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Harris veep pick welcomed by diasporas; Scottish passenger train derails; New Zealand reimposes lockdown measures

Harris veep pick welcomed by diasporas; Scottish passenger train derails; New Zealand reimposes lockdown measures

By
The World staff

United States Senator for California Kamala Harris attends the “Families Belong Together: Freedom for Immigrants” March in Los Angeles, June 30, 2018.

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Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 presidential contest is drawing attention from a wide range of groups. Picking Harris, the 55-year-old daughter of a Jamaican American economist and an Indian American cancer researcher, has generated global excitement about the strength of diaspora populations and renewed optimism for the potential of an immigrant-friendly US.

In southern India, Harris received plaudits for being a proud representative of her mother’s native land and the first person of South Asian descent to be tapped as a vice presidential candidate. Though born in Oakland, California, and educated partially in Montreal, Québec, Harris says she connected profoundly with her Indian relatives during summer trips to Tamil Nadu.

The honorary consul general of Jamaica in Philadelphia, Christopher Chaplin, told the NANN Caribbean news outlet that he views Harris as a “shining example of what is possible in America.”

“The notion that if you get educated and if you work hard, that you will do well still holds true,” added Chaplin. “In these challenging times, with the twin specters of COVID-19 and racial injustice facing us, it is important to fight for justice and still believe. I salute her selection.”

Biden’s historic selection has also notably resonated with Black women, a key voting demographic that has often struggled to assert political might in the US.

What The World is following

A passenger train derailed during storms on Wednesday in the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland, causing serious injuries. Several dozen emergency vehicles rushed to the scene, in addition to air ambulance support. Video clips posted on social media depicted smoke coming from the train. Torrential downpours and thunderstorms resulted in major flooding and disruptions for travelers.

In New Zealand, government officials are looking into the possibility that freight could be the source of the first COVID-19 infections in over three months. The diagnosis of four cases in one Auckland family led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reimpose a strict lockdown in the country’s biggest city and renewed social distancing measures across the island nation.

From The WorldMauritius rushes to stave off oil spill

This photo provided by the French Defense Ministry shows oil leaking from the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after the Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tons of fuel.

Credit:

Gwendoline Defente/EMAE via AP

The island of Mauritius boasts beautiful beaches, coral reefs, lagoons and clear waters. Now, oily black sludge mars the country’s southeastern coastline. It began on Thursday when oil started leaking from the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio ship, which ran aground on a southern coral reef on July 25.

“It is the biggest natural disaster to my knowledge that we are having in Mauritius,” said Jacqueline Sauzier, a microbiologist who heads the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society.

As Election Day nears, it’s not just about winning the ‘Latino vote.’ It’s about making a real connection.

People attend a bilingual health care town hall sponsored by local organizations that work in Latino voter outreach, disability advocacy and community health at the Ability360 Center in Phoenix, July 5, 2017. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were invited but declined to attend. 

Credit:

Caitlin O’Hara/Reuters 

To be Latino during an election season can feel like landing on a movie set of a suspenseful, high-stakes drama. It’s a story of contradictions. You are a star of the show — Latinos are projected to become the largest, nonwhite racial or ethnic electorate in 2020 — but it is usually set to a predictable, one-note soundtrack: “immigration, immigration, immigration.” An audience of pundits dissects the “Latino vote,” while advocates recite well-rehearsed lines: “Latinos are not a monolith. Ignoring the Latino vote will cost candidates at the polls.”

Bright spot

Italians were ahead of their time with social distancing. Wine merchants in Tuscany built “wine windows” to protect people during the Black Death and the Italian Plague. And now amidst the coronavirus pandemic wine windows are making a comeback.

Would you like a wine window in your neighborhood? https://t.co/8fUrMcWcvh

— Lonely Planet (@lonelyplanet) August 7, 2020In case you missed itListen: Russia approves coronavirus vaccine before completing testing

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Putin says that a coronavirus vaccine developed in the country has been registered for use and one of his daughters has already been inoculated.

Credit:

Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russia has granted regulatory approval to a vaccine for the coronavirus without thoroughly testing it. And, two days after Belarusians went to the polls in a highly contested election, the main opposition candidate was forced to flee to Lithuania and protesters have taken to the streets. Also, an estimated 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in this year’s elections. But many may not feel like they belong in this political process.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Belarus says police fired live rounds at protesters as EU weighs sanctions

Belarus says police fired live rounds at protesters as EU weighs sanctions

People talk to Belarusian law enforcement officers near the site where a protester died during a rally following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, August 11, 2020.

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Stringer/Reuters

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Belarus’ interior ministry said on Wednesday that police had fired live rounds at protesters in the city of Brest and arrested more than 1,000 people nationwide, intensifying a crackdown that has prompted the European Union to weigh new sanctions on Minsk.

Security forces have clashed with protesters for three consecutive nights after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide re-election victory in a vote on Sunday that his opponents say was rigged.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets again on Wednesday. Women dressed in white formed a human chain outside a covered food market in the capital Minsk, while a crowd also gathered outside a prison where protesters were being kept.

Women take part in a demonstration against police violence during the recent rallies of opposition supporters following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, August 12, 2020.

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Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Lukashenko has sought better ties with the West amid strained relations with traditional ally Russia. Brussels lifted sanctions, imposed over Lukashenko’s human rights record, in 2016 but will consider new measures this week.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century but faces anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.

“I have to come today to support those who go out at night,” said Elena, a protester speaking outside the covered market. “It’s not only my vote that was stolen from me, but 20 years of my life. The authorities must go.”

Clashes

The Belarusian interior ministry said 51 protesters and 14 police officers had been injured in clashes on Tuesday night.

In Brest, a city in southwestern Belarus on the Polish border, police fired live rounds after some protesters it said were armed with metal bars ignored warning shots fired in the air, the ministry said. One person was injured.

Lukashenko has accused the protesters of being in cahoots with foreign backers from Russia and elsewhere.

Belarusian state media this week broadcast footage of a van in Minsk with Russian number plates saying it was packed with ammunition and tents.

Tracked down by Reuters, Valdemar Grubov, the van’s owner, said he was a film producer and that the vehicle contained only his own personal effects.

He said he had been unable to retrieve the van due to COVID-19 restrictions and was not involved in any foreign plot.

Lukashenko’s rival in Sunday’s vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a 37-year-old former English teacher, has fled to neighboring Lithuania to join her children there. She urged her compatriots not to oppose the police and to avoid putting their lives in danger.

By Andrei Makhovsky/Reuters

Mauritius rushes to stave off oil spill

Mauritius rushes to stave off oil spill

“It is the biggest natural disaster to my knowledge that we are having in Mauritius,” said Jacqueline Sauzier, a microbiologist who heads Mauritius Marine Conservation Society. The oil spill poses a threat to nearby ecology and wildlife on wetlands and smaller islands.

By
Halima Gikandi

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This photo provided by the French Defense Ministry shows oil leaking from the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after the Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tons of fuel.

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The island of Mauritius boasts beautiful beaches, coral reefs, lagoons and clear waters. Now, oily black sludge mars the country’s southeast coastline.

It began on Thursday when oil began leaking from the Japanese-owned MW Wakashio ship, which ran aground on a southern coral reef on July 25.

Related: Mysterious oil spill fouls Brazil’s coastline

“It is the biggest natural disaster to my knowledge that we are having in Mauritius,” said Jacqueline Sauzier, a microbiologist who heads Mauritius Marine Conservation Society.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth tweeted a startling image of the leak: 

Le naufrage du #Wakashio représente un danger pour l’île Maurice. Notre pays n’a pas les compétences et l’expertise pour le renflouage des navires échoués, c’est ainsi que j’ai sollicité l’aide de la #France à @EmmanuelMacron. pic.twitter.com/30m2pQzEy4

— Pravind Jugnauth (@PKJugnauth) August 7, 2020

Reportedly 1,000 tons of oil has leaked into the water so far, endangering nearby protected mangroves and lagoons — home to rich and diverse species.

“The spill has gone into two directions. … Into the lagoon of the east coast and down to the coastal zones.”

Jacqueline Sauzier, microbiologist, Mauritius Marine Conservation Society

“The spill has gone into two directions,” said Sauzier. “Into the lagoon of the east coast and down to the coastal zones.”

But the spill has mobilized Mauritians across the island, and volunteers and organizations have been racing to contain the spill from spreading further.

Related: Court blocks oil drilling in Peruvian Amazon

Local textile companies have worked alongside the sugar cane industry to create long fabric booms filled with dry sugar cane waste and plastic bottles. They essentially work as a floating sponge to soak up the spilled oil.

The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to make containment booms) and every other Mauritian mobilising resources behind the scenes. Hats off et Merci. #Mauritius #Wakashio pic.twitter.com/4nJfrVn1Zm

— Fabiola Monty (@LFabiolaMonty) August 7, 2020

“There is a big movement also since last Friday of Mauritians cutting their hair. So the hair is also a very large absorbent of oil,” said Sauzier, who says she and her daughter both cut their hair as well.

The hair then goes into nylon leggings, becoming small booms that can be reused.

Related: Leak of sulfuric acid Mexico’s Sea of Cortez arouses anger

As of Tuesday, the oil spill seems to have been contained — but the ship risks splitting in two, warned Prime Minister Jugnauth on Monday. Containment is only the beginning.

“We’ve got 48 to 72 hours. And if there’s no cleaning up done correctly, the mangroves may die,” warned Sauzier. 

Some marine life has already died from the oil spill, according to Reuters.

The oil spill also poses a threat to nearby ecology and wildlife on wetlands and smaller islands, says Kevin Ruhomaun, who directs the National Parks and Conservation Services in Mauritius.

“The fumes and the smell of hydrocarbon was quite bad a few days ago. … And also being fuel and oil, there was a risk of fire.”

Kevin Ruhomaun, director, National Parks and Conservation Services, Mauritius

“The fumes and the smell of hydrocarbon was quite bad a few days ago,” said Ruhomaun. So bad people were getting headaches.  “And also being fuel and oil, there was a risk of fire,” he continued.

As a precaution, his team, in partnership with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, has been removing some rare animals and plants from nearby Ile Aux Aigrettes, which lies in the vicinity of the oil spill.

That includes the Mauritius olive white-eye, a rare bird species inhabiting Ile Aux Aigrettes. 

Olive White-Eye bird of Mauritius. 

Credit:

Eliane Küpfer/Wikimedia 

“As a safety precaution about 20% of the population had been removed,” and brought to an aviary, said Ruhomaun. He says two species of rare reptile lizards could be next depending on what the spill looks like tomorrow.

The quick work by nongovernmental organizations, volunteers and smaller agencies has in some ways overshadowed the government, which has been criticized for its slow response to the oil spill.

“Once the boat was on the reefs they should have prepared for the worst-case scenario from day one,” argues Sauzier, noting that this was the fourth time a ship has come onto the country’s reefs in recent years.

“Why are these big boats getting so close to Mauritius?” asked Sauzier.

The Japanese company that owns the ship has apologized for the spill, and Japan has reportedly sent a team to assist in the relief efforts.

But the impact on the environment, as well as the local fisheries and tourism industry, could last for years to come.

Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris listens to questions after the Democratic primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami, June 27, 2019.

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Brynn Anderson/AP

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Joe Biden named Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary and making history by selecting the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

Harris, a 55-year-old first-term senator, is also one of the party’s most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

Harris joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned off some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of systemic racism in the legal system and police brutality. She tried to strike a balance on these issues, declaring herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement reforms.

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would center on two white men in their 70s.

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention.

A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their party lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when he’s inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the US Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris said Biden made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators and slammed his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.

“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

Shaken by the attack, Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”

The exchange resurfaced recently one of Biden’s closest friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, still harbors concerns about the debate and that Harris hadn’t expressed regret. The comments attributed to Dodd and first reported by Politico drew condemnation, especially from influential Democratic women who said Harris was being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man running for president.

Some Biden confidants said Harris’ campaign attack did irritate the former vice president, who had a friendly relationship with her. Harris was also close with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served as Delaware attorney general while she held the same post in California.

But Biden and Harris have since returned to a warm relationship.

“Joe has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

At the same event, she bluntly attacked Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, which has not been proved to be an effective treatment and may even be more harmful. After Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests about the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody, Harris said his remarks “yet again show what racism looks like.”

Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.

The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. And while she now wants independent investigations of police shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have required her office to take on such cases.

“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”

By Alexandra Jaffe, Kathleen Ronayne and Will Weissert/AP

As Election Day nears, it’s not just about winning the ‘Latino vote.’ It’s about making a real connection.

As Election Day nears, it's not just about winning the 'Latino vote.' It's about making a real connection.

A sense of belonging — meaning, how society perceives you — along with feeling respected and valued — can be powerful forces to mobilize or discourage voting.

By
Michelle Garcia

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People attend a bilingual health care town hall sponsored by local organizations that work in Latino voter outreach, disability advocacy and community health at the Ability360 Center in Phoenix, July 5, 2017. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were invited but declined to attend. 

Credit:

Caitlin O’Hara/Reuters 

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To be Latino during an election season can feel like landing on a movie set of a suspenseful, high-stakes drama. It’s a story of contradictions. You are a star of the show — Latinos are projected to become the largest, nonwhite racial or ethnic electorate in 2020 — but it is usually set to a predictable, one-note soundtrack: “immigration, immigration, immigration.” An audience of pundits dissects the “Latino vote,” while advocates recite well-rehearsed lines: “Latinos are not a monolith. Ignoring the Latino vote will cost candidates at the polls.”

And perhaps the only reason the Latino vote narrative captivates political writers, pundits and especially candidates is because they want to know: “How does the story end?”

Related: Getting out the vote for the 2020 election: Lessons from Bernie Sanders’ Latino outreach

Sure, action sequences turn on whether Democrats can rally Latinos or whether an incumbent president, whose political emblem is a border wall, has alienated Latinos who vote for Republicans. But it’s a story that comes down to the question: Will they show up on Election Day?

The answer depends, in part, on whether our stars feel like heroines on camera or specimens under a microscope, and whether they feel they are part of the US electorate or outsiders: “them,” “the other.”

“It matters a great deal, especially for those who are not politicized who have not developed an interest to engage or desire to engage with politics.”

Angela X. Ocampo, author 

“It matters a great deal, especially for those who are not politicized who have not developed an interest to engage or desire to engage with politics,” said Angela X. Ocampo, author of the forthcoming book, “Politics of Inclusion: A Sense of Belonging and Latino Political Participation.”

Before our stars became Latino voters, say researchers and voting rights advocates, daily experiences informed their enthusiasm for casting a ballot. To reach the ballot box, Latinos often must first traverse a battlefield of messages from the political left and right that casts Latinos as the perennial outsider. They will have shielded themselves from media coverage often portrays Latinos as rootless newcomers and asks that all-too-familiar question: “Where are you from?” Which presumes that the answer is: “Not here.” They will have faced a barrage of rejecting encounters, with nearly 38% of Latinos reported to the Pew Research Center in 2018 that they had been told to “go back,” chastised for speaking Spanish, or been on the receiving end of offensive slurs in the previous year. They will have pushed through the psychological impact of violent events, such as the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, which was provoked by racist backlash against Latinos as a growing political force in Texas.

Related: The pandemic upended this Latino teen’s senior year. Now it’s upended his politics.

“After that terrible event, we were left at the mercy of a fear created for us,” writes Ilia Calderón, a national news anchor for Univision, in her new memoir, “My Time to Speak: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race.” The fear extended far beyond El Paso or Texas, beyond Mexicans and Mexican Americans, reaching Calderón, an Afro Latina thousands of miles away in Miami and but to Latinos across the country.

“We already had to deal with how the color of our skin makes some look at us a certain way when we walk into a store, what it means to be a woman walking around certain areas at certain times, but now we have to add our papers, last names, or nationality to the mix,” Calderón said.

From these experiences, “many Latinos in the U.S. learn that their standing in the U.S. social fabric is limited and below that of others,” writes researcher Ocampo, adding that it holds true for people whose roots run generations deep, or who arrived decades ago and raised their children.

A sense of belonging — meaning, how society perceives you — along with feeling respected and valued — can be powerful forces to mobilize or discourage voting. In his eulogy for the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis on July 30, former President Barack Obama said a central strategy to voter suppression is to convince people to “stop believing in your own power.”

