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New ICARUS tracking system helps scientists unlock mysteries of migration

New ICARUS tracking system helps scientists unlock mysteries of migration

Information collected from orbiting satellites can tell us a lot about the weather, our changing climate and abundant life on Earth. Thanks to advances in technology, soon we may be able to watch, in real-time, the movements and migration of tiny winged species, including insects.

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Adam Wernick

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Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev lays cable for the installation of the ICARUS animal-tracking experiment, Aug. 15, 2018. The system is being tested in the summer of 2020.

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NASA

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The field of wildlife tracking is getting a major upgrade thanks to a new initiative called ICARUS. It uses special equipment on the International Space Station to allow researchers to track much smaller species than ever before, including tiny migrating birds and even insects.

Autumn-Lynn Harrison, program manager for the Migratory Connectivity Project at Smithsonian Institution, says the ICARUS tags will include a number of different sensors that collect GPS, accelerometer and temperature data.

“You’ll be able to see how an animal is moving in three dimensions through the accelerometry sensors,” Harrison says.

ICARUS is about the size of human thumb and has a small solar panel on the top and a long antenna to communicate with satellites.

A long-tailed jaeger after release.

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Neil Paprocki/The World 

The ICARUS tracking device weighs about the same as an American nickel and is about the size of the tip of a human thumb, Harrison says. It has a small solar panel on the top and a long antenna to communicate with satellites. The tag attaches to birds with a small Teflon ribbon, which is formed into something like a human climbing harness. The tag goes over the legs of the bird and sits on the bird’s lower back, so it doesn’t hinder flight.

The ICARUS tags will allow scientists to locate an individual bird with an accuracy of between approximately 33 to 98 feet. The tags Harrison and other scientists use are accurate between 328 feet and 8,202 feet. They are also intended to be a lot less expensive. Harrison’s current tags cost about $3,800 apiece; the ICARUS tags are estimated to cost only $500.

“For the smallest birds, the mysteries to uncover are really infinite — and ICARUS is going to help us do that.”

The ICARUS tags are already quite small and will only get smaller, Harrison says.

“When they are about the size of one gram, the size of maybe a pill of aspirin, this will enable us to track small songbirds [and] large insects,” she says. “We’ve never been able to track these types of small animals with GPS accuracy, in real-time. For these smallest birds, the mysteries to uncover are really infinite and ICARUS is going to help us do that.”

RelatedSpring’s uncertain arrival poses problems for migrating birds

One of the few limitations of ICARUS is that, for now, it will be unable to transmit data in real time from the poles.

“[The Arctic] is one of the most rapidly changing places on the planet. We would like to be able to understand real-time responses to major heat waves, like what is happening right now in Siberia,” Harrison says. “I’m actually tracking a seabird that was just in the hottest region of Siberia and this week left for Canada.”

That real-time information is available with current technology but, north of about 60 degrees latitude, the new technology can’t provide data in real time. The ICARUS data will upload after the tag and the animal have both left the Arctic.

“The hope is that more ICARUS modules will be deployed on other satellites in the future to help cover the polar orbits and allow us to get some of the same benefits from ICARUS for Arctic and Antarctic species,” Harrison says.

“When [populations] start declining, we need to know where they go and when they go there so that we can leverage all of the resources of every country that might be able to benefit that species.”

Some of the animals Harrison and other scientists study travel through as many as 30 different countries in the course of a year. She says she and her colleagues have “long wanted to protect animals throughout their ranges.”

“When they start declining, we need to know where they go and when they go there so that we can leverage all of the resources of every country that might be able to benefit that species,” she says.

RelatedNew Interior ruling threatens to undo protections of migratory birds

Climate change is also causing animals to choose new places to migrate to and from, so scientists want to know which habitats are most important to protect for different species.

“Ranges are shifting,” she says. “We’re already seeing examples of animals moving into places that we didn’t previously have records. … [S]ome of the data I’m collecting are the very first migratory pathways of these species — the very first time we have known where and when these species are. So our baseline information is actually being collected only now, which means that we may not even know how things have changed over the past 10 years, which was an area of rapid change in the Arctic.”

RelatedAs the climate changes, migratory birds are losing their way

Scientists are working on a smartphone app to go along with the ICARUS technology so people can track their own favorite animals at home. A similar app, called Movebank, is already available for the current technology.

“I like to think of migratory birds as pen pals that we exchange across international borders.”

“I like to think of migratory birds as pen pals that we exchange across international borders,” Harrison says. “We send them to you one season and then you send them back to us. They are a shared heritage of many different communities and countries, and I think being able to visualize that in real-time will just drive that inspiration and passion even more to conserve migratory animals.”

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

Hundreds missing after Afghanistan prison attack; Iran’s underreported coronavirus death toll; 90 minute COVID-19 test in Britain

Hundreds missing after Afghanistan prison attack; Iran's underreported coronavirus death toll; 90 minute COVID-19 test in Britain

By
The World staff

An Afghan security person stands guard near a prison after an attack in the city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020.

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Rahmat Gul/AP

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Embattled Bolivian mayor refuses to step down amid political crisis: ‘Quitting would be a betrayal’

Embattled Bolivian mayor refuses to step down amid political crisis: ‘Quitting would be a betrayal’

Patricia Arce, mayor of the Bolivian city of Vinto, has operated under a cloak of fear since November, when a mob attacked her in the street and demanded her resignation in the wake of postelection clashes. But she has held on to her role amid rising human rights abuses under the interim national government.

By
Jorge Valencia

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Demonstrators with makeshift shields protest against President Evo Morales’ reelection, in La Paz, Boliva, Nov. 6, 2019.

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Juan Karita/AP

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The mayor of Vinto, a city nestled in the heart of Bolivia’s agricultural country, jokes her job is a lot like running a public complaints office: People call her when the garbage doesn’t get picked up or when their power or water utilities are interrupted. 

And in the six months since the coronavirus reached Vinto, Patricia Arce has also helped the local hospital procure supplies and delivered grocery baskets to families going without food because of the economic impact of isolation measures, she said.

But she’s been doing her job under a cloak of fear since early November when an anti-government mob accused her of having organized a pro-government demonstration in which one person was killed. The mob pushed her through the streets of Vinto, forcibly cut her hair, doused her in red paint and demanded her resignation. Grisly videos of the attack went viral in Bolivia. In one video, a man asks her, “What have you done?” She replies, defiantly, “The only thing I’ve done is work for my people.”

Arce, still defiant, wouldn’t step down from her position. She returned to work soon after the attack.

“Quitting would be a betrayal.”

Patricia Arce, mayor of Vinto

“Quitting would be a betrayal,” she told The World in a recent interview. 

The city of Vinto, like much of Bolivia, has been in a political crisis since former President Evo Morales fled the country in November, shortly after he apparently won a fourth reelection in a controversial and contested vote. Arce, who has been mayor since 2015, is a member of Morales’ Movement for Socialism party and was caught in a clash resulting from the elections. 

Related: Is Evo Morales leading Bolivia toward dictatorship?

The Áñez administration has harassed her, accused her of kidnapping herself, and charged her with sedition, according to a report out this week by Harvard University law school’s international human rights clinic and the nonprofit University Network for Human Rights. 

Arce’s case is among the dozens of human rights violations that have been perpetrated under the government of interim President Jeanine Áñez, the report says. 

In more than 200 interviews over roughly six months, researchers found Áñez’s government perpetrated violence against protesters, denied access to justice, prosecuted dissenters, and allowed civilian and para-state violence, according to the report, which is titled, “Black November & Bolivia’s Interim Government.” At least 35 civilians — many of them Morales supporters — were killed in confrontations with the military in November. 

Related: Bolivia sees backlash against conservative leader

Thomas Becker, an instructor at Harvard’s international human rights clinic and a co-author of the report, was working in the central city of Sacaba on Nov. 15 when government security forces killed nine people, he said. That day, he began measuring the trajectory of the bullets in the confrontation, and concluded they had all originated on a bridge from where the military was stationed, he said. 

“What happened is horrific,” Becker said. 

Protests in Bolivia have led to transitions of power since at least 1982, said Carwil Bjork-James, a professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University who has documented social movements across the Andean region. Typically, a transitional government has taken a neutral position until an election is held. But Áñez’s administration has broken with that tradition, enacting policies more extreme than what has been proposed by any of her political opponents, Bjork-James said.

Áñez’s administration has ordered dozens of investigations of local government officials and social leaders, accusing them of subverting the constitution in attempts to overthrow her government, a crime referred to as sedition. 

“It’s ironic to have a transitional government that came into power after three weeks of protests to turn around and use sedition as one of the major crimes for which it arrests people,” Bjork-James said. 

Election officials have postponed the presidential vote three times, most recently to Oct. 18, citing a rise in cases of the coronavirus. Many argue Áñez’s administration is taking advantage of the pandemic to extend its hold on power, and thousands are protesting the voting delay. Authorities have not given any indication about how they would conduct elections during the pandemic.

Arce, the Vinto mayor, says she asks herself how Bolivia wound up in its current crisis.

“We’ve fought too hard for our rights to lose them this way,” she said.

PHOTOS: Very different, symbolic hajj in Saudi Arabia amid the coronavirus

PHOTOS: Very different, symbolic hajj in Saudi Arabia amid the coronavirus

Muslim pilgrims, donning face masks and moving in small groups after days in isolation, began arriving at Islam's holiest site in Mecca on Wednesday for the start of a historically unique and scaled-down hajj experience reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

Limited numbers of pilgrims, circle the Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj, as they keep social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 29, 2020.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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Muslim pilgrims began arriving at Islam’s holiest site in Mecca on Wednesday for the start of the hajj during an historically unique and scaled-down experience reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

The hajj is one of Islam’s most important requirements, performed once in a lifetime. It follows a route the Prophet Muhammad walked nearly 1,400 years ago and is believed to ultimately trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are named in the Bible.

Officials prepare for the arrival of pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia hours before the pilgrimage is set to begin.

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

The hajj, both physically and spiritually demanding, is intended to bring about greater humility and unity among Muslims.

Workers polish the white marble floors surrounding Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

Rather than standing and praying shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of people from different walks of life, pilgrims this year are social distancing — standing apart and moving in small groups of 20 to limit exposure and the potential transmission of the coronavirus.

Limited numbers of pilgrims move several feet apart, circling the Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj, Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

The pilgrimage is a journey that Muslims traditionally experience with relatives. In past years, it was common to see men pushing their elderly parents around on wheelchairs in order to help them complete the hajj, and parents carrying children on their backs. The communal feeling of more than 2.5 million people from around the world — Shiite, Sunni and other Muslim sects — praying together, eating together and repenting together has long been part of what makes hajj both a challenging and rewarding experience like none other.

Pilgrims keep social distancing during the hajj.

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

This year, however, pilgrims are eating prepackaged meals alone in their hotel rooms and praying at a distance from one another. The Saudi government is covering all the pilgrims’ expenses of travel, accommodation, meals and healthcare.

While the experience is starkly different, it remains an opportunity for pilgrims to wipe clean past sins and deepen their faith.

Pilgrims keep social distancing to limit exposure of the coronavirus, at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

For the first time in Saudi history, the government barred Muslims from entering the kingdom from abroad to perform the hajj in order to limit exposure of the coronavirus.

Instead, as few as 1,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the hajj this year. Two-thirds are foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the hajj. One-third are Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

The pilgrims, who were selected after applying through an online portal, were required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, with no terminal illnesses and showing no symptoms of the virus. Preference was given to those who have not performed the hajj before.

Security personnel standby as a limited numbers of pilgrims arrive at the Grand Mosque.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

Pilgrims were tested for the coronavirus, given wristbands that connect to their phones and monitor their movement and were required to quarantine at home and in their hotel rooms in Mecca ahead of Wednesday’s start of the hajj. They will also be required to quarantine for a week after the hajj concludes on Sunday.

While there is a limited number of pilgrims allowed to participate in the hajj this year, like so many things in our lives these days, there’s a digital version. Bigitec Studios, a video game design company in Bonn, Germany has created a virtual hajj experience.

Bilal Chbib, cofounder of Bigitec Studios, says the company released a downloadable demo version of their hajj experience, but cautioned that it’s not a substitute for the actual hajj — it’s a virtual experience to help pilgrams prepare for the real thing.

A virtual Kaaba which pilgrims walk around during the hajj at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Credit:

Courtesy of Bigitec Studios

Mecca was sealed off for months ahead of the hajj, and the smaller year-round Umrah pilgrimage was suspended earlier this year, with pilgrims already in the city at that time flown back home.

International media were not permitted to cover the hajj from Mecca this year. Instead, Saudi government broadcast live footage from the Grand Mosque on Wednesday showing limited numbers of pilgrims, moving several feet apart, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj.

Pilgrim attend the hajj at the Grand Mosque.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during their five daily prayers.

During the first rites of hajj, Muslims circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times while reciting supplications to God, then walk between two hills where Ibrahim’s wife, Hagar, is believed to have run as she searched for water for her dying son before God brought forth a well that runs to this day.

This year, pilgrims will only be able to drink water from this Zamzam well that is packaged in plastic bottles. Pebbles for casting away evil that are usually picked up by pilgrims along hajj routes will be sterilized and bagged ahead of time.

Muslim pilgrims line up to leave after they circled the Kaaba during the hajj.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

Pilgrims have also been given their own prayer rugs and special attire to wear during the hajj laced with silver nano technology that Saudi authorities say helps kill bacteria and makes clothes water resistant. They were also provided with umbrellas to shield them from the sun, towels, soaps, sanitizers and other essentials, as well as online sessions in different language about what to expect on the hajj and the regulations in place.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia needs to put these measures in place so we can learn from this experience,” said Saudi infectious disease expert and World Health Organization official, Dr. Hanan Balkhy.

By Aya Batrawy/AP

Major environmental groups join Facebook ad boycott to protest climate misinformation

Major environmental groups join Facebook ad boycott to protest climate misinformation

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued in the past that Facebook is not a media company and therefore should not regulate content posted on the platform.

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Billionaires Success/Flickr

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Three major environmental groups are demanding that Facebook take steps to curb the spread of racism, extremism and misinformation about climate change on its platform.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and 350.org have joined more than 1,000 other companies in pausing their advertising on Facebook this month as part of the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign.

Most other environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have yet to take a stand on Facebook’s policies around hate and climate denialism.

Emily Atkin, a climate journalist and author of climate crisis newsletter Heated says environmental organizations and other nonprofits are in a tough spot.

“How do they want to spend their money,” Atkin asks. “Do they want to spend it on a platform that is actively spreading climate change disinformation but at the same time really helps them get their message out? I think it’s really hard for a lot of nonprofits and charities and advocacy groups to balance those concerns.”

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign specifically says it’s asking companies, businesses and corporations to boycott Facebook only for the month of July, Atkin notes. The campaign is not pushing nonprofits or advocacy groups to join, but they can be a part of it if they choose.

“There’s a faction of environmental groups that says we should be putting our money where our mouth is and this is not where movements are built: ‘Movements are not built on Facebook; they’re built in the real world,’” Atkin explains. “But there are others that say Facebook is the best place that we operate right now, especially during the time of coronavirus.”

