were forced to attend residential schools in a forced assimilation program. Most of these schools were operated by churches, and all of them banned the use of Indigenous languages and Indigenous cultural practices, often through violence. Disease, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse were widespread. An estimated 150,000 children passed through the schools between their opening and their closing in 1996.

  • The Missing Children: A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up as part of a government apology and settlement over the schools, concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending them, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident. In many cases, families never learned the fate of their offspring, who are now known as “the missing children.”
  • The Recent Discovery: In May, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school — which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969 — after bringing in ground-penetrating radar.
  • ‘Cultural Genocide’: In a 2015 report, the commission concluded that the system was a form of “cultural genocide.” Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who headed the commission, recently said he now believed the number of disappeared children was “well beyond 10,000.”
  • Apologies and Next Steps: The commission called for an apology from the pope for the Roman Catholic church’s role. Pope Francis stopped short of one, but the archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has formally apologized and offered financial and other search support, but Indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
  • In September 2017, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people, and vowed in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly to improve their lives.

    Pope Francis has still not taken that step. By contrast, the leadership of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, apologized in 1998 for its role in running the schools.

    Since the Kamloops announcement, Chief Cameron said, he has been traveling around the province, where farming and mining are major industries, looking at former school sites.

    “You can see with your plain eye the indent of the ground where these bodies are to be found,” he said in an interview Wednesday night. “These children are sitting there, waiting to be found.”

    Vjosa Isai in Toronto contributed reporting.

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    How the Coming Population Bust Will Transform the World

    All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

    Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

    Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

    A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

    spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.

    “It becomes a cyclical mechanism,” said Stuart Gietel Basten, an expert on Asian demographics and a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s demographic momentum.”

    Some countries, like the United States, Australia and Canada, where birthrates hover between 1.5 and 2, have blunted the impact with immigrants. But in Eastern Europe, migration out of the region has compounded depopulation, and in large parts of Asia, the “demographic time bomb” that first became a subject of debate a few decades ago has finally gone off.

    South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

    schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.

    even iPhones.

    To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women.

    But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress. In many families, the shift feels cultural and permanent.

    projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.

    municipalities have been consolidated as towns age and shrink. In Sweden, some cities have shifted resources from schools to elder care. And almost everywhere, older people are being asked to keep working. Germany, which previously raised its retirement age to 67, is now considering a bump to 69.

    Going further than many other nations, Germany has also worked through a program of urban contraction: Demolitions have removed around 330,000 units from the housing stock since 2002.

    recently increased to 1.54, up from 1.3 in 2006. Leipzig, which once was shrinking, is now growing again after reducing its housing stock and making itself more attractive with its smaller scale.

    “Growth is a challenge, as is decline,” said Mr. Swiaczny, who is now a senior research fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research in Germany.

    Demographers warn against seeing population decline as simply a cause for alarm. Many women are having fewer children because that’s what they want. Smaller populations could lead to higher wages, more equal societies, lower carbon emissions and a higher quality of life for the smaller numbers of children who are born.

    But, said Professor Gietel Basten, quoting Casanova: “There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves shape our lives.”

    The challenges ahead are still a cul-de-sac — no country with a serious slowdown in population growth has managed to increase its fertility rate much beyond the minor uptick that Germany accomplished. There is little sign of wage growth in shrinking countries, and there is no guarantee that a smaller population means less stress on the environment.

    Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

    Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

    Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

    She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

    “I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”

    Elsie Chen, Christopher Schuetze and Benjamin Novak contributed reporting.

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    DNA Could Identify Somerton Man Exhumed in Australia

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    No one knows how the so-called Somerton man, found well-dressed and dead with a half-smoked cigarette on his lapel, wound up on the beach in South Australia where he was found. No one knows what he was doing there, or even how he died.

    This week, after he had spent decades puzzling investigators in Australia and amateur sleuths around the world, his remains were exhumed for what might be the best chance of identifying the man in 72 years.

