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How a migrant aid group got caught up in a right-wing social media thread : Consider This from NPR

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How a migrant aid group got caught up in a right-wing social media thread : Consider This from NPR

The offices of Resource Center Matamoros. The nonprofit works with asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas for NPR


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Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas for NPR


The offices of Resource Center Matamoros. The nonprofit works with asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas for NPR

April 15 started off as a typical day for Gabriela Zavala. She was juggling the demands of her busy family life in Texas, with running Resource Center Matamoros, a small NGO that helps asylum seekers in Mexico, on the other side of the border from Brownsville.

By the evening, her world would be flipped upside down, as her inbox was inundated with threats.

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Zavala soon realized she and her NGO, RCM, had been featured prominently in a social media thread showing flyers purportedly found in Matamoros, Mexico, that were urging migrants to illegally vote for Joe Biden in the upcoming election. The thread was posted by an arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation called the Oversight Project. It showed an image of a Spanish-language flyer with RCM’s logo and that of President Biden’s campaign.

A video in the thread showed the flyers hanging in portable toilets at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, with a message reminding migrants to vote for Biden to keep him in office. The flyers are signed with Zavala’s name.

The issue? Zavala says she had nothing to do with the flyers.

You’re reading the Consider This newsletter, which unpacks one major news story each day. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to more from the Consider This podcast.

Clumsy translations, defunct phone numbers

Mike Howell, the executive director of the Oversight Project, says the thread did not accuse Zavala of authoring the flyer. He also told The New York Times he condemns death threats. He told NPR the flyer is “very real.”

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The flyers were composed in error-riddled Spanish. The text includes an outdated description of RCM from its website that hasn’t been updated in years. That part appears to have been run through Google Translate. The flyer also lists a very old phone number – which also appears on the outdated website.

“Reminder to vote for President Biden when you are in the United States. We need another four years of his term to stay open,” the flyer reads.

Zavala says she doesn’t support the flyer’s message, “I would never sit there and tell somebody that can’t vote, that I know can’t vote, ‘Hey. Go vote.’”

Zavala doesn’t know who wrote or who posted the flyers that were found in the portable toilets.

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Andrea Rudnik, with the migrant aid group Team Brownsville says she didn’t see the flyers at the encampment, or hear from any volunteers or migrants who did.

“Those port-o-potties are pretty filthy, If we wanted people to know something, it would be put in a different place,” Rudnik said.

A social media backlash

By the time Zavala realized why she had been receiving so many hateful messages, the viral storm had already exploded.

The thread about the flyers spread quickly and racked up more than 9 million views on the social media platform X.

The social media thread posted by the Oversight Project credited Muckraker, a right-wing website, with discovering the flyers. Muckraker is headed by Anthony Rubin, who often uses undercover tactics in his videos.

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Rubin spoke with NPR, and said that the video of the flyers was shot by an anonymous source with a “close connection” to his team.

On April 15th, in the hours before the thread about the flyers appeared online, Rubin and his brother rang the bell at Resource Center Matamoros saying they wanted to volunteer. Rubin confirmed that in an interview with NPR.

RCM’s staff called Zavala so she could speak to Rubin about volunteering. And later on, a clip from that phone call wound up as part of the thread about the flyers, with a caption saying Zavala had implied that she, “wants to help as many illegals as possible before President Trump is reelected.”

NPR’s Jude Joffe-Block delves into the full story on today’s episode. Tap the play button at the top of the screen to listen.

This episode was produced by Audrey Nguyen and Brianna Scott. Additional reporting from Mexico was contributed by Texas Public Radio’s Gaige Davila and independent journalist Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas. It was edited by Brett Neely and Courtney Dorning. Our executive producer is Sami Yenigun.

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Read the I.C.J. Ruling on Israel’s Rafah Offensive

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Read the I.C.J. Ruling on Israel’s Rafah Offensive

– 15 -
(a) By thirteen votes to two,
Immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which
may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(b) By thirteen votes to two,
Maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic
services and humanitarian assistance;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(c) By thirteen votes to two,
Take effective measures to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission
of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the
United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(3) By thirteen votes to two,
Decides that the State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give
effect to this Order, within one month as from the date of this Order.
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak.

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US defence secretary seeks to woo Cambodia from China with visit to Phnom Penh

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US defence secretary seeks to woo Cambodia from China with visit to Phnom Penh

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US defence secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Cambodia next month as Washington engages the country’s new American-educated prime minister in an effort to coax the country away from China.

Austin will travel to Phnom Penh on June 4 after attending the Shangri-La Dialogue defence forum in Singapore where he will discuss challenges in the Indo-Pacific with US allies and partners and hold his first meeting with Dong Jun, the Chinese defence minister.

In Cambodia, Austin will meet Prime Minister Hun Manet, son of the former leader Hun Sen, according to three American officials. Hun Manet succeeded his father in August 2023.

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He graduated from West Point, the US military academy, and New York University. Washington hopes the emergence of a new generation of leaders will make the country predisposed to working more closely with the US.

