By Marko Phiri BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thobekile Mpofu was 15 when she got pregnant to a 41-year-old man who quickly accepted responsibility and married her, avoiding possible legal action for having sex with an underage girl. Child rights activists on Thursday launched a campaign to call on the authorities to crack down on men using marriage to avoid criminal charges for having sex with a minor, one of the factors fuelling the number of child marriages in Zimbabwe. Figures from the United Nation's child agency, UNICEF, show that one in nine girls aged under 15 in Zimbabwe are married, with child marriage often ending a girl's education and exposing her to health risks from early childbearing and HIV. Mpofu said her marriage was a "nightmare" and she ran away from her husband after he took a second wife. She says she has nothing but regrets 10 years on for being married so young which she hopes will not happen to other girls. "I cannot wish this on anyone ... I fled to South Africa to my sisters. That's how the marriage ended," said Mpofu who, together with her child, now lives with a relative in Bulawayo. The campaign calling for authorities to do more to stop child marriages was launched by the Research and Advocacy Unit, Girls Legacy, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers and Human Rights Watch. Girls Legacy Director Judith Chiyangwa questioned whether the government was committed to act despite mounting pressure. "Is there political will to do this?" Chiyangwa asked. The exact scale of child marriage in Zimbabwe is not known as most child marriages are unregistered customary law unions. A 2014 survey by Zimbabwe's National Statistics Agency found one in three women aged 20 to 49 reported that they married before age 18 while an estimated 4 percent marry before age 15. But Zimbabwe has conflicting legal provisions on the minimum age for marriage. Its constitution does not expressly prohibit child marriage and a number of laws effectively condone it. Extreme poverty, poor access to education, and certain harmful religious beliefs and social norms fuel child marriage in Zimbabwe, according to a Human Rights Watch report. A recent UNICEF report said an estimated 125 million girls are child brides in Africa and that number is expected to rise to 310 million by 2050 with girls married to pay off family debt or for traditional reasons. Jane Khumalo, a teacher and counsellor in Bulawayo, said often families allowed their daughters into these marriages, particularly if they were pregnant, because they could not afford to look after them. "Marriage becomes the only thing that makes sense in these tough economic conditions," Khumalo said. Kuda Chitsike, director of the Research and Advocacy Unit, a rights group in Zimbabwe, said calling this child marriage was "to legitimize child abuse". It is illegal to have sex with a girl aged under 16 in Zimbabwe. The country's chief magistrate, Mishrod Guvamombe, this week said child marriages are a violation of child's rights. Jessie Majome, an opposition legislator who chairs the parliamentary committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs, said child marriage continued because of the collapsed economy and called for tougher enforcement of existing laws. "(Marrying a child) is a very serious criminal offence but if the law is not fully enforced, then we will continue having this problem," Majome told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
- Associated Press
So what does a 50-50 Senate get President-elect Joe Biden? Washington has barely had time to process the implications of Democratic control after two Georgia runoff elections that are delivering the Senate to Democrats. The unexpected new balance of power giving Democrats only the barest control of Congress has big consequences for the president-elect — easy confirmation of his Cabinet most importantly — but the road ahead for his ambitious legislative agenda remains complicated and murky.
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic who was jailed at the weekend, on Tuesday released a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader, a claim the Kremlin denied. The allegations, which first surfaced in 2010 when a businessman wrote about them to then-President Dmitry Medvedev complaining of official graft, come as Navalny's supporters urge people to join nationwide protests on Saturday. Reuters reported in 2014 that the estate in southern Russia had been partly funded by taxpayer money from a $1 billion hospital project.
- National Review
Dozens were arrested Monday night in New York City when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police outside City Hall during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. Hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan, where they were met with a heavy police presence. The demonstration turned violent around 8:30 p.m. in City Hall Park, and police began making arrests after demonstrators started throwing projectiles, blocking traffic, and vandalizing property. Videos posted on social media show police urging the crowd to disperse before starting to make arrests. At least 29 people were arrested near Chambers and Centre streets and eleven officers were injured, including a captain who was hit in the head with a glass bottle. None of the officers are in serious condition. It is unclear how many protesters were injured during the clashes. In another video, police can be seen shoving several protesters as well as wrestling one person to the ground. Protesters can be heard shouting obscenities at officers. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over the “excessive enforcement” used against protesters calling for racial justice over the summer, including using pepper spray and batons on protesters and “kettling” or trapping demonstrators. James is calling for federal oversight of the NYPD. The federal government is already monitoring the NYPD to ensure that it retires its stop-and-frisk policy, which was found in 2013 to have been used in an unconstitutional manner. Last summer, riots broke out in New York City following the police custody death of George Floyd in May. About 450 businesses across the city were damaged and in many cases looted over May and June, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. More than 2,000 people were arrested at those demonstrations over the same period.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- Yahoo News Video
Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would execute Biden’s plan to stop building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas also said that CBP and ICE play “critical roles” in the federal government and that he wouldn’t abolish them.