    Called the Somerton man after the beach where he was found in December 1948, the man has proved to be one of Australia’s strangest and most famous cold cases. Should the authorities be able to extract usable DNA from his remains, they could potentially put to rest decades of speculation about whether he was a poisoned spy, a disguised black marketer, a former ballet dancer, a spurned lover or simply the victim of a natural but public death.

    “For more than 70 years people have speculated who this man was and how he died,” Vickie Chapman, the attorney general of South Australia, said in a statement this week. “It’s a story that has captured the imagination of people across the state, and, indeed, across the world — but I believe that, finally, we may uncover some answers.”

    strange mysteries of the 20th century, the case of the Somerton man has baffled investigators and drawn more than its fair share of internet sleuths, attracted by both the glaring unknowns — the cause of death, for one — and the uncanny assortment of clues that investigators did turn up.

    “What makes this kind of go viral is, I think, just all the strange things,” said Derek Abbott, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Adelaide who has spent over a decade studying the case. “It kind of just gives you that creepy shiver down your spine.”

    concluded that it did not have the sophistication of a code and that the letters were more likely the first letters of words in English.

    the rabbit hole.” In 2009 he tried to track down Mrs. Thomson for an interview but found that she had died two years earlier. She had a son who had been a professional ballet dancer, Dr. Abbott learned, and photos showed he had distinctive teeth and ears similar to the Somerton man’s.

    But he died in 2009, months before Dr. Abbott could reach him. He had a daughter, named Rachel Egan, and Dr. Abbott was able to schedule an interview with her.

    To their surprise, they fell for each other, and married in 2010. (“He begged me,” she said, which Dr. Abbott disputed.)

    relatives of Thomas Jefferson) as well as the grandparents of the man that Jo Thomson eventually married.

    “So my head is spinning,” Dr. Abbott said. “Does that prove she’s not connected now to the Somerton man? Or does that prove that somehow the Somerton man is related to her assumed grandfather? It’s getting all complicated, so complicated that I’m just going to shut up now and let the DNA from the Somerton man speak for itself.”

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    In an Israeli city within Hamas’s reach, gratitude for the calm, but bracing for more fighting.

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    ASHKELON, Israel — Residents of Ashkelon, a coastal city barely a dozen miles north of Gaza, emerged gingerly from their houses on Friday — with the skies as calm as the nearby sea.

    For more than a week, the coastal city, which is within the range of rockets fired by Hamas, had been under siege.

    And even after four major conflicts between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza in the past 12 years — with the threat of rocket fire a familiar part of life — it is not something people would ever typically get used to.

    But this time, residents said, it was different. More furious and intense, with barrages of up to 40 rockets at a time.

    Those that slipped through Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome antimissile system crashed into the city with greater impact than in the past.

    Two women died here in a direct strike on their building at the start of the fighting: Nella Gurevitz, 52, and Soumya Santosh, 32, a caregiver.

    Even after the cease-fire took effect on Friday, Marina, an open-air leisure complex with a lagoon of anchored small yachts, ice cream parlors and fish restaurants — usually packed with people at the start of the weekend — was almost empty.

    “People don’t trust it 100 percent,” Liora Yaakobov, 25, a postal worker, said of the cease-fire.

    Out walking with her partner for the first time since the violence started on May 10, Ms. Yaakobov also expressed a disappointment and concern felt by many here, that the truce had come too early, and that the latest bout of fighting would resolve nothing.

    “I’m happy for the calm,” she said, “but I’m waiting for the next round.”

    In one of the older neighborhoods — filled with dilapidated housing projects from the 1950s — small, reinforced concrete shelters dotted the sidewalk. But for many residents they were simply too far away to run and take cover in, with sirens providing only 10 or 15 seconds warning of incoming rockets.

    Ludmilla Gavrielov, 72, a Moldova native with mobility problems, said she had no chance of reaching a shelter in time, and had instead huddled by a wall in her apartment.