“We remain clear-eyed about some of our concerns in Cambodia, but at the same time we see the arrival of the new leadership allowing us to explore new opportunities,” said one US official.

The stepped up engagement comes amid US concerns about the expansion of a naval base at Ream being built by China. Washington believes China is building a permanent naval base at the strategic location off the Gulf of Thailand. Those concerns have been heightened by the presence of two Chinese warships docked at Ream since December.

Cambodia denies the facility is a Chinese base, saying the warships are there for joint military exercises. The US official said Washington would continue to raise concerns about the naval base.

A second official said Washington also saw an opportunity to work more closely with Cambodia as China has less money to spend on its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure programme. “Over the past few years, and especially since the pandemic, BRI funding has dried up. Cambodia is one of the countries feeling the drawdown the hardest,” the official said.

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At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Austin will give a speech outlining US efforts to bolster alliances and partnerships as the US shifts from a “hub and spoke” security arrangement in the Indo-Pacific to a “latticed” security architecture that increasingly involves US allies, such as Japan, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea, working more with each other.

The Pentagon chief will also hold his first meeting with Dong, who was named defence minister in December. US officials said he would express concern to Dong about several issues, including China’s assertive military activity around Taiwan.

Austin is also expected to raise concerns about the Second Thomas Shoal, a contested reef in the South China Sea that lies inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. In recent months, Chinese coast guard ships have used water cannons to try to prevent Manila from supplying troops stationed on the Sierra Madre, a ship grounded on the reef.

The Second Thomas Shoal is expected to feature heavily at the three-day defence forum sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, particularly because President Ferdinand Marcos Jr of the Philippines will speak at the event on Friday evening.

Austin will also meet Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s new prime minister. He will also hold a trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea, in addition to holding engagements with many of his counterparts from south-east Asia.

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Legendary U.S. World War II submarine located 3,000 feet underwater off the Philippines

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Legendary U.S. World War II submarine located 3,000 feet underwater off the Philippines

The final resting place of an iconic U.S. Navy submarine that was sunk 80 years ago during World War II was located 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, the Naval History and Heritage Command said Thursday.

The USS Harder – which earned the nickname “Hit ’em HARDER” – was found off the Philippine island of Luzon, sitting upright and “relatively intact” except for damage behind its conning tower from a Japanese depth charge, the command said. The sub was discovered using data collected by Tim Taylor, CEO of the Lost 52 Project, which works to locate the 52 submarines sunk during World War II.

uss-harder-1716497945678.jpg
4D photogrammetry model of USS Harder (SS 257) wreck site by The Lost 52 Project. The Lost 52 Project scanned the entire boat and stitched all the images together in a multi-dimensional model used to study and explore the site. 

Tim Taylor and the Lost 52 Project.


The USS Harder, led by famed Cmdr. Samuel D. Dealey, earned a legendary reputation during its fifth patrol when it sunk three destroyers and heavily damaged two others in just four days, forcing a Japanese fleet to leave the area ahead of schedule, the command said. That early departure forced the Japanese commander to delay his carrier force in the Philippine Sea, which ultimately led to Japan being defeated in the ensuing battle.

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But Harder’s fortunes changed in late August 1944. Early on Aug. 22, Harder and USS Haddo destroyed three escort ships off the coast of Bataan. Joined by USS Hake later that night, the three vessels headed for Caiman Point, Luzon, before Haddo left to replenish its torpedo stockpile. Before dawn on Aug. 24, Hake sighted an enemy escort ship and patrol boat and plunged deep into the ocean to escape.

Japanese records later revealed Harder fired three times at the Japanese escort ship, but it evaded the torpedoes and began a series of depth charge attacks, sinking Harder and killing all 79 crewmembers.

harder-photo-1716497988210.jpg
USS Harder (SS 257)

Naval History and Heritage Command


The “excellent state of preservation of the site” and the quality of the data collected by Lost 52 allowed the Navy’s History and Heritage Command to confirm the wreck was indeed Harder.

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“Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom,” said NHHC Director Samuel J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired). “We are grateful that Lost 52 has given us the opportunity to once again honor the valor of the crew of the ‘Hit ’em HARDER’ submarine that sank the most Japanese warships – in particularly audacious attacks – under her legendary skipper, Cmdr. Sam Dealey.”

Harder received the Presidential Unit Citation for her first five patrols and six battle stars for World War II service, and Cmdr. Dealey was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. During his career, Dealey also received a Navy Cross, two Gold Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

dealey-1716498024023.jpg
Commander Samuel D. Dealey

Naval History and Heritage Command


Taylor, the Lost 52 Project CEO, previously located other submarines lost during World War II, including the USS Grayback, USS Stickleback, and USS Grunion. Taylor received a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Navy in 2021 for his work.

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Last September, deep-sea explorers captured images of three shipwrecks from World War II’s Battle of Midway, including the first up-close photos of a Japanese aircraft carrier since it sank during the historic battle in 1942.

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