

Yuri Cortez / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who've had temporary permission to live in the United States for the past 17 years will have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the US or face deportation, the Trump administration announced Monday.

The Salvadorans become the latest group of foreigners to lose what's known as Temporary Protected Status after spending years in the United States because of natural disasters in their home countries. The Salvadorans were granted TPS after a pair of 2001 earthquakes slammed the country.

"Based on available information the secretary determined that the conditions supporting El Salvador's TPS designation on the basis of environmental disaster, specifically the devastation cause by major earthquakes in 2001, no longer exist," a senior Department of Homeland Security official said.

In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security also has announced an end to TPS for about 60,000 Haitians and 2,500 Nicaraguans. However, DHS postponed a decision on 57,000 Hondurans.

Salvadorans make up the largest group with TPS and have about 192,700 US-citizen children, many of whom are likely to be forced to leave with their parents to resettle in a country they've never lived in.

Last week Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the president of El Salvador, asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to once again extend TPS, arguing that even if the US decides to send Salvadorans back it would give the government time to prepare to receive its compatriots.

In making the decision to end TPS Nielsen looked at whether conditions specific to the pair of 2001 earthquakes had improved and whether El Salvador was prepared to take back the nearly 200,000 people because that's the reason for giving the protection in the first place, a senior DHS official said.

Gang violence plaguing the country was not a factor in deciding whether to end TPS. Once their protections run out in 2019, the Salvadorans will be eligible for deportation. The US State Department currently has a travel advisory for El Salvador citing "high rates of crime and violence."

The 18 months, officials said, was enough time for this group of Salvadorans to seek other ways of legalizing their status or prepare to go home, otherwise they face the possibility of being deported if they overstay.

"DHS will not exempt entire categories or exclude entire groups of people from immigration enforcement actions," the official said.

Orlando Sierra / AFP / Getty Images

The decision upset immigrant rights advocates who argue the TPS holders were allowed to live in the US for about 17 years, have kids here, and build lives in the country.

Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of Latin American and Caribbean immigrant groups in the US, said the decision puts the Salvadorans in danger.

“The United States has yet again turned its back on its promise to provide refuge for those who face violence and persecution in their home countries,” Chacón said in a statement. “Nielsen has told 200,000 of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues —people who sought safety in the United States and have had full permission to build lives here for nearly 17 years — that they have 18 months to pack their bags and return to El Salvador, a country that is plagued by the highest homicide rate in Latin America, a 95 percent impunity rate, and escalating human rights abuses.”

In 2016, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the Western Hemisphere, with 81.2 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Venezuela and Honduras.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, called on Congress to offer a permanent solution for current TPS holders and protect them from deportation.

“This is a deeply disappointing decision that will not only disrupt the lives of TPS recipients and their families, but devastate the local economies they have contributed to for years,” Noorani said. “Congress has a responsibility to act in the best interest of our nation by legislating a permanent solution that allows current TPS holders to contribute fully without fear of deportation.”

LINK: If Trump's DHS Ends Protections For Salvadorans, What Happens To Their US-Citizen Children?


Trump and Putin in Danang, Vietnam, in November.

Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP / Getty Images

The Trump administration is beginning the New Year with a flurry of high-level engagements with the Russian government, US officials tell BuzzFeed News, including the first meeting between Moscow’s top general and NATO’s supreme allied commander since the US severed several channels with Russia during the Ukraine crisis in 2013.

The spate of Pentagon and State Department meetings come as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election draws closer to President Trump’s inner circle.

It also follows a downturn in relations between the two Cold War adversaries after the Trump administration’s decision to approve the transfer of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine as it battles pro-Russian separatists.

“This is all part of the normal course of diplomacy and it should come as no surprise to anyone that there are many issues that we need to discuss with the Russians,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told BuzzFeed News.

