When you are up in the mountains in Nepal, we would suggest you to be ready for anything. Weather forecasts for Lukla are never correct and different sources will give you different information. If it is a really bad day in terms of weather, the airlines will themselves cancel the flight and you might have to wait till the weather clears. Yes, flying in high altitude is never easy, even on a clear sunny day, the plane might face turbulence because of the wind blowing from the mountains. But overall the flight to Lukla is very exciting and it’s an experience that you will never forget
When Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel, the co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc., met in 2014, the supermodel was a single mom working to master co-parenting with her ex-husband, Orlando Bloom. She had also just overcome “a really bad depression” caused by the split. The timing might not have seemed perfect for romance, but Miranda’s chance encounter with the Snapchat billionaire sparked something inside her. So much so that she made the first move.
Here’s what we can learn from Miranda Kerr about overcoming heartbreak and giving love a second chance:
In July 2010, Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom made headlines when they said “I do” in a secret ceremony and, in January 2011, they were back in the news with the birth of their first child, “a very healthy and big baby boy” named Flynn. Despite a very clear connection, something was missing and the couple announced their split in 2013 after six years together.
As Kerr explained at the time, the decision was a difficult one, but “it was the right thing to do. We weren’t bringing out the best in each other,” she revealed, adding, “There’s no hostility there, we’ll always be friends.”
Keeping a level head and deciding to prioritize their son above all else, the exes agreed to work together to build a strong co-parenting relationship. “There’s no question, for the sake of our son and everything else, we’re going to support one another and love each other as parents to Flynn,” Bloom proclaimed while telling TMZ, “We’re not friends. We’re family.”
Self-care is key in overcoming heartbreak
Look at Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom today and there’s no doubt that the pair achieved their goal of becoming happy, healthy co-parents, but when they first called it quits, Miranda hit a rough patch, telling ELLE in 2016.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation has developed a set of graphics to demonstrate the changes in employment and labor force participation among youth age 16 to 24 during COVID-19.
1. Unemployment rates increased among youth age 16 to 24 after COVID-19 This chart displays the unemployment rates among youth age 16 to 24 from the Current Population Survey. The left vertical Y-Axis is titled “% of Labor Force without Employment” and ranges from 0% to 30%. The horizontal X-Axis displays seven vertical bars representing the months between January 2000 and July 2020. The youth unemployment rates for January through March were between 8 and 9 percent and then the heights of the vertical bars increased to 27 percent for April, 24 percent for May, 21 percent for June, and 18 percent for July.
2. Unemployment rates among youth age 16 to 24 remain higher than among older age groups This chart displays four lines representing the unemployment rates of four age groups from the Current Population Survey. The left vertical Y-Axis is titled “% of Labor Force without Employment” and ranges from 0% to 30%. The horizontal X-Axis displays seven months between January 2000 and July 2020. The lowest line represents the unemployment rates of persons age 45 to 64 and these rates begin at 3 percent in January and end at 8 percent in July. The second line represents persons age 65 and older and begins at 3 percent in January and ends at 9 percent in July. The third lowest line represents persons age 25 to 44 and these rates begin at 4 percent in January and end at 10 percent in July. The fourth line represents youth age 16 to 24 and begins at 9 percent in January and ends at 18 percent in July.
3. White youth age 16 to 24 continue to have lower unemployment rates than other groups after COVID-19 This chart displays four lines representing the unemployment rates of four groups of youth differentiated by race and ethnicity from the Current Population Survey. The left vertical Y-Axis is titled “% of Labor Force without Employment” and ranges from 0% to 30%. The horizontal X-Axis displays seven months of data between January 2000 and July 2020. The lowest line represents the unemployment rates of white youth and these rates begin at 7 percent in January and end at 15 percent in July. The second lowest line represents Latino youth and these rates begin at 9 percent in January and end at 21 percent in July. The third line represents Black youth and begins at 15 percent in January and ends at 26 percent in July. The fourth line represents other youth and begins at 10 percent in January and ends at 23 percent in July.
4. Youth are more likely to have COVID-19-related reasons for being without employment This slide presents a horizontal stacked-bar chart showing five bars representing the five age groups. Each horizontal bar displays the percentages of persons that were (1) employed, (2) not-employed for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, (3) not-employed because of a COVID-related job loss, and (4) not-employed because of another COVID-related reason not directly related to employment such as being sick with COVID-19 symptoms, taking care of a family member with COVID-19 symptoms, or concerned about getting COVID-19 at work. The data presented are from the Census Bureau’s PULSE survey collected between July 16 and July 21, 2020.
The percent of persons employed was 55 percent for youth age 18 to 24 compared to 63 percent for persons age 25 to 39, 64 percent for persons age 40 to 54, 54 percent for persons age 55 to 64, and 22 percent for persons age 65 and older.
The percent of youth that were not-employed for a non-COVID-19 reason was 17 percent compared to 16 percent for persons age 25 to 39, 17 percent for persons age 40 to 54, 31 percent for persons age 55 to 64, and 69 percent for persons age 65 and older.
The percent of youth that were not-employed because of a COVID-related job loss was 19 percent, compared with 15 percent for persons age 25 to 39, 15 percent for persons age 40 to 54, 12 percent for persons age 55 to 64, and 7 percent for persons age 65 and older.