Atkin’s own reporting has focused on Facebook’s fact-checking procedures, which, somewhat bizarrely, seem to favor purveyors of fringe opinion over actual science. Her reporting began after a powerful, fossil-fuel funded group called the CO2 Coalition, which argues that excess carbon dioxide is beneficial for humans, published an op-ed in the Washington Examiner claiming that “all climate models are wrong and climate science is basically BS,” Atkin says.

RelatedEuropean lawmakers had tough questions for Mark Zuckerberg. For the most part, he ducked them.

When they posted the piece on Facebook, the company’s independent fact-checkers, comprised of published scientists, deemed the article false. The CO2 Coalition disputed this designation, claiming the article was an opinion piece that shouldn’t be given a “false” label. Facebook agreed and removed the label because its policies state that opinion pieces are not subject to fact-checking rules.

At the same time, Facebook has been fact-checking actual climate scientists, including Katharine Hayhoe, a lead author of the “Fourth National Climate Assessment,” and a professor at Texas Tech University, Atkin says. Facebook placed restrictions on Hayhoe’s videos about her climate research, claiming they are “political.” They required Hayhoe to provide certain information to Facebook in order to post the videos — information Hayhoe feared would expose her to personal attack from climate change deniers and other online trolls.

RelatedHow science denial on the political right hampers the US response to COVID-19

“It’s kind of backward,” Atkin says. “On one hand, they’re saying scientific content is opinion, so it doesn’t need extra fact-checking or extra certification information, and then they say, on the other hand, that climate information is political and so we need all of this other certification information.”

“It’s a basic misunderstanding on Facebook’s part of what science is. It’s neither opinion nor political. It’s the best process that we have to determine objective truths.”

“It’s a basic misunderstanding on Facebook’s part of what science is,” Atkin continues. “It’s neither opinion nor political. It’s the best process that we have to determine objective truths. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that that should be something our biggest social network — our biggest purveyor of information — should understand in its policies. And right now, it doesn’t appear to.”

“If we don’t act on climate change — this isn’t my opinion, this is the science — people will die.”

Facebook’s policies are risky for both science and for public health, Atkin says. “We know the consequences of spreading misinformation about epidemiology and about the way coronavirus spreads,” she notes.

“It’s the same when we’re talking about climate change, which is also a public health threat. If we’re allowing misinformation to be spread about climate change, we’re threatening literally millions of peoples’ health. … If we don’t act on climate change — this isn’t my opinion, this is the science — people will die. A lot of people will die and mostly Black and brown people will die. … It’s something that Facebook has so far refused to really grapple with.”

RelatedAnalysis: Facebook is undermining democracy

Atkin says the most compelling part of the story to her was the reaction of the CO2 Coalition to Facebook’s decision-making. The group said it was “really thankful” for Facebook’s opinion content loophole because their climate denial views were no longer getting traction with the mainstream media.

“Reporters from The New York Times and The Washington Post aren’t reaching out to them for the ‘other side’ of the climate story now,” Atkin says. “Finally, they found what they believe is an ally in Facebook. If that’s what Facebook wants to be, then that’s what we need to think of it as.”

This article is based on an interview by Steve Curwood that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

After this segment aired, Facebook provided the following statement:

“When someone posts content based on false facts on our platform, even if it’s an op-ed or an editorial, it’s still eligible for fact-checking. We’re working to make this clearer in our guidelines so that fact-checkers can use their judgment to better determine whether something is an attempt to mask false information under the guise of opinion or actually opinion content.”

The long-lasting scars of Japanese American internment

The long-lasting scars of Japanese American internment

By
Sam Ratner

Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Tsurutani and baby Bruce at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. 

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Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via Reuters 

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This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly newsletter from The World and Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

In past weeks, Critical State looked into research on how conflict affects the future political behavior of combatants. Combatants, however, aren’t the only people who experience conflict — they’re not even the majority. For the next two weeks, Critical State takes a deep dive into new research on how the scars conflict leaves on regular civilians express themselves in post-conflict politics.

Related: Life after combat: How relationships in wartime continue to shape society 

During World War II, the US forced some 120,000 Japanese Americans into concentration camps for the duration of the war. The government justified its policy with the absurd claim that people of Japanese ancestry would be somehow congenitally incapable of not acting as spies for Imperial Japan. As is so often the case with byzantine justifications provided for racist policies, that justification hid a much simpler reason for internment: The architects of the program hated Japanese people. At a time when the US war effort relied on racist depictions of Japanese people to rally domestic support for the war, the Roosevelt administration was happy to let the people who dreamed up Japanese internment to go ahead with their plans.

If the purpose of Japanese internment was to drive Japanese Americans from American public life, did the program succeed?

A new working paper from political scientists Mayya Komisarchik, Maya Sen, and Yamil Velez aims to measure how long the effects of their efforts persisted after the war ended. If the purpose of Japanese internment was to drive Japanese Americans from American public life, did the program succeed? And, more broadly, how long do effects linger when a state decides to target a particular minority group during wartime?

To get at those questions, Komisarchik et al. measured how people who experienced internment — and different levels of mistreatment while interned — engaged with politics in the years after the war. The researchers pulled data from a survey of Japanese Americans conducted between 1962 and 1968, when many who had been interned were still alive and might have been politically active. The survey asked respondents both where they lived during the war (which, for those who had been interned, let researchers differentiate between the camps the respondents had been confined in) and whether their immediate family had been interned during the war. It also measured how interested respondents were in politics, how often family members turned to them for political advice, and how much faith they had in the federal government. 

Japanese Americans who were interned were significantly less likely to report interest in politics, even two decades after World War II, than those who were not interned and had no family members who were.

The topline result of their analysis is dramatic. Japanese Americans who were interned were significantly less likely to report interest in politics, even two decades after World War II, than those who were not interned and had no family members who were. Furthermore, for Japanese Americans who were not interned but did have family members sent to the camps, the depressing effect on political interest was even stronger. That is, in one sense, the racist project of Japanese internment succeeded: Japanese Americans who experienced it in their families were less engaged with American politics for long after they were released.

People who lived in camps where physical violence was common had both less interest in politics and less faith in government than even people who were interned in less volatile situations.

Delving further into the data, Komisarchik et al. found that experience during internment had a causal effect on future political beliefs. Not only were longer internments associated with stronger depressive effects on interest in politics, even through generations, but traumas experienced in the camps also lived on in the data. People who lived in camps where physical violence was common had both less interest in politics and less faith in government than even people who were interned in less volatile situations. Their children reported the same, even if the younger respondents had not been in the camps themselves.

When the state singles out particular populations for violence, the effects of that violence linger far after the state sheathes its sword.

The study highlights both the durability of conflict traumas and the effectiveness of state racism. When the state singles out particular populations for violence, the effects of that violence linger far after the state sheathes its sword. The idea that incidents of state violence can be hand-waved away as ancient history does not, as Komisarchik et al. demonstrate, stand up to close scrutiny. Instead, if state racism is not nipped in the bud, its effects can be long-lasting and costly to overcome.

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy without all the stuff you don’t need. It’s top news and accessible analysis for those who want an inside take without all the insider bs. Subscribe here.

Africa must invest ‘in human capital’ to fight the coronavirus, says Africa CDC director

Africa must invest 'in human capital' to fight the coronavirus, says Africa CDC director

South Africa had one of the strictest coronavirus lockdown measures. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the nation returns to a strict lockdown. Host Marco Werman speaks to Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about his outlook for the pandemic in Africa.

By
The World staff

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A restaurant worker holds a placard during a protest against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Cape Town, South Africa, July 22, 2020. 

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Mike Hutchings/Reuters

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COVID-19 is accelerating in Africa at an alarming rate. 

South Africa had one of the strictest coronavirus lockdown measures with alcohol bans and rigid curfews in place. Now, as COVID-19 cases are rising, the government has decided to return to a strict lockdown — just as other African countries start to see a spike in cases.

The World Health Organization’s Emergencies Chief Michael Ryan expressed concern for the sub-Saharan region, warning that South Africa’s surge could signal an increase in cases across the continent. 

Related: South Africa begins coronavirus vaccine trial 

Thousands of South African restaurant and bar owners placed tables and chairs on the streets outside their premises on Wednesday in a nationwide protest against lockdown restrictions that prevent them from selling alcohol or trading after 9 p.m. The nation’s hospitality sector is one of the hardest-hit by government restrictions imposed at the end of March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Host Marco Werman spoke with Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about what may have gone wrong and how African leaders can step in now with preventative measures to curb the spread of the virus across the continent. 

Related: Policymakers rush to stave off economic collapse on African continent

Marco Werman: COVID-19 cases were low, but now as South Africa and other countries have been opening back up again, we’re seeing this dangerous second surge. What happened in South Africa? 

Dr. John Nkengasong: South Africa is, of course, a very disturbing situation for the continent. As we speak today, the continent of Africa, all 55 member states, have now recorded cases of COVID-19 resorting to about 846,000 [infections], and of that, more than half the cases are from South Africa. South Africa did all the right things to start with — they only had about 700 cases. The lockdown, the economy, increased testing and contact tracing. I think we know that this is a virus that transmits very quickly, and once it gets hold into very vulnerable populations, it can spread rather quickly. 

There is this really fine balance that governments need to consider with lockdowns. On the one hand, science shows us these measures are keeping the coronavirus at bay. On the other, they’re having a detrimental effect on economies. Have economic problems actually aggravated public health strategies like in South Africa? 

The key question here is, how do we balance between saving lives and saving the economy and not saving lives or saving economies? I think that formula cannot hold. We cannot be under lockdown forever. We have to go out there and fight the battles and intensify aggressive, bold public health measures. Taking public health measures that work in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere and implemented in Africa will not work. I think that is one. Second, is that we need to be bold in doing what we have to do. … A lot more than 40 countries in Africa still have less than 5,000 cases of COVID-19 infection. That is an opportunity where we can massively deploy foot soldiers — that is, contact tracers. I want to see a country like Nigeria put in about 1 million contact tracers, young people who can support their testing programs so that the testing delays are reduced. …[Those are the] tools that we have in our hands right now. Otherwise, I don’t know how we are going to fight this virus. 

There are allegations in South Africa of corruption — vendors charging absurdly high rates for masks and hand sanitizer. How has South Africa’s history of corruption affected the response to coronavirus? And do you worry how corruption could impact other parts of the continent’s response to the crisis? 

When you have an outbreak of this nature — any nature, for that matter — you see all kinds of behaviors. And I think there are people that will go in and try to exploit this situation. We saw that with HIV/AIDS and we saw that within the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa. So the COVID-19 would not be an exception. I think we at Africa CDC and the African Union Commission are very clear that this is a serious threat for the continent. People that tried to see this as a money-making opportunity are really making a fatal mistake. And this should not at all be accepted, be tolerated and be condoned. I think it should be condemned with the strongest possible terms. 

 

You’ve got such a massive sphere of operations and responsibilities, from the southern coast of the Mediterranean all the way down to South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. What are you urgently advising African governments to do to keep this likely next wave of the coronavirus stabilized? 

Quite honest with you — we haven’t even [gotten] done yet with the first wave. That is a place to be very frank with ourselves. I think we have to rely on the tools that we have in our toolkit. Very importantly, is that only human resources will be able to combat this. This is about investing in human capital to fight this infection in a coordinated way across the board. I fully understand the challenge, but it’s a challenge that we have to deal with, take it in our hands, look at it, and say, “This is our continent. This is our future.” And we have to win this fight in order to survive. 

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

How does a country’s culture predict its pandemic response?

How does a country’s culture predict its pandemic response?

Professor Michele Gelfand uses “tight” and “loose” to categorize various societies around the globe based on the strength of social norms and applies this to what we can learn about the range of pandemic responses around the world.

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Teresa Lawlor

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People wear protective face masks as they walk near a Huawei store in a shopping complex after an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, July 17, 2020. 

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Today, COVID-19 impacts every country in the world in multiple ways — from lockdowns to contact tracing to the massive economic fallout. But the ways in which life has changed over the past six months has varied from country to country, both in terms of governmental policies and in the ways that citizens have responded to those policies.

Michele Gelfand, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and author of “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World,” says we can look to each country’s culture to predict how its citizens will respond to the restrictions necessary to get the virus under control. 

Related: WHO releases new guidelines, sends team to China

“Your government needs to be super-efficient to be able to coordinate between the private and public sector. … But you also need people who are behaving themselves, who are following rules, who are ‘tight.’”

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

“Your government needs to be super-efficient to be able to coordinate between the private and public sector,” Gelfand says. “But you also need people who are behaving themselves, who are following rules, who are ‘tight.’ And we found that those two factors were really important to predicting countries that were able to flatten the curve and have lower death rates.”

Gelfand uses “tight” and “loose” to categorize various societies around the globe, based on the strength of their social norms. 

“What you can look for is how much order versus how much openness there is in a country,” she explains.

In her research, Gelfand’s methods range from simple survey measures to tracking crime rates, personal debt, social tolerance, and even the uniformity of city clocks.

Tighter countries include South Korea, Germany, and Singapore; examples of looser countries are Spain, Brazil, and the United States.

These cultural differences can be viewed on a spectrum.

Every society has social norms that are enforced and followed, and there is behavioral variation within a culture in different kinds of spaces; for example, you might behave differently in a park, as opposed to a library. According to Gelfand, it’s just that the range of behaviors allowed in those spaces will be wider or narrower based on the overall culture.

Related: Millennials in China are starting to save as economy recovers

“In the US, you’ll see people — at least in some of the classrooms I’ve taught in — wearing pajamas, or they might be on their phones, or they might be eating a sandwich. And in Beijing, I find that there’s a much more restricted range of behavior permitted in the classroom.”

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

Gelfand teaches both in Maryland and in Beijing, and has witnessed the contrast firsthand. “While [the classroom] is tight in many countries, it’s actually much looser in the US,” she says. “In the US, you’ll see people — at least in some of the classrooms I’ve taught in — wearing pajamas, or they might be on their phones, or they might be eating a sandwich. And in Beijing, I find that there’s a much more restricted range of behavior permitted in the classroom.”  

Meanwhile, in more individualistic societies like the United States, the range of acceptable behaviors is much wider. While this lack of pressure can lead to greater tolerance and creativity, it can also have detrimental effects when facing serious threats like COVID-19.

Gelfand suggests that the relative tightness or looseness of a culture is related to its history of external, collective threats. When faced with war, natural disaster, or famine, an organized response from everyone is essential. Countries that have dealt with these kinds of crises frequently have developed a focus on the collective, which they have needed to in order to survive. 

That is not the case for the majority of the United States, she says. While certain regions may lean tighter due to their specific circumstances, the country as a whole, isolated by two oceans and bordered by two allied countries, does not.

“In loose cultures, when you haven’t had a lot of collective threats, people have a lot more difficulty sacrificing autonomy and liberty for constraint. We’re just not used to that.”

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

“In loose cultures, when you haven’t had a lot of collective threats, people have a lot more difficulty sacrificing autonomy and liberty for constraint. We’re just not used to that,” Gelfand says. 

