Former CIA Operative Enrique ‘Ric’ Prado Writing Memoir

A former CIA operative known for his exploits everywhere from Miami to Nicaragua to Afghanistan has a book deal. Enrique “Ric” Prado’s “Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior” will come out next March.  “A lot has been said about the CIA over the years,” Prado said in a statement Wednesday. “And a lot of it has been (expletive). I wrote ‘Black Ops’ to clear the name of my agency. I know the untold sacrifices that have been made for this country by devoted men and women who have served anonymously, as quiet heroes. I’m eager to share those stories now.” His book, subject to government review, was announced by St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan.  Prado spent 24 years in the CIA before retiring in 2004. His assignments ranged from fighting with the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s — even after Congress had cut off U.S. support for the Contras — as they tried to overthrow the Sandinista government, to helping lead the hunt for Osama bin Laden, to overseeing SEAL Team Six missions into Afghanistan. Investigative reports in The Nation and a book by reporter Evan Wright have alleged that Prado has ties to organized crime and drug traffickers in Miami and to shell companies for the private contractor Blackwater. According to St. Martin’s, he is writing the book “to set the record straight about himself, his career and the men and women of his agency.” “In ‘Black Ops,’ Prado shares a harrowing true story of life in the deadly world of assassins, terrorists, spies and revolutionaries and reveals how he and his fellow CIA officers devoted their lives to operating in the shadows to fight a little-seen and virtually unknown war to keep the United States safe from those who would do it harm,” the publisher announced. 

Bill Cosby Sex Assault Conviction Overturned by Court

Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned  Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction Wednesday after finding an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case.
Cosby has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia. He had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.
He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.
The court said that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby when he later gave potentially incriminating testimony in Constand’s civil suit. There was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing.
Justice David Wecht, writing for a split court, said Cosby had relied on the former prosecutor’s decision not to charge him when he later gave potentially incriminating testimony in the Constand’s civil suit.
They said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”
The 83-year-old Cosby, who was once beloved as “America’s Dad,” was convicted of drugging and molesting the Temple University employee at his suburban estate.
The trial judge had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby’s first trial, when the jury deadlocked. However, he then allowed  five other accusers to testify at the retrial about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that testimony tainted the trial, even though a lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a signature pattern of drugging and molesting women.
Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, so the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases. The law on prior bad act testimony varies by state, though, and the ruling only holds sway in Pennsylvania.
The justices voiced concern not just about sex assault cases, but what they saw as the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character attacks. The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.
In New York, the judge presiding over last year’s trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose case had sparked the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017, let four other accusers testify. Weinstein was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He is now facing separate charges in California.
In Cosby’s case, one of his appellate lawyers said prosecutors put on vague evidence about the uncharged conduct, including Cosby’s own recollections in his deposition about giving women alcohol or quaaludes before sexual encounters.
“The presumption of innocence just didn’t exist for him,” Jennifer Bonjean, the lawyer, argued to the court in December.
In May,  Cosby was denied paroled after refusing to participate in sex offender programs during his nearly three years in state prison. He has long said he would resist the treatment programs and refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even if it means serving the full 10-year sentence.
This is the first year he was eligible for parole under the three- to 10-year sentence handed down after his 2018 conviction.
Cosby spokesperson Andrew Wyatt called the parole board decision “appalling.”
Prosecutors said Cosby repeatedly used his fame and “family man” persona to manipulate young women, holding himself out as a mentor before betraying them.
Cosby, a groundbreaking Black actor who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, made a fortune estimated at $400 million during his 50 years in the entertainment industry. His trademark clean comedy and homespun wisdom fueled popular TV shows, books and standup acts.
He fell from favor in his later years as he lectured the Black community about family values, but was attempting a comeback when he was arrested.
“There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,” Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Montgomery County, argued to the justices.
Cosby had invited Constand to an estate he owns in Pennsylvania the night she said he drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Constand, a former professional basketball player who worked at his alma mater, went to police a year later. The other accusers knew Cosby through the entertainment industry and did not go to police.
The AP does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.