The percent of youth that were not-employed for another COVID reason was 9 percent, compared to 5 percent of persons age 25 to 38, 4 percent for persons age 40 to 54, 2 percent for persons age 55 to 64, and 1 percent for persons age 65 and older.
5. Six out of ten youth live in households experiencing a loss of employment income after COVID-19 This slide presents a chart showing five horizontal bars whose length represents the percent of persons living in households that experienced a loss of employment income after COVID-19. The data presented were from the Census Bureau’s PULSE survey collected between July 16 and July 21, 2020. The percentage of youth was 62 percent, for persons age 25 to 39 the percent was 58, for persons age 40 to 54 the percent was 58, for persons age 55 to 64 the percent was 51 percent, and for persons age 65 and older was 29 percent.
They always say that you never know what you are capable of until forced to discover in that very moment.
Stephanie Decker discovered just how strong and powerful she was when she went through an incredible sacrifice to save her kids during a tornado, which resulted in the loss of her legs.
When the monster tornado hit, Stephanie only had one choice
When the first signs of the storm manifested, Stephanie thought that staying put would be the best plan of action. “I looked up and I saw our trampoline that was staked in the ground go flying across the yard,” she says. “Then the entire house started to shake. I became petrified at that point and one of the windows busted in.”
“I assumed I was safe, and I heard the roar like a train, and I heard it behind me, and I knew it was coming,” she recalled today. “And it was so loud that I knew that I needed to do something different. I knew staying put wasn’t going to work.”
She ran to her home’s basement with her son Dominic, 8, and daughter Reese. But then, the house began to disintegrate and she had nothing left but a comforter and her body to shield them with.
My daughter said, ‘Mommy, I don’t like this,’ and I said, ‘I know honey.’ I could see the wind. I could see the window blew out and the house burst.
In protecting her children, she was buried under the debris
The March 2012 tornado hit Indiana in a major way, with 140 twisters, 76 confirmed landings and 39 deaths. “It was nothing I expected,” she said. “I never, ever thought in a million years my house would be blown away.”
As she shielded her two children, Stephanie took the brunt of the destruction, as she was crushed under the cascade of debris. Both her legs were smashed. She’d also suffered a punctured lung. The most incredible part? She knew she could save herself, and chose not to.
“I could see it in slow motion,” she says. “I was covered in bricks and stones. I could let go of them, move the stuff off me and get away from that beam. I chose to let the beam fall instead of letting go of my kids. The feeling was, ‘I’d rather get my arms ripped off instead of letting go of my kids.’”
“The pillar was coming straight for my daughter’s head,” Stephanie continues. “Now that I only have upper-body movement I can’t cover them so I’m twisting back and forth taking the brunt of the flying debris. I twisted my body and it broke eight ribs and punctured my lung.”
Stephenie told ABC News:
I knew my leg was barely attached or it was severed. I didn’t know which, but I knew it was bad. If I didn’t get help soon, I was going to bleed out.
One leg was severed just below the knee, and the other one was just above it. Throughout it all, Stephanie stayed incredibly conscious.
“I remember the whole thing,” she said. “I stayed conscious the whole time. I couldn’t afford [to pass out]. They needed me. They had to have me, so I had to figure out what to do. And my son is a hero. He went to get help.”
Watch this Goalcast video if you need to find strength after trauma:
Then, her son took over
Thanks to her incredibly heroic actions, both her children were fine. And once her son realized his mother was hurt, he crawled out and ran over to a neighbor’s house.
After … Dominic left, I realized I couldn’t get out because I actually used the comforter, I tied with them as a tourniquet. I knew I was cut.
Help soon came and Stephanie was evacuated to the hospital. The house was lost, but the family remains intact, and that was ultimately the most important thing.
Stephanie has no regrets
Speaking to People, Stephanie revealed that she had absolutely no regrets about choosing to save her kids instead of herself. In fact, she would do it all over again.
I don’t even think twice about it. I wouldn’t change it for a million bucks. Things happen for a reason. It was my time to step up.
And one year after the terrible tornado, Stephanie set up the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which helps children who have lost limbs to attend local sports camps.
She also took up running with her new prostheses, and one day, wants to be on Dancing With the Stars.
Stephanie did what most mother or parent would have, but she did not let her newfound situation affect her life forever. For her, saving her children was a given. But what came after surviving was the real trial.
Stephanie decided that she would still be there for her kids and live her life to the fullest. That’s something we can all apply to our own lives. Surviving trauma is one step–what comes next is also another story of heroism.
GENEVA – Weeklong negotiations in Geneva aimed at drafting a new constitution for Syria have ended with an agreement to meet for further talks at an as yet unspecified date.
There was no breakthrough in the complex process of drafting a constitution, a key prelude to forming a post-conflict government in Syria. However, there also was no rancorous breakup.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen describes the talks in Geneva as challenging. But he says that did not deter the 45-member Constitutional Committee from engaging in substantive negotiations. As the U.N. mediator and go-between among the members of the committee, he says he found it fascinating to listen to their discussions.