Later this month, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander of Europe, or SACEUR, is set to meet with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces, in Baku, Azerbaijan, according to US and European officials.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti

Mikko Stig / AFP / Getty Images

Other meetings planned for January and February include talks on the Ukraine crisis between Vladislav Surkov, one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides, and Kurt Volker, the special envoy for the Ukraine crisis; discussions over longstanding irritants in US-Russia relations between Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department, and Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister; and conversations related to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The Obama administration banned meetings between the top military leader in NATO and his Russian counterpart after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, and no such meeting occurred during the three-year tenure of Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the previous SACEUR, who served from May 2013 to May 2016.

The isolation campaign was meant to convey that European borders are inviolable, but now current and former officials say the dramatic downturn in US–Russia relations requires more bilateral engagement, despite the awkward optics of Mueller’s looming investigation.

“I was forbidden from contact,” Breedlove told BuzzFeed News, speaking of the Obama-era diplomatic freeze. “But now there are more pros than cons when you consider whether to hold a meeting.”

“Right now there is zero trust and zero rapport. We need to have meaningful conversation,” Breedlove added.

Retired Air Force Gen. Phillip Breedlove, a former supreme allied commander.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

The sense of urgency surrounding US–Russia engagement follows the Kremlin’s increasing exasperation that Trump’s election hasn’t translated into policies favorable to the Kremlin. Congress has restricted Trump’s ability to lift US sanctions against Russia, and last month, at the recommendation of his cabinet, Trump approved the transfer of US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, a move vehemently opposed by Moscow.

US allies in Europe have, meanwhile, been flabbergasted at the trajectory of US–Russia relations over the last year.

“We entered 2017 worrying about a grand bargain,” one European diplomat told BuzzFeed. “We end it with the US–Russia relationship feeling as fragile as it has been in years.”

Victoria Nuland, the former Obama administration official in charge of enforcing the Russia isolation policy, also said she supports the diplomatic thaw.

“These channels are especially vital at a time when relations at the leader level are so unpredictable,” Nuland said.

She said Scaparrotti is “uniquely positioned” to raise US concerns about Russia’s “ongoing military role in Ukraine, its INF treaty violations, its active measures to undermine Transatlantic democracies and the other strategic tensions that are driving the US and its Allies to take stronger deterrent measures.”

A NATO official declined to confirm or deny the upcoming meeting in Azerbaijan, saying “any future interaction will be announced in due course.”

The official noted that Scaparrotti and Gerasimov have spoken over the phone and demonstrated a “clear mutual interest to maintain military lines of communication.”

Russia has long sought to end its diplomatic isolation.

In March, it sent an ambitious proposal to Washington seeking the full normalization of relations between the US and Russia across all military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels. After the US rejected the offer, Russia proposed a noninterference agreement with the US in July, but the US again turned down the proposal, prompting a series of angry statements from Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“We take the rejection of our proposals as evidence that the allegations of Russian meddling in US elections were far-fetched,” Zakharova said in late December.

Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, said US officials enter into discussions with Russians in 2018 with a clear focus in mind: “We have been very clear that we would welcome a better relationship with a Russia, but to get there we need to see some changes — namely, a Russia that is a constructive neighbor and partner of the transatlantic community, that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, does not try to undermine our allies and partners, and engages constructively to resolve the major global challenges we face.”

Retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, the last supreme allied commander to meet with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, about five years ago, said such engagement is valuable.

“While we did not agree on everything, we were able to advance cooperation in counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, and counter-narcotics,” Stavridis, now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told BuzzFeed. “There is no downside beyond the need to manage expectations given the high level of tension between NATO and Russia at the moment.”

LINK: Russia Sought A Broad Reset With Trump, Secret Document Shows

LINK: How Secret Talks With Russia to Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed


Arianna Velasco hoped that if UC Berkeley offered her a spot next year she’d be able to commute from her parents’ home and rely on them to cover some of her expenses. But each day it’s looking more likely that her mom and dad will be forced to leave the country.

The US-born high schooler’s parents are among the 200,000 Salvadorans who could lose a type of provisional residency known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the coming weeks. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has until Monday to decide whether to extend the Salvadorans' TPS; the administration has signaled it intends to end it, as it has with other groups.