Though Latinos possess a strong American identity, researchers have found Latinos register a lower sense of belonging than whites but slightly higher than Blacks. And given the nation’s racist hierarchy, Latinos, who can be of any race, with darker skin have a more tenuous sense of belonging than lighter-skinned Latinos. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that following the election of Donald Trump, 49% of Latinos had “serious concerns” about the security of their place in the US. The implications can be significant. Ocampo found that a strong belief in belonging to US society can change the probability of voting by up to 10%, translating into tens of thousands of votes.

Demographics, though, seem to have little effect. Even in a state like Texas, where Latinos will soon become the largest demographic, they are underrepresented in nearly all areas of leadership. A forthcoming, statewide study by the Texas Organizing Project about Latinos’ relationship with the electoral system turned up a solid strain of unbelonging, particularly among working-class Latinos in urban areas.

“We are an ‘other.’ We still feel it,” said Crystal Zermeno, director of electoral strategy for the Texas Organizing Project.

That perception becomes a challenge when trying to convince eligible voters that the ballot box belongs to them.

“A lot of times working-class Latinos, they feel like voting is for other people. It’s not where they belong.”

Crystal Zermeno, Texas Organizing Project

“A lot of times working-class Latinos, they feel like voting is for other people. It’s not where they belong.”

Political campaigns may run on promises of better access to health care, tighter border security and help with college tuition. But to get the message across, candidates and parties need to make an authentic connection.

“I needed to make an emotional connection with an old, angry, white, Jewish man from Vermont [Sanders] with a demographic with an average age of 27, to say, ‘I understand your plight,’” said Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser during Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign effort to turn out Latino voters and recently released the book, “Tío Bernie: The Inside Story of How Bernie Sanders Brought Latinos into the Political Revolution.”

Sanders’ immigrant roots may have opened a door. But the connection comes from communicating, “You are part of our community and we’re part of your community,” Rocha said.

Related: Trump, Biden boost efforts to reach Texas Latino voters

Belonging, or at least the semblance of it, is a tool that Republicans use — including President Trump. With Trump’s “build that wall” chant; fixation on border security, and derogatory references to asylum-seekers and other migrants, Trump has drawn clear and powerful boundaries on belonging. Contained within his rhetoric, rallies and campaign videos is a choreography for performing American identity, patriotism and citizenship.

“Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?” Trump asked Steve Cortes, a supporter and Hispanic Advisory Council member, during a 2019 rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. During his 2020 State of the Union Address, Trump momentarily paused his typical vilification of asylum-seekers and other migrants to recognize one Latino: Raul Ortiz, the newly appointed deputy chief of the US Border Patrol  — a servant of surveillance.

“He’s putting forth a clear version of what it means to belong and not to belong and who is a threat and not a threat,” said Geraldo Cadava, author of “The Hispanic Republicans: The shaping of An American Political Identity from Nixon to Trump.”

In the long term, Cadava says, Trump’s strategy is untenable because of the demographic direction of the nation. But in the immediate term, it is meant to rally his base and solidify support among voters in key states. Inviting Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods, a major food brand favored by Latinos, to the White House in July, provoked backlash when the CEO praised the president. Still, for Latino Republican voters, it suggested that the White House is open to them.

This, combined with a weeklong, Hispanic outreach campaign that centered on promises to play up Latino business opportunities, in the eyes of Trump’s supporters, Cadava said, “he looks like a perfectly electable candidate.” It’s an image tailored for an existing base, which stands in contrast to the scene of Trump tossing rolls of paper towels to survivors of Hurricane Maria.

Overtures of belonging can also be seen in a move by Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas, who is up for reelection, to co-sponsor legislation to fund a National Museum of the American Latino. But advocates warn such messages ring hollow when matched with policies. Cornyn, a Trump supporter and lieutenant to Sen. Mitch McConnell, has aggressively backed repealing the Affordable Care Act even though his state has the highest uninsured rate in the nation — 60% of the uninsured are Latino. With news coverage of Latinos generally centered on border and immigration issues, and 30% of Latinos reported being contacted by a candidate or party, according to a poll by Latino Decisions, the lasting image is likely a photograph of a museum. This may explain why Cornyn is 10 points behind his Democratic challenger. To this, some say Democrats have failed to summon a vision of the nation that includes Latinos.

“We [Latinos] are part of the America, the problem is we haven’t made them part of the public policy and politics of our country because we don’t spend the time to reach out and make the connection to that community.” 

Chuck Rocha, senior adviser during Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign

“We [Latinos] are part of the America, the problem is we haven’t made them part of the public policy and politics of our country because we don’t spend the time to reach out and make the connection to that community,” said Rocha, who led a campaign by Sanders that scored record turnout among Latinos.

Related: This young Afro Latino teacher and voter wants to be a model for his students

Missing in American politics for Latinos is “a showman, somebody who stands up and who isn’t afraid of consequences to stand for our community the way [Trump] stands for racist rednecks. We haven’t seen that.”

Left is a roadmap of patriotism, of citizenship that positions Latinos in a neverending border checkpoint, not located in South Texas or Arizona, but built around the notion of an American.

“There are these tests being administered to see where these people are going to fit in the greater scheme of things if we have to deal with them,” said Antonio Arellano, acting executive director of Jolt Institute, a voter mobilization organization in Texas. “Patriotism can be displayed in many different ways, this administration has tainted nationalism by dipping it into the red cold racist filled paint that has been emblematic of America’s darkest moment in history.”

In a scathing opinion piece for The New York Times, Alejandra Gomez and Tomás Robles Jr., co-founders of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) accused political leaders of deserting Latino Arizonans, leaving them as scapegoats to a right-wing political agenda that was built on excluding and attacking immigrants and Latinos.

“The thing is, people want community. They want to belong to something that helps them make sense of the political world,” they wrote. “But they don’t trust politics or Democrats because both have failed them.” 

While unbelonging may drive some people from the polls, it can also be a mobilizing force.

Following the 1990s’ anti-Latino and anti-immigrant campaign in California, that resulted in policies, such as denying education and housing to undocumented imigrants political groups harnessed the outrage and pain among Latinos in that state. In the 2000s, facing deportation, the young Latinos known as the “Dreamers” transformed their noncitizen status into a political asset and became a reckoning force across the nation. Millennials, in particular, reported to Ocampo their outsider status was a catalyzing force for political participation.

LUCHA and other advocacy groups have provided something candidates and parties have not: belonging. “We are reminding them and they are true leaders in our community, creating spaces to be themselves authentically in the world,” Gomez told me.

These advocacy groups have become a political force in Arizona, backing progressive candidates and galvanizing Latinos, not by stoking party loyalty but as “independent power organizations,” Gomez told me. In a state where Latinos are nearly a quarter of eligible voters, LUCHA and other groups helped roll back anti-immigrant laws and elected community leaders and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to the US Senate by promoting a platform created not by a party, but by their community.

In late summer, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, made belonging a central feature in “The Biden Agenda for the Latino Community.”

“President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. … Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.” 

“The Biden Agenda for the Latino Community”

“President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. … Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American,” it says.

Biden’s agenda includes a host of policy offerings including a public option for health care, immigration reform and addressing climate change. It remains to be seen if that’s enough, if the strategy will amount to policies wrapped up in an anti-Trump message. And this brings to mind a critical point that Rocha made about appealing to Latino voters: Latinos changed Sanders himself, by courting them he gained a more complete portrait of the nation. Belonging, after all, is reciprocal.

Come Election Day, whether someone coming off a double shift or mourning family members who died in a pandemic, or a student facing down a deadline for a paper will take a few hours — Latinos stand in lines that are twice as long as whites — a ballot cast will be the end result of a long journey, an epic drama that began long before a campaign season. 

Russian vaccine risks increasing severity, acquisition of COVID-19, says expert

Russian vaccine risks increasing severity, acquisition of COVID-19, says expert

The World Host Marco Werman spoke with Gary Kobinger, who directs the Infectious Disease Research Center at the University of Laval in Quebec City and has worked on a coronavirus vaccine.

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The World staff

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In this handout photo taken on Aug. 6, 2020, an employee works with a coronavirus vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.

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Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Russian Direct Investment Fund/AP

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Russia is now the first country in the world to grant approval for a vaccine against COVID-19.

There is a big catch, though. Russia’s vaccine has not passed the crucial Phase 3 testing stage. That’s when thousands of volunteers are inoculated.

Related: Moderna, NIH coronavirus vaccine study underway

So, many scientists wonder whether this one is safe and effective. Still, President Vladimir Putin is calling the vaccine “Sputnik V” — a reference to Russia’s surprise launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957.

Related: UK coronavirus vaccine prompts immune response in early test

For more on the controversy behind this vaccine, The World Host Marco Werman spoke with Gary Kobinger. He directs the Infectious Disease Research Center at the University of Laval in Quebec City and has worked on a coronavirus vaccine there.

Marco Werman: Russia has this agreement to produce 500 million doses of this new vaccine and says it has requests for a billion doses from 20 countries. Is this good news?

Gary Kobinger: It would be good news if we would have a bit more data on their safety and efficacy of that vaccine. And it depends how they roll it out. But if they roll it out at the population level with hundreds of thousands of people vaccinated per week, which they could do, I would not want to be the person signing off on this and being responsible for this, honestly. Because I think it may all go well and I wish them the best, trust me. But I would be very nervous about seeing severe side effects, seeing increasing severity of disease and acquisition, increased acquisition. I would not be comfortable. And it’s it’s a huge risk.

So, Russia’s skipping this Phase 3 — large-scale safety trials. Those take months. Why is skipping that phase — even in the midst of a global emergency — such a serious omission in the scientific process?

It’s a tough decision. I could see this being a bit more debated then, and more likely to happen if we would have a pathogen that would have a case fatality rate — so killing 50% of the people, for example — which is not the case right now. It’s still not Ebola. It’s still not a very highly pathogenic virus.

Even some Russian scientists have warned of the dangers of the Sputnik V, suggesting even that the wrong vaccine could increase the severity of COVID-19. Do you also have those concerns?

It definitely is a possibility. And when you get the population level, it means also that you will vaccinate people that have all sorts of genetic background, potentially, whose morbidity factors that are unknown, maybe of a medical condition that are still unknown. And these can interact with [any] vaccine in a way that it could make acquisition and severity of the disease more aggressive and it could increase the side effect. This is why Phase 3 [trials] are so important. Everything before, Phase 1 and Phase 2, you select the people. You look to make sure they don’t have co-morbidity factors. So this is why doing this right now with a pathogen like SARS-CoV-2 is a high risk. And when you are developing a vaccine and you’re putting vaccine out, you have a responsibility to the rest of the world because again, if you have a vaccine that brings severe side effect, if you have a vaccine that increases acquisition, increases disease severity, you undermine everybody else that may have a better candidate as well. You know, people are afraid of [a] vaccine, almost naturally. And it will be, I think, a shockwave not only to the COVID vaccination but to every vaccine-preventable disease, which is, you know, millions of people a year that are saved because of vaccination.

Hong Kong newspaper raided, tycoon detained under new law

Hong Kong newspaper raided, tycoon detained under new law

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested by police officers at his home in Hong Kong, Aug. 10, 2020.

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Hong Kong authorities arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai on Monday in a move seen as broadening their enforcement of a new national security law.

The authories also searched the headquarters of Lai’s Next Digital group and carted away boxes of what they said was evidence.

Additionally, in the evening, police arrested prominent pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow Ting at her home, according to a tweet by fellow activist Nathan Law, who is currently in Britain. A post on Chow’s official Facebook page said police had arrived at her home and that her lawyers were rushing to the scene.

Two days after Chinese and Hong Kong officials shrugged off sanctions imposed on them by the US, the moves showed China’s determination to enforce the new law and curb dissent in the semi-autonomous city after months of massive pro-democracy demonstrations last year.

Lai’s arrest and the search of his Next Digital group marked the first time the law was used against news media, stoking fears that authorities are suppressing press freedom. Next Digital operates Apple Daily, a feisty pro-democracy tabloid that often condemns China’s Communist Party-led government.

Apple Daily’s popularity stems from its celebrity news and flamboyant stories, but it is also known for investigative reporting and breaking news coverage. It has frequently urged readers to take part in pro-democracy protests.

On July 1 it condemned the new national security law on its front page, calling it “the final nail in the coffin” for the “one country, two systems” framework under which the former British colony has been able to enjoy civil liberties not seen in mainland China after it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

The arrests of Lai and Chow came as Beijing announced sanctions on 11 Americans, including six members of Congress, in an escalating battle between the two nations over technology, security, trade and human rights. And in Chinese-claimed Taiwan, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking American official to visit since 1979, further straining US-China relations.

Hong Kong police arrested Lai on Monday morning, an aide to the businessman said, in the highest-profile detention under the new law since it took effect on June 30. Lai, 71, is an outspoken pro-democracy figure who regularly criticizes China’s authoritarian rule and Hong Kong’s government.

Mark Simon, a Next Digital executive and Lai’s aide, said Lai was charged with collusion with foreign powers. He said police searched the homes of Lai and his son and detained several other members of the media company.

Hong Kong police said they arrested at least nine people between the ages of 23 and 72 on suspicion of violating the new security law, with offenses including collusion with a foreign country and conspiracy to defraud. They did not release the names of those arrested or provide further details of the charges.

Following Lai’s arrest, about 200 police raided Next Digital’s headquarters, cordoning off the area, searching desks and at times getting into heated exchanges with staff. What police were looking for in the building wasn’t clear, although they later said they took away 25 boxes of evidence for processing.

Lai, who was arrested at his mansion in Kowloon in the morning, was also brought to the headquarters of Next Digital, where he remained for about two and a half hours before police took him away in a car.

“We are completely shocked by what’s happening now, with the arrest and followed by the ongoing raid inside the headquarters of Next Digital,” said Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

“With the passage of the national security law and the really tough powers given to the police in their operations, we have seen now what we call ‘white terror’ become a reality, which will affect media organizations and journalists’ reporting.”

Police unblocked Next Digital’s headquarters at mid-afternoon, with senior superintendent of police Steve Li saying that staff were free to resume their work.

Bruce Lui, a senior lecturer in Hong Kong Baptist University’s journalism department, said authorities are using the national security law to make an example of media outlets like Apple Daily and this may harm press freedom in Hong Kong.

“They’re used as an example to terrify others … of what can happen if you don’t obey or if you go too far,” Lui said. “I think other media may make a judgment to censor themselves.”

The share price of Next Digital soared over 200% in the afternoon, following posts on a popular online forum encouraging investors to support the company by buying its stock.

The reason for the charge against Lai wasn’t clear.

In May, shortly after Beijing announced its intention to pass the national security law for Hong Kong, Lai condemned the legislation in a series of tweets. The state-owned newspaper Global Times called the tweets “evidence of subversion.”

Lai also wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in May stating that China was repressing Hong Kong with the legislation.

“I have always thought I might one day be sent to jail for my publications or for my calls for democracy in Hong Kong,” Lai wrote. “But for a few tweets, and because they are said to threaten the national security of mighty China? That’s a new one, even for me.”

Lai was earlier arrested in February and April for allegedly participating in unauthorized protests last year. He also faces charges of joining an unauthorized vigil on June 4 marking the anniversary of Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Last year, Lai met US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House to discuss a controversial bill — since withdrawn — that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial.

But Hong Kong officials have said the security law, which took effect June 30, would not be applied retroactively. The law is widely seen as a means to curb dissent after anti-government protests rocked the semi-autonomous city for months last year.

The legislation outlaws secessionist, subversive and terrorist acts, as well as collusion with foreign forces in the city’s internal affairs. The maximum punishment for serious offenders is life imprisonment.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council condemned the arrests in a statement, saying they were a tool for the Chinese Communist Party’s “political cleansing and hegemonic expansion.” It said the law is being abused to suppress freedom of speech, press freedom and the civil rights of Hong Kong people.

Last month, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said pro-democracy activist Nathan Law and five others were wanted under the law, although all six had fled overseas. Law relocated to Britain in July to continue international advocacy work for Hong Kong.

By Zen Soo/AP

Thailand set to legalize LGBTQ unions, a rare step in Asia

Thailand set to legalize LGBTQ unions, a rare step in Asia

It will be the first Southeast Asian nation to do so — just as Thailand was the first major nation in the world to let women vote.

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Patrick Winn

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Thai police officers stand among demonstrators during a protest demanding the resignation of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, in Bangkok, July 25, 2020.

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LGBTQ marriages are now accepted across Europe, North America and many parts of South America. But this revolution has yet to sweep into Asia.