“Obviously, there are still very strong disagreements, and my Syrian friends are, of course, never afraid of expressing those disagreements,” Pedersen said. “But I was also extremely pleased to hear the two co-chairs saying very clearly that they thought also there were quite a few areas of commonalities.”
The weeklong meeting got off to a rocky start. One day after it began, it was temporarily suspended because four members of the committee had tested positive for COVID-19. The talks resumed after a two-day break when new tests apparently indicated the earlier tests were false positives, although those four members attended the talks virtually after that.
Though the week was shorter than anticipated, Pedersen says the delegates were able to build a bit of confidence and trust in each other.
“I believe the tone was respectful,” he said. “I also got a clear message both from the co-chairs and from the members that they are keen to meet again, and we will build obviously on what we have discussed so far, and this in my opinion is encouraging.”
The U.N. mediator says he will be meeting with the two chairs to decide on the agenda for the next round of talks. He says a date for the next meeting will be set once an agreement on the agenda has been reached.
WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden traded verbal attacks about COVID-19 vaccines in their respective Labor Day remarks.
The president called for the Democratic Party nominees, Biden and running mate U.S. Senator from California Kamala Harris, to “immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric.”
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania on Monday that he would like to see a vaccine tomorrow, even if it cost him the election. But “if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it” because the president’s repeated misstatements and falsehoods with respect to the virus are “undermining public confidence.”
“Nothing he has told us so far has been true,” Biden later said during a virtual campaign event with the AFL-CIO, an umbrella federation for U.S. labor unions.
Trump, holding his first news conference on the North Portico of the White House, said that contrary to “political lies,” any vaccine approved for mass inoculation by the federal government will be “very safe and very effective.”
The Republican and Democratic party nominees made their remarks as the presidential campaign turned to the homestretch on the annual Labor Day holiday – a time when COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is still killing about 1,000 Americans every day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden went Monday to the key political battleground state of Pennsylvania in the eastern U.S. for the AFL-CIO event, appearing with the organization’s president, Richard Trumka.
“He’s downright un-American,” Biden said of Trump, accusing the president of hesitating to act to minimize the public health and economic ramifications of the pandemic because it would have lowered stock market prices, hurting the president’s corporate interests and those of his friends.
“He lives by a code of greed, lies and selfishness,” added Biden on the video link with the labor boss.
Trump, in contrast, hailed his administration’s performance amid the pandemic, predicting a swift, “Super-V” recovery for the U.S. economy and predicting that if Biden, whom he called “a stupid person,” wins the election, “China will own this country.”
Trump has portrayed himself as standing up to China on trade issues and criticizing that country for allowing the coronavirus to spread globally, wrecking America’s economic recovery.
The U.S. jobless rate dipped to 8.4% in August, but economic experts say it could take months for a more robust recovery to take hold. Only about half the 22 million jobs that were lost in the pandemic have been recovered, with many employers paring their payrolls even as they have reopened their businesses.
Biden is collecting endorsements from three organized labor groups: The Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Federation of Federal Employees.
Collectively, the three unions represent hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide that the Biden campaign hopes to mobilize for support.
Trump has emphasized his endorsement from unions representing police officers, stressing a “law and order” message amid peaceful urban demonstrations and some violence at protests in response to the deaths of Blacks by police in numerous cities.
Trump is also fighting to maintain support among veterans and those serving in the U.S. military after a magazine, citing four unnamed people, reported that he had referred to Marines buried in an American cemetery near Paris as “losers” and “suckers” and declined to visit their graves during a 2018 trip to France.
“Only an animal would say that,” Trump replied when asked about The Atlantic’s article during Monday’s news conference. He termed the article a “phony story” that others have refuted.
Several news organizations, including Fox News, which is generally sympathetic to Trump, have confirmed elements of the story, attributed to their own sources, which they have not named.
Biden, earlier Monday, met with three union workers who had served in the U.S. military at a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“Do you think most of those guys and women are suckers?” Biden asked.
Meanwhile, Harris and Vice President Mike Pence both visited the highly contested battleground state of Wisconsin in the Midwest on Monday.
Harris, in her first solo, in-person campaign appearance as part of Biden’s ticket, met with unionized electrical workers and Black business owners in Milwaukee. She also met with the family and legal team of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot and paralyzed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in front of three of his children last month.
Pence, Trump’s second in command, toured an energy facility in the city of La Crosse.
Both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two traditionally Democratic states that Trump won in 2016 to help him capture a four-year White House term, are again expected to be pivotal states this November. Polls show Biden narrowly ahead in both states.
Biden, who has a thin lead in some other battleground states, is maintaining his advantage over Trump in national polls by about 7 percentage points.
While the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed about 190,000 people in the country, has sharply curtailed huge political rallies that are a mainstay of typical U.S. presidential campaigns, both Trump and Biden are planning numerous trips in the coming weeks to politically important states in front of more modest crowds.
Trump plans to visit North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania later in the week.
Biden plans to return to Pennsylvania on Friday, when both he and Trump plan to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S. in Shanksville, where a jetliner crashed into a field as passengers tried to commandeer the plane from the hijackers.