    Off South Africa Boulevard, in a more well-heeled section of the city, where the roads are lined with attractive single-family homes, one had suffered a direct hit on Thursday afternoon, about 12 hours before the start of the cease-fire.

    Large Israeli flags had been hung on the front fence in a sign of defiance. The back corner of the villa had been blown away and was in danger of collapse. Pictures still hung on the inner walls, unscathed.

    Next door, Tzvi and Yehudit Berkovitch, grandparents in their 70s, were hurrying to cook for the Sabbath. They had been in their family shelter in the yard when the rocket struck, and had felt the blast.

    “It’s annoying,” Ms. Berkovitch said. She was critical of the Israeli military and government. “In three or four years, there’ll be another round,” she said. “I think they didn’t finish the job.”

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    In the Market for a 529 College Savings Plan? Shop Around

    The outcome could have been different, however, if the error had occurred during a downturn, said Madeline Hume, a Morningstar analyst. She advised being familiar with your plan’s performance, so you can gauge if returns seem out of the ordinary, and paying attention when your plan notifies you of changes. “It’s important to keep aware of what communications are coming out,” she said.

    The firm rates 529 plans on factors like fees, investment options and plan oversight, and most are rated gold, silver or bronze, indicating they offer a net benefit to investors. However, eight plans received “negative” ratings, mostly because of excessive fees.

    Here are some questions and answers about 529 saving plans:

    What college expenses can 529 funds be used for?

    Savings in a 529 can be used to pay college costs including tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, books, supplies and required equipment.

    Can I use 529 funds to pay student loans?

    Yes. Under a law passed in 2019, up to $10,000 from a 529 account can be used to repay a beneficiary’s student loans. Another $10,000 each can be used to repay student loans borrowed by the beneficiary’s siblings.

    Can grandparents save in a 529 account for a grandchild?

    Yes — and an upcoming change to an important financial aid form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, should help to make that more attractive. Currently, contributions from grandparent-owned 529 plans are reported on the FAFSA as untaxed cash support to the student, which can reduce eligibility for financial aid, said the financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. An updated FAFSA, however, will eliminate the question about cash support, he said, so distributions from grandparent-owned 529s will no longer be included on the form. The change is expected to take place with the FAFSA available in late 2022, for the 2023-24 academic year.

    The change, however, does not affect a different student aid form, the CSS Profile, which is required by many higher-cost private colleges, Mr. Kantrowitz said.

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    Readers Respond to Australia’s Never-Ending Travel Ban

    The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.

    Over the past four years, ever since we opened the Australia bureau, I’ve often been impressed with the thoughtfulness and global savvy of our regular readers. This newsletter has always drawn together a far-flung community of Australians and those who love them.

    But after Besha Rodell wrote in last week’s letter about Australia’s decision to keep its international borders closed until the middle of 2022, the floodgates opened in a way I’ve rarely seen. Her heartfelt account was well read the world over, and when we asked for your take on the travel ban, we received hundreds of replies from all over the world.

    Though the opinions varied, and there was some support for restricting travel, most of what we received expressed a mix of disappointment, frustration and confusion.

    Yan Zhuang wrote about these feelings in a news article this week, but even that may not be enough to capture the volume of emotion. So we decided to share a few more responses below (they’ve been edited for brevity and clarity).

    Thank you to everyone who contributed — and we hope you get to see your loved ones soon.

    I’m like thousands of expats from all over the world; we are grief-stricken, confused, and completely exasperated by the government’s lack of communication, unwillingness to commit to metrics or a timetable, and lack of empathy. There seems to be almost no capacity for nuance, no willingness to consider the many points on the spectrum between hard closure and flinging the gates wide open, and a seeming inability to distinguish between travel for pleasure or holidaying and family reunification, vaccinated versus unvaccinated travel, and any way forward for Australia other than ‘zero cases at any cost.’