Thailand is set to shake up this status quo, advancing a law that will allow “civil partnership” between LGBTQ couples. It will be the first Southeast Asian nation to do so — just as Thailand was the first major nation in the world to let women vote.

Related: In Thailand, posting a selfie with a beer is a potential crime

So, time to pop the champagne, right? Not so fast.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Pauline Ngarmpring, a former candidate for Thailand’s prime minister seat.

Better than nothing?

“Yeah, we have to think like that to be happy,” she said. “You get something, you should be happy with it.”

Pauline Ngarmpring, Thailand’s first transgender candidate for prime minister, hands a name card to a vendor as she campaigns in the market in Khlong Toey, Bangkok, Feb. 27, 2019.

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Rina Chandran/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Pauline is one of the most high-profile transgender political voices in Thailand. She and several LGBTQ groups have muted enthusiasm for the coming law, which is still waiting to be finalized in the parliament.

They are pleased that it offers most of the same rights as marriage: the power to adopt, share finances, visit sick spouses in the hospital and pass along wealth via inheritance.

Related: Thailand’s beauty craze: ‘Milking’ snails to make facial creams

But if the government really wants to make history, Pauline says, it shouldn’t be so timid. Offer full-on marriage to LGBTQ couples, she says, instead of creating a new category — “civil partnership” — that may forever lock their partnerships into second-class status.

“It’s not quite equality. Conceptually, it’s still not treating us the same as other people.”

Pauline Ngarmpring, former candidate for Thailand’s prime minister seat

“It’s not quite equality,” she said. “Conceptually, it’s still not treating us the same as other people.”

Thailand has a fairly strong reputation as a haven for LGBTQ acceptance. Gay tourists often perceive it as a sort of “paradise,” Pauline says, but many fail to understand that Thais are still seeking full equality.

Gay and transgender celebrities are celebrated, sure, but everyday LGBTQ folks still struggle to ascend in traditional fields, such as banking or bureaucracy.

“When I came out to society, people said, ‘It’s OK as long as you are a good person,’” Pauline said.

Related: Coronavirus fears spread in Thailand, a Chinese tourism magnet

There are always extra expectations, she says — like being exceptionally pretty or funny or nice — that aren’t heaved upon the shoulders of cisgender people. In the same vein, she says, this pending law will cause many LGBTQ Thais to wonder: Why aren’t we good enough for full-on marriage?

When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Thailand is already a brighter spot in the region. In Indonesia, the leading psychiatric board lists homosexuality as a mental disorder. In the wealthy city-state of Singapore — despite all its modernity — gay sex is still criminalized. Brunei technically allows stoning as a punishment for same-sex couplings.

And then there is Thailand, where employers are forbidden from discriminating against LGBTQ employees — and Pauline was perfectly free to run for the premier’s seat last year. She didn’t win but four other transgender politicians did gain seats in the parliament.

The new push to legalize LGBTQ unions wasn’t the result of intense activist pressure. It was actually put out by a cabinet that is fairly right-wing: loyal to the army, devout monarchists, and generally conservative.

“Conservative people are sometimes not conservative in everything.” 

Pauline Ngarmpring, former candidate for Thailand’s prime minister seat

“Conservative people are sometimes not conservative in everything,” Pauline said.

Related: They were CIA-backed Chinese rebels. Now you’re invited to their once-secret hideaway.

Unlike the United States, Thailand’s right-wingers have never prioritized fighting LGBTQ rights. Nor is there a culture war in which transgender issues are scrutinized to fire up their base.

Pauline thinks the conservative bloc approved the civil union law out of pure political expediency, hoping it would win votes in future elections. Simple as that.

There is a slim chance the law won’t pass — it still needs to be ratified in the parliament — but LGBTQ groups don’t expect much resistance moving forward. Before it passes, there is still time, they say, to take a bolder path and offer equal marriage rights to all.

Who is responsible for migrant youth in France? 

Who is responsible for migrant youth in France? 

A group of five nongovernmental organizations are pressuring the French government to build a special housing facility exclusively for migrant youth as they await legal decisions on their status in the country.

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Rebecca Rosman

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Gandega Bakary, 16, who is originally from Mali, has been living on the street in France, even amid the coronavirus lockdown.

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Rebecca Rosman/The World 

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For the first time in nearly a year, Gandega Bakary has a roof over his head.

Paris police placed him and some 100 other boys in temporary housing at a nearby gymnasium earlier this month after dismantling the camp where they were living just steps away from the Place de la République.

But the 16-year-old still worries constantly about his future. When he talks to his mom, he lies and says he’s living with a family.

Related: France still behind on anti-racist, anti-colonial progress

“Every time I call her, she asks how I’m doing and I say I’m fine. But I can’t tell her the truth.”

Gandega Bakary, migrant youth in France

“Every time I call her, she asks how I’m doing and I say I’m fine,” Bakary said. “But I can’t tell her the truth.”

The truth is that he has spent months living on the streets — even during the March lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Although the gymnasium is a start for the boys, the government is still far from finding a permanent solution for housing migrant youth. A group of five nongovernmental organizations are pressuring the government to build a special housing facility exclusively for minors as they await legal decisions on their status in the country.

In early July, the NGOs set up the camp for the unaccompanied minors. The groups’ goal was to pressure the French government to provide permanent housing for the boys, most of whom are undocumented migrants from West Africa. They all claim to be under the age of 18.

Related: In France, Black Lives Matter echoes in the case of Adama Traoré

According to Doctors Without Borders, one of the NGOs involved in the campaign, there are an estimated 20,000 unaccompanied minors living on the streets in France.

In early July, five nongovernmental organizations worked together to set up a camp for 100 migrant boys. They are pressuring the French government to establish permanent housing for the unaccompanied youth.

Credit:

Rebecca Rosman/The World 

“They float around invisibly. It’s why we decided to put them in the tents — to be visible.”

Corinne Torre, head of the Paris chapter of Doctors Without Borders

“They float around invisibly,” said Corinne Torre, the head of the Paris chapter of DWB. “It’s why we decided to put them in the tents — to be visible.”

Bakary, who is originally from Mali, says what he really wants is to be allowed to go to school. But until the state agrees that he’s under the age of 18, he’ll have to keep living in this sort of limbo.

He has to prove he’s a minor — which means the state has responsibility for schooling, housing and other types of aid — but the French government often has difficulty verifying documents from abroad.

And there’s another wrinkle: If the youth turn 18 during their waiting time, they are then treated as adults, making it far easier for them to be deported.

“Clearly, [France,] the ‘country of the human rights,’ [is] not respecting this [reputation],” Torre said.

Related: For many French towns, recruiting a mayor is a ‘desperate’ situation

All the boys placed in the gymnasium have had their initial requests to be treated as minors rejected by the state.

Torre says many of these judgments are based entirely on a 30-minute interview. So, the boys are appealing their cases.

“They are waiting for a judgment to confirm if they are minors or not, so during that time they should be protected, which is not the case,” Torre said.

Instead, the government has put the responsibility for the migrant youth — including housing, feeding and schooling — on the NGOs, who say don’t have the means to provide the necessary care.

Catherine Delanoë-Daoud is a lawyer specializing in children’s rights. She believes the majority of the appeals will be successful.

“In the end, more than half of the children who have gone through this process in front of the judge for children will be recognized as underage.” 

Catherine Delanoë-Daoud, children’s rights lawyer

“In the end, more than half of the children who have gone through this process in front of the judge for children will be recognized as underage,” Delanoe-Daoud said. Last year, 57% of appeals were overturned.

But in the interim, by international law, France has an obligation to protect the migrants. Just like the presumption of innocence, she says, they have a right to be presumed as children.

The temporary camp for 100 migrants in Paris was set up by five nongovernmental organizations who are trying to help the boys find permanent housing. Here, breakfast was being served to the boys.

Credit:

Rebecca Rosman/The World 

“That is where, for the time being, France does not comply with its obligations and international standards and the international conventions it has signed,” Delanoë-Daoud said, referring mainly to the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed by 140 countries.

Related: Educators in France advocate for better Holocaust curriculum

The French government didn’t respond to requests for an interview for this story.

At a recent demonstration in front of the Palais Royal near the Louvre in Paris, several hundred activists gathered to call for a solution for the 100 migrant youth.

Bakary came with friends. They danced in the heat, held up signs and sang along to a favorite protest song by a famous Côte d’Ivoire singer.

But he still worries about what to say to his mom.

The next time she calls, he plans to tell her he’s safe. This time, he hopes it will be the truth.

How Trump is weakening the National Environmental Policy Act

How Trump is weakening the National Environmental Policy Act

A bedrock conservation law, the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is the latest environmental regulation rolled back by the Trump administration.

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Adam Wernick

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People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline across from San Francisco City Hall. The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) was one of the laws protesters invoked to stop the pipeline’s construction.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Creative Commons 

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In another attempt to undo decades of environmental regulations, the Trump administration recently released a revised regulatory interpretation of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, that will weaken it significantly.

For the past 50 years, NEPA has underpinned virtually all federal environmental law in the United States. It requires that the federal government study the potential consequences of major infrastructure projects such as pipelines, dams and highways.

The government must evaluate how these projects might impact the environment, human health, cultural resources and endangered species, among other things, and to consider less harmful alternatives.

The Trump administration’s new interpretation of NEPA narrows the types of impacts studied, sets a higher bar for public comments and exempts some projects from review entirely.

The Trump administration’s new interpretation of NEPA narrows the types of impacts studied, sets a higher bar for public comments, and exempts some projects from review entirely. It also essentially removes the requirement for analysis of cumulative or indirect impacts on the environment, such as climate change.

RelatedTrump’s wall will harm wildlife along the US southern border, say environmental experts

The administration claims the weaker rule will slash costs, reduce delays and eliminate red tape for major infrastructure projects.

“We hear the red tape argument all the time,” says Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau. “The truth is, some of the studies that have been done suggest the real reason for delays is agencies trying to cut corners and not actually follow the law, or applicants for permits not actually doing the good work they need to do to evaluate the impacts and come up with alternatives.”

“You can’t blame the law when people try to cheat and…find loopholes,” Parenteau adds. “I can point to a number of court decisions where the judges have said to the agency, ’All you needed to do was simply follow the law.’”

NEPA made it national policy “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony.”

NEPA was passed in 1969 and is sometimes called “the Magna Carta of environmental law,” Parenteau says, because it’s so sweeping in scope. The law made it national policy “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations,” according to an EPA website.

“It has a lot of focus the long-term effects of the actions that we’re taking now,” Parenteau says. “Effects on future generations were called out specifically in the law: historic sites, archaeological sites, Indian religious sites, aesthetics, scenic beauty, the quality of life in inner cities and neighborhoods, green spaces.”

RelatedTrump’s plan for the EPA is death by ‘a thousand cuts’

For this reason, Parenteau says the Trump administration’s attempt to eliminate the cumulative effects requirement will run into legal problems, especially as it relates to climate change.

“We now have a large number of judicial decisions saying climate change must be taken into account,” he says. “And many of those decisions have overturned attempts by the Trump administration not to consider climate change in oil and gas leasing, coal leasing, gas pipelines and so forth. The courts have uniformly said, ‘Of course you have to take climate change into account when you’re writing your environmental impact statement.’”

The final rule says it’s up to the individual agencies to decide whether to do so or not, “which means we’re going to have more litigation over that very question,” Parenteau says.

RelatedAppeals court blocks Trump’s attempt to roll back methane rules

NEPA has also empowered local communities “to participate in decisions affecting their health and their community well-being,” Parenteau says. It was one of the primary tools used by groups that opposed the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, he notes.

On a larger scale, NEPA played a role in getting some of the nation’s “mission-oriented” agencies, like the Forest Service, “to stop thinking that all that forests are a basket of wood for wood products, timber, and so forth, and look at them as ecosystems,” Parenteau adds. “So NEPA is a legal tool, it’s a policy tool, and it’s a community action tool.”

Parenteau believes this last-minute push to get new environmental rules approved, published and in effect is “clearly tailored to the election cycle.”

“Whether or not these rules will survive, of course, is a big question,” he says. “I think [this] rule has a lot of legal vulnerabilities. So it could be that the courts will step in, as they have so many times, to block what the Trump administration’s rollbacks are seeking to do. And then of course, after the election, depending on how that goes, we could see other political responses to the rule as well.”

This article is based on an interview by Bobby Bascomb that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

‘Our house is your house’: Locals open their homes after Beirut blast

‘Our house is your house’: Locals open their homes after Beirut blast

The massive blast that rocked Beirut in Lebanon on Tuesday left at least 300,000 people without homes. But shortly after the blast, residents started a campaign to offer their homes to those in need.

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Shirin Jaafari

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A woman stands inside a damaged restaurant a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut, — stunned, sleepless and stoic — emerged Wednesday from the aftermath of a catastrophic explosion searching for missing relatives, bandaging their wounds and retrieving what’s left of their homes. 

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Hussein Malla/AP

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A day after the massive explosion in Beirut Tuesday, residents were surveying the damage to their homes.

One video shared online showed 78-year-old Beirut resident May Melki playing the piano in what appears to be her destroyed living room. Her entire home is damaged: furniture in disarray, shattered glass everywhere, curtains ripped apart.

Images and videos out of Beirut show that buildings closest to the port, the center of the explosion, were completely leveled. Many buildings further away from the blast that remained standing were damaged and simply not safe to live in.

The governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, said up to 300,000 people lost their homes. He said the government is working to find them shelter.

Related: Mourning and anger amid devastation after Beirut explosion

But in the meantime, a grassroots campaign has taken shape. People in Lebanon are offering up their homes to strangers in need.

my house is open, we have an extra room for anyone who needs a place to stay!

— n🐰 (@auntie_noga) August 4, 2020

Some are using the hashtag #بيوتنا_مفتوحة, which means “our homes are open.” 

One group that used to map all the recent protests in Lebanon switched its work to focus on all the available shelters.

If anyone needs or can offer shelter, please post it below. We are building a map with all shelters.https://t.co/nR5i6vaBDr#ourhomesareopen #بيوتنا_مفتوحة

— thawramap (@thawramap) August 4, 2020

“I decided to take a personal initiative and offer my second house in the mountains far away from Beirut for people who got affected by this explosion [on Tuesday].”

Ihab Kraidly, Beirut resident

“I decided to take a personal initiative and offer my second house in the mountains far away from Beirut for people who got affected by this explosion [on Tuesday],” 29-year-old Ihab Kraidly told The World over a WhatsApp call.

Kraidly said his house in the countryside had been sitting empty for the past four months and so after the blast, he decided to offer it to those in need. A couple responded to his message online, he said.

“They told me that the damage [to their home] was horrible and it was not a place to stay even for one night.”

Related: Lebanon protests called out corruption. Now it’s about survival. 

Kraidly added that the idea of opening up one’s home to strangers in need is nothing new in Lebanon. In fact, his family stayed with others back in 2006, during the war with Israel, because Beirut wasn’t safe, he said.

“They invited us over and when we decided to leave because the war nearly ended. They said, ‘Stay for another two or three weeks.’ People here are unified, you know?”

“My offer was for all the people who are old, poor, they are welcome to the hotel on a full board basis. … You need to support people without thinking of money.” 

Wajih Chbat, owner, The Chbat Hotel

For Wajih Chbat, owner of The Chbat Hotel, providing shelter was a no-brainer. Chbat offered up six rooms in his hotel, which is located about an hour and a half outside Beirut.

“My offer was for all the people who are old, poor, they are welcome to the hotel on a full board basis,” he said, meaning that they got a place to stay and free food.

“You need to support people without thinking of money,” he said.

Soon after Chbat sent out his message, people started showing up in taxis. Some of them were injured, he said, and they came directly from the hospital.

Chbat’s business has been struggling ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, he explained. He used to get a lot of tourists, but all that dried up. As the news of the Beirut blast spread across the globe, he said, he received phone calls from donors in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Australia who wanted to send money.

“But I did not accept [the donations] because I still have money to spend. Let them send it to people who don’t have money. When I need money, I’ll see what I will do,” Chbat said.

Related: Lebanon probes blast amid rising anger, calls for change

Christina Malkoun, a 24-year-old engineering student, said she sent out messages about two rooms that she has available 15 minutes outside the city. She heard from two women, one who has two small children and another who has no relatives in Lebanon. They ended up staying in other places closer to where they were, Malkoun said, but she is keeping the post up on social media in case there are others who need it.

“I’m trying to help with whatever I can. That’s all I can offer for now,” she said.