Some security experts also say the renewed ethnic tensions over long-standing property ownership rights in Kirkuk could create a fertile ground for the Islamic State terror group to mount attacks, given that it maintains active sleeper cells in the multiethnic and oil-rich province.
Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in a statement Tuesday compared recent reported attempts to evict Kurdish villagers to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s ethnic-cleansing policy, known as “Arabization.”
“We are watching with grave concern the situation in the disputed territories in Kirkuk province in particular, where Arabization policies and attempts to change their demography continue systematically to date,” he said.
VOA’s requests for reaction from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s office on Barzani’s comments went unanswered.
What is Arabization?
Following the first Gulf War in 1991, Hussein’s regime expelled tens of thousands of Kurds and other minorities, such as Turkomans and Assyrians, from Kirkuk province while providing Arabs from southern Iraq with financial incentives and free farmland to settle in the northern province. Rights groups called the process ethnic cleansing.
When the U.S.-led invasion started in 2003, many Arab settlers, fearing for their lives, evacuated their homes before they were retaken by Kurds and others, who had been expelled by Hussein’s regime in the first place. They said they were merely taking back what had been “stolen” from them.
Left without protection of the Kurdish peshmerga, KRG says a reverse wave is now taking place in Kirkuk as former Arab settlers reportedly are showing up to demand farmlands from Kurds. The Iraqi government forced the peshmerga to withdraw from Kirkuk following the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum.
Though the tensions have not turned bloody yet, locals say the risks remain high as Kurdish farmers generally are armed. Some Kurds, who have refused to leave, say their wheat fields have been set ablaze during the night by unknown people.
“We stress that the Kurdistan Regional Government will never accept Arabization policies, bringing nonindigenous people to settle in these places in particular,” Barzani said in the statement.
“Imposing these policies will threaten peace and stability in these areas,” he added.
In an apparent move to assuage Kurdish concerns, Iraq’s Ministry of Justice issued a decree Wednesday, declaring null and void all the agricultural contracts that had been signed during Hussein’s era to “demographically change the disputed territories.”
While the Kurds welcome the decision, they say enforcing it on the ground is far more important. Some analysts say they doubt a political decision can bring the long-standing conflict to a swift end in a country where irregular militia groups often call the shots.
Iran-backed militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are a key element of the disputed territory’s security forces.
“The current prime minister has no power to prevent all the militias who are holding arms against different ethnic groups,” said Nahro Zagros, an Irbil-based university professor and a nonresident fellow with the Gold Institute in Washington.
A senior KRG official told VOA on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue that the renewed ethnic tensions in Kirkuk do not mean KRG-Baghdad talks are breaking down over other issues such as budget and joint military efforts against IS.
“We have not made any breakthrough,” said the official. “No agreement on paper yet, but the talks are ongoing.” He added that the Arab-Kurd tensions, though, could “create opportunities for [IS] to attack as it wishes.”
Kadhimi’s rare visit
Earlier this month, Kadhimi visited the Kurdistan Region, becoming Iraq’s first sitting prime minister to visit the site of the 1988 chemical gas attack in the Kurdish city of Halabja. He also met with survivors of Hussein’s Anfal genocide against Kurds.
“You have sacrificed a lot,” said Kadhimi, addressing a woman who survived the genocide but lost many loved ones.
“We need to learn how to prevent this from ever happening again. The most important thing is that we don’t repeat the same mistakes,” he added.
Kadhimi’s visit to the region, where he also met with protest leaders on the street, was widely praised in Kurdish social media, even as some viewed it as nothing more than propaganda for early elections expected to be held next year.
“Kurdish grievances in Kirkuk persist,” said Bilal Wahab, an Iraq scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “However, some posturing is in order as the two sides negotiate the 2021 budget and soon enter the electioneering phase.”
Washington has encouraged Baghdad to reach an agreement with the KRG. In August, ahead of Kadhimi’s visit to the U.S., a senior Trump administration official told reporters that solving KRG-Baghdad disputes was at the top of the agenda.
“Our most acute conversation point in this visit is to make sure that the resources available to the Baghdad central government also find their way to the KRG,” said the U.S. official.
When we think of luxury brands, our minds tend to conjure up images of designers like John Galliano, or better, Karl Lagerfeld–grand, borderline intimidating individuals who can appear so removed from our day-to-day lives. Indeed, the world of fashion and luxury can often seem unattainable, especially to those of us who are not born into circles of privilege.
One look at Valas’ unique designs and one has no doubt that they are an integral part of that world. But what makes this brand so special is the heartwarming story of its inception, which hides an unconventional duo–a brother and a sister, linked together by a touching tale of family and hardship.
Most of the world is still in quarantine mode, and thus, this is how we meet Karina Salmeron and her brother, Kenneth Villagra, the incredibly talented and humble masterminds behind the brand Valas. They share the same mother, but different fathers–and here lies the base of their beginnings as a family and business owners. The two tell us the story behind their dream, from war-torn Nicaragua to the arms and backs of the biggest celebrities.
Nicaragua, where it all started
Karina Salmeron was only 7 years old when she was uprooted from her native Nicaragua to the United States. At the time, her native country was going through turmoil, a period called the Nicaraguan revolution which spanned 12 years.
