Bolivian Couple Works to Save Honeybees’ Shrinking Habitats

Honeybees in Bolivia’s mountains are in trouble. Their natural habitat is disappearing, being replaced by an environment they cannot call home. One couple in one of the country’s forest regions is fighting to save them. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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In Russia, Hundreds Behind Bars Following Pro-Navalny Protests

Hundreds of people remained behind bars in Russia Sunday, a day after they were arrested for joining nationwide street protests demanding the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny. Navalny was detained a week ago upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he spent the last several months recovering from a nearly fatal poisoning attack he blames on the Russian government, which denies the charge. From Moscow, Charles Maynes reports.
 
Camera: Ricardo Marquina

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Dutch Police Arrest Alleged Asian Drug Syndicate Kingpin

Dutch police said Saturday they had arrested the alleged leader of an Asian drug syndicate who is listed as one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives and has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained Friday at the request of Australian police, who led an investigation that found his organization dominates the $70 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade, Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said.Tse is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge, Aling said, adding that his arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.”He was already on the most-wanted list and he was detained based on intelligence we received,” Aling said.Dutch police were unable to provide details about the legal proceedings and it was not clear if Tse had a lawyer.Tse, an ex-convict who formerly lived in Toronto, has moved between Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years, according to counternarcotics officers from four countries and documents previously reviewed by Reuters.”Tse Chi Lop is in the league of ‘El Chapo’ or maybe Pablo Escobar,” Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told Reuters in 2019, referring to Latin America’s most notorious drug lords.The syndicate he is suspected of running is known to its members as “The Company.” Law enforcers also refer to it as “Sam Gor” — or Brother Number Three in Cantonese — after one of Tse’s nicknames, Reuters reported at the time.It was unable to contact Tse for comment on the report.The Australian Federal Police (AFP), which has taken the lead in a sprawling investigation into the criminal organization, identified Tse as “the senior leader of the Sam Gor syndicate.”The group has “been connected with or directly involved in at least 13 cases” of drug trafficking since January 2015, the documents showed.

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Portugal Chooses President Amid Severe Pandemic Surge

Portugal held a presidential election Sunday, with the moderate incumbent candidate strongly favored to earn a second five-year term as a devastating COVID-19 surge grips the European Union nation. The head of state in Portugal has no legislative powers, which lie with parliament and the government, but is an influential voice in the running of the country. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 72, is regarded as the clear front-runner among seven candidates. He is an affable law professor and former television personality who as president has consistently had an approval rating of 60% or more. To win, a candidate must capture more than 50% of the vote. But a severe surge in coronavirus infections in recent days could keep the turnout low and perhaps lead to a Feb. 14 runoff between the two top candidates. Portugal has the world’s highest rates of new daily infections and deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and the public health system is under huge strain. Authorities have increased the number of polling stations and allowed for early voting to reduce crowding on election day. In other precautions, voters were asked to bring their own pens and disinfectant to polling stations. Everyone voting wore a mask and kept a safe distance from each other. Prime Minister António Costa, in a tweet, urged people to turn out for the ballot, saying that “unprecedented planning” had gone into ensuring that the vote can take place safely. With the country in lockdown, the election campaign featured none of the usual flag-waving rallies but restrictions on movement were lifted for polling day. Among the incumbent’s six challengers, right-wing populist André Ventura has attracted curiosity as the first extremist to break into Portuguese mainstream politics. Ventura, 37, could conceivably place second, likely far behind Rebelo de Sousa but drawing a level of support that until recently was unthinkable. That development has unsettled national politics. Rebelo de Sousa, a former leader of the center-right Social Democratic Party, has worked closely with the center-left minority Socialist government, supporting its pandemic efforts. He also has endeared himself to the Portuguese with his easygoing style. Photographs taken by passers-by of him in public places, such as one last year of him standing in line at a supermarket wearing sneakers and shorts, routinely go viral. Portugal has 10.8 million registered voters, some 1.5 million of them living abroad. Exit polls were to be published Sunday night, with most results expected by midnight. Every Portuguese president since 1976, when universal suffrage was introduced following the departure of a dictatorship, has been returned for a second term. No woman or member of an ethnic minority has ever held the post. 