Since the blast, it seems everyone is trying to step up and help out any way they can, said Cynthia Saab, an interior consultant for a furniture and fabrics company in Lebanon called Skaff. Her company is offering to donate free fabric to cover up the windows that were broken in the blast.

“We are hearing from many people who really need help. … The glass in Beirut is all shattered and for people to contact a glass company, this is going to take a while, especially with this overload.”

Cynthia Saab, interior consutant, Skaff fabrics, Beirut

“We are hearing from many people who really need help,” she said. “The glass in Beirut is all shattered, and for people to contact a glass company, this is going to take a while, especially with this overload.”

Saab went through the inventory to see how much fabric they have available and told The World that the company will send out a team to measure the windows sizes and to install the fabrics.

Rebuilding Beirut will be long and painful, Malkoun said. At the moment, people are taking matters into their own hands, she added.

For example, volunteers are helping with search and rescue of victims from under the rubble. They are collecting food and clothes donations to distribute in Beirut.

“The contributions [volunteers are] making right now are much better than the contributions any political leader has made throughout the last decade. … It’s really heartwarming to see the people come together right now.”

Christina Malkoun, engineering student, Beirut

“The contributions they’re making right now are much better than the contributions any political leader has made throughout the last decade,” Malkoun said. “It’s really heartwarming to see the people come together right now.”

COVID-19’s cost to working mothers

COVID-19’s cost to working mothers

How can women juggle working and parenting during a pandemic?

By
Teresa Lawlor

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Four-year-old twin siblings, Emma, front, and Etienne enjoy cookies baked by their mother, Patricia Gambis, as they relax in her shop in their home in Maplewood, New Jersey.

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In early July, Deb Perelman, the food blogger behind Smitten Kitchen and a mom of two kids, penned an op-ed for The New York Times with a provocative title about life during COVID-19: “You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.” Perelman described the struggle of caring for children while still trying to keep up with her work, a problem ultimately “solved” when her husband was furloughed and then laid off from his job. But research shows that in the majority of American households, women have shouldered more child care during the pandemic. And for working mothers, that has meant some hard choices.

According to research from Syracuse University, more than 80% of adults in the country who were not working because they were caring for children — who would be in school or daycare if not for COVID-19 — were women. A paper published in the academic journal Gender, Work & Organization found that mothers of young children reduced their working hours four to five times more than fathers, widening the gender gap in hours from 20% to 50%. 

Just a few months ago, women in the workforce had reached a historic milestone: excluding farm labor and self-employment, the number of women on payrolls in the United States exceeded the number of men. But now, that progress has been put on hold and is in jeopardy, according to Betsey Stevenson, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. 

“There is a rot that’s at the core of women’s employment right now, and that’s child care and elder care, and how women are going to maintain their place in the labor force when we’re really having a crisis of care in the country,” Stevenson said.

Related: Israel’s hurried school reopenings serve as a cautionary tale

COVID-19 has upended the “patchwork” system of care in the US — from formal programs such as schools, day cares, and summer camps, to informal solutions such as relying on relatives and friends to help out. The virus’ prevalence and way of spreading largely renders those resources unsafe.

Parents and caregivers are now taking care of and entertaining their kids 24/7 — on top of working or searching for a job. These conflicting demands require all parents to make difficult choices, but it is mothers who are most frequently making career sacrifices for their children.

‘Untenable’ arrangements

Although younger men today are much more likely to profess their belief in gender equality, they are not significantly more likely to divide most household tasks equitably, from child care to grocery shopping.

Some might argue that social distancing and isolation would act as an equalizer for couples; if both parents are now home all the time, perhaps the partner who generally does less housework would start to absorb the burdens of running a household and finally do their share. 

However, according to Stevenson, who served as the chief economist at the US Department of Labor under former President Barack Obama, that is not always how it works out. Women often find it untenable to put off child care or housework.

If the guy is driving toward the cliff of not feeding the children, and the woman is driving toward the cliff of not feeding the children, she pulls off first and she feeds the children … and the problem is that if he knows that she’s going to pull off first, then he wins the game of chicken.

Betsey Stevenson, University of Michigan professor

“If the guy is driving toward the cliff of not feeding the children, and the woman is driving toward the cliff of not feeding the children, she pulls off first and she feeds the children,” she explains. “And the problem is that if he knows that she’s going to pull off first, then he wins the game of chicken.” 

Instead, the oversized demands on women lead to an impossible juggling act, which often forces them to cut back on their careers. The fact that women already tended to choose more flexible jobs before the pandemic facilitates this adjustment. And cutting back during the pandemic or leaving the workforce altogether can have negative consequences for gender equality in the future.

‘Child care is just essential’

This spring, employment rates for women fell to around where they were in the 1980s. Although they have been rising as the economy reopens, Stevenson doesn’t expect an immediate rebound and warns that the impact of this setback will be far-reaching.

Taking time off from work now puts future promotions and jobs in jeopardy. “[Fewer hours] will then reduce [women’s] earnings as a share of the household income, which will make them a less important labor market player in their household,” Stevenson explains. 

According to Stevenson, one of the main drivers for greater household equality in the past has been increasingly comparable incomes between men and women. If men make much more money, it makes more sense to prioritize their jobs over their spouses’ when it comes to figuring out child care and housework.

Related: Why do so few women work (for pay) in Jordan?

However, Stevenson suggests that the spotlight placed on childcare by the pandemic has the potential to lead to lasting change. “We’ve revealed that child care is just essential for just a giant share of the workforce, and to just ignore it and keep pretending it’s just a personal problem is a mistake in thinking about the macro economy.” 

This summer marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote in the US. There’s still a long way to go to achieve equality though, and Stevenson urges Americans to use this opportunity to reimagine the post-COVID-19 balance between work and care.

“What does a world look like where we make space for people to do the caregiving they need to do and move seamlessly back into their career?” Stevenson asked. “If you don’t lean in the whole time, you don’t make it to the top. But leaning in is really, really hard if you want to take time to really engage with your children. And that’s true for men and for women, and so we just need a very different conversation about, what does life look like when you make space for both?”

Teresa Lawlor is an intern at Innovation Hub. You can follow her on Twitter: @tmlawlor

Lebanon probes blast amid rising anger, calls for change

Lebanon probes blast amid rising anger, calls for change

Lebanese army soldiers stand guard in front of destroyed ships at the scene where an explosion hit on Tuesday the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 6, 2020. Lebanese army bulldozers plowed through wreckage to reopen roads around Beirut’s demolished port on Thursday as the government pledged to investigate the devastating explosion and placed port officials under house arrest.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, visiting Beirut following a massive explosion in the city’s port on Thursday, warned that without serious reforms the country would “continue to sink.” Macron’s comments come as Lebanese officials sought to shift blame for the presence of explosives at the city’s port,

The blast Tuesday, which appeared to have been caused by an accidental fire that ignited a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate at the city’s port, rippled across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 135 people, injuring more than 5,000 and causing widespread destruction.

It also may have accelerated the country’s coronavirus outbreak, as thousands flooded into hospitals in the wake of the blast. Tens of thousands have been forced to move in with relatives and friends after their homes were damaged, further raising the risks of exposure.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Thursday amid widespread pledges of international aid. But Lebanon, which was already mired in a severe economic crisis, faces a daunting challenge in rebuilding. It’s unclear how much support the international community will offer the notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional government.

Macron, who viewed the devastated port and was to meet with senior Lebanese officials, said the visit is “an opportunity to have a frank and challenging dialogue with the Lebanese political powers and institutions.”

He said France will work to coordinate aid but warned that “if reforms are not made, Lebanon will continue to sink.”

Later, as he toured one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, an angry crowd vented its fury at Lebanon’s political leaders, chanting “Revolution” and “The people want to bring down the regime,” slogans used during mass protests last year.

Macron said he was not there to endorse the “regime” and vowed that French aid would not fall into the “hands of corruption.”

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told the Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath on Wednesday, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.

The head of Lebanon’s customs department meanwhile confirmed in an interview with LBC TV late Wednesday that officials had sent five or six letters over the years to the judiciary asking that the ammonium nitrate be removed because of the dangers it posed.

But Badri Daher said all he could do was alert authorities to the presence of dangerous materials, saying even that was “extra work” for him and his predecessor. He said the port authority was responsible for the material, while his job was to prevent smuggling and collect duties.

The judiciary and the port authority could not immediately be reached for comment. The government said Wednesday that an investigation was underway and that port officials have been placed under house arrest.

The investigation into the explosion is focused on how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, came to be stored at the port facility for six years, and why nothing was done about it.

The cargo had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from a ship years earlier. Based on the timeline and the size of the cargo, that ship could be the MV Rhosus. The ship was initially seized in Beirut in 2013 when it entered the port due to technical problems, according to lawyers involved in the case. It came from the nation of Georgia, and had been bound for Mozambique.

The stockpile is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby in what appeared to be a warehouse holding fireworks. Daher, the customs official, said he did not know if there were fireworks near the site.

Another theory is that the fire began when welders were trying to repair a broken gate and a hole in the wall of Hangar 12, where the explosive material was stored. Local news reports say the repair work was ordered by security forces who investigated the facility and were concerned about theft.

Security officials have declined to comment while the investigation is underway. Port officials have rejected the theory in interviews with local media, saying the welders completed their work long before the fire broke out.

Anger is mounting against the various political factions, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, that have ruled the country since the 1975-1990 civil war. The country’s long-serving politicians are widely seen as being hopelessly corrupt and incapable of providing even basic services like electricity and trash collection.

The tiny Mediterranean country was already on the brink of collapse, with soaring unemployment and a financial crisis that has wiped out people’s life savings. Hospitals were already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, and one was so badly damaged by the blast it had to treat patients in a nearby field.

Dr. Firas Abiad, director general of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the public hospital leading the coronavirus fight, said he expects an increase in cases in the next 10 to 15 days linked to crowding at hospitals and blood donation centers after the blast.

Authorities had largely contained the outbreak by imposing a sweeping lockdown in March and April, but case numbers have risen in recent weeks. A renewed lockdown was to go in effect this week but those plans were canceled after the explosion. The country has reported more than 5,400 coronavirus cases and 68 deaths since February.

“There is no doubt that our immunity in the country is less than before the explosion and this will affect us medium- to long-term,” Abiad said. “We desperately need aid, not only us but all hospitals in Lebanon.”

The explosion was the most powerful blast ever seen in the city, which has survived decades of war and conflict. Several city blocks were left littered with rubble, broken glass and damaged vehicles.

Authorities have cordoned off the port itself, where the blast left a crater 200 meters (yards) across and shredded a large grain silo, emptying its contents into the rubble. Estimates suggested about 85% of the import-reliant country’s grain was stored there.

By Bassem Mroue and Sarah El Deeb/AP

Mourning and anger amid devastation after Beirut explosion; One-third of Afghanistan may have had COVID-19; 75-years since Hiroshima bombing

Mourning and anger amid devastation after Beirut explosion; One-third of Afghanistan may have had COVID-19; 75-years since Hiroshima bombing

By
The World staff

A damage is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Still reeling from the massive explosion that flattened Beirut’s port on Tuesday, many Lebanese are turning toward anger and frustration over corrupt Lebanese officials for the presence of a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate at the center of the blast. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut today and warned that without serious reforms the country would “continue to sink.”

The blast, which killed at least 137 people and injured more than 5,000, appears to have been caused by an accidental fire that ignited the warehouse at the city’s port, according to Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The devastation in Beirut — with buildings across the city damaged and more than 250,000 people displaced from their homes, forced to move in with relatives and friends — is compounded by the ongoing pandemic and an economic crisis.

What The World is following

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said test results for a man who is possibly North Korea’s first case of the coronavirus are “inconclusive,” even as the country moved to isolate 3,635 of his apparent contacts. Pyongyang declared a state of emergency on July 26.

In Afghanistan, the country’s health minister said an antibody survey revealed almost one-third of the nation may have been infected with the coronavirus. The research was conducted by WHO and Johns Hopkins University. While the testing showed Kabul and other urban areas were worst affected, it is believed a significant percentage of cases have been asymptomatic.

And, with Hiroshima marking the 75th anniversary of the 1945 nuclear blast on Thursday, the survivors were a diminished presence due to the threat of the coronavirus and their old age. Hibakusha, the name for the survivors of those atomic tragedies, have been a force for peace and strong advocates for a nuclear-free world. The two bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed at least 200,000 people.

From The WorldJohn Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters

The former White House national security adviser tells The World’s host Marco Werman that the president is not “very well-informed,” which means he “doesn’t really see the bigger-picture implications” of foreign policy decisions he makes on his gut feelings rather than intelligence.

NHL players kneel to protest police brutality

Andre Burakovsky #95 of the Colorado Avalanche battles with Matt Dumba #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the third period of the exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.

Credit:

Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA Today Sports

After a four-month delay, National Hockey League players are back on the ice, bringing social justice movements with them.

“For those unaffected by systematic racism, or unaware, I’m sure that some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention during the last couple months,” Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said through the loudspeakers at Rogers Place arena Aug. 1 in Edmonton, Canada. But, he added, “Black Lives Matter. Breona Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Bright spot

A trade deal between Canada and the European Union may collapse over cheese … specifically the grillable, briny (and “rubber delicacy,”) halloumi from Cyprus. Government officials from the Mediterranean island recently voted against the EU trade deal with Canada over a lack of protections for halloumi raising many questions over the potential of a single EU government sinking a deal for the entire block.

I am, admittedly, biased but Cyprus halloumi is *chef’s kiss*. https://t.co/vhRKLJsang

— Christina Frangou (@cfrangou) August 5, 2020In case you missed itListen: Lebanon declares a state of emergency after explosion

A view of the site of an explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Bilal Hussein/AP

After Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon’s government has declared a two-week state of emergency. Emergency crews are still on the scene after nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate produced the blast that killed more than 100 people with several thousand more wounded. And, what would President Trump’s foreign policy look like in a second term? Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton offers his thoughts. Plus, high-resolution images of poop stains via satellites show that there are nearly 20% more emperor penguin colonies than previously thought on the icy continent of Antarctica.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

NHL players kneel to protest police brutality

NHL players kneel to protest police brutality

After a four-month delay, National Hockey League players are back on the ice, bringing social justice movements with them.

By
Rupa Shenoy

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Andre Burakovsky #95 of the Colorado Avalanche battles with Matt Dumba #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the third period of the exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA Today Sports

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Matt Dumba wasn’t scheduled to play Aug. 1 in the first game of the National Hockey League’s restarted season. That day, the Minnesota Wild defenseman, clad in everyday clothes and shoes, stepped up to the center circle of players on the ice for a different reason.

“For those unaffected by systematic racism, or unaware, I’m sure that some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention during the last couple months,” the Filipino Canadian said through the loudspeakers at Rogers Place arena in Edmonton, Canada. But, he added, “Black Lives Matter. Breona Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Related: K-pop and Chinese hip-hop artists grapple with their responses to BLM 

Other players hit the ice with their hockey sticks in support. Then, as the American national anthem began, Dumba knelt, becoming the first player in the NHL to do so — four years after Colin Kapernick started kneeling in the National Football League to protest racial injustice. When Canada’s anthem started, Dumba stood. Later, speaking to reporters, he said he wished he’d thought to keep kneeling.

“There is a lot of light that needs to be shed on what is happening in Canada and the oppression First Nations people have felt for hundreds of years. Just —  in the moment — it happened like that.”

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild

“There is a lot of light that needs to be shed on what is happening in Canada and the oppression First Nations people have felt for hundreds of years,” Dumba said. “Just — in the moment — it happened like that.”

Since then, several other players have followed his lead. Some fans and observers hope that activism will help put pressure on the NHL to take concrete steps to address its internal racial issues.

The NHL is overwhelmingly white and has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. Earlier this summer, Dumba launched the Hockey Diversity Alliance with other players of color, including Canadian Wayne Simmonds, who said they were taking action because many hockey fans are in denial about racism.

Related: As Cuba battles coronavirus, activists see an opening to protest police brutality

“Every time I say something, people — they fail to believe,” Simmonds said in a video released by the alliance.

Another Black player, Evander Kane, said in the video that he’d been discriminated against in hockey since childhood.

“You have to be 10 times better than that white kid just to get the same opportunity he gets,” he said.

That was in June. In July, Eric Trump got involved. He tweeted his thanks to the NHL players in an exhibition game for “#standing” during the anthem.