Princes William, Harry to Unveil Diana Statue as Royal Rift Simmers

They were once so close.Princes William and Harry grew up together, supported each other after their mother’s untimely death and worked side by side as they began their royal duties — two brothers seemingly bonded for life by blood, tradition and tragedy.But those links are now painfully strained as William sits in London defending the royal family from allegations of racism and insensitivity made by Harry and his wife, Meghan, from their new home in Southern California.Royal watchers will be looking closely for any signs of a truce — or deepening rift — on Thursday when William and Harry unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. The event in the Sunken Garden at London’s Kensington Palace will be their second public meeting since Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties over a year ago.A display to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Britain’s Diana, Princess of Wales, a recreation of the desk where Princess Diana worked in her Sitting room at Kensington Palace, on display at Buckingham Palace in London, July 20, 2017.People shouldn’t expect a quick resolution of the conflict because the two men are fighting over core beliefs, says Robert Lacey, a historian and author of “Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult.” William is defending the monarchy, and Harry is defending his wife.  “It’s a matter of love versus duty, with William standing for duty and the concept of the monarchy as he sees it,” Lacey said. “And then from Harry’s point of view, love, loyalty to his wife. He is standing by her. These are very deeply rooted differences, so it would be facile to think that there can just be a click of the fingers.”But finding some sort of rapprochement between the princes is crucial to the monarchy as Britain’s royal family seeks to appeal to a younger generation and a more diverse population.BBC Under Mounting Pressure Over Princess Diana InterviewThe public broadcaster has been plunged into a major crisis of trust after an inquiry found her participation was secured through deception, fraud and forgeryWhen Harry married Meghan just over three years ago, it seemed as if they would be central figures in that next chapter of the royal story.  The Fab Four — William and his wife, Kate, together with Harry and Meghan — were seen as a cadre of youth and vigor that would take the monarchy forward after the tumultuous 1990s and early 2000s, when divorce, Princess Diana’s death, and Prince Charles’ controversial second marriage to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, cast doubt on the future of the institution.Meghan, a biracial former TV star from Los Angeles, was expected to be an important part of that effort, with Black and Asian commentators saying that for the first time there was a member of the royal family who looked like them.But the words “Fab Four” were quickly replaced in tabloid headlines by “Royal Rift.”  First, their joint royal office was dissolved. Then, Harry stepped away from royal duties and moved his family to North America in search of a more peaceful life. William pressed on with royal tasks, including goodwill events like accompanying his grandmother to Scotland this week to tour a soft drink factory.The relationship was further strained in March when Harry and Meghan gave an interview to U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey.  Harry confirmed rumors that he and his brother had been growing apart, saying “the relationship is ‘space’ at the moment” — though he added that “time heals all things, hopefully.” Harry also told Winfrey that his father, Prince Charles, didn’t accept his calls for a time.And then came the real shocker. The couple revealed that before the birth of their first child, an unidentified member of the royal family had expressed concern about how dark his skin might be. Days after the broadcast, William responded, telling reporters that his was “very much not a racist family.”But whatever their disagreements, out of respect for their mother, William and Harry won’t put their differences on display during the statue ceremony, said historian Ed Owens, author of “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953,” which examines the royal family’s public relations strategy.”We’re not going to see any acrimony or animosity between the brothers on Thursday,” Owens said. “I think reconciliation is a long way off, but nevertheless these are expert performers. Harry and William have been doing this job for long enough now that they know that they’ve got to put, if you like, occasional private grievances … aside for the sake of getting on with the job.”Lacey believes William and Harry will ultimately reconcile because it is in both of their interests to do so.Harry and Meghan need to repair relations to protect the aura of royalty that has allowed them to sign the lucrative contracts with Netflix and Spotify that are funding their life in California, Lacey said. If they don’t, they risk becoming irrelevant like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who were shunned by the royal family after the duke gave up the throne in the 1930s to marry an American divorcee. His brother, Queen Elizabeth II’s father, then became king.”It’s very appealing, particularly in America, the idea that they rebelled against this stuffy old British institution,” Lacey said. “But there’s a point they can’t go too far, and they’re approaching that point.””On William’s side, it is impossible to go on ostracizing, boycotting the only members of the royal family who are of mixed race in a multiracial world of diversity,” he added.The critical moment may be next year, when the queen celebrates her platinum jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne.Under normal circumstances for these big occasions, the queen would want the whole family together on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, where the royals have traditionally gathered to wave to the public.”Who’s going to be on the balcony at Buckingham Palace?” Lacey asked. “That family grouping has surely got to include Meghan and Harry and their two children, Archie and Lili, alongside their cousins, the children of William and Kate.”