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Virus Surge Hits Mental Health of Front-Line Workers

The unrelenting increase in COVID-19 infections in Spain following the holiday season is again straining hospitals, threatening the mental health of doctors and nurses who have been at the forefront of the pandemic for nearly a year.In Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar, the critical care capacity has more than doubled and is nearly full, with 80% of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients.“There are young people of 20-something-years-old and older people of 80-years-old, all the age groups,” said Dr. Joan Ramon Masclans, who heads the ICU. “This is very difficult, and it is one patient after another.”Even though authorities allowed gatherings of up to 10 people for Christmas and New Year celebrations, Masclans chose not to join his family and spent the holidays at home with his partner.“We did it to preserve our health and the health of others. And when you see that this isn’t being done (by others) it causes significant anger, added to the fatigue,” he said.A study released this month by Hospital del Mar looking at the impact of the spring’s COVID-19 surge on more than 9,000 health workers across Spain found that at least 28% suffered major depression. That is six times higher than the rate in the general population before the pandemic, said Dr. Jordi Alonso, one of the chief researchers.In addition, the study found that nearly half of participants had a high risk of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks or substance- and alcohol-abuse problems.Spanish health care workers are far from the only ones to have suffered psychologically from the pandemic. In China, the levels of mental disorders among doctors and nurses were even higher, with 50% reporting depression, 45% reporting anxiety and 34% reporting insomnia, according to the World Health Organization.In the U.K., a survey released last week by the Royal College of Physicians found that 64% of doctors reported feeling tired or exhausted. One in four sought out mental health support.“It is pretty awful at the moment in the world of medicine,” Dr. Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said in a statement accompanying the study. “Hospital admissions are at the highest-ever level, staff are exhausted, and although there is light at the end of the tunnel, that light seems a long way away.”Dr. Aleix Carmona, a third-year anesthesiology resident in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, didn’t have much ICU experience before the pandemic hit. But as surgeries were cancelled, Carmona was summoned to the ICU at the Moisès Broggi hospital outside Barcelona to fight a virus the world knew very little about.“In the beginning, we had a lot of adrenaline. We were very frightened, but we had a lot of energy,” Carmona recalled. He plowed through the first weeks of the pandemic without having much time to process the unprecedented battle that was unfolding.It wasn’t until after the second month that he began feeling the toll of seeing first-hand how people were slowly dying as they ran out of breath. He pondered what to tell patients before intubating them. His initial reaction had always been to reassure them, tell them it would be alright. But in some cases, he knew that wasn’t true.“I started having difficulty sleeping and a feeling of anxiety before each shift,” Carmona said, adding that he would return home after 12 hours feeling like he had been beaten up.For a while he could only sleep with the help of medication. Some colleagues started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. What really helped Carmona, though, was a support group at his hospital, where his co-workers unloaded the experiences they had bottled up inside.But not everyone joined the group. For many, asking for help would make them seem unfit for the job.“In our profession, we can handle a lot,” said David Oliver, a spokesman for the Catalonia chapter of the SATSE union of nurses. “We don’t want to take time off because we know we will add to the workload of our colleagues.”The most affected group of health care workers, according to the study, were nurse’s aides and nurses, who are overwhelmingly women and often immigrants. They spent more time with dying COVID-19 patients, faced poor working conditions and salaries and feared infecting family members.Desirée Ruiz is the nurse supervisor at Hospital del Mar’s critical care unit. Some nurses on her team have asked to take time off work, unable to cope with the constant stress and all the deaths.To prevent infections, patients are rarely allowed family visits, adding to their dependency on nurses. Delivering a patient’s last wishes or words to relatives on the phone is especially challenging, Ruiz said.“This is very hard for … people who are holding the hand of these patients, even though they know they will end up dying,” she said.Ruiz, who organizes the nurses’ shifts and makes sure the ICU is always staffed adequately, is finding it harder and harder to do so.Unlike in the summer, when the number of cases fell and health workers were encouraged to take holidays, doctors and nurses have been working incessantly since the fall, when virus cases picked up again.The latest resurgence has nearly doubled the number of daily cases seen in November, and Spain now has the third highest COVID-19 infection rate in Europe and the fourth-highest death toll, with more than 55,400 confirmed fatalities.But unlike many European countries, including neighboring Portugal, the Spanish health minister has for now ruled out the possibility of a new lockdown, relying instead on less drastic restrictions that aren’t as damaging to the economy but take longer to decrease the rate of infections.Alonso fears the latest surge of virus patients could be as detrimental to the mental health of medical staff as the shock of the pandemic’s first months.“If we want to be cared for adequately, we also need to take care of the health care workers, who have suffered and are still suffering,” he said. 