“When the racists think that your sport is kind of the patriotic sport to be following, then you’re doing something wrong. Eric Trump’s tweet is exactly that kind of acknowledgment.”

Courtney Szto, Queen’s University professor

“When the racists think that your sport is kind of the patriotic sport to be following, then you’re doing something wrong,” said Courtney Szto, a Queen’s University professor who studies racism in hockey, “and Eric Trump’s tweet is exactly that kind of acknowledgment.”

Related: BLM gives hope to Wales family seeking justice for Black teen’s death

Some NHL fans reacted angrily to Eric Trump’s tweet, posting photos of themselves kneeling at home. Dumba said during those few days, the NHL hastily reached out to him about speaking before Saturday’s game.

“I think that they [the NHL] know that they have to react now,” Szto said. “But the reactions have been just kind of skirting issues around anti-Blackness.”

She said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman should have been the one to declare Black Lives Matter, like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did. And Szto said there hasn’t been enough white allyship. When Dumba knelt, he was alone. Everyone else stood.

“It just seemed like a very lonely experience, unfortunately,” Szto said.

But Szto was heartened by the game on Monday, also at Rogers Place. Four players knelt, including two white players.

“I think that was obviously a ripple effect from Matt Dumba’s expression,” Szto said.

Related: Statue of Black protester replaces toppled UK slave trader

And those players kept kneeling for the Canadian anthem.

“It is a very real belief that hockey is a white person’s sport. So, to say that we don’t have issues of racism is a huge mistake.”

Courtney Szto, Queen’s University professor

“It is a very real belief that hockey is a white person’s sport,” Szto said. “So, to say that we don’t have issues of racism is a huge mistake.”

Addressing racism is a long-term process, she said, that needs to play out on both sides of the border. 

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

By
The World staff

Producer
Joyce Hackel

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Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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US President Donald Trump made controversial remarks Tuesday about the nature of a major explosion in Beirut. The blast has been blamed on several tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port.

But Trump indicated the explosion was an attack. 

“I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a — it seems to be according to them, they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

This type of convoluted, often erroneous messaging is detailed in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, released in June titled, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.

The volume, published over objections from the White House, provides an insider account of Trump’s “inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process,” according to the publisher. Bolton was fired by Trump last September amid simmering differences on a wide array of foreign policy challenges.

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Bolton about Trump’s response to the Beirut crisis; his order to pull 12,000 troops out of Germany, and the geopolitical consequences of Trump’s decision-making style. 

Related: Nicholas Burns: Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history’

Marco Werman: Are you surprised when you hear your former boss make that sort of comment that doesn’t later align with what seem to be the facts on the ground?

John Bolton: I don’t think that the gravity of the responsibility really weighs on him that much. I don’t think he fully understands it. So, it’s perfectly natural that he makes comments like the comment about the destruction in Beirut, or saying that maybe Microsoft should pay a fee to the US Treasury if he allows them to proceed with the purchase of TikTok’s US assets, or what he said this morning in an interview that it could be years before the November election is decided and his earlier comment that maybe the election should be delayed. 

These are incredible things for a president to say. And whether they are motivated by his own personal interest or just an inability to discipline his comments, it’s still very disturbing.

Well, let’s come back to that in a moment, how he functions and behaves. I want to get to the troops in Germany and President Trump’s order to pull 12,000 of them. You said the decision showed “a broad lack of strategic understanding.” What do you think the president does not understand about these troops, about what they represent in that part of the globe?

If anything, we should be increasing our deployments in Europe and in different places because of the threat that Russia poses in Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltics. The president himself gave his reasons for moving these troops, over half of whom will come back to the United States. And it was to penalize Germany for our trade deficit with Germany and for Germany not making progress toward the NATO target of spending 2% of its GDP on defense.

Do you see that as a legitimate move, to pull troops to punish Germany?

Of course, it’s not legitimate, but it’s the way Donald Trump operates. He’s not able to in many, many cases to distinguish his own personal interests and feelings from the national interest. He sees them essentially as the same thing. So for him, it’s legitimate to do. And apparently his advisers were not successful in talking him out of that.

So, if Trump wants to reduce troop numbers, US troop numbers in Germany, where else is he thinking about doing that? In South Korea? There are more than 23,000 troops there.

Well, I think if he wins a second term and is free of the political constraint of having to be elected again or depending on Republican majorities in Congress, really it’s hard to predict what he would do. He has said in recent days that the number of troops in Afghanistan is going to go below even the 8,600 that he announced when he announced the so-called peace deal with the Taliban. I think his number was between 4,000-5,000. And that’s on the way to zero. I think that’s a huge mistake that causes real risk for the United States if Afghanistan returns to its pre-9/11 status under the Taliban as a host for terrorist groups who could strike us or our friends around the world.

This is not anything like a well-thought-out strategy, and it’s not necessarily going to happen all at because he doesn’t think systematically. But it’s indicative of what may happen if he succeeds in winning a second term.

So, just how the White House functions with Trump: Does he see others around him as being the ones responsible for grasping the geopolitical implications of big decisions and just giving him bullet points on his options? Or is it that he can’t grasp them? You wrote that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia.

Well, I don’t think he’s very well-informed. And I think that means almost automatically he doesn’t really see the bigger implications. But even more disturbing than that, he’s not especially interested in learning. What you expect from a president is that he will become familiar with the issues and the background in areas that were not part of his own personal experience so that his decisions can be as fully informed as possible. And Trump just shows no interest in that.

It’s, I think, demonstrated by his disdain, almost, for intelligence briefings and his feelings that his gut really is the place where the decisions are made. He sizes people up. He sees decisions in personal terms, doesn’t need extensive briefings, and he gets things quickly and he makes his decision. And, you know, further study really isn’t necessary.

He gets things quickly. Does he always get them right?

Well, no, of course not. And I think it’s dangerous to think that, let’s say, in connection with the nuclear talks now underway with Russia to decide what to do as the New START treaty comes to an expiration point next year, if he’s still in office, what his thoughts are on what the appropriate strategic weapons capability for the United States ought to be because he doesn’t study that either.

Do you view his response to the pandemic as a national security concern?

I do. I think he’s failed. I think he in the early days did not want to hear anything critical of China, even though NSC staffers and the Centers for Disease Control staffers in early January were sounding the alarm because he didn’t want to concede that the pandemic, as it turned out to be, could have a dramatically negative impact on the US economy and therefore his ticket to reelection. I think we’ve all suffered the consequences as a result. And you know, his attitude toward China, his rhetoric, at least now, is very harsh. The administration has taken some tough steps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a second term. After the election, he’ll be right back on the phone with Xi Jinping talking about the trade deal.

And now the current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has tested positive for COVID-19. Does it surprise you that the virus has traveled that close to the Oval Office?

It doesn’t because I think they weren’t taking adequate protections. We have to hope it doesn’t spread further. You don’t want the top decision-makers of the country incapacitated.

Finally, you’ve said on several occasions that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. What do you mean by unfit? And where does that concern take you?

Well, I don’t think he fully understands the office or what it entails. He doesn’t consider the consequences of his decisions. He doesn’t proceed on the basis of philosophy or grand strategy or even consistent policy. And I think in the national security space, that’s very, very dangerous. I think the country can recover from the damage that Trump has done in his first term, actually fairly quickly. But I’m more worried about the corrosive effects of two Trump terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Megaprojects and austerity measures are transforming southern Mexico

Megaprojects and austerity measures are transforming southern Mexico

The country's economy is in a downward spiral as the coronavirus continues to spread.

By
Shannon Young

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Oaxaca’s landmark Santo Domingo church and the former convent that houses the state’s largest museum have been cordoned off as part of pandemic mitigation measures.

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Mexico is one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic. It has the world’s third-highest death toll, and its curve has yet to bend. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the economy is in a downward spiral. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not offered economic stimulus checks to citizens but has rebranded controversial infrastructure projects as jobs programs. Among them is the Trans-Isthmus Corridor. 

The sweeping, multibillion-dollar project — criticized by many local Indigenous communities in its path — calls for the expansion of two ports on Mexico’s southern Pacific and Gulf coasts and connecting them with a railway to carry shipping containers. A highway is also slated to run parallel to the tracks. There’s also a plan to connect refineries on both coasts via a pipeline. Finally, the president intends to lure manufacturers to the area by creating 10, tax-favored industrial parks.

“Budget is not an issue. The resources are there. It’s just a question of getting the job done, despite the pandemic.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador

“Budget is not an issue,” López Obrador said in a recent speech at Oaxaca’s Salina Cruz port, which he visited to supervise progress on its expansion. “The resources are there. It’s just a question of getting the job done, despite the pandemic.”

The port expansion is one of several ongoing projects that make up the Trans-Isthmus Corridor. The plan locally referred to as “the megaproject,” could totally reshape Oaxaca’s Isthmus region, a historic trading corridor, Indigenous heartland and home to one of the country’s most important biodiversity hot spots. As with the port project, the planned railway seeks to expand upon existing tracks. López Obrador cut the ribbon on the rail component in June, despite local pandemic restrictions on work and movement. 

Related: As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

But the megaproject is underway as several government agencies have been hit by a presidential decree issued in April that has slashed their budgets by 75%. The cuts, framed as an emergency measure to respond to the pandemic, have gutted environmental, cultural, science and arts programs and government bodies for women and Indigenous peoples.

Left off off the chopping block are numerous big-ticket projects, including a new Mexico City airport, a massive oil refinery and a tourist train circuit in the Yucatán Peninsula. Critics point out that many of the contracts for the projects are going to foreign firms or companies linked to Mexico’s politically connected billionaires.

López Obrador compares the Trans-Isthmus Corridor to a Panama Canal across dry land. He is not the first president to float the idea for a corridor. A canal-style project has been proposed on and off since an 1859 treaty between the US and Mexico, which was never ratified but would have given the US authority over the strategic strip of land. 

More recently, the project was dubbed “Plan Puebla Panama” but encountered fierce resistance from local communities and left-leaning opposition politicians. Ironically, Mexico’s center-left government is the political force closest to achieving the megaproject. 

“This megaproject has a history,” said Bettina Cruz of the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, an Indigenous-led organization that opposes the Trans-Isthmus Corridor.

Oaxaca’s artisans take part in a protest outside the National Palace to demand the federal government help for the loss of jobs and decrease in their labor services, after the Mexican government declared a health emergency and issued stricter regulations to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mexico City, April 20, 2020.

Credit:

Henry Romero/Reuters

Cruz’s group says the project will pillage resources, displace Indigenous populations and reduce residents to a source of cheap labor while corporations profit. 

But organizing protests against it is tough during a pandemic. Mexico is approaching 50,000 government-acknowledged deaths from COVID-19. Oaxaca’s Isthmus region is under particularly strict lockdown measures due to the coronavirus, though construction on the corridor has been deemed essential work.

Related: US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

In addition, some view the megaproject as bringing economic stability to the region — which is hard to argue against at a time when the pandemic has battered Mexico’s economy. The latest push for it might succeed, especially because López Obrador has public support and an overwhelming majority in Congress.

This worries Cruz, who sees the Trans-Isthmus Corridor as connected to a larger network of megaprojects, including a hydroelectric dam project in Morelos, a new refinery in Tabasco and a tourist train circuit through Mayan lands in the Yucatán Peninsula. 

The projects are an “attempt to reorder territory in the southern region [of Mexico] for the benefit of — and control by — global and US financial interests.”

Bettina Cruz, Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory

Viewed as a whole, the projects are an “attempt to reorder territory in the southern region [of Mexico] for the benefit of — and control by — global and US financial interests,” Cruz said. 

López Obrador defends the project as a way to create thousands of jobs and close the economic gap between Mexico’s industrialized north and its cash-poor, agricultural south. He’s also in a hurry to get it done. 

“We can’t commit the heinous mistake of leaving works incomplete,” he said during his visit to Salina Cruz. He wants the city’s port dredged and expanded within three years, before the end of his term in office. 

“There shall be no pretexts of any kind — be they inclement weather or protests — that could lead to delays in the completion of these works,” he said.

Meanwhile, other government agencies face an uncertain future over deep budget cuts. 

Among them is the National Institute for Anthropology and History, or INAH, as it’s known by its Spanish acronym. It’s the guardian of Mexico’s ancient artifacts and cultural history — and it oversees Mexico’s world-famous pyramids and archaeological zones. 

“It’s catastrophic,” Gilberto López y Rivas, a longtime anthropologist and researcher with the antiquities agency, said of the cuts.

“The INAH isn’t just archaeology. We number around 900 researchers; archaeologists, cultural and social anthropologists, ethnologists, linguists, biologists, architects, restoration workers, forensic specialists … It’s a very wide range of research.” 

Some fear weakening the INAH could lead to looting at ancient sites and fuel antiquities trafficking. 

López Obrador’s administration rode to power in a historic landslide in 2018 on a wave of leftist, rhetorical rejection of the status quo. So, the cuts came as a shock to many. 

“This has been the big surprise,” López y Rivas said. “Two years later, unfortunately — for the country and for those who believed 30 million votes would change the direction past administrations were heading — what we have is a continuation in the very essence of what these past administrations represented.”

He says the administration’s dual discourse — the president often slams neoliberalism and conservatives in speeches while advancing free-market policies — helps to explain the devastating cuts to national programs that safeguard ecosystems, protect Indigenous rights, and keep the country’s history and culture alive.

“It requires not having a memory,” he said of the mental shift needed to accept the administration’s vision for the region. “It’s an induced amnesia that goes against history, culture, identity and the idea of collectivism.”

Negligence blamed for huge Beirut chemical blast

Negligence blamed for huge Beirut chemical blast

Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Hassan Ammar/AP

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Investigators began searching through the wreckage at Beirut’s port Wednesday for clues about the cause of the massive explosion that ripped across the Lebanese capital, and the government ordered port officials put under house arrest amid speculation that negligence was to blame.

The investigation is focusing on how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, came to be stored at the facility for six years, and why nothing was done about it.

International aid flights began to arrive as Lebanon’s leaders struggled to deal with the shocking aftermath of Tuesday’s blast. The country was already crippled by an economic crisis and now the public faults chronic mismanagement and corruption among the ruling elite for the disaster.

The explosion at the port killed at least 135 people and wounded about 5,000, said Health Minister Hamad Hassan.

RelatedLebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion

Hospitals were overwhelmed — one that was damaged in the blast had to evacuate all its patients to a nearby field for treatment.

Buildings were damaged for miles around the city, and Beirut’s governor said Wednesday that hundreds of thousands might not be able to return to their homes for two or three months.

It was the worst single explosion to strike Lebanon in a history filled with destruction during a 1975-1990 civil war, conflicts with Israel and periodic terror attacks.

Warned of ‘dangers’

A senior US Defense Department official and member of the US intelligence community said there were no indications the massive explosion that erupted on Tuesday evening in Lebanon’s capital was the result of an intentional attack by either a nation-state or proxy forces.

Both individuals spoke to The Associated Press under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence briefings publicly. Both officials told the AP that at the moment, the explosion seems to have been caused by improper storage of explosives.

Fueling speculation that sheer negligence was responsible for the accident, an official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar in the port was a danger, and asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it.

Ammonium nitrate is a component of fertilizer that is potentially explosive. The 2,750-ton cache had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from a ship in 2013, and on Tuesday it is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.

The 2017 letter from the customs chief to a judge could not be immediately confirmed, but state prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered security agencies to start an immediate investigation into all letters related to the materials stored at the port as well as lists of people in charge of maintenance, storage and protection of the hangar.

In the letter, the customs chief warns of the “dangers if the materials remain where they are, affecting the safety of [port] employees” and asked the judge for guidance on what to do with it. He said five similar letters were sent in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The letter proposes the material be exported or sold to a Lebanese explosives company. It is not known if there was ever a response.

President Michael Aoun vowed before a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the investigation would be transparent and that those responsible will be punished. “There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night,” he said.

After the meeting, the Cabinet ordered an unspecified number of Beirut port officials put under house arrest pending the investigation and declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full powers during this time.

The government said that public schools and some hotels will be opened for the homeless and promised unspecified compensation for the victims.

With the Port of Beirut destroyed, the government said imports and exports will be secured through other ports in the country, mostly in Tripoli up north and Tyre down south.

‘Destroy them and their families’

There were signs that public anger went beyond port officials to the country’s long-entrenched ruling class. Political factions have divvied up control of Lebanon’s public institutions, including the port, using them to benefit their supporters, with little actual development. That has translated into crumbling infrastructure, power outages and poor services.