    — Monica Elith

    We are U.S. citizens who would typically travel once or twice a year to Perth to visit our daughter, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia. We are both in our 70s, fully vaccinated, and cannot understand why parents do not fall within the Australian definition of “immediate family” for exceptions from the travel limitations. Our son and his fiancé are planning their wedding, postponed from 2020, for April 2022. Will our daughter not be able to travel to the US to be in her only sibling’s wedding? Can a reasonable risk-based approach be considered by the Australian government for resuming international travel sooner?

    — Paul Hamer

    We moved to San Francisco and then to New York from Geelong/Melbourne seven years ago to pursue careers in tech and the arts. Our oldest is almost 4 and our youngest is almost 1. We have no family here. Our entire family live in Geelong/Melbourne and Canberra.

    I cried reading your article, but as with so many things this past year I steeled myself against another setback. We had thought my parents might visit in October, then we might fly back together and quarantine with their help with the kiddos, maybe see my sister, her family and my darling nephew.

    Now, that seems so naïve! The idea that my son will be 2 before he meets his grandparents and aunt is one of those thoughts I can’t dwell on.

    — Olivia Jones

    I moved here last year from the U.S. with my Australian husband (and dual citizen children), and while of course we’re extremely grateful for the normalcy here, it seems ludicrous to imagine we can freeze the country under glass for years. We feel a bit, well, trapped in paradise. I hope the government soon puts a higher priority on figuring out how to safely open its borders instead of acting like we can wall ourselves off from the world indefinitely.

    — Arwen Griffith

    My only son chooses to live in New York. I am quadriplegic and miss his company but we can FaceTime as often as we like or even, perish the thought, engage in meaningful correspondence — where is the hardship compared to the greater good?

    — Ron Irish

    My two grandsons live in Sydney, they are almost 5 and 2. Oh the hugs we have missed. I know that many people missed hugs during the pandemic but once they were vaccinated they got their hugs. Will Australia open up in 2022 like they say or will the pandemic continue for years to come? Will I be around to hug my grandchildren again? I had tucked my feelings somewhere deep inside me knowing that it is what it is and I can’t do anything about it but I saw myself in Besha Rodell’s article and it brought me to tears.

    — Elizabeth Gundlach

    This travel ban has ruined my life! I haven’t seen my fiancé in 16 months. For the past year I have lived every day depressed, angry, hopeless, irritated, lonely and confused. I feel completely abandoned by my country, the people who are completely OK with the travel ban and just see the tens of thousands of Australians suffering as a necessary sacrifice.

    The level at which the Australian government has taken people like me, and our concerns, seriously is near nil. Most of us have just become accustomed to the fact that our lives will not change in the foreseeable future, that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of days just like this one waiting for us. We carry on like ghosts, our lives on hold, waiting to be with our loved ones, our children, our parents — many with few years left; we wait to be normal again.

    — Luke Penman and Alba Olaya

    Now here are our stories of the week.


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    Australia, ‘Hermit Nation’? Some Warn Against Another Year of Shut Borders.

    MELBOURNE, Australia — When Australian officials announced last week that the country was unlikely to fully reopen its borders until mid-2022 because of the coronavirus, the backlash immediately began building.

    Critics warned that Australia risked becoming a “hermit nation.” Members of the Australian diaspora who had been struggling to return home for months saw it as another blow. The announcement drew dire warnings from business, legal and academic leaders.

    Polls show that keeping the borders shut is a popular idea. But the opposition sees political opportunism on the part of the government. Others predict that a continued policy of isolationism means young people could “face a lost decade” because of prolonged economic loss and social dislocation.

    Australian officials contend that the restrictions on international travel — some of the strictest in the world — are the main reason the country has been so successful in crushing the virus. The government is resisting pressure from many quarters to consider an earlier reopening, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring on Tuesday, “I’m not going to take risks with Australians’ lives.”

    report, titled “A Roadmap to Reopening,” of long-lasting damage to the country, and especially its young people.