We see the reluctance playing out today when so many disregard warnings to wear masks in public and to social distance.  

But that doesn’t mean that we should be resigned to an ineffective response to the pandemic — in fact, our individual choices and our government’s policies carry even more weight. Gelfand explains that New Zealand, which her research has shown to have a looser culture, has been able to successfully combat COVID-19. 

“New Zealand is a really interesting exception because it’s a loose place. But actually they had very, very strong and consistent messages from the government, and people trusted the government. So they were able to really rally,” Gelfand explains.

The United States’ inadequate response to the crisis can’t be entirely chalked up to our culture. Gelfand cites the conflicting messages from the government and other sources as significant in undermining the opportunity for a unified response. 

She emphasizes that in the US, it may be important to let people know that behavioral modifications won’t last forever, but they may be critical in the short term. 

“We really need to come together and collectively agree upon the basic evolutionary fact [that] when there is collective threat, we need to tighten,” Gelfand says. 

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

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

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

The Gülenists, dubbed by Turkey as FETO, the Fethullahist Terror Organization, are being purged on a massive scale. Those who have been accused include scientists, schoolteachers, policemen and journalists. 

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The World staff

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s supporters rally in Istanbul in 2016 following the failed coup.

 

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Four years ago, a group within the military tried to overthrow the Turkish government. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed Fethullah Gülen and his network, the Gülenists, for the July 15, 2016, failed coup d’état, which resulted in the deaths of 251 people and 2,200 injured.

Inside Turkey, as many as 80,000 have since been detained, and 150,000 sacked from their civil service jobs.

Related: As Iran arrests Instagram influencers, some seek safety abroad

The Gülenists, dubbed by Turkey as FETO, the Fethullahist Terror Organization, are being purged on a massive scale. Those who have been accused include scientists, schoolteachers, policemen and journalists. 

Erdoğan has vowed to track FETO members down: “Wherever they escape… we will chase after them,” he said.

Abroad, the Turkish government has managed to extradite, kidnap and otherwise push foreign governments to hand over Gülenists from foreign countries — Kazakhstan, Moldova, Kosovo and Pakistan, to name a few.

Family members try to get information about their arrested relatives in Istanbul after the failed coup in July 2016. 

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The World 

From the other direction, thousands of Turks have escaped, seeking safety in Europe amid Turkey’s relentless, ongoing post-coup crackdown on dissent.

Even in Germany, where 40,000 Turks have sought safety, exiles feel the long arm of the Turkish state is using its intelligence agencies and bilateral relations to exert pressure on countries who have yet to turn over the accused.

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

Since 2016, Turkey has shut down Gülenist businesses, expropriating $10 billion worth of assets. It has closed Gülenist media outlets and shuttered Gülenist-owned schools.

Nate Schenkkan is with Freedom House and an expert on Turkey. He says Gülenists have been left jobless, with no chance of restarting their careers.

“For the vast majority of the people in the Gülen movement, it’s quite clear. They had nothing to do with any of this, whether it’s the coup attempt or any other kind of violence.”

Nate Schenkkanm, Freedom House

“For the vast majority of the people in the Gülen movement, it’s quite clear. They had nothing to do with any of this, whether it’s the coup attempt or any other kind of violence,” he said.

Whisked to the border

Businessman Abdullah Buyuk moved from Turkey to neighboring Bulgaria in 2016, imagining the country would be safe for him as an EU member state.

At the State Agency for Refugees where he went to apply for asylum, he was presented two members of the Bulgarian intelligence service.

One of them offered, “Let us help you with your business here. You can attend the Gülen movement meetings. You let us know who attends those meetings and what they say.”

“I didn’t agree to that, saying I was already cooperating by answering their questions.”

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

Bulgarian courts denied an extradition request from Turkey for Buyuk.

Around the same time, the Turkish foreign minister announced publicly that they planned to bring “a person of interest” back from Bulgaria.

On his way to a meeting in Sofia, police blocked Buyuk’s vehicle.

Bulgarians drove him 180 miles to the border where they handed him over to Turkish authorities.

Accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, he was kept in pretrial detention for more than three years. He’s now at home with an electronic ankle bracelet while his trial continues.

Bulgaria was doing Turkish president Erdoğan’s bidding. Bulgaria, with a population of just under 7 million, shares a 149-mile-long border with its behemoth neighbor.

Bulgaria’s leaders are aware of the risk of noncooperation. Turkey could easily flood Bulgaria with tens of thousands of refugees hungry to come to Europe.

Since 2016, at least seven more individuals have been handed over to the Turks by Bulgarians.

Pushed back to Turkey

Human rights activists say countless others have been illegally pushed back at the Bulgarian and Greek borders.

Related: Greek army, police on high alert along Turkey border after clashes

Turks have found trouble in other countries as well, including Germany, where they make up the third-largest group of asylum-seekers. One is a 29-year-old journalist who didn’t want to give her name for security reasons. She fled with a group of 11 other Turks across the Evros River to Greece.

Once in Greece, they encountered police. Along with other migrants, they were put into a van.

“We didn’t know what was happening or where they were taking us.”

Journalist, unnamed

“We didn’t know what was happening or where they were taking us,” she said.

They traveled for what seemed like a long time. Finally, the vehicle came to a stop.

“They started to pull us toward the river,” she said.

Men wearing balaclavas appeared through the trees. Then the beatings began.

Some of the men were badly bruised, one with a leg injury, another with bruises on his back.

After sunset, someone from the group escorted them by boat across the river and deposited them on Turkish territory.

Entrance to Silivri Prison outside of Istanbul, where thousands of political prisoners are held.

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The World 

They spent a cold, fearful night in the forest, hoping they wouldn’t be discovered by Turkish police. Finally, the following day, they made a successful crossing after reaching out to their social media networks so that journalists and lawyers were aware of their case.

Germany provides asylum to less than 50% of Turkish applicants, according to BAMF, Germany’s Federal Office on Migration and Refugees. The journalist who asked that her name not be used says her family was denied protection in the first instance and is now under appeal.

Mass fear

In 2017, during bilateral meetings, Turks provided Germany with a wish list of 300 people they wanted to be turned over. Among them was Engin Sag, who had worked for a Gülenist TV network. He was living a quiet life in Germany with his wife and two children when, in 2017, police knocked on his door.

The police said: “The Turkish government gave your name to the German government. Your name and photo were in their documents,” according to Sag. 

He was warned not to go back to Turkey. He said they promised him protection in the form of a neighborhood patrol.

Sag is also concerned about the possible actions of German Turks, many of whom are Erdoğan supporters.

He said that Turks are encouraged to file complaints using the mobile app of the Turkish police, circumventing German authorities.

“I came across two Turks in the midst of a quarrel. One threatened the other saying, ‘I am going to report you to the Turkish consulate.’ They use this as a threat.” 

Engin Sag

“I came across two Turks in the midst of a quarrel. One threatened the other saying, ‘I am going to report you to the Turkish consulate.’ They use this as a threat,” he said.

Erdoğan’s hit list

Former Nokta Magazine editor Cevheri Guven, who spent time in prison in Turkey, fled with his wife and children to Greece. After settling there, he received news that “Erdoğan wanted me handed over to the ambassador in Athens. They wanted me and my family and they made some kind of assassination list.”

Tuba and Cevheri Guven at a protest in Frankfurt, Germany, 2019.

 

Credit:

Courtesy of the Guven family.

They immediately decided to leave Greece.

Guven was later sentenced in absentia to 22.5 years, charged with inciting a civil war. His colleague, Murat Capan, was captured in Greece and pushed back to Turkey. Capan is among the tens of thousands of political prisoners languishing in overcrowded, COVID-19-infested prisons in Turkey.

Due to COVID-19, many criminals were released, while political prisoners remained locked up.

According to Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an opposition member of parliament in Turkey, the coronavirus in prison is vastly underreported.

The government has announced 250 cases of COVID-19 across the national prison system, with five deaths. But by Gergerlioglu’s count, there are 250 at Silivri Prison alone, where many political prisoners are held. He estimates the real number of deaths are four times higher as well.

‘Social genocide’

Hüseyin Demir taught human rights law in the capital, Ankara, and now runs Refugees Support Action (Aktion für Flüchtlingshilfe) in Germany. His organization helps Turkish dissidents file for asylum and integrate into German life.

The Turkish government threatens dissidents by going after relatives back in Turkey, he said.

“In Turkey, no one is safe. If they can’t find you, they arrest your son or your wife.”

Hüseyin Demir, Refugees Support Action

“In Turkey, no one is safe. If they can’t find you, they arrest your son or your wife.”

He points out that even mothers with infants are imprisoned in Turkey. His own son was detained in Ankara for five days.

“He told me, ‘Father, because of you, I am now in danger. You destroyed my life,” Demir said. “You can imagine how I feel.”

With many friends dismissed from their jobs, in prison or abroad, Demir feels disheartened.

“This is a social genocide. They can’t work, you can’t help them, so they should just die.”

This article was developed with the support of www.journalismfund.edu

Battle of the bums: Museums compete over best artistic behinds

Battle of the bums: Museums compete over best artistic behinds

Since April, the Yorkshire Museum has hosted 18 different #CuratorBattles under themes such as #CreepiestObject and #BestEgg. One of its latest is #BestMuseumBum.

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Lucy Martirosyan

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Onlookers attend the opening of the exhibition on Greek art with the marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos, in front, in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 5, 2014.

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Museum curators worldwide are battling over bums on Twitter as part of a British museum’s social media campaign to challenge the public while galleries remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since April, the Yorkshire Museum, an archaeology museum in York, England, has hosted 18 weekly “curator battles” under themes such as #CreepiestObject and #BestEgg

One of their latest challenges is #BestMuseumBum.

Related: Banksy unveils new pandemic-inspired art featuring rats in face masks

“Like museums across the world, we’ve been closed since the middle of March, so we’ve had to be creative in finding ways to engage with the public,” said Lucy Creighton, the museum’s curator of archaeology.  

Creighton helped kick off the competition for best behind last month by posting a nearly 2,000-year-old, worn marble Roman statue sporting muscular-looking buttocks.

IT’S TIME FOR #CURATORBATTLE!💥

Today’s theme is #BestMuseumBum!

This cracking Roman marble statuette depicts an athlete at the peak of fitness! It may have decorated the town house of one of Eboracum’s wealthier residents. Has someone taken a bite out of this 🍑?

BEAT THAT!💥 pic.twitter.com/N3A6KYz339

— Yorkshire Museum (@YorkshireMuseum) June 26, 2020

Museums all over the world, from Canada to Japan, took part in the viral trend by sharing submissions from their own collections. They put forth sumo wrestlers’ bums by Japanese artist Hokusai and an “anti-Hitler” sewing pin cushion at the Freedom Museum in the Netherlands.

The challenge transcended sculpted Greek and Roman rear ends. Tweets also included images of bumblebee bottoms, bunny tails, and other butts from the animal kingdom. 

Related: UNESCO says scammers are using its logo to defraud art collectors

As for museums without traditional collections of sculpture and art, “they got really creative,” Creighton said. “We had the bums of ships and other vehicles like trains, and even the tail gunner’s possession of a Halifax bomber.”

After all, everyone and everything has a bottom. It’s universal. That’s why the naked human body has been a popular topic in art and history for a long time, Creighton says. 

But bums are also just funny, says Mark Small, who is behind the Twitter and Instagram accounts @museumbums with co-founder Jack Shoulder. 

Small and Shoulder, who both work at heritage institutions in Bristol, United Kingdom, started the project over four years ago after they realized that no one was finding galleries full of naked people “funny or silly.”

It’s all about that ace of bass this morning with these Callipygian playing cards from the #FournierMuseum in #VitoriaGasteiz, Spain 👍🏛️♣️♦️♠️🍑 pic.twitter.com/r60zlXRPYF

— MuseumBums 👍🏛️🍑 (@museumbums) July 14, 2020

Since then, Small says the initiative has helped museums such as the Yorkshire reach wider audiences.

“It’s been amazing to see serious and influential museum staff engaging with the collections in a slightly silly way. … It’s about going a step further and sharing information about cultures, histories and people, as well as having a giggle about bottoms.”

Mark Small, social media curator

“It’s been amazing to see serious and influential museum staff engaging with the collections in a slightly silly way,” Small told The World. “It’s about going a step further and sharing information about cultures, histories and people, as well as having a giggle about bottoms.”

Related: Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok 

In some ways, these activities on social media may help diversify and promote inclusivity at these institutions, Creighton said.

“I think museums having fun on social media can perhaps help to break down some of those perceived barriers to access that museums can face,” Creighton said. “We try to be as inclusive as possible at York Museums Trust, and museums are looking to diversify their visitors and to be accessible for everyone. So, doing fun things on social media is a way to promote our collection and get it out there to parts of society that might not normally walk through our doors.”

Still, it may be the end for the battle for best bottom. 

On Tuesday the Yorkshire Museum announced the end to its weekly #CuratorBattles series but promised more challenges in the future. 

We have some news! 💥

This week will be the last of the weekly #CURATORBATTLE series! It’s been an absolute hoot during lock down – thank you to all who have joined in with us! 💕

BUT THIS ISN’T THE END!

We’ll be back with special battles in the future, don’t worry… 😉1/2

— Yorkshire Museum (@YorkshireMuseum) July 21, 2020

 

Why is Brazil’s Bolsonaro peddling hydroxychloroquine despite the science?

Why is Brazil's Bolsonaro peddling hydroxychloroquine despite the science?

The Brazilian president has used his illness as a platform to sell both his cynicism about the coronavirus and social restrictions, and his praise for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

By
Michael Fox

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is seen during a ceremony to lower the Brazilian national flag down for the night at the Alvorada Palace amid the coronavirus outbreak in Brasília, Brazil, July 20, 2020.

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Conflict researchers on the COVID-19 era

Conflict researchers on the COVID-19 era

In this week's Critical State, Sam Ratner takes a deep dive into the latest thinking by leading qualitative security researchers on what conflict studies can teach us about understanding the effects of COVID-19.

By
Sam Ratner

A shopper is seen walking past social distancing signs following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, in London, Britain July 1, 2020. 

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This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly newsletter from The World and Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

COVID-19 will have lasting effects on almost all facets of life, and security research is no different. Yet, for people who dedicated their lives to studying the effects of violence, there is something familiar about the widespread (but unevenly distributed) precarity brought on by the pandemic.

Related: Illiberalism isn’t just rising — it’s spreading (Part I)

In a special edition of Deep Dive, Sam Ratner looks at the latest thinking by leading qualitative security researchers on what conflict studies can teach us about understanding the effects of COVID-19.

Just like in armed conflicts, the pandemic hits people who were under pressure before the crisis harder than it does others.

Political scientists Kanisha Bond, Milli Lake, and Sarah Parkinson wrote about four core lessons from their work that have more widespread applicability in the COVID-19 era. The first focuses on the way the effects of the virus are distributed. Despite the rhetoric that COVID-19 has leveled playing fields, hitting people equally across society, in reality, vulnerable people are just that — vulnerable. Just like in armed conflicts, the pandemic hits people who were under pressure before the crisis harder than it does others. Therefore, researchers studying the effects of the pandemic have to consider their work with the same questions the best conflict researchers use: How will my work challenge or reproduce the power structures and societal cleavages that I am studying?

