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First-ever Hmong male news anchor in US almost brought to tears on his debut by surprise video message

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Chenue Her news anchor

This week, Chenue Her became the first Hmong male news anchor in the U.S.

Making history: On Oct. 4, Her experienced his first day as an anchor for WOI-TV Local 5 News in Iowa and was surprised by an encouraging video message from his long-time friend, fellow journalist and role model Gia Vang, according to Kare 11.

  • Vang is the U.S.’ first-ever Hmong news anchor and covers the Twin Cities region of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota.
  • “I am thrilled for your new adventure back in the Midwest, just a short drive from your hometown here in the Twin Cities. Over the years I have watched you grow and thrive in this industry, and I felt your support being two of the very few TV news journalists who are Hmong,” she said in the recording. “Now you’re making history as the first Hmong male news anchor in the country. Haib kawg nkaus.”
  • Her explained that he was on the verge of tears when he saw her message because she was integral in helping him find his way into the industry.
  • On Friday, their exchange was shared on “CBS Mornings,” with CBS correspondent Vladimir Duthiers chiming in to say that “underrepresented people need to be seen and to have people see them.”
  • Her was in awe over the feature and tweeted that it was “surreal” that they would cover his story as “a Hmong kid from St. Paul, MN.”

Man of the hour: Her’s extensive background in journalism was part of what landed him the job. Having been at KEZI-TV in Oregon, covered breaking news in Virginia and worked at WXIA-TV in Atlanta before arriving at WOI-TV, he was the clear choice for WOI-TV’s President and General Manager David Loving.

  • Adding Her to the team was also a move to represent Iowa’s growing immigrant population.
  • It wasn’t always a direct shot to get to where Her is now. The journalist’s parents are Hmong refugees who had their doubts about him wanting to pursue a career in TV news, as there weren’t any Hmongs in that role before Vang.
  • During job interviews, Her claimed stations would ask if he was willing to change his first name. When he refused, he did not land the jobs.
  • “For the first time in a long time, my dad said he was proud of me,” Her told Axios. “I’m 30, but like, that still means so much to me.”
  • Her added that his team allows him to be his “true, authentic” self.
  • Vang later spoke about all the positive attention their interaction received and said, “I think the reaction it’s getting speaks to how representation truly does matter to not just the community, but the country. Dream even if you’re a Hmong kid from St. Paul or a Hmong kid from south Sacramento.”
  • Her wants to cover more news about immigrants and refugees to “show they’re a fabric of this community and [that] their stories deserve to be told.” 
  • The Hmong people didn’t have a written form of their language until the ‘50s, so Her said that it was in his DNA to be fascinated by such stories.

Featured Image via Chenue Her (left, right)

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Desperation drives thousands of Afghans a day across borders

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Desperation drives thousands of Afghans a day across borders

HERAT, Afghanistan — Over the course of an hour on a recent night, the bus waiting in the Herat station filled with passengers. Mostly young men, they had no luggage, just the clothes on their backs, maybe a bag with some bread and water for the long road ahead of them.

That road is leading them to Iran.

Every day, multiple buses rumble out of Afghanistan’s western city of Herat, carrying hundreds of people to the border. There they disembark, connect with their smugglers and trek for days, sometimes crammed into pickup trucks bumping through wastelands, sometimes on foot through treacherous mountains in the darkness, eluding guards and thieves.

Once in Iran, most will stay there to look for work. But a few hope to go farther.

“We’re going to get to Europe,” said Haroun, a 20-year-old sitting in the bus next to his friend Fuad. Back in their village there is no work. “We have no choice, the economy here is a wreck. Even if it means our death on the way, we accept that.”

Afghans are streaming across the border into Iran in accelerating numbers, driven by desperation. Since the Taliban takeover in mid-August, Afghanistan’s economic collapse has accelerated, robbing millions of work and leaving them unable to feed their families. In the past three months, more than 300,000 people have crossed illegally into Iran, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, and more are coming at the rate of 4,000 to 5,000 a day.

The European Union is now bracing for a potential swell in Afghans trying to reach its shores at a time when EU nations are determined to lock down against migrants in general.

So far, a post-Taliban surge of Afghan migrants to Europe hasn’t materialized. Afghan entries into the EU have “remained mostly stable,” according to an EU weekly migration report from Nov. 21. The report noted that some Afghans who arrived in Italy from Turkey in November told authorities they had fled their country after the Taliban takeover.

But a significant portion of migrants likely intend to stay in Iran, which is struggling to shut its doors. It already hosts more than 3 million Afghans who fled their homeland during the past decades of turmoil.

Iran is stepping up deportations, sending 20,000 or 30,000 Afghans back every week. This year, Iran deported more than 1.1 million Afghans as of Nov. 21 — 30% higher than the total in all of 2020, according to the International Organization for Migration. Those deported often try again, over and over.

In Afghanistan, the exodus has emptied some villages of their men. In Jar-e Sawz, a village north of Herat visited by The Associated Press, an elderly man was the only male left after all the younger men left.