    “There is an illusion that Australia can go at it alone and be this Shangri-La in the South Pacific,” Tim Soutphommasane, a political expert at the University of Sydney and co-sponsor of the report, said in an interview. “But I think that’s a misguided view. Other countries that do have a vaccinated population will be able to attract skilled migrants, have their universities open up to international students.”

    recent poll showing that three-quarters of Australians support it.

    Many were barred for weeks from flying home from India because of the Covid crisis raging there. Tens of thousands have been separated from their families or have put their lives on hold as the country refused to budge on travel restrictions.

    For Madeleine Karipidis, an Australian solicitor living in London, the travel hurdles have driven her to take a drastic step. She moved to London from her native Australia seven years ago. After a year of being unable to get home to see her family, and after the government announced the extended closure last week, she began the process of applying for British citizenship.

    Government data released on Monday showed that 1.5 million vaccine doses — a quarter of those distributed — had not been used.

    Vaccine complacency is also a growing concern, with some Australians seeing the perceived risks of a shot as outweighing the danger of getting sick from the coronavirus.

    Still, the government predicts that most people will be vaccinated by the end of the year. But that in itself will not be enough to trigger the reopening of borders, Mr. Morrison has said, because it excludes “millions” of children and those who choose not to be vaccinated. The vaccines may also not be equipped to deal with new variants and mutations, he added.

    For Owais Ahmed, an Australian permanent resident and a cybersecurity consultant, the border closure has put his life in limbo. His family and his fiancée are in Pakistan, and though he has been trying to leave Australia to see them, his requests for an exemption have been denied.

    Mr. Ahmed said he had been happy to wait out the border closure last year, but that the extended lockdown now seemed more political than medical. His plans to get married and start a family in Australia have all been put on pause.

    “I just want to continue my life,” he said.

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    As Restrictions Loosen, Families Travel Far and Spend Big

    Properties that cater to large-scale gatherings are feeling the windfall. At Woodloch, a Pennsylvania family resort in the Pocono Mountains, multigenerational travel has always been their bread and butter. But bookings for 2021 are already outpacing 2019, with 117 reservations currently on the books (2019 saw 162 bookings total). “Demand is stronger than it has ever been,” said Rory O’Fee, Woodloch’s director of marketing.

    Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which has five properties in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and Jamaica, has seen 506 family reunions already booked in 2021, accounting for $2.47 million in revenue. In the full calendar year of 2019, they saw only 368 events total, worth about $1.31 million. Club Med said that 16 percent of its 2021 bookings are multigenerational, compared with 3 percent in 2019.

    Guided tours are also newly becoming more popular with families looking to reunite: Guy Young, president of Insight Vacations, launched several new small private group trips — which can be booked for as few as 12 people and include a private bus and travel director — after noting that extended families accounted for 20 percent of his business in March and April, compared to a prepandemic average of 8 percent. “Coming out of Covid, with families separated for many months, we saw a significant increase in demand for multigenerational family travel,” he said.

    Mr. Belcher hopes his family’s reunion trip to Williamsburg, which will require a nearly nine-hour drive from his home in Livonia, Mich., will offer an opportunity to mend some of the tensions that have built up in the past year. Mr. Belcher and his wife, Stephanie, a financial educator, have been strict about mask-wearing for themselves and their children, who are 9, 5 and almost 6 months. Other family members have been more relaxed, which is one of the reasons they have spent so many months apart. “I am hoping to make some post-Covid memories, starting to hopefully put some of this behind us,” Mr. Belcher said, noting that all the adults attending the reunion will be vaccinated, and as long as there are no additional strangers in the room, they will allow their children to be unmasked, just like the adults, at indoor family events. “Before all of this happened, we were a very close family.”

    Traveling together will also offer families a chance to reconnect offline after many months of Skype and screen time.

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