- NBC News
Election experts have uniformly declared that the 2020 election was conducted fairly.
- Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence will be returning to his southern Indiana hometown Wednesday afternoon following the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican former Indiana governor and his wife Karen are expected to attend Biden’s inauguration and will then fly into the Columbus Municipal Airport, where they will be greeted by some supporters, the Indiana Republican Party said Tuesday. Pence grew up in Columbus and some family members still live there.
- The Telegraph
A woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol is accused of stealing a laptop belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi which she hoped to sell to a Russian spy agency, according to the FBI. There is no indication Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old careworker from Pennsylvania, took a laptop from Ms Pelosi's office. The FBI, which is working off a tip, said in the court record the "matter remains under investigation." The complaint, filed late Sunday in US District Court in Washington, sought the arrest of Williams on grounds including "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds." Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 riot, an FBI agent said Williams was seen near the office of Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker. A witness, identified in the court document only as W1 but who claimed to be "the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams," alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency. That sale "fell through for unknown reasons, and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the affidavit says.
Palestinians expect to receive a first batch of COVID-19 vaccine by the weekend, officials said on Tuesday - at a time when more than a quarter of their Israeli neighbours have already been inoculated. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has ordered Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and hopes to administer it to 50,000 residents by March, after last week granting the drug emergency approval. The PA governs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in coordination with Israel, whose vaccination campaign has been the world's fastest.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children
- National Review
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) blocked a quick confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security secretary, citing Mayorkas’s immigration policy stance. Mayorkas is a former Obama administration official considered the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a renewable deportation deferment, without providing a path to citizenship. The confirmation hearings for Mayorkas come as Biden has pledged to undue many of the Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration, although it is unclear how quickly the Biden administration can act on those promises. “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Hawley said in a statement. “Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.” Biden is reportedly set to propose an immigration-reform bill that would grant roughly eleven million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship over eight years. The bill could also grant citizenship to agricultural workers and illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. However, the proposal is not expected to include Republican-backed border security measures. The looming immigration debates in Congress come as a new migrant caravan continues to travel toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Several thousand people in the caravan clashed with Guatemalan security forces while crossing the border from Honduras on Sunday. “There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey,” a Biden official said in comments to NBC.
- Associated Press
Twelve U.S. National Guard members have been removed from securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who made extremist statements in posts or texts about the Wednesday event, Pentagon officials said. There were no specific threats to Biden. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.
The company's comments come after California's top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
- The Independent
Trump ends term with ‘patriotic education’ report which makes excuses for slavery and calls anti-abortion movement ‘great reform’
White House website says report is “rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around idea that United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one”
- The Week
Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden's choice to lead the State Department, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday and appears to have passed with flying colors. As it turns out, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have been his biggest fan.Graham, who called Blinken an "outstanding choice" and gave him an elbow bump during a break, asked a series of questions, many of which resulted in answers the senator found quite agreeable. For example, Blinkin doesn't "trust" the Taliban to police al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan after a U.S. exit. He also considers Iran the world's worst sponsor of terrorism and said he concurs with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's assessment that China is committing genocide against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities. That last point reportedly left Graham "positively gushing."> Blinken agrees that the Chinese Communist Party engaged in genocide against the Uighur Muslim population, agrees they were not transparent on Coronavirus. Lindsey Graham is positively gushing.> > — David B. Larter (@DavidLarter) January 19, 2021If the friendly exchange was any indication, Blinken won't have much trouble getting confirmed, but the bipartisanship on display did have receive from sharp criticism from supporters of non-interventionist policy.More stories from theweek.com Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly wants no part of Trump's impeachment trial 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff
A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.The big picture: Video footage appears to show Williams entering the Capitol with other rioters on Jan. 6. She appears to direct them up a staircase in the building. * Following the siege, a person called the FBI tip line to identify Williams and claimed that she told them she planned to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, per a DOJ statement of facts. It's alleged the friend planned to then sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. * The caller said the transfer fell through and alleged that Williams either still has the device or destroyed it. Of note: Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff confirmed the laptop's disappearance on Jan. 8 but said it was "only used for presentations." For the record: Williams had developed a sudden interest in President Trump's politics and "far-right message boards," her mother told ITV News on Jan. 16. * Her mother said her daughter fled after the insurrection. * Williams also deleted her social media accounts and changed her phone number, according to FBI officials.Go deeper: Deadly Capitol riot: The people facing federal chargesBe smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- Associated Press
South Korea’s president on Monday urged the incoming Biden administration to build upon the achievements and learn from the failures of President Donald Trump’s diplomatic engagement with North Korea. A dovish liberal and the son of northern war refugees, Moon Jae-in had lobbied hard to help set up Trump’s three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but their diplomacy stalemated over disagreements over easing crippling U.S.-led sanctions for the North’s disarmament. Biden has accused Trump of chasing the spectacle of summits rather than meaningful curbs on the North’s nuclear capabilities.