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Alaska 2023: FEMA fires group for nonsensical Alaska Native translations




ANCHORAGE, Alaska  – After the leftovers of a rare typhoon caused considerable damage to residences along Alaska’s western shore in September, the U.S. government stepped in to assist locals — primarily Alaska Natives — in repairing property damage.

When people opened FEMA papers, they were hoping to find instructions on how to apply for help in Alaska Native languages like Yup’ik or Inupiaq. Instead, they saw strange words.

“He will go hunting extremely early tomorrow and will (bring) nothing,” stated one paragraph. The translator added the word ” Alaska ” at random amid the sentence.

“Your husband is slender as a polar bear,” observed another.

Another was written entirely in Inuktitut, a Northern Canadian Indigenous language spoken far from Alaska.

Once the mistakes were found, FEMA fired the California company that had been hired to translate the documents. However, the whole thing was a painful reminder for Alaska Natives of how their culture and languages have been suppressed for decades.


FEMA Took Responsibility

FEMA took immediate responsibility for the translation issues and fixed them, and the agency is working to ensure that it does not happen again, according to spokesman Jaclyn Rothenberg. Because of the inaccuracies, no one was denied assistance.

That is insufficient for one Alaska Native leader.

This was another bitter reminder for Tara Sweeney, an Inupiaq who served as an assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Interior Department during the Trump administration, of steps made to discourage Alaska Native children from speaking Indigenous languages.

“Your slender hubby is a polar bear.”
FEMA aid paperwork translated


Thousands Of Alaska Residents

“I can’t even convey the pain behind that sort of symbolism when my mother was beaten for speaking her language in school, like hundreds of thousands of Alaska Natives,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney has asked for a congressional oversight hearing to find out how long and often this method has been used by the administration.

Sweeney’s great-grandfather, Roy Ahmaogak, invented the Inupiaq alphabet more than a half-century ago.

He intended to design the characters so that “our people would learn to read and write to transfer from an oral past to a more tangible written history,” she explained.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Yup’ik elected to Congress as the first Alaska Native last year, said it was frustrating that FEMA missed the mark with these translations but did not call for hearings.

“I am optimistic that FEMA will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that they are ready to serve our residents the next time they are called,” the Democrat added.


The Damage Was Over $28 Million.

The leftovers of Typhoon Merbok caused devastation as it went around 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) north via the Bering Strait, potentially affecting 21,000 persons. According to Rothenberg, FEMA has given out approximately $6.5 million.

A spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Jeremy Zidek, said that early estimates put the total damage at just over $28 million, but that number is likely to go up as more work is done to assess the damage after the spring thaw.

The poorly translated materials did not cause any delays or problems, but they were just a small part of Zidek’s efforts to help people sign up for FEMA help in person, online, and over the phone.

Gary Holton, a linguistics professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the former director of the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, says that another reason is that many residents are bilingual and can understand an English version, even if English is not their first language.

Central Alaskan Yup’ik is the most spoken Alaska Native language, with more than 10,000 speakers in 68 communities in southwest Alaska. In 17 of the settlements, children learn Yup’ik as their first language. According to the language center, there are around 3,000 Inupiaq speakers in northern Alaska.

The terms and phrases used in the translated texts appear to be drawn from Nikolai Vakhtin’s 2011 edition of “Yupik Eskimo Texts from the 1940s,” according to the language center’s archivist, John DiCandeloro.


Local Languages Similar Not The Same

The book is a written record of field notes taken by Ekaterina Rubtsova in the 1940s in Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula, across the Bering Strait from Alaska, who interviewed residents about their daily lives and culture for a historical history.

The works were eventually translated and posted on the language center’s website, which Holton used to track down the source of the mistranslated pieces.

According to Holton, many of the local languages are similar but not the same, just as English is related but not the same as French or German.

Holton has spent nearly three decades documenting and revitalizing Alaska Native languages, reviewed the web database and discovered “hit after hit,” phrases taken directly from the Russian book and randomly placed into FEMA documents.

“They just pulled the words from the document and then just arranged them in some random order and gave something that looked like Yup’ik but made no sense,” he added, referring to the result as a “word salad.”


Hijacked Terms

He found it disrespectful that an outside company hijacked the terms people used to memorialize their life 80 years ago.