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7.0 Magnitude Earthquake Recorded Near Chilean Antarctic Base

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Saturday off the coast of Antarctica, with authorities issuing a tsunami warning for Chile’s Eduardo Frei base on the frigid continent, emergency officials said.The quake struck at 8:36 p.m. local time (2336 GMT) about 210 kilometers east of the base at a depth of 10 kilometers, Chile’s National Emergency Office (Onemi) said, urging evacuation from “the beach area of the Antarctic” ahead of a possible tsunami.The Chilean air force’s base is the country’s largest in Antarctica and includes a village, hospital, school, bank, post office and chapel.The maximum population in summer is 150 people, and the average population in winter is 80.An unrelated 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck near Santiago on Saturday night, but Onemi said no significant damage or impact was reported.Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. An 8.8 magnitude temblor in Concepcion on February 27, 2010, left more than 500 dead.The country suffered the most powerful earthquake ever recorded 60 years ago — measuring 9.6 magnitude — in Valdivia. 

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Biden Talks to Trudeau, Lopez Obrador, Johnson in First Calls to Foreign Leaders

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear to President Joe Biden on Saturday that he’s eager to forge a new U.S.-Britain trade deal.Johnson’s push for a deal came during a wide-ranging call between the two leaders that touched on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Biden administration’s announcement this week that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, according to a statement from Downing Street.A new trade agreement between the allies is a higher priority for Johnson than it is for Biden. Britain regained control over its national trade policy at the start of the month following the end of a post-Brexit transition period.White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the administration had no timeline for forging a new trade deal because Biden’s attention was largely focused on getting the coronavirus pandemic under control and pressing Congress to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.The call with Johnson was at least Biden’s third call with a foreign counterpart since Friday. The president spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday evening.Aid to halt immigrationOn Saturday, Lopez Obrador said Biden told him the U.S. would send $4 billion to help development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, nations whose hardships have spawned tides of migration through Mexico toward the United States.López Obrador said that during their Friday call, the two discussed immigration and the need to address the root causes of why people migrate. Mexico has stopped recent attempts by caravans of Central American migrants to cross Mexico.FILE – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his daily news conference at the presidential palace in Mexico City, Dec. 18, 2020.Biden’s call with López Obrador came at a tense moment, days after the Mexican president accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defense secretary.But López Obrador said in a statement Friday that the conversation with Biden was “friendly and respectful.”Biden’s call to Trudeau came after the Canadian prime minister this week publicly expressed disappointment at Biden’s decision to issue an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The long-disputed project was projected to carry about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.Biden told Trudeau that by issuing the order he was following through on a campaign pledge, a senior Canadian government official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.The White House said in a statement that Biden acknowledged Trudeau’s disappointment with his Keystone decision.’Perfect alignment’ is rareTrudeau told reporters before the call Friday that he wouldn’t allow his differences with Biden over the project to become a source of tension in the U.S.-Canada relationship.FILE – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa, July 13, 2020.”It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Trudeau said. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”Biden and Trudeau also discussed the prospects of Canada being supplied with the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to a second senior Canadian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.Canada has been getting all of its Pfizer doses from a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium, but Pfizer has informed Canada it won’t get any doses next week and will get 50% less than expected over the next three weeks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has publicly asked Biden to share a million doses made at Pfizer’s Michigan facility.The U.S. federal government has an agreement with Pfizer in which the first 100 million doses of the vaccine produced in the U.S. will be owned by the U.S. government and will be distributed in the U.S.The two leaders also spoke broadly about trade, defense and climate issues. Trudeau also raised the cases of two Canadians imprisoned in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive, who was apprehended in Canada on a U.S. extradition request, according to the prime minister’s office.  