“I’m having to think about how I’m going to stay here because I’m going to have to do it almost entirely on my own,” Arianna told BuzzFeed News. “It’s really mind-boggling, especially when you’ve been under your parents’ care for so long.”

Seventeen-year-old Arianna Velasco will be separated from her family if her parents are sent back to El Salvador.

Brian L. Frank for BuzzFeed News

Immigrants with TPS are allowed to live and work in the US if it is determined that they are unable to safely return to their home country because of an environmental disaster, armed conflict, or other extraordinary conditions. Salvadorans received the protection after two earthquakes devastated the country in 2001.

The Center for Migration Studies estimated that 273,200 US-born children have parents with TPS. Some 192,700 have parents from El Salvador.

In November, DHS ended protected status for about 60,000 Haitians and 2,500 Nicaraguans, but postponed a decision on 57,000 Hondurans. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paved the way for TPS to be withdrawn for Central Americans and Haitians by sending a letter to DHS stating that conditions in those countries had improved to the point that people no longer needed protection.

“It’s like they take little strands of hope away because country after country is being revoked or set aside,” Arianna said. “We all know that, because of the outcomes of the other countries, ours is most likely not going to be renewed again.”

Tillerson and other US officials have said the conditions caused by the earthquakes that led to TPS for Salvadorans no longer exist.

Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, said the solution for TPS holders should fall to Congress.

“Congress needs to change these laws as opposed to continual six-month extensions of people that are here from 10 to 20 years ago,” Short told CNN.

Vanessa Velasco with her children, 4-year-old Andres, 12-year-old Dayana, and 17-year-old Arianna, at their Bay Area home.

Brian L. Frank For BuzzFeed News

On Friday, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the president of El Salvador, spoke with Nielsen via telephone to ask for an extension of TPS. Sánchez Cerén said El Salvador needed time to prepare for either outcome and to petition Congress for a permanent solution for its residents in the US.

Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of Latin American and Caribbean immigrant groups in the US, said El Salvador’s high homicide rate and gang violence are reason enough not to send back 200,000 people after nearly 20 years.

“Conditions in El Salvador remain far from ideal for people to go back to, which explains why so many people continue to flee,” Chacón said on a call with reporters.

“We are talking about a little more than 200,000 people who have resided in the US with our government’s permission, people who have Social Security numbers, they have become strongly embedded in our society. Yet we are facing the possibility that this program will end.”

Howard Cotto, the director of El Salvador's National Civil Police, told a news conference Wednesday that his country's murder rate fell for the second consecutive year to 60.8 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. The total number of murders in the country was nearly 4,000 last year.

Vanessa and Enrique Velasco's Temporary Protected Status has allowed them to remain and work in the United States for years.

Brian L. Frank For BuzzFeed News

Still, Dennis Stinchcomb, assistant director for research at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, said the rate was six times that considered epidemic by the United Nations.

“El Salvador retains the most notable distinction of being the most violent country in the hemisphere,” Stinchcomb said on a call with reporters.

In 2016, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the Western Hemisphere, with 81.2 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Venezuela and Honduras. For 2017, Stinchcomb said, a lack of reliable figures from Venezuela make it difficult to determine where the country ranks in comparison with El Salvador.

If El Salvador were equipped to absorb 200,000 former TPS holders, their return would be a boon to the nation’s economy, Stinchcomb said. However, he said, that is not the case: 25% of Salvadorans are underemployed, and there’s no indication that returning TPS beneficiaries would be able to use their skills.

An analysis from East-West University in Chicago found that remittances make up about 17% of El Salvador’s economy, indicating the country is very much dependent on its nationals sending money home from the US.

Vanessa Velasco watches her children play in their backyard. Her children have never been to El Salvador.

Brian L. Frank For BuzzFeed News

Arianna’s mother, Vanessa Velasco, said she and her husband came to the United States in the early 2000s on a tourist visa, fleeing violence and economic hardship. When the visa expired, the pair considered getting another one but by then the government was offering TPS protections.