One smuggler in Herat — a woman involved in the business for two decades — said that before the Taliban takeover, she was transporting 50 or 60 people a week into Iran, almost all single men. Since the August takeover, she moves around 300 people a week, including women and children.

“The country is destroyed so people have to leave,” she said, speaking on condition she not be named because of her work. “I feel like I’m doing the right thing. If some poor person asks me, I can’t refuse them. I ask God to help me help them.”

She charges the equivalent of almost $400 per person, but only about $16 up front, with the rest paid after the migrant finds work. The pay-later system is common in Herat, a sign that there are so many migrants, smugglers can accept some risk that some will be unable to pay. Along the way, smugglers pass out bribes to Taliban, Pakistani and Iranian border guards to turn a blind eye, she said.

Everyone going gives the same reason.

“There is nothing here. There is no work and our families are hungry,” said Naib, a 20-year-old who was pausing with a group of migrants one night in a desolate area within sight of the Iranian border outside Herat. “We go crawling if we have to. There is no other choice.”

Afghanistan was already one of the poorest countries in the world before the Taliban takeover, and the economy has deteriorated the past year, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and a punishing drought since late 2020.

When the Taliban came to power on Aug. 15, the main artery keeping Afghanistan’s economy alive — international donor funds — was severed. With the Taliban government unable to pay salaries, hundreds of thousands of state employees found themselves with no livelihoods. With funding for projects gone, many jobs vanished across the labor market.

Farid Ahmed, a 22-year-old in Herat, used to go to a main square each day to be hired by building contractors for a day’s work. Previously, he found work most days. “Now we wait all day and no one comes to hire us,” he said.

So last month, he took his wife and their two young daughters — ages 8 months and 2 years — across the border. From a relative already there, he heard that a Tehran weaving factory had jobs for him and his wife.

The crossing was a nightmare, he said. They had to walk for three hours in the darkness with several hundred other people across the border. In the cold and darkness, his daughters were crying. Once in Iran, they were almost immediately caught by police and deported.

Back home, nothing has changed. He goes to the square every day but finds no work, he said. So he will try taking his family again. “After winter,” he said. “It’s too cold now for the children to cross.”

Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city, is a main hub for Afghans from other parts of the country making their way to Iran.

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Gophers to transfer out hits 10 with lineman Saia Mapakaitolo

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Gophers to transfer out hits 10 with lineman Saia Mapakaitolo

Gophers true freshman offensive lineman Saia Mapakaitolo has entered the NCAA transfer portal, a source confirmed to the Pioneer Press on Monday.

Mapakaitolo appeared to be well under his listed 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds and he did not appear in a game in the 2021 season. The former Southern Cal commit from a Mesa, Ariz., joined the U’s class late in the cycle last year.

Minnesota has had a total of 10 players exit the program since October; one, defensive end MJ Anderson, announced Sunday he will go to Iowa State.

The full list also includes: running back Cam Wiley, guard Curtis Dunlap, defensive tackle Rashad Cheney, linebacker James “DJ” Gordon, tight end Austin Henderson and receiver Dylan Hillard-McGill and quarterbacks Zack Annexstad and Jacob Clark.

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said when current players first hit the portal in October that he anticipated more players would enter the portal in its second year.

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Timberwolves starting to get healthy

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Timberwolves starting to get healthy

The Timberwolves weren’t at full strength Monday against Atlanta, but they do finally seem to be trending in that direction.

Minnesota got Jaden McDaniels and Karl-Anthony Towns back in the lineup, while Patrick Beverley is quickly working toward his return.

McDaniels had a serious bout with the flu, in which Timberwolves coach Chris Finch joked the forward “lost the whole 10 pounds (he gained) all summer, which he could ill afford to do.” The illness knocked McDaniels out to the point where he was in bed for several days and unable to join the team on the road.

Saturday was the first day the forward finally felt “normal” and he was able to practice Sunday. Finch said McDaniels looked “pretty good” in the practice after missing two games.

Beverley was originally expected to miss at least two weeks with his groin injury, and then be re-evaluated at that point. That would’ve meant the Wolves looked at him at the end of this week, but he was questionable for Monday’s contest before he was eventually ruled out prior to tip-off.

Finch said the veteran guard played 5-on-5 hoops with the team’s low-minutes guys and a few coaches earlier in the day Monday.

“He had a really good run,” Finch said. “He’s inching closer and closer.”

A return to action Wednesday against Utah looks possible.

D’Angelo Russell missed Monday’s game with an ankle injury. That meant the Wolves were down three point guard options in Russell, Beverley and Jaylen Nowell. That pushed rookie guard Leandro Bolmaro into the starting unit.

Finch said Bolmaro — who wasn’t in the rotation as recently as two weeks ago until Beverley went down — was “really excited” about the opportunity. Finch said the Wolves needed Bolmaro’s size and defensive acumen to guard Trae Young.

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