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Thousands Arrested in Protests Supporting Russian Opposition Leader

Tens of thousands of supporters of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny thronged the streets of Russia on Saturday, defying warnings from authorities that those attending faced police arrest and additional health risks because of the coronavirus.The protests were called for by Navalny after he was jailed upon his return to Russia last weekend from Germany, where he’d been recovering from a poisoning attack that nearly killed him last August.Independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported about 3,200 arrests as of 1:45 a.m. Sunday Moscow time, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia, and his aide, politician Lyubov Sobol. Several dozen journalists were also detained.Yulia Navalnaya confirmed her arrest in Moscow in an Instagram post created from inside a police van, apologizing for the look of her posting.FILE – Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, speaks with the media outside a hospital, where Alexei receives medical treatment in Omsk, Russia, Aug. 21, 2020.“Sorry for poor quality. Very bad light in a paddy wagon,” she wrote Saturday.Thousands of Navalny’s supporters were in the streets of more than 60 Russian cities to demand the Kremlin critic’s immediate release, defying the measures taken by police to break up the protests, which they have declared illegal.In Moscow, thousands of masked protesters gathered in the city’s central Pushkin Square with shouts of “Let him go!” and “Alexei! Alexei!”Demonstrators also held signs that read “Freedom for Navalny” and “I’m not afraid.””If they arrest me, well, OK, I’ll miss a day or two of work,” said Dmitry, 55, in an interview with VOA.”I’m here thinking of my children and their futures. Because I absolutely don’t like what’s happening now in our country these days,” he added.Law enforcement officers stand in front of participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Kazan, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.Many of the demonstrators were in their 20s and some even in their teens — a fact government officials have seized on, accusing Navalny of luring minors into harm’s way.“I’ve known only one president my whole life and I’m tired of him,” said Ksenia, 24, in explaining why she’d come.“I didn’t come out for Navalny. I came out for me,” said Daria, 17, a high school senior.  “I want my country to change.”Crowds also overflowed onto the surrounding side streets and along the city’s main Tverskaya thoroughfare.Drivers blared their horns in a near constant drone of support for the demonstrators.Most out on the streets appeared peaceful. Yet, toward evening, some protesters were seen pelting OMON riot police units and a car belonging to the Federal Security Services (FSB) with snowballs. The driver reportedly was injured after being hit in the eye.Nearby, a smoke grenade had been lobbed into the area, apparently from a demonstrator, filling the air with an acrid smell.Throughout the day, various witness videos posted to social media showed riot police roughly detaining protesters, in some cases beating demonstrators with batons. There were reports of multiple injuries.Riot police detain a young woman during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Pushkin square in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021. Russian police made thousands of arrests in nationwide protests.Dozens of Navalny supporters were arrested during a standoff outside Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison where Navalny was being held.In one graphic scene in St. Petersburg, an OMON riot trooper was filmed kicking a woman in the stomach — sending her sprawling after she asked about the arrest of another demonstrator.Russia’s state RIA-Novosti news service reported 39 policemen had received minor injuries during the day.Navalny’s national reachThe turnout provided further evidence that Navalny has built a national presence across the country, despite a near total ban on coverage in state media.Indeed, Navalny’s popularity has grown largely based on a savvy social media campaign and online video investigations that purport to uncover corruption among the Kremlin elite.Even this week, with Navalny in prison, his team released a lengthy video online that alleges discovery of a lavish palace secretly built for President Vladimir Putin.Despite denials from the Kremlin of the investigation’s veracity, the film quickly garnered 70 million views.Ahead of Saturday’s rally, police rounded up key Navalny associates from his field offices and sentenced them to prison stays ranging from nine to 28 days.Law enforcement officers stand guard during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.Earlier this week, a judge sentenced Navalny to 30 days in prison pending charges of violating parole while recovering abroad.The hearing was held in a makeshift courtroom inside the police station, proceedings Navalny labeled as “beyond the height of lawlessness” before calling for Russias to take to the streets in response.“The way they arrested him was against our constitution,” said Ilya, 23, a demonstrator in Moscow. “If they can do it to a person like Navalny — with millions of followers online — they can do it to us.”Despite the large turnout, however, it was unclear whether demonstrators had made any progress on their central demand for Navalny’s release.The opposition leader’s chief strategist announced a follow-up protest would be held again next weekend.“If enough of us come out, then they’ll have to let him go,” said Yuri, 22, who was passing out small Russian flags on Pushkin Square in Moscow.“We’re the real patriots of our country. Not those who steal from the people,” he added.Wayne Lee contributed to this report.  