Europe, US Warn About Disinformation Campaign Around Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine 

Efforts are taking place around the world to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect against COVID-19.  Officials are tracking the safety and effectiveness of those efforts, but some medical experts say they aren’t getting the information they need on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Anush Avetisyan has the story.Camera: David Gogokhia      
Produced by:  Henry Hernandez  

New Statue of Liberty Arrives in New York From France

A new, smaller version of the Statue of Liberty arrived Wednesday at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, a gift to the United States from France, 135 years after that nation presented the original Lady Liberty to the U.S.  
The nearly-three-meter version of the statue arrived in New York after a nine-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The bronze statue is on loan for 10 years to the French embassy in Washington from the French National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM). For the past decade it stood at the entrance to the National Museum of Arts and Crafts (the Musée des Arts et Métiers) in Paris.
The French news agency reports the replica was created from a 3-D scan of the original plaster model from 1878 used by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi to build “La Liberté enlightening the world” offered by France to the United States in honor of its centennial in 1886.  
During a ceremony in Paris earlier in June, as the replica was being packed up to be shipped, CNAM administrator Olivier Faron said the smaller statue is meant to reaffirm the friendship between France and the United States.  
At the same ceremony, the interim deputy head of mission at the U.S. embassy in Paris, Liam Wasley, called the replica a reminder of the strong links between the U.S. and France, “the liberty that we share and the importance that each generation maintain that liberty.”
The new “little sister” Statue of Liberty will be formally welcomed in a ceremony Thursday and stand facing its 93-meter big sister through July 4 Independence Day celebrations.  
It will then be shipped to Washington to be installed at the French ambassador’s residence. The “little sister” will be unveiled there beginning July 14, France’s Bastille Day, and remain there for 10 years.