“These are people’s grandparents and great-grandparents who are knowledge-keepers, elders, and their words that they wrote down, wanting people to learn from and cherish, have just been bastardized,” Holton added.

Bethel’s KYUK Public Media first reported the mistranslations.

“We make no excuses for erroneous translations, and we profoundly regret any inconvenience this has caused to the local community,” said Caroline Lee, CEO of Accent on Languages, the Berkeley, California-based company that generated the mistranslated documents.

She stated that the company would repay FEMA the $5,116 it was paid for the service and undertake an internal investigation to guarantee that it does not happen again.

Lee did not answer follow-up queries about how the incorrect translations happened.




Andrew Tate Loses Appeal Against 30-Day Detention In Romania



Andrew Tate Detained Over Alleged Human Trafficking in Romania

BUCHAREST, RUSSIA — An official said that a Romanian court upheld a second 30-day detention for the Tik Toker and former kickboxer Andrew Tate, who is being held on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking.

Ramona Bolla, a spokeswoman for Romania’s DIICOT agency that fights organized crime, said that Tate lost his appeal against a judge’s decision on January 20 to keep him in jail for another 30 days.

Andrew, a British-American citizen with nearly 5 million Twitter followers, arrived at the Bucharest Court of Appeal handcuffed to his brother Tristan, who is being held in the same case as two Romanian women. None of the four have been charged formally.

The court didn’t agree with their arguments, so they’ll all stay in jail until February 27 while prosecutors look into the case. They previously lost an appeal over a 30-day extension.

A document that explains the judge’s decision on January 20 says that he or she took into account the defendants’ “special dangerousness” and their ability to find victims who were “more vulnerable and looking for better life opportunities.”


Tate Seeks Better Defence

Tina Glandian, an American lawyer who has worked with famous people like singer Chris Brown and former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, joined the Andrews’ legal team on Wednesday.

“The defense team made extensive legal arguments pointing out the lack of evidence against the Tate brothers,” she said before the ruling at a press conference. “It’s no secret that the Tate brothers are controversial public figures, but this isn’t about them… this is about a violation of international human rights and due process of law.”

“The system has failed so far,” she said. “The Tate brothers, both US citizens, have been imprisoned for more than 30 days without bail and with no charges filed against them.”

“Ask them for evidence, and they will give you none because it doesn’t exist,” Andrew Tate said as the Tates left the court after Wednesday’s morning hearing. You’ll learn the truth about this case soon.”

Tate is said to have moved to Romania in 2017. Before that, he was not allowed to use several popular social media sites to share his misogynistic and hateful views. He claims there is “zero evidence” against him in the case and that it is a “political” attack to silence him.

“My case is political, not criminal. It has nothing to do with justice or fairness. It’s about undermining my global influence,” read a post on his Twitter account on Sunday.


Tates Following Has Grown Since His Arrest

Since his arrest in December, his Twitter following has grown by several hundred thousand. An online petition to free the brothers, launched in January, has nearly 100,000 signatures.

Following the arrests of the Tates and the two women, the DIICOT anti-organized crime agency said in a statement that it had identified six victims in the human trafficking case who had been subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” and sexually exploited by members of the alleged crime group.

According to the agency, victims were enticed with false promises of love, intimidated, placed under surveillance, and subjected to other forms of control while coerced into engaging in pornographic acts for large financial gain.

Last month, Romanian police raided the Tate brothers’ property near Bucharest and took a fleet of luxury cars, including a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, and a Porsche. They reported seizing assets valued at $3.9 million.

Prosecutors have stated that if they can prove the car owners made money from illegal activities such as human trafficking, the assets will be used to cover investigation costs and compensate victims. Tate also lost his appeal against the asset seizure.



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NASA Marks 20 Years Since Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster




CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – As part of its annual tribute to astronauts who died in space, NASA remembered and honored the 20th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster on Thursday.

More than 100 people gathered at Kennedy Space Center under a grey sky to remember not only Columbia’s crew of seven but also the 18 other astronauts killed in the line of duty. More than half of the names etched into the black granite of the Space Mirror Memorial result from NASA’s two shuttle accidents; the rest result from plane crashes.

The Columbia astronaut family members did not attend the morning ceremony. But local rabbi Zvi Konikov remembered that Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, asked him how to keep the Sabbath while in orbit for two weeks and seeing multiple sunsets daily.