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Hundreds Detained in Protests Supporting Russian Opposition Leader

Tens of thousands of supporters of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny thronged the streets of Russia on Saturday, defying warnings from authorities that those attending faced police arrest and additional health risks because of the coronavirus.The protests were called for by Navalny after he was jailed upon his return to Russia last weekend from Germany, where he’d been recovering from a poisoning attack that nearly killed him last August.Independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported more than 2,700 arrests as of Saturday night, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia, and his aide, politician Lyubov Sobol. Several dozen journalists were also detained.Yulia Navalnaya confirmed her arrest in Moscow in an Instagram post created from inside a police van, apologizing for the look of her posting.FILE – Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, speaks with the media outside a hospital, where Alexei receives medical treatment in Omsk, Russia, Aug. 21, 2020.“Sorry for poor quality. Very bad light in a paddy wagon,” she wrote Saturday.Thousands of Navalny’s supporters were in the streets of more than 60 Russian cities to demand the Kremlin critic’s immediate release, defying the measures taken by police to break up the protests, which they have declared illegal.In Moscow, thousands of masked protesters gathered in the city’s central Pushkin Square with shouts of “Let him go!” and “Alexei! Alexei!”Demonstrators also held signs that read “Freedom for Navalny” and “I’m not afraid.””If they arrest me, well, OK, I’ll miss a day or two of work,” said Dmitry, 55, in an interview with VOA.”I’m here thinking of my children and their futures. Because I absolutely don’t like what’s happening now in our country these days,” he added.Law enforcement officers stand in front of participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Kazan, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.Many of the demonstrators were in their 20s and some even in their teens — a fact government officials have seized on, accusing Navalny of luring minors into harm’s way.“I’ve known only one president my whole life and I’m tired of him,” said Ksenia, 24, in explaining why she’d come.“I didn’t come out for Navalny. I came out for me,” said Daria, 17, a high school senior.  “I want my country to change.”Crowds also overflowed onto the surrounding side streets and along the city’s main Tverskaya thoroughfare.Drivers blared their horns in a near constant drone of support for the demonstrators.Most out on the streets appeared peaceful. Yet, toward evening, some protesters were seen pelting OMON riot police units and a car belonging to the Federal Security Services (FSB) with snowballs. The driver reportedly was injured after being hit in the eye.Nearby, a smoke grenade had been lobbed into the area, apparently from a demonstrator, filling the air with an acrid smell.Throughout the day, various witness videos posted to social media showed riot police roughly detaining protesters, in some cases beating demonstrators with batons. There were reports of multiple injuries.Riot police detain a young woman during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Pushkin square in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021. Russian police made thousands of arrests in nationwide protests.Dozens of Navalny supporters were arrested during a standoff outside Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison where Navalny was being held.In one graphic scene in St. Petersburg, an OMON riot trooper was filmed kicking a woman in the stomach — sending her sprawling after she asked about the arrest of another demonstrator.Russia’s state RIA-Novosti news service reported 39 policemen had received minor injuries during the day.Navalny’s national reachThe turnout provided further evidence that Navalny has built a national presence across the country, despite a near total ban on coverage in state media.Indeed, Navalny’s popularity has grown largely based on a savvy social media campaign and online video investigations that purport to uncover corruption among the Kremlin elite.Even this week, with Navalny in prison, his team released a lengthy video online that alleges discovery of a lavish palace secretly built for President Vladimir Putin.Despite denials from the Kremlin of the investigation’s veracity, the film quickly garnered 70 million views.Ahead of Saturday’s rally, police rounded up key Navalny associates from his field offices and sentenced them to prison stays ranging from nine to 28 days.Law enforcement officers stand guard during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021.Earlier this week, a judge sentenced Navalny to 30 days in prison pending charges of violating parole while recovering abroad.The hearing was held in a makeshift courtroom inside the police station, proceedings Navalny labeled as “beyond the height of lawlessness” before calling for Russias to take to the streets in response.“The way they arrested him was against our constitution,” said Ilya, 23, a demonstrator in Moscow. “If they can do it to a person like Navalny — with millions of followers online — they can do it to us.”Despite the large turnout, however, it was unclear whether demonstrators had made any progress on their central demand for Navalny’s release.The opposition leader’s chief strategist announced a follow-up protest would be held again next weekend.“If enough of us come out, then they’ll have to let him go,” said Yuri, 22, who was passing out small Russian flags on Pushkin Square in Moscow.“We’re the real patriots of our country. Not those who steal from the people,” he added.Wayne Lee contributed to this report. 

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