Brexit: Children in Care Threatened With Becoming Undocumented in United Kingdom

They are called Adam or Nastashia, they are Europeans and live in the United Kingdom where they have been placed in homes or foster families, victims of chaotic journeys. Some of these children are now at risk of becoming undocumented as a result of Brexit.”This means that they will not have the right to live in the United Kingdom,” warns Marianne Lagrue, an official of the association Coram Children’s Legal Center which helps them. “They will not be able to access free health care, work, receive benefits, rent housing, learn to drive and have a bank account,” she told AFP.At 18, they also risk deportation from a country where they have often resided for a long time. Because since the United Kingdom definitively left the orbit of the European Union on January 1, it is no longer possible to settle there freely or to continue to reside there without special procedures, as was the case. before. While migration rules have been tightened for new arrivals from the EU, those who were already on British soil on December 31, 2020 can retain their rights provided they register, by June 30 at the latest, via the ” settlement scheme.”The program is considered a “success” by the government, with some 5 million temporary or permanent residence permits granted – far more than the number of EU nationals previously estimated at over 3 million. But it also has its drop-outs. “It’s simple if you have a job, if you are doing well with digital technologies (the requests being made mainly online, Editor’s note) and if you have all your documents,” notes Azmina Siddique, from the association The Children’s Society, interviewed by AFP. It is much more complex for children in care or young adults who have been placed: some find it difficult to prove their identity, provide the required residence documents or obtain the necessary support for their procedures, which are the responsibility of their legal guardian or the authorities. The Coram association cites the example of Adam, a 4-year-old Romanian boy born in London and separated from his mother. He cannot obtain a passport from his embassy – his father, whose consent is required, is unknown – and social workers are struggling to prove his place of residence before his placement.  There is also Nastashia (assumed name), 17, broken with her family. Born in the UK, she does not have a passport and has encountered great difficulties in registering. “Many do not even realize that they are not British,” says Azmina Siddique. The impact can be “very traumatic” and “hold them back in life.”Difficult to know their exact number, the nationalities of the children placed not being collected in the United Kingdom, where the identity card does not exist. According to the Interior Ministry, 3,660 vulnerable young people (up to 25 years old) have been identified as eligible for residency status, 67% of whom had submitted an application at the end of April. A figure largely underestimated according to associations which evoke up to 9,000 of them. The ministry assured to work “closely” with these and the local authorities with in particular a support of 22 million pounds (25.6 million euros). He also promised to accept late requests if there are “reasonable grounds.”This is insufficient, regrets Azmina Siddique: from July 1, children who have missed the deadline will be “without protection” until a request for regularization has been submitted and then accepted. An interval which can extend over years, she emphasizes, and which exposes them to the hostile environment policy towards immigrants deployed by the executive.  “These children could become the next Windrush generation,” she warns, referring to the scandal over the treatment of thousands of Caribbean immigrants who legally arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971, but denied rights for lack of necessary documentation. The3Million, an association defending European citizens in the UK, urges the government to provide physical proof of residence status, which the government does not consider necessary.More broadly, according to the U.K. think tank in a Changing Europe, up to hundreds of thousands of people could find themselves without status, including the elderly, the homeless, victims of domestic violence or children wrongly considered by their parents as being covered by theirs.  “If the government is not able to regularize the children for which it is responsible, what about children in vulnerable families (…) or vulnerable adults?” Asks Marianne Lagrue. 

Wimbledon Ends in Tears for Injured Serena Williams

Tennis great Serena Williams limped out of Wimbledon in tears on Tuesday after her latest bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles crown ended in injury. The American sixth seed and seven-time Wimbledon winner was clearly in pain on a slippery Centre Court and sought treatment while 3-2 up in her first-round match against unseeded Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Williams returned after a lengthy break, but the distress was evident. She grimaced and wiped away tears before preparing to serve at 3-3 after Sasnovich had pulled back from 3-1 down. Serena Williams, right, retires from the match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in first round women’s singles on Centre Court at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, June 29, 2021. (Peter Van den Berg-USA Today Sports)The 39-year-old, who had started the match with strapping on her right thigh, then let out a shriek and sank kneeling to the grass sobbing, before being helped off the court. “I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on center court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on — and off — the court meant the world to me.” ‘Great champion’Sasnovich, who practiced her serve while Williams was getting treatment, commiserated with an opponent who had never gone out in the first round at Wimbledon in her previous 19 visits. “I’m so sad for Serena. She’s a great champion,” said the world No. 100 Sasnovich. “It happens sometimes.” Eight-time men’s singles champion Roger Federer expressed shock at Williams’ departure and voiced concern about the surface, with the roof closed on Centre Court on a rainy afternoon. His first-round opponent, Adrian Mannarino of France, also retired with a knee injury after a slip in the match immediately before Williams’. “I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down,” Federer said. “I feel for a lot of players. It’s super key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery. It is more soft. As the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to move on,” he said. Hopes dashedWilliams has been a Wimbledon finalist in her last four appearances, but her bid to equal Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles has stalled since her last in Australia in 2017. With the absence this year of world No. 2 Naomi Osaka and third-ranked Simona Halep, hopes were rising of another year to remember for the American. “It was hard for me to watch that,” said compatriot Coco Gauff. “She’s the reason why I started to play tennis. It’s hard to watch any player get injured, but especially her.” 