Her earliest memories as a child were haunted by this background of war, even though she wasn’t completely aware of the horrors that loomed above her. “At that time, a lot of people were fleeing Nicaragua because people were getting killed if you didn’t join the army,” Karina shared.
As the country was divided in two, she lived the life of a child, the best she could. Karina’s father was a military man and although she grew up sheltered from threats, she was also a witness to the brewing tensions that surrounded her.
“I felt the heaviness of the surroundings. I just didn’t see any of the killing but the energy was there. I felt it. Thank God I didn’t experience that,” she said.
“My father was a general in the government,” she continued. “And I have memories of him picking me up and he was packed with whatever he needed to have–I mean his guns and everything else, military Jeeps.”
“I remember going into these big mansions in the hills and the jungle. They were built out there and there was protection all the time for him. There were men with swords,” Karina continued.
There was a lot of uncertainty, as she recounts. Every weekend, she would wonder where her father would take her. She would feel fearful, because she “didn’t know what it was going to be like.”
And these images never left her. Some of the memories remained questions without answers. “I, to this day, wanna know where those houses are at. Where did he take me, you know?”
Fleeing the motherland for a better future
Karina’s complex journey, and the essence of the brand she shares with her brother, Kenneth Villagra, cannot be understood without exploring the fracture she experienced as a child–and the heartwarming tale of her reconstructed family.
Moving from Nicaragua to America at the age of 7 years old was no small feat. While her father carried on with his military duties, her mother Myriam, had attempted the journey to the United States while she was still a teenager.
In 1977, at the age of 16, Myriam was hit by a truck. The accident broke a bone in her ear and she needed to have surgery on her ear or else, she could have lost her hearing.
She had fled the country to seek medical help in an emergency, leaving Karina behind, which was no small sacrifice. Yet, her decision to remain in America was never made without her daughter in mind. Being from a small village in Nicaragua, Myriam lived through a climate of fear and uncertainty; she wanted to save Karina from that life.
“She came here on a journey for a better future, sacrificing her life and her family so I can have a better future,” Karina said.
For the longest time, Karina had grown up without her
“I hadn’t seen my mom since I was a baby. When I was in Nicaragua, I used to dream ‘Oh, is that my mother, in the background of that movie?’ because I thought the extras were people here in America,” she recalled.
In America, Myriam never forgot about Karina–far from it. The more time she left Karina behind, the more frightened she was. “She was always thinking of me and how she was going to bring me back to the States to be with her,” Karina said, translating Myriam’s words. Because she was not legal in the country, Myriam worked odd jobs like babysitting to be able to support herself and send money to her family back in Nicaragua.
Eventually, she met another Nicaraguan man– Kenneth’s father, Jorge, a person who would come to play a central role in Karina’s life. In fact, Karina calls him “our dad,” not Kenneth’s dad.
Jorge’s story is a bit different but there are parallels to be drawn with Myriam’s journey. When the latter met him, she told him she planned to go back to Nicaragua, to her daughter. As it turns out, Jorge’s mother–much like Myriam–had also left Nicaragua to settle in America, and lived separated from her son. When Jorge suffered a leg injury in 1967, she had an opportunity to bring him to America too so he could have surgery and be reunited with her. At the age of 12, he too started a new life.
After being together for two months, Myriam and Jorge got married on Christmas Eve. He knew that Myriam had left her child back in Nicaragua and he wanted to help her. “That’s the reason I got married, because I wasn’t planning to get married at that time,” Jorge revealed.
Their union meant that she became a U.S citizen, which would immensely facilitate the process of bringing Karina to the United States.
“God was looking after her because she found Kenny’s father. A man that adored her. They weren’t in love at the beginning but he adored her, and she was already packed to go back to her country, to me. And he was like ‘No, stay here. I will bring your daughter here to be with you.’ And he took a chance on her.”
Myriam’s story “made sense to him and his morals.” Jorge stepped up and helped her reunite with her child when everything seemed so hopeless in a country so new and so foreign to her. He, a complete stranger, gave the “chance of life for a little child that he didn’t know.”
Today, Myriam is proud of her new life but also of her children, who have honored her incredible journey. While Karina and Kenneth have had to overcome their own obstacles, it was always with their parents’ sacrifice in mind.
A new family but a similar purpose
Coming to a completely new environment at such a young age was not easy for Karina. From the freedom of Nicaragua’s playgrounds to the suburban American neighborhoods, there was a lot to learn from that transition.
“I had to fend for myself. I had to learn the new language,” Karina told us. “I had to learn how to play with kids that were from different cultures now–and a different way of playing. So I think that defines my life a lot, being able to mold myself and being able to fit in but still have your culture at the same time.”
The difficult journey has brought her a new family, with whom she is carrying on the legacy of a rich and complex past, even if it was difficult at first. “I didn’t know I had a baby sister. I didn’t, or I ignored that she was married now [to another man]. I had to adapt to [a new family]”
As it turns out, her new family is a synthesis of different cultures and experiences, all tied together by a strong, unbreakable bond.
And Kenneth is part of that “new family,” as Karina calls it. He was born and raised in San Francisco. Unlike Karina, he did not live through Nicaragua’s war-torn years but he is no less mindful of the sacrifices his parents went through.