Related: Illiberalism isn’t just rising — it’s spreading (Part II)

Is in-person fieldwork viable in a world where communicable disease is a massive concern nearly everywhere?

The second lesson is that studying social phenomena, especially in person, is a fraught endeavor. You may grow your knowledge about violence by incentivizing people to share their stories of conflict with you but, in a conflict setting, the sharing of stories itself is often dangerous. Similarly, in a pandemic, it is easy to imagine research that worsens conditions for those being studied even as it helps researchers in their search for knowledge. Is in-person fieldwork viable in a world where communicable disease is a massive concern nearly everywhere? And conversely, is remote fieldwork a suitable replacement for speaking to people face-to-face, given how many governments have used the pandemic to clamp down on digital freedom and privacy? Questions of safety will be of huge concern to researchers of all kinds going forward.

Related: Biology will play ‘a key role in the response to future crises,’ says health security scholar

The pandemic is taking a toll on everyone, and expecting top work from people scrambling for child care or worried about the future of their university is unrealistic.

Third, Bond et al. write that social scientists need to learn to take a deep breath before jumping into new research on the effects of COVID-19. There is a tendency among social scientists to want to be the first to do a type of fieldwork or to do the most extreme form of fieldwork. The profession is competitive, and there is a lot of pressure to take risks. Yet those risks, in addition to being dangerous, often don’t produce the best scholarship. The pandemic is taking a toll on everyone, and expecting top work from people scrambling for child care or worried about the future of their university is unrealistic. Instead, work under that kind of pressure can produce faulty data and, as a result, unconvincing conclusions.

COVID-19 has produced political awakenings and deepened personal relationships along with suffering, often in the same people.

Finally, conflict researchers understand intimately the necessity for individual empathy when investigating large crises. War and disease affect different people in different ways, and to paint peoples’ COVID-19 experiences with too broad a brush would be to miss crucial nuances. Wars are horrible, but some find self-actualization, liberation and even real joy in them sometimes, all of which should be captured when we tell the story of conflict. Similarly, COVID-19 has produced political awakenings and deepened personal relationships along with suffering, often in the same people.

The best research on the COVID-19 era will meet people where they are (at least figuratively) and engage with the positive and negative outcomes of the pandemic.

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy without all the stuff you don’t need. It’s top news and accessible analysis for those who want an inside take without all the insider bs. Subscribe here.

Britain ‘actively avoided’ looking into Russia meddling; EU reaches stimulus deal; New US sanctions on Chinese companies

Britain 'actively avoided' looking into Russia meddling; EU reaches stimulus deal; New US sanctions on Chinese companies

By
The World staff

Anti-Brexit demonstrator Steve Bray holds a placard as he protests outside Downing Street in London, Britain, July 21, 2020.

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

Britain’s government failed to determine and “actively avoided” looking into whether Russia meddled in the country’s 2016 referendum on EU membership and the Scottish independence referendum, according to a long-anticipated report by Parliament.

The report, which was produced more than a year ago and shelved until now, raised serious questions about who is protecting the country’s democratic system amidst Russia’s long running effort to meddle in British politics. The answer given by the report’s authors was that “no one” is watching.

“The government here has let us down. The outrage isn’t if there is interference, the outrage is no one wanted to know if there was interference,” said  Kevan Jones, a UK member of Parliament who served on the intelligence committee that released the report.

What The World is following

European Union leaders reached a $857 billion deal today on a massive stimulus plan to help counter the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The deal comes almost five days of blistering debate and hot tempers. Environment advocates say the deal also includes substantial green investments.

And, yesterday the US announced sanctions against a new group of 11 Chinese companies, accusing them of alleged involvement in human rights violations against Uighurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.

From The WorldWhy US immigration judges are leaving the bench in record numbers

A migrant returns to Ciudad Juárez after he had his family’s court dates changed by Customs and Border Protection on the Paso del Norte International Bridge after court cancelations amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ciudad Juárez , Mexico, April 20, 2020.

Credit:

Paul Ratje/Reuters

The US immigration system is situated within the Department of Justice, a law enforcement agency. That’s always been a problem, explains Judge Ashley Tabaddor. But under the Trump administration, immigration judges have faced “unprecedented micromanagement” — and it’s causing many of them to resign or retire early.

In Karachi, planting dense urban forests could save the city from extreme heat

Men and children take bath as they cool off during a hot and a humid day at China Creek area, Karachi, Pakistan June 8, 2020. 

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Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Extreme heat often hovers over Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. But each time Shahzad Qureshi transforms a barren patch of land into a dense, urban forest, he helps his city adapt to extreme urban heat.

Bright spot

A rare (and mesmerizing) yellow turtle was found in Balasore in the east of India.  Locals safely placed the creature — thought to have an albino mutation — with wildlife officials.

Extremely rare yellow turtle spotted in India pic.twitter.com/xWztqrBV6R

— The Independent (@Independent) July 20, 2020In case you missed itListen: Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine study shows glimmer of hope

Vinicius Molla, a hematologist and volunteer of the clinical trial of Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine, examines a patient at a consulting room in São Paulo, Brazil July 9, 2020.

Credit:

Amanda Perobelli/Reuters/File Photo

Scientists at Oxford University published the results Monday of an early-phase coronavirus vaccine experiment showing strong immune response and no early safety concerns. And, for four days now, leaders from the European Union’s 27 member states have been locking horns over the EU’s coronavirus recovery package. Plus Italian police found cocaine inside hollowed out coffee beans. Investigators were tipped off when a shipment of coffee beans from Colombia arrived addressed to Santino D’Antonio, the name of a mafia boss in the action film “John Wick: Chapter 2.”

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

Tempers flare over EU coronavirus stimulus deal; Oxford vaccine shows promise; Latina artist says goodbye to Goya

Tempers flare over EU coronavirus stimulus deal; Oxford vaccine shows promise; Latina artist says goodbye to Goya

By
The World staff

President of the European Council Charles Michel (L) meets with other EU leaders during negotiations over a post-virus economic rescue plan, in Brussels, Belgium, July 19, 2020.

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Francois Walschaerts/Pool via Reuters

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

As US lawmakers prepare to begin debating a new economic stimulus plan today, European Union leaders’ negotiations extended into a fourth day as they try to hammer out their own deal to revive economies battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The challenge of reaching a compromise on the $2 trillion deal has been stymied by old grievances between countries less affected by the pandemic and more indebted countries like Italy, Spain and Greece. The negotiations have led to tempers flaring. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly lost his patience at one point, banging his fist on the table.

Despite the testy negotiations, the 27 leaders appeared to edge closer to a potential breakthrough after the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden seemed agreeable to 390 billion euros ($450 billion) of the fund being made available as grants, with the rest coming as low-interest loans.

What The World is following

A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca shows strong immune response and no early safety concerns, according to highly anticipated results from early-stage human trial on a coronavirus vaccine published today in the medical journal The Lancet. The team of researchers, led by Sarah Gilbert, is months ahead of other leading vaccine candidates for COVID-19. 

And in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been in self-isolation since July 7, after testing positive for COVID-19, said over the weekend that lockdown measures used to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus “kill” and have “suffocated” the country’s economy. Brazil registered more than 28,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, making Brazil the world’s second-most affected country after the US. There are also growing concerns that health workers in the country may have spread the disease to Indigenous people.

From The WorldBLM brings new hope for Wales family seeking justice for Black teen’s death 

Video still from the one-year vigil for Christopher Kapessa.

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Justice For Christopher Kapessa Facebook page 

Last year, 13-year-old Christopher Kapessa, who was Black, drowned when a schoolmate allegedly pushed him into a river. Now, the global Black Lives Matter movement has given the family new hope the suspect will be prosecuted. A decision in the case is due out Monday.

For this Latina artist in New York, goodbye to all that Goya

Ysabel Turner created an altar in her 2018 exhibit at the New York City Aperture Foundation.

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Courtesy of Ysabel Turner

 

Artist Ysabel Turner says she realized years ago that she needed to divorce her Puerto Rican identity from the Goya brand. She used her photographic series to do just that.

Morning memeMorning meme

The videos of Turkish baker Tuba Geckil carving into her incredibly realistic cakes seems to have unleashed an unusual meme and led to speculation that everything might be cake. But, researchers offer thoughts on why the videos are so … unsettling. Here’s a compliation of cake cutting to start your day.

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Yaz gelince 😁🏝🍰❤️🎨 #realisticcake #yesitsacake #crocs #cake ———————————————————————— 👉Detaylı bilgi ve eğitim kayıt & Register ; whatsapp / +90 545 599 80 91 ———————————————————————— ⭐️Sponsorlarımıza teşekkür ediyoruz👉 @altinmarka_official 👌 @dr_paste 👌 @dasuniformtr 👌 @straforcuyuzbiz👌 @yenilebilirkagit👌 ————————————————————————#onlineeducation #education #modelling #cakepaintingclass #cakeart #cakeclass #sculpturepainting #isomalte #tubageckilegitim #caketopper #handpaintingcake #butikpasta #fondantfigures #yenilebilirsanat #cakedesign #edibleart #theartofpainting #cakeart #cakestagram #pastrychef #cakedecorating #sugarart #cakeartistry #realisticcakes #tubageckil #redrosecake

A post shared by RED ROSE CAKE & TUBA GEÇKİL (@redrosecake_tubageckil) on Jun 21, 2020 at 6:52pm PDT

In case you missed itListen: Returning home after joining ISIS

A view shows a checkpoint used by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the northwestern city of Ariha/

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Abed Kontar/Reuters

What should a country do when a citizen leaves to join a terrorist group overseas, then wants to return home? That debate has taken a turn in the United Kingdom. And, India joined a grim club Friday, becoming the third country globally to record more than 1 million cases of the coronavirus behind only Brazil and the US. Plus, a pub landlord in Cornwall, England, is serious about social distancing — so much so he’s installed an electric fence in front of his bar to encourage customers to keep their distance.

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Bees led this author to reconnect to a childlike joy in nature

Bees led this author to reconnect to a childlike joy in nature

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Author Brigit Strawbridge Howard re-discovered her joy in nature by watching and listening to bees.

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m.shattock/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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The innate curiosity about the natural world that many of us experience as children is often lost on the path to adulthood. Author Brigit Strawbridge Howard found her way back to a childlike fascination with nature with the help of some of the world’s most important pollinators: honeybees, bumblebees, and oft-overlooked solitary bees.

In her book “Dancing with Bees: a Journey Back to Nature” Howard describes how she learned to notice the world around her by paying special attention to the bees that buzzed right through her garden and into her heart. On her journey, she learned a lot about bees — more, she says, than she ever could have learned just by reading about them.

RelatedMost bees are solitary animals, and 4 other surprising bee facts

“On planet Earth, there are some 20,000 to 25,000 different species, and those are just the ones that have been recorded and described,” Howard says. “I think you have about 4,000 species in North America alone. About nine of those are honeybees, plus there are some subspecies, and there are around 250 different species of bumblebee. The rest are solitary bees.”

Broadly speaking, Howard says, bees can be divided between those that are truly social — the honeybees and the bumblebees — and those that are not.

“Social insects have a queen and they have sometimes tens of thousands of workers in a colony, and they have males, and there is a division of labor,” Howard explains. “But there’s also cooperative care of the young. That doesn’t happen with solitary bees, and the majority of the bees on this planet are solitary.”

Honeybees are the only kind of bee that makes honey. Bumblebees collect nectar and store nectar to feed their young, but “they’re not alchemists like honeybees,” Howard says. “They don’t turn it into honey.”

Howard finds the solitary bees the most fascinating, mostly because of their nesting behavior.

Solitary bees are opportunists, Howard says: They seek out and nest in existing cavities anywhere they can find them — such as in a wall, for example. They also like man-made nesting tubes made out of cardboard or bamboo.

Once they’ve mated, the males have “absolutely nothing to do with the rearing of the brood,” Howard explains. Each individual female sets about searching for a place to lay her eggs. In her short life, a female bee will lay about 20 to 30 eggs.

Suppose a female bee chooses a bamboo tube in your backyard to nest in. The first thing she’ll do is block off the back of the tube with a bit of mud, which she has mined. “That’s why she’s called a mason bee,” Howard adds. Then the female bee goes out over and over agin to collect pollen and bring it to the nest.

RelatedFlowers give off electrical signals to bees

She drops each bit of pollen into the back of the nesting tube. When she’s collected enough, she taps it all into place and lays an egg on top of the pollen. Once she has laid that egg, she collects more mud and blocks that little cell off. Then more pollen, another egg and another bit of mud and so on. She repeats this until she has filled the tube to its entrance, and when she’s done, she blocks it off with a plug of mud to seal the tube closed.

“The other thing she does, which is incredibly clever, is she lays female eggs at the back of the tube and male eggs at the front,” Howard says. This is because birds often prey upon these nests and eat the larvae, and it’s better for the survival of the species that the males get eaten and not the females.

Howard has watched other types of bee behavior with fascination, including a highly specialized technique called sonication. Only bumblebees and a few types of solitary bees do this, Howard says.

She was sitting in her garden listening to bees and heard an unusually high-pitched buzzing. She thought perhaps a bee had gotten caught in a spider’s web or something, because it sounded “really alarmed.”

“I followed the sound of the buzz, and I found this bee inside a poppy and she was going round and round and round inside the poppy, having a pollen bath,” she says. “So I listened and watched and in time I realized that the bees, when they came to the poppies, always made that noise.”

“It turned out that those bees were buzz foraging, or sonicating,” Howard explains. “They wrap themselves around the flower and then they disconnect the flight muscles inside their thorax, but they continue to vibrate. So they’re vibrating the indirect flight muscles twice as fast as they would if they were flying. [This] causes the plant to literally explode out its pollen.”

Bee populations, like many other kinds of insects, are in sharp decline, primarily due to habitat loss and climate change. But, “everybody can do something to help bees.”

Bee populations, like many other kinds of insects, are in sharp decline, primarily due to habitat loss and climate change. But “everybody can do something to help bees,” Howard says.

RelatedWhy dying bees may cause a public health problem

“For starters, if you have access to growing space, a back garden, a back yard, or a larger piece of land, [plant] a large variety of plants that are rich in pollen and nectar,” Howard says. “We need to increase diversity. We need flowers of different sizes, as well. Flowers for long-tongued bees and short-tongued bees, flowers with flatheads, flowers with bells, tubes, cups — a huge variety of flower shapes.”

“Stop using pesticides. Find alternatives,” she continues. “Once you stop using the insecticide, a whole host of beneficial insects move in and they take care of the pests for you.”

“One of the most beautiful things we can do — and maybe this is where I would start — is get out in your backyard or your garden or your plot and look and notice and watch and observe and get to know the insects that you already have there,” she advises. “[I]f you start to take time to watch, it’s very difficult not to start falling in love with them, and when that happens, you start to look more deeply into causes of their decline and you tend to want to do more to help them.”