Delia Fiallo, ‘Mother of the Telenovela,’ Dies in Miami

Cuban screenwriter Delia  Fiallo, widely seen as “the mother of the telenovela” and the writer behind international hits like the soap opera “Crystal,” died Tuesday in Miami at the age of 96, her daughter-in-law confirmed to AFP. A pioneer of the wildly popular romantic soap operas in Latin America, Fiallo , whose career began in the middle of the last century, told AFP in an interview in 2018 that she wanted to be remembered “as a person who loved a lot and who was very loved.”Her daughter-in-law, Odalis Baez, confirmed her death. Adored by her fans, Fiallo left her mark on U.S. Hispanic popular culture in the second half of the 20th century. She started her career in Cuba in 1950 with radio soap operas before writing her first television screenplay in 1957. She then worked with Venezuelan television stations after leaving Communist Cuba for Miami in 1966, scripting popular shows like “Lucecita” in 1967, or global hits like “Esmeralda,” “Leonela,” “Cristal” and “Kassandra.”In all, she wrote more than 40 works for radio and television during her long career.The cause of her death was not immediately made public.

COVID-19 Leaves Long-Term Scars on Europe’s Youth 

European borders and economies are opening up this summer, thanks to falling coronavirus cases and rising vaccination numbers. But experts warn the pandemic’s scars could be long term and profound—especially for young people, a generation Europe cannot afford to lose.
Things are looking up for young Parisians. Bars and restaurants have reopened, also schools and universities, for the last weeks before summer vacations.  Young people having coffee in Paris. France reopened bars and restaurants mid-may as coronavirus cases dropped. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)At a community room with other students, Sorbonne University student Katarzyna Mac is studying for final exams. She is grateful that months of coronavirus confinement are over.  At a community room with other students, Sorbonne University student Katarzyna Mac is studying for final exams. She is grateful that months of coronavirus confinement are over.  With France’s rolling lockdowns, Mac says, it was difficult and stressful to be alone all day in front of the computer. Like other students in France, she spent most of her academic year taking online classes from home. Katazyna Mac studies for final exams at her student housing outside Paris. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)Experts point to multiple ways the crisis has and continues to hit Europe’s youth — causing economic, social and mental distress. Many, like Mac, already live on the edge.  Shuttered businesses, especially in sectors like hospitality, wiped out job opportunities on which many depend.  European Union statistics estimate more than 17% of people under 25 are out of work — more than twice the regional average. Youth poverty and homelessness are on the rise. So is depression.  Abbe Pierre Foundation’s European Studies head, Sarah Coupechoux, says many European youth are living on the edge. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)Sarah Coupechoux is Europe studies head for French nonprofit the Abbe Pierre Foundation. She says there is a segment of Europeans today, including young people, who are merely surviving. With the pandemic and job losses, huge lines of young people have been seeking food, and are hungry. A recent report by the charity also explores the growing difficulties Europe’s youth face in finding housing.  Like many other young Europeans, Mac was too poor to leave home. But she recently managed to find subsidized housing, at a building for young students and workers on the edge of Paris.  Her apartment has just enough room for a bed, desk and small kitchen. Dirty dishes are piled high in the sink. The refrigerator is mostly empty.  She gets student aid and a small government stipend. But it’s not enough live on. Her parents don’t always have enough to help her out.  Days of studying alone have also taken a psychological toll.  Even before COVID, the disease caused by the coronavirus, she said, she had problems with stress and suicidal thoughts. It got worse with the pandemic. It was especially stressful not to be able to go to class normally.  COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus. The pandemic has compounded hardships for other young people — especially, studies find — those from disadvantaged neighborhoods.  In the working-class Paris suburb of Bobigny, youth activist Stanley Camille says students had a hard time accessing the internet, which they needed to follow online classes during lockdown. Families are poor in his town, he says. Often there’s only one computer for four or five children.  Last year, France rolled out a multi-billion-dollar initiative to help its youth get the jobs, training and education they need. Student canteens offer lunches for just over a dollar. European leaders vow to fight against poverty. But experts like Coupechoux say much more is needed.   Coupechoux says on national and local levels in Europe, institutions must be alerted on the importance of supporting this young generation.  Mac agrees. She is getting psychological help — but says demand is high and state services are understaffed. She and her neighbors have started a support group — and share basics like milk to get by. Long walks in parks like this one, also help.  Mac also landed a summer job doing civic service. Mac says she hopes life will finally get back to normal. But with threats of new variants spreading, nothing could be less certain.  