“May the Virgin Mary destroy them and their families,” Joseph Qiyameh, a 79-year-old grocery store owner, said of the political leadership. The blast damaged his store and injured his arm. His wife — who was at home next door — is hospitalized with injuries. Qiyameh doesn’t have the money to fix his business, with his savings locked up in banks by capital controls imposed during the crisis.

A small protest broke out after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri made a public appearance Wednesday, with people chanting slogans against politicians. Fistfights broke out between Hariri’s supporters and protesters. Hariri resigned in October amid nationwide protests.

Residents of Beirut confronted a scene of utter devastation Wednesday. Smoke still rose from the port. The blast knocked out a crater some 200 yards across that filled with seawater. The landscape looked like the sea had taken a bite out of the port, swallowing buildings with it. Much of downtown was littered with damaged vehicles and debris.

Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse, amid a severe economic crisis. Many have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. Food security is a worry, since Lebanon imports nearly all its vital goods and its main port is devastated. The government is strapped for cash.

Drone footage shot Wednesday by AP showed how the blast had torn open grain silo buildings, dumping the contents into the detritus generated by the blast. Estimates suggest some 85% of the country’s grain was stored at the now-wrecked facilities.

Economy and Trade Minister Raoul Nehme said all the wheat stored there was contaminated and unusable. But he insisted Lebanon had enough wheat for its immediate needs and would import more, according to the state news agency.

In the Netherlands, a UN-backed tribunal postponed delivery of judgments in the trial of four members of the militant group Hezbollah charged with involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The verdicts were moved from Friday to Aug. 18 out of respect for the victims of the blast, the court said.

Emergency aid was starting to filter in. Two planeloads of French rescue workers and aid was headed to Beirut, and French President Emmanuel Macron planned to arrive Thursday to offer support. Lebanon is a former French protectorate and the countries retain close political and economic ties.

The EU planned to send firefighters with vehicles, sniffer dogs and equipment designed to find people trapped in urban areas.

Several jets from Greece, Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere carrying medical equipment and supplies arrived at Beirut’s international airport. Turkey was sending search and rescue teams, humanitarian aid, medical equipment and a field hospital, its foreign ministry said. 

By Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam/AP

In Turkey, a conservative push to remove domestic violence protections is met with an uproar

In Turkey, a conservative push to remove domestic violence protections is met with an uproar

Leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were expected to announce a decision on the matter after a meeting on Aug. 5, but Turkish newspapers reported Tuesday that the gathering has been postponed indefinitely. Turkish women, however, say they will continue to protest. 

By
Durrie Bouscaren

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Women march in support of the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women, in Istanbul, Sunday, July 19, 2020. 

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In Turkey, a push to retreat from an international agreement to prevent violence against women was met with an uproar, as women from broad swaths of Turkish society held protests across the country. 

Leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were expected to announce a decision on the matter after a meeting on Aug. 5, but Turkish newspapers reported Tuesday that the gathering has been postponed indefinitely. 

Related: Turkey passes ‘draconian’ social media legislation

Turkish women, however, say they will continue to protest. 

“Men use violence because they see women beneath them, as inferior to them. …We see these problematic discourses, every day in the media.”

Elif Ege, Mor Cati, Mor Cati, private women’s shelter, Istanbul

“Men use violence because they see women beneath them, as inferior to them,” said Elif Ege of Mor Cati, a private shelter foundation for victims of domestic violence. “We see these problematic discourses every day in the media.

Nearly all countries in Europe have signed on to the Istanbul Convention, a set of international standards to prevent violence against women. The treaty is based on the principle that domestic violence, rape and other forms of gender-based violence are committed against women precisely because of their gender. 

But conservatives in Turkey’s government have said that they would push for a withdrawal, claiming that the treaty threatens family values and that Turkish citizens also want this change.  

“When our people have such an expectation [to withdraw], we cannot stay indifferent to this. …As we have duly signed it, then it would be possible to duly withdraw from it.”

Numan Kurtulmus, deputy chairman of  APK, Turkey’s ruling party

“When our people have such an expectation [to withdraw], we cannot stay indifferent to this,” said Numan Kurtulmus, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling AKP, during an appearance on national TV on July 2. “As we have duly signed it, then it would be possible to duly withdraw from it.”

Related: Expulsions, pushbacks and extraditions: Turkey’s war on dissent extends to Europe

Kurtulmus claimed that the LGBTQ community has “taken refuge” behind the document’s concepts of gender equality in a country where same-sex marriage is illegal, and protections against discrimination are not clearly defined. Kurtulmus further claimed that a withdrawal from the treaty would not increase domestic violence. 

These sentiments are echoed in Poland, where, in July, lawmakers also indicated the country would leave the treaty, citing its requirements to teach children about gender and its “ideological nature.” 

Kurtulmus’ position has some support among those most powerful in Turkey’s government. 

Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the way to stop violence against women is to strengthen the institution of the family.

“If there is violence in the family, what kind of family is it?” exclaimed an incredulous Melek Önder, spokesperson of the Istanbul-based We Will Stop Femicide Platform. “I think only a small group of men — conservative men — are demanding this.” 

Önder’s organization counts murders and suspicious deaths of women across the country. So far this year, it has tallied more than 200 deaths. 

In mid-July, 27-year-old university student Pinar Gultekin was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who confessed to killing her after she refused to get back together with him. The suspect has been detained and charged with “killing with monstrous feeling.”  

Related: Turkey’s president formally makes Haghia Sophia a mosque

Protesters argue that Turkey has clearly not resolved its issues with violence against women. 

In the 10 days after Gultekin’s murder, 11 additional deaths occurred, according to Önder. She believes the killers were emboldened by national discourse in which leaders casually discuss the removal of protections for women.

“When we’re discussing these rights, men get the courage to kill women. … We see when they’re attacking women’s rights, [there are] increasing femicide numbers.”

Melek Onder, spokesperson, We Will Stop Femicide Platform, Istanbul

“When we’re discussing these rights, men get the courage to kill women,” Onder said. “We see when they’re attacking women’s rights, [there are] increasing femicide numbers.” 

Turkey Thought Platform, an ultraconservative group, pushed hard for Turkey to leave the treaty but announced it would abandon the issue entirely, stating they were “worn out” by the fight. 

But, in an era of Turkish politics where religious conservatives and nationalists hold significant influence, Muslim women’s groups may be the bridge. 

KADEM, an organization where Erdoğan’s youngest daughter serves as vice chair, released a 16-point statement that responded to various claims made by treaty opponents, including their dismissive attitude toward marital rape, a concept acknowledged in the treaty as a form of violence. 

Related: As more journalists stand trial in Turkey, the truth becomes more elusive

“[Marital rape] is not normal in a healthy relationship. Bullying is in opposition to human dignity and Islamic value judgments,” reads the statement attributed to KADEM’s board of directors. 

The document, however, stops short of making a clear policy recommendation. 

Hatice Kubra Samiloglu, a member of Havle Women’s Organization, which calls itself Turkey’s first feminist Muslim women’s group, agrees that Turkey should stay in the treaty. A lot of the opposition, she says, comes from not actually understanding what the document entails, even among religious conservatives. 

“When you ask people, they are not against equality. They say yeah, that’s the beauty of the Quran!”   

Besides, she says, religious rules need to keep up with the modern world and national law. Forms of child marriage that appear in religious texts, for example, does not make it acceptable.  

“Even though it was true historically, [it] doesn’t matter — it can’t be happening right now. And me saying this doesn’t taint my religion,” Samiloglu said. “In fact, I think it supports my religion.” 

Beirut blast kills at least 100, injures thousands; Security restrictions in Kashmir; Can artificial crowd noise match up?

Beirut blast kills at least 100, injures thousands; Security restrictions in Kashmir; Can artificial crowd noise match up?

By
The World staff

A drone picture shows smoke from the scene of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Hussein Malla/AP

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Rescue workers remain on the scene of a massive explosion at Beirut’s port yesterday that killed at least 100 people and wounded as many as 4,000. Scores of people are still missing, and Beirut is in a state of emergency. The explosion rippled across the Lebanese capital, leaving entire city blocks flooded with glass and rubble along with a scene of utter devastation.

It’s unclear what caused the blast. Reports say there was a pair of explosions: The first started with a fireworks warehouse, and the second came from a stockpile of the explosive chemical ammonium nitrate. Many Lebanese blamed the tragedy on decades of corruption and poor governance.

Follow the BBC’s live page for the latest on Beirut.

What The World is following

Security authorities are enforcing restrictions in much of Kashmir today, a year after India revoked the disputed region’s semi-autonomy in a controversial move. The anniversary comes as Reuters reports militants attacked Indian security forces with a grenade and gunfire. There were no immediate reports of casualties, police said.

Coming up on The World today, host Marco Werman interviews former National Security Adviser John Bolton. In his new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton portrays President Donald Trump as ignorant of basic geopolitics and driven by a desire for reelection — including asking for help from China.

From The WorldCan artificial crowd noise match the thrill of packed stadiums?

Oakland Athletics’ Stephen Piscotty watches a foul ball go into stands filled with photos of fans during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. 

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Ted S. Warren/AP

With spectators unable to watch live sports in person due to the coronavirus, the cheers and jeers must come from somewhere. Teams, leagues and broadcasters around the world are taking different approaches to provide artificial crowd noise for games.

French Chilean rapper’s new track criticizes politicians’ apathy over coronavirus

Ana Tijoux performs during a concert by female artists on the eve of International Women’s Day in the Zocalo in Mexico City, March 7, 2020.

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Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Ana Tijoux worked on the new song “Pa Qué?” with the Puerto Rican rapper PJ Sin Suela. They were inspired by the grim developments that have dominated the news for most of 2020.  The single — out last month — is from her forthcoming “Antifa Dance,” her fifth album.

The track’s title can be loosely translated into English as “So why?” It’s a nod to a phrase popularized by a viral video from Mexico in which two men carry an apparently intoxicated friend out of a party. The friend complains, “You already know how I get, so why do you invite me?”

Tijoux says she felt similarly as an artist who likes to sing about a topic that not everyone is receptive to: politics.

Bright spot

A new study suggests there are nearly 20% more emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica than scientists previously thought. Researchers examined high-resolution satellite images of Antarctica and found large patches of poop — yes, guano — confirming 11 more colonies.

Scientists discover new penguin colonies from space! New study using @ESA satellite mapping technology reveals there are nearly 20% more emperor #penguin colonies in #Antarctica than was previously thought. Exciting research @PeterTFretwell & Phil Trathan: https://t.co/5J6Kz4y9Zo pic.twitter.com/5RZCCmk8pB

— Antarctic Survey (@BAS_News) August 5, 2020In case you missed itListen: Explosion rocks Beirut’s port

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Aug. 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video.

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Karim Sokhn/Instagram/Ksokhn/Thebikekitchenbeirut/via Reuters

A massive explosion rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. And UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned Tuesday that school closures as a result of COVID-19 “could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.” Plus, the French Chilean singer Ana Tijoux has managed to draw inspiration from at least one aspect of these trying times and has just released a new single, “Pa Qué?”

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Lebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion

Lebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion

The scene of a massive explosion that hit Beirut, Lebanon, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky, Aug. 5, 2020.

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The massive explosion at Beirut’s port on Tuesday rippled across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people, wounding more than 4,000 thousand and leaving entire city blocks flooded with glass and rubble.

Smoke was still rising from the port, where a towering building of silos was half destroyed, spilling out mounds of grain. Hangars around it were completely toppled. Much of the downtown area was littered with damaged vehicles and debris that had rained down from the shattered facades of buildings.

An official with the Lebanese Red Cross said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded. Some officials said the toll could rise further.

It was unclear what caused the blast, which appeared to have been triggered by a fire and struck with the force of an earthquake. It was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city, which was split in half by the 1975-1990 civil war and has endured conflicts with neighboring Israel and periodic bombings and terror attacks.

Scores of people were missing, with relatives pleading on social media for help locating loved ones. An Instagram page called “Locating Victims Beirut” sprang up with photos of missing people, and radio presenters read the names of missing or wounded people throughout the night. Many residents moved in with friends or relatives after their apartments were damaged and treated their own injuries because hospitals were overwhelmed.

Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has ignited mass protests in recent months. Its health system is confronting a coronavirus surge, and there were concerns the virus could spread further as people flooded into hospitals.

Related: Lebanon protests called out corruption. Now it’s about survival.

There was no evidence the explosion was an attack. Instead, many Lebanese blamed it on decades of corruption and poor governance by the entrenched political class that has ruled the tiny Mediterranean country since the civil war.

Saint George University Hospital, one of the major private hospitals in Beirut which had been receiving COVID-19 patients, was out of commission Wednesday after suffering major damage. A physician who identified himself as Dr. Emile said 16 staff and patients, including four nurses, died in the blast. He declined to give his last name out of privacy concerns.

The blast also wounded a number of UN peacekeepers stationed in the area. Bangladesh said 21 members of its Navy were wounded, one critically. Italy, one of the top contributors to the UNIFIL mission, said one of its soldiers was wounded.

Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local TV station that it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship impounded in 2013.

Explosives experts and video footage suggested the ammonium nitrate may have been ignited by a fire at what appeared to be a nearby warehouse containing fireworks.

Ammonium nitrate is a common ingredient in fertilizer as well as explosives. It was used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when a truck bomb containing 4,800 pounds of fertilizer and fuel oil ripped through a federal building, killing 168 people and wounding hundreds more.

Security forces cordoned off the port area on Wednesday as a bulldozer entered to help clear away debris. A young man begged troops to allow him to enter and search for his father, who has been missing since the blast occurred. He was directed to a port official who wrote down his details.

In Beirut’s hard-hit Achrafieh district, civil defense workers and soldiers were working on locating missing people and clearing the rubble. At least one man was still pinned under stones from an old building that had collapsed. Volunteers hooked him up to an oxygen tank to help him breathe while others tried to free his leg.

The blast severely damaged numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving large numbers of people homeless at a time when many Lebanese have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. The explosion also raises concerns about how Lebanon will continue to import nearly all of its vital goods with its main port devastated.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, appealed for international aid, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the disaster will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

There is also the issue of food security in Lebanon, a tiny country already hosting over 1 million Syrians displaced by that country’s nearly decade-long civil war.

Drone footage shot Wednesday by The Associated Press showed that the blast tore open a cluster of towering grain silos, dumping their contents into the debris and earth thrown up by the blast. Some 80% of Lebanon’s wheat supply is imported, according to the US Agriculture Department.

Estimates suggest some 85% of the country’s grain was stored at the now-destroyed silos.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency quoted Raoul Nehme, the minister of economy and trade, as saying that all the wheat stored at the facility had been “contaminated” and couldn’t be used. But he insisted Lebanon had enough wheat for its immediate needs and would import more.

Several countries have pledged aid in the aftermath of the blast, with even Israel offering humanitarian assistance. The two countries have been in conflict for decades, and Israel fought a 2006 war with the Hezbollah militant group.

Lebanon’s economic crisis is rooted in decades of systemic corruption by political factions that exploit public institutions for the benefit of their supporters. Decades after the civil war, residents endure frequent power outages and poor public services.

Lebanese have held mass protests calling for sweeping political change since last autumn but few of their demands have been met as the economic situation has steadily worsened.

Beirut’s port and the customs authority are notoriously corrupt. Like nearly all public institutions, they are controlled by Lebanon’s political factions, including Hezbollah.

By Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam/AP

K-pop and Chinese hip-hop artists grapple with their responses to BLM 

K-pop and Chinese hip-hop artists grapple with their responses to BLM 

Given the Black roots of hip-hop, rap, K-pop and other musical genres, BLM is hard to ignore, but artists must straddle all kinds of considerations including restraints on freedom of expression in their respective countries. 

By
Rebecca Kanthor

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A dancer performs during breakdancing competition in Shanghai, April 27, 2013.

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Chinese American rapper Bohan Phoenix used to think that fighting racism just meant treating everyone with respect.

But after he was verbally abused on a New York subway earlier this year, as fears of the coronavirus led to racially charged attacks on Asians in the US, he felt he needed to be more proactive — and vocal — about standing up for people.

“COVID[-19], really, in a twisted way, gave me a slight glimpse of what it might be like to be a Black person in America.”

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

“COVID[-19], really, in a twisted way, gave me a slight glimpse of what it might be like to be a Black person in America,” he said. “Also, the momentum of seeing everything happening around me, especially in New York, there was no way that with everything that was happening, that I could have sat still and just kept thinking, ‘Oh, I just need to be nice to every person.’”