As for her quest to reconnect with nature, Howard says she has it back “way beyond anything I have ever experienced, even as a child, I think.”

“I have the awe and wonder that had been lost. I tread more carefully everywhere I go. … I’m a lot more respectful. I’m more grateful. And I give back now.”

“I have the awe and wonder that had been lost,” she says. “I tread more carefully everywhere I go. … I’m a lot more respectful. I’m more grateful. And I give back now. As children, you’re not in a position, maybe, to give back.”

“So my relationship, I think, has become more reciprocal now. I think that’s the biggest thing,” she concludes. “I’m so grateful to the bees for providing whatever this is — a window or a door back to nature. I’d love to go backwards. I’d love for this to have happened earlier or for me never to have lost my connection. My hope is for my grandchildren and for other children that they don’t lose it like so many of us. And I hope my book inspires people to go out and look in their gardens. Just that. If it does, then that’s my job done.”

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

US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

By
The World staff

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Daniel Ofman

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, July 15, 2020.

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Relations between the US and China seem to be in freefall. The two nations are trading barbs over trade, sanctions and control of the South China Sea.

One-third of the world’s shipping passes through the area south of China, which touches several Asian nations. In a statement this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its “maritime empire.”

Related: China announces sanctions targeting Rubio, Cruz

His statement was the first time the United States had taken the position that China’s claims to the South China sea were “completely unlawful.”

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.

Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior director for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, joined The World’s Carol Hills to discuss the significance of this policy shift and what it means for China-US relations. 

Related: ‘World War C’: How did national security miss the coronavirus? 

Carol Hills: For months, Mike Pompeo has been saying that China is basically acting like the neighborhood bully when it comes to its behavior. But with a statement this week, has the US stance on China’s presence in the South China Seas changed? 

Bonnie S. Glaser: Well, I think that the new US position is really a clarification and a bit of a toughening of the prior US stance. The United States has opposed Chinese coercive actions against neighbors, interference with their efforts to develop oil and gas that are off their coastlines. But the United States has actually never said that those activities were illegal. And so the clarification of this policy is not taking a position over who owns what land features, but it is taking a clear position over the maritime rights and resources and who should develop them. And it’s clearly saying that China just doesn’t have the right to do so. 

Remind us what the Chinese have been doing in the South China Sea. What kind of incursions or what sort of things have they been doing to try to lay claim to it? 

The Chinese have been, on occasion, sinking fishing boats from other countries. We know that they sank a Vietnamese fishing boat last fall and the Chinese have also been interfering with oil and gas exploitation. And we did see this off the coast of Vietnam, also off the coast of Malaysia. And the Chinese are sending their survey ships and using their Coast Guard vessels to harass and intimidate the oil rigs of other countries. These are the kinds of things that the United States is saying is now illegal. 

Related: Chinese-US tensions in South China sea put the Philippines at risk 

The US recently sent two aircraft carriers to the region. Is this a significant move? 

Well, the last time that the United States sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the South China Sea was 2014. So, I do think that it is significant. It is a signal to China that the United States is not going to stand silent while the Chinese are seeking to control the waters and the airspace in the South China Sea. 

Politically speaking, why is the US taking this on now? What do you think about the State Department’s timing? 

Well, I think that we’ve seen increased Chinese coercion against other countries. So I do think it’s in response to Chinese actions. But it’s also part of a larger strategy to step up pressure on China because of actions that China is taking across the board. We have seen Trump administration tougher policy used recently in Hong Kong, where the Chinese are implementing very harsh national security legislation. Also in Xinjiang, where the Chinese have built reeducation camps and incarcerating essentially millions of Uighurs and also Kazakhs. So, the South China Sea policy is of a piece. It is toughening Trump administration’s policy toward China. 

If you were to advise the Trump administration right now on this matter in the South China Sea, what would you tell them? 

Well, I think the Trump administration is taking some of the right actions. They are conducting what’s called the freedom of navigation operations to make sure that the waters of the South China Sea are open to all. I support that. And I support this change in policy. And I would advocate that the United States follow through in a way that it will continue to have on board, with them, other countries — because we cannot take on China unilaterally. We have to get the support of other countries. So I would advocate coordination with our allies and with individual countries in the South China Sea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan. All of those countries are claimants. And so if we coordinate with them and we try to together put more pressure on China, I hope that we can persuade China to refrain from engaging what are clearly illegal activities. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Banksy unveils new pandemic-inspired art featuring rats in face masks

Banksy unveils new pandemic-inspired art featuring rats in face masks

By
María Elena Romero

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Banksy’s latest art piece is set in the London underground. It depicts rodents sneezing, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.

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Banksy / Instagram

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Editor’s note: Transport for London (TfL), the government body that manages the transport system in London including the London Tube, has confirmed that Banky’s artwork was removed as it violated TfL’s “strict anti-graffiti policy.”

Banksy has done it again. This time the British artist and activist has created a piece of his signature art focused on mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic.

His latest work, titled “If you don’t mask – you don’t get,” is set in London’s Underground. A video posted on his Instagram account on Tuesday shows a man, believed to be the enigmatic artist, disguised as a member of the cleaning staff and wearing a hazmat suit.

He boards the train and instructs some of the passengers to move away. He proceeds to stencil rats on the inside of a train carriage. Some rats are wearing face masks or using them as parachutes. Another appears to be sneezing, and another is holding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

At the end of the video, he sprays the words, “I get lockdown, but I get up again,” riffing off Chumbawamba’s 1997 hit Tubthumping.”

    View this post on Instagram         

. . If you don’t mask – you don’t get.

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on Jul 14, 2020 at 6:30am PDT

The work comes as the British government has gone back and forth on its approach to making face coverings in public places compulsory. Face masks have been mandatory in the London Tube since June 15. Starting on July 24, shoppers in England will have to wear face coverings in stores and supermarkets to help reduce the risk of a new surge of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.

Johnson said last week that tighter rules on wearing face coverings might be needed. But a senior minister — Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove — said on Sunday that wearing masks should be left instead to people’s common sense.

Banksy has not been silent during the coronavirus pandemic. Back in April, he alluded to the coronavirus lockdown with a piece featuring stenciled rodents in different parts of his house. He posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “My wife hates it when I work from home.” 

The street artist also published a piece in honor of health workers titled “Game Changer,” which depicts a child playing with a cape-wearing nurse superhero toy. In a basket, on the floor nearby are figures of Batman and Spiderman. The nurse is also shown wearing a face mask and a white apron embellished with a red cross.

Reuters contributed to this story.

UK to exclude Huawei from role in high-speed phone network

UK to exclude Huawei from role in high-speed phone network

A woman wearing a face mask following the coronavirus outbreak uses a mobile phone outside a Huawei store in Beijing, China, July 14, 2020.

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Tingshu Wang/Reuters

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday a ban on Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from the UK’s new 5G high-speed mobile phone network in a decision with broad implications for relations between London and Beijing.

Britain said it imposed the ban after US sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of Huawei equipment, forcing it to start turning to other suppliers for components. The US threatened to sever an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the UK because of concerns Huawei equipment could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate UK networks.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the decision would delay the 5G rollout, and cost millions of pounds, but that it had to be done.

“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one,” he said.

The decision gives British telecoms operators until 2027 to remove Huawei equipment already in Britain’s 5G network. The operators must stop buying 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of the year.

Critically for telecoms operators, the government opted not to order firms to rip out legacy equipment manufactured by Huawei in earlier systems, like 4G. Such a decision might have caused havoc in UK telecoms systems.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under pressure from rebels in his own Conservative Party who criticized China’s new Hong Kong security law and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs, as well as Huawei’s links to the Chinese government. Ten Conservative lawmakers sent a letter to Johnson demanding that he remove Huawei from “the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”

Johnson in January sought to balance economic and security pressures by agreeing to give Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G network, excluding the company from core components of the system and restricting its involvement to 35% of the overall project.

But the move set up a diplomatic clash with the Trump administration, who threatened to cut off security cooperation unless Britain dumped Huawei. Amid continued pressure to remove Huawei from communication networks entirely, the US in May imposed new sanctions that will bar companies around the world from using American-made machinery or software to produce chips for the Chinese company.

The Labour Party’s spokeswoman on communications issues, Chi Omwurah, decried the government’s flip-flop approach and said it would have a dire impact on the future.

“This is a car crash for our digital economy, but one that could have been visible from space,” she said.

Huawei expressed disappointment, and said that the decision threatens to move “Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.”

“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicized, this is about US trade policy and not security,” said Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei UK. “Over the past 20 years, Huawei has focused on building a better connected UK. As a responsible business, we will continue to support our customers as we have always done.”

The back and forth has put Huawei at the vortex of tensions between China and Britain.

Last fall, the UK called on China to give the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights free access to the Xinjiang region, where most of the country’s Uighur people live.

More recently, Johnson’s government has criticized China’s decision to impose a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong. Britain accused the Beijing government of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which the UK returned control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible residents of the city.

China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, last week decried what he described as “gross interference” in Chinese affairs.

“Britain can only be great,” he said, when it has an independent foreign policy, adding that it sets a bad precedent to “make your policy in the morning and change it in evening.”

“It also sends out a very bad message to the China business community,” Liu said, suggesting Chinese companies might think twice about investing in Britain. “They are all watching how you handle Huawei.”

Rana Mitter, an Oxford University history professor specializing in China, said that the security law — combined with broader resentment about the way China handled information about the coronavirus — created increased wariness among Britain’s politicians and the public.

But for China, it’s the way Britain has handled the Huawei issue that is the major problem. Even if Britain decides that buying Huawei isn’t a good idea, this could have been done more discreetly, Mitter said.

“There is a sense, I suspect, in Beijing that the Huawei row has made China lose face,” he said. “And this is one of the things that clearly does not go down well with China, which is, of course, a proud country, the world’s second biggest economy with the capacity to use that economic power when it wants to, and also a country which in general feels on the back foot at the moment because of the COVID pandemic and the world’s reaction to that.”

Before the decision, Huawei announced that its UK chairman would step down early. John Browne’s term was due to end in March, but ex-boss of energy company BP is now expected to depart in September.

By Danica Kirka/AP

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

US Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio attend a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 2017.

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File Photo

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China said Monday it will impose sanctions on three US lawmakers, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Rep. Chris Smith in response to similar actions taken by the US last week against Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against minority Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Along with the US lawmakers, Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback was also targeted, as was the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The four have been critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward minority groups and people of faith.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the US move had “seriously damaged China-US relations” and that China was determined to uphold its national sovereignty against what it sees as interference in its internal affairs.

“China will respond further according to the development of the situation,” Hua said.

She did not spell out the sanctions beyond saying they would correspond to the American ones. The US prohibited any property transactions by Americans with four senior Chinese officials and barred three of them from entering the US.

There was no indication that any of the sanctioned Americans had plans to travel to China.

The sanctioned Chinese officials include Chen Quanguo, who heads the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where more than 1 million members of Muslim minority groups have been incarcerated in what China terms de-radicalization and retraining centers.

Critics have likened the camps to prisons to which inmates are sentenced with little due process and where they are compelled to denounce their religion, language and culture and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. An Associated Press investigation has also discovered allegations that women in Xinjiang’s predominantly native Uighur ethnic group were forced to use birth control or undergo involuntary sterilizations.

Ties between China and the US have deteriorated steadily over the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Beijing policy toward Hong Kong and trade. The Trump administration has also slapped visa bans on Chinese officials deemed responsible for barring foreigners’ access to Tibet, along with those seen as enforcing a clampdown on civil rights in Hong Kong.

Despite such moves, former national security adviser John Bolton has alleged in a new book that Trump told Xi he was right to build detention camps in Xinjiang.

Additional visa restrictions are being placed on other Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs and members of other minority groups.

In addition to Chen, Xinjiang’s party secretary and a member of the national-level Politburo, the other sanctioned officials were Zhu Hailun, party secretary of the Xinjiang political and legal committee; Wang Mingshan, party secretary of the Xinjiang public security bureau; and Huo Liujun, a former top official in the region’s police force.

They and their immediate family members are banned from entering the United States.

China has sought to crush any hint of separatist tendencies among Uighurs, which critics say amounts to a campaign of cultural genocide. Uighurs are mostly Muslim and their Turkic language, Muslim religion and central Asian culture make them distinct from China’s Han majority.

While China says it is bringing prosperity and development to the vast, resource-rich region, many among Xinjiang’s native ethnic groups say they are being denied economic options in favor of migrants from elsewhere in China.

Last December, Xinjiang authorities announced that the camps had closed and all the detainees had “graduated,” a claim difficult to corroborate independently given tight surveillance and restrictions on reporting in the region. Some Uighurs and Kazakhs have told the AP that their relatives have been released, but many others say their loved ones remain in detention, were sentenced to prison or transferred to forced labor in factories.

In October 2019, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in” the detention of Muslims in Xinjiang. It also blacklisted more than two dozen Chinese companies and agencies linked to abuses in the region — including surveillance technology manufacturers and Xinjiang’s public security bureau — effectively blocking them from buying US products.

China’s officially atheist Communist government at first denied the existence of the internment camps in Xinjiang, but now says they are vocational training facilities aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies.

By the Associated Press

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

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

By
Naomi Prioleau

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Brayan Guevara in front of Irving Park Elementary School, in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he is a teacher’s assistant, June 3, 2020.

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Lynn Hey/The World

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This story is part of “Every 30 Seconds,” a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

Brayan Guevara comes from a long line of educators: His mother is a college instructor, and his grandparents were teachers in Honduras. 

Now, Guevara is on the same path. The 19-year-old is a sophomore at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and wants to become a teacher.

Before the pandemic and while school was still in session, Guevara spent his weekdays as a teacher’s assistant at Irving Park Elementary in Greensboro helping kids with their schoolwork and classroom behavior.

“At the time I was working with kindergarteners and first graders,” he said. “They’re still in their fundamental stage where they need to do [work on] three-letter words or four-letter words. I will just help them do that and mostly get their own behavior in check.”

The lack of Latino educators in the US is one reason Guevara, who is Afro Latino, is pursuing his career path. He wants to change the way teachers interact with students, especially minorities. And he wants to serve as a model for his students — especially those who are Black, Latino and Afro Latino — so that they, too, see a future for themselves in education.

“How teachers treat Black kids, which I have experienced in my time — it’s just the stigma that they already have for these kids.”

Brayan Guevara, sophomore, Guilford Technical Community College 

“How teachers treat Black kids, which I have experienced in my time — it’s just the stigma that they already have for these kids,” Guevara said. 

Related: This first-time Afro Latino voter is undecided. His biggest issue? Education.

The North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals is working to address the lack of Latino educators, especially those who are Afro Latino. The nonprofit promotes education among Hispanic youth in North Carolina.

But there needs to be more intention when it comes to recruiting Latino educators, said the group’s board chair, MariaRosa Rangel.

“If we truly believe in equity and if we really want to make a difference, we need more Latino teachers.”