“What they did for a better future is what we’re doing ourselves, Karina and I, coming together, collaborating, trying to create this family-joint business, trying to create generational wealth and a generational business,” Kenneth said. “They were able to create a foundation for us.”
For them, Valas is much more than a brand. It’s the logical continuation of their parents’ sacrifice. “They put us in a position to be able to do what we’re doing now,” Kenneth continued. “So now we’re taking a risk on each other and build a better foundation to help those that come after us.”
The tragedy before Valas
Before Valas became the brand that it is today, it started with a dream–as all amazing things do. Karina had worked in retail for a while. At the time, a close friend of hers had tragically passed away and the circumstances surrounding her death were rather dark.
“We were scared because we didn’t really know what had happened to her or who had killed her,” Karina said. “So we were scared and we didn’t know if this man followed her at work.”
This frightening episode pushed Karina to quit her job, out of concern for her safety. That’s when her partner at the time planted the seed in her head: after all the experience Karina had gathered during her years in retail, wasn’t she more than qualified to try her own hand at the fashion game?
So, little by little, Karina started researching and designing on her own but she was not really looking at the business side of things. That’s when Kenneth, who was studying in business, came into the equation. When “he came along, it became more serious,” Karina said.
“I do a lot of the creative side. Kenny does the business side.”
What was Kenneth’s reaction when Karina first suggested this collaboration? After all, a brother-sister duo is not something you come across often in the fashion world. But to him, there were no second thoughts.
“I’m always supportive. I’m very loyal to my family. When she came to the idea, I jumped all over it. It’s one of those things where, growing up I always knew I wanted to have something for myself. I never liked the idea or fell for the idea of working for somebody else.”
“And who better to work with than my big sis, you know?”
Hard work made the dream become a reality
Starting a luxury fashion brand from scratch can seem unattainable, even downright impossible. As a Latino woman in an industry that prides itself on elitism and exclusivity, Karina has had her fair share of obstacles.
Even throughout all the difficulties, she still considers her own insecurities to be the biggest challenge she has faced to date. “I don’t come from this background, I didn’t go to this design school. These stores are very high end. Are they going to think I’m like a fake? I was afraid of judgment, what they’re going to think of myself.”
From her accent, to questioning her every move, these thoughts kept running through her head until she finally realized that everyone who ever made it had started from a dream. Through her experiences in bringing Valas to life, she discovered how a lot of brands come from foreigners just like herself.
Mostly, she knows she has to trust time and effort. Brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci took decades to get established, so why would she feel discouraged by the road ahead of her?
“We don’t come from a wealthy family,” Kenneth said. “When you’re creating an item designed for luxury and you present it to these high end boutiques, you lack that confidence within yourself and you have that insecurity. I’m in a place with four walls that isn’t built for me. I don’t come from this lifestyle. I don’t live within this lifestyle.”
Much like Karina, Kenneth’s confidence came with time, experience and the knowledge that their products and designs were just as great, if not better than what was out there on the market.
“I had to figure out how to design,” Karina added. “I had to figure out how to talk to these people in different stores, or how to sell our products. How to believe in what we have. It’s not just about a product on its own. It’s about family. It’s about love.”
Ultimately, she has one advice for aspiring business owners: “Go for it. Have a business plan but don’t be insecure or compare yourself to others.”
Every piece has a story–and is also part of a story
To this day, Karina mourns the lost relationship she could have had with her father. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to him because they kind of had to sneak me out of the country,” she revealed. Her father didn’t want her to come to America, as his views on the country weren’t positive. A few months after she had left Nicaragua, there was an ambush and he had passed away.
And so, the military influence found in Valas’ designs was not intentional but remains informed by her past. The name of the brand itself, “Valas,” is the Spanish word for “bullet.” As Karina revealed, she wanted to challenge the associations we have with a word that is often linked to violence. Instead, she hoped to infuse it with more positive meanings.
Her designs came from a part of Karina that “was bottled up” and flowed naturally through her creative process. In retrospect, the final creations feel like an ode to her past, to a father she never really got to know and a country that could never truly leave her. Her very first design, the Voyager backpack that came out 8 years ago, is a testament to that.
“And naturally that came out, like the backpacks with all the pockets. They are very heavy, they are very manly. They are very strong. And I am a small petite woman so I feel like those were like my emotions. I wanted to portray the strong, unbreakable. I think that’s why the Voyager came out,” Karina said.
Fun fact, the Voyager caught the attention of so many people, including that of a museum in Amsterdam, where it is displayed in an official exhibit. “To me, I was over the moon. That’s an accomplishment right there,” Karina said.
Additionally, celebrities like Justin Bieber, Diddy (who wouldn’t tell an investor where he got his Valas bag from, because he didn’t want another person to copy him) and basketball stars have all gravitated to her unique designs.
On the other hand, the Champion bag is a celebration of their cultural heritage. Designed to look like a wrestler’s belt, it’s an ode to Kenneth’s childhood, to growing up watching the sport and feeling empowered by it.
But the Champion’s bag story doesn’t end there. In 2019, renowned musician duo Wisin Y Yandel wore it during protests against corruption in Puerto Rico, championing for their country. “The bag can speak on its own. It has that emotion tied into it,” Karina said.