    View this post on Instagram         

Yo shout out to my mom for hand making this crazy dope keyboard cake 🔥🎂🥰 She just made an IG account @yumeibakery please show her some love or order some custom cakes or just say waddup to mama Phoenix! But yo @m_audio what’s good tho???! 😁😁

A post shared by BOHAN 博涵 (@bohanphoenix) on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:32am PDT

In the past few months, he’s become more active and outspoken, going to Black Lives Matter protests, learning more about the civil rights struggle, donating money to social justice causes and using social media to encourage others to do the same. But he’s been struggling to find a way to make music that reflects this experience.

Related: Family of detained Chinese activist calls for his release

These are issues that many other artists of Asian ethnicity are grappling with in the US and around the world. Given the Black roots of hip-hop, rap, K-pop and other musical genres, BLM is hard to ignore, but artists straddle all kinds of considerations including restraints on freedom of expression in their respective countries. 

“It’s a weird time to make music because I can’t write anything that’s not about what’s happening right now [— ] but for me to put that out as a song, that feels weird, too.”

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

For Bohan Phoenix, it affects him personally, and in his approach to music: “It’s a weird time to make music because I can’t write anything that’s not about what’s happening right now [— ] but for me to put that out as a song, that feels weird, too.”

Recently, Bohan Phoenix and Jamel Mims, an American rapper who spent years in China and performs as MC Tingbudong, did a broadcast on Instagram talking about Asian communities and Black Lives Matter. The two shared their experiences, traded rhymes and talked about what the role of hip-hop artists should be.

    View this post on Instagram         

NO FASCIST POLICE STATE 📸@meldcole Emergency protest Swipe 👉🏾👉🏾👉🏾 for details Quick story: I first met the homie @meldcole in 2008- spending a night in jail together after an incident of police brutality in Boston. I had just got accepted to the @the_fulbright_program, and I was at a street wear party with @cyberamaris & @sabel_boo that was broken up the cops – and as we left the scene- the pigs followed us and attacked us. They pepper sprayed the homie @vncnt_mchl, dragged @donedealwil around in handcuffs, dragged me into the streets right out of Amaris’ arms, and snatched up Mel, smashing his camera to try to destroy the evidence. Days later I got a call from the State Dept. – naively thinking they would rush to the defense of one of their scholars – but instead saying my grant would be in jeopardy because of a “run in with the law”… From that incident, I learned police brutality was systemic – but it wasn’t until I linked with the @therevcoms in NYC, that I learned that you need a revolution to actually deal with the oppression of black people. Fast forward to now, with a fascist in the White House, and protestors being snatched off the streets by Trump’s #gestapo for demanding #BlackLivesMatter, it’s clearer than ever. Shoutout to Mel for seriously stepping up in this period, and not just documenting, but fighting on the frontlines. This is a time when we have to marshal every nonviolent tactic to drive out this regime, as part of breaking through to a revolution that can end this brutality and oppression for real. It’s gonna take ALL of us✊🏿

A post shared by JAM NO PEANUT 《MC 听不懂》 (@jamnopeanut) on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:37am PDT

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In collaboration with @blacklivitychina, @bohanphoenix and @jamnopeanut discuss Black Lives Matter and Asian communities. Since the start of the latest Black Lives Matter protests in the US and around the world, discussion has swirled for weeks in both the media and on online platforms in the Chinese mainland.⁠ Within China’s hip hop community — which many feel owes its success to the genre’s origins in Black culture — reactions have varied widely. Some of the most well-known rappers from China have been largely silent on the issue, while others have been passionately outspoken. And beyond the world of hip hop, the movement has raised many questions around Asian communities’ support of Black Lives Matter.⁠

A post shared by RADII (@radii.china) on Jul 12, 2020 at 7:03am PDT

 

Rita Fan, a hip-hop writer, penned an article on the small minority of Chinese hip-hop artists speaking up in support of Black Lives Matter. 

Most big hip-hop stars have stayed silent, according to Fan. That’s because mainstream hip-hop in China today isn’t rooted in any fight for social justice, she said.

Related: Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok

“Young people maybe just see, ‘Oh, this is trendy. This is fashionable, and this seems so cool. It makes money.’”

Rita Fan, hip-hop writer

“Young people maybe just see, ‘Oh, this is trendy. This is fashionable, and this seems so cool. It makes money,’” she explained.

For the past two decades, hip-hop had an underground following in China. Then, three years ago, an online TV show, “The Rap of China,” changed all that.

“The first season of ‘The Rap of China’ popped up and just exploded everything,” she said.

The online TV show brings in millions of viewers and has launched huge careers for many new artists. Bohan Phoenix said these artists and fans embrace the look and sound of hip-hop, rooted in Black culture, without learning the history.

“They completely sanitized it. There wasn’t a single episode talking about the origin of hip-hop. There are Chinese kids effectively seeing dreads on Asian kids for the first time. There’s Chinese kids listening to hip-hop for the first time from Chinese people.”

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

“They completely sanitized it,” he said. “There wasn’t a single episode talking about the origin of hip-hop. There are Chinese kids effectively seeing dreads on Asian kids for the first time. There’s Chinese kids listening to hip-hop for the first time from Chinese people.”

Related: Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

That’s similar to K-pop in Korea, says Hye Jin Lee, who is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“So, even in Korea, there’s not a whole lot of political connotation in the music or in the performance of hip-hop,” she said. “It’s more of a commercial tool to express one’s so-called swag and coolness.”

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death after a white, Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, some K-pop, and Korean and Chinese hip-hop artists posted on social media in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Korean fans could read along in real-time what K-pop stars were posting on Instagram and Twitter, which are popular platforms in Korea. But Chinese fans couldn’t read what was being said by the biggest Asian American hip-hop label 88rising, and its stars Higher Brothers, on social media platforms that are banned in China. And 88rising stayed silent on Weibo, China’s social media site.

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no worries.

A post shared by 88rising (@88rising) on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:34pm PDT

Lee said overall, the K-pop industry is more connected to Black culture in the US than is Chinese hip-hop.

“First of all, the K-pop industry itself is built on Black music and also because K-pop’s popularity in the States owes heavily to the African American fans here,” she said.

With only 51 million people in Korea, K-pop has had to be more outward-facing. It’s now a global industry with K-pop artists all over the world, like Jay Park, based in America. Lee said that the global nature of K-pop helps to explain why the band BTS and its management company, Big Hit Entertainment, donated a million dollars to Black Lives Matter.

One reason why big Chinese stars may shy away from speaking out is that discussing politics in China is tricky. And with the Hong Kong protests becoming a flashpoint between the US and China, staying quiet might seem the safest bet to avoid problems with authorities and fans who are keeping tabs.

Related: America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

The most vocal support for BLM has come from hip-hop artists with a smaller, more underground following. Fan, the hip-hop writer, said that hardcore hip-hop fans knew which artists would speak up.

“Because they speak up not only for Black Lives Matter movement but also for other social issues in China. Because they care about society. They care about others.”

Rita Fan, hip-hop writer

“Because they speak up not only for Black Lives Matter movement but also for other social issues in China. Because they care about society. They care about others,” Fan said.

The Beijing rapper, Saber, put out an unofficial music video on Weibo with a long statement. He also has a song, “We are Hip Hop,” which includes lyrics that share his response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“We’re all human regardless of our race or nationality,” he raps, wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey. “If you empathize, then you must fight for freedom. If oppression exists, we must speak up.”

Nasty Ray, another underground Beijing rapper, recently put out a Black Lives Matter mixtape for his fans which included songs by Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Childish Gambino. Inside the mixtape CD case, the words, “Love Black People Like You Love Black Culture,” is in giant letters.

“Since I was young I’ve been influenced by Black music. I’m a rapper and a DJ so I should use my music to express my support for Black people. I chose songs for the mixtape that would talk about the inequality Black people face,” he told The World via text message.

Major Chinese hip-hop stars may never acknowledge the debt they owe Black artists for the music that’s made them famous. But rappers like Saber, Nasty Ray and Bohan Phoenix are beginning to use their music as a platform to educate their fans about social justice and the history of hip-hop — something they’re continuing to learn themselves. 

Can artificial crowd noise match the thrill of packed stadiums?

Can artificial crowd noise match the thrill of packed stadiums?

With spectators unable to watch live sports in person due to the coronavirus, the cheers and jeers must come from somewhere. Teams, leagues and broadcasters around the world are taking different approaches to provide artificial crowd noise for games.

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Bianca Hillier

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Oakland Athletics’ Stephen Piscotty watches a foul ball go into stands filled with photos of fans during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. 

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In 2020, the lyrics “take me out to the ball game” have a rather bleak meaning. The only way to watch a game is on TV or by phone at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are no roaring fans packed into stands, block parties or neighborhood bars.

Still, the cheers and jeers must come from somewhere. Teams, leagues and broadcasters around the world are taking different approaches to provide artificial crowd noise for games.

In South Africa, curating these sounds has been top of mind for broadcaster SuperSport.

“Replicating the atmosphere of the fans behind a closed-door match is hard because South Africans have a very unique fan culture,” said Dheshnie Naidoo, head of operations production at SuperSport International. “The popular vuvuzela that was made famous at the 2010 soccer World Cup still remains abuzz at our stadiums.”

Related: Washington NFL team retires racial slur from its name and logo

For that reason, according to Naidoo, it’s important that fans at home hear the vuvuzela when football begins in South Africa this week. Those sounds, along with all of the other cheers and crowd noises, are sourced from previous matches.

Andrew Benintendi leads off with a double. You can hear how the MLB “crowd” soundtrack reacted. #MLB #RedSox pic.twitter.com/9Ern3TdaOg

— Tom Caron (@TomCaron) July 10, 2020

“We have audio samples for specific scenes. Your penalties, your fouls — the ahs and the oohs. How your fans would react,” Niadoo said.

While the system is vastly different from pre-pandemic life, she added, it’s exciting to see the changes happening: “We’re now getting to try out different ways of doing things from the norm. So, the new normal.”

Related: Women’s pro soccer made gains toward parity. Will coronavirus undo it?

Alvin Naicker, head of content production at SuperSport International, said the company has had to think very carefully about how they want to incorporate crowd noise. One solution they plan to implement is having two audio operators in the stadium who each focus on playing different sounds.

“Obviously, you need a very sharp and cued up audio operator,” Naicker said. “So we decided to have two people: one to control audio for cheering and the other one for disappointment.”

Both Naicker and Naidoo said they’re confident SuperSport’s plans will closely match the real experience of being in the stands.

“When [the camera] is on a close-up and you’re getting all this audio —  you actually forget that it’s an empty stadium. You actually think, ‘Wow, this is actually awesome.'”

Alvin Naiker, head of content production, SuperSport International 

“When [the camera] is on a close-up and you’re getting all this audio —  you actually forget that it’s an empty stadium. You actually think, ‘Wow, this is actually awesome,’” Naicker said. “I think it’s more disconcerting for the players, who don’t have that energy coming through from the 12th person on the field.”

Australia’s National Rugby League and select football teams in Germany have also chosen to input sound from previous matches. The English Premier League and Spanish La Liga, though, have chosen a more synthetic route. They are using sounds from the video game FIFA 20. Sports leagues in the United States are using a variety of tools; the NBA, for example, is allowing 300 fans to “attend” the games by calling in via Zoom to the arena, where their faces appear on large screens.

AFL players have returned to their clubs across the country, ahead of the season restart on June 11. Channel 7 will be adding crowd noise to the telecast from round 2. @Stevo7AFL with a preview. https://t.co/5zYfOfohG3 #7AFL #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/BzHfCVooRK

— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) May 18, 2020

Part of the fun of cheering, though, is feeling like you’re a part of the action. Now that the logistics of getting teams back on the field are mostly figured out, fan engagement is drawing more attention. 

Related: In Spain after lockdown, soccer resumes for men — but not for women

MyApplause, an app from a Germany-based company called hack-CARE, lets fans control which noises are blasted through stadium speakers. To use the app, people at home simply select their team and the upcoming match. 

“When you download the app, you have four options,” said Brad Roberts, who is in charge of International Sales for MyApplause. “Cheer, clap, sing, and whistle. The sound of the audience —  and this is fans reacting in real-time  —  that gets played through the stadium speakers so the players can hear it. In return, that sound gets picked up through the TV cameras and comes back through the TV.”

That way, Roberts said, not only are the fans transported to the stadium, but the players are also able to receive the energy from the crowd’s cheers. Jürgen Kreuz, the campaign manager of MyApplause, says players have told them that it makes a difference to know that the cheers are actually coming from the fans.

“There were some players from the UK —  from Manchester and from Leeds —  who said that if there is [fake crowd noise], it’s OK,” Kreuz said. “But knowing that it was created by people at home —  that’s a completely different story. Because they feel like, ‘Wow, there are people watching us and supporting us.’”

“We’ve got fake crowd noise the teams are pumping into the stadium,” Tennessee native and @Dodgers‘ Matt Beaty said. “The TV ratings are through the roof. We can feel them watching the games even though they’re not there with us.” https://t.co/DCcrFNrsaB

— FoxNashville (@FOXNashville) July 31, 2020

Screenshot from the app MyApplause

Credit:

Screenshot from the app MyApplause

MyApplause has partnered with FanChants.com, a company that has curated crowd noises, chants, and cheers from games over the past 15 years. Because of the partnership, the MyApplause app can be customized for each team. If a Brazilian team is using the app, for example, the MyApplause team could place those fans’ favorite chant into the app.

This functionality is important, too, because certain cheers have different significance and meaning around the world. For example, Kreuz said they received feedback from Australian leagues that their fans don’t “boo” often. 

“In England, if you don’t have the boo or the whistling, that will be like, ok, the app is not worth anything,” Kreuz added.

(Read: Brits like to trash talk.)

But regardless of their team’s chance at winning, fans have expressed nothing short of desperation for sports to reenter their lives. Some people don’t mind the fake crowd noise. Others think it’s distracting and disingenuous.

Broadcasters have largely left it up to viewers to decide by offering one version of a game with artificial crowd noise and one with a more silent stadium.

“We’re very hopeful that we will create the very best audio experience,” Naidoo said. But she also acknowledges that not everyone is a fan of artificial crowd noise. 

“[The viewer] would have the option to switch it off if it’s not their preference,” she said. 

French Chilean rapper’s new track criticizes politicians’ apathy over coronavirus

French Chilean rapper's new track criticizes politicians' apathy over coronavirus

Ana Tijoux's new song “Pa Qué?” drew inspiration from statements early into the pandemic from politicians like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

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Jorge Valencia

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Ana Tijoux performs during a concert by female artists on the eve of International Women’s Day in the Zocalo in Mexico City, March 7, 2020.

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The singer Ana Tijoux has been working for much of the pandemic. But on a recent afternoon, she was in Barcelona getting ready to take her cooped-up, 7-year-old daughter to a Catalonia beach. 

“She’s jumping like crazy right now,” Tijoux said with a laugh.

In an interview with The World, the Grammy-nominated French Chilean rapper and composer said the first six months of physical isolation have proven more taxing than anyone expected. 

It has reminded her of the collaborative nature of creating music: Even for a solo artist like her, the work is not solo, she said. 

And for her new single titled “Pa Qué?” she worked with the Puerto Rican rapper PJ Sin Suela. They were inspired by internet humor and the grim developments that have dominated the news for most of 2020.  The single — out last month — is from her forthcoming “Antifa Dance,” her fifth album.

The track’s title can be loosely translated into English as “So why?” It’s a nod to a phrase popularized by a viral video from Mexico in which two men carry an apparently intoxicated friend out of a party. The friend complains, “You already know how I get, so why do you invite me?” 

Tijoux says she felt similarly as an artist who likes to sing about a topic that not everyone is receptive to: politics.

Tijoux drew inspiration from watching politicians respond apathetically to the pandemic. For example, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, in March bragged about shaking hands with people at a hospital where patients infected by COVID-19 were being treated. Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that same month he wouldn’t be affected by the coronavirus because he had a background as an athlete. Both heads of state later contracted and were treated for the coronavirus. 

And then there was former Chilean Health Minister Jaime Mañalich, who said perhaps the coronavirus could mutate into “a good guy,” in a televised interview that immediately went viral. Tijoux quotes him directly in the first verse of “Pa Qué?”  