MariaRosa Rangel, board chair, North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals

“If we truly believe in equity and if we really want to make a difference, we need more Latino teachers,” she said. “We also lose a lot of students because they don’t see themselves reflected in the curriculum, they don’t see themselves as reflected in the classroom.”

Guevara shares his love of teaching with his mother, Nodia Mena, a Spanish language instructor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Mena received her teaching certificate while she was living in Honduras. She immigrated to the US in the 1990s, and worked in the corporate world in New York. After several years, Mena moved to North Carolina and earned her master’s in Spanish literature, then began teaching.

Like her son, teaching is her passion. And as an Afro Latina educator, she wants to expose her students to a world that is inclusive of all races.

“I realized that most of the Latino students are not aware of the presence of Afro descendants in Latin America, the lack of presence in the media,” she said. “It does not include Afro descendancy in it, and it’s hurtful for me.”

Related: How a trip to Honduras shaped one young US Afro Latino voter’s identity

The rise of Latinos in higher ed

The proportion of Latinos in higher education in the US is growing. In 1990, only 10% of recently arrived Latino immigrants older than 25, had a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2018, roughly a quarter of Latino immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

While this increase is welcomed by organizations that promote Latino education, more work needs to be done to close the gap. Only 24% of Latino adults in the US have an associate’s degree or higher — compared to 44% of all US adults.

it’s a myth that Latinos don’t value education, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit aimed at increasing Latino student success in higher education. And the US presidential election in November will give Latinos a chance to dismantle that myth.

“I think that Latinos represent the potential for how to redesign and restructure education that can serve all students of all backgrounds better by starting with this young group.”

Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO, Excelencia in Education

“I think that Latinos represent the potential for how to redesign and restructure education that can serve all students of all backgrounds better by starting with this young group,” she said. “It has to be part of the voting opportunities because the elections impact investment in education. And disproportionately, that’s increasingly going to be authentic, and it has to be the way we’re investing in our future generations of populations.”

With Election Day four months away, Guevara hopes President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, will start talking more about the issue closest to him: education. 

Where the candidates stand on the topic may be the deciding factor on who gets his vote, he said, especially when it comes to student loan debt.

“As a broke college student, we don’t want to have a burden of the four years that we spent just to even get our degree,” he said. 

Guevara’s mother hopes presidential candidates will take Latinos seriously when they talk about education.

“As soon as we are identified as being immigrants, then we are treated with that stigma, the negative stigma and then all of a sudden, whatever comes out of our mouth is really seen as deficient,” Mena said.

Teaching and inspiring students is what Guevara wants to continue doing and to follow in the footsteps of his grandparents and his mother.

“God puts you on this Earth for a reason,” he said. “I know I’m still young, but this is my purpose.”

Returning travelers in quarantine hotels may have triggered Melbourne’s latest lockdown

Returning travelers in quarantine hotels may have triggered Melbourne's latest lockdown

After getting a taste of some version of normalcy, Melbourne went into another lockdown this week. Five million residents will be barred from leaving their homes except for essential reasons and orders between Victoria closed between neighboring states are shut down.

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A sign hangs on the door of a closed restaurant after a lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia on July 10, 2020. 

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UNESCO says scammers are using its logo to defraud art collectors

UNESCO says scammers are using its logo to defraud art collectors

The UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, warns its name and logo are being illegally emblazoned on false documents to facilitate a scam to defraud prospective art buyers. Scammers have stolen $1.1 million from unwitting victims this year alone.

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Stephen Snyder

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Art pieces a scammer claimed were photographed in Cameroon and authorized by UNESCO for sale and export. The art collector paid 6,000 euros before calling UNESCO and realizing the fraud.

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Scammers are using fake certificates with UNESCO’s logo to convince art buyers to pay fees for the export of artworks.

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Courtesy of UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is warning the public of an online scam that offers and sells fake documents that will purportedly help buyers import and export African cultural heritage artwork. 

The documents are passed off as official certifications of authenticity from UNESCO, using the agency’s logo, as part of a scheme to defraud art buyers. 

UNESCO officials stress that the agency does not issue such certificates and that art collectors and tourists are falling victim to this scam. Scammers have stolen $1.1 million from prospective buyers this year alone.

The World’s host Carol Hills spoke with Cedric Bourgeois, who works in the investigation office of UNESCO in Paris, to learn about how the scam works and what’s being done to stop others from being defrauded.

Related: In the Netherlands, millers get UNESCO status

Carol Hills: How does the scam work? 

Cedric Bourgeois: It usually starts on social networks with a casual conversation. Somebody spots your interest for the arts, and the conversation starts. You have a casual conversation up to the point where your contact knows a seller who has exactly what you’re looking for. We’ve seen scammers impersonating soccer stars in Cameroon and approaching the son of a victim and then conversation, little by little moves on to other topics such as the interest for artworks. And suddenly comes a story of a seller in the US who has access to a village in Cameroon with artworks. The conversation goes on, up to the point, where a potential buyer trusts the seller enough or asks for more information and receives exactly what he needs: a fake certificate of UNESCO. I say fakes. A victim doesn’t know it’s fake.  

And does the person show pictures online of these artworks?

Then they receive pictures taken in the village, on the pictures you can see the bush, you see in the background, you’re in Africa.  It’s exactly what it should look like.

And so then the prospective victim actually sends money and then never receives anything. Is that how it works?

The goal of the scammer is to receive the first payment. And once the victim sends a first payment, let’s say, to get this certificate of UNESCO, then there’s always the next payment to issue before you receive the goods. Then it’s to clear customs. Then it’s for the transporter. Then there needs to be an additional certificate from UNESCO. Of course, all this is fake. We never issue certificates to facilitate private trading. If you see the name of UNESCO associated with private trading of artworks, beware. This is not UNESCO. This is a scam. 

No art, whether fake or authentic, has ever exchanged. This is simply passing off fake authentication by UNESCO as a way to gain the confidence and money and payments of prospective buyers who keep paying and thinking they’re going to get art and they never do. They just keep paying money?

Absolutely.

Who’s behind the scam?

We’ve identified a few people because someone was arrested two weeks ago in Cameroon. Another perpetrator was arrested in France a few months ago. But this did not stop the schemes. We see more and more victims coming. And that’s why we reach out to the general public in this global awareness campaign.

What’s the scale of the scam? I mean, are there hundreds of cases? Thousands? How big of a deal is this?

This year alone, we are talking about 20 victims for a total of $1.1 million.

Are the buyers themselves, are the prospective buyers innocent in this scam or not? It’s kind of a fuzzy area there.

It’s hard to understand what leads the buyers to send money after a discussion about artworks on social networks. For sure. Sometimes the behavior of the victim might look reckless. But if you investigate the facts further, it is clear you have perpetrators on one side, victims on the other side. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Visa restrictions on Chinese students will disadvantage US, says Queens College president

Visa restrictions on Chinese students will disadvantage US, says Queens College president

Chinese students make up a third of international students in the US. Under new Trump administration rules, they will not be allowed to enter or remain in the US if their colleges and universities are online-only this fall. "America risks losing its competitive advantage," says Frank Wu, president of Queens College in New York.

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Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, after the school asked its students not to return to campus after Spring Break and said it would move to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 10, 2020. 

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For American universities, catering to international students is big business. Each year, more than 1 million come here to study. About a third are from China.

But come fall, many may be absent. This week, the Trump administration announced that international students would not be allowed to enter or remain in the US if their colleges and universities are online-only this fall. The move drew swift backlash from higher education administrators and advocates. Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the government Wednesday to block the measure.

Unlike domestic students, international students often pay full tuition — which helps universities to fund scholarships and their general operations. International students injected nearly $45 billion into the US economy in 2018. 

For some international students, remote learning could mean attending classes in the middle of the night, dealing with spotty or no internet access, losing funding contingent on teaching, or having to stop participating in research. Some are considering taking time off or leaving their programs entirely.

Frank Wu, president of Queens College in New York, has written about the US government’s complicated relationship with students from China. He joined The World’s host Carol Hills for a conversation on the Trump administration’s new guidance and its impact on international students in the US. 

Related: Universities scramble to help international universities stay in US after new visa restrictions 

Carol Hills: Frank, how do you interpret this move by the Trump administration? Is it about politics or public health? 

Frank Wu: It’s about everything. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Even before this, there was suspicion and statements, including by the president himself, that almost all students coming from China are spies. That was said by the president at a private dinner. And it made the news, but the story didn’t stick, which was just one of many things that are said along similar lines. About 350,000 students per year have been coming from China. That’s pre-pandemic. So they’re the biggest part of the international student population. 

But there is a public health piece to this. I mean, one could say that you’re working on the basis of public health if you’re restricting students from overseas from coming to the US.  What’s your sense of that? 

Oh, absolutely. That probably isn’t the reason, because at the same time this ban on foreign students was announced, the president said he would pressure states to pressure schools, including colleges, to reopen. So, it doesn’t make sense to say, well, let’s have everyone reopen, but then let’s keep out people from places with lower rates of the coronavirus. 

Do you think many Chinese students enrolled at American universities will just say, “Forget it, I’ll enroll in a university in Asia or Europe instead”? 

That’s already happened. For many international students, the United Kingdom looks very popular, or just staying home. We face a real risk of a reverse brain drain. So, I’m an American. I was born here in the United States, grew up in Detroit. My parents, they were born in China. They grew up in Taiwan, and they came to the United States in the 1960s, that bygone era when America was welcoming people. And America invested in them. They didn’t just come. They came as scholarship students. America wanted to recruit them. It was a good investment because my parents became citizens, taxpayers, contributors. My family has staked its fortunes on this side of the Pacific Ocean. 

It’s pretty clear you interpret this move by the Trump administration as a move against China and Chinese students. What does the US lose if many of these students decide to go to another university and not wait it out for trying to finish at a US university? 

America risks losing its competitive advantage. What we have is freedom and opportunity — and that attracts the most talented from everywhere else. Imagine if everyone of Chinese descent just vanished overnight. What would happen to the physics department at most universities? What would happen in Silicon Valley? What we risk losing is the talent that we’ve been able to recruit that has driven American entrepreneurial activity, scientific research and progress. 

As president of Queens College in New York, how are you responding to these new guidelines on international students? 

The chancellor [Félix V. Matos Rodríguez] of the CUNY system — we’re part of a system — issued a powerful statement as soon as the guidelines came out saying that this is bad, not just for our students, it’s bad for our institution. And I stand with him. We want to support all of our students regardless of their identity. We want to provide a high-quality, affordable education. 

Do you have students who are directly affected by these new guidelines? 

We’re taking a look. I am sure we have students who could be affected. We’re looking at everything that we can do to support them, to keep them in the system and to ensure that they’re educated and that they value what America has offered. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

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The World staff

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This Facebook Live discussion is part of “Every 30 Seconds,” a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

For the past four months, The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project has been following the stories of eight young Latino voters in different corners of the United States, reporting on the issues, influences, concerns and challenges driving Latino decision-making and turnout for the 2020 presidential election. It’s a collaboration with public radio stations across the US.

As part of this coverage, The World’s Daisy Contreras moderated a discussion on Latino Republicans and conservatism in the US with Geraldo L. Cadava, historian and author of “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.” It was a continuation of The World’s earlier conversation with Cadava on the Latino conservative vote.

There are two major assumptions about the Latino vote in the US: Latinos vote Democratic, and immigration is the most important issue for decision-making. That’s often not the case.

While the majority of Latino voters went for a Democratic candidate in the 2018 midterm election, about 30% of Latinos in the US backed a Republican candidate. Over the years, the percentage of Latinos who have voted for the Republican party has stayed pretty consistent.

But conservative Latinos are not a monolithic group, and they do not vote as a bloc. Factors such as country of origin, socioeconomic status and how many generations a family has been in the US could shape their political perspectives and priorities.

UK sanctions on Russians, Saudis are a ‘milestone’ for human rights, advocate says

UK sanctions on Russians, Saudis are a 'milestone' for human rights, advocate says

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Daniel Ofman

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Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets with the Magnitsky family and Bill Browder in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, following the foreign secretary’s statement on the Global Human Rights Sanctions regime given in the House of Commons, London, Britain, July 6, 2020. 

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The British government has blacklisted 47 people associated with human rights violations as part of post-Brexit measures that Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said were aimed at stopping the laundering of “blood money.” 

The list includes 20 Saudis accused of involvement in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Investors from Russia, China and the Middle East have poured billions into London, buying everything from luxury properties to entire companies, but the source of some of the wealth has been questioned by transparency campaigners. Those on the blacklist will now face travel bans and other sanctions. 

“If you’re a kleptocrat or an organized criminal, you will not be able to launder your blood money in this country,” Raab told parliament Monday. “Today this government…sends a very clear message on behalf of the British people that those with blood on their hands, the thugs and despots, the henchmen and dictators, will not be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the King’s Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge, or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks or other financial institutions.”

After leaving the European Union in January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to forge a new independent role for Britain in foreign and trade affairs and this was the first time London could impose asset freezes and visa bans independently.

Also on Britain’s new blacklist are 25 Russians accused of aiding in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in 2009 while imprisoned in a Moscow jail on false charges. The UK’s sanctions are based on the United States’ 2013 Magnitsky Act.

Bill Browder is a British American financier who has been seeking justice for Magnitsky, his former attorney, for years. He spoke to The World’s host Carol Hills on what the sanctions mean.

Related: How Russia laid the groundwork for future disinformation campaigns

Carol Hills: What do you think of Britain’s new sanctions?

Bill Browder: My reaction was one of great joy. We’ve been working to get the British government to do this for 10 years. Britain is a place where the bad guys, the human rights violators and the kleptocrats, particularly like to buy mansions and send their kids to fancy boarding schools. It’s a place that really matters. And for the British government to finally do this is it is a great milestone in our campaign. 

Tell us specifically what these sanctions do and who will they affect. 

So, the Magnitsky Act does two things. It freezes the assets and it bans the visas of people involved in human rights violations and kleptocracy. And in our particular case, it applies to the people who killed my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in 2009 in police custody after uncovering a $230 million Russian corruption scheme. When people are added to this Magnitsky list, they effectively become what I would describe as non-people in the financial world. They can no longer open accounts. Their accounts get frozen not just in the country that they’re sanctioned, but just about everywhere — because all banks subscribe to these databases of sanctions lists. And so it’s become a very powerful tool to even the balance between these dictators and the victims. 

This legislation in the UK — is it only to do with people directly or indirectly linked to the killing of Sergei Magnitsky, or is it broad-based legislation applying to other human rights violations?  

This was inspired by the Magnitsky case, but it’s now totally broad. It applies to human rights violators everywhere in the world. So, for example, the British didn’t just sanction the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky, they sanctioned the people who killed Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist. They sanctioned the officials in Myanmar who are responsible for the Rohingya genocide, and they’ve sanctioned some North Korean entities that are responsible for slave labor in atrocious prison camps in North Korea. 

Related: Khashoggi sons’ pardon of his killers is ‘final act in the parody of justice,’ UN expert says

Remind us, what is your connection to Russia, and how did you get to know Sergei Magnitsky?   