“It’s true, it is temporary,” Vanessa told BuzzFeed News. “But 17 years is not temporary. They let us make a life here, have our kids here, start our 401(k)s, buy our homes, start businesses, assimilate to the culture.”

The family are halfway through paying for the Brentwood, California, home they bought in 2003.

Vanessa said they’re exploring options with lawyers about ways to stay in the United States legally and have even been looking into whether they can relocate to Canada. The family has met in Washington, DC, with the staffs of lawmakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to make their case for congressional action.

If the parents have to go back, Arianna, a US citizen by birth, will stay, but the younger children, ages 4 and 12, who also were born in the United States, will go to El Salvador with them.

“We haven’t been back since we left, not even to visit,” Vanessa said. “We never wanted to expose them to the violence we left behind.”

Arianna and Dayana Velasco in their shared room at the family home.

Brian L. Frank For BuzzFeed News

When Vanessa came, the government was deporting large numbers of men who had joined gangs in the United States and dropping them off in El Salvador. They would extort people at the time, she said, and can’t imagine what it’s like today.

“We came here for a better life — that’s the story of any immigrant,” Vanessa said.

The curly-haired Arianna, who works about 10 hours a week putting together the crime log and calendar for the Brentwood Press newspaper, said she’ll have to figure out ways of making more money on her own.

It strikes her that officials aren’t thinking about the US-born children of TPS beneficiaries when they make these decisions.

“So much of our lives is being taken away that we then almost become a burden to the system itself, because right now if my parents leave I would have to seek help from the system, like Medicare and other things,” Arianna said. “Revoking TPS is really just taking so much away from thousands of American children.”

LINK: Nearly 60,000 Haitians To Lose Deportation Protections, Will Get 18 Months To Leave

LINK: Nicaraguan Immigrants To Lose Temporary Protected Status In The US


The Nordic skiing and ski jump venues for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images

A hacker group, likely working on behalf of an unidentified government, has tried to take over the computers of dozens of South Koreans involved in the upcoming Winter Olympics, according to an analysis published this week by the cybersecurity firm McAfee.

The purpose of the cyberattack is unclear, but the targeting of multiple computers used by both participants and organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which take place next month in the northeastern South Korean city of Pyeongchang‎, come during a time of high tension between North and South Korea, two nations known for their aggressiveness in hacking operations. The two sides agreed Friday to talks that are expected to include whether North Korea will send a delegation to the games.

Suspects include North Korea, China, and Russia, which is widely believed to have hacked and disseminated athletes’ medical files from the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 after some of its athletes were banned for cheating. Russia has been banned from the 2018 Olympics entirely.

Cyberespionage operations, in which a government casts a wide net against civilian targets to gather intelligence before an important geopolitical event, are not uncommon, but they often go undetected or unreported to the public.

This one, however, was initiated Dec. 28 when the hackers sent an email to icehockey@pyeongchang2018.com, an email address used to recruit temporary employees to help to manage hockey operations in Pyeongchang. The email address was spoofed to appear to come from South Korea’s National Counter-Terrorism Council, which has hosted counter-terrorism drills in Pyeongchang in preparation for the Olympics.

Attached was a Microsoft Word document that, once opened, instructs the user in Korean to “enable content,” which allows Word to run macros, or repeated tasks, and which is a common red flag that a Word file is malicious. Once enabled, the file runs script crafted to hide its tracks and creates an encrypted channel that allows the attacker to quietly run commands and install additional programs on the victim’s computer.

That email was also sent to at least 50 targets across South Korea, with a wide range of connections to the Olympics, said Ryan Sherstobitoff, a senior researcher at McAfee Advanced Threat Research, which obtained the email and released an analysis of it Monday.

That email was also sent to at least 50 Olympics-related targets across South Korea, Sherstobitoff, said. Recipients included ski resorts hosting competitions, a nearby airport, and government employees. It’s unclear how many recipients, if any, fell for it, or how many other people affiliated with the Pyeongchang games received similar emails.