“They don’t care about people who are sick or who passed away. They don’t even have empathy, and that makes me worried when people don’t have any emotion about life.”

Ana Tijoux

“It’s surreal,” she said of the politicians’ response to the pandemic. “They don’t care about people who are sick or who passed away. They don’t even have empathy, and that makes me worried when people don’t have any emotion about life.” 

This is Tijoux’s first time rhyming about the coronavirus. It is also her first time rhyming over cumbia, a music genre with Afro Indigenous roots that is massively popular across Latin America, as well as merenhouse, a popular genre with Afro Dominican roots. Some of her influences include Colombia’s Totó la Momposina, Joe Arroyo and the Dominican Republic’s Sandy y Papo, she said. 

The video for “Pa Qué?” features neon-colored cats floating in outer space, banging spoons against pots and pans, and shooting laser beams through their eyes at police officers and government buildings.

The playfulness, humor and seriousness are all connected, Tijoux said. Musicians have opinions — and this one is hers. 

“We’re not here to be pleasant,” she said. “We’re here to be honest with what we think. If you like or not or if it is good or bad, that is not the question. At least it is honest.” 

Large blast in Beirut port area rocks Lebanon’s capital, many people hurt

Large blast in Beirut port area rocks Lebanon's capital, many people hurt

Updated:

August 04, 2020 · 2:30 PM EDT

The aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2020.

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UN head warns of ‘a generational catastrophe’; Record temperatures in Iraq; Belarus’ president aligns with Russia

UN head warns of 'a generational catastrophe'; Record temperatures in Iraq; Belarus' president aligns with Russia

By
The World staff

An Indonesian student wears a mask and face shield as a precaution against the coronavirus during a class in Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 3, 2020.

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Family of Chinese pro-democracy activist held in secret detention calls for his release

Family of Chinese pro-democracy activist held in secret detention calls for his release

Ding Jiaxi had been on a collision course with the Chinese government perhaps ever since 1989 when he was a college junior in Beijing.

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Rupa Shenoy

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Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China’s parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, June 30, 2020.

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Ding Jiaxi, a leader in the pro-democracy China Citizens Movement, believed it was possible to work inside China to convince people to push back against the government. But in December, as he was having dinner at a friend’s home, authorities burst in and arrested him and the others there.

“I didn’t know how to react. Somehow, I think we kind of knew that with what he was doing, that something like this was going to happen at some point.”

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

“I didn’t know how to react,” said Ding Jiaxi’s 18-year-old daughter, Caroline Ding, who at the time was a freshman at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “Somehow, I think we kind of knew that with what he was doing, that something like this was going to happen at some point.”

Related: China orders US to close its Chengdu consulate

Ding Jiaxi had been on a collision course with the Chinese government perhaps ever since 1989 when he was a college junior in Beijing. He spent three days and nights in Tiananmen Square as student protesters faced off against troops. But at the university, he also met his wife, Sophie Luo.

“I think of the story that she used to tell us, like, it was love at first sight. My dad walked into the room and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s the one,’” Caroline Ding said.

They married and had two kids. Ding Jiaxi put his activism aside and became a successful business lawyer in Beijing. But around 2010, Luo said he began reaching out to human rights activists.

“So, he always [had] this thinking to bring change to China,” she said.

Related: US orders China to close its consulate in Houston

Ding Jiaxi helped organize the first small meetings of the China Citizens Movement. Members were encouraged to use their rights as a citizen, as laid out in China’s constitution, to advocate for change within the existing political system. Ding Jiaxi collected 7,000 signatures for a petition that sought to reveal corruption. It called on top officials to disclose their family’s finances and assets. Luo said that’s when the government sent plainclothes officers to watch their house.

“At that time, I realized our life was really unsafe,” Luo said.

Caroline Ding remembers it, too.

“There would just be [police] sitting outside of our house. Every day I went to school, I would see him sitting there. I really trusted my dad and I thought he knew what he was doing, so I didn’t think it was that big of a problem.”

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

“There would just be [police] sitting outside of our house. Every day I went to school, I would see him sitting there,” she said. “I really trusted my dad and I thought he knew what he was doing, so I didn’t think it was that big of a problem.”

Her dad, though, knew that it was. Luo said Ding Jiaxi asked her to leave the country with the kids, so they wouldn’t get caught up in his battle with the government. Luo works for a global corporation that was able to relocate her to the US. She went to the US Embassy to get a visa.

“Then the next day, the policeman [came] to take him away from our house,” Luo said.

In 2013, Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for his work with the Citizens Movement. Luo knew she’d have more freedom to speak outside China, so she and the kids followed through with the plan to settle in the small town of Alfred, New York. Ding Jiaxi sent them letters.

Related: US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

“In those days, a letter from him was my nutrition for life,” she said.

Ding Jiaxi’s arrest and jailing was just the beginning of a widespread crackdown that drew international attention. In July 2015, hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists were detained and tortured in China. Still, somehow, Ding Jiaxi was released in 2016 and got a visa to visit his family in the US.

“I can see that in the two months he did all the chores at home and [wanted] to compensate what [had been] missing for the family, but I [could] see he still wants to go back,” she said.

Luo begged him to stay. But Ding Jiaxi said the US was too comfortable — and he felt restless. This is what people have a hard time understanding, why her husband would return to a place that is so dangerous for him, Luo said. 

“It’s not [everyone who] can understand. It took us, the family, a long time also to understand him. I just feel he was chosen by God to do something for China. So, although I feel painful, I still [sent] him back.”

Sophie Luo, wife of Ding Jiaxi 

“It’s not [everyone who] can understand. It took us, the family, a long time also to understand him,” she said. “I just feel he was chosen by God to do something for China. So, although I feel painful, I still [sent] him back.”

Ding Jiaxi returned to China in 2017 and continued his work with the Citizens Movement until December of 2019, when authorities picked him up again. Several of the activists he was arrested with have been released, but not Ding Jiaxi. His lawyer has been denied access to him. Luo hasn’t gotten any letters. They don’t know where he’s being held.

“Lack of human rights in China  — it’s a threat to the whole international society,” Luo said. “This kind of dictatorship is a kind of disease to society, to the whole international world.”

Luo said her goal is to free all those unlawfully detained in China, including her husband. She spends hours on the phone at night, talking to lawyers and calling Chinese authorities to try to get information.

Luo’s reached out to US congressmen, senators and the State Department for help, and said they’ve all been supportive — but the growing divide between the US and China makes Luo wonder what they can really do. Members of their local church in New York made videos to send a direct message to the Chinese government.

“We are angry in the United States about this, and we will stay angry,” one church member said in the video.

“No one should be detained or kept secretly hidden when they have done nothing wrong,” another commented.

A third added, “This is an absolutely unacceptable way for a government to treat one of its citizens.”

This week, Caroline Ding wrote an op-ed about her dad for the Tufts student newspaper. Unlike her mom and sister, who have green cards, Caroline Ding is a citizen, born when Luo was a graduate student in the US. So, she feels safe to speak out. But Luo doesn’t want to express the immense frustration of living a privileged American life while her father likely sits in prison.

“If we show our weakness, then the Communist Party is winning in a way because they want to see us crushed and sad, so we wouldn’t be able to do anything,” she said. “But I think the best thing we can do is just enjoy our lives here. Joy is the ultimate rebellion.”

And this is what her dad wanted — for them to be safe, so he could make the choice to fight. 

After months without work, Uganda’s boda boda drivers hit the road

After months without work, Uganda’s boda boda drivers hit the road

Thousands of boda boda drivers have been out of work since March when the Ugandan government suspended most forms of public transportation in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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Halima Gikandi

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Wilson Lubega, a boda boda operator, stands next to his motorcycle during an interview on June 18, 2020, in Kampala, Uganda. 

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After months under lockdown, Uganda is beginning to ease some of its strictest travel restrictions.

Last week, the government removed a ban on boda boda, or motorcycle taxis, a common form of transportation in Uganda. New health restrictions issued by the government may also help to regulate the boda boda industry. 

Thousands of boda boda drivers have been out of work since March when the Ugandan government suspended most forms of public transportation in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While Uganda began to allow other forms of public transportation to resume operations in June, that hadn’t extended to boda bodas, frustrating drivers and leading one group to sue the government. 

Related: Ugandan farmers take on French oil giant in game-changer case

Asaph Mugisha never set out to drive a boda boda, but in recent years, it has helped him support his family.

But the coronavirus completely upended that.

“We never knew how long the lockdown would take,” said Mugisha who, without work, strictly budgeted his savings.

“We didn’t have money to buy food for breakfast, lunch and supper. So, we budgeted the money that we had so that we could just eat once in a day.

Now, Mugisha and other drivers are finally back on the road, but the landscape looks much different.

Before the coronavirus, Mugisha could earn as much as 70,000 Ugandan shillings on a good day (about $19). These days, he’s making a quarter of that.

The government’s new set of health regulations to minimize the spread of the coronavirus requires strict regulations and precautions between drivers and passengers. 

Related: Africa must invest ‘in human capital’ to fight the coronavirus

“So, I put on my face mask. And helmet,” began Mugisha, noting that the helmet has a glass panel in the front to cover his eyes. Then comes the hand sanitizer, which boda boda drivers are now carrying.

“Before I start my trip, I have to first sanitize my customer,” explained Mugisha.

“And when I reach the destination of the journey, I also sanitize him. I also sanitize [myself]. Then, he gives money after sanitization,” he said.  

But with some stores still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and many Ugandans out of work, there haven’t been many customers, says Mugisha.

Related: Mass arrests in Zimbabwe over coronavirus regulation violations

The new boda boda requirements have also extended to consumers. During a recent press conference, Information Minister Judith Nabakooba explained that boda boda passengers must register with their names and phone numbers.

“These details will help in following up should any of the contacts test for COVID-19,” said Nabakooba.

Drivers have begun recording passenger information in small books, but the new requirement has stirred up some concerns over privacy.

Apollo Mugasa, another boda boda driver in Kampala, says some of his customers have refused to share their information.

“They’re saying they want to keep their privacy with their telephone numbers,” said Mugasa, who typically picks up clients around the popular Acacia Mall.

Mugisha says his regular clients, however, don’t have a problem with the new mandate.

Abraham Anun, digital director at Capital Brand in Kampala, recently developed a new ride-hailing app called GoodBoda. 

It’s one of many ride-hailing apps offered in Uganda these days. Others include Safe Boda and Ori Rides.

Anun suggests that getting people registered with these apps could be a solution to both the privacy and contact-tracing concerns because the information is stored in the app. 

“Because the client has already registered with the app, and the rider is also registered with the app. So, all they have to do is link up,” he explained.

“It makes both parties feel more safe. And feel like their privacy is not being intruded upon,” said Anun, who expects his app to launch within the next month.

“Of course, there will be information in the system about who did the trip. So, tracking that will be easier,” he noted about contact tracing.

The Ugandan government seems to welcome the move toward digital ride-hailing apps and encourages drivers to register with them, which will likely boost the industry. 

But drivers like Mugasa have their reservations.

In 2016, he joined a different ride-hailing app for boda boda drivers but later dropped out due to high fees and low wages.

According to Mugasa, some ride-hailing companies take a large cut of drivers’ profits and require drivers to pay for branded gear that distinguishes them from ordinary drivers.

“We had to pay 10,000 [Ugandan shillings] a week,” said Mugisha.

“The reflector jacket — they charge you. A helmet — they charge you. A phone — they charge you. There’s nothing that they give. But again they charge you 15%  for every trip that you take.”

As the ride-hailing app industry has grown, this has been a tension point for both boda boda and regular taxi drivers who use ride-hailing apps in both Uganda and neighboring East African countries.

Now, with more options to choose from, Mugasa says he hopes to get a better deal.

“I will see which is suitable for me. The company which can listen to us as drivers, then I will join [that] one,” he said.

Overall, he supports the new changes for boda bodas and hopes they will help the industry become more organized. 

A coronavirus outbreak threatens Catalonia’s vital tourism industry

A coronavirus outbreak threatens Catalonia’s vital tourism industry

In previous years, throngs of tourists flocked to Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. But with hundreds of new outbreaks of the coronavirus in the northeast region of Catalonia, Spain's tourism industry is taking a serious hit.

By
Lucía Benavides

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People walk past the La Sagrada Família Basilica as the sun sets in Barcelona, Spain, July 30, 2020. Europe’s tourism revival is running into turbulence only weeks after countries reopened their borders, with rising infections in Spain and other nations causing increasing concern among health authorities over people bringing the coronavirus home from their summer vacations. 

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Felipe Dana/AP

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Barcelona’s Sagrada Família has never been this empty. On the pedestrian street in front of the world-famous basilica, children ride scooters, families take strolls and residents walk their dogs. 

In previous years, hundreds of tourists flocked to Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece and took photos. But as Spain experiences what some are calling a “possible second wave” of the coronavirus — the northeast region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, is an area with one of the highest numbers of cases — the country’s tourism industry has taken a serious hit. 

“We wanted to take advantage since there aren’t many tourists,” said resident Francesc Guasch, who visits with his three sons, piling on top of each other on a skateboard and rolling down the hill. “We thought, let’s go see the Sagrada Família since even though we’re from here, we rarely come by.”

Related: Madrid residents long for green space during city park closures

The family has spent more time than usual exploring the city, riding bikes through the empty Gothic Quarter and going to restaurants that are usually packed. 

But Guasch is wary that fewer tourists have left many people without jobs and he worries about the economic fallout, especially since countries like the UK, Germany and France — who make up a large number of visitors to Spain — have discouraged travel here. 

Spain was particularly hard-hit when the coronavirus first arrived in Europe in February – but after a strict, three-month lockdown that began in mid-March, the number of new cases was brought down to a trickle. 

Since confinement measures lifted on June 21, however, people began to relax — and some tourists began to arrive.

In an attempt to contain the coronavirus, regional governments have implemented measures, like making it mandatory to wear masks in public spaces and banning meetings of more than 10 people. 

During a recent press conference, Catalan President Quim Torra urged residents to act responsibly or else face possible new confinement.

“The situation is too critical not to be taken seriously,” Torra said in Catalan. “The increase in outbreaks is worrying.”

Related: In Spain after lockdown, soccer resumes for men — but not for women

But then he directed his speech toward international viewers, in English, saying the situation is being closely monitored.

“Catalonia is definitely a safe and friendly destination for national and international visitors alike,” he said.

Politicians often share these mixed messages as they try to salvage what’s left of this year’s tourist season, which stalled for months due to the pandemic but usually accounts for 12% of the country’s gross domestic product. 

Earlier this week, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez responded to the UK’s decision to impose a mandatory quarantine for those returning from Spain by saying the measure is “unjust.” By contrast, Spain’s health emergency chief, Fernando Simón, said the measure is sensible, considering the situation.

Related: This Spanish trio makes socially conscious music under lockdown

In this Sunday, May 31, 2020 file photo, local visitors enjoy a park next to the Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. Barcelona’s iconic La Sagrada Familia basilica has reopened its doors for visits exclusively for health workers after nearly four months being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Credit:

Emilio Morenatti/file/AP 

Back at the Sagrada Família, kids continue to enjoy the fairly empty streets. Roxana Arévalo visits with her son and takes photos of him in front of the basilica. Arévalo says what she worries most about when it comes to the recent cases of the coronavirus is the city’s nightlife.

“I feel bad because I realize this is probably what generates the most amount of money,” she said. “But, in this situation, the government should have waited longer to reopen [nightclubs]. That’s likely what has caused an increase in cases.” 

Arévalo’s job wasn’t affected by the pandemic — she works in the cleaning department at a small air traffic control center in a city just outside Barcelona. But she is aware of the government’s financial support for laid-off workers and says it isn’t enough. She wants lawmakers to create more jobs — especially ones that are not tourism-dependent. 

“It’s all connected,” Arévalo said. “Those who aren’t working can’t go on vacation, because they’re holding back, so they aren’t spending. I don’t know how we’ll make it to October or November, much less to Christmas. Right now, there’s economic movement because people are living off of their savings, but later on, I think we’ll be worse off than now.”

Notre Dame Cathedral’s organ getting 4-year-long cleaning

Notre Dame Cathedral's organ getting 4-year-long cleaning

Philippe Lefebvre plays the organ at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, May 2, 2013. Pipe by precious pipe, the organ that once thundered through fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral is being taken apart. The mammoth task of dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling France’s largest musical instrument started Monday Aug. 3, 2020 and is expected to last nearly four years.

Credit:

Christophe Ena/AP/File photo

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