My connection to Russia is that I went to Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall to set up an investment management business. It did really well for a long time until I started to complain publicly about corruption in Russian companies. I was then expelled from the country. My offices were raided. I hired Sergei Magnitsky to investigate why they were raiding the offices, the police. And he discovered they raided the offices in order to take the documents and use those documents in a $230 million tax rebate fraud of taxes that we had paid to the Russian government. Officials stole from the Russian government using documents seized by the police.

He exposed that crime. In retaliation, he was arrested. He was tortured for 358 days. And he was murdered on November 16, 2009, at the age of 37. And so after his murder, it became my single and primary mission in life to go after the people who killed him and make sure they face justice. And that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years.  

I know you met a few days ago with the UK’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, along with Sergei Magnitsky’s widow and son. What was that meeting like? 

It was an extremely moving moment because we’ve all been working on this justice campaign, me and the Magnitsky family, for 10 years. And there we sat with the second-most powerful person in the United Kingdom. And he was there to tell Sergei’s widow and his son that Sergei’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain. That by his sacrifice, the UK government was going to use this law to go after other human rights abusers and Sergei’s abusers, and that hopefully, it will save lives in the future in Sergei’s name.

In the case of Sergei Magnitsky, is it just the four people directly responsible for his death that you’re after? Or is there a kind of an outer circle and inner circle of people tied to his death that would be affected by this legislation? 

As of right now, there are 25 people who’ve been sanctioned by the British government for perpetrating the human rights abuses against Sergei Magnitsky. However, there’s another 25 or so individuals who are responsible for the corruption scheme that Sergei uncovered that he was killed for exposing. They have not yet been sanctioned in the United Kingdom, although they have been sanctioned in the United States and Canada. And the foreign secretary promised us today that corruption will be added to the British Magnitsky Act in the fall. At that point, they can then sanction those individuals, too.  

Are you ever worried about your own safety? I mean, do you feel like the work you’re doing is risky? 

Vladimir Putin personally hates my guts. At the Helsinki Summit with Donald Trump in 2018, when the US asked for the 12 GRU [Russian intelligence] officers to be handed over, who hacked the election, Putin said, “I’ll hand him over if you hand over Bill Browder and 11 Americans.” They’ve been going after me in a big way ever since the Magnitsky Act was passed in the United States. I’ve been threatened with death, with kidnapping. They’ve gone to Interpol eight times to have me arrested. They issued extradition requests, they’ve done all sorts of crazy stuff. I’m definitely a high-value target for Vladimir Putin.    

So, what’s next for you? What is your goal with the Magnitsky Act? Let’s say countries across the globe all adopt it— what do you ultimately want to achieve? 

Well, countries across the globe have not yet all adopted it, and the main geographic area that hasn’t adopted it is the European Union. The European Union sort of prides itself on its humanity and its morality as an institution. But when it comes to this, they’ve been hamstrung by corruption within different member-states who have been trying to block it. And so I have to get it done across the world and the EU is my next most important target. And I don’t think it’s going to happen quickly or easily. But that’s what we need to get done.

Because even if you have this law in place in the United States and the UK and Canada, then the bad guys will just keep their money in France and Germany and the Netherlands. And so we have to close off all the comfortable places for them, all places where they want to keep their money. So basically, if they commit their crimes in their countries, they have to keep their money in their countries and they can’t travel and spend their money in the West. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed reporting.

Nantucket businesses struggle without seasonal summer workers 

Nantucket businesses struggle without seasonal summer workers 

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Rachel Rock

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The Nantucket Bike Shop usually hires foreign students through the J-1 visa program, but this year the visa program was suspended and foreign workers could not travel to the US to work during Nantucket’s high season. Photo taken on July 2, 2020, Nantucket island, Massachusetts. 

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It’s mid-June and already 100 degrees just outside of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Jakob Gregurić is at home near the base of Mt. Medvednica, a nature park in central Croatia. Gregurić, a 24-year-old student at the University of Zagreb, wrapped up his classes several weeks ago. Most of his friends are working summer jobs they lined up months ago, but Gregurić is still looking.

He was supposed to work on Nantucket island, a resort community off the coast of Massachusetts. Then, the pandemic hit. Visa processing came to a halt. And last month, the Trump administration further suspended many guest-worker visas like the J-1 visa Gregurić got last year. 

Related: Trump’s visa ban has technology companies worried 

“We had no news for months and months because you would have [had] your visa in like February or March and it’s June. And I still haven’t my visa. … So, we were kind of prepared for it …”

Jakob Gregurić, student and former US seasonal worker, University of Zagreb, Croatia

“We had no news for months and months because you would have [had] your visa in like February or March and it’s June. And I still haven’t my visa,” Gregurić said. “So, we were kind of prepared for it. Something’s going to happen. I mean, we are still sad. It’s a great experience.” 

In Nantucket, the population usually balloons with tourists during the summer. And the tourists are arriving. Yet, foreign seasonal workers who typically arrive from all over the world to help out during the high season are missing. 

Normally, about 100,000 J-1 temporary visas are issued every year to international college students who work at tourist spots ranging from Disneyland to Park City Ski resort to Nantucket. The visa suspensions are part of the White House’s response to job losses because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Related: US seafood workers fight unsafe job conditions amid pandemic

Last year, Gregurić hustled in Nantucket. His main job was at The Nantucket Bike Shop, but he had time left over. 

At first, I thought I would do the bike shop work and then I would probably get a second job, but I wouldn’t … work all day and night,” said Gregurić. “But when I met the guys there and everybody was working, I didn’t have anything to do. So, I found myself a second and third job.” 

He brought $8,000 back home. This summer, he says he doesn’t expect to make more than $2,000 in Croatia. He says he’ll miss the cash and also the chance to practice his English and gain work experience in the US. 

Four thousand miles away on Nantucket, Gregurić’s former boss at the bike shop, Joe Conway, says he misses the young Croatian. But — so far — he’s managing. 

“For the moment, business is slow, so it’s working out so far. … We will see how it handles with the busyness that we’ve got coming … reservations are through the roof.”

Joe Conway, manager, The Nantucket Bike Shop, Nantucket, Massachusetts

“For the moment, business is slow, so it’s working out so far,” said Conway. “We will see how it handles with the busyness that we’ve got coming … reservations are through the roof.”

The Nantucket Bike Shop usually hires foreign students through the J-1 visa program, but this year the visa program was suspended and foreign workers could not travel to the US to work during Nantucket’s high season. Photo taken on July 2, 2020, Nantucket island, Massachusetts. 

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Rachel Rock/The World 

Conway has 15 employees this summer, down from his usual 30 to 35 — normally including many foreigners on J-1 visas. He’s concerned that business will pick up and he’ll be shorthanded. 

For years, Nantucket’s economy has relied on J-1 student labor for the high season. Decades ago, before the visas ramped up, US college students did a lot of the summer work. But — at least in Nantucket — the tourist season expanded into October. US students typically return to school in August. Foreign students, though, can often stay into the fall.  

But there’s another reason that Conway prefers J-1 employees.

“They are very hard workers. They do pay attention. They listen to you,” Conway said. “It’s just been amazing, the work they do. And I’ve had a lot of students come back … and they just want to work.”

For now, Conway has hired high schoolers and a few college kids to fill his bike shop needs. The Trump administration says its decision to suspend many of the temporary work visas is about helping people in the US who have lost their jobs. But Conway is not so sure about this because he hears otherwise from people he spoke to when he offered them seasonal work. 

“They tell me, ‘Well no, I’m not going to work for $15 an hour when I’m sitting at home collecting $25 an hour [of unemployment].’ I can’t say I blame them,” Conway said.

Related: International students are in coronavirus limbo. So are universities.

Businesses all over the island are feeling the labor supply squeeze. Kristie Ferrantella is the head of Nantucket’s Chamber of Commerce.

“I think a lot of businesses are going to really struggle this year. … I was with a restaurant owner this past week who typically employs 90 people in the summer and this year she’s going to be doing it with 26.”

Kristie Ferrantella, Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, Nantucket, Massachusetts

“I think a lot of businesses are going to really struggle this year,” Ferrantella said. “I was with a restaurant owner this past week who typically employs 90 people in the summer and this year she’s going to be doing it with 26.” 

This scenario is now happening nationwide. The executive order by the Trump administration to suspend foreign worker visas until the end of 2020 is supposed to be in the interests of US workers. But David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, says that the move will do the opposite.

“Tens of thousands of businesses across the US…need workers,” Bier said. “This order is going to disrupt that, ultimately delaying the recovery and causing more economic hardship.” 

The extent of this disruption — on Nantucket Island, at least — depends on how business goes during this highly unusual summer and fall. Nantucket will definitely miss the injection of international cultures, languages and the positive spirit that these young foreigners bring with them. 

Shanghai Pride went on as planned last month. But the fight for LGBTQ rights in China is far from over.

Shanghai Pride went on as planned last month. But the fight for LGBTQ rights in China is far from over.

But Shanghai Pride didn't include the typical parade filled with people waving rainbow flags. In China, parades are mostly reserved for displays of military strength. So, organizers have to use a little bit of ingenuity to pull off one of the country's longest-running Pride events.

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Rebecca Kanthor

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Participants take part in a Pride Run during the Shanghai Pride festival, in Shanghai, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, China, June 14, 2020.

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Aly Song/Reuters 

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In 2009, Charlene Liu, a Singaporean expat who lives in Shanghai, helped found Shanghai Pride. That first Pride was meant to be a one-time event.

“To be honest, back then, none of us thought that we would be organizing Pride for so long. It was just one time for one year.”

Charlene Liu ​​​​, Shanghai Pride organizer 

“To be honest, back then, none of us thought that we would be organizing Pride for so long,” Liu said. “It was just one time for one year.”

Related: Diplomats display Pride flags as LGBTQ rights threatened in Russia

Afterward, people told them how much it meant to them, so the organizers decided to keep it going.

This year, while Pride marches all over the world were canceled or moved online amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, China’s only official Pride celebration in Shanghai, where social distancing restrictions have largely been lifted, went on last month as planned. 

But Shanghai Pride didn’t include the typical parade filled with people waving rainbow flags. In China, parades are mostly reserved for displays of military strength. So, organizers have to use a little bit of ingenuity to pull off one of the country’s longest-running Pride events. 

The mid-June festival featured a full schedule of events, with parties, but also a film screening, job fair, storytelling event and forum on inclusion in the workplace and academia.

Organizing Pride events here isn’t exactly easy. China didn’t legalize homosexuality until 1997; it only stopped classifying it as a mental disorder in 2001. So, it’s legal to be gay, but it’s not a totally accepting environment.

Related: Sterilization abuse of Uighurs in China meets international legal criteria for genocide, experts say

A petition to legalize gay marriage was squashed last month, dashing the hopes many had for more legal protections. In the past few years, there have been media bans on LGBTQ content, and people have been harassed for just wearing rainbow badges.

“So, having venues closed down on us, is very common. Every year, we face the same issue. And we always have to come up with a Plan B, a Plan C, or Plan D,” Liu said.

Liu and other Pride organizers always have to be on their toes, and they try to keep festivities low key. So, no Pride Parade? Well, instead, how about a Pride Fun Run and a Rainbow Bike Ride?

“We thought that, you know, everybody exercises. We know we want to be outside outdoors, networking, as well as keeping healthy. So, we don’t necessarily have a lot of events that probably other Prides have. But we get by with what we can do here, and also what the community is interested in.”

Charlene Liu ​​​​, Shanghai Pride organizer 

“We thought that you know, everybody exercises,” Liu said. “We know we want to be outside outdoors, networking, as well as keeping healthy. So, we don’t necessarily have a lot of events that probably other Prides have. But we get by with what we can do here, and also what the community is interested in.”

Liu has noticed a real change over the past decade. Acceptance of LGBTQ people and relationships is growing in China. Whereas the first Shanghai Pride was led and attended more by foreigners, these days, most of the volunteers and participants are Chinese.

Related: How China uses malware to track Muslim Uighurs, even if they’ve fled the country

Alex Dai is a 55-year-old entrepreneur who’s been coming to Pride for years with his boyfriend. It’s become a big part of their life.

“For me, coming to Pride is like finding a home. Many of us can feel isolated, but at Pride, I found a family that accepts me, understands me and respects me.”

Alex Dai, Pride attendee

“For me, coming to Pride is like finding a home. Many of us can feel isolated, but at Pride, I found a family that accepts me, understands me and respects me,” he said.

For participants, going to Pride is fun and liberating. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot of pressure on the organizers, especially during a pandemic.

Related: Ai Weiwei: Hong Kong security law ‘the last nail of the coffin’

“This year is, we call it a very sensitive year,” Liu said. “Everything that everybody does, especially group gatherings, we are heavily monitored. And also because it’s for the safety, right, we want to make sure that everybody is safe, that we don’t get sick because we live in a city where there’s so many people.”

Now that Pride 2020 is over, Liu says she and her fellow volunteers can finally take a breather.

“Regardless of the challenges and stress, we know that at the end of the day, someone in the community will be inspired, will be encouraged, will be able to say that they are not alone and that they’re able to connect with other people in the same shoes and have the courage to be themselves,” Liu said.

And that makes it all worth it, she added. 

Djibouti’s ‘cosmopolitan musical sound’ captured in first-ever global album

Djibouti’s ‘cosmopolitan musical sound’ captured in first-ever global album

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April Peavey

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“The Dancing Devils of Djibouti” by Groupe RTD is the first-ever globally-released album to come from Djibouti.

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Courtesy of Janto Djassi

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In the northeast corner of Africa, right on the Gulf of Aden and facing the Arabian Peninsula, lies the Republic of Djibouti. The country of just under a million tucks into Ethiopia and sits on the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a strategic waterway connecting east and west, which has brought myriad cultural influences to the country.

Djibouti, also a neighbor of Somalia and once known as French Somaliland, gained its independence from France 43 years ago. But only now, in 2020, has a band in Djibouti recorded and released music for a global audience.

For decades, music has been governed by the state, and the country’s history of recorded music sits in the National Radio Archives. 

Related: How researchers hope to restore the unique sound of Notre Dame 

The newly released album is called “The Dancing Devils of Djibouti” by Groupe RTD, which also performs as the national radio band for formal ceremonies of state. Vik Sohonie co-produced the record. Sohonie is also the founder of Ostinato Records, the label that released the album. He spoke with The World’s Marco Werman about the new music from the East African country.

Marco Werman: So the first record ever to come out of Djibouti, really?

Vik Sohonie: Yeah, that’s actually the case, because if you look at Djibouti, it’s a very young country. It got its independence in 1977, and they’ve been governed largely by one party since. And that party believed for various reasons, being a young country, that music should fall under the domain of the state. It should be a public good. And so, from independence until now, it’s really been only the government in the state and all the cultural state institutions that have financed, supported and propped up music. And if you wanted to record music in Djibouti, there was only one studio you could do it, which was at the National Radio’s studio. And Djibouti’s entire recorded output of music over these past 43 years is just sitting in the Djibouti National Radio Archives. It’s never been packaged for commercial global release.