Greece Recovers Picasso, Mondrian Paintings Stolen in 2012

Officials in Greece say they have recovered two priceless paintings — one by Pablo Picasso and another by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian — stolen from the National Gallery in Athens in 2012.During a news briefing in Athens Tuesday, a spokesman said police acted on a tip and arrested a 49-year-old handyman who confessed to the crime. Police had originally believed the burglary had been the work of two people.The official offered details to reporters of how the man had plotted to steal the two paintings — Picasso’s 1939 “Woman’s Head” and Mondrian’s 1905 “Stammer Mill with Summer House.”He said the thief broke into the museum in the early morning hours, and, to mislead the guard on duty, had activated the alarm in one part of the gallery while he broke into another.He added the thief had originally hidden the paintings in his home but later wrapped them and hid them in a ravine in the town of Keratea, about 20 kilometers from Athens. They were recovered there Monday in good condition.Speaking at the same news conference, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was a day full of joy and emotion. She explained the Picasso painting is of special value to the Greek people because the painter personally dedicated it to them for their struggle against fascist and Nazi occupying forces during World War II.  Painting Found in Romania Studied As Possibly Stolen Picasso

        Romanian prosecutors are investigating whether a painting by Pablo Picasso that was snatched from a museum in the Netherlands six years ago has turned up in Romania.

Four Romanians were convicted of stealing Picasso’s “Tete d’Arlequin” and six other valuable paintings from the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam.

One of them, Olga Dogaru, told investigators she burned the paintings in her stove to protect her son, the alleged leader of the 2012 heist.

She said the painting bears his hand-written dedication. “That is why it was impossible for this painting not only to be sold but even to be exhibited anywhere as it would be immediately identifiable as being stolen from the National Gallery.”The Mondrian painting was a gift to the National Gallery by a Greek owner. Both paintings will be displayed at the gallery later this year when it reopens following extensive renovations.The Associated Press, Reuters News Service and the French news agency, AFP contributed to this report.