But what really made her feel like she “had made it” was the moment she saw one of her bags worn by a regular person at the gym. “I was like ‘Is that our bag?’” she remembered. “I was so excited I wanted to take a picture.”
It always comes down to family
When it comes to working together, Karina and Kenneth completely trust each other. And so, the process hasn’t been a difficult one at all. In fact, their connection and alignment has allowed for Valas to reach the stature it has today.
“There are connections that you have with people, with siblings, that might be different than other siblings,” Karina revealed. “It’s just the way it is. A bit like soulmates. It doesn’t have to be a lover or anything like that. It could be a brother or a sister. It’s just that you know that you can trust that person.”
In the wake of Black Lives Matter, as well as America’s complex and hostile history with its Latino immigrants and minorities, a brand like Valas becomes a groundbreaking symbol for what a better future can look like. Kenneth and Karina have not been spared by the lasting effects of negative attitudes towards people who look different.
“Without it being said, you feel the judgment,” Karina said, referring to certain dealings she has had in her beginnings as a brand owner. “There is this energy that you feel. Like ‘Who are you guys? Who are these Latinos selling me these $2000 bags? What is their background? What school did they go to?’”
During an incident with a group of 10 buyers, Karina remembers being subjected to this line of questioning. “They only wanted to talk to me. ‘What school did you go to? What is your background?’” she said. Even though they had come to Valas because they obviously loved the bag, they seemed more concerned with finding out about her credentials.
Karina felt like they were making a judgment on whether or not they could sell her bags based on her background only. As mentioned earlier, only time helped her find that confidence to stand proudly in that space, despite the judgment she may have faced.
“There are people for everyone so don’t be ashamed of who you are, or what your background is or what country you came from. It’s okay, you are who you are. And you gotta accept yourself first for people to be like, you know what? I like these siblings. They are really doing their dream, this American dream.”
The biggest lesson they learned
So you see, family is at the core of Karina and Kenneth’s brand. It’s something they derive pride from and want to honour throughout the rest of their voyage with Valas. “I’m thankful that my mom took the steps for a better future. And you know, here I am now,” Karina said. “I have a company with my brother and we’re still carrying that dream of a better future for our family.”
If there is anything they learned from their parents’ love and sacrifice, it’s that family will always be there for you. “At the end of the day, that’s all you have,” she continued. “It’s your family. You know? That’s who you run to in emergencies. If you’re sick, if you’re happy, your family is number. I feel that’s what I learned from her. She’s sacrificed and put herself second for me.”
Now, they are the torchbearers for future generations of kids who look different, who may not see themselves represented in certain spaces. Together, through their family, they want to “be an inspiration to the younger generation of our family and other kids–kids that look like us, kids that don’t have anyone that looks like them, that don’t have their own business.”
Their journey is also about breaking stereotypes and forming new identities, as rich as their cultural heritage and the land they live in. “Not all Latinos are housekeepers–nothing wrong with that, you know–but they can be business owners. They can be entrepreneurs, they can be dreamers. We don’t come with the intentions of being criminals or anything like that. We are good people too.”
WHITE HOUSE – After tweeting a video early Sunday evening saying he’s “getting great reports” from his doctors, U.S. President Donald Trump promised a little surprise for his supporters outside the hospital where he is being treated for COVID-19.
The president then briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in an armored SUV with Secret Service agents in tow to drive by a flag-waving, cheering crowd outside the hospital.
“President Trump took a short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters outside and has now returned to the Presidential Suite inside Walter Reed,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
Earlier Sunday, the doctors treating the president revealed that their patient experienced “two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation.”
Despite that, “The fact of the matter is, he is doing really well,” the president’s primary physician, Dr. Sean Conley, told reporters. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Trump COVID-19 Treatment Continues; Doctors say He Has Experienced Oxygen Saturation Drops TwiceThe president could be discharged from the hospital as early as Monday, according to his team of doctors
A team led by Conley was more transparent during Sunday’s news briefing than the previous day, when their appearance before a pool of White House reporters seemed to raise as many questions as it answered.
Conley, asked by a reporter why he had been evasive on the question of whether Trump had required supplemental oxygen at the White House on Friday — which the president did for about an hour — replied he was trying “to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team.”
Conley, an osteopath and a commander in the U.S. Navy, explained that he did not “want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
That medical team, during a 10-minute briefing on Sunday outside the front steps of the Walter Reed, explained that the president is now taking a steroid, dexamethasone, which is typically not administered in mild or moderate cases of the coronavirus, along with a five-day course of remdesivir, an antiviral medication.
Dr. Sean Dooley, an Army colonel and pulmonologist, told reporters that the president’s vital signs were stable on Sunday morning and the patient was walking around, not complaining of shortness of breath or experiencing any other respiratory symptoms.
“If he continues to look and feel as well as he does today, our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House, where he can continue his treatment course,” announced Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a civilian specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Some key questions remain, such as whether the president has suffered any lung damage. Doctors in their responses Sunday declined to go beyond saying there have been the “expected findings” with their patient, who is a 74-year-old overweight male.