Related: How the Beatles created a sense of ‘place’ for this Argentinian American 

So just to be clear, “The Dancing Devils of Djibouti” — this is a new recording. This is not archived material?

No, it’s not. They are a national band. They are the national radio band. But their primary job is to perform for dignitaries when they visit. You know, they perform when they are walking down the stairs, when they arrive at the airport. They perform at presidential ceremonies, cultural holidays. They are very much the national band. They’re an all-star band that is a mix of the best older, legendary, very beloved musicians, as well as new young talent that they’ve been able to scout. But no, it’s not an archive of recording, although they draw greatly from the recordings that are sitting in that archive.

Related: Ranky Tanky honors Gullah culture with Grammy-nominated album

Groupe RTD records in studio in Djibouti. The group also performs as the national ceremony band for official events. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Janto Djassi

I’ve got to say, for the first record ever from Djibouti, it’s like an instant classic. It’s just a wonderful group, great sound. I mean, they don’t sound like a formal band playing at, you know, presidential ceremonies and stuff.

That’s their on-duty job. That’s their job they’re paid for. But, you know, when we came across them — they were just casually jamming when we came across them in 2016. And when we were introducing them, they were introduced as the national ceremony band. And we were expecting something of a national anthem, chorus or orchestra of something of that nature. But very quickly, we realized that when they’re off duty, they’re off work and they’re sitting and hanging around and jamming. They are not playing national ceremony music. They are doing what they do best, which is taking the essences of Djibouti’s cosmopolitan musical sound and just reviving it, modernizing it and adding their own lovely touch to it.

Related: This Liberian Italian beatmaker uses music to tackle racism in Italy

The music of Djibouti is influenced by the music of neighboring Somalia. But there’s a lot more to this music than Djibouti’s neighbor, isn’t there?

Yes, for sure. I mean, Djibouti, people have to understand, has historically been on a very strategic trade route. It’s partially why the United States, among other big powers, have military bases there, because so much trade passes through Djibouti. And, you know, that trade has been going on for centuries. And cultures from Asia, from the Middle East, from elsewhere have all had to pass through there. If you want to move anything from Asia to Europe you have to, or vice versa, you have to pass the strait that Djibouti sits on. So, they’ve been influenced by a great deal of cultures, east and west.

But also in their immediate independence era, when the national radio was or still is the sole broadcaster, there were three genres of music in particular that really inspired the band. And you can hear all of these. The guitarist who plays those offbeat licks — he was telling us how much he grew up listening to Jamaican reggae. The saxophonist who is really the star of the band — he grew up on a steady diet of American jazz and he would always point to the Harlem jazz era as this period of infatuation that he studied and grew up with. And the singers, they spoke greatly about India’s influence on Djibouti, the influence of Bollywood and the vocal styles of Bollywood that they would listen to, that they would learn from to be able to adapt and diversify their vocal repertoire. So, Djibouti might seem like a small country on the fringes, but for a very long time, it’s really been at the center of so much cultural mixing. It’s been so central to so much that’s been happening in the world.

Related: This trio in Spain gets through ‘confinement blues’ with socially conscious music 

So Vik, with travel, tours and things more or less at a standstill because of the pandemic, what is it like releasing a debut album with this kind of profile in the midst of a pandemic? And are we gonna be hearing more music from Djibouti?

Yes, for sure. I know it’s a sad tale because the idea was to release the album and then have them touring by the summer. But, of course, that’s not possible anymore. I mean, we’re still aiming for December. That might be optimistic. We hope things get better. We want more music from Djibouti to come out. You know, the government authorities who have been monitoring the release are very happy with the response. So, you know, everyone’s behind more music coming out of the country. But there’s more important things, I think, right now than touring. But I hope one day we’re back to concerts and live shows and being shoulder to shoulder enjoying the music.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Putin scores victory in ‘gameshow’-like vote; Myanmar mine collapse; Ethiopian singer’s death sparks protests; Botswana’s mysterious elephant die-off

Putin scores victory in 'gameshow'-like vote; Myanmar mine collapse; Ethiopian singer's death sparks protests; Botswana's mysterious elephant die-off

By
Indra Ekmanis

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of a local electoral commission at a polling station on the last day of a weeklong nationwide vote on constitutional reforms in Moscow, Russia July 1, 2020.

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Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin gained an unsurprising victory as polls closed Wednesday in a weeklong referendum. Russians were asked to vote on a package of constitutional amendments, ranging from pension increases to endorsing a ban on gay marriage. It was a straight yes-or-no decision for the 206 amendments proposed. But the most important — and largely obscured or ignored in election materials and campaigning — was a change that paves the way for Putin to stay in power until 2036, when he will be in his mid-80s. 

But while the results show an overwhelming victory, opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza emphasized that the election was “a sham exercise.” Had the vote actually been democratic, he told The World, Putin “would have lost that referendum. That much is absolutely clear from trends in Russian public opinion.”

Indeed the election itself had the trappings of a poorly funded game show: Text messages lured voters to the polls with the promise of “millions of prizes,” ballot boxes were placed on trees and votes were collected in car trunks. The Kremlin sought a symbolic victory with high voter turnout, but there was little question of how the election would end.

Kara-Murza called on the world to reject Putin’s authoritarian power grab. Still, he does not believe the longtime ruler will remain in power when 2036 comes: “In the authoritarian system that Vladimir Putin has created — political changes in Russia will not be decided at the ballot box. They will be one day decided on the streets.”

The referendum was originally planned for April, as Putin sought to capitalize on the wave of Russian patriotism ahead of Russia’s May 9 Victory Day commemorations. But both events were postponed as Russia was ravaged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Less than two months later — even as Russia reports the third-most cases of COVID-19 — both the celebration and the voting went ahead.

Also: Foreign diplomats display Pride flags as LGBTQ rights threatened in Russian elections

And: In the US, the coronavirus pandemic has continued to spread. Today on The World we speak to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said that the pandemic has become his “worst nightmare.”

What The World is following

More than 100 are reported dead and more than 50 injured after a large landslide struck the Hpakant jade mining site in Myanmar. Authorities expect that more bodies will be found. Kachin State, where much of the world’s high-quality jade is produced, is the site of frequent mine accidents, and miners often work under dangerous conditions, which can become more perilous in the rainy season. 

The killing of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, an Ethiopian singer and activist, has sparked days of protest, leading to 80 deaths. Hundeessaa’s music had “provided a soundtrack to a generation” of Oromo anti-government protesters, who eventually forced Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to step down in 2018.

A mysterious die-off of hundreds of elephants in Botswana has stumped scientists.

And, Amsterdam’s red-light district is reopening after the coronavirus shutdown. But strict rules abound to keep workers and their customers safe.

From The WorldPeople in northeast Syria are in desperate need of help. Aid groups can’t get to them.

An internally displaced Syrian girl wears a face mask as members of the Syrian Civil Defence sanitize the Bab al-Nour internally displaced persons camp, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Azaz, Syria, March 26, 2020.

Credit:

Khalil Ashawi/Reuters 

This week, heads of 20 aid agencies published an open letter urging the UN Security Council to reopen the Al Yarubiyah crossing into Syria. The crossing was closed last January, with fatal consequences, the aid groups say.

Whose Haghia Sophia?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdoğan, attends the opening ceremony of the Yeditepe Biennial at the Haghia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, March 31, 2018.

Credit:

Kayhan Ozer/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout via Reuters 

For more than a thousand years, the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul was the largest dome in the world. The Byzantines commissioned the Haghia Sophia as a Greek Orthodox cathedral. The Ottomans conquered it and turned it into an ornate mosque. Then, secular revolutionaries converted it into a monument to two faiths. Now, the Haghia Sophia may change hands again.

Morning focus

Top of The World will be back on Monday after the July 4 holiday, but you can still catch The World on air. And for a little celebration: a celestial firework display. 

10 years.
20 million gigabytes of data.
425 million hi-res images of the Sun.

A new time-lapse video marks a decade of operations for our @NASASun Solar Dynamics Observatory. Watch: https://t.co/jRRWuBfcLb pic.twitter.com/SPBDWfJwzP

— NASA (@NASA) June 24, 2020In case you missed itListen: New security law in Beijing targets protesters

Riot police use water cannon to disperse anti-national security law protesters during a march at the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, China, July 1, 2019. 

Credit:

Tyrone Siu/Reuters

In Hong Kong, a restrictive new security law enacted by Beijing is being used to arrest protesters on its first day in effect. we hear from pro-democracy activist Isaac Cheng. Plus, in Russia, it’s the last day for citizens to vote on a large bundle of constitutional amendments that include a measure that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. And, we look at how the coronavirus has impacted migrants in the seafood industry in the US.

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

Black Lives Matter protests are shaking up how this young Latino voter views US politics

Black Lives Matter protests are shaking up how this young Latino voter views US politics

By
Stella M. Chávez

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Izcan Ordaz, an 18-year-old high school graduate in Fort Worth, Texas, will vote in his first US presidential election this November.

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Ben Torres

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This story is part of “Every 30 Seconds,” a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

A few weeks ago, 18-year-old Izcan Ordaz joined his high school classmates for his first protest. They called for racial justice as part of a national wave of Black Lives Matter activism. A few days later, he marched again in Keller, an affluent suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, not usually known for protests.

But similar to many places across the country, residents turned out in larger numbers than expected. Keller police estimated 3,000 people showed up. 

“I really assumed it was just going to be mostly young people, mostly a lot of minorities,” Ordaz said. “But when I got there I found that it was predominantly white Americans and lots of older families, lots of children.” 

Izcan Ordaz, left, poses with a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer at a recent Black Lives Matter protest near his high school.

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Courtesy of Izcan Ordaz

Ordaz, who recently graduated from Central High School in Fort Worth, will vote in his first presidential election this November. He falls somewhere in the middle of the US political spectrum: more conservative than his parents, but not too far to the right. Ordaz believes in capitalism and a free-market economy. And two major recent events — the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests — are shaking up how he views US politics. 

Back in April, Ordaz’s biggest concerns were getting through the pandemic, the state of the US economy and finishing high school virtually.

Related: This Latino teen voter worries about prom, graduation — and the economy

Now, the issue of racial justice is also top of mind. Ordaz said he felt compelled to do something after watching the viral video of a white Minnesota police officer press his knee into the neck of George Floyd, a Black man.

What happened to Floyd wasn’t right and was painful to watch, Ordaz said. Floyd’s death reflects a larger problem of racial injustice in the country, he added — and that’s why he’s speaking up.

“I think as young people living in the United States, it really is our job to start to step up and to really make the future of the United States go in a different direction.”

Izcan Ordaz, first-time voter

“I think as young people living in the United States, it really is our job to start to step up and to really make the future of the United States go in a different direction,” he said. 

As a young Latino, Ordaz is part of a demographic that is changing the US — politically, culturally and demographically. Approximately every 30 seconds, a Latino in the US turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote. Latinos’ sheer numbers make them an important voting bloc: This fall, they could surpass Black voters for the first time, making them the largest racial or ethnic voter group after whites, according to the Pew Research Center.

Related: Every 30 seconds, a young Latino in the US turns 18. Their votes count more than ever.

Ordaz said it’s his generation’s responsibility to not commit the same mistakes made by previous generations. While he credits older generations for paving the way in the fight for racial equality, he believes his generation can do more.

He points to high-profile cases, such as the 1992 protests that erupted in Los Angeles after four police officers who were videotaped beating Black motorist Rodney King were acquitted at trial.

“This police brutality has been a recurring issue in the United States that hopefully by the time we get to our parents’ age will not still be an issue,” Ordaz said.

Max Krochmal, an associate history professor of history at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, said it’s promising to see a new wave of activism around racial justice, which has taken cues from the 1960s civil rights movement. 

That movement pushed the country as far as white Americans were willing to go, said Krochmal, who also chairs comparative race and ethnic studies at the university. In the ’60s, Black activists marched and demanded equal rights. They won access to public accommodations, such as restaurants and movie theaters. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Other changes around racial equality occurred in the 1960s, but the movement eventually plateaued, Krochmal said. And in some ways, he feels like the nation has moved backward. 

“So I see the current Black Lives Matter movement as picking up that torch, as saying that the things that the nation identified that were wrong in the wake of the last wave of urban rebellions are still wrong.”

Max Krochmal, historian, Texas Christian University

“So, I see the current Black Lives Matter movement as picking up that torch, as saying that the things that the nation identified that were wrong in the wake of the last wave of urban rebellions are still wrong,” Krochmal said. “And indeed, sometimes they’re worse, and that the nation needs to come to grips with that.”

Krochmal said the country still needs to deal with underlying issues such as racialized economic inequality, police brutality and the lack of adequate political representation.

There is hope, though.

“What we’re seeing right now that I think is amazing and remarkable is that young people … are out on the streets for the first time ever,” Krochmal said. “I think most of the time, students feel alienated from that history, but right now there’s a sense among them that they’re out doing it, that they are themselves making history and they’re empowered and they’re emboldened and they believe in the capacity for change. They’re incredibly optimistic.”

Ordaz feels that, too. He believes his peers are more tolerant and accepting of others. He uses his first name as an example of that tolerance: “Izcan” comes from the Aztec language Nahuatl and means “behold.”  He says he used to feel self-conscious about it — but at school, he’s gotten compliments on it.

“The bottom line is that Gen Z as a whole does not agree with racism. It is not a political issue.”

Izcan Ordaz, first-time voter

“The bottom line is that Gen Z as a whole does not agree with racism,” Ordaz said. “It is not a political issue. Typically, the things that I see on the media or even in person, young people are normally the ones who stand against racism when it happens from older generations.”

Ordaz’s mother, Xochitl Ortiz, said she’s proud of her son for standing up for issues he believes in. She reflected on that while sitting outside her home one recent evening.

“My husband and I are just amazed that he’s able to articulate and just really see at his young age, just the ideas that he has,” she said.

Discussion: The Latino conservative vote in the 2020 election

Xochitl Ortiz, left, helps her son Izcan Ordaz to try on his graduation gown outside their home in Keller, Texas, May 28, 2020. Ordaz graduated last week.

Credit:

Ben Torres/The World

Ortiz and her husband don’t shy away from talking with their son about difficult topics, such as racial disparities, discrimination and the history of slavery. 

And she accepts that sometimes they may have different views. 

“It’s just really neat to see how he takes in information and doesn’t just quickly jump to make a decision but really kind of investigates,” she said. 

Just what impact this new movement will have on the ballot box in November remains to be seen. Krochmal said he’s noticed alliances forming between grassroots protest groups and those working toward making political changes.

“What we’re witnessing is grassroots organizing in the electoral arena among people who ordinarily don’t participate in that and we’re seeing folks paying attention to local politics, particularly local politics, who’ve never noticed it before,” he said.

As for Ordaz, he said he still plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden. He’s critical of how President Donald Trump has politicized the coronavirus pandemic, and Ordaz doesn’t like the comments he’s made about Black Lives Matter protesters. He believes the president’s actions have polarized the country.

He said: “I personally feel that the role of any leader anywhere, anytime should always be to try to create some kind of unity with the people he’s hoping to lead.”

Evan Matthew Fuchs contributed audio for this story.