“From what we can tell, they’re trying to potentially establish the ability to gather information on chatter, communications around the upcoming Olympics,” Sherstobitoff told BuzzFeed News.

“With any espionage activity, there’s a first stage reconnaissance to understand who is interesting, casting a wide net,” Sherstobitoff said.

McAfee declined to speculate who was behind the attack, save to say the attachment’s sophistication and the nature of its targets strongly indicate a nation-state directed it. Attributing any cyberattack can be a dicey proposition. Nation-state hacking groups often reuse tactics, and Sherstobitoff’s team has not previously identified activity clearly linked to this operation, indicating it’s a new tool or campaign.

Any number of countries could have the motivation for such an operation, said Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyber program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“For North Koreans, motivations would range from wanting to know what was happening to planning for disruption if South Korea or US embarrass or pressure Pyongyang. Chinese I would guess intel gathering, mainly to avoid surprises,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“Russia [is] a possibility, given passed hacks of doping agencies,” he said. “Given previous attacks on sports infrastructure, [it] now seems routine.”


Ahed Tamimi gained international attention after a video of her hitting an Israeli soldier outside her home in the West Bank went viral.

This is Ahed Tamimi. She's a 16-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, and she's all over social media.

This is Ahed Tamimi. She's a 16-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, and she's all over social media.

Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images

Tamimi was filmed in December hitting a member of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) outside her home after they apparently attacked a family member. According to Haaretz she said “Get out or I’ll punch you" before attacking the soldiers.

Tamimi was arrested by Israeli authorities on Dec. 19 and faces 12 charges — including aggravated assault and throwing stones. She appeared in court the following day and recounted her version of events.

She said that an hour before the incident, soldiers from the IDF had shot her cousin Muhammad Tamimi in the head at point-blank range with a rubber bullet. “Then I saw the same soldiers who hit my cousin, this time in front of my house. I could not keep quiet and I responded as I did,” she told the court, the Times of Israel reported.

Photos of her cousin have also been widely shared online, and show a young boy with a badly injured face. A later YouTube video showed the extent of his injuries, sustained — his family says — when he was hit by a rubber bullet after he climbed a wall to look at soldiers in a newly built compound at the edge of his village.

youtube.com

In a charge sheet, seen by Reuters, the IDF said the soldier had been bruised on his forehead by Tamimi's punch, with the charges against her including counts of aggravated assault against a soldier, obstructing a soldier in the performance of his duty, and throwing stones at the officers.

Israeli ministers including Naftali Bennett condemned Tamimi and her family's actions. They should spend the "rest of their lives in prison," Bennett, the minister for education, said.

Tamimi's story has provoked responses from across the political spectrum.

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Facebook: video.php

She's fueled opinion pieces and divided news coverage.

She's fueled opinion pieces and divided news coverage.

thejc.com

She inspired fan art.

The recent attention given to Tamimi is not the first time she's made headlines. The Tamimis are an internationally known activist family who regularly protest the Israeli occupation of their West Bank village of Nabi Salih.

Her father Bassem, 51, is a well-known activist. An Amnesty International press release from 2012 called for his release after he was detained the year before for organizing protests.

As his daughter's actions gained traction, Bassem told the Jerusalem Post that it was Palestinian children’s “duty” to resist and “be strong.”

In 2012, aged 11, Tamimi was filmed by her mother confronting IDF soldiers about the location of her brother.

Even then, she divided opinion: Following the events she was invited to Turkey, where she was given the "Handala Courage Award."

youtube.com

Two years later she was interviewed by the Guardian, one of three children growing up surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

Two years later she was interviewed by the Guardian, one of three children growing up surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

She told the interviewer how she would play hopscotch and enjoyed films about mermaids, and appeared hesitant about being photographed near a military water tower.

But in 2015, when she was filmed fighting a soldier again, she became the subject of an AJ+ video titled "Girl Who Fought Off Israeli Soldier Is Leading Protests In The West Bank."

Quique Kierszenbaum

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