Trump on Friday had a high fever, and that — along with the brief need for supplemental oxygen — prompted the president’s move from the White House to the hospital, according to Conley.
Trump tweeted a video Saturday evening in which he said he was doing well and hoped to be back soon, acknowledging that the next few days will be the “real test.”
Conley received word Thursday evening that both Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after one of the president’s close aides, Hope Hicks, was confirmed to be ill with the infection.
The president’s decision to do a drive-around for supporters Sunday evening was condemned by one attending physician at Walter Reed as irresponsible.
Dr. James Phillips, who is also chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University in Washington, tweeted that the special vehicle the president was riding in is sealed against chemical attack.
“The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play,” said Phillips, referring to the driver and an accompanying agent in the front seat who appeared to be wearing masks, face shields and gowns.
“Appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE,” Deere, the White House spokesman said. “The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”
Earlier Sunday, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said there had not been a discussion of temporarily transferring power to Vice President Mike Pence.
“We have a government that is steady,” O’Brien said on CBS News’ Face the Nation, adding later, “We have plans for everything.”
Trump’s campaign Friday put on hold all previously announced events involving the president’s participation. Pence is to make campaign appearances this week, as well as face off Wednesday evening against the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California.
Sunday marked 30 days before the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump’s
opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, said Friday he was sending “prayers for the health and safety of the first lady and the president of the United States.”
Biden added that the president’s positive test is a “bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously.”
Trump and Biden were about 4 meters apart on a debate stage Tuesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests at least 2 meters for social distancing purposes.
Biden’s campaign said the former vice president tested negative Friday for the coronavirus and a test on Sunday was also negative.
Speaking Friday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Biden, wearing a surgical mask, called again for a national mask mandate, asserting it could save 100,000 lives in 100 days.
The coronavirus has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States and infected about 7.4 million across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis serves as a reminder of the pervasive spread of the coronavirus and shows how tenuous of a grip the nation has on the crisis, health experts said.
With U.S. infections rising for several weeks, Trump was one of about 40,000 Americans who learned they had tested positive when he broke the news early Friday. First lady Melania Trump also tested positive, and both were described as having mild symptoms. The president went to a military hospital for what the White House said was a precautionary visit of “a few days.” Some of his top advisers and allies also have tested positive recently.
“No one is entirely out of the virus’ reach, even those supposedly inside a protective bubble,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
Eight months after the virus reached the United States, worrying signals mounted of what’s ahead this fall. The National Football League postponed a game because of a worsening outbreak among the Tennessee Titans. Some hospitals in Wisconsin have run low on space, and experts warned of a likely surge in infections during the colder months ahead. Some economists say it could take as long as late 2023 for the job market to fully recover.
As of Saturday afternoon EDT, the U.S. led the world in numbers of confirmed infections, with more than 7.37 million, and deaths, with more than 209,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Only a handful of countries rank higher in COVID-19 deaths per capita.
“The statistics are so mind-boggling, they make us numb to the reality of just how painful, unacceptable and absurd this is,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, board chairman of the nonpartisan Health Policy Alliance in Washington. “Every single American must double down on vigilance. If we don’t, then we are being foolhardy and irresponsible.”
The president’s infection occurred as the nation has reached a crossroads in its response to the virus.
The U.S. is averaging 40,000 cases a day. The situation is improving in Sun Belt states that were hot spots in the summer — months after states reopened in May and gatherings during the Memorial Day and July Fourth holidays fueled a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
Many of those states took action this week to loosen restrictions. Mississippi’s governor ended a mask requirement; South Carolina’s governor said he would ease capacity restrictions on restaurants; and New Orleans bars were given the green light to sell carry-out drinks. Florida has moved ahead with an aggressive reopening that gives bars and restaurants latitude to allow as many customers as they choose.
The outlook is gloomier in the Midwest.
Wisconsin reported a record daily death toll Wednesday, and hospitals in multiple cities said they were running out of space. A 530-bed field hospital that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built on the state fairgrounds in the city of West Allis in April could be put to use if the situation worsens.
Iowa reported more than 1,000 new cases for the third consecutive day Friday as the virus continued to aggressively spread in many regions of the state. South Dakota health officials reported record highs in deaths and cases Thursday.
‘Crazy quilt of approaches’
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, said Trump’s diagnosis “reinforces the notion we need a national policy and we need everyone to participate in the basic preventions.”
Instead, Schaffner said, the response “has been subcontracted to the governors, which has left us with a crazy quilt of approaches.”
For months, Trump has downplayed the virus, rarely wearing a mask, holding large campaign rallies, and urging businesses and schools to reopen. Masks have not been mandatory for White House staff, despite evidence they help to stop the spread.
“Now, tragically, this experiment has shown, at the highest office of the country, it ain’t working. It didn’t work,” Schaffner said.
Michaud said the nation is experiencing “a dangerous moment.”
“We have lots of schools, universities, workplaces, and other businesses and institutions reopening. Colder weather is also on the way, which will likely increase the chances people will congregate together indoors,” Michaud said.
If complacency sets in, infections will rise.
“We’re still not doing sufficient testing and contact tracing across the country,” Michaud said. “For all these reasons, we’re likely to see more transmission in the U.S., not less, in the coming weeks and months.”