“Ilan delivered a powerful message to us. We must pause and reflect on why we are here on Earth, no matter how fast we are moving or how important our work is, and that is what we are doing today. “We take a moment to remember all those brave souls,” Konikov said.


NASA Ship Was Destroyed Feb. 2003

Columbia was destroyed during reentry on February 1, 2003, because a piece of foam from the fuel tank had broken off and pierced the left wing 16 days earlier when the ship was taking off. The shuttle broke up over Texas only 16 minutes before it was supposed to land in Florida.

Despite the concerns of others, NASA managers dismissed the impact during the flight. The shuttle Challenger was lost during liftoff on January 28, 1986, killing all seven people on board, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.

On January 27, 1967, three astronauts were killed when the Apollo 1 launch pad caught fire.

Because these three dates are so close, NASA dedicates the last Thursday of January to remembering its fallen astronauts. Flags were lowered to half-staff at space centers across the country, and ceremonies were held alongside spaceflight safety discussions.

Former shuttle commander Bob Cabana, an associate administrator at NASA, says that the loss of Columbia could have been prevented, just like other tragedies at NASA.


Three Astronauts Killed

“Why do we have to keep repeating the same difficult lessons?” he asked. “I never want to have to go through Columbia again.”

Columbia’s previous crew included commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ramon.

As the ceremony ended, a ship’s bell rang for each of the 25 names read.

Bob and Diane Ka lander’s sailing trip from Jamestown, Rhode Island, to Florida’s Key West was cut short of honoring the shuttle crews. Their daughter and her boyfriend also came to Kennedy.

“People’s memories are fading,” Diane Kalander said. “There has been a de-emphasis on space because people say, ‘Let’s worry about problems on Earth rather than future problems.'” We need to think about the future.”



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UKRAINE: Despite Concerns, US To Send 31 Abrams Tanks To Ukraine




WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senior administration officials said Wednesday that the United States would send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, reversing months of Biden administration arguments that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.

The U.S. decision came after Germany agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its stockpile. Germany had stated that the Leopards would only be sent if the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, as it wanted to avoid incurring Russia’s wrath unless the U.S. also committed its tanks.

Since then, both sides have had “good diplomatic conversations” that have made a difference and led to an “extraordinary shift in Germany’s security policy” about giving weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded 11 months ago, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on Wednesday under the condition of anonymity about the new tank package before the announcement.

The $400 million package also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles, tank-like tracked vehicles that can tow the Abrams if stuck.


Ukraine To Receive Tanks From France

Hundreds of tanks and heavily armored vehicles will be sent by France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.

But there were few details on what U.S. tanks would be sent, such as whether they would be pulled from the existing stockpile of over 4,000 Abrams and retrofitted or whether the U.S. would use the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to buy new systems to potentially backfill allies who send their own or buy new systems outright for Ukraine.

Using funding from the assistance initiative means that Ukraine has been promised Abrams tanks, but it will likely be many months before they arrive on the battlefield, and they won’t be there in time for Russia’s planned spring offensive.

Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev described Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as “extremely dangerous” on Wednesday.

In an online statement, Nechayev stated that the move “shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts German politicians’ statements about their reluctance to get involved in it.”


Close Allies Not Helping Out

“We are seeing yet again that Germany, along with its closest allies, is not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine crisis; rather, it is determined to permanently escalate it and to continue to supply the Kyiv regime with new lethal weapons indefinitely,” the statement said.

Up until now, the United States has refused to give Ukraine its M1 Abrams tanks, saying that they are hard to maintain and cause a lot of logistical problems. Washington believed that sending German Leopards would be more productive because many allies had them, and Ukrainian troops would require less training than on the more difficult Abrams.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl recently told reporters that the Abrams is complicated, expensive, difficult to maintain, and difficult to train on a piece of equipment. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized that “we should not be providing the Ukrainians with systems they can’t repair, sustain, or afford in the long run, because it’s not helpful.”

To be effective in Ukraine, the Abrams will need extensive training in combined arms maneuvering — how the tanks work together on the battlefield and how to maintain and support the complex, 70-ton weapon. The Abrams tanks are propelled by a turbine jet engine that consumes at least two gallons of fuel per mile, whether moving or idling, requiring a network of fuel trucks to keep the line moving.




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