Diana Legacy Lingers as Fans Mark Late Royal’s 60th Birthday

Most people wouldn’t volunteer to walk through a minefield. Princess Diana did it twice.
On Jan. 15, 1997, Diana walked gingerly down a narrow path cleared through an Angolan minefield, wearing a protective visor and flak jacket emblazoned with the name of The HALO Trust, a group devoted to removing mines from former war zones. When she realized some of the photographers accompanying her didn’t get the shot, she turned around and did it again.
Later, she met with a group of landmine victims. A young girl who had lost her left leg perched on the princess’s lap.
The images of that day appeared in newspapers and on TV sets around the globe, focusing international attention on the then-languishing campaign to rid the world of devices that lurk underground for decades after conflicts end. Today, a treaty banning landmines has 164 signatories.
Those touched by the life of the preschool teacher turned princess remembered her ahead of what would have been her 60th birthday on Thursday, recalling the complicated royal rebel who left an enduring imprint on the House of Windsor.
Diana had the “emotional intelligence that allowed her to see that bigger picture … but also to bring it right down to individual human beings,” said James Cowan, a retired major general who is now CEO of The HALO Trust. “She knew that she could reach their hearts in a way that would outmaneuver those who would only be an influence through the head.”
Diana’s walk among the landmines seven months before she died in a Paris car crash is just one example of how she helped make the monarchy more accessible, changing the way the royal family related to people. By interacting more intimately with the public — kneeling to the level of a child, sitting on the edge of a patient’s hospital bed, writing personal notes to her fans — she connected with people in a way that inspired other royals, including her sons, Princes William and Harry, as the monarchy worked to become more human and remain relevant in the 21st century.
Diana didn’t invent the idea of royals visiting the poor, destitute or downtrodden. Queen Elizabeth II herself visited a Nigerian leper colony in 1956. But Diana touched them — literally.
“Diana was a real hugger in the royal family,” said Sally Bedell Smith, author of “Diana in Search of Herself.” “She was much more visibly tactile in the way she interacted with people. It was not something the queen was comfortable with and still is not.”
Critically, she also knew that those interactions could bring attention to her causes since she was followed everywhere by photographers and TV crews.  
Ten years before she embraced landmine victims in Angola, she shook hands with a young AIDS patient in London during the early days of the epidemic, showing people that the disease couldn’t be transmitted through touch.FILE – Princess Diana and Prince Charles look in different directions, Nov. 3, during a service held to commemorate the 59 British soldiers killed in action during the Korean War, Nov. 3, 1992.As her marriage to Prince Charles deteriorated, Diana used the same techniques to tell her side of the story. Embracing her children with open arms to show her love for her sons. Sitting alone in front of the Taj Mahal on a royal trip to India. Walking through that minefield as she was starting a new life after her divorce.
“Diana understood the power of imagery — and she knew that a photograph was worth a hundred words,” said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine and author of “Diana: An Intimate Portrait.” “She wasn’t an intellectual. She wasn’t ever going to be the one to give the right words. But she gave the right image.”
And that began on the day the 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, the heir to throne, on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  
Elizabeth Emanuel, who co-designed her wedding dress, describes an event comparable to the transformation of a chrysalis into a butterfly, or in this case a nursery school teacher in cardigans and sensible skirts into a fairytale princess.
“We thought, right, let’s do the biggest, most dramatic dress possible, the ultimate fairytale dress. Let’s make it big. Let’s have big sleeves. Let’s have ruffles,” Emanuel said. “And St. Paul’s was so huge. We knew that we needed to do something that was a statement. And Diana was completely up for that. She loved that idea.”
But Emanuel said Diana also had a simplicity that made her more accessible to people.
“She had this vulnerability about her, I think, so that ordinary people could relate to her. She wasn’t perfect. And none of us are perfect, and I think that’s why there is this thing, you know, people think of her almost like family. They felt they knew her.”FILE – Britain’s Princess Diana faces photographers as she leaves Luanda airport building to board a plane to Johannesburg at the end of her four-day visit to Angola.Diana’s sons learned from their mother’s example, making more personal connections with the public during their charitable work, including supporting efforts to destigmatize mental health problems and treat young AIDS patients in Lesotho and Botswana.
William, who is second in line to the throne, worked as an air ambulance pilot before taking on full-time royal duties. Harry retraced Diana’s footsteps through the minefield for The HALO Trust.  Her influence can be seen in other royals as well. Sophie, the Countess of Wessex and the wife of Charles’ brother Prince Edward, grew teary, for example, in a television interview as she told the nation about her feelings on the death of her father-in-law, Prince Philip.
The public even began to see a different side of the queen, including her turn as a Bond girl during the 2012 London Olympics in which she starred in a mini-movie with Daniel Craig to open the games.  
More recently, the monarch has reached out in Zoom calls, joking with school children about her meeting with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. What was he like, ma’am?  “Russian,” she said flatly. The Zoom filled with chuckles.
Cowan, of HALO, said the attention that Diana, and now Harry, have brought to the landmine issue helped attract the funding that made it possible for thousands of workers to continue the slow process of ridding the world of the devices. 
Sixty countries and territories are still contaminated with landmines, which killed or injured more than 5,500 people in 2019, according to Landmine Monitor.
“She had that capacity to reach out and inspire people. Their imaginations were fired up by this work,” Cowan said. “And they like it and they want to fund it. And that’s why she’s had such a profound legacy for us.”

Russia Uses Raids to Target Investigative Journalists

Russian authorities on Tuesday morning raided the apartments of several investigative journalists and their family members, a move that comes amid mounting pressure on Russia’s independent media outlets.
Police searched the apartments of Roman Badanin, chief editor of the Proekt investigative online outlet, and Maria Zholobova, one of its journalists. Officers also raided the home of the parents of Badanin’s deputy, Mikhail Rubin. Rubin was detained near Zholobova’s residential building and brought to his parents’ apartment.
Proekt said in its account in the Telegram messaging app that the raids occurred after the outlet promised to release an investigation into Russia’s interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and his alleged wealth. The outlet published the story shortly after the searches started.
Proekt later said that at least two out of three raids were connected to a defamation case over a 2017 documentary Badanin and Zholobova worked on, about a St. Petersburg businessman with alleged ties to organized crime.
Badanin was a suspect in the case, his lawyer Anna Bogatyryova told Russia’s independent TV channel Dozhd, and Zholobova reportedly had the status of a witness. It wasn’t immediately clear, however, why Badanin’s deputy, Rubin, was targeted by police.
Russian authorities have turned up the pressure on independent news media in recent months. Two popular independent outlets, Meduza and VTimes, have been designated “foreign agents” — a label slapped on groups, news outlets or individuals that receive foreign funding. The designation implies additional government scrutiny and has a strong pejorative connotation that could discredit those that receive it.
VTimes shut down this month after being added to the list of “foreign agents,” while Meduza launched a crowd-funding campaign.
Russia has used the law to levy heavy fines on U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for failing to identify its material as produced by “foreign agents.” The broadcaster has asked the European Court of Human Rights to intercede.
Earlier this year Russian authorities also raided the apartment of a prominent investigative journalist, Roman Anin, and arrested four editors of an opposition-leaning student magazine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday rejected the idea that raids targeting investigative journalists could be viewed as retribution for their work, saying that “legal grounds for such actions exist.”
Peskov admitted, however, that the Kremlin doesn’t know why police searched the apartments of Proekt journalists.

Turning a Deadly Poaching Snare into an Artistic Living in Zimbabwe

The African wild dog, or African painted dog, is one of the world’s most endangered mammals, with fewer than 7,000 remaining, mostly because of human-wildlife conflict. In Zimbabwe, the Painted Dog Conservation group finds and removes thousands of snares every year that can kill or injure the dogs, and turns them into crafts to raise funds for their protection. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Hwange, Zimbabwe.    

EU Asylum Applications Drop Due to COVID-19, not Lower Demand

The European Union’s asylum agency said Tuesday that the number of people seeking international protection in Europe hit its lowest level last year since 2013, but that the drop was due mostly to coronavirus travel restrictions. EASO said in a new report that 485,000 asylum applications were made in the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in 2020. That’s a 32% decrease over the previous year. It said that “reduced applications were primarily due to restricted mobility and travel, rather than a decrease in the number of people in need of international protection.” Two-thirds of the applications were lodged in just three countries. Germany, where most people from conflict-torn Syria are seeking refuge, registered 122,000 applications, while France had 93,000 applications for international protection and Spain had 89,000. But EASO said that when economic growth and population size are taken into account, Cyprus, Greece and Malta remain under the greatest pressure to process applications and house asylum-seekers. Most people seeking protection were from Syria and Afghanistan, followed by nationals of Venezuela and Colombia – who tend to lodge their applications in Spain – and Iraqis. Citizens of Turkey remain among the top seven nationalities hoping to find protection in Europe.